The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of June 2019

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

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

Stranger Things: Darkness on the Edge of Town (B&N Exclusive Edition), by Adam Christopher (May 28, Del Rey—Hardcover)
The universe of Netflix’s hit series continues expands with a tense, engrossing novel focusing on the backstory of Police Chief Jim Hopper (originally slated for release in June, it was pushed up to May, but we still want to highlight it here). It’s Christmas 1984. Hopper hopes to spend a quiet holiday at home with his adopted daughter Eleven, but she’d rather Jim open up to her about his past—specifically, what happened to him in New York in 1977. Reluctantly, Hopper tells the tale, which begins with him as a recently returned Vietnam vet with a young daughter and a loving wife, working a beat as a detective in the NYPD. As he investigates a series of brutal murders, Hopper is stunned when federal agents seize all of his files and warn him off the case. Unable to obey, he goes undercover into a world of violent street gangs, searching for the truth—but when the great citywide blackout hits, plunging the city into chaos, he finds himself all alone, facing something worse than he ever imagined. Author Adam Christopher satisfies, whether he’s writing a tie-in novel or something original (his Ray Electromatic mystery series is pure fun).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What new SFF will you be picking up in June?

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

The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of May 2019

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

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

Westside, by W.M. Akers (May 7, Harper Voyager—Hardcover)
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.

Storm Cursed, by Patricia Briggs (May 7, Ace—Hardcover)
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 (May 7, Knopf—Hardcover)
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.

Octavia Gone, by Jack McDevitt (May 7, Saga Press—Hardcover)
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 (May 7,—Hardcover)
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 (May 7, Night Shade Books—Harcover)
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 (May 7, Penguin—Paperback)
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 (May 7, Baen—Hardcover)
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.

Empire of Grass, by Tad Williams (May 7, DAW—Hardcover)
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.

The Buying of Lot 37 & Who’s a Good Boy?, by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor (May 14, Harper Perennial—Paperback)
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.

Mythic Journeys: Retold Myths and Legends, edited by Paula Guran (May 14, Night Shade Books—Paperback)
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 (May 14, Berkley—Hardcover)
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.

Children of Ruin, by Adrian Tchaikovsky (May 14, Orbit—Paperback)
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.

Gather the Fortunes, by Bryan Camp (May 21, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt—Hardcover)
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 (May 21, Penguin—Hardcover)
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.

An Illusion of Thieves, by Cate Glass (May 21, Tor Books—Paperback)
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.

Starship Repo, by Patrick S. Tomlinson (May 21, Tor Books—Paperback)
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.

The Red-Stained Wings, by Elizabeth Bear (May 28, Tor—Hardcover)
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..

Five Unicorn Flush, by T.J. Berry (May 28, Angry Robot—Paperback)
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 (May 28, Del Rey—Hardcover)
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 (May 28, Tor—Paperback)
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.

Time’s Demon, by D.B. Jackson (May 28, Angry Robot—Paperback)
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 (May 28, Orbit—Paperback)
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.

Lent, by Jo Walton (May 28, Tor—Hardcover)
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.

What new sci-fi and fantasy books are on your must-read list this May?

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

The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of April 2019

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

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

The War Within, by Stephen R. Donaldson (April 2, Berkley—Hardcover)
The much longer sequel to The Seventh Decimate greatly expands this new series from the author of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. It picks up the story of former enemy nations Amike and Belleger two decades after the events of the first book, which ended with the revelation that a terrible doom was on the way, and only through unity could either nation survive. Prince Bifalt dutifully married Princess Estie of Amika, but the peace—and their marriage—has been rocky. For one thing, it remains unconsummated, as Bifalt’s conception of duty leaves no room for affection. For another, the Last Repository, the archive of lost magical knowledge that Bifalt discovered 20 years before, has been found by a terrifying enemy. With the prince isolated and indecisive, Estie has acted as the glue holding two old enemies together—but with a crisis upon them, only a true union can offer survival.

Finder, by Suzanne Palmer (April 2, DAW—Hardcover)
Suzanne Palmer’s zippy space caper stars Fergus Ferguson, a sort of spacefaring repo man with a reputation for chasing down even the most dangerous cargo anywhere in space. His latest target is a heavily armed warship called Venetia’s Sword, currently in the possession of a vicious gangster named Gilger. Fergus isn’t intimidated, even if Gilger is on the brink of war with a dangerous arms dealer. Fergus traces Gilger’s ship to a small colony planet, where he promptly finds himself caught in the middle of a violent civil war. Forced to ally with the enemies of his enemy, Fergus struggles to negotiate a peace, keep tabs on his quarry—and figure out why supposedly legendary aliens—who have turned out to be disturbingly real—are following him around. This debut is a fun, fast-moving jaunt into the zippier, zanier side of space opera.

The Luminous Dead, by Caitlin Starling (April 2, Harper Voyager—Paperback)
Gyre Price is desperate. Abandoned and alone on a poverty-stricken mining planet, she wants nothing more than to learn of her mother’s fate. Seeking a big paycheck that will allow her to do just that, she fakes her credentials as a caver, assuming that the work, while dangerous, will be organized and supported by the usual safety measures. Her handler on the expedition, Em, turns out to be unpredictable, cruel, and filled with her own secrets—and Em knows that Gyre lied to get the job, and isn’t afraid to use that knowledge to force her into a dangerous, terrifying journey into the darkness. Underground, Gyre must face not only her own inner demons, but plenty of Em’s as well. By the time she begins to understand that the danger may not all be on the inside, however, it may already be too late. This is nail-biting, cinematic sci-fi survival horror.

Edges, by Linda Nagata (April 2, Mythic Island Press—Paperback)
Nebula-winner Linda Nagata returns to the universe of the Nanotech Succession (The Bohr Maker, Vast) after 20 years with Edges, the first volume in a new, standalone trilogy. The humans living in the Deception Well system believe they are the last of their species, as humanity has been all but wiped out by the robotic warships of the Chenzeme and the settled systems nearer to Earth have all seem to have been destroyed. Then a man named Urban reappears, centuries after he first left the system, now in command of a captured Chenzeme warship called Dragon. He’s seeking recruits for a dangerous mission to Earth with the intent of discovering what really happened. Reversing and retracing humanity’s path to the stars will be dangerous enough, but when Dragon is invaded by an unknown force, and the humans must fight for control of the ship if they’re going to survive long enough to plumb the mystery of humanity’s downfall. Nagata is immensely skilled at crafting smartly constructed, extremely plausible far-future worlds and technology, and it’s a treat to see her exploring the frontiers of hard SF once again.

Wounds: Six Stories from the Border of Hell, by Nathan Ballingrud (April 9, Saga Press—Paperback)
Nathan Ballingrud has made a name for himself as a writer of disturbing short fiction, and his second collection proves that reputation is well deserved. Six stories—including the brand new novella The Butcher’s Table and the story The Visible Filth, which has already been adapted into the forthcoming film Wounds, explore different ideas of what it means to be a monster across varied settings and time periods. A 19th-century ship carries a crew to the borders of hell, where a terrible sacrifice is planned; in a modern-day bar in New Orleans, a lost cell phone us a portal to horrors beyond imagining. In hauntingly beautiful language, these are modern horror stories explore the darkness that is always around us, whether we’re brave enough to face it or not.

Holy Sister, by Mark Lawrence (April 9, Ace—Hardcover)
The final book in Lawrence’s acclaimed Book of the Ancestor trilogy concludes the science fantasy story of Nona Grey, apprentice to a holy order of assassin nuns on the frozen planet of Albeth, where the ice is advancing and the empire is under siege. The emperor’s sister Sherzal knows Nona’s friend Zole holds the legendary shipheart—believed to be a core of one of the vessels that originally brought humanity to Albeth—and she’s determined to reclaim it. Traveling to the Convent of Sweet Mercy to complete her training, Nona is on the verge of taking the nun’s habit in her deadly order, provided an all-out war doesn’t disrupt her plans. But even fully-trained, and with the devious power of a shipheart at hand, Nona isn’t certain she’ll be able save her friends, or even herself, and turn the tide of a disastrous conflict. Struggling against the demons that seek to control her from within, Nona prepares for a final battle that will determine not just her own fate, but the fate of a world. Loaded with wild worldbuilding and dangerous women, this trilogy-ender is a satisfying treat for dark fantasy readers.

