Alphabet Squadron Is the Closest Thing to an X-Wing Book Star Wars Has Had in Years, and I Love It

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When you announce a new Star Wars novel about a ragtag team of hypercompetent pilots, it’s hard not to immediately draw connections to Michael A. Stackpole and Aaron Allston’s work on some of the best Star Wars books of all time: the X-Wing series. Alphabet Squadron, this Disney-canon successor to the throne, is the…

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This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: False Memories, a War in Hell, and Star Wars from A- to X-Wing

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

God’s Demon, by Wayne Barlowe
Fantasy artist Wayne Barlowe tries his hand at prose in this ambitious debut, inspired by Paradise Lost. Barlowe looks to the villains of that foundational text—the demons who allied with Lucifer and are now exiles from Heaven, forced to make do with the torments of Hell as their new home. After ages have passed, one of them, Sargatanas, begins to dream of reentering God’s good graces, and he assembles an army to help him overthrow the forces of Hell as a sign of his good faith. The general of this unusual army is the soul of famous, fearsome mortal Hannibal. Doomed sinners and repentant demons ally to defeat Beelzebub and Lucifer in a battle for eternity—literally. The imaginative setup is matched by the author’s ability to paint in lurid detail the horrific habits and habitat of his demonic characters.

The Hive: The Second Formic War, by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston
Orson Scott Card and co-writer Aaron Johnston continue the sketch out the history of the conflicts that led up to the events of the classic novel Ender’s Game with the middle volume of their second prequel trilogy, this one focusing on the second conflict between humans and the insect-like “Buggers.” Having fought off an initial scouting ship, the nations of Earth must come together to defend the world from a larger invasion aiming to overtake the planet. Ender-verse fans know how this all turns out, of course, but that doesn’t make the buildup any less interesting, as we see the forming of partnerships and alliances that will create the Battle School that will once day turn Ender into the warrior humanity needs.

The Faded Sun Trilogy Omnibus, by C. J. Cherryh
This classic trilogy from C.J. Cherryh, set in her larger Alliance-Union universe, takes place in the aftermath of a 40-year war between the alien Regul and the humans—who have proven to be the fiercest and most bafflingly violent enemy the Regul or their honor-bound mercenaries the Mri have ever faced. In fact, after thousands of years of service the Mri have been nearly wiped out by humanity’s ruthless warring, and as the story begins, their homeworld of Kesrith has been ceded to the humans as part of a peace settlement. When the extent of the Regul’s betrayal of the Mri becomes clear, one of their last warriors, Niun; his sister Melein, last priestess of the Sen; and a human traitor named Sten Duncan become determined to locate a relic that holds the key to the Mri’s survival. The trilogy—now available in one volume after years out of print—explores themes on genocide, cultural assimilation, and the brutal consequences of war, while expanding the worlds of one of the most complex and satisfying fictional universes ever created.

Recursion, by Blake Crouch
At the start of Blake Crouch’s latest mind-bending high-concept sci-fi thriller, New York City detective Barry Sutton begins to encounter people suffering from False Memory Syndrome—a condition where they “remember” lives they never lived, and suffer emotionally due to tragedies they never actually experienced. A year earlier, a brilliant neuroscientist named Helena Smith accepts funding from a mega-wealthy sponsor in order to create a device that can preserve memories to be re-experienced whenever desired—but it also allows people to literally enter those memories, changing everything. As the disorder spreads throughout the city, reality itself is threatened; who can say what is real when you can’t trust your own memories? As Harry connects with Helena and they realize her research is destabilizing the world, the two join forces to find a way to save the human race from this threat from within.

Alphabet Squadron (B&N Exclusive Edition), by Alexander Freed
Star Wars: Battlefront author Alexander Freed returns to the galaxy far, far away for a new story set in the wake of the Rebel Alliance’s triumph in The Return of the Jedi. The Empire is in disarray and the New Republic is struggling to establish itself and finish the galactic civil war for once and for all. Yrica Quell is a defector from the Empire, recruited to be a pilot for the elite Alphabet Squadron (so named because it includes each of the Rebel’s iconic alphabetical ship designs, from A-Wing to X-). The squadron has been charged with locating and destroying Shadow Wing, an elite force of TIE fighters gone rogue, which has been inflicting lethal damage to New Republic forces. The Alphabet Squadron is like the burgeoning government itself—rough and ragged and internal and external threats that are always on the verge of destroying them without a single shot fired. But they’re also resourceful and dedicated—not to mention some of the greatest pilots in the galaxy. Freed recreates the balance of memorable characters and high-stakes action that typified the best of the now-Legends X-Wing novels, but that’s not the only reason to read:in an interesting publishing experiment, the flip side of the story is told in Marvel’s TIE Fighter comic, which views things from the perspective of the Imperial pilots of the Shadow Wing who are seeking to destroy the New Republic before it can even begin. The B&N Exclusive Edition features a set of three bookmarks.

The Good Omens Script Book, by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens is a classic of humorous apocalyptic fantasy, and pretty much since the day it was published, various people have been trying to turn it into a movie. Well, despite the valiant efforts of both authors, that never happened, and the dream of adaptation seemed to have died with one of the co-authors when Terry Pratchett passed away in 2015 and Gaiman swore never to allow it to move forward. But Pratchett had suspected that might happened, and penned his friend a letter, delivered posthumously, encouraging him to soldier on. So Gaiman did, ultimately serving as writer and showrunner for the Good Omens miniseries. This book give you a look at the blood, sweat, and tears the author put into adapting his 30-year-old novel into a new medium, featuring the complete scripts of all six episodes.

Green Valley, by Louis Greenberg
Louis Greenberg sets this Black Mirror-esque novel in Stanton, a city that has thoroughly rejected the surveillance state, banning all forms of intrusive digital tracking and data collection. Across from Stanton is the last holdout—Green Valley, a bunker where the inhabitants live in a permanent virtual-reality, offering up all the data they can generate. When dead kids with VR implants start turning up in Stanton, police consultant Lucie Sterling—whose niece Kira lives in Green Valley—is called in to take the case, which takes a desperate turn when Kira is abducted. Lucie will have to dive into the virtual world in order to save her and solve the mystery—but she quickly discovers the surface image of a perfect digital paradise Green Valley presents hides a much darker reality.

