The Handmaid’s Tale (Barnes & Noble Exclusive Edition), by Margaret Atwood
Nearly 35 years after it was first published—and two seasons into its acclaimed television adaptation—Margaret Atwood’s seminal feminist dystopian novel needs no introduction. If you still haven’t read it—or are looking to revisit it before the premiere of the third season of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale—this new Barnes & Noble edition is a great way to do so. It features a new cover that matches that of the forthcoming followup, The Testaments, arriving this fall, as well as an exclusive reading group guide.
The Red-Stained Wings, by Elizabeth Bear
The sequel to The Stone in the Skull, set in Bear’s Eternal Sky universe, continues the story of the Lotus Kingdoms, remnants of the Alchemical Empire on a world where the nighttime sun offers heat but no light, and the daytime is lit up by millions of stars. As the kingdoms descend into bloody conflict, the Gage, an enormous brass automaton, travels into a blasted desert in pursuit of the mystery of the Stone in the Skull, while Anuraja, having captured princess Sayeh of Ansh-Sahal, marches on the city of Sarathai-tia, held by Sayeh’s cousin Mrithuri. Mrithuri counts on the rain-swollen river to protect the city—but when the rains inexplicably fail, Mrithuri finds herself hunting a traitor in her own ranks. Elizabeth Bear writes epic fantasy like no one else; her stories are as emotionally textured as their worldbuilding is ornate, and her prose borders on the poetic. Between this book and her mind-expanding space opera Ancestral Night, she’s having a hell of a 2019.
[ean]Star Trek: The Captain’s Oath, by Christopher L. Bennett
The crew of the original 1960s Star Trek series has been succeeded, preceded, and erased from continuity by one sequel, prequel, and reboot after another, but they’re still soaring through space on the page. This new tie-in novel from franchise regular Christopher L. Bennett explores the earliest command of Captain James T. Kirk, before he took control of the Enterprise.
Five Unicorn Flush, by T.J. Berry
The sequel to Space Unicorn Blues returns us to a universe in which magical creatures are exploited to power faster-than-light travel. As the book opens, all magical species have vanished from Reasonspace, leaving chaos in their wake, as interstellar travel and most forms of communications have collapsed as a result. Cowboy Jim and his band of soldiers, in possession of the last functioning FTL drive, and set off to locate the relocated, magical Bala in order to kickstart human civilization again. The Bala, in the meantime, aren’t keen on being enslaved again, but can’t seem to figure out how to settle their own internal conflicts either. As the unicorns quickly head towards a civil war over the question of whether they should seek revenge against the humans that oppressed them, it’s up to Captain Jenny to save her people, with a little help from the parasite in her brain. Filled with delightfully weird flourishes that temper the blow of dark emotional undercurrents, this is a worthy sequel to one of last year’s quirkiest, most rewarding space operas.
The Stiehl Assassin, by Terry Brooks
The third book of four planned volumes that will close out Terry Brooks’ enduring Shannara series sees multiple simmering conflicts approaching to an epic boil in the wake of the Skaar invasion of the previous book. Fleeing their dying homeworld, the Skaar seek to conquer all of the Four Lands for themselves, and the foothold established by Princess Ajin is all their main forces need to begin their bloody business. But the Druid Drisker Arc has managed to free Paranor from its exile, and his protege Tarsha Kaynin is learning to control the Wishsong. But Tarsha’s brother Tavo now controls the magical Stiehl, one of the most devastating weapons known to the Four Lands. Everything comes down to locating a man with a name familiar to fans of the books—Shea Ohmsford, who we first met way back in The Sword of Shannara.
Longer, by Michael Blumlein
Cav and Gunjita are scientists ensconced deep in their research on the space station Gleem One, testing the effects of zero-gravity on a new drug. They’ve been married for more than 50 years, and could be married for 50 more; Gunjita recently underwent her second “juving” procedure, reverting her aged body to the prime of youth and health. The procedure can only be performed twice, giving everyone the opportunity to potentially live three lives. Cav, however, hesitates to begin his third go-round, disturbed by the implications of extending the human lifespan beyond its natural limits. When a probe returns to the station with a lump of something that could be alien life, matters both practical and existential threaten to tear the couple apart in this cerebral and deeply imagined science fiction story.
Stranger Things: Darkness on the Edge of Town, by Adam Christopher
The universe of Netflix’s hit series continues expands with a tense, engrossing novel focusing on the backstory of Police Chief Jim Hopper. During Christmas 1984, Hopper hopes for a quiet holiday at home with his adopted daughter Eleven, but she’d rather Jim open up to her about his past—specifically, what happened to him in New York in 1977. Reluctantly, Hopper tells the tale, which begins with him as a recently returned Vietnam vet with a young daughter and a loving wife, working a beat as a detective in the NYPD. As he investigates a series of brutal murders, Hopper is stunned when federal agents seize all of his files and warn him off the case. Unable to obey, he goes undercover into a world of violent street gangs, searching for the truth—but when the great citywide blackout hits, plunging the city into chaos, he finds himself all alone, and facing something worse than he ever imagined.
Time’s Demon, by D.B. Jackson
The sequel to Time’s Children rejoins Tobias, a 15-year-old boy who sacrificed years of his life to go back in time to prevent a devastating war, only to find himself temporally displaced into an adult body, with his king murdered and an infant princess to protect. Joined by Mara, a fellow “Walker” from the terrible future created by his efforts to change the past, Tobias works to undo the damage and save the future. But the two are opposed in their mission by other time travelers. Meanwhile, the Tirribin demon who helped Mara journey to the past pursues a separate, tragic agenda with yet more unforeseen consequences for the battered timeline. With this duology, Jackson has accomplished something rather difficult: putting a new spin on timeworn time travel tropes.
The Gameshouse, by Claire North
Claire North’s latest ingeniously conceived novel, after 84K, blends three previously published novellas into a startling original whole about the Gameshouse, a place where visitors can be a piece, a player, or even the Gamesmaster, and where any game can be played—from the simple challenges of chess to higher league games that involve real people, real empires, and real places, changing history and affecting millions. Three players come to the Gameshouse—an abused Jewish heiress from the 16th century, seeking to escape her brutish husband; a veteran player who enters into a game of world-spanning hide-and-seek with a newcomer who covets his memories and experience; and a veteran player named Silver who challenges the Gameshouse itself to a winner-take-all contest.
Fuzzy Nation and The Android’s Dream, by John Scalzi
John Scalzi is best known for his military sci-fi (the Old Man’s War and Collapsing Empire series) or his near-future police procedurals (the Lock In books). But his bibliography contains multitudes, and this week, Tor is rereleasing two of the odder ones in slick new trade paperback editions. Fuzzy Nation is Scalzi’s reworking of H. Beam Piper’s cult favorite novel Little Fuzzy; if it has the feel of fanfiction, that’s because it’s just that: Scalzi loved the book so much he decided to write his own version. The Android’s Dream, meanwhile, is a humorous romp in which the unfortunate accidental death of an alien ambassador could spell doom for Earth, unless an ex-cop war hero can track down a variety of sheep known as “the Android’s Dream” the aliens require for… alien purposes. Unfortunately, said sheep has become a cult object to a group that worships an infamous sci-fi writer—among others. Each book includes a new introduction by the author.
Hope for the Best, by Jodi Taylor
It’s been a little while since we checked in with Jodi Taylor’s Chronicles of St. Mary’s series, which follows a group of historians rambling about in time and generally making a temporal mess of things, however accidentally. In the past, we’ve labeled the series “perfectly bingeable,” and that hasn’t changed at all with the 10th (but not the last) installment, which follows protagonist Max on a stint with the time police, trying to right a wrong in the timeline that has placed the wrong Tudor queen on the throne in the 16th century. The change of venue means a few favorite characters sit this one out, but Taylor makes up for it with one of the most tightly plotted, eventful, and heart-wrenching volumes of the series.
Walking to Aldebaren, by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Tchaikovsky’s second high-concept sci-fi release of the month (following the mid-expanding cephalopods-in-space adventure Children of Ruin) is this novella about a lost astronaut’s encounter with a strange alien artifact (is there any other kind?). Astronaut Gary Rendell thinks himself lucky when he is chosen for the expedition to investigate a strange alien rock formation discovered by a deep space probe. He feels less lucky after emergency strikes and his team is separated, forcing him to explore the cold, dark tunnels of the rock on his own. Though… he isn’t exactly alone. This fast-moving novella benefits from amusing, compelling first-person narration and a narrative taut with suspense.
Lent, by Jo Walton
Hugo-winner Jo Walton’s deliriously inventive new historical fantasy tells the story of Brother Girolamo, who hopes to protect the city of Florence from numerous threats in the wake of the death of its ruler, Lorenzo de’Medici. They come in forms both physical—the invading armies of France—and supernatural—a horde of demons only Girolamo can perceive. But when his efforts to save his city result in his execution for heresy, Girolamo discovers the truth: he is the demon—a Duke of Hell—and is fated to repeat the same mortal life endlessly, with no hope of changing his fate. But when he is sent back to repeat his existence again, a chance magical encounter restores his memories and true identity—giving him hope that he’ll be able to changes things this time around. The beauty of Walton’s work is that it’s compulsively readable and entertaining even if you aren’t familiar with the real history she’s pulling from.
Conventions of War, by Walter Jon Williams
Throughout 2019, Harper Voyager has been rereleasing “Author’s Definitive Edition” paperbacks of Walter Jon Williams mid-aughts space opera series Dread Empire’s Fall. This week arrives the third and final volume of the original trilogy—a follow-up, The Accidental War, debuted last year. Though they were published years after Dread Empire’s Fall books, fans of Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch books will find much to admire here.
What new sci-fi and fantasy books are on your list this week?