This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Mechanical Dragons, a Look Back at 2018’s Best, and a Return to the Most Brain-Tingling Universe in SF

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Hexarchate Stories, by Yoon Ha Lee
The novels of Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of Empire series—Ninefox Gambit, Raven Stratagem, and Revenant Gun—have been nominated for three consecutive Hugo Awards for Best Novel (we’ll see if he finally gets his chance at the statue for book three when the 2019 Hugos are handed out later this summer at WorldCon 77 in Dublin). The books are set within a fascinating interstellar empire known as the Hexarchate, which is divided into six factions that control separate areas of space. Citizens of the Hexarchate are expected to live according to the high calendar, as perfect alignment (“consensus mechanics”) is required in order for their complex machinery to function. If that all makes your head spin a little bit, well, that’s the idea: this is military space opera at it’s most inventive, complex, and challenging. Though the trilogy is complete, there is much more to learn about Lee’s vast empire, which is where this new collection comes in: Hexarchate Stories brings together all of the author’s short fiction set in this universe. These tales stray from the milSF of the main series in fascinating ways (one focuses on an art thief’s attempts to put a stop to a galactic superweapon), and make for great (if brain-straining) reading even if you’ve never before encountered the author.

Salvation, by Peter F. Hamilton 
That Hamilton remains under the radar of many sci-fi readers (particularly in the US) is a crime; not only has he consistently offered up amazing science fictional concepts, he’s packed them into character-focused epics with sprawl to rival Dickens. His most recent door-stopping work, newly available in convenient mass market paperback size, stands apart from his earlier series. It’s set in the 23rd century, by which time humanity has achieved a complacent sort of ascendancy, managing a far-flung interstellar empire via networked “jump gates” that allow for instantaneous travel to anywhere. The cargo on a crashed spacecraft found on a newly discovered planet, however, threatens to fatally undermine that hegemony. Paralleling that story is one set in the 51st century, where an ancient enemy pursues the genocide of the human race and a team of genetically altered soldiers prepare to face it. Per usual for Hamilton, the ideas are as invigorating as the plot, which earns the epic page count.

The Book of M, by Peng Shepherd
This literary-leaning dystopian novel, another one of our favorite SFF books of 2018 just out in paperback, is set in a world set upon by a truly strange affliction: all over the globe, people are losing their shadows, a loss that grants then extranormal powers, at the cost of their memories. To escape the Forgetting plague, lovers Max and Ory flee to the wilderness. They think themselves safe, until Max loses her shadow and is forced to go on the run, lest she become a danger to the man she loves. Knowing his wife’s time, and memories, are running out, Ory sets out after her, exploring a landscape devastated by the unrest that rose up in the wake of humanity’s strange evolution, and, along the way, finds answers, and some cause for hope.

The Iron Dragon’s Mother, by Michael Swanwick
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 sci-fi or fantasy book are you planning to read next?

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This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: A Galactic Green Goddess, a Green Man, and a Girl Who Can Move Sh*t with Her Mind

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t with Her Mind, by Jackson Ford
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.

Empress of Forever, by Max Gladstone
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.

The Record Keeper, by Agnes Gomillion
This near-future dystopian novel takes its cues from Margaret Atwood, Nnedi Okorafor, and Octavia Butler as it shapes a society emerging from the devastation of World War III. In order to keep the fragile peace, new laws are established and new class stratifications created (though with white Europeans still on top); the penalties for violating them are harsh indeed. Arika Cobane is a member of the dark-skinned laboring race, the Kongo, that provides food for the citizens this harsh new world, but her destiny is greater: she will one day become a part of the Kongo ruling class, but first she must survive a decade of harsh training under the exacting Teacher Jones. But just before Arika is set to ascend to the privileged class, a new student arrives and begins upsetting the status quo, sharing subversive messages of social justice and questioning whether peace can really be called that when it requires the sacrifice of innocent lives. Arika must make a difficult choice between her promised place among the elites and tearing down flawed institutions to forge a truer, harder sort of freedom.  Gomillion’s afro-futurist worldbuilding is fascinating and stark—the Kongoese are forced to take a pill that causes them to forget their own pasts and Arika is trained to pen false histories (records) to replace them, which is some kind of metaphor for contemporary America.

FKA USA, by Reed King
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.

Vintage 1954, by Antoine Laurain
In vino tempus itinerantur: this fantastical novel-in-translation from French author Antoine Laurain is a heady time travel story with strong notes of humor and romance. A Parisian named Hubert invites a few of his neighbors over to share a vintage bottle of wine, including antiques expert Magalie, bartender Julien, and American Airbnb traveler Bob. One glass of the 1954 vintage and the four awaken the next morning to find themselves transported back in time to 1954. At first, it’s all good fun—exploring the City of Lights in yesteryear, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Salvador Dali, Françoise Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, and Andrey Hepburn—but also have to solve the problem of how to get back to their own time. The temporal logistics are hardly complex (the wine’s special properties are attributed to a UFO’s 1950s vineyard flyby), but it’s all in good fun—a nostalgic visit to a bygone era.

Silver in the Wood, by Emily Tesh
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
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 Girl in Red, by Christina Henry 
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.

Kingdoms of the Cursed, by Greg Keyes
The followup to Keyes’ The Reign of the Departed returns to the story of Errol Greyson, who recently has returned to his own body after a failed suicide attempt saw him transported into an alternate world and into the animated body of a crude puppet. While recuperating in an institution, he’s sprung from his room and forcibly returned to the magical realms, where he’s tasked with undoing a curse that threatens to break down the walls between all realities. His only allies are waylaid from helping him—witch Aster is captured by the same malevolent force that has cursed reality, while the half-dead Veronica delves into the secret behind her own murder. Keyes reveals a grand imagination in this unusual twist on the conventions of the portal fantasy.

The Brink: An Awakened Novel, by James S. Murray and Darren Wearmouth
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. a C.H.U.D. here.