The Outside, by Ada Hoffmann 
In a universe where incredibly advanced AI are worshiped as gods and cyborg angels serve as their avatars, humanity’s last hope to break free lies with the space station The Pride of Jai, built entirely without gods’ help and powered by brilliant scientist Yasira Shien’s innovative reactor design. But when the reactor is powered up, disaster strikes—a singularity destroys the station and kills almost everyone on board. Yasira is brought before the gods and told that the disaster is part of a plot to warp reality itself, allowing for an invasion of terrifying monsters from outside our reality. The all-powerful AI believe the plot was engineered by Yasira’s own long-missing mentor Evianna Talirr, but as Yasira is transported to the edge of the galaxy to confront her former teacher, she finds herself questioning the divinity of the gods and the ruthless angels she has always obeyed without question. Hoffman’s debut is starkly original, and tinged with hints of horror fantasy—truly operatic stuff.

God of Broken Things, by Cameron Johnston
As this sequel to last year’s The Traitor God opens, outcast mage Edrin Walker has saved the world, but at great cost: he’s defeated the monster unleashed by his enemies, but it has already infected the leaders of his city with mind-controlling parasites. Edrin’s own mind control magic is all but gone in the wake of his recent, exhausting trials, and an amy of invaders in marching on the city, giving him little time to gather his strength. Edrin gathers a band of anti-heroes to head them off in the mountains, but there also lie difficult trials: vengeful gods, deadly monsters, and secrets Edrin would rather stay buried. A wicked sense of humor and a cast of flawed but striving-for-good characters keeps this mid-series entry from getting too grimdark.

The Grand Dark, by Richard Kadrey
Richard Kadrey takes a detour from his bestselling Sandman Slim series for a dark, gritty novel with shades of dystopian sci-fi and bizarre fantasy. In the aftermath of the Great War, Lower Proszawa is a city finally free to sink into endless hedonism and decadence. Largo Moorden has already been swallowed by the city—an addict, he works for a shadowy crime lord, navigating a world covered in mysterious “city dust,” inhabited by genetically engineered monsters, plagued by a ruthless disease known as The Drops, and crawling with artificially intelligent automata that are relentlessly replacing humans. Largo has a plan to get out of the slums and rub shoulders with the elites, but his ambitions run him smack into those of other forces, which share a much darker collective vision for the future of Lower Proszawa—and the world beyond. Even readers who might miss the more overt gallows humor of Kadrey’s other work will goggle at the scope of the imaginative worldbuilding on display here.

The Last Supper Before Ragnarok, by Cassandra Khaw
The final volume of Khaw’s sharply funny and subversive urban fantasy series following Rupert Wong: by day, a cannibal chef for powerful ghouls; by night, a bureaucrat in Diyu, the hell of Chinese mythology. His efforts to please an ever-growing cadre of gods and ghouls are gruesome and grin-inducing, never more so than in this final volume, in which the Greek Pantheon is no more, and a world world of gods and monsters are vying to fill the power vacuum left by their violent destruction. Rupert and his allies—the assassin Tanis Barlas, the godkiller Cason Cole, and the prophet Louie Fitzsimmons—must deal with the mess while tackling larger questions that will determine their destinies. Which is to say, things could go very bad.

Velocity Weapon, by Megan E. O’Keefe
Megan O’Keefe (airship heist fantasy Steal the Sky) launches a new space opera series with the story of Sanda and Biran Greeve, a skilled pilot and politician respectively. Together they seek to defend their homeworld and deter an all-out war with its enemies. But when Sanda’s ship is attacked, she goes down—and wakes up more than two centuries later, missing a leg and marooned on an abandoned enemy warship. Her only company is the ship’s AI, the Light of Berossus, aka Bero, who informs her that both warring planets were destroyed long ago, and she might be the only human left in the universe. In the past, Biran struggles with the impact of war and a young thief named Jules plots a heist; in the present, another survivor arrives on Bero’s ship—an enemy combatant named Tomas. As the two timelines slowly converge, the twists come fast and furious, as Sanda must decide what it means to be human, and whether there is even room for humanity in a time of war. In a fantastic year for space opera (see below), this one shouldn’t be overlooked.

A Sword Named Truth, by Sherwood Smith
This series-opener from fantasy master Sherwood Smith is set in and closely tied to her epic Inda series, opening in the wake of a great conflict and a world just very much on the mend. A wide-ranging cast of characters, weathered by the recent hardships, must come together to combat a new threat: Jilo, a new leader unprepared to actually lead his people; Atan, the untested queen of a land that was frozen in time for decades; Senrid, who newly rules over a nation of warriors; and Hibern, a young wandering mage. You may notice that all of these characters are still growing into their powers, meaning they’ll face additional challenges as they ally and prepare to defend themselves against the Norsunder, an enemy force gathering strength. It’s easy to immerse yourself in the day-to-day struggles of these characters as they prepare for another war, and though new readers can pick up the narrative here, readers familiar with the characters, plot, and worldbuilding of the Inda series will be better equipped to tackle this impressive, multilayered novel.

The Sol Majestic, by Ferrett Steinmetz
This unusual SF romp from the author of the decidedly wacky Flex urban fantasy series centers on Kenna, a teenage member of a religious group called the Inevitable Philosophers. Followers like his parents once wielded great influence in the galaxy, but the religion has waned. One night, doubting Kenna arrives at the famous restaurant the Sol Majestic, where the rich and powerful wait years for a reservation and a nightly free meal is offered to the person who offers the best answer to the question “why do you love food?’” and wins the prize, endearing himself to the head chef, Paulius, who finds his religion intriguing. Kenna is brought into the restaurant’s  inner circle, and ersatz found family, and is introduced to the galaxy of great food. But as his Wisdom Ceremony approaches—even as his faith in the Inevitable Philosophies shrinks—Kenna must find his own truth, even as a villain emerges who threatens everything he’s come to suddenly find most dear.

