This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Doctorow’s Dystopian Visions, an Assassin on the Run, and Space Marines Unstuck in Time

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Soulkeeper, by David Dalglish
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.

Radicalized, by Cory Doctorow
Cory Doctorow’s latest takes the form of four sharp-edged novellas, each with a five-minutes-into-the-dystopian-future premise more provocative than the last. In Unauthorized Bread, a refugee in a rigorously controlled “smart apartment” runs afoul of algorithmic control when she figures out how to hack her appliances to make food without used ingredients from “approved” corporate manufacturers. In Model Minority, an alien superhero known as the American Eagle struggles with serving as the symbol of justice for a country that seems to have lost its way. The title story, Radicalized, sees an average couple turn terrorist after one of them is denied life-saving insurance coverage and the other falls in with an underground internet community filled with men angry at the healthcare status quo. And in The Masque of the Red Death, doomsday prepper Martin has prepared everything he needs to ride out the apocalypse, but he failed to anticipate that the biggest threat to the future of humanity might be himself.

The Perfect Assassin, by K. A. Doore
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
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.

Black Moon: The Complete Tales of Jules de Grandin, Vol. Five, by Seabury Quinn
Night Shade Books concludes its ambitious project to reprint the entire catalogue of one of the forgotten heroes of the pulp era, investigator Jules de Grandin, who often found himself taking on threats both mysterious and supernatural. Author Seabury Quinn, a contemporary of H.P. Lovecraft, was incredibly prolific, but had been almost lost to time—though this five-volume series, which reproduces the original tales in chronological order and with new introductions, has gone a long way toward changing that. This hefty final volume includes all of Quinn’s de Grandin stories penned between 1938 and 1951.

The Light Brigade, by Kameron Hurley
The latest novel from Hugo-winner Kameron Hurley is both her most trope-y and traditional, and as fiery and in-your-face as her incendiary last, The Stars Are Legion, which was itself a brutal reimagining of ideas of an all-female society and the worldship into a barely controlled attack on the systems that have exploited women’s bodies and identities for thousands of years. Her targets this time are corporations, unbridled capitalism, and the military industrial complex that supports them, and her tools are the stuff of classic SF adventures: time travel, advanced weaponry, and battle-hardened boots-on-the-ground grunts. Young recruit Dietz was born a non-citizen, forced to grow up without access to not just the wonders of a future world, but without access to the essentials: enough food, adequate medical care, a sense of security. Her only chance to beat the system is to sign up to fight for the corporate cause—a battle against Mars in which soldiers are transformed into light waves and zapped across space and directly into the line of fire. But no sooner than she has completed training, Dietz’s missions begin to go sideways, as her trips with the so-called Light Brigade seem to be sending her pinging back and forth on the timeline of a war that seems to promise humanity’s end. This is military science fiction, Kameron Hurley style—a story about the life of an infantry grunt and the corporate future of warfare, with shades of Robert Heinlein and Joe Haldeman, and a touch of the bizarre that could only come from the author of God’s War.

Luna: Moon Rising, by Ian McDonald
The third volume of Ian McDonald’s sprawling mob epic on the moon brings to a close a story that began in 2015’s Luna: New Moon and continued in 2017’s Luna: Wolf Moon, and you might want to revisit those volumes before diving into the climactic installment, because the author doesn’t even pause for breath as he rejoins a series of complex schemes already in progress. In the near future, the moon is controlled by five feuding families who each seek a stranglehold on the satellite’s vital energy resources. Much of the drama moves into the courtroom in this installment, as two members of the powerful Cortas family air their differences at a trial with huge consequences that will shape the course of Luna’s future: will a massive terraforming project be implemented?  Will the Moon become a socialist paradise, where settlers are given guaranteed incomes? With a cheeky sense of humor and an eye for political intrigue, McDonald wraps up an ambitious trilogy in fine style—though again, if you haven’t already read the first two volumes, we must reiterate: don’t start here.

The Witch’s Kind, by Louisa Morgan
Witches are often metaphors for women distrusted by society, and Morgan (A Secret History of Witches) uses that tension to great effect in this World War II-era family story. Barrie Anne and her aunt Charlotte live alone in a small Pacific Northwest town that views them with suspicion, and when they take in an abandoned baby who appears to share their supernatural powers, they feel a fierce need to protect the child. Then Barrie Anne’s abusive husband shows up, and the women must determine the lengths they’re willing to go to for autonomy and self-determination.

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
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.

The Chaos Function, by Jack Skillingstead
Strange and ancient technology threatens the future (and the past) in the new book from Locus and Philip K. Dick award nominee Skillingstead (Harbinger, Life on the Preservation). Wartime journalist Olivia Nikitas loses her lover, a humanitarian worker named Brian, while both are on the front lines of a conflict in Aleppo. She is overwhelmed with grief—and then she isn’t, because impossibly, Brian is alive, despite the fact that Olivia remembers holding him as he died. Back in the states, she is abducted by a group known as Society that claims to have the power to control the course of the future through charting the course of all probable futures, and they quickly recruit Olivia to serve as one of their “Shepherds.” Unfortunately, whatever she did to save Brian’s life appears to have doomed the rest of the world to nuclear war. Now, Olivia is on the run from Society, trying to save the world without killing the man she loves—again.

Unfettered III: New Tales by Masters of Fantasy, edited by Shawn Speakman
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 stories in the Dune milieu, from Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, and in the world of The Wheel of Time, co-written by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson.

What new books are on your list this week?

The post This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Doctorow’s Dystopian Visions, an Assassin on the Run, and Space Marines Unstuck in Time appeared first on The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog.

39 Amazing New Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books to Check Out in March


March is here—damn, that was fast!—and with it, a stack of new sci-fi and fantasy books to add to your reading list, including entries from genre favorites like Cory Doctorow and G. Willow Wilson, plus a new Expanse novel, Tiamat’s Wrath, that was originally supposed to come out in 2018 but is finally on its way. Dig…

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