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

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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?

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Stopping the Cycle: Kameron Hurley on the Narrative Intricacies and Fiery Politics of The Light Brigade

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Delivering the relentless, brutal action fans of Kameron Hurley have come to expect, The Light Brigade is also a mystery, an exploration of the nature of time, and a full-throated battle cry to take back the world from corruption before it’s too late. A virtuosic structure—the protagonist experiences events, including space battles, out of order—culminates in a breathtaking conclusion.

I talked to Kameron about the behind-the-scenes work that goes into mapping out a complex time travel narrative, developing character relationships in an out-of-sequence structure, and more.

It seems to me that a book as big and complex as The Light Brigade would take time to take shape. How would you describe the process?
The first forty thousand words or so went relatively easily, as I’ve spent nearly twenty years studying the history of wars, resistance, and revolution. I knew the characters and the voice fairly well going into it. But once I hit the time travel stuff, I needed math. And a real structure! My agent, Hannah Bowman, came to the rescue as always, and connected me with Dr. Joshua Bowman, a mathematician who created all of the complicated diagrams that I needed to run characters through to ensure the time travel was internally consistent within the novel (I’m told this diagram was “a directed Hamiltonian path through a bipartite graph”).

There were several plot points I had to scrap or rewrite completely because they just didn’t map. That was a fun exercise for me, because I’m very much used to just making shit up. We went beat by beat through every time jump in the story, chronologically as the war happened and then again with how Dietz experiences it. It’s a mind fuck of a novel, really, and that’s because it turns out time is a mind fuck, too.

There are also concepts and thinking around how time is perceived and how we shape reality that made their way into the novel. Carlo Rovelli’s book The Order of Time was really influential, as was his book Reality is Not What is Seems.

This book feels timely. It made me think about literature and responsibility—that in historic times, an author might feel a responsibility to address the times. And few mediums are more effective at doing so than science fiction.
Every piece of art is representative of its time. We can’t divorce ourselves from the reality of the world we are living in. Certainly I channeled a lot of frustration, anger, and hope into this novel. Interestingly, though, it’s also very much a timeless novel (ha!). The cycle of war and propaganda continues on and on, decade after decade. It’s eerie how the justifications for wars remain the same.

There is a quote from Hermann Goering that I paraphrase in The Light Brigade, about how people can always be convinced to do the bidding of the rulers. “Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

We can be manipulated using the same tactics decade after decade, century after century. Equipping a population you want to exploit with the critical faculties to understand when they are being manipulated is antithetical to the desires of capitalism, oligarchy, and tyranny.

But just saying that, and showing that, isn’t very heartening. It begs the question: when and how do we stop the cycle? And that’s key, for me. I spent a lot of time writing very grim dystopias where protagonists worked to maintain the status quo because what was on the horizon was worse. This novel was certainly a breaking point for me. I’m no longer asking, “How do we work within the system to effect change?” Instead, I’m like, “Burn it all down.”

The Light Brigade combines its original concept with an homage to Golden Age science fiction. I felt as if this book was in dialogue with military science fiction of the past.
Oh, certainly. I’ve always loved military science fiction, both written and film. Books like Armored and The Forever War had a big impact on me, as did films like Starship Troopers, Soldier, Aliens, and Predator. I also have a love of low budget military science fiction films, and I’ve been watching those since I was too young to even understand what was happening. Effective low budget films rely far more on great writing, great stories, than effects or even actors. If you have a compelling story to tell, the rest is just – literally – set dressing.

There are a good many references and homages to books, films, and other writers in this book. It sort of happened naturally; and I figured if I was going to put references and homages into any book, this was definitely the one to do it.

At its heart, it seems like a story of what it means to be a hero when the destructive forces are so big, and individuals are nothing in comparison—literally cannon fodder. But of course they aren’t nothing, or nothing would be worth fighting for. Can you talk about how you explored the concept of the individual hero in this book?
We all know how different our lives would be if we made just one small choice differently. But when we talk about big historical events, we often say that a small choice, a little resistance, won’t change anything. The reality is that the only thing that’s every change the world (for good or ill) is a small, passionate group dedicated to making change. Governments like to tell us that we don’t have power, but individuals are crucial to starting movements, and movements do have power. Power comes from people. All of a government’s power also comes from people. That’s why they’re so terrified of us.

