The Martian, Andy Weir's commercial book debut in 2014, sold five million copies in North America alone. Matt Damon was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in the 2015 film adaptation.
Weir's third novel, Project Hail Mary (Del Rey, $32.99) seems to be heading for the same sort of success. Ryan Gosling has been signed to play the main character, Dr Ryland Grace, who wakes up from a cryogenic sleep on a spaceship, to find his two colleagues are dead and with no memory of why he is in a different solar system nor what he is meant to do.
Grace gradually learns, with the help of the ship's computer and the slow return of his memory, that the fate of the human race depends on his finding a solution to a neutrino driven alien microorganism that is destroying the sun's energy and thus threatening life on earth.
Weir's hard science background provides authentic detail without impacting the narrative pace of Grace's race against time to save Earth. Weir wrote the novel before Covid, but the links are apparent with "a rampaging pestilence, forced isolation and a global effort among scientists to develop new lifesaving technology".
Stephen James O'Meara is an award-winning astronomer and co- editor of Oxford's A Dictionary of Space Exploration (2018). This background ensures the text of Mars (Reaktion Books, $49.99), a profusely illustrated hardback, is authoritative and insightful. After O'Meara covers the "prehistory" and the fictional "romancing" of Mars, the bulk of the book is devoted to Martian exploration from 1960 onwards and plans for piloted missions.
The Best of World SF: Volume 1 (Head of Zeus, $35), edited, with an introduction, by award-winning Israeli author Lavie Tidhar, contains 26 short stories, mostly reprints, which amply prove that SF is no longer an Anglo-American preserve. The authors, who come from 21 countries, include Tlotlo Tsamaase from Botswana, Fabio Fernandes from Brazil and Gerardo Horacio Porcayo from Mexico.
SF reflects contemporary issues such as the suppression of cultures and the plight of refugees. French author Aliette de Bodard's, award-winning story, "Immersion", examines the implications of Quy's minority culture, with a Chinese Vietnamese background on Longevity Station, dominated by the algorithmic culture of the "Galactics".
"The Green Ship", by Italian author and publisher Francesco Verso, reflects his vision for a better future. A boatload of refugees crossing the Mediterranean are saved by "The Green Ship", a self-sustaining solar powered former aircraft carrier, converted to carry 7000 refugees to the neutral "No-Mad Land".
Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer (Fourth Estate. $29.99) conveys an urgent fictional message to prevent the destruction of the earth. It's near future narrator, "Jane Smith", a systems security consultant, is given a key to a storage unit containing a taxidermied extinct hummingbird. This leads her to Silvana, a wealthy bio-terrorist and a narrative which dramatically expands from wildlife smuggling to a potential climate and social apocalypse. Earth becomes the scene of the crime.
Adam Roberts' Purgatory Mount (Gollancz, $45) is divided into three Dantean sections of Hell, Purgatory and Heaven. It begins and ends with the "framing" story of a small post human starship crew, with a cargo of slightly altered humans, investigating a huge mysterious alien structure on a planet which they name Dante.
The main narrative is set in a near future, "United States of Amnesia', in which a neurotoxin has damaged memories, so people, "buckleheads", can only access their memories through smart phones. "Otty" Barragao and her four teenage friends are in a form of purgatory, fleeing for their lives, as their private internet network threatens the dominating military industrial complex. Roberts, in an afterword, reveals that Dante's Divine Comedy was his inspiration.
Louise Carey's debut novel Inscape (Gollancz, $32.99) is the first of a trilogy. A future London, recovering after the global "Meltdown Wars", is the focal point of a rivalry between two huge tech corporations, InTech and Thoughtfront.
Carey's main character, Tanta, who has been trained as a field agent, is augmented by "inscape", a neural facility. Her initial assignment against Thoughtfront fails badly and Tanta realises that the real danger may come from inside her own organisation. Inscape is a well constructed cyberpunk thriller.
Philosophy Through Science Fiction Stories, subtitled "Exploring the Boundaries of the Possible", is an intriguing collection, edited by Helen De Cruz, Johan De Smedt, and Eric Schwitzgebel (Bloomsbury Academic, $44.99). It brings together 11 stories written by philosophers and SF authors examining issues such as "What does it mean to be human?"; "Is neural enhancement a good thing?" and "Belief in the afterlife". The combination of award-winning SF authors and leading academics ensures that a wide range of philosophical issues are covered.