All The Most Essential Science Fiction And Fantasy Books In July

July is bursting with science fiction and fantasy greatness. Including new books from Hannu Rajaniemi, Joe Abercrombie, Nick Harkaway and Charles Stross. Here are the 29 science fiction and fantasy books that absolutely everybody's going to be talking about this month.

Top image: The Apex Book of World SF 3.

Mermaid in Chelsea Creek by Michelle Tea (McSweeney's McMullens)

The acclaimed author of Valencia, Rent Girl and Rose of No Man's Land dips her toe into young-adult fantasy, with this story of Sophie, the weird, grubby girl who sees a "filthy, swearing mermaid" who comes to her when she's unconscious — and Sophie may just be the one to bring magic back to this dead town. Read an excerpt here.

The Rhesus Chart by Charles Stross (Ace)

This marks a major shift for Stross' "Laundry Files" series — as he told io9's readers last December, "I got bored pastiching British spy thrillers," so now the series is pivoting towards poking at urban fantasy clichés. Starting, of course, with vampires.

Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen (Thomas Dunne Books)

This sounds just fantastic. From the publisher's synopsis: "Meet Captain James Benjamin Hook, a witty, educated Restoration-era privateer cursed to play villain to a pack of malicious little boys in a pointless war that never ends. But everything changes when Stella Parrish, a forbidden grown woman, dreams her way to the Neverland in defiance of Pan's rules."

The Causal Angel by Hannu Rajaniemi (Tor)

In the third Jean de Flambeur novel, we discover the "ultimate fates" of Jean, his employer Miele, his independent-minded ship Perhonnen... and the human race. Read an excerpt here.

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen (Harper)

The serious, bookish young Princess Kelsea is traveling to take her throne, with a magical sapphire around her neck and the Queen's Guard protecting her. But she'll face treachery and unpleasant surprises when the Red Queen, the evil sorceress who rules a neighboring realm, mounts an attack. Read an excerpt here.

Tigerman by Nick Harkaway (Knopf)

The author of Angelmaker and The Gone-Away World is back with another tale of an expert at dirty deeds who reluctantly confronts a bit of nastiness, with a hefty dose of pulp fiction mixed in. This time, Sergeant Lester Ferris is retired after a lifetime of fighting the good fight, and he retires to the former British colony of Mancreu, where he plans to turn a blind eye to all the evil-doing. Until he meets a young street kid who's obsessed with comic book superheroes.

Hurricane Fever by Tobias S. Buckell (Tor Books)

Buckell is back with more climate-inspired thriller action. Prudence "Roo" Jones, a former Caribbean intelligence operative, is looking after his teenage nephew when he learns of a devastating new weapon that could change — or wreck — the world.

California by Edan Lepucki (Little, Brown and Company)

It's a post-apocalyptic future, and Cal and Frida are scraping by out in the wilderness, having fled the collapse of Los Angeles. Until Frida realizes she's pregnant, and they decide to seek help raising their child from the oppressive militarized compound nearby. Probably a bad idea. As seen on the Colbert Report.

Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone (Tor Books)

The third book in Gladstone's Three Parts Dead series, but it can be read as a standalone. From the publisher's blurb: "On the island of Kavekana, Kai builds gods to order, then hands them to others to maintain. Her creations aren't conscious and lack their own wills and voices, but they accept sacrifices, and protect their worshippers from other gods." But after one of Kai's gods dies, she's pushed out of her business entirely.

Last Stories and Other Stories by William T. Vollmann (Viking)

The first new fiction from Vollmann in nine years, and it's a collection of supernatural tales. From the publisher: "A Bohemian farmer's dead wife returns to him, and their love endures, but at a gruesome price. A geisha prolongs her life by turning into a cherry tree... A dying American romances the ghost of his high school sweetheart while a homeless salaryman in Tokyo animates paper cutouts of ancient heroes."

Landline by Rainbow Rowell (St. Martin's Press)

Georgie McCool is a successful television writer, but her husband just took the kids and went off to visit his family in Omaha for Christmas without her. She's worried her marriage is finally ending — and then she finds a magic phone line that lets her talk to her husband, years in the past. Can she fix her marriage by intervening at an earlier point? Or should she never have married this guy in the first place?

Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique (Riverhead)

An acclaimed author's debut novel, about three generations of a Caribbean family from 1916 to the 1970s, and including curses, magical gifts, love affairs and betrayals. Two sisters and their half brother are shipwrecked on an island, and each of the three siblings possesses a different kind of magic that can save or destroy them and their descendants. Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review.

The Child Eater by Rachel Pollack (Jo Fletcher Books)

Former Doom Patrol writer and tarot artist Pollack creates a story of two men: Simon Wisdom is the most normal person on Earth, from a totally normal family of normal people. And Matyas is a young man on a planet of magic, who has climbed out of the gutter and gotten into Wizards College, to become the most powerful wizard of all. But they both hear dead children crying out in the face of a threat worse than death, and neither of them knows how to help.

Smiler's Fair by Rebecca Levene (Hodder & Stoughton)

The former Doctor Who book editor and writer creates a fascinating new world where the sun and the moon have fought a terrible war, and the moon's servants are in hiding. Four characters, "a fallen warrior, a frightened princess, a lovelorn rent boy, a bloodthirsty rogue and a humble goatherd," meet up and discover they have a shared destiny.