The Fall, by Tracy Townsend
The dense and rewarding sequel to Townsend’s impressive debut The Nine. The series is set on an alternate version of Earth where science and alchemy serve as the dominant religion (which sounds like an oxymoron, but it isn’t when God appears to be something of a scientist Himself, His bible akin to a manual unlocking the secrets of creation itself). Teenage vagabond Rowena Downshire, now apprenticed to a powerful Alchemist, has learned she is one of the Nine described in God’s book—one of the creator’s test subjects used in his literal worldbuilding experiments. But the book is now in the hands of forces who’d rather kill the Nine than see God’s plan realized—which would be bad news for the world. This startlingly original and well-built science fantasy series deserves a wider readership.

What new SFF is on your list this week?

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Climb Into the Cockpit of Alphabet Squadron with Author Alexander Freed

StarWars.com

The members of Alphabet Squadron are reporting for duty. The first novel of a trilogy that brings us back to the galaxy mere days after the destruction of the second Death Star, in its pages we meet some unique and not-entirely-trustworthy pilots who just might hold the fate of the New Republic in their hands.

There’s Yrica Quell, an Imperial defector who can’t completely escape her past; Chass na Chadic, a B-wing pilot has seen her entire squadron destroyed twice; Wyl Lark, a veteran inside an A-wing cockpit who just wants to go home; the roguish Nath Tensent, who also outlasted his squadron; and Kairos, a silent U-wing pilot clad all in black with a mask that hides her every expression. Together the ragtag group of pilots must take on one of the New Republic’s biggest threats, the Imperial TIE squadron Shadow Wing — an elite group of pilots that Quell belonged to before she switched sides.

To celebrate the release of the book today, StarWars.com climbed into the cockpit with author Alexander Freed to get some readings on the members of Alphabet Squadron, details on how the novel ties in to other Star Wars stories, and more.

Note: This interview does not contain detailed spoilers regarding the plot of Alphabet Squadron, but it does shed light on its characters. Fly carefully!

Quell from Alphabet Squadron

Quell

StarWars.com: When we first meet Yrica Quell, it’s difficult for the New Republic to determine which side she’s on. Why do you feel that the story of a former Imperial, someone who’s very late to the Rebellion, is a meaningful one to tell?

Alexander Freed: No one doubts that Emperor Palpatine was an evil man who needed to be deposed. But he was willingly served by millions of Imperial citizens — some true believers and some not — who were, in their way, complicit in the Empire’s crimes.

One of the first questions the New Republic has to face is what to do with all those ex-Imperials. Do you imprison them all? Put them on trial? Give them a second chance? It’s a hard question without an easy answer, and Quell is right in the thick of it. She is, as you say, very late to the Rebellion. But is she too late to absolve herself? Too late to become a hero? And if she is too late to set things right…what does she do next?

I’ve got plenty of thoughts about how these questions relate to life in the modern world, but I’ll let readers debate that themselves. Fundamentally, though, I think Star Wars works best when it’s full of both characters we can aspire to be like…and characters who may be flawed, and whose failures we can empathize with.

Kairos from Alphabet Squadron
Chas from Alphabet Squadron

StarWars.com: Chass loves to blast music in the cockpit of her B-wing. How did you arrive at this particular character trait?

Alexander Freed: We see (and hear) lots of music in the Star Wars films — cantina bands, Ewok celebrations, Coruscant opera companies — but we rarely see characters talking about it! I try to make sure my characters have interests beyond what’s immediately plot relevant, and it seemed a nice way to give her texture.

I don’t recommend listening to music at full volume while flying a starfighter, by the way. But Chass has never been the most disciplined pilot.

StarWars.com: We’ve seen a few dark figures wearing a mask in Star Wars, but none on the Rebellion’s side, until we meet Kairos. How challenging is it to make a character with no expressions and almost no voice feel like part of the story?

Alexander Freed: The funny thing is, it’s not hard at all. Because Kairos tends to lurk quietly in the background, it means every time she steps into the spotlight it’s immediately clear that she’s up to something important.

And, of course, unlike in a film, we can also dip into her head on occasion and get an entirely different perspective on the action.

Wyl from Alphabet Squadron
Nath from Alphabet Squadron

StarWars.com: Alphabet Squadron has a major tie-in to the story of Star Wars Battlefront II with Operation: Cinder and its red-robed messengers. Why did you want to bridge these stories?

Alexander Freed: I first encountered Operation: Cinder in Greg Rucka’s Shattered Empire comic books, and thought it was a fantastic concept — the notion that the Emperor would order acts of terror and devastation after his death felt utterly appropriate for a wicked narcissist like Palpatine. But neither Shattered Empire nor Battlefront II really had space to dig into what significance Cinder had for the galaxy at large, and I wanted to take advantage of the space a novel provides to explore the subject in more depth.

StarWars.com: Speaking of connections to other stories, there’s also a shared character with Jody Houser’s TIE Fighter comic series, Commander Nuress. How did you collaborate together on the two books?

Alexander Freed: Carefully! We wanted TIE Fighter and Alphabet Squadron to be complementary works, so a reader could pick up either and feel satisfied but also feel like reading both rewarded them with a broader view of our corner of the galaxy.

Jody and I wrote lengthy emails to one another looking for places to intertwine the comic and novel while also working very hard to give one another enough space to not be creatively “boxed in.”

StarWars.com: Were there any particular space battles from the films that inspired you when writing your own?

Alexander Freed: All of them in their way, of course, but the battle over Scarif at the end of Rogue One is beautiful in how many elements it puts into play and adeptly juggles. Starfighters! Rebel capital ships! Imperial capital ships! Bombing runs! Ramming attacks! Space stations! Energy shields! It encapsulates so much of what’s viscerally thrilling about Star Wars space combat.

Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron cover.

StarWars.com: Although this isn’t your first Star Wars novel, you’ll be making a huge impact on the universe with three books to tell this story. What does it feel like to be a part of the growing story of Star Wars?

Alexander Freed: Between video games, comics, and novels, I’ve been dipping in and out of the Star Wars galaxy for well over a decade now. I feel pretty comfortable here! But Alphabet Squadron is my first time working post-Return of the Jedi, and that’s exciting for me — there’s so much to say about a society where the underdogs have finally won and need to figure out how to rebuild.

On top of that, having three books to work with is an enormous privilege — I haven’t been part of a Star Wars story of this scope since Star Wars: The Old Republic, and I’m doing my best to use all that room as effectively as possible.

StarWars.com: Finally, if Chass listened to the music of our galaxy, which songs or artists do you think would be on her cockpit playlist?

Alexander Freed: A lot of Chass’s music collection is inspired by songs from the real world, but I dare not give specifics! It’s safe to say that her tastes are eclectic and that she’s (let’s be honest) not overly choosy. I imagine she would scoop up lots of obscure reggae and punk, some mainstream pop hits in a variety of languages, a smattering of rap albums, techno club remixes of all the above, the occasional novelty tune, and whatever else she could get her hands on.

My real hope is that some enterprising fans compile a Chass playlist or two. I’d much rather see other folks’ interpretations than inflict mine on the world!

Alphabet Squadron is available now.

Kelly Knox is a Seattle-area freelance writer who loves creating Star Wars crafts with her daughter. Follow her on Twitter at @kelly_knox.

Site tags: #StarWarsBlog

Climb Into the Cockpit of Alphabet Squadron with Author Alexander Freed

The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of June 2019

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

For two decades, Jim Killen has served as the science fiction and fantasy book buyer for Barnes & Noble. Every month on Tor.com and the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog, Jim shares his curated list of the month’s best science fiction & fantasy books.

Stranger Things: Darkness on the Edge of Town (B&N Exclusive Edition), by Adam Christopher (May 28, Del Rey—Hardcover)
The universe of Netflix’s hit series continues expands with a tense, engrossing novel focusing on the backstory of Police Chief Jim Hopper (originally slated for release in June, it was pushed up to May, but we still want to highlight it here). It’s Christmas 1984. Hopper hopes to spend 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, facing something worse than he ever imagined. Author Adam Christopher satisfies, whether he’s writing a tie-in novel or something original (his Ray Electromatic mystery series is pure fun).

Fall; or, Dodge in Hell, by Neal Stephenson (June 4, William Morrow—Hardcover)
Neal Stephenson gives the near-future world of his 2011 techno-thriller Reamde a science-fantasy twist in a largely standalone followup that revisits the character of Richard “Dodge” Forthrast, the multi-billionaire founder of Corporation 9592 and creator of the MMORPG T’Rain. In his youth, Forthrast stipulated in his will that when he died his brain should be scanned and preserved by a company owned by the mysterious Elmo Shepherd. When a routine surgery goes wrong and he’s declared brain dead, that’s exactly what happens—if much earlier than he ever expected. Generations later, as the “Meatspace” world spirals into post-truth chaos, a technological breakthrough arrives that allows Forthrast’s brain to be “turned on” again in the virtual Bitworld. While existing as an immortal digital soul in a world without physical constraints sounds great, Forthrast soon finds himself in a desperate battle with Shepherd, also dead and uploaded. Forthrast explores this new phase of human existence and Stephenson ponders existential questions large and small as Dodge and the other denizens of Bitworld must determine how to live in a malleable reality limited only by their imaginations.

Magic for Liars: A Novel, by Sarah Gailey (June 4, Tor Books—Hardcover)
Ivy and Tabitha are sisters, estranged for years by the bitter divide between Tabitha’s magical abilities and Ivy’s complete lack of same. Tabitha went on to teach at the prestigious Osthorne Academy for Young Mages, while Ivy ekes out a living working as a private investigator. When a murder is committed at the Academy, Ivy’s desperate financial situation drives her to take the case despite her animosity toward her sister—and mages in general. At Osthorne, Ivy finds out that even magical academies have Mean Girls, Queen Bees, and popular kids—that is to say, no shortage of murder suspects. As she pretends to have magical powers in order to gain the trust and cooperation of the students and faculty, Ivy finds that to crack the case she’s going to have to face her own fears, her history with her sister, and pull off the most difficult trick of them all: forgiving herself. Regular B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog contributor Sarah Gailey delivers a gripping debut novel, equal parts hardboiled magical noir and gripping psychological drama.

Unraveling, by Karen Lord (June 4, DAW—Hardcover)
Award-winner Karen Lord’s new standalone fantasy (her first novel in four years) opens with forensic therapist Dr. Miranda Ecouvo triumphant; a killer responsible for seven murders is behind bars thanks to her work. But a harrowing near-death experience soon thrusts her into a whole other reality, where she meets the near-immortal Chance and Trickster, brothers who reveal the difficult truth—the entity truly responsible for the murders is seeking immortality, and it’s not done killing. The brothers guide her through the labyrinths of this hidden world, assuring her the killer can still be stopped, and it’s up to her to do it. As reality, memory, and dreams converge, Miranda and the brothers fight to bring true justice to two worlds.

