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.