Science fiction features lots of characters who find their own way in the universe, regardless of what megacorps or governments try to tell them. So it's not surprising that one of the best ways to find some of the most exciting new reads is to pay attention to the Prometheus Awards for the best libertarian SF books. The six Prometheus finalists for 2011 have just been announced, and they include Terry Pratchett, Vernor Vinge, and some other great authors. Here's the list:
* */The Children of the Sky/* (TOR Books) - A sequel to Vernor Vinge's *A Fire Upon the Deep* and in the same universe as Prometheus-winning *A Deepness in the Sky*, this novel focuses on advanced humans, stranded and struggling to survive on a low-tech planet populated by Tines, dog-like creatures who are only intelligent when organized in packs. The most libertarian of the three human factions and their local allies must cope with the world's authoritarian factions to advance peaceful trade over war and coercion.
* */The Freedom Maze/* (Small Beer Press) - Delia Sherman's young-adult fantasy novel focuses on an adolescent girl of 1960 who is magically sent back in time to 1860 when her family owned slaves on a Louisiana plantation. With her summer tan, she's mistaken for a slave herself, and she learns the hard way what life was like. In the process, she comes to appreciate the values of honor, respect, courage, and personal responsibility.
* */In the Shadow of Ares/* (Amazon Kindle edition)- This young-adult first novel by Thomas L. James and Carl C. Carlsson focuses on a Mars-born female teenager in a near-future, small civilization on Mars,
where hardworking citizens are constantly and unjustly constrained by a growing, centralized authority whose excessive power has led to corruption and conflict.
* */Ready Player One/* (Random House) - Ernest Cline's genre-busting blend of science fiction, romance, suspense, and adventure describes a virtual world that has managed to evolve an order without a state and where entrepreneurial gamers must solve virtual puzzles and battle real-life enemies to save their virtual world from domination and corruption. The novel also stresses the importance of allowing open access to the Internet for everyone.
* */The Restoration Game/* (Pyr Books) - Set in a world whose true nature is a deeper mystery, this philosophical and political thriller by Ken MacLeod (winner of Prometheus awards for *Learning the World*, *The Star Fraction*, and *The Stone Canal*) explores the dark legacy of communism and the primacy of information in shaping what is "reality" amid Eastern European intrigue, online gaming, romance and mystery.
* */Snuff/* (Harper Collins) - A Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett (winner of a Prometheus Award for *Night Watch*, also set in Discworld), *Snuff* blends comedy, drama, satire, suspense and mystery as a police chief investigates the murder of a goblin and finds himself battling discrimination. The mystery broadens into a powerful drama to extend the world's recognition of rights to include these long-oppressed and disdained people with a sophisticated culture of their own.