Alphabet Squadron (B&N Exclusive Edition), by Alexander Freed (June 11, LucasBooks—Hardcover)
Star Wars: Battlefront author Alexander Freed returns to the galaxy far, far away for a new story set in the wake of the Rebel Alliance’s triumph in The Return of the Jedi. The Empire is in disarray and the New Republic is struggling to establish itself and finish the galactic civil war for once and for all. Yrica Quell is a defector from the Empire, recruited to be a pilot for the elite Alphabet Squadron (so named because it includes each of the Rebel’s iconic alphabetical ship designs, from A-Wing to X-). The squadron has been charged with locating and destroying Shadow Wing, an elite force of TIE fighters gone rogue, which has been inflicting lethal damage to New Republic forces. The Alphabet Squadron is like the burgeoning government itself—rough and ragged and internal and external threats that are always on the verge of destroying them without a single shot fired. But they’re also resourceful and dedicated—not to mention some of the greatest pilots in the galaxy.Freed recreates the balance of memorable characters and high-stakes action that typified the best of the now-Legends X-Wing novels, but that’s not the only reason to read:in an interesting publishing experiment, he flip side of the story is told in Marvel’s TIE Fighter comic, which views things from the perspective of the Imperial pilots of the Shadow Wing who are seeking to destroy the New Republic before it can even begin.

The Faded Sun Trilogy Omnibus, by C. J. Cherryh (June 11, DAW—Hardcover)
This classic trilogy from C.J. Cherryh, set in her larger Alliance-Union universe, takes place in the aftermath of a 40-year war between the alien Regul and the humans—who have proven to be the fiercest and most bafflingly violent enemy the Regul or their honor-bound mercenaries the Mri have ever faced. In fact, after thousands of years of service the Mri have been nearly wiped out by humanity’s ruthless warring, and as the story begins, their homeworld of Kesrith has been ceded to the humans as part of a peace settlement. When the extent of the Regul’s betrayal of the Mri becomes clear, one of their last warriors, Niun; his sister Melein, last priestess of the Sen; and a human traitor named Sten Duncan become determined to locate a relic that holds the key to the Mri’s survival. The trilogy—now available in one volume after years out of print—explores themes on genocide, cultural assimilation, and the brutal consequences of war, while expanding the worlds of one of the most complex and satisfying fictional universes ever created.

The Grand Dark, by Richard Kadrey (June 11, Harper Voyager—Hardcover)
Richard Kadrey takes a detour from his bestselling Sandman Slim series for a dark, gritty novel with shades of dystopian sci-fi and bizarre fantasy. In the aftermath of the Great War, Lower Proszawa is a city finally free to sink into endless hedonism and decadence. Largo Moorden has already been swallowed by the city—an addict, he works for a shadowy crime lord, navigating a world covered in mysterious “city dust,” inhabited by genetically engineered monsters, plagued by a ruthless disease known as The Drops, and crawling with artificially intelligent automata that are relentlessly replacing humans. Largo has a plan to get out of the slums and rub shoulders with the elites, but his ambitions run him smack into those of other forces, which share a much darker collective vision for the future of Lower Proszawa—and the world beyond. Even readers who might miss the more overt gallows humor of Kadrey’s other work will goggle at the scope of the imaginative worldbuilding on display here.

Green Valley, by Louis Greenberg (June 11, Titan—Paperback)
Louis Greenberg sets this Black Mirror-esque novel in Stanton, a city that has thoroughly rejected the surveillance state, banning all forms of intrusive digital tracking and data collection. Across from Stanton is the last holdout—Green Valley, a bunker where the inhabitants live in a permanent virtual-reality, offering up all the data they can generate. When dead kids with VR implants start turning up in Stanton, police consultant Lucie Sterling—whose niece Kira lives in Green Valley—is called in to take the case, which takes a desperate turn when Kira is abducted. Lucie will have to dive into the virtual world in order to save her and solve the mystery—but she quickly discovers the surface image of a perfect digital paradise Green Valley presents hides a much darker reality.

The Outside, by Ada Hoffmann (June 11, Angry Robot—Paperback)
In a universe where incredibly advanced AI are worshiped as gods and cyborg angels serve as their avatars, humanity’s last hope to break free lies with the space station The Pride of Jai, built entirely without gods’ help and powered by brilliant scientist Yasira Shien’s innovative reactor design. But when the reactor is powered up, disaster strikes—a singularity destroys the station and kills almost everyone on board. Yasira is brought before the gods and told that the disaster is part of a plot to warp reality itself, allowing for an invasion of terrifying monsters from outside our reality. The all-powerful AI believe the plot was engineered by Yasira’s own long-missing mentor Evianna Talirr, but as Yasira is transported to the edge of the galaxy to confront her former teacher, she finds herself questioning the divinity of the gods and the ruthless angels she has always obeyed without question. Hoffman’s debut is starkly original, and tinged with hints of horror fantasy—truly operatic stuff.

Recursion, by Blake Crouch (June 11, Crown—Hardcover)
At the start of Blake Crouch’s latest mind-bending high-concept sci-fi thriller, New York City detective Barry Sutton begins to encounter people suffering from False Memory Syndrome—a condition where they “remember” lives they never lived, and suffer emotionally due to tragedies they never actually experienced. A year earlier, a brilliant neuroscientist named Helena Smith accepts funding from a mega-wealthy sponsor in order to create a device that can preserve memories to be re-experienced whenever desired—but it also allows people to literally enter those memories, changing everything. As the disorder spreads throughout the city, reality itself is threatened; who can say what is real when you can’t trust your own memories? As Harry connects with Helena and they realize her research is destabilizing the world, the two join forces to find a way to save the human race from this threat from within.

The Sol Majestic, by Ferrett Steinmetz (June 11, Tor Books—Paperback)
This unusual SF romp from the author of the decidedly wacky Flex urban fantasy series centers on Kenna, a teenage member of a religious group called the Inevitable Philosophers. Followers like his parents once wielded great influence in the galaxy, but the religion has waned. One night, doubting Kenna arrives at the famous restaurant the Sol Majestic, where the rich and powerful wait years for a reservation and a nightly free meal is offered to the person who offers the best answer to the question “why do you love food?’” and wins the prize, endearing himself to the head chef, Paulius, who finds his religion intriguing. Kenna is brought into the restaurant’s  inner circle, and ersatz found family, and is introduced to the galaxy of great food. But as his Wisdom Ceremony approaches—even as his faith in the Inevitable Philosophies shrinks—Kenna must find his own truth, even as a villain emerges who threatens everything he’s come to suddenly find most dear.