We Are Mayhem: A Black Star Renegades Novel, by Michael Moreci (April 9, St. Martin’s Press—Hardcover)
The second book in Moreci’s Black Star Renegades series doesn’t give its heroes much time to bask in the victories that ended the first book. In the style of The Empire Strikes Back, destroying the Praxis ship the War Hammer, commanded by the ruthless Ga Halle, hasn’t done much to make the galaxy safer for Han Solo-esque rogue Cade Sura. He’s still in possession of the fearsome Rokura, the deadliest weapon ever designed… but he has no idea how to use it. As Kira Sen leads a small but determined rebel group into a Praxis city, hoping to strike a blow for freedom, Cade is brought by his former mentor Percival to a mythical world in a search of dangerous knowledge that could prove to be his undoing. Moreci’s second unashamed ode to his love for George Lucas’s galaxy far, far away is even more fun than the first.

Seven Blades in Black, by Sam Sykes (April 9, Orbit—Paperback)
Sykes new Grave of Empires trilogy is built around Sal the Cacophony, a former mage and gunslinger hellbent on revenge against the 33 mages who tore her magic out of her. Arrested and waiting for execution for her crimes, Sal is given a chance to save herself with a confession, but the story she tells is more than just a list of crimes: she served in the Scar, a blasted wasteland caught between two vast empires, but now exists only to locate and kill the mages who betrayed and brutalized her. Sal will cross any line to complete her quest, and Sykes seems to have a similar regard for the rules of epic fantasy in this go-for-broke blend of Kill Bill and Final Fantasy.

Upon a Burning Throne, by Ashok K. Banker (April 16, John Joseph Adams Books—Hardcover)
Ashok Banker is a huge bestseller in his native India, and is making his U.S. debut with this ambitious epic fantasy inspired by the Mahabharata itself. The Burnt Empire exists in a world where demigods and demons walk the earth alongside humans. After the emperor dies, the empire is thrown into chaos, as two heirs each seek to prove their worthiness by sitting on the Burning Throne, whose deep magic destroys the unworthy. Both princes—Adri and Shvate—pass the test, but yet more chaos is unleashed when a third claimant appears: the daughter of the demonlord Jarsun. When his offspring is denied her chance to prove her worthiness as well, Jarsun declares war, vowing to destroy the Burnt Empire in revenge. Adri and Shvate find themselves co-rulers of an empire roiled by sedition and stressed by invasion in this sprawling tale of conspiracies, battles, and demonic magic.

Fire Season, by Stephen Blackmoore (April 16, DAW—Paperback)
Your friendly neighborhood necromancer Eric Carter returns in fine, dark form in the fourth installment of Blackmoore’s smart urban fantasy series. As the novel opens, Los Angeles is literally burning with impossible fires. During one of the hottest summers on record, someone is killing off mages with fires that never go out (and shouldn’t be able to burn in the first place. Carter is being framed for the serial killings, and he thinks he knows who’s behind it—not everyone has a vengeful Aztec god in his rear-view mirror, after all. But some parts of his theory don’t quite add up, giving Carter the sinking feeling there’s more going on than he suspects. Which is always a dangerous thing when your day-to-day dealings include magic, the undead, and angry gods.

Winds of Marque: Blackwood & Virtue, by Bennett R. Coles (April 16, Harper Voyager—Paperback)
Coles launches a new series with a story of swashbuckling officers in His Imperial Majesty’s navy chasing down a nest of pirates—in space. The Big Ship Energy is real: these deep space vessels are propelled by solar sails. Second in command Liam Blackwood is still smarting from being passed over for promotion when the HMSS Daring gets a new captain, Lady Sophia Riverton, and new orders to infiltrate and destroy the pirates threatening the empire’s supply lines, even as it gears up for war with an inhuman enemy. Assisted by his petty officer and possible love interest Amelia Virtue, Blackwood is forced to act when his new his captain begins making questionable decisions and laying the grounds for a mutiny. It should go without saying that fans of Aubrey Martin and Temeraire will enjoy sailing acros the stars with the crew of the Daring.

Amnesty, by Laura Elena Donnelly (April 16, Tor Books—Paperback)
In the wake of a successful revolution, the once-glittering city of Amberlough struggles to rebuild itself in the final volume of Lara Elena Donnelly’s Nebula Award-nominated decopunk trilogy. Now that the oppressive Ospies have been removed from power, the regime that replaced them is seeking retribution from all who may have betrayed the city. This includes Cyril DePaul, who self-interestedly worked both sides of the conflict in an effort to save his own skin. His only remaining allies are a bitter ex-lover and his distant sister—and even in the wake of drastic change, Amberlough remains a dangerous, decadent place, awash in crime, deception, and—hopefully—a chance at redemption.

No Country for Old Gnomes, by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne (April 16, Del Rey—Hardcover)
If the second book in Dawson and Hearne’s gleefully parodic Tales of Pell series is not the surprise that Kill the Farm Boy was, it is every bit as delightful. As the tidy, cheerful gnomes prepare for war against the well-armed, voracious Halflings, one gnome finds his life upended by a Halfling bomb. Offi Numminen stands apart from others of his kind, incrementally less cheerful, and favoring cardigans with a distinctly goth appeal, but he goes from outcast to last hope when he finds himself the leader of a band of misfits headed off on a journey to the Toot Towers to set the world right again. The quest won’t be easy, but it certainly won’t be harder than pulling his band of malcontents together and making them work as a team. Once again, Dawson and Hearne balance their whimsical, affectionate ribbing of fantasy conventions with a deep love for the genre and the tropes they’re subverting.

Perihelion Summer, by Greg Egan (April 16, Publishing—Paperback)
When twin black holes enter our solar system and knock Earth’s orbit out of whack, Matt Fleming reacts by creating the Mandjet, a floating, self-sustaining environment designed to withstand the climatic disaster that ensues. Struggling against government incompetence and his own family’s reluctance to admit what’s happening even as the summers turn brutally hot and crops fail worldwide, Fleming and the others on the Mandjet chronicle the collapse of civilization and the new reality of a world where all of the rules of nature and survival have been rewritten. With the scientific rigor that is Egan’s forte, this chilling what-if scenario serves as both a thrilling apocalyptic tale and a dire warning about the costs of inaction in the face of looming catastrophe.

Master & Apprentice (Barnes & Nobel Exclusive Edition), by Claudia Gray (April 16, Del Rey—Hardcover)
Claudia Gray returns to the Star Wars galaxy with a real treat for fans who might feel forgotten in the era of Rey, Kylo Ren, and Finn: an all-new adventure featuring Obi Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn. The story opens with the pair at a crossroads: Qui-Gon struggles with worry that he has failed his Padawan, as Obi-Wan frets at Qui-Gon’s consideration of an invitation to join the Jedi Council—thus ending their partnership. In the midst of this doubled-edged doubt, the Jedi are called to a distant planet to assist with a political dispute that quickly spirals into danger. As Qui-Gon experiences visions of disaster, Obi-Wan’s begins to suspect he can no longer trust his Master. The Barnes and Noble Exclusive edition includes a double-sided pull-out poster.

Atlas Alone, by Emma Newman (April 16, Ace—Paperback)
Emma Newman’s fourth book set in the Planetfall universe is another inventive and emotionally wrenching affair. As a passenger onboard the spacefaring vessel Atlas 2, Dee was one of the few who witnessed the nuclear strike that killed millions on Earth. Angry and deeply traumatized, Dee seeks both to uncover who was responsible and to escape her suffering within an immersive game that applies real world physicality to a virtual setting. Invited to test a new build of the game by a mysterious guide, Dee enters a play session unlike any she’s ever experienced. When she kills another player in-game and a man winds up dead in real life—a man with possible ties to the nuclear launch, no less—Dee becomes a suspect. As she doubles down on her investigation, she makes a chilling discovery that changes everything she thought she knew about her life—and the colony planet she’s headed toward. Made up of standalone novels that share a setting and a commitment to delving into their characters’ psyches, the Planetfall series stands with the best science fiction of the last decade.

The Master of Dreams, by Mike Resnick (April 16, DAW—Hardcover)
Genre veteran Mike Resnick delivers the first book in a new trilogy that doubles as a romp through all your favorite stories. A man named Eddie Raven and his girlfriend Lisa wander into a fortune-teller’s shop in New York, and into a violent shooting that leaves Lisa injured. Eddie hears a mysterious voice that orders him to run. He does, and soon finds himself the owner of an all-too-familiar bar in Casablanca—except this one is populated not by Nazis and ne’er do wells, but by monsters. Sooner than he can figure out what’s going on, he’s following a yellow brick road and helping a young Kansan girl find a wizard; then he’s in Camelot with someone named Arthur. As Eddie reels and struggles to adapt to his shifting reality, he must figure out why the Master of Dreams is chasing him through twisted versions of famous stories, and find Lisa before it’s too late.