Dietz is a soldier much like those I’ve grown up knowing. After high school, a group of folks I was friends with all ran off to join the Marines. Some embraced the rhetoric of war and the corps wholeheartedly. Others rejected it and protected themselves from it as much as possible. Still others went on journeys a little more like Dietz’s: they believed they were fighting on the side of good, of rightness; they swallowed the rhetoric until they realized they were in service not to some higher purpose or noble cause, but were instead foot soldiers for an empire.

We are, each of us and collectively, driven by our choices. Choosing to follow orders. Choosing to disregard them. Choosing to shoot. Choosing not to. These are extraordinary decisions, especially when the stakes are literally life and death.

Your epic fantasy series the Worldbreaker Saga also deals with multiple realities, albeit in a different way. Is there something about the concept of multiple realities that draws you to keep exploring it from different angles? (And in different genres!)
Isn’t the joke that every science fiction or fantasy show has the “alternate timeline” episode? As noted, many of us are interested in the idea of how our lives would have been different if just one small thing changed. This is because so many of the big decisions and moments in our lives can be attributed to random chance. We all want to believe there is a bigger narrative, and in fact our brains are wired to try and create narrative out of random noise, but when you step back – there’s far more luck and chance than we’re comfortable acknowledging.

I’m fascinated with how our brains create stories from the noise. How we develop internal narratives that literally form our consciousness. When you attack someone’s story of themselves, you’re attacking the way they have built reality. Start to question one, and it all comes tumbling down. Build a different story, build a different reality.

One thing I marveled at in particular is how you developed relationships between Dietz and the other characters, despite Dietz experiencing events out of order. How did you approach the challenge?

Working out how people would respond to Dietz throughout the book was one of the bigger challenges. Establishing that they were constantly monitored and didn’t get time to talk about taboo subjects helped. One of the things you hear from soldiers who serve multiple tours is that they aren’t necessarily there because they believe in the cause, or are super passionate about it. They return because they want to fight with and protect the people they are fighting next to. Dietz needed that comradery, especially as Dietz becomes disillusioned with the war effort. Why keep going? Well, you know, Star Wars had it right: To protect what you love, not to destroy what you hate.

I worked with a complicated spreadsheet that kept track of events and how they happened in both chronological order and in the order Dietz experiences them so that I could ensure their conversations reflected “time” as each person experienced it. Also, it required a lot of editing and multiple passes.  I think we had this copyedited four or five times, my agent went over it at least a dozen times, my editor at least three times, and I read it from start to finish four or five times. It’s a complicated book.

What’s next for you?

I have a short story collection, Meet Me in the Future, out in July. I’m also finishing up the final book of my Worldbreaker Saga, The Broken Heavens, which should be out at the end of this year. Yes, it’s a busy book year for me! After that, I will be writing and pitching some new projects, as I’ll be out of contract. Lots of exciting new work ahead, I expect, including a genderbent Die Hard in space novel and a Weird 80’s murder mystery.

The Light Brigade is available now.

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The Light Brigade Is a Masterful, Subversive Work of Military Sci-Fi

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Kameron Hurley’s writing career has been both marked by variety, and unified in its mission. Across a varied bibliography—a gritty sci-fi noir with tech that feels like magic (God’s War); a sprawling, cross-genre multi-verse fantasy (The Mirror Empire); a gory, feminist spin on space opera tropes (last year’s The Stars Are Legion); a killer collection of genre-focused non-fiction (The Geek Feminist Revolution); several volumes’ worth of inventive short fiction (Meet Me in the Future arrives this summer)—she’s mounted a convincing case against the status quo, and in favor of raging against corruption, unbridled capitalism, discrimination, and the dying of the light.

Her newest novel fights the light, too, after a fashion: The Light Brigade follows a soldier who is part of a squadron of grunts who are repeatedly broken down into light waves and beamed across space to serve as cannon fodder in war between Earth and Mars—until the process begins to go haywire, and she discovers the dark truths fueling the ceaseless conflict. It is a masterful work of military sci-fi, honoring the history of the subgenre while subverting its most beloved tropes. The result feels like an instant classic, as relevant to 2019 as Joe Haldeman’s anti-war military adventure The Forever War was when published in the aftermath of the U.S.’s hasty exit from Vietnam.

Before signing up to fight, infantry recruit Dietz was a nobody, born a non-citizen in a solar system in which citizenship means everything, and a handful of powerful, constantly feuding corporations have largely replaced governments the world over. So-called “ghouls” are denied the rights and benefits that would make their lives more than brutal and short, and military service is Dietz’s only shot at a better life. After her home city of São Paulo is destroyed by forces from separatist Mars, she joins up to take revenge and to improve her lot.

The plot hinges on a fun bit of tech that allows for the movement of soldiers by light beam: they’re broken down, zapped to a new location, and reassembled almost instantaneously. It’s not 100 percent safe, and not everyone takes to it particularly well, but there’s no more effective way to drop people into a combat zone, so the corps (and the corporations) take the risk. Initial tests suggest Dietz might not be the best candidate for the process but it’s a time of war, and she’s just a grunt.

After a couple of disorienting drops gone sideways make Dietz question whether she’s lost her memory, she realizes that the process is acting on her in a unique way: she’s jumping back and forth on her own timeline, experiencing the war out of order. Each combat drop sends her off on a new mission… just not necessarily to the time and place at which she expected to arrive. Initially she keeps quiet about her experiences, fearing she’ll be removed from the fight and lose her shot at citizenship. But her growing disillusionment with the nebulous aims and mounting casualties of war—and the dark vision of its apparently disastrous end, glimpsed during one particularly harrowing time-screwed jaunt—leaves her determined to reset the future.

Dietz, as our point of view character, undergoes a transformation from tough but wide-eyed recruit to someone more cynical hardened cynic as she comes to better understand who is really benefitting from the missions she and her fellow soldiers are bleeding and dying for (advanced medical tech means the soldiers can suffer quite a bit and survive; Hurley’s penchant for body horror remains on full display). From Dietz’s temporally challenged point of view, she’s seen friends die and then live again, only to be lost forever. Her perspective grows clearer even as her timeline becomes more jumbled, and the chaos and confusion with which she’s forced grapple throughout the conflict is a wholly convincing take on the real-world mayhem of the battlefield and of the psychological disturbances of post-traumatic stress. On one level, it’s a very sci-fi premise, full of time travel and fantastic future gear. On another, it’s a jarring chronicle of warfare that speaks as much to our present as to the future.

The Light Brigade has all the action and drama that readers would expect from military SF, but is also utterly believable in its portrait of battlefield trauma. We come for the futuristic battles, and Hurley delivers, but the bookis hardly overly enamored with war. The title refers not just to the time-twisty premise, but to that earlier, real-life Light Brigade: the British cavalry unit that became, via its immortalization in Tennyson’s poetry, the perfect example of noble soldiers doomed by thoughtless leadership.

The book also serves as something of a modern response to Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, that ur-novel of military science fiction, which, for all its virtues and longevity, generally glorifies war and demonizes an underdeveloped enemy. In both narratives, citizenship is granted by virtue of military service, by Hurley is less trusting of the carrot, and more focused on the stick: the promise of full rights in exchange for service seems more like a way to field extra bodies to fight and die for a corporate war machine that has no interest is actually winning the war.

Hurley is operating at full speed on several levels here: The Light Brigade is a fast-moving action thriller; a drum-tight time travel tale; a war story that’s deeply ambiguous about war; a sharp rebuke to a military industrial complex in which corporations, rather than accountable democratic governments, exert undue influence (wild, right?). The fact that each of these disparate elements work, and that they work together, is evidence of the ambition and skill the author has brought to the novel. Hurley has crafted an exhilarating work of big-idea science fiction that’s as heartbreaking as it is pulse-pounding. I wouldn’t be surprised if people are still talking about it a few decades from now—assuming civilization manages to survive that long.

Preorder The Light Brigade, available March 19.

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10 Books to Satisfy Fans of Netflix’s The Dragon Prince

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The second season of The Dragon Prince dropped on Netflix last Friday, and epic fantasy fans in the know are comparing notes and excitedly squealing about how much it rocks.

Created by Aaron Ehasz (of Avatar: The Last Airbender fame) and Justin Richmond, The Dragon Prince is a serialized epic fantasy show about two young princes, Callum and Ezran, who must flee their kingdom after the death of their father, King Harrow. At their side is an exiled elf named Rayla. The unlikely heroes must band together to unlock the secret of the dragon egg in their possession and find a way to unite the humans and elves before it’s too late.

A huge part of what makes The Dragon Prince so great is the way it embraces epic fantasy tropes—but, taking a cue from Avatar: The Last Airbender, it also emphasizes character relationships and takes the opportunity to build out an interesting, ever-growing world full of magic, political intrigue, and personalities you won’t soon forget.

For those of you who have finished The Dragon Prince (and if you haven’t—what are you waiting for?), I’ve gathered together a collection of books of all stripes that might just satisfy you until the next season hits.

Dragons!

The Books of Earthsea, by Ursula K. Le Guin
Le Guin’s dragons, which Hugo-nominated author and B&N SFF Blog favorite Max Gladstone once described as “the gold standard,” are next to none. They are complex, beautiful, powerful, and melancholy, and they serve many purposes throughout Le Guin’s work, far beyond the standard “gold-hoarding monster” trope. More recently, legendary artist Charles Vess described how it took him years to get Le Guin’s dragons just right. There’s a deeply rooted sense of wisdom in all of Le Guin’s books, but it is perhaps through her dragons that this element of her writing is best embodied. Le Guin redefined what a dragon could be, and we’re still experiencing the rippling effect of her influence over the genre in series like Robin Hobb’s The Realm of the Elderlings or Naomi Novik’s Temeraire.

Friends Divided

Magician, by Raymond E. Feist
There are few tropes I love more than when two close friends find themselves on opposite sides of a world-spanning conflict. One of my absolute favorite subplots in The Dragon Prince fits this mold: Princes Ezran and Callum’s growing division from their childhood friends Soren and Claudia. The first volume of Raymond E. Feist’s classic Riftwar Saga, Magician, is another strong example of a far-reaching conflict made personal. From their earliest days on the streets of Crydee, young Pug and Tomas were inseparable—but, when Tomas finds the golden armor of Ashen-Shugar, their paths and destinies diverge, setting them on different sides of a war that will rock the world of Midkemia to its core. It’s a great story about the power of friendship, examining the way life has a tendency to pull us all in unforeseen directions.

Big Magic

The Broken Earth trilogy, by N.K. Jemisin
Magic doesn’t get bigger than this. N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth trilogy has been showered with well-earned praise (winning the Hugo Award for Best Novel three years running), and a big part of that can be credited to the world she’s created; it is astonishing in its vision and imagination. Welcome to The Stillness, a far-distant, post-apocalyptic North American (?) continent where sorcerers called “orogenes” use their great powers to quell the earthquakes that threaten to tear what remains of their world apart. Yeah, the characters are great, and Jemisin intelligently examines crucial themes about family, climate change, and humanity, and the plot is taut and thrilling. But it’s the magic, on a scale rarely seen even in epic fantasy, that will really take your breath away.

Family Politics

The Acacia trilogy, by David Anthony Durham
Acacia: The War with the Mein is the first in the Acacia trilogy, an epic fantasy from historical fiction author David Anthony Durham. While it pulls many of its themes and ideas from established fantasy tropes, Durham’s world comes alive as he introduces elements from African culture, history, storytelling, and lore, turning what begins as a fairly by-the-numbers epic fantasy into something truly remarkable. At the Acacia’s core are the children of Leodan Akaran, ruler of the Known World. When he’s killed by an assassin, his children are scattered across the land. As they each reach their destiny, they become catalysts for change in the realm once ruled by their father.

Killer World-Building

The Eternal Sky trilogy, by Elizabeth Bear
In novel after novel, Elizabeth Bear does pretty much everything right, but perhaps her most striking accomplishment (among many) is the intricate, thoughtful, and enveloping worldbuilding of The Eternal Sky trilogy. Set in a world resembling the history and landscape of the Asian Steppes, The Eternal Sky, which begins with Range of Ghosts, tells a story of sorcery and rebellion, great battles, and a war that will be remembered for generations. It’s a beautiful world, feeling at once familiar and plausible and also utterly fantastic. Like The Dragon Prince‘s setting of Xadia, there are many factions, countries, and cultures at play in Bear’s trilogy, and the effects of war ripple through them all, to sometimes surprising effect.

Plucky Protagonists

Green Rider, by Kirsten Britain
If there’s one crucial element The Dragon Prince gets especially right, it’s the cast—the show follows a host of interesting and sympathetic heroes and villains. I’m a huge sucker for a plucky, up-and-coming protagonist, and Callum and Ezran deliver on this trope in spades. I’ve read a lot of ’80s and ’90s epic fantasy, so I’ve met my fair share of plucky heroines, one in particular springs to mind from a recent read: Karigan G’ladheon, from Kristen Britain’s Green Rider series. Between being kicked out of school for dueling, doggedly pursuing a quest handed to her by a ghost, and generally kicking butt, Karigan is loaded down with traits that make her not only a good protagonist, but a fun one.

Worlds Collide

Worldbreaker Saga, by Kameron Hurley
While this planned trilogy might be a mismatch for The Dragon Prince in terms of tone, audience, and, um, violence, there’s no better story of worlds colliding story than the one that begins in Kameron Hurley’s The Mirror Empire. I don’t want to give too much away, but just know that this series takes the traditional “mysterious-army-invades” trope and turns it on its head in the coolest, mind-twistiest ways. Hurley’s novels and stories are always ambitious and imaginative, but in terms of sheer imagination, the Worldbreaker Saga might just be her boldest work yet.

Kids Who Change the World

The Poppy War, by R.F. Kuang
Kuang has been making big waves with her Nebula Award-nominated fantasy debut following young Rin, a war orphan who earns a place at the prestigious Sinegard academy. With a plot influenced by the Second Sino-Japanese War—specifically the Nanjing Massacre—The Poppy War moves beyond the usual tropes of upstart-goes-to-school-style fantasy novels, and its second half definitely isn’t for the faint of heart. As war rages on, Rin becomes more than a simple student, and Kuang raises many questions about cost of conflict on societal, cultural, and individual levels. “What distinguishes this novel from other grimdark works is the depth with which Kuang explores these horrors,” S. Qiouyi Lu said in their review of The Poppy War, “they are not a backdrop or mere set dressing, actions depicted carelessly, without an internalization of their consequences. War and its rippling effects are the core of the book, suffusing every page, informing every character’s decision.”

The Price of Magic

The Elfstones of Shannara, by Terry Brooks
Terry Brooks might best be known for The Sword of Shannara, which, alongside Stephen R. Donaldson’s Lord Foul’s Banehelped revitalize epic fantasy in the late ’70s, but his best book is its sequel, The Elfstones of Shannara. A young healer named Wil Ohmsford is swept up into an epic journey by the druid Allanon, his only weapon a collection of small Elfstones said to house great power. The only problem? Wil can’t figure out how to use them. One of the key elements of Brooks’ Shannara series is that all magic—all power, period—comes at a cost. Over the course of the series’ 20-plus books, Brooks examines how the cost of using magic affects Wil and generations of his descendants.

The Power of Friendship

Lumberjanes, by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Brooke A. Allen, Grace Ellis, others
I’m a sucker for a good tale of friendship and found family. I love the way The Dragon Prince‘s Ezra and Callum—exiled from their home, literally hunted by their old friends—have to find new comrades and friends along their journey to restore peace to the world. My favorite story of found family? The sweet, hilarious, touching, and brilliant comic series Lumberjanes. Anything can happen at Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types. Jo, Mal, Molly, Ripley, and April—best friends and Lumberjanes alike—get up to all sorts of zany adventures, and, naturally, discover the power of friendship over-and-over again. It’s an immensely likable series, perfect for readers of all ages.

What books are getting you the The Dragon Prince‘s hiatus?

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/sci-fi-fantasy/10-books-to-satisfy-fans-of-netflixs-the-dragon-prince/

Explore the Weird Worlds of Kameron Hurley in Meet Me in the Future: Stories

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Kameron Hurley’s The Light Brigade is high on our list of most-anticipated 2019 books, and it certainly belongs on yours. It’s a time travel-meets-military science fiction novel from one of the genre’s brightest stars, and the advance word is even stronger than that which greeted her last novel, the fearless feminist space opera epic The Stars Are Legion; a fews months out from its March release, it has already received prestigious starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, and Publisher’s Weekly.

But that’s not the only book Hurley’s legions of readers have to look forward to this year. This summer, she’s releasing her second short story collection, following on from 2017’s Apocalypse Nyx. Whereas that book featured only tales set in the continuity of her God’s War trilogy and starring the hard-as-nails title character, the badass bounty hunter Nyx, Meet Me in the Future: Stories ranges far wider and gets even weirder. Across 16 stories, you’ll meet a necromantic mercenary (“Elephants and Corpses”), a sartorial detective (“Garda,” previously published on this very blog), and, yes, time-traveling soldiers in a future war (the inspiration for the forthcoming novel of the same name, “The Light Brigade” originally appeared in Lightspeed Magazine).

Though some of them have appeared elsewhere, many of these stories were previously only available to “Hurley’s Heroes,” her affectionate nickname for her backers on Patreon. Taken together, they offer a remarkable sampling of one of the genre’s most valuable voices.

Today, we’re pleased to show off the cover of the collection, coming in August from Tachyon Publications. Check it out below the official summary, along with the complete table of contents, and preorder now.

“Kameron Hurley’s writing is the most exciting thing I’ve seen on the genre page.” —Richard K. Morgan, author of Altered Carbon

When renegade author Kameron Hurley (The Light Brigade; The Stars Are Legion) takes you to the future—be prepared for the unexpected. Yes, it will be dangerous, frequently brutal, and often devastating. But it’s also savagely funny, deliriously strange, and absolutely brimming with adventure.

In these edgy, unexpected tales, a body-hopping mercenary avenges his pet elephant, and an orphan falls in love with a sentient starship. Fighters ally to power a reality-bending engine, and a swamp-dwelling introvert tries to save the world—from her plague-casting former wife.

So come meet Kameron Hurley in the future. The version she’s created here is weirder—and far more hopeful—than you could ever imagine.


Of the cover, Hurley said, “I love it when a publisher really, truly gets what I’m doing as a writer. I had no idea how the braintrust at Tachyon was going to distill over a decade of what makes a Hurley story and put it on a cover. When they sent this one over to me I just typed: ‘YES THIS IS IT! THIS IS PERFECT!’ Those are the best cover consults, when you as the author just give a thumbs up and get back to work. I’ve been thrilled to work with Tachyon on this collection, and on Apocalypse Nyx before it. Fabulous folks who truly appreciate the work.”

Here is the collection’s table of contents:

An Introduction: Meet Me in The Future, by Kameron Hurley
“Elephants and Corpses”
“When We Fall”
“The Red Secretary”
“The Sinners and the Sea”
“The Women of Our Occupation”
“The Fisherman and the Pig”
“Garda”
“The Plague Givers”
“Tumbledown”
“Warped Passages”
“Our Faces, Radiant Sisters, Our Faces Full of Light!”
“Enyo-Enyo”
“The Corpse Archives”
“The War of Heroes”
“The Light Brigade”
“The Improbable War”

Preorder Meet Me in the Future: Stories, available August 20, 2019.

The post Explore the Weird Worlds of Kameron Hurley in Meet Me in the Future: Stories appeared first on The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog.

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The New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2019

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

We’re done looking back at the best sci-fi and fantasy, horrorcomics, and manga of 2018. Now we turn our gaze to the year ahead: here are the new sci-fi and fantasy books coming in 2019 that our team of bloggers and reviewers can’t wait to read.

Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir (September 10)
Hello, I am cheating, because I read Tamsyn Muir’s buzzy debut back in September, but I can’t think of another recent (or forthcoming!) book I’d rather experience again for the first time. It’s the story of snarky, smart-mouthed young necromancer Gideon, drafted against her will into a game of galactic intrigue that quickly turns into a meme-filled Agatha Christie murder mystery in a sealed off, decrepit space castle. With skeletons! I loved it so much I blurbed it (“Gonzo fantasy. If Gene Wolfe, Mervyn Peake, and Ray Harryhausen collaborated on a novel on Reddit, the results might be half as mad and a quarter as entertaining as Tamsyn Muir’s necro-maniacal debut.”), and you will too. Love it, I mean. – Joel Cunningham

The Luminous Dead, by Caitlin Starling (April 2)
I’m cheating here too, since I’ve read this one, but you don’t want to miss it: Starling’s tense and exciting debut follows a cave-diver astronaut on an alien who discovers horrors underground. I read it all the way through, barely taking any time to breathe. A must read for thriller fans. – Elsa Sjunneson-Henry

Empress of Forever, by Max Gladstone (June 18)
The Craft Sequence established Max Gladstone as one of the most innovative voices in fantasy. Now he is turning his considerable talents toward a universe-spanning space opera featuring time travel, space empires, and a swashbuckling team of far-future renegades. I have only the faintest idea of what to expect from a book billed as “a feminist Guardians of the Galaxy crossed with Star Wars,” but I know that anything from Gladstone’s word processor will be wildly imaginative, devastatingly smart, and like no space opera I’ve read before. – Kelly Quinn-Chiu

The Hod King, by Josiah Bancroft (January 22)
Erstwhile headmaster Thomas Senlin has been climbing the Tower of Babel, on the hunt for his lost wife Marya, for two books. Inching ever upward through grotesque Ringdoms, he’s amassed a motley and charming supporting cast. So, I can’t wait for The Hod King, which promises to give some of those characters (fearsome Iren, mischievous Voleta, and capable captain Edith) far more of our attention. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll hear from Marya, too. – Nicole Hill

Dark Shores, by Danielle L. Jensen (May 7)
Two continents divided by impassable-but-by-magic seas, a badass pirate princess of color, a monstrous scion of nearly forgotten gods, and a legion commander with a dark past from an Empire set on world domination? Sign me up. I’ve been longing for a sweeping epic that takes me out of the traditional psuedo-European model and into more exotic territory, and Dark Shores looks like it fits the bill, with the added bonus of what I hope will be a critical eye on colonialism and a complex emotional sub-plot to keep me engaged in this global saga. Yes, it’s billed as YA, but it has all the signs of being just as nuanced and adventurous as Joe Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea trilogy, which I couldn’t get enough of. – Ardi Alspach

Black Leopard, Red Wolf, by Marlon James (February 5)
I’m so excited about Marlon James’ Black Leopard, Red Wolf, which has been blurbed as an “African Game of Thrones”: a fantasy national epic more based on African history and folklore. The brutal, bloody politics, roster of disparate characters, and sheer freaking scope of A Brief History of Seven Killings (for which he won the Booker prize) suggests James will crush epic fantasy. – Ceridwen Christensen

Collision: Stories, by J.S. Breukelaar (February 19)
I read Breukelaar’s novel Aletheia earlier this year, and she blew me away with a story that took unexpected turns and seduced me with its vivid prose and flawed, compelling characters. It’s a book I still think about a lot. Since I love short fiction, I really can’t wait to read this collection and see what dark and magical dreams she’ll bring to life there. – Maria Haskins

Empire of Grass, by Tad Williams (May 7)
Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn is a classic for a reason. Twenty-five years later, Williams has returned to the land of Osten Ard with The Last King of Osten Ard trilogy, a direct sequel to his famous series, picking up with many of the same characters, themes, and locations fans know and love. The first volume, The Witchwood Crown was a brilliant reintroduction to the series, and Empire of Grass looks to continue Williams’ run as one of our generation’s greatest fantasists. It’s got everything you love—from plucky heroes to mysterious magic, a beautiful world, rich and full of life, but also ancient and barreling toward a new, unforeseeable future. – Adian Moher

The Light Brigade, by Kameron Hurley (March 19)
I’m an unabashed mark for military science fiction that has an ethical core rather than a Physics degree. Hurley’s work is never less than impressive and this story of soldiers discovering just how they’re being deployed, and the temporal price they’re paying for it, looks fantastic. – Alasdair Stuart

This Is How You Lose the Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone (July 16)
I’ll read pretty much anything with the words “time war” in the title, description, or randomly on page 42, but with these two authors involved, it’s doubtless going to be pretty awesome. Especially since it all kicks off with someone finding a letter on a desolate battlefield marked “burn before reading.” Both Gladstone and El-Mohtar have earned more or less my blind allegiance, but honestly, they had me at the title. – Jeff Somers

Ancestral Night, by Elizabeth Bear (March 5)
A return to space opera after a number of years for Bear. An engineer, a pilot, an AI and a booby trapped derelict ship that leads the pair into a chase with interstellar governments, pirates, and oh yes, the black hole at the center of the galaxy. In an era where space opera is big again, I’ll be very glad to hear Bear’s voice resounding once again in one of my favorite subgenres of SFF. – Paul Weimer

Wanderers, by Chuck Wendig (July 2)
I’ve adored Chuck Wendig’s gritty, creepy writing style since his first Miriam Black novel dropped. He’s written about a zillion works since, but I’m dying to get my hands on this post-apocalyptic jewel. Perhaps because this book, teased as Station 11 meets The Stand, gives off literary-level vibes that imply Wendig is really upping his game on this one—without losing his signature penchant for the darker side of the genre. – Emily Wenstrom

Children of Ruin, by Adrian Tchaikovsky (May 14)
I’m being slightly lazy with this pick, in that Tchaikovsky’s Children of Time was my favorite book of 2018. That self-contained book didn’t demand a sequel, which makes it all the more exciting that we’re getting one—though I might be a hair disappointed if it’s not just the further adventures of hyper-evolved spiders. I expect I’ll love it regardless. – Ross Johnson

Permafront, by Alastair Reynolds (March 19)
Alastair Reynolds is one of my favorite authors, and this novella sounds poised to deliver on a great premise —what if you could travel back in time and make a slight adjustment that meant humanity avoided global catastrophe, but would leave all of recorded history intact? A no-brainer, huh? What could possibly go wrong? – Tim O’Brien

Stormsong, by C.L. Polk (February 11)
Witchmark was one of the best books I read in 2018—a beautiful, romantic, and immersive story and a breath of fresh air in a year that was pretty freaking awful. I nearly cried with joy when I heard there was going to be a sequel; I need to know what happens to everyone. Stormsong will focus on Miles’ sister, Grace, who must deal with the horrible consequences on what they put in motion in Witchmark. Storms threaten to tear their city apart and the book will probably tear my heart apart. I have a few months to get mentally ready and it still probably won’t be enough. I can not wait. – Meghan Ball

Thorn of Emberlain, by Scott Lynch (???)
Just because it doesn’t have a release date, or might not be technically finished, doesn’t mean I can’t anticipate it. It’s been almost six years since The Republic of Thieves was released, and I’m raring to get back to the world of Gentlemen Bastards—a place where the mages are ruthless, the humans are devious, and even priests and children swear like sailors. While Scott Lynch takes his time with books, his “when it’s done” approach never fails to deliver, and I’m looking forward to seeing him follow on from the devastating conclusion of book three. – Sam Reader

What’s your most-anticipated SFF book of 2019?

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