Continuing the listing of my favourite Sci-fi book series published in the 2010s, this post will cover two very different trilogies from the same author and one military sci-fi series.
The Milkweed Triptych by Ian Tregillis: I’ve written about this series once in 2015 soon after I read it and once again a few days ago in reference to a similarly themed novel I’d just read, Lavie Tidhar’s The Violent Century. So, there’s not really much more to be said about this brilliant, gripping alternate history series. I can only hope that some TV network or streaming platform somewhere is putting a plan together to adapt this into a mini-series. The German superhuman Gretel who has the ability to see alternate futures is one of the most unhinged, purely evil characters I’ve ever read about and I would love to see on screen how British warlock Lord William Beauclerk and secret agent Raybould Marsh eventually turn the tables on her (at great personal cost). Surely, Tregillis’ mentor George R.R. Martin should be able to help him swing a deal at HBO!
The Alchemy Wars by Ian Tregillis: If any further proof were needed that Mr. Tregillis is one of the smartest, most creative minds in speculative fiction today, this equally entertaining follow-up to the The Milkweed Triptych would be it. The Alchemy Wars is a steampunk story set in an alternative timeline in which celebrated Dutch clockmaker and inventor Christiaan Huygens develops a mysterious ‘alchemical’ technology in the 17th century that acts as a power source for humanoid clockwork automatons (colloquially called Clakkers). Jump ahead to the early 20th century and the Dutch have leveraged this technology to build and sustain a dominant global empire. Their only potential rivals are the French government-in-exile, operating out of northern America who are at a political and military stalemate with the Dutch. The one point of Dutch vulnerability is the fact that Clakkers sometimes ‘go rogue’, somehow achieving sentience and ‘free will’ (the few who do are ruthlessly hunted down and eliminated). New France would love to get its hands on a rogue Clakker and/or the secrets of clockwork alchemy as a means to neutralize Dutch technology and claim back their homeland. These elements form the ingredients for a supremely entertaining, intricately plotted spy and adventure story filled with deadly assassins, scheming politicians and one heroic Clakker named Jax, who must make an epic journey to the New World to help overthrow the evil empire and obtain freedom for his kind.
Frontlines series by Marko Kloos: Terms of Enlistment (2013), Lines of Departure (2014), Angles of Attack (2015), Chains of Command (2016), Fields of Fire (2017) and Points of Impact (2018) plus a couple of short stories set between books 2 and 3. I resisted military sci-fi for years, as I felt that the stories would be repetitive and one-dimensional. Then I picked up and fell in love with R.M. Meluch’s brilliant (and pulpy) Tour of the Merrimack series. Thereafter, I’ve been more open-minded about the sub-genre and a couple of years ago, I discovered Marko Kloos’ Frontlines series. I referred to it in my June 2018 post about the scariest aliens in sci-fi, specifically, the nearly indestrucible ‘Lankies’ who are taking over Earth’s colonies one by one and terraforming them. In the books, we follow the fortunes of Andrew Grayson, a soldier with the Commonwealth Defense Corps, who along with his fellow troopers, is sent out on one dangerous interplanetary mission after another in an attempt to push back the alien threat. What makes the books interesting is the humanization of the characters…besides the large scale action, we also experience Andrew’s anxieties related to his girlfriend who is a pilot in the Defense Corps and his mother who has to contend with widespread poverty and civil unrest in the city-ghettos on Earth. I haven’t read the 6th book yet and I understand that there are three more books planned to close out the series, so there’s still quite a lot more of the story arc to get through. For those interested, both Mr. Tregillis and Mr. Kloos are contributors to the Wild Card universe, an ‘open-source’ universe of comic books, role playing games and novels concerning people who acquire super-powers via an alien virus, all of which are edited and managed by George R.R. Martin and his collaborator Melinda Snodgrass. Yes, that man has connections everywhere!
In a couple of days, I’ll publish the third and final part of my list of top sci-fi book series of the 2010s.