All My Colors, by David Quantick (April 16, Titan Books—Paperback)
This twisting puzzle of a book stars Todd Milstead, a failed writer who could be generously described as a jerk. Todd’s got a great party trick, though; an eidetic memory that allows him to quote chapter and verse from texts he read decades earlier. The ability leads to a mysterious discovery when, at a dinner party, he recites extensive quotes from a bestselling book only he seems to remember—as far as everyone else (from his wife to his local bookseller), the titular All My Colors. was never published. With his marriage and finances in turmoil, desperate Todd hatches a plan, retypes the  the novel from memory, and sees it become a massive hit. Even after all his success, though, Todd is still the same man. He’s obsessed with his now ex-wife, and hires a private investigator stalk her and her new boyfriend—a guy who oddly doesn’t seem to appear in photographs. Things only get stranger from there, as Todd discovers there are consequences to his act of “victimless” forgery.

The Unicorn Anthology, edited by Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman (April 19, Tachyon—Paperback)
Who better to edit an anthology of unicorn-themed stories and poems than SFF Grandmaster Peter S. Beagle, whose novel The Last Unicorn may be the definitive unicorn story? Following up their World Fantasy Award-winning collection The New Voices of Fantasy, Beagle and co-editor Jacob Weisman bring together 15 tales offering unique and unexpected twists on the unicorn myth. The contributors include heavy-hitters in the world of SFF fiction: Caitlin R. Kiernan, Jane Yolen, Garth Nix, Carrier Vaughn, and Beagle himself, just to name a few. Their stories run the gamut from the gentle, to the horrific, to the surprisingly gritty and realistic.

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World, by C. A. Fletcher (April 23, Orbit—Hardcover)
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.

Ragged Alice, by Gareth L. Powell (April 23, Publishing—Paperback)
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; with this paranormal procedural, he proves himself just as adept at creeping them out.

Storm of Locusts, by Rebecca Roanhorse (April 23, Saga Press—Paperback)
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 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 (April 23, Del Rey—Hardcover)
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 (April 23, Grand Central Publishing—Hardcover)
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.

Parable of the Sower, by Octavia E. Butler (April 30, Grand Central Publishing—Paperback)
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 (April 30, Orbit—Paperback)
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.

Waste Tide, by Chen Qiufan (April 30, Tor Books—Hardcover)
“Translated by Ken Liu” is a servicable marketing slogan this days; certainly the phrase adorns the covers of some of the best Chinese science fiction arriving in America in recent years. Quifan’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 must-buy list this month?

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

The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of March 2019

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

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

Contact, by Carl Sagan (February 26, Gallery—Paperback)
It’s always exciting when a bona-fide scientist writes a novel, and Sagan—who remains as beloved today as he was in 1985—sure wrote a doozy, and now it has been reissued in a handsome new trade paperback edition. Contact began as a screenplay Sagan co-wrote with his future wife; when plans for the film fell apart (though of course a film did eventually hit theaters), he reworked the script into a novel. The revision process resulted in a substantial story that has nonetheless been stripped of all the fat, left sharp and efficient. It’s a tale of alien first contact, math, the battle between faith and science, and mind-blowing interstellar experiences—a perfect balance of hard SF and thrilling adventure, all of it wrapped up in a book that netted the author a once record-setting $2 million advance.

Ancestral Night, by Elizabeth Bear (March 5, Saga Press—Hardcover)
After a decade spent exploring worlds of fantasy and steampunk, Elizabeth Bear launches a new series with a seriously epic space opera flavor. Halmey Dz is an engineer on a slightly sketchy salvage ship, part of a crew that stays just clear of the law in their quest to eke out a living. While exploring a derelict ship, Halmey is infected by something alien, and finds she has a whole new lever of perception that grants her understanding of the fundamental structure of the universe—which makes her an incredibly valuable prize for those with the will to exploit her abilities. Halmey is pursued by the government and a group of ruthless pirates, all of whom want to control her and her new power. She and her crewmates make a run for it—but the pursuit leads them into an even bigger mystery involving an alien ship trapped in a black hole at the center of the galaxy. And that’s just the beginning. The first book in the White Space saga may be Bear’s best science fiction novel yet, and that’s certainly saying something.

Wild Country, by Anne Bishop (March 5, Ace—Hardcover)
Ann Bishop returns to the World of the Other with this standalone followup to Lake Silence. Jana Paniccia is hired on as deputy to a Wolfgard sheriff in Bennett, a ghost town in which all the humans were killed in retaliation for a strike against the terra indigene. Bennett is being resettled as a place where both humans and Others will co-exist. As stores are reopened and a functioning government is established, the activity attracts the attention of the Blackstone Clan, a group of outlaw humans who seek only profit for themselves. Unfortunately, that means the resolve and bonds of friendship in Bennett will be tested much sooner than anyone expected. Bishop’s Others marks a high point in the urban fantasy genre, and this sequence of self-contained followups is a brilliant way of allowing readers to spend more time in that world without diluting the ending of the original series.

Famous Men Who Never Lived, by K. Chess (March 5, Tin House Books—Hardcover)
Time travel, metafiction, and the post-apocalyptic collide in K. Chess’s debut novel, an exploration of racism and the plight of immigrant communities with a Philip K. Dickian twist. In the near future, a nuclear disaster ravages an alternate version of the United States, and 156,000 people are given the chance to flee the chaos through a dimensional gate that allows them to travel into a parallel universe—ours—carrying only the few scant possessions they were able to cram into a backpack. The refugees must attempt to adjust to a world that is almost, but crucially not exactly, like the one they left. One of them, Vikram, most treasures the only copy of a book that doesn’t exist in our world, which he brought with him across dimensions. When it is stolen, his friend (and fellow “universally displaced person”) Hel is willing to do whatever it takes to recover it, fearing its loss represents more than the erasure of a single book, but of the entire world she once knew. With excerpts of the fictional text, The Pyronauts, scattered throughout and a setting that viscerally recreates modern, gentrifying NYC, this is an intriguing debut from a new writer worth watching.

The Women’s War, by Jenna Glass (March 5, Del Rey—Hardcover)
Jenna Glass’s debut is the first in a planned series set in a world in which women are treated as inconvenient necessities. The “disgraced” women of the Kingdom of Aaltah are sent away to the Abbey of the Unwanted, led by Abbess Alysoon Rai-Brynna. The women of the Abbey survive by selling both magical potions and themselves. Their bitter existence swells into a resistance led by Rai-Brynna—a mother, a widow, and the shunned daughter of a king. Rai-Brynna leads a ritual that shifts the balance of power in the world, granting women the ability to prevent unwanted pregnancies—and to protect themselves from rape with violent magic. As the male population of Aaltah boils over in angry retaliation, Alysoon explores the limits of this new magic, as the personal and political plots intertwine in subtle ways, and society reacts to the new world order. It’s a compelling fantasy epic for the #MeToo era.

Infinite Detail, by Tim Maughan (March 5, FSG Originals—Paperback)
Maughan offers a biting vision of the future after in the wake of a techno-apocalypse, unfolding both sides of a story set before and after the fall. Before: hacker and activist Rushdi Manaan establishes the Croft, an island voluntarily cut off from the internet and the corporate surveillance culture. Populated by a group of artists and rebels, The Core is soon falling apart due to internal strife—but then a group of terrorists unleash an attack that destroys the internet and every device connected to it. After: the world economy has collapsed, and the Croft has morphed into the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft, where a girl named Mary sees visions of ghosts and others trade the ancient remnants of analog pre-Internet tech to survive. When a newcomer named Anika arrives bearing secrets the crash, the puzzle of what happened to the world—and why—begins to come into focus. As he explores the contrast between the mad, cyberpunk decadence of Before and the desolate wasteland of After, Maughan will change the way you look at the modern world—and the future we’re rushing into.

Mahimata, by Mahi Mehrotra
The followup to last year’s Markswoman returns to a post-apocalyptic Asia (known in-world as Asiana) whose history has been totally rewritten—as its population vastly reduced—by a terrible war. Justice in this world is brutal, with judicial executions carried out by an order of specially trained female assassins who have psychic powers that link them to their daggers (the explanation for these and other elements of the worldbuilding threaten to push the quasi-fantasy series into outright sci-fi). In the wake of the events of the first novel, Markswoman Kyra Veer is the only survivor of the Order of Kali following a brutal massacre carried out by the rebel Kai Tau and his army of followers wielding telepathically controlled firearms. Seeking revenge, Kyra forges alliances where she can, including with a man named Rustan, from a counterpart Order of male assassins, who is still recovering from his shame at having killed an innocent person. Together, the two will delve into the secrets of the ancient alien technology that has shaped their world as they try to defeat Kai Tau and chart a course toward a better future.

