Your Summer Beach Reading List, 2011

Need some books to jam into your backpack before you head to the beach, lake, or other sparkly, water-filled location this summer? Here are some books hitting bookstores from May through July that fit the bill.

Note that this isn't an exhaustive list of all the books we're excited about this summer - we've picked ones that we think will make good escapist reading for your plane rides and long summer days lazing around.

May

Embassytown, by China Miéville (Ballantine)
Journey through a monster-haunted subspace called the immer, and land on the planet Areika where the human immigrant ghetto Embassytown lies surrounded by the biotechnological wonders of a city created by aliens with a language unlike any other in the universe. Though humans can understand them, they cannot understand humans. But as the politics in their local sector of space heat up, the two groups must figure out how to communicate - even if finally understanding human language causes the Areikei to undergo a shocking physical transformation. One of Miéville's best novels, you won't want to miss this one. Read our review here.

Your Summer Beach Reading List, 2011

Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, by Genevieve Valentine (Prime)
The Circus Tressaulti travels a post-apocalyptic world, astounding people with its miraculous mechanical people. But the circus' marvels, which blend science and magic in a dazzling fashion, attract the attention of a ruthless government man, who will stop at nothing to harness their power.

Deadline, by Mira Grant (Orbit)
The second book in Grant's strangely realistic bloggers vs. zombie apocalypse series, that began with Feed.

Fuzzy Nation, by John Scalzi (Tor)
Scalzi decided to write a novel set in the universe of H. Beam Piper's Fuzzy Sapiens series, which is mostly about cute aliens but offers a surprisingly sophisticated picture of how environmental meddling changes the entire ecosystem of a planet. Here's what's in store in Scalzi's reimagining of Piper's world:

Jack Holloway works alone, for reasons he doesn't care to talk about. Hundreds of miles from ZaraCorp's headquarters on planet, 178 light-years from the corporation's headquarters on Earth, Jack is content as an independent contractor, prospecting and surveying at his own pace. As for his past, that's not up for discussion. Then, in the wake of an accidental cliff collapse, Jack discovers a seam of unimaginably valuable jewels, to which he manages to lay legal claim just as ZaraCorp is cancelling their contract with him for his part in causing the collapse. Briefly in the catbird seat, legally speaking, Jack pressures ZaraCorp into recognizing his claim, and cuts them in as partners to help extract the wealth. But there's another wrinkle to ZaraCorp's relationship with the planet Zarathustra. Their entire legal right to exploit the verdant Earth-like planet, the basis of the wealth they derive from extracting its resources, is based on being able to certify to the authorities on Earth that Zarathustra is home to no sentient species. Then a small furry biped-trusting, appealing, and ridiculously cute-shows up at Jack's outback home.

The Quantum Thief, by Hannu Rajaniemi (Tor)
A crazy detective adventure story set on a post-human Mars where everyone's memories are stored in a futuristic version of the internet, and an angel from the Oort Cloud is on a mission with a master thief to steal some units of time protected by quantum encryption. Your brain will explode, and you'll love it. Read our review here. You'll be talking about this book all summer long.

Your Summer Beach Reading List, 2011

Dead Reckoning, by Charlaine Harris (Ace)
Sookie Stackhouse is back in your life, with more adventures to share. Enough said.

City of Ruins, by Kristine Kathryn Rush (Pyr)
The sequel to action-packed space opera Diving Into The Wreck, this tale continues the adventures of Boss, who loves her freedom and takes crap from nobody. Here's the synopsis:

Boss, a loner, loved to dive derelict spacecraft adrift in the blackness of space... But one day, she found a ship that would change everything-an ancient Dignity Vessel-and aboard the ship, the mysterious and dangerous Stealth Tech. Now, years after discovering that first ship, Boss has put together a large company that finds Dignity Vessels and finds "loose" stealth technology. Following a hunch, Boss and her team come to investigate the city of Vaycehn, where fourteen archeologists have died exploring the endless caves below the city. Mysterious "death holes" explode into the city itself for no apparent reason, and Boss believes stealth tech is involved. As Boss searches for the answer to the mystery of the death holes, she will uncover the answer to her Dignity Vessel quest as well-and one more thing, something so important that it will change her life-and the universe-forever.

This book stands on its own, but if you're going on a two-book-length vacation, why not start with Diving Into The Wreck?

June

Your Summer Beach Reading List, 2011

Welcome to Bordertown, edited by Holly Black & Ellen Kushner (Random House)
In this incredible anthology, authors who were fans of the original 1980s Bordertown stories when they were growing up get to try their hand at writing stories set in this shared universe themselves. Here are the details:

Bordertown: a city on the border between our human world and the elfin realm. Runaway teens come from both sides of the border to find adventure, to find themselves. Elves play in rock bands and race down the street on spell-powered motorbikes. Human kids recreate themselves in the squats and clubs and artists' studios of Soho. Terri Windling's original Bordertown series was the forerunner of today's urban fantasy, introducing authors that included Charles de Lint, Will Shetterly, Emma Bull, and Ellen Kushner. In this volume of all-new work (including a 15-page graphic story), the original writers are now joined by the generation that grew up dreaming of Bordertown, including acclaimed authors Holly Black, Cassandra Clare, Cory Doctorow, Neil Gaiman, Catherynne M. Valente, and many more. They all meet here on the streets of Bordertown in more than twenty new interconnected songs, poems, and stories.

Naamah's Blessing, by Jacqueline Carey (Grand Central)
It's the third book in the third Kushiel's Legacy series, and it's about a half-Druid witch with the power of sex. I'm not sure I need to say more.

Your Summer Beach Reading List, 2011

Robopocalypse, by Daniel Wilson (Doubleday)
Wilson, the roboticist who won our hearts with nonfiction classic How To Survive A Robot Uprising, brings us his first adult novel. And it's a hardcore, realistic look at what will happen when our robots decide to kill us all. If you like hard science fiction packed with characters you care about, this novel should be the adventure you pack in your bag before you head off for summer vacation. Steven Spielberg got a glimpse of an early version of the story and loved it so much that he's already got a movie adaptation in production.

Leviathan Wakes, by James S. A. Corey (Orbit)
We've been hearing a lot of advance praise for this action-packed tale of life in the inner solar system, and we're excited. Here's what's in store:

Humanity has colonized the solar system - Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond - but the stars are still out of our reach. Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, The Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for - and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why. Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to The Scopuli and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything. Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations - and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.

Heartless, by Gail Carriger (Orbit)
A new Parasol Protectorate novel! You know you want to gobble it up.

Your Summer Beach Reading List, 2011

The Uncertain Places, by Lisa Goldstein (Tachyon)
A complex fantasy set in a California winery, it's a fairy tale woven into the fabric of the state's turbulent political history - and its secret history, ruled by little people and dangerous queens. BoingBoing gave it a glowing review:

Goldstein fearlessly rubs the dreamlike logic of fairytales up against stark realism, and each one makes the other more real. The fairyland we visit from time to time has the perfect mix of terror and beauty, and the story rips along at such a pace that I finished it in a day and a half.

Your Summer Beach Reading List, 2011

Jim and the Flims, by Rudy Rucker (Night Shade)
A man whose wife has just died discovers that he's created a portal between Santa Cruz, CA and the afterlife. Can he journey into the land of the dead and save his wife (and the Earth) with the help of some local punks? It's another trippy, madcap adventure from one of the most inventive writers in the genre.

Chasing the Moon, by A. Lee Martinez (Orbit)
Here's the blurb:

Diana's life was in a rut - she hated her job, she was perpetually single, and she needed a place to live. But then the perfect apartment came along. It seemed too good to be true - because it was. As it turns out, the apartment was already inhabited - by monsters.

Including one whose goal in life is to eat the Moon - along with a variety of other cosmic snacks. How can you resist this premise, from the guy who has perfected the supernatural comedy novel with books like Monster and Divine Misfortune?

July

Your Summer Beach Reading List, 2011

Rule 34, by Charles Stross (Ace)
Honestly I shouldn't have to sell you on this one. It's another of Stross' near-future tales, like Halting State, and it's called Rule 34. What does that tell you? Sheer awesomeness or total awesomeness? OK, fine - here's the synopsis:

Detective Inspector Liz Kavanaugh is head of the Rule 34 Squad, monitoring the Internet to determine whether people are engaging in harmless fantasies or illegal activities. Three ex-con spammers have been murdered, and Liz must uncover the link between them before these homicides go viral.

Cannot. Freakin. Wait.

Your Summer Beach Reading List, 2011

Heart of Iron, by Ekaterina Sedia (Prime)
An alternate history adventure set in Russia, by the author of The Secret History of Moscow? Yes, it's true. Here's the blurb:

In a Russia where the Decembrists' rebellion was successful and the Trans-Siberian railroad was completed before 1854, Sasha Trubetskaya wants nothing more than to have a decent debut ball in St. Petersburg. But her aunt's feud with the emperor lands Sasha at university, where she becomes one of its first female students - an experiment, she suspects, designed more to prove female unsuitability for such pursuits than offer them education. The pressure intensifies when Sasha's only friends - Chinese students - start disappearing, and she begins to realize that her new British companion, Jack, has bigger secrets than she can imagine! Sasha and Jack find themselves trying to stop a war brewing between the three empires. The only place they can turn to for help is the Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace, newly founded by the Taiping rebels. Pursued by the terrifying Dame Florence Nightingale of the British Secret Service, Sasha and Jack escape across Siberia via train to China. Sasha discovers that Jack is not quite the person she thought he was...but then again, neither is she.

May we just say hell yes, and leave it at that?

Ghost Story, by Jim Butcher (Roc)
You just can't get enough of the Dresden Files, can you? Here's your latest dose of narrative crack:

When we last left the mighty wizard detective Harry Dresden, he wasn't doing well. In fact, he had been murdered by an unknown assassin. But being dead doesn't stop him when his friends are in danger. Except now he has no body, and no magic to help him. And there are also several dark spirits roaming the Chicago shadows who owe Harry some payback of their own. To save his friends - and his own soul - Harry will have to pull off the ultimate trick without any magic…

Jack Cloudie, by Stephen Hunt (Harper Voyager)
It's another Victorian slipstream classic, full of orphans, airships, and international adventure. Here's the blurb:

Thanks to his father's gambling debts, young Jack Keats finds himself on the streets and trying to survive as a pickpocket, desperate to graft enough coins to keep him and his two younger brothers fed. Following a daring bank robbery gone badly awry, Jack narrowly escapes the scaffold, only to be pressed into Royal Aerostatical Navy. Assigned to the most useless airship in the fleet, serving under a captain who is most probably mad, Jack seems to be bound for almost certain death in the far-away deserts of Cassarabia. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Omar ibn Barir, the slave of a rich merchant lord finds his life turned upside down when his master's religious sect is banned. Unexpectedly freed, he survives the destruction of his home to enter into the service of the Caliph's military forces — just as war is brewing. Two very similar young men prepare to face each other across a senseless field of war. But is Omar the enemy, or is Jack's true nemesis the sickness at the heart of the Caliph's court?

Lie back in your beach chair and dive in.

Top illustration by Marcin Jakubowski