a day ago

These alien invaders aren’t what you might expect

If you imagine Martian death-rays or eight-foot-tall bipedal lizards, think again. These alien invaders are called grubs, and for good reason. They travel in enormous packs. They’re “minuscule, maggot-like creatures” capable of aggregating in huge numbers and assuming any desired shape. And they consume just about everything in their path. Including trees and humans—trunks, clothing, […]

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last week

The Third World War breaks out in 2034, but not how you think

A squadron of three US destroyers sails on a “freedom of navigation” mission in the disputed waters of the South China Sea. Nearby a smaller vessel is gushing smoke, and Captain Sara Hunt, the squadron’s commodore, orders her warships to veer off course to investigate. They find a small craft packed with electronic surveillance equipment, […]

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a couple of weeks ago

Welcome to the apocalypse

Fear of the apocalypse has been with us for thousands of years. According to the mental health professionals at verywellmind.com, “Doomsday phobias are surprisingly common.” They’re found “in some form in virtually every corner of the world.” Sometimes these delusions are rooted in religion, sometimes in technology. But the paralyzing fear the world will soon […]

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3 weeks ago

A Nobel Prize-winner’s perplexing science fiction novel

I hated this novel. I simply couldn’t see the point. But the author was a Nobel Prize-winner, so I kept slogging away to the very end. I’d figured there must be something worthy in it. After all, one of the world’s most celebrated authors had turned his attention to the subject of artificial intelligence. He’d […]

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4 weeks ago

An ingenious twist on time travel

Physics can drive you crazy. Solid matter isn’t solid. Black holes don’t just make matter and light disappear; they suck up information, too. And Schrödinger’s cat is both alive and dead at the same time. Go figure. And if paradoxes like these rattle your nerves, you may want to avoid reading Gregory Benford’s masterful hard-science-fiction […]

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last month

The greatest threat to humanity is . . . a mushroom?

Welcome to the wonderful world of mycology! The people who pursue this abstruse discipline, mycologists, are the folks who study mushrooms. Or, more broadly, fungi. Because, as it turns out, the mushrooms we see and sometimes eat, are, in a manner of speaking, just the tip of the iceberg. Fungi, mostly underground, account for orders […]

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last month

This sci-fi novel isn’t credible, but it’s a lot of fun

Eighteen years ago, the Ark arrived at Gaia, an Earth-like planet circling the star Tau Ceti. The 30,000 humans who survived the 235-year journey from the dying Earth have established the town of Shambhala on Gaia’s surface. They’re an ocean away from the network of villages and roads where the native inhabitants live on the […]

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last month

One surprise after another in this brilliant First Contact novel

It seems unlikely to me that anyone, anywhere, has thought longer or harder about First Contact than Peter Cawdron. In his fifteenth novel on the theme, the gifted Australian science fiction author poses yet one more solution to the Fermi Paradox. “In the summer of 1950,” Cawdron explains, “while sitting around a table having lunch, […]

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last month

An alternate history of the space race

In a clever departure from the conventions of alternate history, the French-Canadian science fiction author Sylvain Neuvel inserts fictional characters into historical events and demonstrates how their influence made things turn out as they actually did. The principal events in question involve the Nazi rocket designers responsible for the V-1 and V-2 “vengeance weapons” and […]

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a couple of months ago

The mystery of Planet Nine goes unsolved in this novel

In recent years astronomers have speculated about the existence of a ninth planet orbiting the sun somewhere within the vast outer reaches of the Solar System. After all, Planet Nine is said to lie somewhere within the Oort Cloud, circling the inner planets at a hypothetical distance of as much as 800 Astronomical Units (AU), […]

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