Stealing Worlds, by Karl Schroeder
Karl Schroeder has long been the science fiction writer’s science fiction writer—a purveyor of high concept yarns that take us to far futures and new realities—but his latest bucks the trend: it’s a near-future thriller set in an America in which freedom is buckling under the pressures of the surveillance state and an increasingly automated economy. Sura is one of th unlucky ones able to find a paying gig and hounded by creditors. She goes on the run after her father is murdered by his “business associates,” but hiding out is hard when the eyes of Big Brother are everywhere. She manages to find allies in the world of sketchy virtual reality games and attempts to investigate her dad’s murder—but the games are much more than they seem, and Sura learns her actions within they may shift the balance of power in this new America. Though it at first seems like a digital dystopia, Schroeder’s future isn’t without a bit of hope—and it seems like these days, that—and some clever worldbuilding, which this novel also delivers—is about all we can ask for in our near-future sci-fi.

The Lesson, by Cadwell Turnbull
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.

War, by Michelle West
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.

What new sci-fi & fantasy is on your TBR this week?

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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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This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Exploring the Digital Afterlife, Hogwarts Noir, and a Return to the Gemworld

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Spine of the Dragon, by Kevin J. Anderson
This new epic fantasy series-starter from bestselling author Kevin J. Anderson begins with the introduction of a young king and queen and a tour of their prosperous kingdom. None of it lasts: a sandstorm that soon engulfs the young royals’ city is only the first sign of the chaos descending upon this sprawling fantasy world. Two large empires, the Commonwealth and the Ishara, are at war, but the greater threat lies in the reappearance of the legendary wreths, believed to be the creators of the human race. They’ve come back to awaken a dragon that will lay waste to the world their creations have wrought. The warring kingdoms will have to put aside their differences to fight off this ancient enemy, but that’s easier said than done. Anderson has fun with the worldbuilding, imagining different varieties of the magical wreths with powers drawn from ice or fire (heh), and pits them against a cast of flawed and compelling heroes. Though grimdark elements abound—fierce battles, sexual violence—this is, at its heart, a classic epic fantasy: a story in which the good are tested in their quest to protect others and fanatics are driven to evil because of what they view as righteous.

The Soul of Power, by Callie Bates
The final volume of the Waking Land trilogy. In the first book, heroine Elanna reawakened the power of magic in the countries of Caeris and Eren, while the second traveled to Paladis, where Elanna’s beloved, Jahan, attempted to master his own nascent magical talents. The point of view shifts again for the concluding book, focusing on Elanna and Jahan’s friend Sophy, the new queen of the now-united Caeris and Eren. Her tenuous rule faces powerful opposition, which grows worse when her out-of-wedlock pregnancy is revealed. Meanwhile, people throughout the land begin experiencing strange dreams and developing inexplicable habits that seem to hint at an imbalance in magic itself. Once again, Bates has crafted a compelling fantasy that examines the effects of a reemergent magic less on a world or a kingdom, but on individuals—flawed, endearing, and real.

My Enemy’s Enemy, by Robert Buettner
This twisty, time-jumping contemporary thriller-meets-alternate history novel unfolds along two timelines. One travels back to a version of 1939 in which Germany’s Heinrich Himmler has forced a genius physicist, Peter Winter, to aid him in creating a dangerous superweapon—the A-bomb. With the help of his Jewish wife Rachel, Peter attempts to slow the project with subtle sabotage. The other takes place in modern Pakistan, where a terrorist sets off on a mission to destroy America from the inside out, and an American historian and a cowboy discover a secret from the past that may explain the terrorist’s endgame. As the past and future collide, Buettner crafts a compelling race-against-time adventure story, with millions of innocent lives on the line.

To Clear Away the Shadows, by David Drake
The latest volume of David Drake’s RCN military sci-fi series opens with the deep space exploration vessel Far Traveller doing just that, venturing unmolested into the far reaches of space, seeking new trade routes, thanks to the recent truce between the Alliance and the Cinnabar. Scientist, RCN officer, and Cinnabar aristocrat Harry Harper is onboard, as is Lt. Rick Grenville, more accustomed to serving on a warship than one built for research. But it seems the outskirts of space are perhaps even more dangerous that open warfare: with the Alliance no longer on the offensive, the outer territories are exploring independence—by any means necessary. Meanwhile, Doctor Veil, the Far Traveller’s science director, searches for information left behind by an ancient race of spacefarers that explored the stars long before humans—and whose secrets could change the future.

Magic for Liars: A Novel, by Sarah Gailey
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.

Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune, Chapterhouse: Dune, by Frank Herbert
Last year, publisher Ace reissued Frank Herbert’s legendary novel Dune with a snazzy new cover. Now, they’ve followed suit with matching mass market paperback editions of the other books in the series. There’s nothing different about the words inside, but if you are a collector or a completist—or if, gasp! you have never read the series before—the whole set of six books looks rather handsome on the shelf. We can’t think of a better way to prepare for director Denis Villeneuve’s forthcoming bid screen (re)adaptation, arriving in November 2020.

Unraveling, by Karen Lord
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.

Fall; or, Dodge in Hell, by Neal Stephenson
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.

The Fire Opal Mechanism, by Fran Wilde
Nebula-winner Fran Wilde returns to the setting of her interlinked Gemworld stories with a tale set far after the conclusion of The Jewel and Her Lapidary. The magical gems that once powered the Six Kingdoms are lost. Conquerors known as the Pressman have invaded and are stealing books to power the Great Press, a magical printing press that consumes words, prompting a librarian, Ania, and a thief named Jorit to ally on an adventure across time using the power of the mysterious Fire Opal Mechanism as they seek the secret to destroying the Great Press forever. The journey across time allows Wilde to build out the history of her intriguing magical world, as Ania and Jorit prepare to embrace their grander destinies.

What new books are you reading this week?

