South Australian author and Miles Franklin nominee, Patrick Allington in Rise & Shine (Scribe $27.99) takes us to a near future, following an ecological catastrophe, which has eradicated animal and plant life and has killed more than eight billion people.
Allington does not dwell on the causes, except to write, "no one who survived could really say whether it was a single big catastrophe or a series of small messes, or if it was just the slow grind of excess. Probably it was all of that."
Now, 33 years later, war continues between two city-states, Rise and Shine, a war which is both manufactured and real, as "no one could tell information from lies".
Citizens receive their nourishment not through food, but by daily watching through "autoscreens" of human suffering human suffering. The war has been deliberately created and sustained in "the New Time" by the two city leaders Barton and Walker, to keep the common good.
Allington's sketchy background detail lessens the ultimate impact of his dystopian vision, but the novel is certainly effective in highlighting contemporary issues of government surveillance, political manipulation and the pervasive impact of fake news.
More media messaging is reflected in Melbourne author, Max Barry's new novel, Providence (Hachette. $32.99), a fast-paced military space opera, which unapologetically leans on classic SF authors such as E. E. Doc Smith, and Orson Scott Card.
The novel follows a small crew of four travelling on a giant, Providence class, AI starship into interstellar space to combat reptilian alien "salamanders".
The crew is largely redundant in the running of the ship. Their different personalities allow Barry to hype the tensions between them which occur when the ship's AI malfunctions, with the ship proving to be as much an alien menace as the salamanders.
The crew are forced to evacuate to the hive planet of the salamanders, but can they band together, complete the mission and get back to Earth.
Barry realistically reflects on their fate and the nature, often perverse, of humanity, intelligence and sentience.
Stormblood (Gollancz $32.99) is the debut novel of a trilogy by Sydney-based author Jeremy Szal, and the first book in the trilogy featuring Vakov Fukasawa, a former "Reaper", a bio-enhanced soldier.
Reapers have been infused with an alien DNA to increase their adrenaline and aggression in battle but once the war ends they remain addicted and find it difficult to assimilate back into society.
When Vakov finds his former Reaper colleagues are being murdered, and his estranged brother is the prime suspect, his investigations lead him into many dark areas of his class tiered asteroid world.
Szal effectively highlights the issues of trauma, drug addiction and mental problems for veterans in a gritty, compelling SF story, which establishes Szal as an author to watch on the global SF scene
British SF author Paul McAuley creates a complex far future world in War of the Maps (Gollancz, $32.99), a book which has echoes of Gene Wolfe and Jack Vance.
His main character, Thorn, "the lucidor", is a lawman, who travels across the surface of a Dyson Sphere, in pursuit of a major biological criminal Remfrey He, referred to by his full name throughout the novel.
This framework allows McAuley not only to describe the scientific nature of the Dyson sphere, but also, through Thorn's travels, the complex societies and cultures, which are under threat from a plague which "infects plants and animals and people and turns them into strange new forms".
Thorn is cast in the classic mould of the lone Western sheriff or Stephen King's "Gunslinger", but it is McAuley's inventive array of societies and characters which ultimately linger longer in the mind more than the personal vendetta.
Welsh author, Cynan Jones won the Wales Book of the Year Fiction Prize in 2015 and the BBC National Short Story Award in 2017. Stillicide (Granta $24.95), originally broadcast as a series on BBC Radio 4, portrays, through a pared-back narrative, a near future climate change world of alternating alternate drought and flood, in which water is commodified.
In a future Britain, heavily armed "Water Trains" transport water, ten million gallons . . . at two hundred miles an hour", from the north of Britain to the unnamed capital city.
But the trains face attacks by rural communities who want access to water.
More resistance comes as a project to tow a huge Arctic iceberg to the north-east of England, will result in the creation of an "Ice Dock" displacing thousands of families from their homes.
Jones delivers a bleak, poetically structured story through the slow drip of character interaction, especially from the perspective of John Branner, a sniper on the Water Train, who personifies the need for love in the worst of times.