This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Chinese Sci-Fi in Translation, a Haunting in Cairo, and Weirdness After Hours

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Collision: Stories, by J.S. Breukelaar
A collection of 12 dark speculative stories from J.S. Breukelaar (Aurealis Award nominee Aletheia), including four appearing here for the first time. From the off-kilter (the strange, touching story of an armless piano player in “Union Falls”), to the unsettling (“Glow,” inspired by the author’s experience of the 2016 U.S. presidential election), to the alien (“Rogues Bay 3013”), to the heartfelt and haunting (in “Fairy Tale,” a veteran soldier is convinced the orphan that shows up at his door is the child soldier that shot him during the war), to the downright bizarre, these stories jump genres with wild abandon. Collision proves J.S. Breukelaar is an author to watch—likely we’ll be hearing her name a lot more in the future.

Alita: Battle Angel, by Pat Cadigan
James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez’ film adaptation of Yukito Kishiro’s manga Battle Angel Alita is adapted in turn by award-winning sci-fi writer Pat Cadigan, who has penned a number of high-profile novelizations in-between writing her own award-winning cyberpunk books. Found and repaired by a good-hearted scientist living in a post-apocalyptic future in which Earth has become a trash-strewn wasteland, the cyborg Alita comes of age, discovers her destiny, and gets really good at fighting.

The Haunting of Tram Car 015, by P. Djèlí Clark
The second novella from Clark, after last year’s The Black God’s Drums, returns to the alternate early 20th century Cairo the author first explored in the short story “A Dead Djinn in Cairo.” In a world filled with magic, automatons, strange spirits, and powerful djinn, Hamed Nasr is an agent with the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities investing minor cases of the misuse of magic. His latest job—a tram car that seems to be possessed by a malevolent djinn—turns out to be much more complex than it first seemed… perhaps more than Hamed and his stuff-shirted new partner Onsi can handle. The amount of worldbuilding packed into this slim book is remarkable—gender politics (the case unfolds against the backdrop of the Egyptian suffrage movement), class conflicts, machine sentience, commerce, and more—and the narrative voice is a delight; imagine the sensibility of Agatha Christie crossed with the magic of Saladin Ahmed.

Trump Sky Alpha, by Mark Doten
Mark Doten (The Infernal) delivers what may be the first major sci-fi novel of the post-Trump era. Certainly he’s gunning for that distinction from the premise on: the book begins one year after Trump’s Twitter rantings have triggered a nuclear war. A journalist hiding out in the Twin Cities Metro Containment Zone searches for her missing wife and daughter while ostensibly working on a story exploring internet humor amid the apocalypse. But as she dives deeper into a world of metatextual references and nested memes, Rachel finds hints of a conspiracy that may change her understanding of the past and give shape to the world’s increasingly strange future.

Where Oblivion Lives, by T. Frohock 
Fans of Frohock’s Los Nefilim novellas will be thrilled with this full-length novel, which a deep dive into a historical fantasy world. In 1932, in an alt-history version of Spain and Germany, vying forces of angels and daimons are gearing up for a civil war that threatens humanity’s existence. Los Nefilim are the respective offspring of the warring species, able to either sing like the angles or hear like the daimons; they monitor the conflict and seek to avert disaster. Diago is special even among the Nefilim, born of both angel and daimon and thus able to both sing and hear. Tormented by the sound of his lost Stradivarius, Diago slips over the Rhine and searches for the source of the music that torments his demonic hearing. Along the way, he and his allies uncover evidence of terrible betrayals and a plot that would mean the end of Los Nefilim—and the world.

The Rising, by Mira Grant
Seanan McGuire, writing as Mira Grant, delivered a pitch-perfect postmodern zombie story with her Newsflesh trilogy, combining a hard look at the dirty truth of politics with the shambling dread of the undead apocalypse. The Rising collects all three Hugo-nominated volumes of the trilogy, set decades after separate cures for cancer and the common cold mutated into a virus that turned carriers into zombies and changed the balance of power the world over. Though the contagion has been contained and the zombie threat is under control, the healthy must live in secured areas and stay ever-vigilant. Blogging journalists following the presidential campaign of a Republican senator slowly stumble (no pun intended) upon a grim conspiracy using the hordes of undead to manipulate public opinion and the upcoming election. It’s smart, fast-paced sci-fi horror, and now you can rip through the whole thing without stopping.

The Very Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan, by Caitlin R. Kiernan
Polymath Caitlin R. Kiernan is well established as one of SFF’s best short story writers, but until now, much of her work has only been available in print in limited-edition publications. Finally, here is a freely available collection of her best work: 20 incredible stories that will remind fans (and prove to new readers) just how unnaturally good she is at this. Her stories dive headlong into dark emotional currents, as when a daughter must close a gate to the past opened by her father; treat in doom and despair, as when a cult leader leads his followers into the ocean; and explore the uncanny, as when a film scholar reviews a disturbing movie about the most prolific female serial killer in history. Any one of them would alone be worth the cover price. It’s hard to imagine this collection won’t rank with the very best speculative books of 2019.

Broken Stars: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation, edited and translated by Ken Liu
Anyone paying attention to science fiction trends in recent years knows that Chinese literature is becoming an increasingly vital part of the landscape in the English-speaking world, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Liu, who translated Cixin Liu’s Hugo-winning novel The Three-Body Problem, and edited the excellent anthology Invisible Planets: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation. Now, he returns with a second anthology, another amazing collection of first-rate stories, featuring authors both familiar to attentive Western readers (including Hugo-winners Liu Cixin and Hao Jingfang) and newly imported but no less wonderful. With stories that treat in classic sci-fi tropes as filtered through the lenses of Chinese culture and history, and other that explore ideas that are entirely new, this is another essential exploration of an entire universe of speculative fiction heretofore inaccessible to many Western readers.

Gates of Stone, by Angus Macallan
The first book in Macallan’s Lord of the Islands series introduces the gritty, richly detailed world of the Laut Besar, where three lives are set on a collision course that might save—or destroy—a civilization. A princess is denied the throne solely because she’s a woman, and embarks on a violent quest to raise the money and power she’ll need to seize power by force. An arrogant prince is shocked into action when his kingdom is invaded by a sorcerer seeking one of seven powerful talismans that keep the Seven Hells at bay. If the sorcerer locates and possess all seven, all manner of chaos will be unleashed upon the world. Inspired by the overlapping cultures of China and India, this is a story filled with magic, epic battles, and complex characters.

The Outcast Hours, by Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin 
A great anthology is more than the sum of its parts, and Murad and Shurin proved their ability to curate something truly special with their first effort, the delightful The Dijinn Falls in Love and Other Stories. Here they bring together more than two dozen stories centered on the portion of society that lives by night, bathed in neon and shrinking from the morning. In other words: the outcasts. It’s a rich vein from which to mine incredible and incredibly strange stories, and the stellar cast of contributing writers certainly delivers. The anthology features works by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Marina Warner, Sami Shah, and Jeffrey Alan Love, among many others (including China Miéville, who hasn’t been writing nearly enough fiction as of late, delivers a smattering of deeply weird page-long micro-fictions). For fans of surprising speculative fiction, it is sure to be a treat.

Fleet of Knives, by Gareth L. Powell
Powell continues the Embers of War series in fine space opera style, finding the crew of the sentient ex-warship Trouble Dog responding to a distress call in the midst of the fallout of the Archipelago War. Trouble Dog tracks down the abandoned ship Lucy’s Ghost only to find that its human crew took refuge on a centuries-old generation ship launched by an alien species. Their efforts to save the humans pits them against beings that appear to them as dangerous monsters. Meanwhile, war criminal Ona Sudak leads the ships of the Marble Armada in an effort to enforce the peace at all costs—and believing that the Trouble Dog is a danger to that peace, she quickly takes steps to eliminate them, trapping the vessel and its crew between two violent enemies. Embers of War was one of our favorite reads of 2018—a space opera foregrounding the emotional journeys of its protagonists (both human and machine) without sacrificing the action or suspense—and the sequel lives up to its predecessor, and then some.