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This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Automatons, Space Unicorns, and a Stranger Things Tale

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

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 Skullset 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?

The post This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Automatons, Space Unicorns, and a Stranger Things Tale appeared first on The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog.

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This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: The N’awlins Underworld, Forbidden Magic, and Repo Men in Space

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Pimp My Airship, by Maurice Broaddus
If the title doesn’t tell you as much, it’s clear Maurice Broaddus (Buffalo Soldier) is having a great deal of fun with his new adventure starring a poet named Sleepy, who is more interested in his words and his drugs than taking part in protests that will only earn him the wrong kind of attention. Unfortunately, a chance encounter with political agitator named (120 Degrees of) Knowledge Allah delivers lots of just that. Meanwhile, the father of a young heiress is murdered, upsetting the balance of her ordered world and throwing her in with Sleepy and Knowledge as they race across an alternate version of Indianapolis with a sky littered with airships, hoping to stay one step ahead of criminals and the authorities. Imagine the anarchic spirit of Sorry to Bother You given a turn away from body horror and toward steampunk.

Gather the Fortunes, by Bryan Camp
Bryan Camp’s sequel to his lauded debut The City of Lost Fortunes focuses on Renaissance “Renai” Raines, a young woman who died in 2011 and woke up in a New Orleans both alike and different from the one she knew. In this new reality, she’s a “psychopomp,’”helping dead souls to break their mortal chains and guiding them to an afterlife populated by whimsy and demons. When a young boy is killed in a drive-by shooting, his body and soul both vanish before Renai can do her thing, and she sets off to investigate with the help of her familiar, talking raven Salvatore. Renai’s search takes her—and the reader—on a tour of a eerie alternate world, as she slowly comes to realizes that if the missing spirit should escape its fate, the consequences will be dire for the entire population of New Orleans, both the living and the dead.

Triumphant, by Jack Campbell
The third entry in Campbell’s Genesis Fleet series—a prequel to the Lost Fleet saga—finds the colony of Glenlyon in desperate straits. After coming to the aid of their sister colony, Kosatka, and helping to repel an invasion, Glenlyon is unable to resist when the invasion comes to them. They have only one ship left, the Saber, commanded by Rob Geary, but all he can do is make trouble for the invaders, even as Mele Darcy and her marines fight desperate close-quarter battles and negotiator Lochan Nakamura fights a lonely diplomatic battle to convince other colonies to risk a measure of their independence to come to Glenlyon’s aid.

Queenslayer, by Sebastien de Castell
Kellen Argos is no great mage, but the outlaw spellslinger will need to step up quickly in order to survive his latest misadventure—seems he’s earned the ire of the queen for disrespecting the Daroman flag by accidentally wiping blood across it. The young queen gives him one chance to save his neck—he must beat her at a game of cards. But just when it seems the stakes couldn’t be any higher, the game reveals a threat to more than just Kellen’s bodily integrity—it seems someone wants the queen dead, too. This is the fifth book (of a planned six) in Sebastien de Castell’s rousing fantasy adventure series to be released within the last 12 months, with the final volume due later this year. It’s just as well, because fans of fast-moving stories filled with chase scenes, high drama, action, and smart dialogue will want to devour them one after another.

Warlock Holmes: The Sign of Nine, by G.S. Dennings
Fantasy and science fiction have never met a Sherlock Holmes retelling they didn’t like, and this is a good one. As the title suggest, the Warlock Holmes book mix a bit of magic into the mystery, resulting in a sly combo of sorcery and suspense. For the next case, Warlock Holmes’ assistant Dr. John Watson plays the victim: he’s been imbued with the essence of an ancient mummy, the sorcerer Xantharaxe, whose dissolved corpse made it into the good doctor’s bloodstream, granting him unusual prophetic powers that will only serve to complicate Watson’s love life, not to mention Holmes’ matchmaking efforts.

Broken Shadow, by Jaine Fenn
This follow-up to Hidden Sun completes British Science Fiction Award-winner Jaine Fenn’s Shadowlands duology, set in a world of contrasting shadowlands and bright alien skylands. The first book began the story of Rhia Harlyn, a well-born, science-minded woman in the shadowland Shen who put her skill for research and discovery to use after her brother disappeared, sending her off into the skylands to seek the truth behind his disappearance. There, she discovered things that changed her understanding of the way of the worlds—and now, her knowledge has resulted in accusations of heresy. With her brother forever changed by the arcane experiments of a mad scientist, Rhia has no one else to rely on. She again sets forth for the skylands, this time to save herself.

Year of the Orphan, by Daniel Findlay
The latest entry in the literary post-apocalyptic novel boom is described as a mix of The Road and Mad Max. It’s set in the dangerous, unforgiving Australian Outback in the wake of a world-altering disaster, and follows a young girl known only as Orphan, who scours the poisoned desert in search of scraps of technology left behind by a ruined civilization, trying to eke out a living by trading what meager items she can find to others in the System, an unforgiving fortress and, nasty as it is, one of the last outposts of humanity. But Orphan has a secret—she knows what killed the world. This makes her dangerous, and there are forces following her that may do anything to ensure her silence. Though the setting is richly imagined and the plot propulsive, you’ll want to read this one for Orphan’s voice—her story is told in a language of her own, the product of the hard and lonely life of a born survivor.

An Illusion of Thieves, by Cate Glass
In the land of Costa Drago, magic is forbidden, and its is use punishable by death. Understandably, the magically gifted Romy has hidden her abilities and reinvented herself as Cataline, a courtesan to the Shadow Lord. In her role as Cataline, Romy can be intelligent, witty, and skilled with a sword, and she loves her engineered life. But when her brother Neri uses magic, putting his life in danger, Romy chooses to give it all up in order to save him. Returned to the slum of their youth, known as Lizard’s Alley, Romy and Neri must fight for survival without daring to use magic again—until Romy is informed of a nefarious plot to overthrow the lord she has come to love. To save him, she must learn to control the powers she has always feared; her resulting journey makes for a grand, romantic, fantastical adventure.

Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water, by Vylar Kaftan
This haunting novella from Nebula Award-winner Vylar Kaftan (The Weight of the Sunrise) opens on a woman named Bee, an inmate on a harsh prison planet criss-crossed with underground tunnels and gaping caverns. Bee can’t remember committing the crime that landed her in the darkness of Colel-Cab, but her only companion—fellow prisoner Chela—assures her it was terrible indeed; Chela says they are both telepaths, and responsible death of an an entire starship; certainly they belong below ground and isolated, where they can’t hurt anyone else. But then the two hear the distant voice of another telepath, and Bee is forced to reckon with a reality far removed from the one she has grown to accept. Using a harsh sci-fi setting to explore themes of trauma and emotional abuse, this is a powerful story, with a depth that defies its slim page count.

Starship Repo, by Patrick S. Tomlinson
Patrick S. Tomlinson’s new novel, following the highly amusing Gate Crashers, combines the awe and discovery of a first-contact story with a bit of swashbuckling and a lot of hilarious absurdity. Despite receiving the ignominious name Firstname Lastname via clerical error, becoming one of the first humans to establish herself in the wider galaxy following humanity’s debut into galactic society should be a great honor. But living as one of the only humans on an alien space station isn’t quite the grand adventure Firstname expected, at least until she sneaks aboard a ship and finds herself joining a team of privateers that goes about “recovering” ships from the wealthiest of deadbeats all over the galaxy—in other words, a crew of interstellar repomen. Or, as some would call them, pirates. Tomlinson has crafted a space adventure with tongue planted firmly in cheek, filled with corny gags, absurd action sequences, and delightfully weird flourishes, including a living brain in a jar, a transgender member of race of crablike aliens, sentient tentacles, and an ’80s hair metal band. It’s utterly ludicrous, and that’s certainly not a bad thing.

What new SFF book is next on your TBR?

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This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: A Lush Historical Epic, Humanistic Cyberpunk, and Myths Reimagined

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

The Prophet of the Termite God, by Clark Thomas Carlton
This long-in-coming sequel to Clark Thomas Carlton’s 2011 novel Prophets of the Ghost Ants continues the Antasy series, set in a world in which people have evolved to be the size of insects, and all of human culture, from what we eat, to what we wear, to how we wage war, has been influenced by our changed relationships with the insect world—even as people remain people, as prone as ever to scheming against and killing each other. In book two, the outcast and religious zealot Pleckoo, the Prophet-Commander of the Hulkrish army, launches a fresh assault against the newly formed nation of Bee-Jor,  led by his cousin, Anand the Roach Boy, and protected by an army of night wasps. Carlton weaves a web of intrigue, plots and counter-plots, and fierce battles, set against an imaginative world in the tradition of Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Shadows of the Apt series.

The Buying of Lot 37 & Who’s a Good Boy?, by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
The newest entries in the Welcome to Night Vale series collect the scripts for episodes from seasons three and four of the megahit podcast, offering a fantastic deep dive into the creepy, funny, and super smart world of creators Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. In addition to a ton of behind-the-scenes tidbits from the writers and the cast, introductions to each story offer insight into their inspiration and production, and gorgeous illustrations from Jessica Hayworth bring each to visual life. The end result is a pair of books fans of the podcast will devour.

Pariah, by W. Michael Gear
Horror and military SF meet in the satisfying third book in Gear’s grim and gritty saga, following Outpost and Abandoned, returning to a dangerous alien world whose human colonists face a dual threat from both the planet’s indigenous carnivorous lifeforms and the corporate masters who exploit them. A survey ship is dispatched to the newly discovered planet carrying a crew of scientists led by the ecologist Dr. Dortmund Weisbacher; they are tasked with completing the first formal survey of the world to determine if it is fit for human habitation. But something goes wrong along the way: a journey expected to take years is over in an instant, and the ship arrives to find Donovan already very much inhabited. Corporate assassin Tamarland Benteen, stranded on the planet and eager to avoid running into the corporate bigwigs who would sooner see him dead, views the vessel as his best chance at escape. Caught between them are various colonists whose own dramas play out against the backdrop of a truly hostile world.

 

Mythic Journeys: Retold Myths and Legends, edited by Paula Guran
Award-winning editor Paula Guran’s latest anthology collects incredible adaptations and reinterpretations of myths and legends from the world over, penned by some of the best writers working in SFF today, including Neil Gaiman, Ann Lecki, Yoon Ha Lee, Ken Liu, and dozens more. These are stories that have existed for centuries—or longer—recast by modern-day masters, covering subjects like the Furies of old hunting down a serial killer for revenge, Odysseus’ nymph and her power to change lives, and a humorous look at chivalric myths and their absurdities. Spanning history and geography, culture and religion, these stories are uniquely inventive, making this a standout anthology.

A Brightness Long Ago, by Guy Gavriel Kay
Fantasy master Guy Gavriel Kay returns to the fictional setting of the Sarantine Mosiac, drawn from the history of Renaissance Italy, as an elderly man named Danio tells his life story, one curiously stocked with royalty and high adventure, considering his low birth. Danio starts off his career as an assistant to a court official, and is in a position to take notice of a young woman brought in as a concubine for the city’s despotic ruler. He correctly deduces she’s an assassin in disguise, and he chooses not to expose her; she is Adria, the daughter of a duke who has chosen to serve her mercenary uncle Folco. Danio’s decision to let the assassination occur sets in motion forces that will propel him and Adria in unexpected directions and lead to world-changing events, with low-born Danio, unpredictably, ever at their center. Kay applies his skill at painting sweeping historical tapestries to the story of the lives of the sort normally lost to the ages, yet whose choices may nevertheless shape the destiny of nations.

Last Tango in Cyberspace, by Steven Kotler
Judah “Lion” Zorn is an “em-tracker,” his hyperdeveloped sense of empathy and pattern recognition giving him the ability to trace cultural and linguistic shifts based on a larger connection to all living things. It’s a skill that makes him useful to the corporations that employ him to figure out how to launch their products and exploit new trends. But when a job for a pharmaceutical company leads to a bizarre murder scene, Lion finds himself at the center of a culture war involving an empathy drug, animal rights groups, mysterious disappearances, and a rather gruesome incident of taxidermy. At first all Lion wants to do is finish the job and get out, but his own empathic gifts and curiosity keep pulling him deeper in, forcing him to choose between slow social evolution and an explosive cultural revolt. With shades of Neal Stephenson and William Gibson, bestselling non-fiction author Kotler’s second novel approaches cyberpunk cultural and anthropological perspective rather than a technological one, focusing on how the characters engage with their new world, rather than how the world changes due to the rapid acceleration of technological change.

The Undefeated, by Una McCormack
This slim novella packs an outsized punch as it follows the waning days of an aging journalist, Monica Greatorex, who once threatened to bring the powerful and corrupt to ruin across the Interstellar Commonwealth with her words, but now lives a much quieter life in retirement. Seeking a sembelance of peace, she travels to the planet where she spent her childhood, looking to reconnect with the past, but also for a place to wait out the coming of the jenjer, a race of genetically engineered servants who have rebelled against their human masters and are currently waging a planet-to-plat war of revenge across the Commonwealth. This isn’t necessarily the tale you expect from that setup—the battle never reaches Monica, and she makes no unexpected discoveries that will save humanity. Instead, it is a wistful story of a woman looking back across the book of her life, a story filled with both triumphs and sorrows, unchangeable. In poetic prose and 100-odd pages, McCormack creates characters you’ll feel for deeply, even as you wonder at the mysteries of the worlds they inhabit.

The Obsoletes, by Simeon Mills
Graphic novel author Simeon Mills (Butcher Paper) proves adept at prose in this clever debut novel, which marries sci-fi and themes of coming of age in high school. In the ’90s, twins Darryl and Kanga are typically angsty teens, except they are also robots: in this version of late-20th century America, a society to robots exists alongside our own, often hated and feared by flesh and blood types. After their robot “parents” disappeared, Darryl and Kanga have been on their own, with Darryl in charge of keeping their identities hidden from their “robophobic” neighbors—a tricky feat considering they don’t eat and bleed grease. Their cover story is threatened when Kanga discovers a love for basketball, and proves to be an inhumanly capable player, causing him to chafe against his brother’s cautious care-taking. But Darryl faces his own distractions in the form of a human girl. Like a science fictional Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Obsoletes gives the trials and travails of growing up a delightful genre twist.

Children of Ruin, by Adrian Tchaikovsky
The sequel to the British Science Fiction Award-winning Children of Time returns to the unlikely new cradle of humanity, a colony planet whereupon a disastrous terraforming attempt resulted in the creation of a new society of uplifted ants and spiders whose civilization evolved at breakneck speed before the desperate remnants of the a ravaged Earth could arrive. Now unlikely allies, the humans and the insects catch fragmentary signals broadcast from light years away, suggesting there might be other survivors from their shared homeworld. A mixed expedition sets out to solve the mystery, but what’s waiting for them out in space is another calamity set in motion by long-dead Earth scientists’ arrogant and desperate efforts to ensure the survival of their species. Children of Ruin managed to completely deliver on a truly absurd premise, and the sequel offers similar pleasures.

The Window and the Mirror, by Henry Thomas
This engaging fantasy is the low-key debut novel from actor Henry Thomas (of E.T. fame), but it is no mere vanity publication. Assembling familiar elements into a nevertheless engaging and deeply readable adventure, Thomas introduces us to the land of Oesteria, ruled over by the powerful mages of the Magistry, who are always eager to expand the boundaries of their empire. They send an expedition to scout the lands of the Dawn Tribe, a largely peaceful people, but the party is attacked and its members scattered. One of them, the young Joth, is made a captive and forced to head off on a peacekeeping mission alongside a woman of the Dawn Tribe, while another, the dangerous Mage Imperator Ulhmet, escapes his captors and finds himself in the Goblin lands, where he designs to obtain dark magic that could be used to start a war. The first book in the Osteria and the War of Goblinkind series.

What new sci-fi & fantasy books are on your to-buy list?

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This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: A Magical Manhattan Murder Mystery, a Return to Osten Ard, and Mercy’s Promise Kept

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Westside, by W.M. Akers
In an alternate 1920s Manhattan in which a heavily fortified wall running along Broadway divides the island into Eastside, where the normal laws of reality still apply, and Westside, where things have gone down the magical drain, the latter has become a magical wasteland where only the dregs of society—criminals, artists, and drunks—remain. Gilda Carr calls Westide home, and works as a private investigator specializing in bite-sized mysteries like recovering lost gloves. Somehow, though, her latest case pushes her into a gangland war that connects to her own long-missing father and the reason for the Westside’s descent into unreal chaos. As much as she might like to, Carr can’t sidestep the responsibility she suddenly feels to get to the bottom of both mysteries, for her own sake and that of everyone living in the magic-ravaged city. Akers’ hugely enjoyable debut marries inventive alt-history with truly strange magic and a protagonist you won’t soon forget.

The Warship, by Neal Asher
The sequel to The Soldier and the second book in the Rise of Jain series, set within the operatic expanse of Neal Asher’s Polity Universe. Orlandine has been tasked with protecting the Polity from the threat of the ancient technology of a civilization known as the Jain, currently housed in an accretion disc surrounding a dead star, and plans to use a weaponized black hole to destroy it. Her actions are met with suspicion, and the mobilization of fleets of warships by both the artificial intelligences that govern the Polity and a faction of the alien Prador Kingdom. As the black hole does its work, other secrets hidden within the disc begin to be revealed, suggesting that Orlandine;s actions may have been orchestrated by a far deadlier power. Asher writes big, bold space opera in the vein of Iain M. Banks; he’s well-known in his native U.K. and deserves a larger audience this side of the pond.

Storm Cursed, by Patricia Briggs
Patricia Briggs delivers the 11th Mercy Thompson novel with the fierce energy of a promise kept—literally. When we last left her in Silence Fallen, Coyote shapeshifter Mercy pledged that she and her pack would protect the people living in their territory, thinking at the time that doing so would involve hunting the occasional zombie goat or running off some goblins. Instead she finds that her declaration has made her land a Neutral Zone where humans feel safe treating with the fae, leading to more complications than she can handle safely. As the humans and the Gray Lords of the fae jockey for position in the developing conflict, Mercy knows the safe thing to do would be to stay out of it—but she made a promise, and she and her pack are going to keep it.

Exhalation, by Ted Chiang
It’s difficult to undersell Ted Chiang’s standing in the science fiction field; long before his “Story of Your Life” was made into the Academy Award-winning blockbuster Arrival, he was lauded in genre circles for crafting stories an innovative with their science as they are heartfelt in their consideration of human emotion. Only his second collection, following 2002’s Story of Your Life and Others, Exhalation brings together seven previously published stories (several long enough to be classified as novelettes or novellas) and two new ones; each is a finely cut gem. “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate” (a Hugo-winner for Best Novelette) is a standout, a complex mix of fantasy and time travel tropes that unfolds with mathematical precision, but the most powerful entry may be the title tale, which turns the fate of a strange race of mechanical beings into a powerful allegory for the crisis of climate change. Truly essential reading.

By Demons Possessed, by P.C. Hodgell
P.C. Hodgell has been writing books in the Kencyrath series for decades, slowly building an expansive imagined universe. In this ninth full-length novel, primary protagonist Jame Knorth approaches a final reckoning with Perimal Darkling, the force that has dogged her kind, the Kencyr, across centuries and vast distances. Just when it appears the Kencyr might be able to finally defeat their old foe, Jame learns of an upheaval within the city of Tai-tastigon, where she was shaped as a leader of her people. Gods and demi-gods, missing souls and disappearing shadows, and “demon-wrought madness”: it’s up to Jame to deal with it all.

Snakeskins, by Tim Major
Seventeen-year-old Caitlin Hext is a Charmer, one with the ability to rejuvenate by producing a clone every seven years. These clones usually soon disintegrate, but following her first “shedding ceremony,” Caitlin finds that hers inexplicably do not, forcing her to question her own identity and her family’s place in the genetic legacy of their kind. Soon, she begins to realize she is but one small piece of an ever-widening government conspiracy that involves all citizens of Britain, regular humans and Charmers alike. It’s an unusual setup for an intricate political thriller that coils in on itself, tightening the tension as it circles toward satisfyingly shocking answers.

Octavia Gone, by Jack McDevitt
The mystery at the center of the reliably entertaining eighth Alex Benedict novel centers around a space station, the Octavia, that disappeared while the scientists aboard it were studying a nearby black hole. An artifact of possibly alien origin might be the key to solving the mystery, if only far-future antiquities dealer Alex Benedict and his uncle Gabe can retrieve it for study. If that isn’t enough, Gabe, recently returned from space and a stint in a time warp, has been declared dead due to timey-wimey shenanigans, and Alex and his pilot Chase Kolpath have already made progress adjusting to life without him. They all soon learn that the question of the Octavia might hinge on a love affair gone bad—or an alien plot. The clues lead them out into space once more, and toward what might be the greatest archaeological discovery of all time.

Middlegame, by Seanan McGuire
Seanan McGuire’s latest and longest work is also her best: a structurally complex, richly written, deeply imagined fantasy about the bonds that can unite two souls even across vast distances. One day, young Roger Middleton is struggling with his math homework when the voice of a girl named Dodger Cheswich pipes up in his head, giving him the answers. Roger and Dodger some discover that though they live on opposite coasts, they can communicate with one another, and develop a strange sort of friendship. What they don’t know is that they’re the end result of an experiment begun in the late 19th century by alchemist Asphodel Baker who dreamed of rewriting reality by embodies the forces of creation into living hosts, a plan she encoded in a series of children’s books. Her creation and eventual murderer, a man named James Reed, took up her work and engineered Roger and Dodger’s births as one half each of the Doctrine of Ethos, the force that holds existence together. As the twins mature, Reed seeks to control them and implement the final stage of Baker’s masterwork, but their connection has made them powerful, and difficult to control. With the rules of the game set, the children must awaken to their shared destiny and shape a reality that will ensure their survival, not to mention the continued existence of the universe.

Million Mile Road Trip, by Rudy Rucker
The legendary weird sci-fi auteur Rudy Rucker returns with his first book in five years, a suitably mind-bending, transreal novel that takes mutates a classic road-trip structure into a wacky sci-fi adventure for the ages. About to graduate high school and facing the drudgery of adult life, Zoe Snapp sets off on a roadtrip with her crush, surfer Villy Antwerpen, in his somewhat trusty ride (nicknamed the purple whale) and along the way inadvertently opens a portal to another dimension, through which aliens promptly arrive. The aliens deliver the duo to a parallel universe where Zoe and Villy discover that sentient flying saucers intend to invade their own in order to absorb humanity’s consciousness, which is their sustenance. It’s up to Zoe, who hasn’t even graduated yet, and Villy (who’s failing math) to venture across a million miles of new dimensions into order to defeat them before it’s too late. Packed with heady math and physics, written in the style of Kerouac, with plot twists aplenty and symbolism right out of Pynchon, it’s a head trip that’s even weirder than it sounds.

Theater of Spies, by S.M. Stirling
The second book in Stirling’s Alternate War series finds scientist Ciara Whelan and Luz O’Malley—a leading agent of President Teddy Roosevelt’s elite spy network Black Chamber—resting after their recent efforts to foil a German terrorist plot. As World War I looms, intelligence comes in about a devastating new weapon the Germans are developing—and the Black Chamber requires they cut their recuperation short to once again serve their country. They go undercover as the world erupts into conflict, heading to Berlin and pursued by a legendary German agent called Imperial Sword, who leads a pack of stormtroopers commanded by Ernst Röhm.

The Gordian Protocol, by David Weber and Jacob Holo
Weber and Holo serve up a time-twisty standalone adventure that crackles with a thriller’s energy. Professor Ben Schröder has suffered a psychotic episode that left him with a whole second set of memories of a world where the Holocaust occurred and nuclear weapons threaten mankind’s survival. He’s learned to compensate for these nightmarish visions until a man named Raibert Kaminski shows up at his door and announces himself a time traveler from an alternate reality. Kaminski drops a bombshell: a chronological disaster is threatening the existence of 15 separate realities and has given rise to a tyrant who uses time travel technology to solidify his power. As Schröder struggles with his sense of reality and sanity, Kaminski hits him with the real body blow: he, Ben Schröder, is the key to it all—and he faces a choice that puts the fate of entire realities in his hands.

A Chain Across the Dawn, by Drew Williams
The second book in Drew Williams’ Universe After space opera series, following 2018’s The Stars Now Unclaimed, delivers another fast-flying, wildly imagined, cheekily humorous adventure. Three years ago, Esa left her ho-hum planet to join the Justified, a group that gathers together children with mystical abilities in the hopes of uniting them against the Pulse, a force with the power to destroy technology across the inhabited galaxy. Esa and her colleague Jane are on the hunt for others of her kind, and on their latest retrieval mission, they learn they aren’t the only ones. Someone—or something—else is seeking these special children for unknown purposes, and it’s up to Esa and Jane (and their new recruit, a young boy named Sho) to find answers before the galaxy loses its one reliable defense against the Pulse.

Empire of Grass, by Tad Williams
The solution to the mystery of the Witchwood Crown continues to elude King Simon and his queen, Miriamele in this second book of Williams’ Last King of Osten Ard series trilogy. As the kingdoms of Osten Ard descend separately into war, division, and strife, the Crown might be the key to it all—if Simon and Miriamele can solve the puzzle. Meanwhile, the Queen of the Norns has made a deal to bring her immortal armies into the mortal lands, the nomads on the grasslands are unifying with cult-like fervor, and everything begins to fall apart in ways large and small as a disparate group of people fighting for their own survival in the chaos come to represent the only hope for the survival of all living things. We’re happy to say once again that thus far, the followup to Williams’ landmark Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy is more than living up to the reputation of its forebear.

Noir Fatale, edited by Larry Correia and Kacey Ezell
As countless stories of space investigators and half-fae detectives have proven, noir tropes fit in unusually well with the general milieu of sci-fi and fantasy. That fact is certainly in evidence in this new anthology edited by Larry Correia and Kacey Ezell, which collects 13 noir-ish SFF from veteran and up-and-coming authors, including Correia himself, Laurell K. Hamilton (writing in her Anita Blake urban fantasy series), David Weber, Sarah A. Hoyt, and more, each of whom puts their own spin on the familiar notion of the femme fatal.

What new sci-fi & fantasy books are on your list this week?

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This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: A Workers’ Rebellion on Silicon Isle, Mage Warfare, and a Sci-Fi Legend’s Hopeful Vision of the Future

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Cruel Fate, by Kelly Armstrong
Since finishing off the Cainsville urban fantasy series a few years back, Kelly Armstrong has continued the tale in a series of novella-length stories set at different points along the narrative timeline. This latest, available as both an ebook and a limited edition hardcover from Subterranean Press, is set after the final book, picking up with Olivia after she’s dealt with her discovery that her biological parents were serial killers and taken a job as an investigator for hard-nosed defense attorney Gabriel Walsh (who is also her love interest). Olivia is celebrating her adoptive father’s release from prison, where he spent 20 years for a crime he didn’t commit, but her life is thrown into turmoil again when it becomes apparent that someone wants Todd Larsen back behind bars, and they’re willing to use long-hidden evidence of the one murder her really did commit—that of a brutal serial killer—to do it.

Parable of the Sower, by Octavia E. Butler
This gorgeous reissue of Octavia Butler’s prescient near-future novel includes an incisive foreword by N.K. Jemisin. It’s more relevant today than when it was first published. Climate change is often framed not only in environmental terms, but economic ones: many foresee a world in which the rich, always getting richer, are the only ones able to afford the scarce resources that will be left after nature turns fully against humanity. Butler’s novel starts there, with the last elite remnants of the human race living in walled communities that protect them from the aggressive hordes of homeless, jobless, and nearly hopeless people suffering from the effects of ecological collapse. When her home in one of these fortresslike neighborhoods is attacked and looted, a young girl named Lauren flees, seeking safety and plagued by a mysterious ailment that forces her to feel others’ pain as if it were her own. Ultimately, this is a tale of hope—and considering how much less speculative this classic seems every day, a little extra hope might just be what you need to help you fall asleep tonight.

The Unbound Empire, by Melissa Caruso
The third and final book in Caruso’s engaging Sword and Fire trilogy finds the deep snows of winter slowing the Witch-Lord Ruven’s advance on the city of Raverra, where Lady Amalia Cornaro and the fire warlock Zaira—whose magic is tethered to Amalia—are working desperately to free mages who can help them defeat Ruven. Their first goal is opposed by the Raverran Empire’s ruling class, who want to maintain their control over all magic; the second is threatened by Ruven latest devastating attack. Desperate, Amalia trades secrets and makes alliances to gather information that will aide both her causes. It’s all leading toward a final confrontation that might require Zaira to use her own magical abilities in ways she’s never before imagined.

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. 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.

