May brings lots of amazing science fiction and fantasy books — including new titles from China Mieville, Kim Stanley Robinson and Charlaine Harris! You don't want to be the only one of your friends who isn't up to date on the latest happenings in far-future empires, brutal fantasy warfare, and the depths of weirdness.
Here are all the SF and fantasy books you can't afford to miss out on this month.
The Gift of Fire/On the Head of a Pin by Walter Mosley
The author of the Easy Rawlins novels is back, with a flipbook featuring two short novels, both of them with fascinating premises. What if Prometheus, the chained demigod, came back to Earth today? What if research into animatronics ended up propelling humans to the next stage of our evolution? Mosley seems most interested in using science fiction to explore big ideas, and that's something to be grateful for.
Further: Beyond the Threshold by Chris Roberson
It feels like we've been lacking in big far-future stories that cover vast distances lately, so it's great news that there are a few of those here. This is the first book in a series, set in the 34th Century, when humans are spread out across 3,000 light years, thanks to a network of wormholes with Earth at the center. Captain R.J. Stone wakens from 12,000 years in cryogenic suspension, just in time to take command of the first ever faster-than-light ship, off in search of extraterrestrial intelligence. But what he finds is much, much stranger.
The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi
We already featured the trailer for this YA novel, which takes place in the same world as Bacigalupi's Ship Breaker. This time, a young girl hooks up with a cybernetic undead killing machine, which will either help her reach the drowned cities in the post-apocalyptic world... or kill her.
No Going Back by Mark L. Van Name
Another book in the Jon and Lobo series, which we've written about before — they're the man who can communicate with machines, and his exoskeleton best friend. As the title suggests, Jon is going over the edge — acting increasingly self-destructive because he's traumatized by the children he couldn't save. And then after he meets a woman from his past, he takes on a high stakes mission that could be Jon and Lobo's last job. Image by John Picacio.
Harmony by Keith Brooke
We've enjoyed Brooke's writing a lot before, including his weird tales of virtual heavens. And now he's back, with a novel that sounds weirder than all get-out. There are aliens who've always been among us, and now they're destroying our cities. And this somehow turns into an exploration of a dark future where humans are segregated, identities are for sale, and having the wrong voices in your head can kill you.
Weird Space: The Devil's Nebula by Eric Brown
The best-selling author starts a new series, about "smugglers, veterans and ne'erdowells" in the Expansion our future empire, which has an uneasy truce with its neighbors, the Vetch Empire. But soon enough, both empires are threatened by an ancient evil from another dimension that threatens to destroy everything and can make people do its "hideous bidding." The humans and the Vetch must work together, if they're to survive.
Toxicity by Andy Remic
Another interesting-sounding far-future space epic. Manna is a utopian galaxy where all races exist in harmony, under the guidance of the alien machines called Shamans. But out at the edge of the galaxy, there's an evil company (isn't there always?) called TOX1C, which deals with all of Manna's waste, "recycling" it. " Svoolzard Koolimax, poet, swashbuckler, bon viveur," is on a cruise through space, when his ship crashes into some "NukePuke." And then he's caught between eco-terrorists and the evil Company. The blurb ends with a warning: "TOXICITY WILL LEAVE YOU FEELING DIRTY."
Flora's Fury by Ysabeau Wilce
Another installment in Wilce's delightful middle-grade Flora Segunda novels — and this time Flora is going on a quest to find her long-presumed-dead mother, Tiny Doom. She finds romance, and discovers just how much some powerful enemies want Flora and her mother dead. A great chance to jump on this magical series, for your kids as well as you.
Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris
The 12th book in the Sookie Sackhouse series, which inspired HBO's True Blood. Sookie, the telepathic Louisiana waitress with a soft spot for vampires and other creatures that go bump in the night, returns in this penultimate volume that promises both a good amount of Eric Northman and paranormal mysteries being investigated in sultry Southern heat.