Velocity Weapon, by Megan E. O’Keefe (June 11, Orbit—Paperback)
Megan O’Keefe (airship heist fantasy Steal the Sky) launches a new space opera series with the story of Sanda and Biran Greeve, a skilled pilot and politician respectively. Together they seek to defend their homeworld and deter an all-out war with its enemies. But when Sanda’s ship is attacked, she goes down—and wakes up more than two centuries later, missing a leg and marooned on an abandoned enemy warship. Her only company is the ship’s AI, the Light of Berossus, aka Bero, who informs her that both warring planets were destroyed long ago, and she might be the only human left in the universe. In the past, Biran struggles with the impact of war and a young thief named Jules plots a heist; in the present, another survivor arrives on Bero’s ship—an enemy combatant named Tomas. As the two timelines slowly converge, the twists come fast and furious, as Sanda must decide what it means to be human, and whether there is even room for humanity in a time of war. In a fantastic year for space opera (see below), this one shouldn’t be overlooked.

Empress of Forever, by Max Gladstone (June 18, Tor Books—Paperback)
The Hugo-nominated author of the Craft Sequence fantasy series makes a stunning shift to sci-fi with this splashy, wildly imaginative, utterly strange, and truly intergalactic standalone novel, the anti-hero’s journey of Vivian Lao, a brilliant, morally conflicted young tech billionaire on the verge of world domination—or total destruction at the hands of her many enemies. When she fakes her death and flees to a server farm at the center of the worldwide digital cloud, intending to hack in and make her checkmate move, she unwittingly trips an alarm, endangers a dear friend, and encounters a powerful glowing figure who transports her into an unknown realm that might be a distant galaxy, the far future of her own, or something else entirely. Viv finds herself in a time and place she doesn’t recognized, a universe ruled by the terrifying, emerald-skinned Empress, whose access to a far more advanced Cloud allows her monitor everything, and destroy any civilization that advances to a point that might attract the attention of the Bleed, a truly alien entity that devours reality itself. Viv wasn’t built for terror and passivity, though, and quickly assembles a rag-tag group of heretics, criminals, ex-warlords, and nanobot outcasts, and dedicates herself to breaking the Empress’ hold on the universe. Like Guardians of the Galaxy on mescaline, it’s space opera like you’ve never imagined it.

FKA USA, by Reed King (June 18, Flatiron Books—Hardcover)
Reed King (a pseudonym for a “New York Times bestselling author and screenwriter”) crafts a delirious vision of a terrible future. In 2085, Truckee Wallace lives in a part of the former United States called Crunch, United, working in a food processing plant. He has no particular enthusiasm for his life, but his humdrum days start looking better to him after the president of the company charges Truckee with transporting a talking goat named Barnaby across the country as part of an effort to stymie the nefarious plans of the inventor of a technology that links human brains with electronic devices. As Truckee travels with Barnaby across an environmentally blasted hellscape that was once these United States, he’s joined by a sentient android longing to be human and a lobotomized former prisoner, and struggles with his own ambivalence about whether or not the world he’s trying to save is worth saving at all.

Silver in the Wood, by Emily Tesh (June 18, Tor.com Publishing—Paperback)
This lush, gorgeously written novella from Emily Tesh puts a queer twist on the ancient story of the Green Man. Tobias Finch has spent centuries watching over Greenhollow Wood with only his cats and the dryads for company. One day a handsome young man named Henry shows up at Tobias’ door, dripping wet from misadventure. Tobias recognizes Henry as the new owner of the woods, and feels an instant attraction that Tobias initially resists. Fate soon brings the two back together, however, and Tobias discovers Henry has hidden depths—including an interest in collecting and preserving the local myths and legends. Henry begins to pursue the truth behind one of them, involving a wild man who roams the woods and abducts young men, putting himself in danger and pushing Tobias to a crisis point.

The Affair of the Mysterious Letter, by Alexis Hall (June 18, Ace—Paperback)
Alexis Hall delivers what can best be described as a raucous, passionate, remarkable mashup of H.P. Lovecraft, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Robert W. Chambers. After fighting a war in another universe, Captain John Wyndham returns to his home city of Khelathra-Ven, a place where time and geography are fluid. He’s forced by circumstances to share rooms with Shaharazad Haas, a sorceress of legendary deductive abilities with a reputation for drug binges and darkness. When Haas is hired by socialite Lady Eirene Viola Delhali to investigate who is attempting to blackmail her out of following through on her marriage, Shaharazad quickly narrows the possible suspects—and enlists a reluctant Wyndham to travel through various trippy areas of the city in search clues. Along the way, he faces insane old gods and a prison cell in Carcosa, much to his dismay. The further they dig into the case, the more impossible it seems—even for a place like Khelathra-Ven.

The Brink: An Awakened Novel, by James S. Murray and Darren Wearmouth (June 18, Harper Voyager—Hardcover)
The sequel to Awakened, in which a newly developed deep subway line championed by NYC mayor Tom Cafferty brought a wave of bloodthirsty monsters bubbling up from below, picks up in the stunned aftermath of what Cafferty and his allies learned was no accident, but a planned attack. The creatures have now spread across the globe, a massive cover-up is in effect, and a shadowy organization is using the secret of how to kill the creatures to blackmail desperate nations. Cafferty, ex-police officer Sarah Bowcut, and technical genius Diego Munoz realize that they may be the only people with the knowledge necessary to stave off the apocalypse—if they can make their move before it’s too late. “Ridiculously fun” isn’t often a phrase used to describe a horror novel, but we’re just going to call a C.H.U.D. and C.H.U.D. here.