Waste Tide, by Chen Qiufan
“Translated by Ken Liu” is a serviceable marketing slogan this days; certainly the phrase adorns the covers of some of the best Chinese science fiction arriving in America in recent years. Qiufan’s story follows a woman named Mimi, and inhabitant of Silicon Isle, where the world’s toxic electronic trash is piling up. She’s one of thousands of poor migrant workers who came to the Isle looking for good wages in exchange for hard work, only to find themselves in an economic trap; Silicon Isle is ruled by three rich clans who regard Mimi and her fellow workers as subhuman. Mimi’s rough circumstances grow worse when she’s blamed for the illness of a powerful clan leader’s son. It’s a final straw that, rather than breaking Mimi, propels her to the forefront of a growing workers’ rebellion—even as greater forces seek to make her kind unnecessary altogether by automating the recycling processes. Smart, relevant,and propulsive: this is what sci-fi was made for.

What new sci-fi & Fantasy books are on your list this week?

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This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Artificial Awakenings, Indigenous Monster Slayers, and Good Doggos of the Apocalypse

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World, by C. A. Fletcher
After the Gelding, an event that rendered most of Earth’s population sterile, society has crumbled. On an island off the coast of Scotland, a boy named Griz lives with his family and his dogs Jess and Jip, and rarely sees any signs of other humans. When a stranger with long red hair arrives one day offering trade, the family is uneasy, but allows him ashore—but the interloper rewards their kindness by drugging them, stealing all of their supplies, and dognapping Jess. With no law or government left to appeal to, Griz doesn’t hesitate to act, grabbing Jip and setting off in pursuit of his beloved dog. His journey takes him on a nightmarish tour of a world that has been hollowed out and is falling apart—and which also isn’t quite as empty as Griz imagined. This is post-apocalyptic sci-fi with heart, and a few very good doggos.

Machines Like Me, by Ian McEwan
We’ll include this one here, even though the famous literary author who wrote it has loudly insisted that his new novel isn’t really science fiction because it deals with the ramifications of technology on a human level. Of course, regular readers of the genre know that this has long been a hallmark of its greatest works, but we’ll forgive the Man Booker Prize winner his snobbishness just this once. Certainly his book is our kind of thing—nominally it concerns a growing relationship (both physically and emotionally intimate) between a man (thirtysomething Londoner Charlie), a woman (Charlie’s girlfriend Miranda), and a machine (a new model of robot know an an Adam, with a mind that can learn and, like another android we know, a “fully functional” sex organ) in an alternate 1980s in which Alan Turning never died (he makes a cameo appearance). In exploring the growth of an artificial intelligence and considering the ways in which it can and cannot connect with the humans around it (in a plot involving messy human emotions like jealousy and a hunger for revenge), McEwan is of course also really commenting on the messy, imperfect connections between those of us made of flesh and blood. How literary. How science fictional!

Ragged Alice, by Gareth L. Powell
Detective Chief Inspector Holly Craig grew up in the small Welsh town of Pontyrhudd haunted by her mother’s murder and memories of a terrifying creature she called Ragged Alice. As soon as she could, Holly left that place, hoping to harness her ability to literally see evil in people by becoming a police officer. When her latest case goes terribly sideways, she asks for a transfer back to her home town, where she works a simple case of hit and run that quickly spirals into something much more terrible: the main suspect turns up dead, mutilated in exactly the same way as Holly’s mother, three decades before. As she delves into the dark threads running through the town, Holly must face her worst fears and the secrets of her peculiar talents. Powell has wowed readers with his science fiction (his space opera Embers of War just won the British Science Fiction Award); with this paranormal procedural, he proves himself just as adept at creeping them out.

Storm of Locusts, by Rebecca Roanhorse
Rebecca Roanhorse delivers a rip-roaring sequel to last year’s Trail of Lightning, the first book in the post-apocalyptic fantasy series The Sixth World and, oh yeah, a Hugo and Nebula award nominee for Best Novel. Navajo monster slayer Maggie Hoskie learns that her gifted medicine man beaux Kai has been kidnapped by a dangerous cult leader, so she sets off beyond the high wall separating Dinétah from the wastes of the former southwestern U.S. to save him. Facing new monsters (not to mention that titular plague of insects) and a blasted landscape, Maggie reckons with her toughest challenge yet—and makes some new allies along the way. Roanhorse continues to breathe new life into the urban fantasy genre with another fast and furious adventure built on Indigenous legends and beliefs.

Ravnica: War of the Spark, by Greg Weisman
The first novel set in the Magic: The Gathering universe to be released in years tells the story of Teyo Verada, a young man training as a shieldmage to protect his world from devastating diamondstorms. When the first real test of his abilities goes horribly awry, he’d buried alive. The incident should’ve killed him; instead, he finds himself transported to Ravnica, a city that spans an entire world. It seems Verada is a planeswalker, and has been called to the city by the Elder Dragon, Nicol Bolas. Bolas seeks godhood by taking Ravnica, and his power and army is opposed only by the planeswalkers who have gathered together to defend the city, recruiting mages like Verada from around the multiverse. Fans of the vast universe of the collectible card game will find much to love in the lore and adventure of this canonical tie-in novel.

Emily Eternal, by M. G. Wheaton
As the sun shows signs of turning into a red giant and destroying the world about five billion years sooner than scientists predicted, humanity seems doomed. But Emily, an artificial intelligence programmed for morality and social interaction,  thinks it has a way for us to endure, after a fashion: by downloading every humans’ memories into its own databanks and launching itself into space. After Emily’s servers are destroyed by a mysterious group opposed to this form of digital salvation, it survives by downloading itself onto a chip implanted in the head of a Ph.D. student named Jason Hatta. Pursued by enemies hellbent on eliminating Emily, including a rival AI called Emily-2, Jason and his AI passenger soon learn what it means to be human—and more than human—as they race to evade capture and put Emily’s plan into action after all.

What are you reading this week?

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