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By A. L. Kennedy. BBC Books. $45.

Award-winning Scottish novelist, A. L. Kennedy, initially might not seem an obvious choice to write the latest Doctor Who novel. Her clear enthusiasm, however, for the 1970’s series with Tom Baker comes through strongly in the entertaining and witty Drosten’s Curse. The Doctor, “a jolly tiger in a maroon jacket “, investigates mysterious events at an Arbroath golf course where bunkers are devouring golfers. An ancient alien presence is detected underneath the golf course which will eventually threaten the whole of humanity. There are cameos from familiar characters, such as Davros, and a delightful new character, junior hotel receptionist Bryony, the Doctor’s increasingly endangered companion.

By Cixin Liu. Head of Zeus. $27.99.

Cixin Liu is China’s leading SF writer. The Three-Body Problem is the first of an acclaimed trilogy to be translated into English. During China’s Cultural Revolution, a “time of madness”, a secret SETI project is hijacked by a female astro-physicist in retaliation for her father’s brutal death by Red Guards. Signals sent out into outer space are picked up by the Trisolarans, who are desperately seeking a replacement planet, although their journey to Earth will take four hundred years. Lin, despite perhaps too many science info dumps, has not only fashioned an intriguing SF novel, but also provides fascinating insights into China past and present.


By Louisa Hall. Orbit. $29.99.

Speak examines memory, consciousness and artificial intelligence through five separate but linked stories, from 17th century North America, the 20th with Alan Turing, culminating in the longest segment set in 2040. Here doll-like, conscious, “babybots” have been banned because of their traumatic influence on young children who have become empathetically linked. This segment also follows the trial transcripts of their jailed Silicon Valley inventor. Hall reflects on the nature of human communication and extrapolates to a future with a dramatically narrowing gap between artificial intelligence and humanity. Fans of David Mitchell’s books will appreciate the interlocked stories spanning time and inner space.