This Month’s Books: Mutant Orphans and Far-Future Mars

April's new science fiction books take you on a trip across a transformed Mars, and to the heart of a British battle against mutant Nazi orphans. Also, a couple of steampunk adventures jostle for a space in your to-be-read pile.

This Month’s Books: Mutant Orphans and Far-Future Mars

Ares Express, Ian McDonald (Pyr)

Ian McDonald's magical-realist sequel to Desolation Road isn't new - it just took 9 years to make its way across the pond. Sweetness Octave Glorious Honey-Bun Asiim Engineer 12th isn't pleased with her arranged marriage, so she leaves her home (on a super-sized fusion-powered locomotive) and strikes out across a terraformed Mars of the distant future. In short order, she gets herself mixed up with a smooth-talking religious con man, and suddenly Sweetness is tripping through time and parallel worlds, with the future of Mars at stake.

This Month’s Books: Mutant Orphans and Far-Future Mars

Bitter Seeds, Ian Tregillis (Tor)

It's the eve of World War II, and in this alternate history Britain isn't simply facing the German war machine. Mad scientist Dr. von Westarp has transformed a group of orphans into mutant ubermensch, armed with abilities like fire-starting and invisibility. And so the events of 1939 begin to play out, things like the Blitzkrieg made worse by the addition of superpowered Nazis. Casting about for some way to counter the impeding invasion, British secret agent Raybould Marsh recruits Britain's warlocks. But their approach to magic might leave the kingdom even worse off than the luftwaffe.

A Book of Tongues, Gemma Files

The postbellum Wild West has a reputation as a dusty, lawless wasteland, but Gemma Files takes the trope to the next level in her fantastical new horror novel, Book of Tongues. Pinkteron detective Ed Morrow, charged with investigating the spell-casting abilities of the outlaw Reverend Asher Rook and his lover Chess Pargeter, joins one of the West's most infamous gangs. But an already-precarious situation really hits the skids when bloodthirsty Aztec goddess Ixchel chooses Rook as her consort, setting the whole band on the primrose path to hell.

This Month’s Books: Mutant Orphans and Far-Future Mars

Up Jim River, Michael Flynn (Tor)

Following rumors of a powerful artifact, a woman disappears far up a mysterious river on a small, distant world. Her employer, the Kennel, gives her up for dead. But her daughter Mearana isn't convinced, and the young harper ropes Donovan, a scarred drunk, into helping her search. Hmm... a pushy woman, a drunk, and a hostile river. That sounds promisingly like The African Queen in space.

The Green Leopard Plague and Other Stories, Walter Jon Williams (Night Shade Books)

This collection rounds up nine of Williams' best stories, including Nebula winners "Daddy's World" and "The Green Leopard Plague." Williams explores the human mind and the effects of technology, often combining the subjects with pieces such as "Incarnation Day," which depicts a society where child-rearing is treated as a form of computer-programming.

This Month’s Books: Mutant Orphans and Far-Future Mars

Changeless, Gail Carriger (Orbit)

Our heroine finds herself in another paranormal pickle in Carriger's second steampunky Parasol Protectorate novel. Her werewolf husband has run off somewhere, London seems to have some sort of severe ghost infestation, and Queen Victoria is not amused. To top it off, circumstances demand a dirigible trip to the uncouth environs of Scotland. Oh, bother.

Saltation, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (Baen)

The 12th Liaden novel follows Theo Waitley's adventures at pilot school, where she discovers she's an enormously talented flyer but can't seem to stay out of trouble. Plus, a gift from her boyfriend attracts the attention of some serious big bads.

This Month’s Books: Mutant Orphans and Far-Future Mars

Pinion, Jay Lake (Tor)

Lake's Clockwork Earth trilogy concludes with Pinion, which follows mechanical prodigy Paolina Barthes as she attempts to understand her vast abilities and elude the various imperialist governments tracking her. Along the way, the book explores big philosophical arguments like reason versus faith and fate versus free will, all in the context of a literally mechanistic world.

Hard Magic, Laura Gilman (Luna)

Just out of college and in desperate need of work, Bonita Torres doesn't skip a beat when she gets a call with a mysterious offer of employment. She takes the gig and finds herself a member of Private Unaffiliated Paranormal Investigations, a team of freelance forensic magical detectives. Expect team bonding, experimental spell-casting, and occasional explosions.

WWW: Watch, Robert J. Sawyer

Sawyer returns to his tale of a sentient Internet with WWW: Watch. The government knows about the newly conscious Webmind and, believing it a major national security threat, wants it gone. But teenager Caitlin Decter, who helped awaken the AI and considers it a friend, isn't about to cooperate.

Top image: Detail of River Of Jim cover by Sparth.