Firstborn, by Michelle West
The seventh entry in West’s House War epic fantasy series. The back cover summary is extensive—you can read it here—and likely won’t make sense to anyone who hasn’t kept up with the series so far. Perhaps it is more interesting, then, to state that this is the first half of what West intended to be the final novel in the series. What she wrote was so extensive, it had to be split into two volumes; this is the first part, and War will follow later this year. So if you love epics, know both that this is a truly epic series… and that it will be finished come June, and ready for a binge read.

What new sci-fi and fantasy is on your list this week?

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The Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Citizenship Testing, Viral Dreams, and Coming of Age on a Planet of Ice and Fire

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

The City in the Middle of the Night, by Charlie Jane Anders
Charlie Jane Anders’ followup to the Nebula Award-winning All the Birds in the Sky seems, at first glance, a complete departure from that fitfully whimsical, apocalyptic bildungsroman, but both novels share a powerful emotional through line, examining the inner lives and grand destinies of outsiders in societies in which they are never sure they truly belong. It leaves Earth behind entirely, delivering us to the hostile planet January, a tidally locked world split between the frozen wastes on its dark side and the searing eternal day of its light side. In the small sliver between these two extremes, the city of Xiosphant barely supports a dwindling human population. Sophie, who comes from an unremarkable family, willingly takes the blame for a petty crime committed by her fellow student, best friend, shining star Bianca, and is condemned to death via exile into the frigid darkness as an example of the cost of even a small act of rebellion. Sophie is saved by one of the strange animal life forms native to the planet, and discovers that the so-called “crocodiles” are no simple beasts, but an advanced race of telepaths whose existence is threatened by the corrosive presence of human settlers in their midst. Sophie’s ultimate fate parallels not just that of Bianca and her fellow citizens of Xiosphant, but all life on January, and the very future of humanity. It’s a richly compassionate, thoughtful work, packing powerful messages of anti-violence, political theory, and environmentalism alongside a story of growing up and growing into yourself that never strikes a false note.

Doctor Who Meets Scratchman, by Tom Baker 
Fans of Doctor Who know Tom Baker best as the iconic Fourth Doctor, lover of Jelly Babies and very cool winter scarves. But did they know he also imagined himself an author of the Doctor’s exploits? In the 1970s, Baker and Ian Marter, who played Harry Sullivan, worked up a treatment for a Doctor Whofeature film—and at one point, it seemed like it might actually be made, with Vincent Price attached to star. But the script was lost in the shuffle, Baker regenerated into Peter Davison, and decades passed. Now, Baker has dusted off the idea and regenerated it into a novel, which sees The Doctor (along with Harry and Sarah Jane Smith) arriving at a remote Scottish island for a bit of a rest. Instead, they find the isolated village under attack by hideous scarecrows. The Doctor takes on the challenge of protecting the innocent, but it’s all an elaborate trap set by an otherworldly force known as the Scratchman—who might be the devil himself. For Who-vians, this is a glimpse into an alternate timeline where the Doctor became the next film franchise—or just another delightful Fourth Doctor romp.

Early Riser, by Jasper Fforde
Jasper Fforde takes a break from the metafictional nuttiness of his Thursday Next novels to travel to an alternate future in which the entire population of England hibernates during the frigid, harsh winter months. Getting through four months of suspended animation isn’t guaranteed—although the rich, able to afford special drugs, fare better than the poor, who often wind up Dead in Sleep—but the Winter Consuls work hard to ensure that everyone makes it. Charlie Worthing has just joined this group of slightly unhinged guardians, and has been tasked with investigating a viral dream that’s been killing people in their sleep. Initially dubious, Charlie begins to believe when he starts experiencing the dreams too—and they start coming true. Fforde’s track record at wacky, wonky worldbuilding is second to none, and this standalone is both a fast-moving romp and a thoughtful slice of social commentary.

Terminal Uprising, by Jim C. Hines
The second volume of Hines’ tongue-in-cheek sci-fi series the Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse, which follows a band of hapless humans who serve as the cleanup crew on an alien vessel in the wake of a plague that has destroyed nearly all of our civilization. Having stolen a starship, uncovered the secret that led to humanity’s downfall, and stopped a genocidal attack against the alien Krakau (see the events of Terminal Alliance), Marion “Mops” Adamopoulos and her team of fellow hygeine and sanitation specialists have been trying to help the Krakau tamp down an uprising by the isolationist species the Prodyans, a mission that will require her to return to an Earth gone to seed in search of a killer superweapon that could restore humanity’s place in the galaxy… or bring the whole thing crashing down. But, you know, not actually down, because there’s no gravity in space. But things could certainly get messy.

The Revenant Express, by George Mann
Steampunk virtuoso George Mann returns with another volume in the Newbury & Hobbes series, which stars a mystery-solving Victorian era special agent Si Maurice Newbury and his assistant Veronica Hobbes, who, as the novel opens, lies dying. Newbury and Veronica’s sister Amelia take a train cross country to secure a mechanical heart that can replace Veronica’s ailing one. But it can’t be so simple as that, and along the way they run into an old enemy who is onboard the train seeking revenge. Meanwhile, back in London, the other member of their team, Sir Charles Bainbridge, investigates a series of bizarre killings, as prominent citizens are kidnapped and expsed to a deadly plague. It’s up to Newbury and Co. to save both Veronica and London itself before time runs out.

The Test, by Sylvain Neuvel
Another dark satire of the future-present arrives from Tor.com Publishing just weeks after the release of Robert Jackson Benett’s Vigilance, which examines America’s gun obsession. Sylvain Neuvel’s The Test takes a different tack, moving through the questions on a mandatory British Citizenship Test as it is undertaken by an immigrant named Idir who just wants his family to be welcomed into their new home country. He has 25 questions—25 chances—to impress the test committee and prove his worth. But when the test goes wrong and circumstances are flipped on their head, Idir faces much harder choices.

The Beast’s Heart: A Novel of Beauty and the Beast, by Leife Shallcross
In the tradition of John Gardner’s Grendel, Shallcross retells the story of Beauty and the Beast from the perspective of the titular monster—claws, horns, and all. Trapped under a curse for centuries, Julien Courseilles first glimpses the beautiful Isabeau de la Noue in a dream and realizes she might be able to free him from his lonely bondage. He lures her to his enchanted chateau, where she agrees to stay for a year in exchange for her father’s life. Julien spends those short months proposing marriage and spying on her and her family in an attempt to force a love affair to blossom, but as he comes to terms with the dark fairy tale that is his cursed life, he realizes that even if Isabeau agrees to marry him, that is only the first step on his unlikely journey to redemption. Shallcross’s debut reveals new facets of one of the most retold and best-loved stories of all time.

The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison
Katherine Addison’s beloved standalone fantasy—a Best Novel Nebula finalist—returns in a new trade paperback edition. If you haven’t read it yet, you must: it is as much about real-world problems (like self-doubt and the intractable nature of politics) as it is about the fantasy elements. The main character is the half-goblin heir to the throne of an elven empire. Maia, who has spent his 18 years living in exile, returns home to not only the burden of ruling a land that does not respect him, but the disconcerting news that his father and brothers weren’t killed in an accident, but by intentional sabotage. What makes all of this more spellbinding is the fact that, at a time when many modern fantasy heroes  are, well, flawed—Maia is a genuinely good person. Watching him navigate the halls of power without sacrificing his ideals is deeply moving. Would that reality were so fantastical.

What new SFF are you reading this week?