Gingerbread, by Helen Oyeyemi (March 5, Riverhead Books—Hardcover)
Though Helen Oyeyemi’s lyrical works hew closer to the traditionally “literary” side of fantasy, she’s also the type of writer who proves that genre snobbery can cut both ways, and really shouldn’t matter; there is enough strange magic in them to satisfy fans of the fantastical, and enough grounded richnesses of character and emotion to please those who look to those elements first and foremost. Certainly any type of reader will be bewitched by her prose, which draws you with a comforting embrace in this story of a British schoolgirl name Perdita Lee, who is blessed with the family talent of baking an oddly alluring variety of gingerbread that supposedly has been passed down through generations from their ancestral home country of Druhástrana—which doesn’t seem to exist in the modern world. After her mother attempts suicide, Harriet is prompted to delve into her past and discover the tragic secrets baked into her DNA like so much cinnamon and cloves.

Today I Am Carey, by Martin L. Shoemaker (March 5, Baen—Paperback)
This expanded version of Shoemaker’s short story ‛Today I Am Paul” (a 2015 Nebula nominee) tells the story of an android named Carey, and its years of varying interactions with the Owens family. Brought in to care for the elderly Mildred, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, Carey unexpectedly attains sentience—the first android to do so. When Mildred dies, Carey stays on with the Owens’, caring for the young Millie. As Carey bonds with Millie, it struggles with the passage of time, and the way the Owens’ change, evolve, and die. Carey doesn’t age, but it also changes and evolves as its experiences alter the very core of its being. This is a moving, richly-detailed story of an intelligence coming into an understanding of itself.

The True Queen, by Zen Cho (March 12, Ace—Paperback)
Cho’s long-awaited sequel to Sorcerer to the Crown offers a delightful twist on the naif-studies-magic premise, as sisters Muna and Sakti wake up on a deserted beach on the island of Janda Baik without any memory. They know they are sisters, but everything else is gone, taken from them by an enchantment. Worse, Sakti begins to slowly fade away, disappearing bit by bit. Their only hope is for Muna to travel to Britain and somehow gain entrance to the Sorceress Royal’s academy of magic—a task that will require her to pretend to be a prodigy while navigating the dangerous tides of British society and politics. Muna begins to learn the secrets of their past as she works towards a solution and becomes embroiled in plots that threaten to unravel her carefully-woven illusion—and with them, all hope for Sakti.

The Dazzle of Day, by Molly Gloss (March 12, Saga Press—Hardcover)
A generation ship filled with Quakers flees a collapsing Earth in this reissue of Molly Gloss’s acclaimed 1997 sci-fi novel, a Locus Award nominee and a New York Times Notable Book upon its initial release. As the novel opens, the ship’s crew of Friends, drawn from all over the world, is finally arriving at a potential new home planet after a 140-year journey by solar sail. The years have taken a toll, and suicide has become a near-epidemic, and their destination, dubbed New World, is hardly inspiring: it’s cold and treacherous, and immediately claims two lives and leaves a third changed in disturbing ways. The crew is divided between making a go of it on a harsh planet and pushing on in hopes of finding someplace better, but the matter becomes academic as they find themselves in the grip of a new disease, possibly brought back from New World in the wake of that disastrous first mission. Gloss delves into the physical and psychological toll of diaspora and finds a deep humanity in a story of a journey into the unknown.This is the third of Gloss’s long-neglected works now back in print thanks to Saga Press; later this year there follows Unforeseen, her first collection of short fiction.

A Gathering of Shadows (B&N Exclusive Book), by V. E. Schwab (March 12, Tor—Hardcover)
This collector’s edition of the second novel in V.E. Schwab’s smashing Shades of Magic series sits nicely beside last year’s spiffy reissue of A Darker Shade of Magic. Featuring a new short story, a gorgeous metallic cover, fan art, and an updated glossary, it’s a must for the Schwab superfan. This sequel goes deeper into the parallel universe of multiple Londons—shying away from Georgian Grey London, and more firmly into Red London, home of the Arnesian Empire, Prince Rhy Maresh, and Kell, the last of the Travelers, whose blood magic allows for journeys between the the parallel cities. Four months after the downfall of White London, the brothers are still reeling their losses, and trying to plan a cross-empire magical tournament to prove the might of the Maresh Throne in the face of turmoil. Meanwhile, ex-Grey London thief Lilah Bard has taken to the high seas and the pirate’s life she always dreamed of—only to discover her particular set of skills might best be put to use in a more magical arena.

The Near Witch (B&N Exclusive Edition), by V. E. Schwab (March 12, Titan—Hardcover)
When V.E. Schwab published The Near Witch in 2011, the YA world wasn’t yet ready for her particular blend of dark fantasy and richly passionate characters, and the book slipped quietly out of print. Now, we’re ready for it to come roaring back. It’s set in the town of Near, a severe place guided by a few simple rules: the legendary Near Witch is just a nearly forgotten fairy tale, children must never listen to the wind at night when it begs for company, and there are no strangers in Near. One night, a strong-minded girl named Lexi sees a strange boy outside her house—a boy who fades away like mist— just as children begin disappearing from their beds. The strange boy, who Lexi dubs Cole, is the obvious suspect, but she finds herself listening not to the town’s stern leaders. but to the wind, which seems to be telling her to trust him—and to fear instead the dark legacy of the Near Witch, who might not be so forgotten after all. The B&N exclusive edition includes a variant cover, a unique map of Near, and a prequel short story, “The Ash-Born Boy,” which dives into the tragic backstory of Near’s mysterious visitor.

Titanshade, by Dan Stout (March 12, DAW—Hardcover)
Stout’s debut combines the cynical tone and twisting mystery of noir detective fiction with a vivid, fantastical setting—the titular Titanshade, a city built over an imprisoned demigod whose endless suffering provides heat in the midst of a frozen wasteland. With the magical substance called manna growing scarce, Titanshade has enjoyed a sudden industrial revolution fueled by oil—but as the oil wells are now also drying up, corrupt forces scramble to protect their investments, by any means necessary. Enter detective Carter and his less-than-stellar reputation. He’s assigned to investigate the messy murder of a diplomat from the frog-like race known as the Squibs, as greed, politics, and prejudice collide in an inventive Chinatown-meets-urban fantasy mashup.

The Rosewater Insurrection, by Tade Thompson (March 12, Orbit—Paperback)
The second book in the Wormwood trilogy opens with deceptive calm as the city of Rosewater continues to apparently thrive alongside the alien entity known as Wormwood. The Homians plan to replace humanity by bioengineering the world around them, but those who know the nature of their plan keep it secret, triggering a quiet cold war between humanity and the aliens’ soft invasion. Yet as Rosewater’s mayor struggles to assert his city’s new independence, a much more heated conflict seems inevitable. As both sides maneuver for position, Aminat, an agent for the government, is ordered to find a woman who holds the key to the survival of the entire human race. Non-linear, challenging, and beautifully told, this novel represents the chilling, gorgeous future of 21st-century sci-fi.

The Bird King, by G. Willow Wilson (March 12, Grove/Atlantic—Hardcover)
This literary fantasy from comics writer and novelist G. Willow Wilson (Ms. Marvel, Alif the Unseen) is a fast-paced adventure set in Granad, the last emirate of Muslim Spain. Fatima is the sultan’s favorite concubine, but her only true friend is Hassan, the royal mapmaker, who possesses the ability to open portals to other rooms, and even other worlds, at will. When Fatima accidentally reveals Hassan’s power to Luz, a lay sister working for the Inquisition, they flee, accompanied by a rogue’s gallery of companions and allies, including a vampire-jinn in the form of a dog and his sister, who takes the form of a cat. Inspired by a bit of verse they’ve known since childhood, Fatima and Hassan seek the island of Qaf, where the legendary Bird King resides, and where they believe they might be safe from the intolerant Inquisition. Wilson’s imagination overflows from each page as she crafts a fantasy quite unlike any other you’ll encounter this year.

