The year’s half over, but 2017 has saved the best for last with some intense delights for geeks arriving in late summer and fall.
Case in point: these five books on our must-read list. We’ve got the return of one widely-loved writer (Philip Pullman), the successor to another (H.G. Wells), plus a couple of tomes that give us another good look at two of entertainment culture’s most popular heroes right now: Wonder Woman and Alexander Hamilton.
That’s right: You’ve obsessed over the musical, now read the graphic novel. Here’s the list:
1. Wonder Woman: Warbringer, by Leigh Bardugo
Publication date: August 29, 2017
No, this isn’t some slapdash attempt to cash in on the popularity of DC’s biggest hit movie. Wonder Woman: Warbringer is the first fruit of an effort to get popular YA authors to make their mark on DC’s stable of heroes — DC Icons, a series Mashable exclusively revealed last year.
Nevertheless, Bardugo has given us something that kind of works as an alternate universe prequel to the events of the film. Here is teenage Diana adventuring out into the world of men, and for once, she’s not doing it because of a man.
The warbringer of the title is in fact another teenage girl, Alia, a descendant of Helen of Troy who washes up on Amazonian shores. “I wanted to create a mythology that allowed any battle-proven woman from any culture the chance to find her way to Themyscira,” Bardugo told EW.
Little did she know when she was writing it that the pump would be so primed, the potential global audience for this particular fantasy so large. Bring it on, warbringer.
3 Alexander Hamilton: The Graphic History of an American Founding Father, by Jonathan Hennessey and Justin Greenwood
Publication date: August 8, 2017
How does a bastard orphan (who was not really either in real life) grow up to be a hero and a scholar? It seems we never tire of learning the answer. This particular one, the first in graphic novel format, is a simple, clear narrative based largely on Hamilton’s wealth of written words — “fully illustrated and impeccably researched,” according to its publisher.
Whether or not it can live up to the promise of the musical remains to be read. But the book clearly has a contender for blurb of the year, from Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow co-creator Marc Guggenheim. It’s a rhyming blurb that includes the couplet “This ain’t no U.S. propaganda/It’s the best Hamilton since L.M. Miranda.”
We can’t wait to read like we’re running out of time.
3. The Massacre of Mankind, by Stephen Baxter
Publication date: August 22, 2017
Whatever happened to those crazy Heat Ray-loving germaphobic tripods from H.G. Wells’ classic War of the Worlds, anyway? Did they live happily and hygienically ever after on Mars after their failed 19th century invasion of Earth? Or did they decide to bring the Martian thunder to those puny humans a second time?
These are the question answered by The Massacre of Mankind by veteran science fiction author Stephen Baxter — not the first attempt at a sequel to War of the Worlds, but the first one officially licensed by the Wells estate. Set in the 1920s, it’s an account of the second Martian war related by Juliet Elphinstone, a journalist and the sister-in-law of the narrator of Wells’ book.
Baxter already had a good claim on being Wells’ heir thanks to The Time Ships, his underrated sequel to Wells’ even more famous classic The Time Machine, published in 1995. We can’t wait to dig into this one, which has already been published to positive reviews in the UK.
4. The Book of Dust Volume 1: La Belle Sauvage, by Philip Pullman
Publication date: October 19, 2017
It’s almost here: the first full novel set in the His Dark Materials universe since The Amber Spyglass closed that trilogy nearly two decades ago.
And if the idea of reading more about kids from alternate universe Oxford who are permanently attached to pet-like talking “daemons” quickens your pulse, you won’t be disappointed.
La Belle Sauvage, the first in the Book of Dust series, concerns 11-year old Malcolm Polstead and his daemon Asta. Grown-up Malcolm had a tiny walk-on part in a previous short story about Lyra Silvertongue, the Dark Materials hero; in the new book, we learn all about his role in bringing Lyra to Jordan College, Oxford in the first place. The title is the name of a canoe Malcolm uses.
5. Autonomous, by Annalee Newitz
Publication date: September 2017
Disclaimer: I know Annalee Newitz. It’s almost impossible to be a major geek living in the Bay Area and not know Newitz, the founding editor of io9. But even if this first novel came from a no-name author, it would still rate as one of the most intriguing of the fall.
You’ll be gripped right from the opening, which describes a designer drug that makes homework fun — but also has disastrous toxic consequences. Like the best science fiction, this is a book that helps cast a different perception on a situation in the present — in this case, the rise of nootropics.
Take the premise of Limitless, throw in a pharmaceutical pirate and a self-aware robot, and you’re halfway there. “Autonomous is to biotech and AI what Neuromancer was to the Internet,” says cyberpunk legend Neal Stephenson.
Translation: just read it, because everyone else will.