Bitterblue by Kristen Cashore
Eight years after the events of Cashore's Graceling, the eponymous main character has become Queen of Monsea. Unable to shake the shadow of her mind-altering psychopath of a father's reign, Bitterblue starts to sneak into the streets to see the full extent of what happened under his rule — and she must confront the very real horrors of the past. Helped (or hindered) by two mysterious thieves, the sequel to Cashore's accalimed YA efforts with Graceling and Fire promise twisty trips down memory lane and the break-neck plot twists Cashore never fails to pull off.
Railsea by China Mieville
The new novel from one of science fiction's great grandmasters is marketed as a Moby Dick re-imagining for all ages, as we can imagine only Mieville might re-imagine: a search for moles of unusual size in a vast ocean of rails, rmoletrains, and tangled obsessions. Everyone ready to join ship for Mieville's "moldywarpe hunt," say "Ishmael."
2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson
Robinson is often concerned with the social and environmental ramifications of his futuristic world-building, and 2312 promises to be no exception: the protagonist, Swan Er Hong, "was once a woman who designed worlds." Now due to mysterious circumstances, she will find herself in a position to destroy them. Best known for his meticulous Mars trilogy, Robinson is the sort of visionary who salts his speculation with hard research and hard facts, and there's no one we'd trust more to evoke a year 2312 that will feel both wholly plausible and spectacularly alien.
The Weird, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
The VanderMeers have delved into weirdness before, notably in their New Weird anthology... but this is the most potent dose of literary weirdness yet. Featuring a staggering 110 super-weird stories from the past century or so, from authors like William Gibson, George R. R. Martin, Stephen King, Angela Carter, Kelly Link, Franz Kafka, China Miéville, Clive Barker, Haruki Murakami, M. R. James, Neil Gaiman, Mervyn Peake, and Michael Chabon. Your bookshelf is not weird enough, and this book can fix that.
War and Space: Recent Combat, edited by Rich Horton and Sean Wallace
It's been a while since we've had a really fun anthology of space warfare, particularly one with a bunch of authors who can do interstellar politics and the human dimension as well. Horton and Wallace have gathered some of our favorite writers, including Nancy Kress, Alastair Reynolds, Robert Reed and Sandra McDonald, for an all-out orgy of destruction, in the cold expanse of space.
Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards
This military fantasy debut has a really nifty conceit: an embedded reporter (aka scribe) among a cold-blooded band of killers from the much-feared Syldoon Empire. Arki suspects the baby-eating brutality of the Syldoon is overstated in the telling, but now he's about to discover the truth for himself. Fingers crossed this has the kind of "eager green young writer exploring the real frontier" vibe you get from some classic Westerns.
The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin
We already reviewed this book — and it's everything we were hoping for from the author of the Inheritance Trilogy. An Egyptian-influenced magical city-state is struggling with a conspiracy that is killing dreamers and threatening the long-sacred peace of Gujaareh. This is a more high-fantasy story than her previous trilogy, but the same awareness of character and the complexity of human feelings and motivations is still at work here. And fantasy is the richer for it.
The Black Opera by Mary Gentle
We also reviewed this novel by the British author recently — it's steeped in fascinating knowledge of opera and its innate magic. Spirituality, volcanoes, and the conflict between religious and secular music, with the different kinds of magic they can create — this book takes these elements and comes up with a fascinating look at the nature of creation and the divine.
A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix
This new space opera looks like it could appeal to people who enjoy fantasy stories about the fall of empires as well. Khemri is a prince of a great interstellar Empire — which sounds great, until you realize he's one of 10 million princes who help to rule the vast domain, under a single Emperor and an artificially intelligent Imperial Mind. And the other princes all want to kill Khemri, to increase their own chances of becoming Emperor eventually. And then Khemri is stripped of his special augmentations and sent off to fight space pirates. Space pirates! We're in.
The Croning by Laird Barron
The Shirley Jackson Award-winning author of the Imago Sequence and Occultation makes his "cosmic horror debut" with this novel about the Children of Old Leech. An 80-year-old geologist faces up to the cosmic horror he's walked the edge of all his life. The secret of... the Croning. Let's hope there are eldritch forces.
Sources: Amazon.com, Locus Mag