The Girl in Red, by Christina Henry (June 18, Berkley—Paperback)
Retelling the story of Little Red Riding Hood in a post-apocalyptic setting, revisionist bestseller Christina Henry (Alice, Red Queen, Lost Boy)introduces Red, aka Cordelia, a young woman with a prosthetic leg trying to survive in a world gone mad. Three months before, the Crisis began—a terrifying plague that has killed most of the global population and led to the creation of horrifying monsters. Most of the survivors are huddled in quarantine camps, which have become a breeding ground for desperate acts of violence and terror. Red is determined to travel through the woods to her grandmother’s rural home to make sure she’s okay, but knows that even armed with an axe it’s going to be a dangerous journey—and not only because of the men she might encounter, who might view her gender and her missing limb as weaknesses that make her an easy target. But Red is determined, and no matter how grim her journey becomes, she refuses to give up, relying on her survival skills to guide her through a journey she has no guarantee of completing.

The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t with Her Mind, by Jackson Ford (June 18, Orbit—Paperback)
Teagan Frost is special and not sure how she feels about it. As far as she knows, she’s the only telekinetic in the world. She’s struck a deal with a shadowy spook named Tanner: she completes impossible missions for him, and he ensures she doesn’t end up in a government lab being dissected by overeager scientists. Teagan would much rather be vegging out in front of Netflix, but does as she’s told. But when a dead body turns up at the site of her last mission, murdered in a way only a telekinetic could have accomplished, Teagan must prove her innocence within a day or lose Tanner’s protection. Meanwhile, a drifter named Jake is given three tasks to accomplish in order to gain information about his mysterious past, which might also hold answers for Teagan—and have implications for the fates of millions. Ford’s debut holds nothing back, delivering a sense of absurd fun and high-speed thrills that more than lives up to that amazing title.

The Lesson, by Cadwell Turnbull (June 18, Blackstone—Hardcover)
Five years ago, an alien spaceship appeared over the Virgin Islands, and the Ynaa arrived, claiming to be conducting a peaceful—but highly secret—research mission. The Ynaa offer benefits to their human hosts/hostages like incredible healing powers, but punish any form of aggression toward them with brutal violence. As a result, the relationship between the species is fraught, meaning Ynaa ambassador Mera and her human assistant Derrick have they work cut out for them: as the anniversary of the death of a child killed by the Ynaa comes around, tensions threaten to boil over into open conflict as a cycle of violent retribution is set in motion. Mera and Derrick are forced to choose sides in a war that has been five years in the making. Turnbull’s debut—which the publisher bills as one of the first speculative novels set in the Virgin Islands—explores themes of colonialism and prejudice with literary style, pairing nicely with similarly themed (and much praised) works like Tade Thompson’s Rosewater and Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon.

The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2019 Edition, edited by Rich Horton (June 18, Prime Books—Paperback)
The latest volume of editor Rich Horton’s legendary anthology series offers up a murderer’s row of SFF talent. Stories include gems from Yoon Ha Lee (“The Starship and the Temple Cat”), Cadwell Turnbull (“Jump”), Ursula K. Le Guin (“Firelight”), Lavie Tidhar (“The Buried Giant”), and Nebula nominee Alix E. Harrow (“A Witch’s Guide to Escape”) as well as many others pulled from premier markets like Clarkesworld, Asimov’s, Lightspeed, and Tor.com. Horton pulls stories from a wide net both geographically and in terms of sources, offering a wide view of speculative fiction as it stands today.

War, by Michelle West (June 18, DAW—Hardcover)
An outgrowth of Michelle West’s Sun Sword series focusing on the character of Jewel Markess A’Terafin, the final book of the House War series (which was split into two when it metastasized in the writing; penultimate book Firstborn arrived in February) manages to pull everything together more or less perfectly. The Sleepers, long imprisoned by the gods, are beginning to wake—and the gods are no longer around to keep them in check—and they will only obey the Winter Queen. Jewel has one of the last saplings that could bring on a new Summer Age. She has no idea how to get to the Court of the Winter Queen, but she does have her powers of prophecy and a fierce determination to save her city and her people, no matter the personal cost. This is an outstanding final chapter of an expansive epic that stretches across 14 books.

The Iron Dragon’s Mother, by Michael Swanwick (June 25, Tor Books—Hardcover)
Michael Swanwick surprises with a direct sequel to his 1993 science fantasy classic The Iron Dragon’s Daughter. The followup tells the story of Caitlin of House Sans Merci, a half-human pilot of mechanical dragons. After completing her first mission, she finds she has a hitchhiker in her head named Helen—but before she can puzzle that out, she finds herself framed for a series of terrible crimes, including the murder of her brother. Believing he must still be alive, Caitlin flees into the lands of the industrialized faerie, and discovers a twisted society where changeling women are used as breeding stock and pilots are punished if they do not remain virgins. As she pursues the truth to prove her innocence, Caitlin finds herself working toward a greater goal than her own freedom, assembling a heroic group of friends to help her liberate those suffering under an oppressive society.

What new SFF will you be picking up in June?

The post The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of June 2019 appeared first on The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog.

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Starfighters Get an Upgrade in Alphabet Squadron – Exclusive Excerpt

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Yrica Quell, once an Imperial pilot, never expected to be the leader of a rebel unit. But here she is.

In Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron, the new novel by Alexander Freed coming June 11, Quell runs the titular ragtag group — consisting of an A-wing, B-wing, X-wing, Y-wing, and U-wing. With the Emperor dead, the five members of Alphabet are tasked by New Republic general Hera Syndulla herself to track down and destroy the mysterious Shadow Wing, a lethal force of TIE fighters exacting bloody, reckless vengeance in the twilight of their reign. The new, eclectic crew must face this challenge — and their own inner demons — as they struggle to find their place in a changing galaxy, while learning to work together.

In this exclusive excerpt from Alphabet Squadron, the team is summoned by Quell, only to find their precious craft have received a special modification…

Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron cover.