Soulkeeper, by David Dalglish (March 19, Orbit—Paperback)
Dalglish launches a new series set in a world where religion has declared monsters—zombies, spider-wolves, and worse—to be nothing but myth. Devin Eveson is a Soulkeeper, traveling from village to village to preach the scripture and heal the afflicted. But then the black water comes, washing over the world and bringing with it death, destruction—and the return of those mythic monsters, giving the lie to the scripture Devin has devoted his life to spreading. These reemergent creatures are furious that humankind has forgotten them and their creators, known as the five dragons, and the whole world soon erupts into madness and terror. When Soulkeepers start turning up dead, transformed into horrifying sculptures, Devin realizes he must stray from his peaceful path and learn to how to be a monster slayer.

The Perfect Assassin, by K. A. Doore (March 19, Tor—Paperback)
This rich epic fantasy debut is inspired by the mythologies of Egypt and the cultures of sub-Saharan Africa. Nineteen-year old Amastan Basbowen has spent most of his life training in the family business of assassination in order to help defend his home city of Ghadid. When his vocation is outlawed, however, he must contemplate a return to the more staid career of historian. His family is targeted by the corrupt Drum Chiefs who run the city, framed for a series of assassinations where the bodies were hidden away, leaving the tortured souls of the murdered to remain as jaani, unquiet spirits who risk eventually devolving into violent, demonic shades. Amastan must work to clear his family’s name and save the city before an army of restless spirits destroys everything.

The Deepest Blue: Tales of Renthia, by Sarah Beth Durst (March 19, Harper Voyager—Hardcover)
Durst latest novel to take place in the world of Renthia, the setting for The Queen of Blood and its sequels, is a standalone spinoff that tells the story of the people of the islands of Belene, who face a difficult and uncertain existence thanks to the evil water spirits makes that threaten their homeland. On the eve of her wedding, oyster-diver Mayara averts disaster when, after the spirits send a storm against the islanders, she reveals she has the power to control them. She is arrested as a witch and sent to an island filled with other outcast women—and a horde of hungry spirits. The women must compete against one another using only their magic and their wits, with the last ones standing designated heirs to the queen—but mere survival may cost them everything.

Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea: Stories, by Sarah Pinsker
Anyone who pays attentions to the ballots for various high-profile science fiction and fantasy awards will recognize the name Sarah Pinsker; her stories have recently been nominated for (or won) the Nebula, Theodore Sturgeon, and Hugo awards, among others. Naturally, then, the publication of her first collection is something of an event, particularly coming as it does from Small Beer Press, which has provided a home for some of the best emerging authors to hit the genre scene in recent years (among them Andy Duncan, Abbey Mei Otis, and Sofia Samatar). The 13 stories collected here vary in length, from the almost-micro-fiction of “The Sewell Home for the Temporarily Displaced,” to the novella-length And Then There Were (n-1), a nominee for both the Hugo and Nebula last year that posits what might happen if an author (Sarah Pinsker) attended a convention for her alternate selves from alternate dimensions, and then one of them started murdering the others. The collection is worth the cover price for that story alone, to be honest; that there are a dozen others, including the moving “In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind,” which deals with a woman’s grief at the loss she feels after her husband’s stroke leaves him unable to talk (also a Nebula finalist), is frankly more than we deserve.

Permafrost, by Alastair Reynolds (March 19, Tor—Paperback)
Reynolds combines cli-fi and time-travel with a brilliantly twisty story that begins at the tail end of the 21st century. A group of desperate scientists gather at the Arctic Circle to implement a dangerous experiment they believe is the final chance to avert climate disaster. They intend to reach back in time and make a small change—something so tiny that recorded history will remain intact, but so vital, it will change the fate of the planet. They require one person to make it work: a schoolteacher whose mother was the greatest mind in the field of paradox. Five decades earlier, a woman undergoes brain surgery and wakes up with not just a voice but a sentient will in her head—a will that seems to serve a purpose all its own.

Unfettered III: New Tales by Masters of Fantasy, edited by Shawn Speakman (March 19, Grim Oak Press—Hardcover)
When Shawn Speakman was facing a cancer and without medical insurance a few years ago, he asked writers to donate stories to the first volume of Unfettered to help him pay his medical bills. Subsequent entries in what has become an impressive anthology series pay it forward, with proceeds donated to allay the medical debts of other writers. Considering the lineup of talent, this may be the easiest donation you make this month. It includes stories by Delilah S. Dawson, Lev Grossman, Seanan McGuire, Carrie Vaughn, and Tad Williams, but the biggest draw for many will be the new story in The Wheel of Time universe, co-written by Robert Jordan and Kevin J. Anderson.

Tiamat’s Wrath, by James S.A. Corey (March 26, Orbit—Hardcover)
The eighth book in The Expanse book arrives just as excitement over the continuing television adaptation of the series reaches a fever pitch. As this penultimate entry opens, human space is controlled by the Laconian empire and Winston Duarte, who seeks to make evolution happen on his timeline using the same alien technology that operates in the ring gates humans use to travel between thousands of livable worlds. The survivors of the gunship Rocinante work with the growing rebellion to throw off Duarte’s control. Their best hope might just be Duarte’s own daughter, who doesn’t relish the idea of being part of her father’s ultimate science experiments. Fast-paced, smartly plotted, and nuanced—this is one of the best SF series of the decade.

Miranda in Milan, by Katharine Duckett (March 26, Tor—Paperback)
Reinterpreting the Bard through a queer prism, Katharine Duckett’s rich debut novella provides a more complete journey for Miranda from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Arriving in a Milan falling under the control of her father, Miranda is more or less imprisoned in his castle. The servants hate her, and when she is allowed outside—accompanied always by her Agata—she is veiled. A miserable life is lightened when she meets Dorothea, a maid of the castle, who shows Miranda a series of secret tunnels—and much more. The two forge close relationship as Miranda discovers the existence of magic both occult and physical.

A Memory Called Empire, by Arkady Martine (March 26, Tor—Hardcover)
Martine’s ornate debut space opera constructs a fully realized world. The new ambassador from a small mining Station, Mahit Dzmare, arrives at the court of the ever-expanding Teixcalaanli Empire to find that the previous ambassador is dead. Very likely, she was murdered—though no one will admit that, or the fact that Dzmare is the next most likely victim. Aided by her expertise in the Teixcalaani language and an outdated—and possibly untrustworthy—memory implant from the prior ambassador, Dzmare must negotiate both her own survival and that of the Station in the face of an implacable empire. Meanwhile, the aging emperor seeks to become immortal by any means science can grant him, even as his army plots a coup. In the tradition of Ann Leckie and Iain M. Banks, this is bold, complex space opera with a political bent.

What new sci-fi and fantasy books are on your must list in March?

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

The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of February 2019

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Black Leopard, Red Wolf cover detail; art by Pablo Gerardo Camacho

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

A People’s Future of the United States: Speculative Fiction from 25 Extraordinary Writers, edited by Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams (February 5, One World—Paperback)
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 (February 5, Del Rey—Hardcover)
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 (February 5, Baen—Hardcover)
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 (February 5, Saga Press—Paperback)
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.

The Ingenious, by Darius Hinks (February 5, Angry Robot—Paperback)
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 (February 5, Riverhead—Hardcover)
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 (February 5, Tor—Hardcover)
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 APatrick 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 (February 5, Harper Voyager—Paperback)
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 (February 5, Publishing—Paperback)
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 (February 5, DAW—Hardcover)
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.

Sisters of the Fire, by Kim Wilkins (February 5, Del Rey—Hardcover)
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.

The City in the Middle of the Night, by Charlie Jane Anders (February 12, Tor—Hardcover)
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 (February 12, Penguin—Paperback)
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 (February 12, Viking—Hardcover)
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.

The Beast’s Heart: A Novel of Beauty and the Beast, by Leife Shallcross (February 12, Ace—Paperback)
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.

Where Oblivion Lives, by T. Frohock (February 19, Harper Voyager—Paperback)
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 (February 19, Orbit—Paperback)
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 (February 19, Tachyon—Paperback)
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 (February 19, Tor—Hardcover)
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 (February 19, Ace—Paperback)
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 (February 19, Solaris—Paperback)
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 (February 19, Titan—Paperback)
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.