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This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Epic Beginnings, Stranger Secrets, and America’s Alternate Futures

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

A People’s Future of the United States: Speculative Fiction from 25 Extraordinary Writers, edited by Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams
Twenty-five stories examining America’s many possible futures, written by some of the best and brightest in sci-fi and fantasy? Sign us up. Overseen by award-winning author Victor LaValle (The Ballad of Black Tom) and editor John Joseph Adams, and featuring contributions from N.K. Jemisin, Justina Ireland, A. Merc Rustad, Omar El Akkad, Charlie Jane Anders, Charles Yu, Lesley Nneka Arimah, and 18 others, this collection is packed with stories that extrapolate the realities our fraught present into fascinating, often dark visions of the future. From Americas where contraception is illegal, to ones in which the non-conforming are forcibly transformed to fit a biased “norm,” to more fantastical visions in which women learn to ride dragons. In one timely entry, a wall on the Mexican-American border results in a slew of unintentional consequences to Mexico’s benefit. These are tales that illustrate the power of speculative fiction—to combine imagination, storytelling, and social commentary in ways that tell us as much about where we’re going as where we are right now.

Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds (Barnes & Noble Exclusive Edition), by Gwenda Bond
Netflix’s Stranger Things is a bona fide pop culture phenomenon, and YA regular Gwenda Bond earned the enviable task of bringing the ever-growing, ever-darker universe of the TV series to print. This prequel delves into the mysterious history of the woman who gave birth to waffle-loving telekinetic tween Eleven. The story travels back to 1969, when Terry Ives is a quiet college student who signs up for a government program code-named MKULTRA. As her involvement with this sinister experiment at the Hawking National Laboratory grows ever stranger, Terry begins investigating what’s really going on, recruiting her fellow test subjects for assistance—including a mysterious young girl with even more mysterious powers. A girl who doesn’t have a name, just a number: 008. This is a must for die-hard fans eager to explore all the secrets that won’t be revealed onscreen. The exclusive Barnes & Noble edition includes a two-sided poster featuring original artwork.

House of Assassins, by Larry Correia
The second entry in Correia’s Saga of the Forgotten Warrior series returns to the story of Ashok Vadal, a former soldier in a fiercely secular, fiercely divided magical world. In a society stratified into castes, the lowest of the low are the casteless—the untouchables. After infiltrating a rebel group that sought to free the casteless—a mission that led him to the prophet Thera Vane—former Protector Ashok Vadal now wields his magical blade Angruvadal and leads the Sons of the Black Sword on a mission to free Thera from the wizard Sikasso. All the while, he is hunted by the vengeful Lord Protector Devedas. As Ashok deals with the revelation that he is casteless himself—and apparently a pawn in a game he doesn’t yet fully grasp—he finds himself forced to fight without Angruvadal for the first time, and questioning whether his fate really has fallen to the gods. With this series, Correia brings all of the grit and narrative propulsion of his popular Monster Hunter urban fantasy series into the realm of the epic.

Wild Life, by Molly Gloss
Saga Press continues its campaign to bring Molly Gloss back into prominence with the SFF crowd, reissuing her fourth novel, the winner of the James Tiptree Jr. Award (presented to a work that explores or expands notions of gender). It is presented as the unedited journal of Charlotte Bridger Drummond, a woman living in Washington State in the early 20th century, doing her best to get by with her five children after her husband abandoned her. Drummond supports herself by writing novels about fierce and attractive girls who go on adventures. When her housekeeper Melba’s daughter goes missing in the wilds, Charlotte decides to follow her characters’ lead and heads out to find her. Soon lost herself, Charlotte uses her journal to keep a record of her increasingly strange journey into an American wilderness far odder than she ever dreamed. In a metafictional touch, this narrative is interspersed with snippets of her fiction and her musings on the constrictions her gender places upon her. Because this is ostensibly a fantasy novel, we should also note that Charlotte’s journal purports that she survived her ordeal in part by joining up with a group of giants living in the mountains. Though the fantastical elements are presented with a shade of ambiguity, Charlotte inarguably proves herself more than able to fill a role that in 1905 (and, perhaps, 2019) would normally fall to a strapping male protagonist.

Snow White Learns Witchcraft, by Theodora Goss
A collection of short fiction and poetry from the World Fantasy Award-winning, Nebula Award-nominated author of The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, Show White Learns Witchcraft is one to savor. As the name suggests, it collects fairy tale inspired works from across the dreadth of Goss’s career, among them “Red as Blood and White as Bone,” in which a poor serving girl decides to test the theory that all beggar women who come calling are secretly princess in disguise, seeking noble hearts, but learns that truth is more complicated than stories. “The Gold Spinner” reimagines Rumpelstiltskin as a desperate girl lying to save her own life, and “Conversations with the Sea Witch” revisits the now-human Little Mermaid in her old age. Revisionist fairy tales are as common as apples, but by virtue of their clever twisting of legends and their artful prose, Goss’s additions to the bushel are revealed as bright and glistening as rubies.

The Ingenious, by Darius Hinks
The city of Athanor was set adrift long ago by alchemists called the Curious Men, moving through space and time and taking with it bits and pieces of every place it passes through along the way. Isten and her followers were one of among those bits and pieces, pulled into Athanor unwittingly. They are now stranded in the incredibly varied but dismally impoverished magical city. Isten’s people believe she is prophesied to set their homeland free, but Isten has succumbed to a terrible addiction, and she and her followers barely survive in the mean alleys of Athanor—until Isten meets Alzen, a member of the Elect. Alzen dreams of becoming the Ingenious, a master magic-user, and Alzen and Isten forge an unusual alliance, each determined to help the other fulfill their disparate disparate dreams in this impossible city. Darius Hinks is an award-winning writer of novels set in the Warhammer universe; The Ingenious is his first wholly original work, in every sense.

Black Leopard, Red Wolf, by Marlon James
The first book in an epic fantasy trilogy from Booker Prize-winner Marlon James is as impressive as the author’s pedigree would suggest. The Dark Star trilogy has been likened to an “African Game of Thrones,” and the comparison is both apt and overly simplistic—James is doing far more than gluing familiar tropes onto African folklore. This is a deeply literary work, bordering at times on the poetic in its imagery, but it is also enormously fun, with imaginative worldbuilding and a plot that is both measured and propulsive. The Black Leopard is a mercenary able to shape-shift into a jungle cat, and the Red Wolf, also called Tracker, is a hunter of lost folk, with an incredible sense of smell that enables him to hone in on his quarry from vast distances. Sometimes with Leopard and sometimes alone, Tracker works his way across Africa in search of a kidnapped boy, moving through a beautiful, densely detailed world of violence, storytelling, dark magic, giants, and inhuman entities. Tracker’s mission is complicated by the complex and ever-shifting politics of the many tribes he encounters, and furthered along by a growing entourage of followers and allies, from a giant, to a sword-wielding academic, to  a buffalo that understands (and sometimes obeys) human speech. It already feels like a classic, and it will be interesting to see how the fantasy connects with James’s literary audience, and vice versa.

The Ruin of Kings, by Jenn Lyons
Jenn Lyons opens her planned five-book series with novel that defies traditional narrative structure. It begins as a conversation between the imprisoned Kihrin, awaiting what will certainly be a sentence of death, and his jailor Talon, a beautiful, demonic, shape-shifting assassin. As Kihrin tells a sad tale of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and earning the enmity of a cabal of sorcerers (raising more than a few questions about his real identity, and the true nature of a consequential necklace he claims was given to him by his mother)—Talon shares her own side of the story. The twin narratives slowly curl around each other (enriched by asides and often cheeky footnotes), illuminating different aspects of a world populated by incredible magic and a whole host of fantastic monsters and all manner of gods, demons, and men, all seemingly arrayed against Kihrin’s twisting journey to claim his legacy. The buzz for this series-starter has been building for months, and while the comparisons to Patrick Rothfuss and George R.R. Martin are apt, Jenn Lyons has also proven to have her own fascinating perspective on epic fantasy. A must-read.

