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I often give books as gifts, but they're usually selected specifically for their recipients. I couldn't answer this question for a while because there's no one book that will do for everyone, not even The Lord of the Rings or Cyteen or Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary. I realized I'd have to think of a specific person before I could think of a specific book. So I'm imagining you as somebody who has read Among Others and wants to know what new science fiction or fantasy book I'd like to give you. And after a lot of thought, I've decided it would be M. J. Locke's Up Against It (2011).
Up Against It is a smart hard-science-fiction novel of a kind that used to be really common but which has become increasingly rare. It's set in space, in an asteroid colony, and it's about resources, wheeling and dealing, future politics, and cold equations when politics and life support come up against each other. It's also and centrally about people — and this is where it's different from a lot of older SF. It's about people of both genders and all ages. One of the central characters is a girl — that's no longer a big deal. Another is an older woman, over a century old, in a position of power. It's the kind of science fiction where there's a fast-paced adventure story and plenty of conflict, and where you can feel confident that the physics is right, and where you keep reading because you really care about the characters.
The book didn't get a whole lot of attention when it came out, but that's good because it means I can feel more confident giving it — no use giving something everyone has already read! And now that it's out in paperback, it makes an ideal stocking stuffer.
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Jo Walton is the author of the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Among Others. Her novel Tooth and Claw won the World Fantasy Award. The novels of her Small Change sequence — Farthing, Ha'penny, and Half a Crown — have won acclaim ranging from national newspapers to the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award. A native of Wales, Walton lives in Montreal.
Books mentioned in this post
Jo Walton is the author of Among Others