The Last Emperox by John Scalzi

The novel “The Last Emperox” by John Scalzi was published for the first time in 2020. It’s the third book in the Interdependency series and follows The “Consuming Fire”.

Emperox Grayland II is trying in every way to save the inhabitants of the Interdependency from the collapse of the Flow that connects the various planets and inhabited habitats. At the same time, she’s aware that the plot against her that was foiled is just one of many that could cost her her life, especially after Nadashe Nohamapetan escaped from prison.

Planet End could represent humanity’s last hope because it’s habitable, unlike man-made habitats built in other places only because they’re close to a Flow current. The civil war on End and the fleet commanded by the enemies of the Emperox who control the current linking the planet to the Interdependency are the main problems.

Some of the microfossils discovered (Image courtesy B. Cavalazzi)

An article published in the journal “Science Advances” reports the discovery of microfossils of the oldest known methanogenic microorganisms, with an estimated age of 3.42 billion years. A team of researchers led by Professor Barbara Cavalazzi of the University of Bologna, Italy, discovered these microfossils in South Africa, in the area known as the Barberton Greenstone Belt. These microorganisms lived in a system of hydrothermal veins and show similarities with today’s archaea. Their study offers insights into early life forms on Earth and the possibilities for life forms to emerge in similar environments elsewhere in the universe.

The short story “Communal” by Shikhandin was published for the first time in 2020 by Future Fiction within the anthology “Avatar. Contemporary Indian Science Fiction”.

After humans exploit Earth’s resources to the point of causing enormous environmental damage, plants start mutating in ways that make human life difficult. In some cases, plants seem to have a will of their own when they attack humans, and eating them becomes more difficult. Will the joint efforts of the various nations find the solution?

Blackout by Connie Willis

The novel “Blackout” by Connie Willis was published for the first time in 2010. Along with the second part of what is actually a two-part novel, it won the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards as the best novel of the year.

Michael Davies, Polly Churchill, and Merope Ward are ready to go from 2060 on a mission into the past to observe various moments of World War II. The situation is chaotic because their boss, Professor James Dunworthy, started changing assignments at the last minute.

Eventually, the three historians manage to leave but arrive in places and times slightly different from the ones planned far beyond the margins of error. They’re supposed to just observe some of the darkest moments of the war from places considered safe but they end up involved in various ways in the events. When they try to access the time portals to return to 2060, they fail for various reasons.

Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds

The novella “Slow Bullets” by Alastair Reynolds was published for the first time in 2015. It won the Locus Award as the Best Novella of the Year.

Scur fought in the war between Peripheral Systems and Central Worlds and didn’t even have time to rejoice about its end that she was captured by Orvin, a war criminal. Orvin inserts a second slow bullet into Scur’s body, a memory device that adds to the one all soldiers have but without using painkillers.

Left for dead, Scur is saved but wakes up on the spaceship Caprice. The systems onboard seem to have major problems and there are soldiers on board who fought for both sides during the war. Scur discovers that Orvin is also on board but the attempts to capture him are hampered by the ship’s problems, which can only be explained if the people on board remained hibernated for many centuries.