Polaris Rising, by Jessie Mihalik
Jessie Mihalik’s first novel is a space opera with a healthy helping of sex and romance, telling the story of Ada von Hasenberg, fifth daughter of the influential House von Hasenberg. Two years ago, Ada fled an arranged marriage to Richard Rockhurst and has been racing to stay one step ahead of her father’s minions ever since. Luckily, she’s been the beneficiary of the standard von Hasenberg education, which ran the gamut from computer hacking to social engineering. When Ada is captured by bounty hunters, she makes an alliance with another prisoner, the notorious criminal and murderer Marcus Loch, possibly the most dangerous man in the universe. Together, the pair must break free from their captors and launch a desperate campaign to earn their freedom once and for all. Along the way, they’ll also need to learn to trust each other, and resist the undeniable attraction that has arisen between them. Fast, fun, and sexy, this debut offers a delightful escape into adventure.

Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You, by Scotto Moore
Scotto Moore—the mind behind the darkly, strangely hilarious Lovecraftian Things That Cannot Save You Tumblr and the music blog Much Preferred Customers—writes a short, sharp debut novella that brings together both of his obsessions. It’s the story of a blogger who stumbles across most beautiful music he’s ever heard in his life—a song that mesmerizes him for hours, as if possessed of an arcane power. The band responsible, Beautiful Remorse, plans to release a new track every day for 10 days, and every subsequent tune proves to effect listeners and the world in increasingly powerful and devastating ways. As the blogger joins the band on tour and meets mysterious lead singer Airee Macpherson, he discovers the secret purpose behind the music. This quirky horror story is just as fun as the premise suggests.

Binti: The Complete Trilogy, by Nnedi Okorafor
Nnedi Okorafor’s Hugo- and Nebula-winning trilogy is collected in one volume alongside a brand-new short story. Though originally published as three separate works, Binti’s story gains new resonance when read as a whole: it’s a moving coming-of-age tale, following a young girl’s journey from a rigid home life, out into the black of space and back. The lush worldbuilding takes us from Binti’s origins with the Namibian Himba tribe, to the intergalactic Oomza University, and on an interstellar journey during which she meets and forms a most unusual bond with the truly alien Medusae. Over the course of these stories, Binti grows and changes, taking on the burden of her people’s legacy and, perhaps, the fate of the whole universe. Filled with unusual technology, breathless adventure, and unexpected twists and turns, Okorafor’s latest works of adult science fiction (she is also the author of the YA novels Akata Witch and Akata Warrior, as well as the World Fantasy Award-winner Who Fears Death) is a true delight.

10,000 Bones, by Joe Ollinger
This debut novel is build upon a harrowing premise that lends grim context to the title: life is brutal on the planet known as Brink, where calcium is in such short supply that is has become the local currency. As the government struggles to import enough of the mineral to keep the people alive (and are given no help by other colony worlds that wish to use Brink’s desperate need for it as leverage in trade agreements). a black market has arisen to deal in the stuff—and keep it out of general circulation, where it is desperately needed. Taryn Dare is a collections agent aiming to put a stop to the illegal calcium trade (and hopefully earn enough to make her way off-planet), but she soon uncovers a dark conspiracy that leads her to believe that things on Brink are more broken than she ever imagined. An unusual world well-explored, a compellingly flawed protagonist, and one breathless action sequence after another mark Ollinger’s first novel as a winner, no bones about it.

Fog Season, by Patrice Sarath
The sequel to The Sisters Mederos returns to the city of Port Saint Frey, where once wealthy siblings Tesara and Yvienne Mederos saw their family trimmed from the upper crust of society and were forced to determine the reasons why through schemes and cunning. With those intrigues out of the way, the sisters Mederos hope to settle back into their lives, but their successful efforts to deflect an investigation into the events of the first book become more difficult when a corpse shows up in the most expected place, and pulls them back into a fog of conspiracy. The Victorian trappings and feisty protagonists—Tesara’s sharp mind, and hidden magic, Yvinne’s sharper tongue—propel this mystery story merrily, murderously along.

Sisters of the Fire, by Kim Wilkins
The sequel to Daughters of the Storm continues the story of five sisters who set off to find a magical cure for their comatose father. the king. Five years later, Bluebell, the warrior among them, remains at home, the new heir to the throne. Ivy rules a prosperous port in a lonely marriage she’s taking terrible steps to end prematurely, Ash studies magic in the far-away wastelands; Rose lives in misery with her aunt, separated from her husband and child; and Willow hides a terrible secret that could destroy everything she and her sisters fought for—she holds the enchanted sword Grithbani, forged to kill her, and she is eager to use it. Bluebell is set upon by enemies both within and outside of her future kingdom even as her sisters pursue their individual and often tragic destinies.

What are you reading this week?

The post This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Epic Beginnings, Stranger Secrets, and America’s Alternate Futures appeared first on The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog.

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This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: A Barrier-Breaking Inuit Fantasy, Watery Worldbuilding, and a Painfully True American Satire

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Tides of Titans cover detail; art by Marc Simonetti

Reckoning of Fallen Gods, by R.A. Salvatore
Salvatore continues to plumb new depths of the world of Corona, surprising even his oldest and most dedicated fans. The direct sequel to Child of a Mad God (and the 13th story set in the fictional universe) picks up where the first left off: Aoleyn, an Usgar girl who had come to reject her tribe’s brutality and misogyny, has saved the trader Talmadge and killed a god in the process, coming into her incredible power at a tremendous cost. Talmadge can’t seem to forget the fierce girl who saved his life, but neither have much time to ponder their existence: in the distant west, an empire that once dominated the world is waking up again, inspired by a total eclipse that is heralded as a sign of their rebirth. The tides of history are turning, and Talmadge and Aoleyn seem destined to be swept up in them no matter what they do.

The Wolf in the Whale, by Jordanna Max Brodsky
Omat is an Inuit, a powerful angakkuq, or shaman, who can speak with animals, and even take on their form. Omat is also a uiluaqtaq, one who identifies as neither a man or a woman. Their family is on the verge of extinction, however, after a disaster left the tribe without hunters, and after years without new children to replenish the population. Even Omat’s power cannot sustain them for long. So when another tribe comes across their isolated village, it is cause for celebration—but the new tribe will not accept Omat as they are and insist they live as a woman, causing conflict that erodes the tribe’s chances even further—just as Norsemen arrive, bringing a whole new level of threat. The author of the Olympus Bound trilogy starts anew with a propulsive, deeply researched glimpse into a time and place that will be familiar to few, and which proves to be as fascinating as any fictional universe.

Tides of the Titans, by Thorayia Dyer
This is the third volume in Dyer’s award-winning Titan’s Forest series, set in a world where gods walk the earth and mortal civilization nests high in the branches of trees as tall as skyscrapers. Leaper, a thief and explorer falls for a queen, but when she is murdered, he leaves his adventuring days behind to hunt down her assassin—whether a member of the court; her jilted husband, the king; or the god of thunder embodied. Whoever the culprit, solving the mystery and claiming vengeance will require Leaper to leave the confines of his home amid the trees and visit the storm-wracked floodplains. Like earlier installments in the series, Tides of the Titans is another welcome marriage of fast-moving quest narrative and immensely imaginative natural worldbuilding, revealing new corners of an inventive secondary world.

Vigilance, by Robert Jackson Bennett 
Robert Jackson Bennett pauses between installments of the Founders trilogy with a darkly satirical novella that pulls back from the gritty fantasy settings of his longer works for a story set in the near-future—2030, to be exact. In a time when military conflicts have become more and more like video games, with soldiers huddled around screens mashing buttons instead of pulling triggers, John McDean is a the hard-driving executive producer and mastermind behind Vigilance, a reality-TV game show in which active shooters are dropped into the midst of civilians, and anyone who manages to survive the ensuing chaos gets a rich payout. Although the show is highly popular, McDean struggles to find fresh ways of terrifying his audience—simple mall massacres are no longer drawing eyeballs—much to the disgust of bartender Delyna, who might be the only person not glued to the television when the show is on. It’s a fact that comes in handy when McDean discovers the truth about his own show—and finds himself on the wrong side of the camera for once. This pitch-black satire of our modern-day gun culture is almost too painfully true to be funny.