Seeders by A. J. Colucci (Thomas Dunne Books)

A plant biologist dies mysteriously on a deserted island. And when his heirs arrive, they discover he may have found the secret of plant-human communication. But he also may have unleashed something sinister and deadly, which wants to destroy them at all costs. Read an excerpt here.

Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne (Disney-Hyperion)

Against her better judgment, master thief Kyra accepts a job from the Assassins Guild — and then she's thrown together with a young Palace Knight named Tristam of Brancel, and they are forced to work together to survive, in this debut novel from Blackburne, who has a PhD in neuroscience from MIT.

Half a King by Joe Abercrombie (Del Rey)

Prince Yarvi only has one good hand, making him less than a man in the eyes of his society. But he still vows to avenge his dead father, with the help of a band of outcasts. We ran an exclusive excerpt from this book back in January.

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson (Henry Holt and Co.)

The first book in a new series — Princess Lia is supposed to have "the sight" as the first daughter of her royal parents. But she doesn't, and her upcoming marriage is a sham. She flees, but then she meets two handsome men: she doesn't realize at first that one is her intended groom, and the other is an assassin sent to kill her.

Jack Strong: A Story of Life after Life by Walter Mosley (Open Road Media)

The author of the Easy Rawlins novels creates this tale of a man whose body contains thousands of dead souls, each with its own unfinished business. Read an excerpt here.

The Apex Book of World SF, edited by Lavie Tidhar (Apex Publications)

For just $4.99 in ebook format, you can read tons of stories from all over the world. Including acclaimed authors Amal El-Mohtar, Karin Tidbeck, Athena Andreadis and many others. These stories come from China, Malaysia, Nigeria, Gambia, India and Mexico. And more importantly, they're brilliant works of fiction, hand-picked by award-winning author Tidhar.

Incubus by Ann Arensberg (Open Road Media)

A National Book Award winner brings us a tale of supernatural horror. Says the publisher: "In the summer of 1974, the prosperous farming community of Dry Falls, Maine, is hit by a brutal heat wave. Crops fail. Drought blights once-verdant lawns. Men inexplicably lose all interest in sex, while women complain of erotic nocturnal visitations. Farm animals give birth to monstrosities." The town pastor's wife finds herself at the center of something terrible.

Shattering the Ley by Joshua Palmatier (DAW Hardcover)

The magical city of Erenthrall is powered by a system of ley lines, but a band of rebels scheme to destroy this ley system and overthrow the rule of the brutal Baron. Two people get caught up in the middle of the chaos as the fighting threatens to disrupt the entire world. And one of them has a secret that could change everything.

Exile: The First Book of the Seven Eyes by Betsy Dornbusch (Night Shade Books)

The bastard cousin of the King has worked his way into a position on the royal Black Guard and became a Bowrank Commander — until he's falsely accused of murdering his wife. Draken is forced to go on the run and hide out, which leads to him falling into bed (literally) with a necromancer, and pressed into the service of a foreign queen.

The Court of Lies by Mark Teppo (Fairwood)

The first story collection by the Mongoliad contributor and Lightbringer author. To quote from Publishers Weekly's starred review, "The included works range in length from the brief, poignant "How the Mermaid Lost Her Song" to the superb concluding novelette, "A Christmas Wish (Redux)," in which Santa goes on a single-minded quest to find a dead parent for a child and takes on the mathematical complexity of the afterlife in the process"

Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Thomas Sweterlitsch (Putnam Adult)

It's been a decade since Pittsburgh was destroyed, but Dominic can't move on — he keeps immersing himself in the Archive, a digital reconstruction of the city, where he investigates unsolved cases. And then he discovers a secret that someone went to a lot of trouble to cover up — something to do with a woman's unsolved murder.

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness (Viking)

The final book in Harkness' trilogy sees witch-historian Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to find the real threat to the future. They must search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages.

All Those Vanished Engines by Paul Park (Tor Books)

The author of the Princess of Roumania fantasy series returns to science fiction, with a novel split into three sections — each of them in a different alternate history. One involves the end of the Civil War, with the Queen of the North negotiating a "two-nation settlement." One involves weird experiments in a very different World War II. And the third is in the near future, with aliens.

Unwept: Book One of The Nightbirds by Tracy Hickman & Laura Hickman (Tor Books)

The co-creators of Dragonlance and Ravenloft start a new series. Ellis Harkington has lost her memory, and isn't sure whom she can trust in the tiny seaside town of Gamin, Maine. And meanwhile, a supernatural killer seems to be stalking her, and an unearthly suitor is appearing in her dreams.

Artful by Peter David (47North)

The ultra-prolific David is back with a new spin on Charles Dickens — what if the Artful Dodger's secrets included a brush with vampires, and a plot to overthrow the monarchy? David's writing is pretty much guaranteed to be fun, and this sounds entertainingly weird.

The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Volume 2 edited by Gordon Van Gelder (Tachyon Publications)

Volume one of this series was pretty much essential reading — a shocking number of the best science fiction and fantasy stories of all time were in that one volume. And volume two doesn't disappoint, either. Including everyone from Damon Knight to Robert Sheckley to Ken Liu to Jane Yolen to Gene Wolfe, this is a treasury of indispensible stories.

Sources: SFSignal, Locus, Amazon.com and publisher catalogs