Nath hadn’t slept more than five hours. The latest mission—a raid on an Imperial outpost caught relaying messages to Pandem Nai—had gone too well not to celebrate, and he’d spent until the wee hours in the Krayt Hut comparing notes on Y-wing repair with Hail Squadron. He didn’t much like the Hail Squadron pilots—to a person, they seemed much too proud of landing a spot aboard Syndulla’s flagship—but Nath might need them down the line. Humbly accepting a few accolades and acting friendly seemed worth the time.

But he hadn’t been expecting a wake-up call from Quell and orders to head down to the hangar at an unnatural hour, and he clearly wasn’t the only one: Chass’s eyes were bloodshot as she marched down the corridor, and even Wyl didn’t look fresh. Only Kairos seemed unperturbed.

Thing probably doesn’t even sleep, Nath thought with a mix of annoyance and admiration.

“They can win,” Chass muttered. “The Empire can win. Shadow Wing can win. Don’t make me fly this early.”

“Reasonable compromise,” Nath said as they strolled into the bay.

Quell was waiting in her flight suit. She offered a curt nod toward the group and jutted a thumb behind her at the rows of fighters. “Got word there’s an admiral coming today. He’ll be doing a full inspection of the Lodestar and its complement. Give your ships a walkaround, check your cockpits, don’t embarrass me. Understood?”

In other words, Nath thought, hide anything you can hide and clean up your mess.

Wyl mumbled a “yes, ma’am,” though Nath felt the boy must have been sarcastic. Chass paused, seemed on the verge of marching out, then lurched forward like something was dragging her by puppet strings. Nath eyed Quell, who shrugged at him as the others moved on.

Before Nath could follow, he heard Wyl’s laugh—a swift bark—followed by Chass swearing. Puzzled, he sauntered past the Meteor Squadron X-wings and came into view of the rear of his ship. His Y-wing sat there, scratched as always but scrubbed and polished like it was fresh from the factory.

He walked slowly around the vessel. His eyes widened. He must have looked absurd, he knew, but it was his ship—his ship. Someone had touched his ship and painted a crest on the gleaming metal depicting five vessels—an A-wing, B-wing, X-wing, Y-wing, and U-wing. Above the crest, a banner read: Alphabet Squadron.

He looked to his comrades. Each stared at his or her own vessel; each ship had been similarly branded. Chass went from swearing to laughing loudly, while Wyl turned around to look over at Quell. Kairos gazed at the U-wing’s markings as if transfixed—she extended a hand and touched the paint gingerly, like it was something ancient prone to crumble in the light.

“You do this to my ship?” Nath called toward Quell.

“Do I look like I can paint?” Quell asked, voice humorless.

“Don’t do it again,” Nath said, but he was smirking despite himself.

“It’s fantastic,” Wyl said. “Thank you.”

“There’s something else,” Quell said, and she strolled down the central aisle between fighters. Kairos stepped away from the U-wing reluctantly. “Thought I’d show you, while we’re at it.”

When her audience was gathered together, Quell tugged up the sleeve of her flight suit and rotated her arm. Stenciled into the irritated flesh of her biceps was a tattoo: the same squadron crest that now adorned the ships.

“In case I get stranded planetside,” Quell said. “They’ll know where to send me.”

“That they will,” Nath said.

“You’re a freak,” Chass added.

“I’m also your commanding officer,” Quell said. Chass shrugged.

“Still a freak.”

They were all smiling. Chass and Wyl continued ribbing Quell, and Nath complained about the early hour. But he could see what she’d done and he respected the effort. Maybe she couldn’t bond with her team like Nath had with his squadron, but Quell had managed to bring the team to her.

It wasn’t a bad outcome. Whatever Nath’s issues with Quell, he hoped she would keep them all alive.

“Time for breakfast,” Wyl said. “You coming with us, Lieutenant?”

“Not this time,” Quell said. “But thank you.”

Nath laughed and waved Wyl and Chass to follow him. Yrica Quell. You’re still Imperial at heart, he thought, but he didn’t spoil the moment.

Part of a crossover with Marvel’s TIE Fighter series, Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron is available for pre-order now.

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Starfighters Get an Upgrade in Alphabet Squadron – Exclusive Excerpt

TIE Fighter, and Star Wars’ Idea of the Good Imperial

io9

Today Marvel Comics launched TIE Fighter, a miniseries about an elite squadron of Imperial pilots who find treachery among their ranks. It ties into the upcoming novel Alphabet Squadron, starring an ex-TIE pilot who defects to the fledgling New Republic, but it got me thinking about another story of a TIE pilot, one…

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https://io9.gizmodo.com/tie-fighter-and-star-wars-idea-of-the-good-imperial-1834096146

First Look — Marvel’s New Star Wars: TIE Fighter Series and Alphabet Squadron Novel Covers

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From a certain point of view, the rebels are traitors to the Empire, putting the innocent people of the galaxy at risk. In the last days of the Galactic Civil War, an elite squadron of TIE fighter pilots, known as Shadow Wing, is assembled to protect Imperial interests.

Starting in April, you’ll meet these brave pilots in Star Wars: TIE Fighter, a new Marvel miniseries set in the time of Alexander Freed’s forthcoming novel Alphabet Squadron, which we are happy to announce will be a trilogy.  The exciting new crossover series from Del Rey and Marvel comics, set after Return of the Jedi, will follow the brutal fallout during the fall of the Empire from both sides of the battle.

Get your first look at the cover art for Star Wars: TIE Fighter issue #1 and Alphabet Squadron below! Cover art of Star Wars: TIE Fighter issue 1.

The comic series is written by Jody Houser, who penned both Marvel’s Star Wars: Thrawn series and the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story comic adaptation, with art by Rogê Antônio and other acclaimed artists, including cover art created by the team behind the recent Darth Vader comic series, Giuseppe Camuncoli and Elia Bonetti.

Be sure to reserve a copy at your local comic store, or wherever comics are sold.

Check back for more exciting news on other Star Wars books and comics hitting shelves in 2019!

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First Look — Marvel’s New Star Wars: TIE Fighter Series and Alphabet Squadron Novel Covers