You won't survive this coming month without some great stories to carry you through. Luckily, January is just chock full of amazing reads, including fantasy epics, space adventures and near-future weirdness. Here are all January's most essential science fiction and fantasy books!
Top image: A Darkling Sea by James Cambias.
Do you love Fables and Once Upon a Time? Then here's a very different take on fairy tales in the real world, from the author of the October Daye novels and the InCryptid books. In the first volume of a new fantasy series, previously serialized as a Kindle serial, fairy-tale narratives are constantly threatening to invade the world, via "memetic incursion," and only the ATI Management Bureau can stop them.
The author of The Age Atomic and Empire State is back with a noir urban fantasy in which a San Francisco blogger celebrates his birthday in Chinatown — only to have a mysterious explosion at the restaurant, followed by cryptic fortune cookies turning up at his apartment. But that's not all — Ted Hall's sleepwalking seems to coincide with murders by the notorious Hang Wire killer. And there are also sinister circuses, superpowered people, flame cults, and tons more.
A young boy gets into a car with his mother and sister, but only he notices that they've left the real world behind as something terrible and startling happens. Soon, Byron Hemmings is having to confront strange truths about the past, while trying to protect his parents from the darkness. Like Joyce's first novel The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, this is being described as a story of strange journeys, laced with forgiveness and redemption.
The sequel to Vaughn's superhero novel After the Golden Age — and by all accounts, this one is better than the first. This novel skips forward in time, and now the first novel's protagonist Celia is a powerful businesswoman — and now, Celia's teenage daughter is developing superpowers and dreaming of following in her grandparents' footsteps as a superhero, protecting Commerce City from the bad guys. Read an excerpt here.
The conclusion to the trilogy that began with Infected and Contagion. This time around, the alien intelligence that threatened humanity in the past has left behind a tiny container of pathogens that can turn humans into, basically, murderous zombies. And it's a race against time before zombies and Cthulhu can wipe us all out. Basically, a completely bonkers thriller.
A new young-adult debut. Riven is no ordinary 17-year-old girl — she's actually a general from another dimension, sent to our world to capture a young man and take him back with her. But she finds herself fighting with her own sister, who wants to protect that boy, and with her own emergent feelings of humanity and compassion. Early reviews suggest it's pretty exciting and engaging, with a main character who pulls you in.
On a mysterious island, scientists are experimenting with creating superpowered clones, in this new standalone novel from the author of Origin. But a young girl shows up, seeking her mother and the superpowered twin she never knew she had. Apparently it's full of creepiness and weird science, but it also delves into the question of what makes us human and what defines us as people.
A novel of magical realism by a professional ballet dancer from Cuba, who now lives in London. Oscar wakes up one day to find himself alone in the world, so he sets out to find his ancestral village, while also searching for the meaning of the mystical pig's-foot amulet he has inherited. Full of lovely, haunting descriptions of the Cuban landscape as well as strange characters, as Oscar explores his family's roots in a world without people.
It's the future, and civilization has all but collapsed due to pollution and disasters, in this novel from the award-winning author of Native Speaker. The world has been colonized by people from New China, but now that civilization, too, has started to collapse. A rave review in the New York Times by Andrew Sean Greer compares this book to A Clockwork Orange while also praising its weird creation-myth tone.
A bus accident uncovers a terrible secret in the small paper-mill town of Titan Falls, New Hampshire — and when an old skeleton turns up, town matriarch June McAllister is determined to keep the past buried. Full of magical realism and Stephen King-y awfulness, this novel is getting praise for its beautiful language and haunting main character.
Could virtual reality help prevent an environmental collapse by addressing our constant hunger for more natural resources? That's the provocative concept behind this debut, which takes place on a corporate-owned artificial island where the wealthy can escape from the overcrowded, polluted rest of the planet. The setting is reminiscent of Elysium, but the actual storytelling is getting early comparisons to William Gibson and Philip K. Dick. Notably, Mather is a computer scientist who worked at the McGill Center for Intelligent Machines.
A woman who's just been widowed and left dirt-broke by her ponzi-scheming husband gets a job offer she can't refuse: go work as the personal assistant to a notorious horror novelist, who everybody thinks is dead. Of course, going to live with a horror novelist in a house full of terrible secrets might have a downside. But who cares? It's free room and board.
A neat spin on first-contact narratives — humans are exploring an ice world where blind aliens live under the kilometer-thick ice sheet. But the first aliens we've ever encountered, the Sholen, have made us promise not to disturb the blind creatures' habitat. Which is all well and good, until one of those blind creatures gets too curious and slices one of the human explorers open. And then all heck breaks loose with the Sholen. Read an excerpt here.
Can't believe we almost left this one out. In a dystopian future where the rich escape into virtual reality but everybody else is left in the ruins of our broken world, a garbageman changes careers and becomes a hitman, eliminating anyone... for a price. By all accounts, it's a noir cyberpunk yarn that has a distinct 1980s feel.
Stay tuned for our guide to the can't-miss books of 2014, coming next week!