The next few months are positively packed with literary science fiction and fantasy goodness. Neal Stephenson returns to virtual reality! Vernor Vinge finally delivers the sequel to A Fire Upon the Deep. Plus dueling magicians and digital revolutionaries.
Here are all the books we're looking forward to this fall...
Top image: Endurance cover art by Daniel Dos Santos, via Tor.com
The Magician King, Lev Grossman (Viking)
The Magician King follows right on the heels of Grossman's debut, The Magicians. Quentin rules Narnia-like Fillory with his co-royals Eliot, Janet and Julia. So, it's happily-ever-after, right? Well, turns out happily ever after is rather boring. Quentin and Julia go looking for adventure, but they're just dumped out in Chesterton, Massachusetts, at his parents' house. They'll have to cross some dark territory (real and mental) to get back home.
Ready Player One, Ernest Cline (Crown)
It's 2044 and the world is a giant crap sandwich. Wade Watts — like much of humanity — spend a whole lot of time in OASIS, a virtual reality playground, escaping his rather miserable existence. Luckily, the game's founder has embedded three keys somewhere in the world, and the player who can unlock them owns everything lock stock and cyberbarrel. Oh, but finding them requires intimate knowledge of 1980s pop-culture trivia.
Ganymede, Cherie Priest (Tor)
Andan Cly returns! The giant, strapping pilot aims to clean up his act a bit (or at least quit the sap-running). He heads for New Orleans to procure some supplies for Seattle, where he runs into former lady-love Josephine Early. Now a madam and a Union spy, she's got an offer for Cly. There's a prototype sub, the Ganymede, parked at the bottom of Lake Pontchartrain. She wants it snuck out of Southern territory and delivered into Yankee hands. Oh, and no one knows how to work it, and most people die trying.
It's a particularly exciting fall for Priest fans: We're also getting Hellbent, the second installment of her series featuring Raylene Pendle, vampire badass.
The Restoration Game, Ken MacLeod (Pyr)
Ken MacLeod is an io9 favorite, hence our excitement that Pyr is bringing his latest to America. There's trouble stirring in the formerly Soviet region of Krassnia, and a gang of revolutionaries needs a virtual safe space. Enter Lucy Stone, who's designing an online game based on the Krassniad (a folklore-based epic poem written by her own mother in her days of regime-undermining activity as a CIA agent) that they can use as a hide-out. Intrigue ensues.
Reamde, Neal Stephenson (William Morrow)
Richard Forthrast has parlayed a small fortune (built on pot smuggling) into a massive one, using a wildly popular MMORGP called T'Rain. Of course, any wildly popular online platform immediately attracts criminal attention, and so a group of Chinese hackers builds a devastating virus called Reamde, which locks every file on a user's computer, and they demand a ransom. This creates all kinds of problems — especially for one T'Rain programmer named Zula, who's kidnapped and thrown in the back of a jet, and finds herself bouncing from questionable bunch to questionable bunch. The official HarperCollins announcement calls Reamde Stephensen's "most accessible novel to date," but mostly it just sounds like a crackerjack-but-brilliant thriller.
Goliath, Scott Westerfeld (Simon Pulse)
Westerfeld's fabulous dieselpunk trilogy concludes in September with Goliath. The Leviathan is heading for New York City, with Alek still struggling to regain his rightful position as Austrian Archduke and Deryn still working to keep her gender under wraps. Can they navigate the geopolitical mess that is the 1910s? Can they hash out their own feelings? Also: Nikola Tesla makes an appearance!
The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern
Celia and Marco are a pair of magically-gifted youngsters chosen by the scheming Le Cirque des Reves' Prospero the Entertainer (AKA Hector Bowen, Celia's father) and locked into a lifelong battle. The plan is for their rivalry to culminate in death. But children rarely cooperate with their parents' plans, and so the two begin to fall in love. Things get complicated.
Aloha from Hell, Richard Kadrey (Harper Voyager)
In the third book of Kadrey's hard-bitten fantasy series, James Stark faces the prospect of a return trip to Hell. Naturally, he'd prefer not to return to the existential plane that served as his prison for a decade, but with his nemesis holding his dead girlfriend's soul hostage, Stark doesn't have much choice. Just don't expect him to be sunshiny about it.
The Children of the Sky, Vernor Vinge (Tor)
"Long-awaited" doesn't quite do The Children of the Sky justice. Fans have waited twenty years for the sequel to Vinge's masterful A Fire Upon the Deep. Ravna Bergsndot remains on the Tines' planet, stranded with a hundred rescued children by the fight against the Blight. The menace is thought to be gone, but she's worried there might still be some scrap of the threat intact and waiting to rise again and finish wreaking havoc on humanity. And while the Tines are at peace (for now), the scheming continues.
The Kingdom of Gods, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
In Jemisin's third Inheritance novel, the gods and mortals continue to meet and mingle and make trouble for one another. Shahar, the Arameri heir, is a conflicted woman, struggling with her responsibility to her family and her love for Sieh, the trickster godling. Their lives are made even more complicated by the summoning of the all-powerful Maelstrom. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was one of the most lauded fantasy novels of 2010, and Jemisin didn't exactly suffer the sophomore slump with The Broken Kingdom, so lots of folks have high hopes for The Kingdom of Gods.
Snuff, Terry Pratchett (Harper Collins)
Pratchett's 39th Discworld novel reunites us with Sam Vimes, aka His Grace Sir Samuel, the Duke of Ankh, the commander of the city watch, as he goes to spend two weeks in the country at his wife's family estate. Sam faces the prospect of mind-numbing boredom, but soon finds himself investigating some heinous rural crimes — including the murder of a local goblin girl. Good thing he's got some local assistance. Expect some keen lessons about justice as well as some hilarious Jane Austen mentions.
The Cold Commands, Richard K. Morgan (Del Rey)
In this sequel to the acclaimed sword-and-sorcery novel The Steel Remains, Morgan reunits us with Ringil "Gil" Eskiath" and his friends Egar and Archeth. But this time, they face an even bigger challenge — one of the Kiriath's machine intelligences has fallen from orbit, and it's warning that a legendary creature is awakening: the Illwrack Changeling. And without the Kiriath to stop the Changeling, everyone is screwed. Unless Gil and his friends can hero up, probably.
Infidel, Kameron Hurley (Night Shade Books)
Hurley returns to the blood-soaked, bug-powered world of God's War. As if matters on their war-torn planet weren't bad enough, Nyx's former bel dame comrades-in-arms launch a revolution. She signs her team of mercenaries up to stop them, once more putting herself in a position of kill-or-be-killed.
Endurance, Jay Lake (Tor)
In Endurance, Jay Lake's fierce, kickass heroine from the eponymous Green returns to Copper Downs. She'd left after rebelling against her training as a courtesan, killing the Immortal Duke, and generally wreaking havoc. But now the gods need her protection from a divinity-destroying bunch of magicians.
Seed, Robert Ziegler (Night Shade Books)
By the 2100s, the United States of America is a broken-down mess, its ecology collapsed and its population starving. Out of the ashes rises Satori, a living, self-aware city and economic powerhouse, which produces the only seeds that can survive in this harsh new world. When one of the Designers responsible for bioengineering these seeds goes missing, Sienna Doss (former Army Ranger, current bodyguard) is assigned to bring her back and finds herself ensnared in events that will determine the nation's future.