The Very Best of the Best: 35 Years of The Year’s Best Science Fiction, edited by Gardner Dozois (February 26, St. Martin’s Press—Paperback)
Every serious sci-fi and fantasy fan knows the name of the late, great Gardner Dozois, who for 35 years edited one of the genres’ standout anthology series. His work assembling nearly three dozen volumes of The Year’s Best Science Fiction (from 1984 through 2018, the year of his death) was of course just one aspect of his amazing career in SFF, but a defining one. This remarkable volume—the last he completed in his lifetime—sees Dozois going back through a selection of those past volumes (the name is something of a misnomer; this volume follows two earlier Best of the Bests, and covers the years 2002 through 2017) to highlight 38 stories he thinks represent the cream of the crop from the last decade-and-a-half. The result is more than just a collection of remarkable stories; it’s also a snapshot of the genre’s recent history, highlighting the rise of new voices and diverse new ideas. Contributors include familiar names like Charles Stross, Pat Cadigan, Allen M. Steele, Elizabeth Bear and so, so many others. It’s a book built to satisfy SF readers of all sorts.

Circle of the Moon, by Faith Hunter (February 26, Ace—Paperback)
The fourth in Hunter’s Soulwood series, which takes place in the same universe as her Jane Yellowrock books, Circle of the Moon finds Nell receiving a distress call from Rick LaFleur, head agent at the Psy-Law Enforcement Division, a group charged with investigating paranormal crimes. LeFleur, who can shift into the form of a panther when the moon calls to him, has awoken by a river, naked, with no memory of how he got there. Next to him is a black cat that’s been sacrificed in a rite of black magic. It soon becomes clear that a blood-witch is on the rampage, but with their leader implicated in the growing list of crimes, Nell might not be able to hold her team of fellow PsyLED agents together.

The Raven Tower, by Ann Leckie (February 26, Orbit—Hardcover)
Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice is one of the most daring, most-awarded science fiction novels ever written. Now, she throws herself into the fantasy side of the genre fray with equal ambition. Her first epic fantasy delivers the same experimentation with form and her sharp ideas that made her a space opera game-changer. The story is told in varying first- and second-person by a god called the Strength and Patience of the Hill, who is speaking to Eolo, a transgender warrior in service to a prince named Mawat, recently cheated out of his throne. The Strength and the Hill mingles its own complex, ancient history with the account of Eolo’s attempts to defend and protect the prince, and reveals the waning power of Eolo and Mawat’s patron god, the Raven, and the rising incursions of foreign gods who seek to take advantage of that weakness. This is dense, challenging, affecting fantasy storytelling at its finest.

The Priory of the Orange Tree, by Samantha Shannon (February 26, Bloomsbury—Hardcover)
The Bone Season author Samantha Shannon’s latest eschews the series format, packing an entire trilogy’s worth of story into a standalone epic following three remarkable women whose fate is bound to the survival of an entire world. Sabran IX is Queen of Inys, last of an ancient magical bloodline whose very existence binds the Nameless One, a terrible dragon that could end the world, at the bottom of the ocean. Ead Duryan is one of Sabran’s ladies-in-waiting—but she is actually a secret agent, serving a hidden cabal of mages protecting the queen with magic. And across the ocean, Tané is a dragonrider about to break a societal taboo, with unforeseen consequences that will reverberate all the back to Inys. As Sabran discovers she isn’t who she thinks she is, she must reckon with the fact that her family’s bloodline may not be what’s keeping the Nameless One slumbering after all.

What new SFF is on your must-read list in February?

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

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of January 2019

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

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

Outside the Gates, by Molly Gloss (January 1, Saga Press—Paperback)
Originally published in 1986, Molly Gloss’ slender first novel tells the tale of Vren, a boy who is exiled from his home because of his ability to communicate with animals. Vren has been told that beyond the safety of the walls are monsters, and standing at the gates where so many others have died when forced out of their home, Vren is certain his fate is just as grim. Then he meets Rusche, a weather-worker gifted with his own powers, and he’s adopted by a family of wolves. For a while, Vren is happy and content—but a rouge spellbinder who uses those with psychic abilities for his own evil ends kidnaps Rusche, and it’s up to Vren and his wold family to save him before it’s too late. At the time of publication, Ursula K. Le Guin—who later became a close friend of the author—called it one of the best first novels she’d seen in years. This reissue is long overdue—and it’s just the first of four of Gloss’ works Saga Press is reissuing this year with new covers by Jeffrey Alan Love.

Mathematicians in Love, by Rudy Rucker (January 2, Night Shade Books—Paperback)
This whimsical novel by cult favorite Rudy Rucker was originally published by Tor in 2006, and is getting a new lease on life via Night Shade Books. Rucker spins a story of an alternate Berkeley, California where Ph.D. candidates Paula and Bela study under the mad genius Roland Haut, inventing a paracomputer called the Gobubble that allows them to predict future events. As Bela and Paul compete for the affections of Bela’s girlfriend, Alma Ziff, the mathematicians engage in increasingly delirious stunts to catch her eye. This is a universe ruled by a jellyfish-cum-god, and a group of characters whose casual conversation is peppered with Rucker’s delightful made-up math-speak. It’s one of the most unique and surprisingly entertaining weird SF novels ever penned.

The Fall of Io, by Wesley Chu (January 8, Angry Robot—Paperback)
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 (January 8, Tor Books—Hardcover)
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 (January 8, Tor Books—Hardcover)
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 (January 8, Harper Voyager—Paperback)
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.

Alliance Rising, by C.J. Cherryh and Jane S. Fancher (January 8, DAW—Hardcover)
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 (January 8, Del Rey—Hardcover)
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 (January 8, Angry Robot—Paperback)
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).

The Heirs of Babylon, by Glen Cook (January 15, Night Shade Books—Paperback)
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 (January 15, Orbit—Paperback)
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 (January 15, Tor Books—Paperback)
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 (January 15, DAW—Paperback)
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.

The Kingdom of Copper, by S.A. Chakraborty (January 22, Harper Voyager—Hardcover)
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.

The Gutter Prayer, by Gareth Hanrahan (January 22, Orbit—Paperback)
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 (January 22, Titan Books—Paperback)
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 (January 22, Orbit—Paperback)
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 (January 22, Saga Press—Paperback)
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.

Reckoning of Fallen Gods, by R.A. Salvatore (January 29, Tor Books—Hardcover)
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 hearalded 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 (January 29, Orbit—Paperback)
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 she 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.

Vigilance, by Robert Jackson Bennett (January 29, Tor Books—Paperback)
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.

Doctor Who Meets Scratchman, by Tom Baker (February 12, Penguin—Paperback)
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 Who feature 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.

What new sci-fi and fantasy books will help you kick off 2019?

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

The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of December 2018

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

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

King of the Road, by R.S. Belcher (December 4, Tor Books—Hardcover)
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  protects 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 (December 4, Harper Voyager—Paperback)
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 (December 4, Orbit—Paperback)
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 (December 4, Orbit—Paperback)
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 (December 4, DAW—Paperback)
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.

A Bad Deal for the Whole Galaxy, by Alex White (December 11, Orbit—Paperback)
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.

Children of Time, by Adrian Tchaikovsky (December 11, Orbit—Paperback)
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.

The Corporation Wars Trilogy, by Ken MacLeod (December 11, Orbit—Paperback)
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.

Green Jay and Crow, by D.J. Daniels (December 11, Abaddon—Paperback)
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.

Typeset in the Future, by Dave Addey (December 11, Abrams—Hardcover)
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.

Siege of Stone, by Terry Goodkind (December 31, Tor Books—Hardcover)
The handsomely jacketed third book in Goodkind’s Nicci Chronicles (set in the Sword of Truth universe) opens with Nicci, Nathan Rahl, and Bannon still in the city of Ildakar. The good news is that the slaves have been freed and the Wizard’s Council defeated. The bad news is that as he fled the city, the Wizard Commander Maxim removed the ancient spell that turned the army of General Utros—the most feared military commander in the world 1,500 years prior—to stone. As his army wakes from its enchanted prison, Utros lays siege to the city, and Nicci, Nathan, and Bannon must use every magical defense to save it—and find a way to save the world from not one, but two ancient enemies, each poised to destroy everything in their path.

What new sci-fi and fantasy books are on your wish list this December?

The post The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of December 2018 appeared first on The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog.

The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of November 2018

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

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

Rewrite: Loops in the Timescape, by Gregory Benford (November 6, Saga Press—Hardcover)
Nearly 40 years after the publication of his Nebula Award-winning time travel novel Timescape, veteran author Gregory Benford (who is also a winner of two Hugo Awards and a John W. Campbell Award, and is also a professor of physics and a noted academic) has penned a new book in the spirit of that landmark temporal adventure. In 2002, a history professor named Charlie is dealing with mid-life despair when he’s involved in a terrible car accident. He wakes up in 1968, in his own 16-year old body, and discovers he has somehow traveled back in time and been given the chance to do everything over again. Charlie does what anyone would—he uses what he knows about future history to game the system, and becomes a huge success in the world of motion pictures. When he dies again, he finds himself back in 1968—and realizes he’s not the only “reincarnate” living on a loop and able to change history. Charlie realizes his purpose isn’t to perfect his own life, but to alter the history of 1968 in a very specific way—and someone he knows is working against him to make sure he doesn’t succeed. A tense game of temporal chess breaks out as Charlie seeks to fulfill his ultimate destiny.

The Subjugate, by Amanda Bridgeman (November 6, Angry Robot—Paperback)
Bridgeman made a splash in her native Australia with the Aurealis Award-nominated Aurora space opera series, and caught the eye of Angry Robot Books, which is releasing her newest novel worldwide. With a premise that mixes procedural tropes with plausible near-future tech, The Subjugate certainly seems poised to introduce a host of new readers to the prolific author. A series of brutal murders bring a pair of troubled detectives to a community dominated by The Children of Christ and served by Subjugates—violent criminals who have had their minds “edited” to transform them into calm, peaceful servants. The detectives’ own dark pasts travels with them into the tight-knit religious community, where they discover no shortage of repressed violence and potential motives for the killings in a town populated by supposedly reformed violent criminals.

Someone Like Me, by M.R. Carey (November 6, Orbit—Hardcover)
Mike “M.R.” Carey, comic book writer extraordinaire (X-Men and The Fantastic Four) and, under a pseudonym, the author of the smash hit The Girl with All the Gifts, delivers a twisty story that straddles the line between SFF and thriller. Liz Kendall is a divorced mother of two who knows she has a mysterious dark side—one so forceful, it’s almost a separate identity, ruthless and violent. One evening she is attacked by her ex-husband, and that other intelligence takes over her body and fights him off, allowing her to escape. Another woman, Fern Watts, has been on serious medication her whole life to combat hallucinations—and even so, she’s accompanied everywhere by her friend Jinx, an imaginary fox. One day Fern, goes to her psychiatrist’s office and encounters Liz—and is pretty certain Liz is her.

An Agent of Utopia, by Andy Duncan (November 6, Small Beer Press—Paperback)
Andy Duncan is a writer’s SFF writer—his short fiction has earned him a Nebula Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Award, and three World Fantasy Awards and won him endless praise from genre giants like Gardner Dozois, Nancy Kress, Michael Swanwick, and Jonathan Strahan. Now, Small Beer press has assembled his most noteworthy stories—along with two new tales—into a wildly varied and consistently brilliant collection drawing from tall tales and legends of old, and featuring a Utopian assassin, an aging UFO contactee, a haunted Mohawk steelworker, a yam-eating zombie, Harry Houdini, Thomas Moore, and more.

Breach, by W.L. Goodwater (November 6, Ace—Paperback)
Stories mixing magic into the politics of the Cold War era have become something of a rend as of late, and W.L. Goodwater’s debut is a worthy addition to the subgenre. Karen O’Neil is a scientist and a magician who, despite a prejudice against the supernatural, eagerly volunteers when the State Department seeks her help investigating a breach in the Berlin Wall, which, in this alternate reality, is an arcane barrier that not a city but the entire world. As Karen hunts down the truth behind the wall’s construction and attempts to uncover its true purpose, she faces a wealth of opposition, both from run of the mill political maneuvering and spies, saboteurs, and maybe even magic itself working against her from the shadows.

Terminus, by Tristan Palmgren (November 6, Angry Robot—Paperback)
Tristan Palmgren wowed us earlier this year with his debut novel, Quietus, which told the story of a transdimensional anthropologist sent to our Earth’s middle ages to observe the Black Death, who meddled with the true course of history by saving a doomed man. The sequel finds that traveler’s transdimensional empire in collapse, with the planarship Ways and Means hiding in the middle ages after ending the plague and various agents of the old order scattered across our world like fallen embers, each pursuing their own agenda. As Ways and Means and its agent Osia continue to meddle in the past, the ripples of changed history become more and more prominent, and an Italian soldier named Fiametta raises an army in revolt against the powers that be that threatens to change everything.

The Arrival of Missives, by Aliya Whiteley (November 6, Titan Books—Paperback)
Whiteley, twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, is best known for her short fiction, including the two novellas published in the single volume The Beauty in early 2018. The Arrival of Missives (originally released in England in 2016) is her third novel, and its arrival in the States only serves to prove the British writer is just as skilled working in a longer form. In a future England recovering from a horrific world war, Shirley Fearn is a girl on the verge of adulthood. Educated far beyond the norm for women in her village, she is all scorn and pride, and completely unaware of how trapped she is by the sexism and traditions she scoffs at. When a handsome new teacher, injured and broken in the war, catches her eye, she indulges in romantic fantasies until the true nature of his injury—and what’s keeping him alive—is fully revealed.

They Promised Me The Gun Wasn’t Loaded, by James Alan Gardner (November 6, Tor Books—Paperback)
Hugo and Nebula nominee James Alan Gardner delivers a terrific sequel to last year’s hilarious superhero romp All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault. The story is set just days after four college kids led by a woman named Jools gained extra-normal abilities in a world where Darklings—basically, monsters—have suddenly appeared. Jools and her friends are still arguing over what their superhero group’s name should be when they’re tasked with tracking down a doomsday weapon developed by a insane genius—despite the fact that no one’s quite sure what the weapon does. When she meets a group of superpowered Robin Hoods, Joola joins in with the merriment, but soon finds herself questioning the morality of supers in a mundane world.

The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun, by J.R.R. Tolkien (November 7, Mariner Books—Paperback)
The fictional universe of The Lord of the Rings got a little bit larger this year, a lasting testament to the power and influence of Tolkien’s epic. But even longtime fans may not be aware of Tolkien’s other works of fiction, many of which eventually folded into aspects of Middle-earth history and mythology—especially because some of it has been out of print for decades. Originally written in 1930 and published in 1945, The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun is inspired by the Celtic myths and legends Tolkien was working on in his early career. This edition, edited by the author’s son Christopher, includes additonal poems and supporting reference material that seeks to place it into context in the elder Tolkien’s career. Now available in paperback, this volume offers a glimpse into the real-world inspirations that Tolkien synthesized into the most famous epic fantasy of all time—the story of a childless lord who makes a tragic deal with a witch in order to secure an heir, and is then forced to make a terrible choice.

The Long Price Quartet, by Daniel Abraham (November 13, Tor Books—Paperback)
A decade ago, Daniel Abraham, one half of the pseudonym James S.A. Corey (The Expanse novels and TV series) and a frequent collaborator of George R.R. Martin’s, quietly began one of the most complex and emotionally affecting epic fantasies of the 21st century with The Long Price Quartet. The series garnered critical accolades but remained under the radar and criminally underrated (the fourth volume was never even released in paperback). That will hopefully change with the release of this omnibus edition, including all four volumes of the series, each of which tells a standalone story that is connected to the others in ways that surprise and satisfy as the narrative jumps forward in time: the main characters are teenagers in book one, then adults, then middle-aged, and finally elderly; characters born in one book appear as major players in later chapters. Set in a universe where so-called “poets” are able to shape concepts into physical reality, a fragile system of city states survives in the wreckage of a once-mighty empire, it’s a remarkably different reading experience than much of epic fantasy. You’ll want to read this massive all-in-one volume all the way through.

Vita Nostra, by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko (November 13, Harper Voyager—Hardcover)
Marina and Sergey Dyachenko stand with the best writers of fantasy in Russia, but very little of their work has been translated into English. Hopefully, Vita Nostra—which has been hailed as perhaps their greatest work (it was named the best fantasy of the 21st century by the attendees fo Eurocon 2008)—will begin to change that. It’s the story of a young girl named Sasha who, after a series of bizarre and disturbing events, is enrolled against her will in the mysterious Institute of Special Technologies, where she will learn a very peculiar sort of magic—think philosophy and linguistics rather than spells and wands. Hogwarts this isn’t—the Institute is a cold, austere place, and Sasha’s exploration of magic offers all the charm of cramming for a post-grad final—but the novel somehow makes her coursework thrum with the drive and suspense of a thriller, all the way through the mind-melting ending.

The Winter Road, by Adrian Selby (November 13, Orbit—Paperback)
Self-professed Tolkien fanatic Adrian Selby’s second novel (after 2016’s Snakewood) is far grimmer than anything you’ll find in Middle-earth. It’s the story of Teyr Amondsen, a warrior without a home leading a band of mercenaries protecting a merchant caravan. They’re headed into the Circle, a wilderness of eternally warring clans, in order to establish a trade route that could bring peace and prosperity to the land. The soldiers use a variety of plant-based substances to enhance their fighting abilities—and they’ll need every one of them, as a new warlord has begun uniting previously independent clans, making Teyr’s noble goal of taming the wild seems perpetually just out of her grasp.

Bedfellow, by Jeremy C. Shipp (November 13, Publishing—Paperback)
Acclaimed horror writer Jeremy C. Ship offers up another slice of his dark imagination in this short novel, which charts the slow decline of a family forced to learn to live with the strange, human-shaped thing in a Space Jam t-shirt that settles into their home and refuses to leave. At first, the intruder terrifies the Lund family—but then, he is not; the creature seems to have the power to edit memories; as soon as the family has accepted him as a homeless man who saved their son from choking as they dined at a restaurant, he becomes a friend from work, a distant relative, even father Hendrick Lund’s twin brother. As the invading entity works to complete his own special project in the Lund’s spare bedroom, he continues to manipulate their minds, using their worst feeds and misdeed against them. Shipp constructs a constantly self-editing narrative that is all the more compelling for its shifting strangeness.

Empire of Sand, by Tasha Suri (November 13, Orbit—Paperback)
Tasha Suri draws on the history of the Mughals in her debut novel, set in the fictional Ambhan Empire. Mehr is the unacknowledged daughter of the governor of Irinah, an Amrithi descended from spirits. The Amrithi are outcasts, both desired and feared. Mehr is protected by her status until she performs magic, drawing the attention of the ancient, immortal founder of the empire and his disciples (known as the Maha), and leading to a forced marriage aimed at ensuring the dominance of the empire and the immortality of the Maha. Trapped by a suffocating social system and her own dire importance to the established order, Mehr must use her intelligence and courage to survive—and avoid waking the vengeful gods themselves.

The Sky-Blue Wolves, by S. M. Stirling (November 13, Ace—Hardcover)
S.M. Stirling reaches a milestone with The Sky-Blue Wolves, the 15th book in his Emberverse series, the concluding book of the sub-series that began with The Golden Princess, and the final book of the Change, which encompasses some 18 novels and yet more short stories. We’re now decades past the titular Change that caused all electronics and most machines to stop working, and the world has become a very different place than it was, with redrawn borders and new powers to covet and fear. Crown Princess Órlaith Mackenzie struggles to preserve the peace her father the High King forged in the Western United States. With her ally Empress Reiko of Japan, she takes on the Yellow Raja, who have kidnapped her brother Prince John, and will have to face the Sky-Blue Wolves streaming out of Mongolia, riding under the ancient flag of Genghis Khan and seeking to conquer the world entire.

Creatures of Want and Ruin, by Molly Tanzer (November 13, Mariner Books—Paperback)
Molly Tanzer does it al; from her debut novel, named best book of 2015 by i09, to the “thoughtful erotica” she edits at her magazine, Congress, she’s proven to be one of the most distinct voices in contemporary SFF. Her followup to last year’s Creatures of Will and Temper mixes a dash of F. Scott Fitzgerald and a shake of H.P. Lovecraft into something wholly original. It’s the Prohibition Era. Ellie West engages in bootlegging in a desperate bid to pay her bills, and winds up acquiring some extremely unusual moonshine, which she brings to a party thrown by the out-of-her-depth socialite Delphine Coulthead. The supernatural liquor—brewed from poisonous mushrooms by a cult of devil worshippers— triggers horrifying, realistic visions of destruction, and hinting at the cult’s plans to drag the world back to “the good old days.” Delphine and Ellie must work together to figure out what’s real, what’s not, and what it all means. When the cult’s actions become extremely personal for Ellie, the stakes rise accordingly, as Tanzer balances wink-wink references to contemporary politics with pulpy tropes and solid storytelling.

Lies Sleeping, by Ben Aaronovitch (November 20, DAW—Hardcover)
Former Doctor Who writer Ben Aaronovitch returns with his seventh book in the Rivers of London supernatural procedural series, in which London police officer Peter Grant—the first apprentice magician in decades—deals with unimaginable magical threats. The most recent (and dangerous) of those is the Faceless Man, a rogue magician finally unmasked and, now, on the run. Grant has been charged with the final capture of the villain—real name, Martin Chorley—but as Grant pursues him and pieces together Chorley’s endgame, ancient artifacts begin to go missing. Seems the Faceless Man is trying bring King Arthur back to life, despite the fact that he’s largely fictional. Hilarious as always, Aaronovitch’s rich worldbuilding rewards longtime fans with subtle nods to previous adventures, as Grant struggles to figure out the motive behind Chorley’s mad plan—and deal with the fact that his foe’s apprentice is Grant’s former partner.

City of Broken Magic, by Mirah Bolender (November 20, Tor Books—Paperback)
Bolender’s debut, part of Tor’s #FearlessWomen campaign, lives up to its killer elevator pitch—The Hurt Locker meets dangerous magical artifacts. It’s set in the island nation of Amicae, where society is organized along class and status in a strict caste system that even governs where you are allowed live. Centuries ago, ancient magi created a terrible weapon that consumed magic—and led to infestations of waves of monsters that would endanger the entire world if not dealt with. Only the non-magical Sweepers are capable of containing these outbreaks, but there are precious few of them left, and training new recruits tends to result in more fatalities than not. Clae and her new apprentice Laura are among the last Sweepers standing, and among the few who know that despite the government’s assurances that these infestations are no threat, the city is at a crisis point. The pair must battle monsters, criminals, and their own hierarchal society in order to do their jobs in this series starter, a compelling blend of worldbuilding and fast-paced procedural storytelling.

Firefly—Big Damn Hero, by James Lovegrove, from a story by Nancy Holder (November 20, Titan Books—Hardcover)
If you’re a fan of Firefly—perhaps the greatest one-season TV series of all time—you’re excited for any new sign of Mal Reynolds and the crew of Serenity. Big Damn Hero, written by James Lovegrove (The Age of Ra) from a story by veteran Buffy tie-in scribe Nancy Holder, marks the start of a new, officially canonized line of novels, conceived with the input of Joss Whedon. Mal finds himself defending his war record when he’s kidnapped by a group of angry Browncoats convinced he was to blame for their betrayal at the Battle of Serenity Valley, the climatic siege that led to the Independents’ ultimate defeat by The Alliance. As his friends scramble to locate him, Mal has to defend himself against the charges, even as he is forced to admit that someone on his side was definitely guilty of treason.

Fire and Blood: 300 Years Before A Game of Thrones (A Targaryen History), by George R.R. Martin (November 20, Bantam—Hardcover)
George R.R. Martin delivers a treat for fans of A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones alike, even if it’s not exactly the one they were hoping for. The first volume in a detailed history of House Targaryen, who three hundred years before the events of the books conquered Westeros’ seven kingdoms with a little help from their dragons, offers us a full portrait of ancient history heretofore only hinted at, including what exactly compromised the so-called Doom of Valyria. Like the backstories doled out in The World of Ice & Fire, these tales are shared in the manner of a real historical text rather than a straight-ahead novel, but the effect is no less engrossing. The book also contains more than 80 new illustrations from Doug Wheatley, who brings Martin’s grim universe to vivid life. As we wait for the final season of the HBO series, not to mention that long-anticipated sixth book, this deep dive into Westerosi history is the perfect balm.

Dragonshadow, by Elle Katharine White (November 20, Harper Voyager—Paperback)
White’s 2017 debut, Heartstone, fused epic fantasy with the manners of Jane Austen so perfectly, she basically created a whole new sub-genre. The sequel picks up the charm offensive where the first book left off: Aliza Bentaine, dragonrider and recent bride, hopes she can forget the dragon battles she’s fought and enjoy her newlywed status—but rumors of a monster attacking Castle Selwyn soon lead to a summons from Lord Selwyn. Aliza, Alastair, and their dragon Akarra are soon headed back into the fray, pursued by an ancient evil, as Aliza begins to realize the battle she’d hoped was over was simply the beginning of a war.

Bright Light: Star Carrier: Book Eight, by Ian Douglas (November 27, Harper Voyager—Paperback)
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.

How Long ‛til Black Future Month?, by N.K. Jemisin (November 27, Orbit—Hardcover)
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 (November 28, Gollancz—Paperback)
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.

What new SFF books are you most looking forward to in November?

The post The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of November 2018 appeared first on The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog.