The New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2019

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

We’re done looking back at the best sci-fi and fantasy, horrorcomics, and manga of 2018. Now we turn our gaze to the year ahead: here are the new sci-fi and fantasy books coming in 2019 that our team of bloggers and reviewers can’t wait to read.

Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir (September 10)
Hello, I am cheating, because I read Tamsyn Muir’s buzzy debut back in September, but I can’t think of another recent (or forthcoming!) book I’d rather experience again for the first time. It’s the story of snarky, smart-mouthed young necromancer Gideon, drafted against her will into a game of galactic intrigue that quickly turns into a meme-filled Agatha Christie murder mystery in a sealed off, decrepit space castle. With skeletons! I loved it so much I blurbed it (“Gonzo fantasy. If Gene Wolfe, Mervyn Peake, and Ray Harryhausen collaborated on a novel on Reddit, the results might be half as mad and a quarter as entertaining as Tamsyn Muir’s necro-maniacal debut.”), and you will too. Love it, I mean. – Joel Cunningham

The Luminous Dead, by Caitlin Starling (April 2)
I’m cheating here too, since I’ve read this one, but you don’t want to miss it: Starling’s tense and exciting debut follows a cave-diver astronaut on an alien who discovers horrors underground. I read it all the way through, barely taking any time to breathe. A must read for thriller fans. – Elsa Sjunneson-Henry

Empress of Forever, by Max Gladstone (June 18)
The Craft Sequence established Max Gladstone as one of the most innovative voices in fantasy. Now he is turning his considerable talents toward a universe-spanning space opera featuring time travel, space empires, and a swashbuckling team of far-future renegades. I have only the faintest idea of what to expect from a book billed as “a feminist Guardians of the Galaxy crossed with Star Wars,” but I know that anything from Gladstone’s word processor will be wildly imaginative, devastatingly smart, and like no space opera I’ve read before. – Kelly Quinn-Chiu

The Hod King, by Josiah Bancroft (January 22)
Erstwhile headmaster Thomas Senlin has been climbing the Tower of Babel, on the hunt for his lost wife Marya, for two books. Inching ever upward through grotesque Ringdoms, he’s amassed a motley and charming supporting cast. So, I can’t wait for The Hod King, which promises to give some of those characters (fearsome Iren, mischievous Voleta, and capable captain Edith) far more of our attention. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll hear from Marya, too. – Nicole Hill

Dark Shores, by Danielle L. Jensen (May 7)
Two continents divided by impassable-but-by-magic seas, a badass pirate princess of color, a monstrous scion of nearly forgotten gods, and a legion commander with a dark past from an Empire set on world domination? Sign me up. I’ve been longing for a sweeping epic that takes me out of the traditional psuedo-European model and into more exotic territory, and Dark Shores looks like it fits the bill, with the added bonus of what I hope will be a critical eye on colonialism and a complex emotional sub-plot to keep me engaged in this global saga. Yes, it’s billed as YA, but it has all the signs of being just as nuanced and adventurous as Joe Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea trilogy, which I couldn’t get enough of. – Ardi Alspach

Black Leopard, Red Wolf, by Marlon James (February 5)
I’m so excited about Marlon James’ Black Leopard, Red Wolf, which has been blurbed as an “African Game of Thrones”: a fantasy national epic more based on African history and folklore. The brutal, bloody politics, roster of disparate characters, and sheer freaking scope of A Brief History of Seven Killings (for which he won the Booker prize) suggests James will crush epic fantasy. – Ceridwen Christensen

Collision: Stories, by J.S. Breukelaar (February 19)
I read Breukelaar’s novel Aletheia earlier this year, and she blew me away with a story that took unexpected turns and seduced me with its vivid prose and flawed, compelling characters. It’s a book I still think about a lot. Since I love short fiction, I really can’t wait to read this collection and see what dark and magical dreams she’ll bring to life there. – Maria Haskins

Empire of Grass, by Tad Williams (May 7)
Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn is a classic for a reason. Twenty-five years later, Williams has returned to the land of Osten Ard with The Last King of Osten Ard trilogy, a direct sequel to his famous series, picking up with many of the same characters, themes, and locations fans know and love. The first volume, The Witchwood Crown was a brilliant reintroduction to the series, and Empire of Grass looks to continue Williams’ run as one of our generation’s greatest fantasists. It’s got everything you love—from plucky heroes to mysterious magic, a beautiful world, rich and full of life, but also ancient and barreling toward a new, unforeseeable future. – Adian Moher

The Light Brigade, by Kameron Hurley (March 19)
I’m an unabashed mark for military science fiction that has an ethical core rather than a Physics degree. Hurley’s work is never less than impressive and this story of soldiers discovering just how they’re being deployed, and the temporal price they’re paying for it, looks fantastic. – Alasdair Stuart

This Is How You Lose the Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone (July 16)
I’ll read pretty much anything with the words “time war” in the title, description, or randomly on page 42, but with these two authors involved, it’s doubtless going to be pretty awesome. Especially since it all kicks off with someone finding a letter on a desolate battlefield marked “burn before reading.” Both Gladstone and El-Mohtar have earned more or less my blind allegiance, but honestly, they had me at the title. – Jeff Somers

Ancestral Night, by Elizabeth Bear (March 5)
A return to space opera after a number of years for Bear. An engineer, a pilot, an AI and a booby trapped derelict ship that leads the pair into a chase with interstellar governments, pirates, and oh yes, the black hole at the center of the galaxy. In an era where space opera is big again, I’ll be very glad to hear Bear’s voice resounding once again in one of my favorite subgenres of SFF. – Paul Weimer

Wanderers, by Chuck Wendig (July 2)
I’ve adored Chuck Wendig’s gritty, creepy writing style since his first Miriam Black novel dropped. He’s written about a zillion works since, but I’m dying to get my hands on this post-apocalyptic jewel. Perhaps because this book, teased as Station 11 meets The Stand, gives off literary-level vibes that imply Wendig is really upping his game on this one—without losing his signature penchant for the darker side of the genre. – Emily Wenstrom

Children of Ruin, by Adrian Tchaikovsky (May 14)
I’m being slightly lazy with this pick, in that Tchaikovsky’s Children of Time was my favorite book of 2018. That self-contained book didn’t demand a sequel, which makes it all the more exciting that we’re getting one—though I might be a hair disappointed if it’s not just the further adventures of hyper-evolved spiders. I expect I’ll love it regardless. – Ross Johnson

Permafront, by Alastair Reynolds (March 19)
Alastair Reynolds is one of my favorite authors, and this novella sounds poised to deliver on a great premise —what if you could travel back in time and make a slight adjustment that meant humanity avoided global catastrophe, but would leave all of recorded history intact? A no-brainer, huh? What could possibly go wrong? – Tim O’Brien

Stormsong, by C.L. Polk (February 11)
Witchmark was one of the best books I read in 2018—a beautiful, romantic, and immersive story and a breath of fresh air in a year that was pretty freaking awful. I nearly cried with joy when I heard there was going to be a sequel; I need to know what happens to everyone. Stormsong will focus on Miles’ sister, Grace, who must deal with the horrible consequences on what they put in motion in Witchmark. Storms threaten to tear their city apart and the book will probably tear my heart apart. I have a few months to get mentally ready and it still probably won’t be enough. I can not wait. – Meghan Ball

Thorn of Emberlain, by Scott Lynch (???)
Just because it doesn’t have a release date, or might not be technically finished, doesn’t mean I can’t anticipate it. It’s been almost six years since The Republic of Thieves was released, and I’m raring to get back to the world of Gentlemen Bastards—a place where the mages are ruthless, the humans are devious, and even priests and children swear like sailors. While Scott Lynch takes his time with books, his “when it’s done” approach never fails to deliver, and I’m looking forward to seeing him follow on from the devastating conclusion of book three. – Sam Reader

What’s your most-anticipated SFF book of 2019?

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Spiders Are Our Future in Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Brilliant Children of Time

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

There are aliens, right here on Earth. Right now. Intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, as H.G. Wells put it—though he was talking about life on Mars. Closer to home we have crows, who are happy to engage with friendly humans, and the less friendly (and altogether weirder) octopus. Strangest of all, and scariest to many of us, is the spider. They’re everywhere, and it’s pretty clear they’d be happy to have us for lunch, given the chance. And from hunting to weaving, they’re very good at what they do.

The Portia spider, for instance, captures much larger prey through mimicry, social coordination, and adaptability, qualities that explain why that particular species gets a big shout out in Adrian Tchaikovsky’s award-winning novel Children of Time, which won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in its native UK in 2015 and is finally getting a proper North American release after years of being available only as an import (not that that prevented it from making our list of the best sci-fi books of the year). “Portia” is the name taken by generations of leaders in an evolved spider society unleashed, quite accidentally, on a lifeless alien world via a misdirected payload of a human-engineered virus. What sounds like the premise for a 1950s monster movie becomes a fascinating, thoughtful, and impressively moving exploration of cultures in conflict.

Monkeys were the plan. Brilliant and ambitious (if morally deficient) scientist Avrana Kern thinks she’s figured out how to save the human race from itself, even if her idea doesn’t, strictly speaking, include humans. Monkeys placed on a sleeper ship and deposited on a promising-yet-remote alien planet will be infected with a nanovirus that will steer their evolution along human lines. The virus would allow the creatures to evolve in parallel to their new home, adapted to an environment outside of Earth, while still serving as a kind of successor to humanity.

Naturally, there are people back on Earth who don’t see the advantage in being superseded rather than saved, and a terrorist incident throws Dr. Kern’s plan into chaos. The virus escapes, but doesn’t find its intended host in Dr. Kern’s monkeys, instead infecting the insect life earlier brought to the planet to prime it for its planned population of super-monkeys. In a storyline running parallel to that of the ill-fated human expedition, we encounter the first spider referred to as Portia, a smarter-than-usual example of her species. As the virus takes hold, we follow subsequent generations of Portias who lead their fellow spiders—as much as spiders can be lead—into the development of a new society, with ever-increasing intelligence evolving along spider-ish lines.

Tchaikovsky’s take on spider society is fascinating and certainly feels plausible, managing to intrigue despite the outlandishness of the premise—as the intelligence of the arachnid community grows, we’re able to meet them halfway in understanding the very alien world and the ways of thinking of a predatory species. The spiders aren’t the only creatures that have evolved, though, and they eventually engage in brutal conflicts with ants that rival any epic clash in fantasy literature (Tchaikovsky knows from insects and spiders, having penned the 10-book Shadows of the Apt series, about warring races of humans augmented with insectile and arachnid abilities, as well as the D&D-friendly novella Spiderlight). Like the spiders, the uplifted ants develop intelligence appropriate to their own bodies and culture, making a functioning ant colony a sort of hive mind not unlike a giant computer.

]During the long evolution of the species, a human ship, the Gilgamesh, arrives with some of the last survivors of mankind in cryogenic sleep. They’re desperate for a new home, and Dr. Kern’s world seems perfect—even with the over-sized spiders and relentless ants, it’s still the most promising place they’ve found. What’s left of Dr. Kern herself—an uploaded intelligence, trapped in an orbiting satellite—ferociously guards her experiment, though, forcing the humans to regroup elsewhere, and consider making desperate alliances. Over the centuries, the spiders evolve rapidly thanks both to the virus (which gifts them with complex genetic memory) and their short lifespans, as does the culture of the remnants of humanity onboard the cryoship.

In both societies, there are triumphs and mistakes; periods of horrific violence and remarkable achievement. Each is subject to unavoidable catastrophe, but each is also more than capable of harming itself. Examining the growing pains of civilization is just the biggest of several very big ideas Tchaikovsky explores; likewise he illustrates the ways in which two societies with very different ways of living and thinking could both grow in parallel and sharply diverge. There are questions of religion, as humans create a new messiah over the centuries and the spiders come to understand their connection to the blinking satellite in the sky. There’s even a smart, slightly cheeky look at sexism, as the female-dominated spider society takes a very long time to see males as much more than post-coital snacks.

]ean2]The science-fiction question here has to do with alien intelligence. How do spider think, and what would it be like to be one? It’s a worthwhile question in and of itself to build a fun book around, but Tchaikovsky’s focus is a bit more ambitious than simple fun. The real question isn’t about what it would be like to have an alien mind and life, but about how two very different cultures can find common enough ground to avoid destroying one another. What initially seems like a fascinating but somewhat pessimistic view of cultural conflict becomes, by the end, a bit more hopeful—a message that we can at least learn from each other, even if we can’t avoid every tragedy, if we just learn how to unlock the better spiders of our nature. Children of Time is utterly fascinating and utterly readable, the rare novel that’s as page-turning as it is intelligent. It’s also a perfect standalone novel—which doesn’t mean the forthcoming sequel, Children of Ruin, won’t be welcomed with open… legs.

Children of Time is available now. Children of Ruin hits shelves in May.

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This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Endless Snow, a Dimension-Hopping Locked Box, and Magically Coming of Age in Wyoming

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Typeset in the Future, by Dave Addey 
Addey distills the fascinating studies of typography and design in science fiction that have made his blog a must-read into a brilliant, absorbing book. Via film stills, concept art, interviews, and other elements, Addey analyzes how the often-overlooked art of fonts and other design elements augment fantastic fictional universes and subtly, invisibly root them in a sort of fictional reality. Diving deep into iconic films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien, Moon, and Total Recall, Addey explains how design decisions can have a profound effect not just on our enjoyment of a film, but on its lasting legacy in popular culture.

Burning Ashes, by James Bennett
The third book in Bennett’s fun contemporary fantasy series exploring a hidden world of magic and dragons that exists in the corners of the reality we know. The long peace between the human and mythical worlds is no more, and disgraced Guardian Dragon Ben Garston holds himself responsible. With the Long Sleep—the spell holding ancient magical creatures in stasis deep underground—no longer binding, the human world risks falling into ruin, and an incursion from the lands of the Fae is only making things worse. With The End looming, Ben will have to put down the bottle and pick himself up for one last fight.