Cast in Oblivion, by Michelle Sagara
The 14th entry in Sagara’s long-running Chronicles of Elantra series sees Kaylin off on an ill-fated quest to return from the West March with nine Barrani in tow. Unfortunately, her decision to travel with a Dragon has caused unrest, as Barrani-Dragon politics are none too peaceful, nevermind the separate struggles she faces keeping her nine charges safe from harm by the Consort, who wants to use them to help free other Barrani trapped in a literal private Hell.

What new SFF are you eyeing this week?

The post This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: A Barrier-Breaking Inuit Fantasy, Watery Worldbuilding, and a Painfully True American Satire appeared first on The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog.

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This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Djinn Cities, Towering Mysteries, and Miriam Black’s Last Ride

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

The Kingdom of Copper, by S.A. Chakraborty
Con artist Nahri accidentally summoned the djinn Dara in 18th century Cairo in The City of Brass and found herself whisked off to the royal court of Daevabad, where she had to use every bit of her wits and her magical abilities just to survive. As the sequel begins, Prince Ali has been banished and is fleeing assassins, even as Daevabad recovers from a devastating battle. Nahri now knows more about her origins—and her power—but that doesn’t mean she’s out of danger, even if she did just marry the heir to the throne. Trapped in a luxurious prison, the king uses her family as leverage to ensure her compliance, and Nahri must once again navigate the complex alliances, grudges, and familial connections of the magical city in order to protect those she loves. Chakraborty’s debut was one of our best-loved books of 2016, and the sequel proves worth the wait.

A Labyrinth of Scions and Sorcery, by Curtis Craddock
This is the second volume in Curtis Craddock’s swashbuckling Risen Kingdoms series, which draws from the tropes of gaslamp and steampunk fantasy, classic adventure and mystery novels, and the real history of late 17th century France and Spain to tell an altogether different kind of princess story. After having discovered her latent magical talents and used them to help stop a war in An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors, heroine Isabelle des Zephyrs is no longer sidelines at the royal court—until she is accused of violating a peace treaty she helped bring about. Now little better off than a commoner, she and her faithful soldier Jean-Claude stumble upon yet another conspiracy, this one involving a serial killer known as the Harvest King—who may have a connection to a palace coup that could bring about the end of the empire.

The Gutter Prayer, by Gareth Hanrahan 
Hanrahan’s epic fantasy debut centers on the city of Guerdon, to where refugees flee from an epic ongoing war between insane gods and the sorcerers who once served them. This is where Carillon Thay, desperate thief and recent member of the Thieves’ Brotherhood, finds herself, alongside her friends Rat and Spar. Thay is dealing with the aftermath of a heist gone wrong, and must contend with Ravellers, the  shape-shifting servants of the ancient Black Iron Gods which haven’t been seen in decades. As an apocalypse approaches Guerdon, the last place of safety in this violent world, these three thieves can only count on themselves—but it seems their fates may be strangely intertwined with the warring guilds and other powers that be in the city, and the network of ancient tunnels deep below its streets. Hanrahan brings his city to life in lyrical prose, even as the plot leaps from action sequence to breathless chase and back again.

The Smoke, by Simon Ings 
Much of Ings’ latest novel is told in the second person, but don’t let that distract you; the author is known for crafting challenging narratives, but he always has his reasons, and the end result is a book of alternate history unlike any you’ve ever encountered. The point of diversion with our own timeline is the discovery of the biophotonic ray in the 20th century—a discovery that divides the human race into three distinct sub-species, and makes all manner of medical miracles commonplace. Protagonist Stuart returns to Yorkshire, where they’re making parts for a spaceship headed for Jupiter, after his breakup with Fel, daughter of the leader of the Bund, the group responsible for many of said medical breakthroughs. But Stuart can’t seem to stay away from Fel, or from London—now known as the Smoke, and in turmoil due to the increasingly fractured nature of humanity. Without explaining too much: this might be the year’s weirdest science fiction book, and it’s only January.

The Hod King, by Josiah Bancroft
The third book in Bancroft’s deeply compelling Books of Babel quartet more than delivers on the building promise of the first two. The Sphinx, having discovered the location of Senlin’s missing wife Marya, worries over a brewing revolution, and sends her new servant Senlin to the Ringdom of Pelphia to investigate. In Pelphia, Senlin is, per usual, caught up in local intrigue: specifically, the brutal, bloody arena where the enslaved hods fight as gladiators to amuse the crowds. Meanwhile, Voleta and Iren take on false identities in an attempt to get close to Marya, who has married Duke Wilhelm Horace Pell and become a celebrity isolated by fame. Edith, now captain of the Sphinx’s flagship, investigates happenings along the hod’s Black Trail, which stretches the height of the entire Tower, and hears whisperings of a figure known as the Hod King, whose identity drives this volume to its cliffhanger conclusion—as does the question of whether Senlin can stay focused on his mission, or if he’ll risk disobeying the Sphinx in order to finally reunite with Marya. Bancroft once again perfectly pairs beautiful prose with lively characters and an exploration of an utterly original fictional edifice. A classic in the making, it will set your expectations high for the concluding volume, expected to arrive in 2020.

Vultures, by Chuck Wendig
Wendig’s sixth and final book in the Miriam Black series sees the foul-mouthed deathseer’s world in flux.  The Trespasser is back, and now has the ability to possess the living as well as the dead. Miriam’s own capability to see the demise of everyone she touches—a power that she regards as a curse—is shifting as well, which gives her hope she might be able to save her already doomed unborn child. Her baby is fated to die, but they don’t call Miriam the Fatebreaker for nothing. On the trail of a serial killer, Miriam sees a pattern emerging than spans all the strange events of her brutal life, and as she faces off against the Trespasser one final time, knowing only one of them will survive, she can only hope to find the meaning of it all, before it’s too late.

Tor.com Publishing Editorial Spotlight #1: A Selection of Novellas (The Black Tides of Heaven, by JY Yang; Run Time, by S.B. Divya; Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, by Kai Ahsante Wilson; Killing Gravity, by Corey J. White; The Murders of Molly Southbourne, by Tade Thompson), edited by Carl Engle-Laird
Everyone can name their favorite authors, but how many of you have a favorite editor? Though editors are far more visible in SFF than in many genres, they are still more often than not operating anonymously, behind the scenes. Tor.com Publishing is doing its part to make these essential figures in publishing—those responsible for acquiring and shaping manuscripts that will one day become (hopefully) brilliant books—a bit more visible, while also highlighting the skill of their authors. This is the first in a series of ebook bundles the publisher has assembled, each focused on the output of one of their editorial team. First up is Carl Engle-Laird, who has selected five wide-ranging works he’s edited—two of which earned Hugo or Nebula award nominations.

What new SFF are you picking up this week?

The post This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Djinn Cities, Towering Mysteries, and Miriam Black’s Last Ride appeared first on The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog.

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This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Returning Legends, Space Pirates, and Fighting Nazis with Magic

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

The Heirs of Babylon, by Glen Cook
Cook’s second novel, originally published in 1972 and long out of print, gets a loving reissue from Night Shade Books. It’s set in 2139, by which point mankind has almost been decimated by continuous nuclear and chemical warfare. Humanity survives in isolated islands of civilization, with order maintained by the brutal Political Office that dictates how everyone should think and act—and which calls the Gathering, when the able-bodied must come together to fight a mysterious enemy. When the Gathering is called, Kurt Ranke must abandon his pregnant wife and board the ancient, decrepit destroyer Jäger, a once-mighty warship that has suffered two centuries of decay. Along with other reluctant warriors, Kurt must face the Final Meeting, a legendary battle from which no one has ever returned. This isn’t quite the Glen Cook of the Black Company novels, but this early work is much more than a mere curiosity.

Shadow Captain, by Alastair Reynolds
Reynolds’ Revenger—aka Treasure Island in space!was hailed as his most accessible novel ever: a rollicking tale of pirate adventure set in a universe where humanity rose to dominate the stars—and then declined. The sequel finds sisters Adrana and Fura, former adventure-seeking stowaways on a salvage ship, much changed. After signing on to Captain Rackamore’s crew as they sought out the ancient caches of technology left behind by long-dead civilizations, Adrana was scarred by her enslavement by pirate Bosa Sennen, and Fura became obsessed with the hidden treasure Sennen is rumored to have amassed. Now, Sennen can’t tell them where it is, because she’s dead— but the sister have her ship. Unfortunately, that also means they’ve been marked for death by the forces that still crave revenge on the bloodthirsty pirate.

The Iron Codex, by David Mack
In Midnight Front, Cade Martin was a World War II hero mastering sorcery in the allied struggle against fascism. Years later, he is worrying his MI6 handlers, his frequent unexplained absences sending up red flags. Meanwhile, Anja Kernova hunts escaped Nazis in South America using the Iron Codex, a magical book of immense power. Other forces want the power that the Codex represents, however, and Anja soon finds herself on the run, even as a secretive cabal schemes to transform the USA into a fascist state using magical forces. Everyone’s path begins to converge on Bikini Atoll, where the Castle Bravo nuclear tests are scheduled to begin. If you like your history twisted up with fantastic magical invention, this is the series for you.

Marked, by S. Andrew Swann
Detective Dana Rohan is a cop with a near-perfect arrest rate—and a secret. She doesn’t remember how she got the elaborate mark on her back during her traumatic childhood, but it allows her to travel through time and alternative dimensions, giving her the ability to see the crimes she’s investigating as they are being committed. Power like that rarely comes without a cost, and one night Dana is approached by a homeless man who warns her that the Shadows are coming—and is then violently murdered by an armored monster. Dana plunges into a bizarre adventure across strange alternate worlds, pursued by the shambling, zombie-like Shadows and beset upon by violent relatives she’s never heard of before. If she can just stay alive, she might have a chance to finally understand her strange abilities—and figure out why everyone wants to kill her.

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

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This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Witchy Winters, Wayward Children, and Galactic War(s)

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Editor’s note: This week’s list of book launches covers a few lingering titles from last week, when we were off for the holidays.

A Cathedral of Myth and Bone, by Kat Howard
The author of Rot and Ruin and An Unkindness of Magicians assembles her first collection, featuring a host of previously published, often fairy tale-inspired stories that first appeared in Clarkesworld, Uncanny, Lightspeed, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and other venerable genre magazines, as well as a few new ones. Howard’s stories seek the intersections between the magical and the everyday (a modern saint struggles with a deluge of emailed prayer requests; the tale of King Arthur plays out on a college campus) and plugs the holes in the stories we’ve told ourselves for centuries (“The Calendar of Saints” imagines a fearless, blade-wielding woman determined to rewrite history in blood).

The Fall of Io, by Wesley Chu
Chu’s long-awaited sequel to The Rise of Io returns to the story of über-competent Ella and Io, the utterly incompetent alien intelligence that has taken up residence inside of her head. They’ve recently been expelled from the scheme by the alien sect Prophus to train Ella as an agent in their efforts to raise humanity to a technological level that will be useful to their war effort against the Genjix—the Prophus’ ruthless alien siblings who are willing to destroy humanity in pursuit of their goal of returning to their own home world. Ella is happily back to a life of short cons and petty heists, with Io unhappily along for the ride—but it turns out Io has information the Genjix need to further their own ends, and Ella and Io find themselves on the run, hunted by immaterial beings who have been guiding human history and development for centuries. This is the series that made Chu’s name in sci-fi (and helped win him a Cambell Award). We’re happy to return to it.

In an Absent Dream, by Seanan McGuire
McGuire’s fourth Wayward Children novella is a prequel, telling the story of Katherine Lundy, the erstwhile group therapy leader at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children (“erstwhile” in that she was killed off midway through the first book, Every Heart a Doorway). As a child, Katherine is absorbed in her studies and wants nothing to do with the responsibilities—or suffocation—of being a housewife, though that’s what everyone seems to assume she will do when she grows up. When Katherine discovers a portal that leads her to the Goblin Market, a place ruled by logic and reason expressed in riddles and falsehoods, she thinks she has finally found her place in the world. In the Goblin Market you can make any bargain you like—but there is always a cost. When Katherine realizes her time at the Market is drawing to a close she’s desperate enough to make such a bargain—with unexpected and heartbreaking results. In a series built from the bones of childhood, this installment may be the most painfully true yet.

Through Fiery Trials, by David Weber 
Weber’s 10th Safehold novel begins with peace. After so much time avoiding technology in order to ensure the survival of humanity, the war between technology-endorsing Charis and the luddite-like Church of God’s Awaiting is finally over. The Charis’ desire to see humanity move forward through science and technology—inspired long ago by Merlin, an artificial being hosting the intelligence of a former naval officer and obeying ancient orders to free mankind from the yoke of the megalomaniacal Archangels—have won the day. But Safehold is now a broken world as a result, and Charis’ victory has shifted the balance of power and the nature of alliances in ways not immediately apparent. Rebellions arise in the war’s wake, and the Charisian cabal worries the Archangels may be returning sooner rather than later, driving them to push a radical agenda of industrialization that further destabilizes the unstable.

The Lost Puzzler, by Eyal Kless
The debut novel of internationally acclaimed classical violinist Eyal Kless proves him skilled at more than one form of artistic expression. This complex science fantasy takes place in a deeply-imagined, puzzle-laden post-apocalyptic world 100 years after a disaster known as the Catastrophe. Humanity has slowly recovered along different lines—the Wildeners have reverted to primitive beliefs, while others work to restore the old technological glory. In the center of the fallen Tarkanian empire, the City of Towers hosts the Guild of Historians. Salvationists seek out the lost Tarkanioan technology, each search party led by a Puzzler skilled in opening the digital locks protecting forgotten treasures. Rafik, a skilled Puzzler who has been marked as cursed, goes missing while leading a dangerous expedition in a booby-trapped city. A decade later, a lowly scribe for the Guild is tasked with searching for him. It seems Rafik is the key to a revived Tarakan Empire and the future of humanity—but a host of monsters, traps, and puzzles stand in the way.

The Last Big Thing, by David Moody
This new collection from the author of Hater proves David Moody to be a compelling voice in modern horror, with 11 stories that run the gamut from Barker-esque body horror to post-apocalyptic survival tales, collected from more than a decade of previously published work—though there are a few new ones here as well. In addition to stories inspired by Moody’s love for ’50s B-movies (“Big Man”) and The Twilight Zone (“The Deal,” “Nolan Higgs Is Out of His Depth”), there is also a story set in-between Hater and sequel Dog Blood; “Everything and Nothing” has never before appeared in print.

Darksoul, by Anna Stephens
The sequel to Godblind, Darksoul is the second rewarding, if incredibly bleak, installment in the grimmer-than-grimdark Godblind trilogy. This installment is a bit less sprawling than the last, a credit to the cast of fascinating, extremely flawed point-of-view characters that navigates its war-torn, god-blasted landscape. In a city under siege, Durdil Koridam takes command, determined to defend the walls even if it kills every last person they are protecting, while outside, the armies of King Corvus and Prince Rivil ally themselves and marshall for a final attack. Dom, a powerful seer, strives to serve a bloodthirsty goddess who has bent his faith to her will. This series isn’t for the squeamish—violence and bloodshed abound—but for readers interested in seeing how good brutal fantasy can be, it’s definitely still a winner.

The Storm, by David Drake
The sequel to The Spark continues Drake’s creative retelling of the King Arthur myth, set in a post-apocalyptic, fantastical future existing long after the fall of an advanced technological civilization turned the world into a wasteland, forcing the remnants of humanity to gather together to stave off the monsters who invade from the parallel dimension of “Not Here.” Pal, a young man from a backwater settlement who found his destiny in The Spark, now stands against the darkness alongside the Champions of Mankind. Pal is a good fighter but a truly gifted Maker, able to parse the strange language of the ancient technology that litters the Waste—a talent that gets him into as many scrapes as it helps him out of. If you enjoyed the first book, this one opens up the world while promising many more adventures to come.

Alliance Rising, by C.J. Cherryh and Jane S. Fancher
The latest entry in the sprawling, complex, and Hugo-winning Company Wars series begins with a mysterious, unidentified ship on its way to Alpha station. Like the other stations of the Hinder Stars near Sol, Alpha Station has fallen far behind newer megastations like Pell and Cyteen. Rumors fly about the ship’s purpose and origin, with much of the suspicion centering on another ship docked at Alpha, the mysterious The Rights of Man, commanded by the Earth Company. The true purpose of The Rights of Man is unknown, and many believe the mystery ship was sent by Pell to investigate it. James Robert Neihart, Captain of the Pell ship Finity’s End, also intends to find out, suspecting that there’s more going on with the ship—and with Alpha Station—than meets the eye.

The Winter of the Witch, by Katherine Arden
The concluding volume of Arden’s acclaimed Winternight trilogy picks up right where The Girl in the Tower left off, with Moscow in ashes from Vasya’s inexpert use of a Firebird. Russia and the people Vasya love are still in danger, however, as Arden continues her secret history of a nation’s turmoils in parallel with the story of Vasya’s becoming. She stumbles forward in her troubled relationship with the winter-king Morozko, while the Grand Prince Dmitrii makes decisions leading them all inevitably towards a battle that could unite Russia—though the chaos demon Medved would prefer events unfold otherwise. Vasya is no longer the frightened girl of the earlier books, but neither has she perfected her abilities. Even still, she must embark on several dangerous magical quests in order to protect the people and the land she loves. Along the way, she meets new and fascinating chyerti, and all the threads of the two previous books weave together in an epic, truly satisfying ending.

The Outlaw and the Upstart King, by Rod Duncan
The sequel to the Philip K. Dick Award-nominated Queen of All Crows is set on the Island of the Free, a version of Newfoundland where violent clans rule, laws and oaths are dictated by tattoos inked on the skin, and the only thing the squabbling factions agree on is that no king will ever rule them. Elias No-Thumbs returns to his homeland, smuggling something that could upset the balance of power in the name of the revenge he seeks. His plan pivots on the assistance of a mysterious woman and her friends who have crash-landed on the Island of the Free and desperately wish to leave—but the only ways ion or off the island are controlled by warlords known as Patron Protectors. Faithful Duncan fans will recognize the mystery woman as Elizabeth Barnabus, protagonist of the Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire trilogy, but readers both old and new will enjoy seeing her save herself and help Elias get his revenge on the people who took his wealth (and his thumbs).

What new SFF are you reading this week?

The post This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Witchy Winters, Wayward Children, and Galactic War(s) appeared first on The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog.

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

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What new SFF is on your list this week?

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This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Highway Horror, Space Heists, and an Intergalactic Sideshow

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

King of the Road, by R.S. Belcher
R.S. Belcher, author of the occult-themed western Six-Gun Tarot and Shotgun Arcana, delivers a companion novel to 2016’s Brotherhood of the Wheel,  which follows a secret group of big rig acolytes (descended from the Knights Templar) who protect the highways and byways of America from the dark forces that stalk the open roads. Brotherhood member Jimmie Aussapile, his partner/squire Heck, a state trooper, and a road witch find themselves tied up in a snake’s nest of intertwining crimes and conspiracies: missing persons, a ghostly clown, a cultish alchemist, the risen dead, monstrous shadows, and warring biker gangs. Belcher wends his way through urban legends and American folklore, gunning the engine all the way to the explosive conclusion.

The Shattered Sun, by Rachel Dunne
Dunne concludes her Bound Gods series with suitably epic flair. After being cast down and imprisoned in the mortal realm by their parents, the gods Patharro and Metherra, Fratarro and Sororra—known as The Twins—are finally free, and the Long Night has begun as they revel in power. Only the rogue priest Joros has a hope of stopping them, and he’s assembled a desperate band of fellow rogues to aid in the attempt. But gods always have disciples, and it’s no different for The Twins, whose faithful exhibit powers only gods can comprehend—and are bent on revenge. Time is short; once The Twins are at full strength, they will be able to bend the world to their wills—so, ready or not, Joros and his champions must move quickly, or the whole world might be lost.

Soulbinder, by Sebastien de Castell
The fourth book in de Castell’s Spellslinger series continues the desperate adventures of Kellen, a mage whose magic failed him just as he was about to turn 16 and take part in the magical duel that would designate him a true spellcaster. Kellen used his brains and low cunning to hide his secret, but after his ruse was exposed, he was rescued by a mysterious stranger—and plunged into a complex web of skulduggery and black magic. After regaining his powers and mastering his magic as a hunter of renegade mages, Kellen is now cursed, and experiences frequent and violent visions even as he’s chased by a group of bounty hunters. Desperate, he sets out to find a group of monks rumored to be able to cure his affliction—but he knows little about them, nor what price the cure may cost him.

Splintered Suns, by Michael Cobley
Cobley’s fifth—and apparently final—entry in the Humanity’s Fire series is an interstellar Ocean’s 11, but with higher stakes and more space pirates. Brannan Pyke leads a crew on a heist that might gain them the Essavyr Key, an ancient relic that offers access to the long-lost technologies of a vanished alien civilization. First, however, they’ll have to break into a bio-engineered museum to steal a tracking device that will lead them to a shattered desert planet, where an immense alien ship is buried under the shifting sands. The key is somewhere on that ship—but claiming it will require Pyke to avoid or defeat an old enemy seeking the same prize. You needn’t be caught up on the other books in the series to enjoy this action-packed treasure hunt, but after you read it, you’ll probably want to circle back.

Tales from Plexis, by Julie E. Czerneda
Not every fictional universe is robust enough to sustain a whole series of books, and very few are inspiring enough to get other authors involved in the worldbuilding. The Clan Chronicles is now one of those rare creations to grow larger than its creator: Czerneda has opened up the sandbox to her peers, collecting 23 linked short stories into a mosaic novel centered on the legendary Plexis Supermarket, a place where the greedy, the desperate, and the adventurous come to find… just about anything. Authors like  Tanya Huff, Amanda Sun, Ika Koeck, and many more have a blast exploring the origins and teasing out the details of some of the Trade Pact’s most memorable bits—including the true nature of the Turrneds and the Neblokans, and a whole bunch about truffles. We can’t imagine a more fitting celebration of this legendary intergalactic hotspot.

Gnomon, by Nick Harkaway
Now in paperback, one of the year’s most mind-expanding science fiction novels. In a high-tech future in which everyone is under surveillance all the time, loyal investigator for the System Mielikki Neithis tasked with figuring out why a suspect died during an interrogation, and what she finds—the woman’s neural records indicate she wasn’t one person, but many—threatens to rewrite Mielikki’s reality… kind of literally? A noirish detective story; an argument on the nature of reality and the divine; a Borgesian nested narrative; and a twisted, fourth-wall-breaking indictment of the surveillance state, and of complacent thinking as a whole—it may be Nick Harkaway’s most challenging, provocative book yet (which is saying something).

A King in Cobwebs, by David Keck
At long last—a decade since the last book—David Keck completes his Tales of Durand trilogy with a classical fantasy flourish. Sellsword Durand has much to atone for, and his karmic debts have finally come due. The kingdom is at the mercy of a mad king, and a rebellion is brewing—and the conflict could loose the magical bonds keeping evil forces from being unleashed upon the world. To save the world, Durand must face the king in cobwebs who has been orchestrating unrest from the shadows.

Of Blood and Bone, by Nora Roberts
Mega-prolific genre maestro Roberts delivers the sequel to her epic fantasy novel Year One, taking us back into a world in which a seemingly typical family struggles against great forces of good and evil in a world ruined by a deadly plague. Twelve-year-old Fallon has learned that she is a child of prophecy, destined to change the world—but she’ll have to live long enough to do so, which means surviving a harsh landscape filled with vicious gangs of Raiders and Purity Warriors, explore a hidden world of elves and other mythical creatures, complete her training under the tutelage of the ageless sage Mallick, and come to grips with her own power.

Jack Jetstark’s Intergalactic Freakshow, by Jennifer Lee Rossman
Here’s a mashup we’ve never seen before: the traveling circus is given sci-fi flair as Jack Jetstark, captain of a rundown intergalactic carnival ship, tries to keep the show going, cruising from one backwater planet to the next. Jack once dreamed of a nobler life, taking down the evil corporation VesCorp, which ruthlessly rules the galaxy. But now the head of VesCorp is his old flame—and once co-revolutionary—Diantha. Determined to discover why his former lover would turn her back on her ideals, Jack gathers together the mutated victims of VesCorp’s foul experiments and sets off to on his ship learn the truth—and maybe finally fulfill his youthful dreams of galactic liberation. Characters you’ll love populate a welcoming, lived-in universe; this is non-serious, seriously fun space opera.

What are you reading this week?

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This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Prison Planets, Mechanical Animals, and Stories from a Black Future

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Rowankind, by Jacey Bedford
In an alternate 1802, privateer and witch Ross Tremayne is tasked by the seven lords of the Fae with confronting the mad King George III, who might not be quite as mad as he appears. Meanwhile, her reformed pirate crew is having trouble going straight, magical creatures are running amok, and Ross’s partner—a feral wolf shapechanger—isn’t quite ready to face up to his responsibilities. Bedford’s Rowankind series is a fun dive into a weird and compelling alt-history—with added swashbuckling, sorcery, ghosts, and shape-shifters.

Mechanical Animals: Tales at the Crux of Creatures and Tech, edited by Lauren Beukes and Selena Chambers
Animals often show up in literature as a means of exploring humanity, allowing us to compare and contrast ourselves with creatures that share the planet with us, yet are so different as to be almost alien. So too will it be, speculate the contributors to this anthology, with machines and automata made in the form of living beings. Editors Lauren Beukes and Selena Chambers bring together 15 new stories exploring biomimicry—the design of machines that mimic the animal world—from the likes of Carrie Vaughn, Kat Howard, Aliette de Bodard, Nick Mamatas, and more, alongside essays from real-world design experts.

Bright Light: Star Carrier: Book Eight, by Ian Douglas 
Ian Douglas delivers the exciting eighth installment of the Star Carrier series. Trevor Gray has been stripped of his command—beached. As humanity faced certain defeat against an invading alien force with technology and firepower superior to anything Earth can summon, Gray threw in his lot with the artificial intelligence known as Konstantin—but the gamble didn’t pay off, and now he’s become a bystander to humanity’s last stand. At least until the second part of Konstantin’s plan kicks in, and Gray suddenly finds himself tapped to travel to the distant star Deneb, where he’ll use the use the advanced AI Bright Light’s help to contact another alien race—and perhaps find a way to stave off disaster for the human race.

Abandoned, by W. Michael Gear
Gear is an an anthropologist and archaeologist who has published more than 50 books, many co-authored by his wife. The second book in the horror/military SF Donovan series picks up where Outpost left off;. On the beautiful, resource-rich, and extremely deadly planet Donovan, Supervisor Kalico Aguila has founded a new colony called Corporate Mine, where she and her people mine for minerals and precious metals. Another group of settlers have somehow managed to survive Donovan’s unfriendly lifeforms at an old, abandoned base, and live in fear of being discovered by the corporate forces that seek to extract Donovan’s riches, no matter the human cost. Gear explores the inner workings of a group of very human characters trying to survive the deadly perils of an alien planet—and the deadly perils of their fellow humans—and reveals more tantalizing secrets of the strange planet and its stranger indigenous lifeforms.

How Long ‛til Black Future Month?, by N.K. Jemisin
N.K. Jemisin solidified her place as one of the most important SFF writers of the 21st century with her third consecutive Hugo win for The Stone Sky earlier this year. With her next novel still a year away, it’s a perfect time to explore the true breadth of her talent, which comes through to grand effect in her first collection of short fiction. The highlight is the Hugo-nominated ‛The City Born Great,” the biography of a living city and the basis for the aforementioned next book, but there is much more to savor in these 22 tales. Jemisin is an essential voice in modern-day SFF; she writes both as a fan—her story “The Ones Who Stay and Fight,” for example, was penned as a direct response to Ursula K. Le Guin’s classic “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”—and for fans—there’s a new story here set within the universe of the Broken Earth trilogy. Essential.

Infernal Machines, by John Hornor Jacobs 
John Hornor Jacobs delivers the third and concluding book in his Incorruptibles trilogy, an under-the-radar gem that deserves discovery by many more readers. Shoe and Fisk, mercenaries in a world that combines fantasy, ancient Rome, and the Wild West, find themselves dealing with an emperor sliding into insanity; an invasion by an overwhelming enemy force; and Livia Cornelius, highborn lady of Rume and mother of Fisk’s child—who he has never seen. Fisk is determined to find his way to them, even if it means crossing battlefields and front lines. We’re mystified as to why these books haven’t caught on—Chuck Wendig brilliant billed them as The Lord of the Rings meets The Gunslinger, a description as accurate as it is irresistible—but hopefully that will change now that you can binge them all, one after another.

Swordheart, by T. Kingfisher
Making a new start in the world of T. Kingfisher’s (aka Ursula Vernon) Clockwork Boys series, Swordheart follows Halla, a housekeeper who inherits the estate of her great-uncle, and all that goes along with it, including a trapped immortal swordsman. Halla frees him by removing the sword that cursed him, putting him in her debt and setting him against all enemies, including her own in-laws. The real threat, though, comes from the very sword that freed him.

Choices: All New Tales of Valdemar, edited by Mercedes Lackey
Here is another collection (the twelfth!) of stories set in the long-enduring fantasy kingdom of Valdemar. The greatest thing about this anthology series—aside from the chance to revisit a beloved imagined world—is that Lackey is more than willing to open her doors to new, up-and-coming writers whose names might not be familiar, but whose love for Lackey’s creation is splashed across every page. This volume includes 23 new tales.

The Razor, by J. Barton Mitchell
Who doesn’t love a good prison planet? In Mitchell’s fourth novel, engineer Marcus Flynn certainly doesn’t. He’s framed for murder and sentenced to live out his days on the Razor, a max-sec prison planet. Marcus’ first days in the place are bad enough, but when the planet suddenly experiences a catastrophic event that drives all the guards and personnel to flee, things go extremely sideways and he finds himself trapped with the worst of the worst on a dying world. Marcus is offered a way out, but it means taking part in a deadly mission to retrieve valuable data from a quarantined research lab. He pulls together a team of allies from among the inmates and dives into a boiling maelstrom of vicious killers and unfriendly aliens, and slowly begins to realize there may be more behind his trip to the Razor than he realized.

The Eternity War: Exodus, by Jamie Sawyer
Sawyer delivers the second book in his Eternity War series, picking up the story of Lieutenant Keira Jenkins and her crew of Jackals—a group of Simulant Operations Programme soldiers who were raw, green recruits at the start of the first book, and are only a bit less so now. They’ve survived a run-in with the terrorist network known as the Black Spiral, a circumstance complicated by an unexpected betrayal. But survive they did, and now they’re drifting in space, their ship damaged. As they fall into the clutches of the Asiatic Directorate, any hope of getting back to Alliance-controlled space seems to vanish, especially because Jenkins has a history with the Directorate—and it’s not a happy one. Sawyer is known for writing fast-paced, action-forward novels with characters compelling enough to keep you gobbling up one book after another. Two books in, we can say with confidence that The Eternity War series is right in his wheelhouse.

What new SFF is on your list this week?

The post This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Prison Planets, Mechanical Animals, and Stories from a Black Future appeared first on The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog.

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