September's science fiction and fantasy novels are packed with excitement and cool new ideas. Learn how to survive the slow apocalypse and how to prepare for the Singularity! There's space opera, cosmic action, and dark, dirty fantasy.
Here are all the most exhilarating science fiction and fantasy novels coming out this month.
Top image: Detail of cover art of The Moon Maze Game by Matt Stawicki.
Adaptation by Malinda Lo (Little, Brown)
This brand new young-adult novel from the author of Ash features a series of events worthy of The X-Files. Birds start flinging themselves at airplanes, causing a dozen planes to crash. Soon, all planes are grounded and the government is on high alert. But after Reese and her friend David have a car crash caused by the same bird nightmares, they wake up a month later with no memory of anything in between... and Reese isn't the same person she used to be. There's a huge government conspiracy spanning decades, a mysterious presence following Reese, and a giant police crackdown. Could this be your new paranoid crack?
Midst Toil and Tribulation (Safehold) by David Weber (Tor Books)
This is the sixth book in David Weber's ongoing Safehold saga, in which the last surviving humans hide out on the distant planet Safehold from the aliens known as the Gbaba, who have wiped out almost all the other humans. But the survivors have been brainwashed into belonging to a new religion, which forbids scientific and technological progress. Only the Empire of Charis holds out against the church's hegemony. And in this latest novel, the Church of God Awaiting sets out to destroy the free republic of Siddarmark. Read some snippets here.
Forge of Darkness by Steven Erikson (Tor Books)
This is the first book in a new trilogy, set thousands of years before Erikson's acclaimed Malazan Book of the Fallen series. This time around, we discover the realm of Kurald Galain, the "warren of Darkness," whose fate will play a crucial role in shaping the world of the Malazan empire. In this first novel the hero of the commoners, Vatha Urusander, is being encouraged to seek the hand of Mother Dark in marriage, but her consort, Lord Draconus, stands in his way. Their clash could lead to a civil war, which in turn could raise an ancient power from the long-dead oceans. Read the first five chapters here.
Clean: A Mindspace Investigations Novel by Alex Hughes (Roc)
It's another future dystopia, which people are comparing to the world of Gibson's Neuromancer. The main character is a telepath who used to work for the Telepath's Guild, until they threw him out for a nasty drug habit. Now he works for the cops, using his formidable mind-reading powers to catch murderers. But ever since the Telepath's Guild took extreme measures to save the world from the Tech Wars, nobody else trusts telepaths — and this investigator is in over his head, with a serial killer on the loose and a precognitive vision that he's the next victim.
Dodger by Terry Pratchett (HarperCollins)
The Discworld author pays homage to Dickens in this Victorian novel for kids — Dodger, based on the Artful Dodger, is a scamp in London, who saves a young noblewoman who's fleeing an abusive husband. Soon, they're both on the run from an international assassin, and running into Victorian characters including Benjamin Disraeli, Sweeney Todd, and Charles Dickens himself. Sounds frightfully demented.
At the Edge of Waking by Holly Phillips (Prime Books)
The debut collection by this Canadian author won the Sunburst Award and was nominated for the World Fantasy Award — now she's back, with 11 new stories, one of which has never appeared anywhere. These stories have mostly appeared in print anthologies and Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, and they portray "human reaction to dire change or extreme circumstance, combining the real intruded upon by the fantastic or the fantastic grounded in reality." Talking about "Gin," one of the stories in this collection, editor Jonathan Strahan said, "I think I remember every detail of it. It just knocked my socks off."
The Rapture of the Nerds by Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross (Tor Books)
Stross and Doctorow put together a version of life after the Singularity that's notably different than anything either of them has written before. The book is made up of three linked novellas: the previously published "Jury Service," about a curmudgeonly luddite environmentalist named Huw, who is summoned to Libya to serve on a jury passing judgment on a weird downloaded item that's arrived from the "transcended cloud." And its sequel "Appeals Court," which you can read here. And finally, a third novella, which features the uploaded ghost of Ayn Rand, among other things.
Blackwood by Gwenda Bond (Strange Chemistry)
This debut novel gives a brand new spin on the oft-explored story of Roanoke, where a group of colonists disappeared under mysterious circumstances. As Bond explains over on John Scalzi's blog, "on a modern day Roanoke Island where the Lost Colony is an interesting story for the tourists, history turned into popular outdoor summer theater, there's a new mass disappearance overnight of 114 people, the exact same number as vanished hundreds of years ago. Two local 17-year-olds-Miranda Blackwood, an outsider from the island's most infamous family, and Phillips Rawling, a teen criminal who hears the voices of the dead-begin to discover they may have ties to both disappearances, then and now, and must unravel the secrets of the new Lost Colony to save the missing people and themselves."
The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams (DAW)
We've had plenty of urban fantasy novels about Hell and demons, but now Tad Williams brings us a dark, gritty novel about Heaven instead. Bobby Dollar is an angel who advocates for souls who are stuck between Heaven and Hell, but he doesn't entirely trust his fellow angels to do the right thing. And he's not exactly, well, an angel himself. When newly departed souls start disappearing with no explanation, it catches both Heaven and Hell off guard, and could be a sign of the actual Apocalypse. Read excerpts here and here.
The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan (Knopf)
We've already written about this book as part of the vanguard of a new trend towards mermaid novels. This book earned raves when it came out in the U.K. earlier this year, and now it's finally coming to the States. Once one man in a small fishing village succeeds in marrying a beautiful, obedient selkie from the ocean, every other man wants one as well — creating a booming business for the witch who tames them. Too bad for the human women who are spurned as a result. Soon enough, the men and their selkie wives are having half-human children. What happens when all the men marry sea creatures?
The Moon Maze Game by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes (Tor)
The month's other big collaboration probably doesn't feature the ghost of Ayn Rand. But it does feature LARPers on the Moon. LARPers on the Moon! Seriously. In a nutshell, it's the year 2085, and humanity is living all over the solar system — and a lunar colony is seeking independence. When the young heir to a small African country, Ali Kikaya, visits the Moon for a Live Action Role Playing event, a man who grew up on the Moon comes along as a bodyguard. But soon enough, terrorists target Ali — and how do you tell the terrorists from the LARPers? This is basically one of those "a game becomes real" novels. We talked to Barnes about it, way back in 2009. Oh, did we mention LARPers on the Moon?
The Diviners by Libba Bray (Little, Brown)
We heard people buzzing about this book at Worldcon — it's set in the 1920s, where Evie O'Neill comes to New York to live with her crazy uncle and tend the Museum of the Creepy Crawlies. There's a rash of occult murders committed by a scary serial killer, a bizarre cult, and some intense stuff — good thing Evie has supernatural powers of her own. Plus we meet Memphis Campbell, a runner for the King of Harlem, and his white girlfriend Theta. Tons of stories intersect against the backdrop of Prohibition and the Jazz Age, for a flapper-tinged version of Buffy.
Slow Apocalypse by John Varley (Ace)
What if all the oil was just gone? It's a particularly provocative take on the apocalypse — and possibly, an especially relevant one, if the Peak Oil theorists are correct. A scientist named Eddie Parker develops bacteria to clean up oil spills, and then works on a method for increasing oil production by boosting the pressure — but Eddie has a secret agenda, to punish Saudi Arabia for 9/11 by getting rid of all the Saudi oil. Unfortunately, Eddie's plan works too well, and soon all the oil in the world is becoming a thing of the past. Screenwriter Dave Marshall, in Los Angeles, discovers that his disaster-movie script is coming true — and he has to find a way to safeguard his family. As Varley says, this is way different than anything he's written before. Read an excerpt here.