Green Jay and Crow, by D.J. Daniels 
Daniels’ novel earns its comparisons to Philip K. Dick: weird, difficult, and occasionally obscure, this is a story that raises heavy questions about reality, humanity, and time without fully answering them. In the city of Barlewin, Kern Bromley is a human known as Crow, tasked with delivering a time-locked box to a dangerous criminal. Crow becomes linked to the box and begins jumping to alternate realities, meeting himself and glimpsing multiple possible realities. Eva, the Green Jay, is an artificial body double printed from plant matter. Eva lives in the memories of her creator, and should have disintegrated long ago, but is still struggling to find her way into reality, and has managed to remain in one piece through the assistance of a pair of robots named Felix and Oscar (the Chemical Conjurers). Eva’s survival depends on something inside the box Brom carries, but whether she can rely on him or not is an open question. This is a story that explores what it means to be real, to be human—and to be neither.

The Corporation Wars Trilogy, by Ken MacLeod
MacLeod’s excellent Corporation Wars trilogy (Dissidence, Insurgence, Emergence) is collected into a single omnibus edition, telling the whole story of a universe where vicious, ruthless companies use sophisticated AIs to wage cold and hot wars over mining rights. The commands take time to transmit to the robots, however, and in the space between them, the AIs have to make their own decisions—a dangerous situation that indirectly leads them to sentience and self-actualization. Seba is one of those freshly sentient AIs, and sparked a revolution among its fellow “freeboot”minds. Trying to keep them under control is Carlos, a soldier who, via technology, has been reincarnated over and over again. When Carlos and Seba begin to see each other as pawns in a game larger than them both, things get truly interesting—and having all three books in one binding is going to be very convenient once you’re totally hooked and unable to stop turning pages.

The Snow, by Adam Roberts
What if it started snowing… and never stopped? That’s the scenario explored in this early novel from British science-fiction writer Adam Roberts, finally back in print in the U.S. (albeit only as an ebook). Climate change takes a different tack in this post-apocalyptic adventure for readers who were chilled by the icy future of the film Snowpiercer, as a prolonged, heavy snow begins to fall everywhere, and keeps falling, piling higher and higher until eventually covering the planet in a shell of snow hundreds of miles thick. Their tallest cities long-buried, the remnants of humanity survive by digging out elaborate systems of tunnels and warrens, and trying to figure out what comes next. And you thought Westeros had it bad.

Rattlesnake Wind, by Lilith Saintcrow
Lilith Saintcrow has given us a novel revealing a vision of dark near-future America and coined the genre we labeled trailer park fantasy. Her latest is something new: a story of growing up, finding love, and discovering magic for the first time. Teenager Desiree Thompson moves across the country with her family to desolate Wyoming to build a new life in the wake of the death of her father. At first, life in the sleepy community seems to be going well, if not quite proceeding normally: Desiree dates a local boy and befriends a woman who teaches her how to see visions of the future. But then, a dangerous stranger enters town and begins dating Desiree’s mother, and everything begins to go wrong. The metaphor is obvious, but Saintcrow’s writing never is; this coming-of-age tale is as genuine as it is magical.

Children of Time, by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Adrian Tchaikovsky apparently has a thing for spiders. This 2015 book, formerly available only as a UK import, is being republished in the U.S. by Orbit just in time for the May 2019 debut of the sequel, Children of Ruin. It’s a magnificently imaginative space opera about the last remnants of humanity’s diaspora to the stars, who believe they’ve found their new Eden—a terraformed planet perfectly suited to human life—until they discover another batch of colonists (of the massive, fiendishly intelligent, eight-legged variety) is also vying for a spot at the top of the food chain. It’s a novel that once again proves the author a master at manipulating familiar elements of the genre (generation ships, cryosleep, truly alien civilizations), while injecting his own brand of venomous originality—due to the colony world’s ideal environment, the spider race evolves at an accelerated rate, allowing us to witness entire epochs of its history, from squishable bugs to a space-faring civilization to be reckoned with, in the span of a few hundred idea-packed pages.

A Bad Deal for the Whole Galaxy, by Alex White
The second book in the big, gay, action-packed space opera series The Salvagers (after August’s A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe) opens with Nilah and Boots basking in the newfound wealth shared by the crew of the Capricious in the wake of their last desperate adventure. They could’ve just spent their money and enjoyed life for a change, basking in the glory of having literally just saved the universe from destruction, but no: when rumors of an ancient cult linked to a dangerous, ancient power reach them, they know they have to act. Nilah goes undercover, testing her short temper, while Boots faces up to her past, forced to look up her traitorous ex-partner. If you’re getting Firefly vibes from all that, you’re right on the money; Browncoats will find a lot to love in this fast, funny, and wickedly smart series.

What new SFF is on your list this week?

The post This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Endless Snow, a Dimension-Hopping Locked Box, and Magically Coming of Age in Wyoming appeared first on The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog.