We've only scratched the surface of 2017's science fiction and fantasy lineup. Let's jump right in, shall we?
Variety is the name of the game in May's science fiction. Rob Reid's savvy Forever On satirizes Silicon Valley culture using relevant technology-based themes in a story revolving around a new social network. Pawn by Timothy Zahn places its human protagonists in the middle of war between alien factions on a massive spaceship. Vanguard by Jack Campbell starts a new military sf series set in the same universe as his Lost Fleet novels. Gregory Benford serves up The Berlin Project, an alternate history in which the atomic bomb was ready to be used in 1944. Gods of Sagittarius by Eric Flint and Mike Resnick is a rousing adventure featuring ancient aliens and actual magic. In M.R. Carey's The Boy on the Bridge (sequel to The Girl With All the Gifts), a boy may be humanity's last hope against unstoppable monsters. Robyn Bennis' novel The Guns Above is an adventurous military fantasy with a steampunk flavor. The action-adventure Injection Burn, a new Dire Earth novel by Jason M. Hough, features a ragtag team whose mission is to travel to a distant planet to rescue benevolent aliens being held captive.
Fantasy books this month also offer a tasty variety. Beren and Lúthien by J.R.R. Tolkien focuses on the relationship between a mortal man and an immortal elf. Kit Reed offers a riveting supernatural, southern gothic tale with Mormama, which stars some very troubled people and a very strange house. In Deadmen Walking, Sherrilyn Kenyon introduces readers to Devyl Bane, an ancient dark warlord returning to the human realm as a pirate who, along with his crew of Deadmen, is charged with making sure that the demons trying to enter our world are sent back to hell. In A Tyranny of Queens by Foz Meadows, Saffron Coulter has returned from the parallel world fantasy kingdom of Kena only to be faced with a decision to forsake her old life for new adventures, or forget about the fantasy realm altogether. Borrowed Souls by Chelsea Mueller posits a world where souls can be rented for illegal and immoral activities performed without sin. Time travelers from the future are sent back to meet Jane Austen and recover a suspected unpublished novel in Kathleen A. Flynn's The Jane Austen Project.
Short fiction readers should seek out the anthologies Behind the Mask: A Superhero Anthology edited by Tricia Reeks & Kyle Richardson and Nebula Awards Showcase 2017 edited by Julie E. Czerneda…as well as the collections.
Wicked Wonders by Ellen Klages and Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami.
Continuing series in May worth noting include The Gathering Edge (Liaden Universe #20) by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller; Cold Reign (Jane Yellowrock #11) by Faith Hunter; Assassin's Fate (The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy #3) by Robin Hobb; City of Miracles (The Divine Cities #3) by Robert Jackson Bennett; reV (The Third Machine Dynasty #3) by Madeline Ashby; Radiate (The Lightless Trilogy #3) by C.A. Higgins; Eagle and Empire (The Clash of Eagles Trilogy #3) by Alan Smale; The Naked World (Jubilee Cycle book #2) by Eli K. P. William; White Hot (Hidden Legacy #2) by Ilona Andrews; Skitter (The Hatching series #2) by Ezekiel Boone.
June sf has several notable space-based stories. Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee, sequel to Ninefox Gambit (a best book of 2016) sees Captain Kel Cheris possessed by a long-dead traitor general. Together they face the rivalries of the hexarchate and a potentially devastating invasion. Transformation by James Gunn is a high-concept space opera in which Riley and Asha, transformed into something more than human by advanced alien tech, attempt to solve the mystery of why the outer planets have fallen strangely silent. In Tanya Huff's military sf novel A Peace Divided, ex-military personnel come together after the war to form a small strike force that's sent to another planet to free a team of scientists taken hostage at an archaeological dig. Escape Velocity by Jason M. Hough (the second part of the duology started with last month's Injection Burn) gives his heroic rescue team a new mission: destroy the military compounds of a nefarious alien race and find a way back home to Earth.
Let's not short-change stories set in the near future! The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland is a near-future thriller where an expert in linguistics and languages is enlisted by a shadowy government organization to translate some very old documents that might prove that magic is (or once was) actually real. Shattered Minds by Laura Lam is another near-future speculative thriller, one where a biohacker sets about to solve the murder of a former coworker who may have been killed by the evil corporation they both worked for. The near future South Africa of Nicky Drayden's The Prey of Gods looks promising given that personal robots make life easier for the working class and the genetic engineering business is booming. That is, until you consider the impending spread a new hallucinogenic drug and the emergence of an AI uprising.
But wait – there's more! Amatka by Karin Tidbeck imagines a dystopian world where society is literally shaped by language. In Wilders by Brenda Cooper, as a girl looks for her sister in the untamed lands outside the bountiful city, she learns of a sinister plot to endanger the city. Anne Corlett's emotionally gripping debut The Space Between the Stars is about a woman who must confront the emptiness in the universe and in herself after a virus wipes out most of humanity. The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente and illustrated by Annie Wu is a series of interlinked stories about the lives of six female superheroes and the girlfriends of superheroes.
June's fantasy lineup is quite overstuffed. With The Witchwood Crown, Tad Williams begins an all-new cycle of novels set in his much-loved Last King of Osten Ard setting. In The Black Elfstone by Terry Brooks (the beginning of a new, four-part Shannara series) strangers from across the sea invade the Four Lands seeking to make it their own, with only an unlikely band of heroes standing allied against them. In The Waking Land, the debut novel by Callie Bates, a woman with an affinity-magic tied to the natural world is accused of killing the kind king who raised her. To help clear her name, she must reunite with her estranged father who was branded a traitor to the kingdom. Age of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan continues the fight between humans and gods, only this time around the human uprising is threatened by an outside race. In the world of Anthony Ryan's The Legion of Flame, power is bestowed to the Ironship Trading Syndicate empire by the blood of dragons via the Blood-blessed who wield the power to harness it. But now a new, more powerful dragon is discovered that could spell the end of the empire.
June's not through with you yet! Seanan McGuire's Wayward Children urban fantasy series continues with Down Among the Sticks and Bones, which tells readers what happened to twin sisters Jack (Jacqueline) and Jill (Jillian) before they disappeared into magical lands. In Richard Kadrey's The Kill Society, Sandman Slim finds himself in the land of the lost dead. Without any other way to get home – and with a price on his head – he joins with a caravan of the damned on a mysterious crusade. Victor LaValle's The Changeling is an imaginative story about one man's odyssey through an enchanted world to find his wife after she commits an unspeakable act of violence. In Carnivalesque by Neil Jordan, a boy walks into a Hall of Mirrors at a carnival, but his reflection emerges and continues to live his life. The Witch Who Came in From the Cold (a collaborative novel by Lindsay Smith, Max Gladstone, Cassandra Rose Clarke, Ian Tregillis, Michael Swanwick, and Mark Weaver) sees spies and sorcerers face off during the Cold War. Daryl Gregory's Spoonbenders features a family of psychics who must use their abilities to evade the CIA, the local mafia, and a tenacious skeptic. Meanwhile, in the paranormal thriller Twelve Days by Steven Barnes, a broken family struggles to stay together while a terrorist group is systematically unleashing global genocide.
Steampunk and gaslit fantasy fans have some surprises in store this month. The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter by Theodora Goss reimagines speculative fiction classics with a story of a brave group of women who come together to solve a series of gruesome murders. In R.S. Belcher's steampunk flavored The Queen of Swords, Maude Stapleton, one of an ancient order of assassins and a descendent of legendary female pirate Anne Bonney, searches for her missing daughter and lands in the middle of a battle between the assassin order and their ancestral enemies. In Grim Expectations, steampunk-master K.W. Jeter returns to the world of Infernal Devices and Fiendish Schemes by putting master clockwork man George Dower on the path of a new mystery to solve. Perilous Prophecy by Leanna Renee Hieber, meanwhile, is a gaslit fantasy about a group of people charged with protecting Earth from the forces of darkness.
Let it not be said that modern fantasy cannot be light. Firstly, James Morrow's satirical novel The Asylum of Dr. Caligari offers a supernatural take on the silent film classic. In White Trash Zombie Unchained, Diana Rowland's undead trailer park heroine thinks it's time for the dead and the living to coexist peacefully and out in the open. And finally, in Tom Holt's humorous The Management Style of the Supreme Beings, the Supreme Being and his son decide to retire and hand the business over to the Venturi brothers, who decide to abolish the concepts of good and evil.
Notable short fiction books in June include The Best Horror of the Year Volume Nine edited by Ellen Datlow; The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2017 Edition by Rich Horton; Year's Best Military and Adventure SF Volume 3 edited by David Afsharirad; and Seven Stones to Stand or Fall: A Collection of Outlander Fiction by Diana Gabaldon.
If you're looking for sequels, check out Devil's Due (Destroyermen #12) by Taylor Anderson, All Good Things by Emma Newman (Split Worlds #5), and Kangaroo Too (Kangaroo Series #2) by Curtis C. Chen.
Start your July science fiction reading with Tomorrow's Kin by Nancy Kress, which chronicles the arrival of aliens in New York who have a message for humans: you have ten months to prevent a disaster. (I read the novella on which this was based and it is excellent.) The Delirium Brief by Charles Stross is the new novel from The Laundry Files, the super-secret organization tasked with protecting the world from unspeakable horrors from beyond spacetime. However, the secret is out and Bob Howard faces the most horrifying challenge of his long career – even more bureaucracy, courtesy of the British government. Greg Egan messes with the laws of physics in Dichronauts, where light cannot travel in all directions. Thus, people can only see when facing the east, but get help seeing in other directions thanks to symbionts living in their skulls.
Sungrazer by Jay Posey, set against a new Cold War between Earth and Mars, sees the Outriders team on a mission to recover devastating weapons that went missing. The old world is buried in Sand by Hugh Howey. Atop the dunes, four siblings find themselves scattered and their father (who salvages relics from underground) is lost. Speaking of sand…in the desolate wastelands of Raid Mass by K.S. Merbeth, a bounty hunter named Clementine has captured the most revered and reviled raider king in the eastern wastes. Now she must deliver her bounty before his friends free him or his enemies capture him for their own gain. And then there's Bannerless by Carrie Vaughn, which depicts a murder investigation in a population-controlled society.
Looking for swashbuckling sci-fi or an alternate history story? You get both with Arabella and the Battle of Venus by David D. Levine. Here, the swashbuckling Arabella Ashbymust rescues her fiancé after he's captured by the French and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp on the swampy planet Venus. The Clockwork Dynasty by Daniel H. Wilson weaves past and present to tell the secret history of lifelike automatons that have been walking among humans for centuries. The former airship pilot of Rajan Khanna's Raining Fire has lost everything…his ship, his friends, and the woman he loves. So he takes the only path left to him: revenge.
July's fantasy titles span the fantasy spectrum. At the Table of Wolves by Kay Kenyon is a military fantasy where a young woman in 1936 must go undercover and use her superpowers to discover a secret Nazi plot and prevent an invasion of England. Gail Z Martin's Scourge is an epic fantasy in which three brothers set out to learn who is controlling the city's monsters. Graveyard Shift by Michael F. Haspil is a supernatural police procedural in which Alex Menkaure, a former pharaoh and mummy, and his vampire partner, Marcus, are vice cops in a special police unit that keeps the streets safe from evil vampires, shape-shifters, blood-dealers, and anti-vampire vigilantes. Glass Town by Steven Savile is the history of how a secret part of London was hidden by a life-size illusion and kept out of sync with our world, where one year here passes as one hundred there. The Cityborn by Edward Willett takes place in a city made up of thirteen levels, where one's social status is determined by the level you live on. Worlds collide when a young woman from the prestigious twelfth tier ends up underneath the city. She meets a young man and they both end up on the run for their very survival. Gork, the Teenage Dragon by Gabe Hudson is a coming of age story where the principle players are dragons. Magicians Impossible by Robert Bradley Abraham features a brotherhood of spies wielding magic in a covert war while its protagonist is in danger from the same forces that killed his parents. But who are the bad guys really?
Not fiction, but notable nonetheless is An Informal History of the Hugos by Jo Walton, which offers pretty much what the title says.
July's must-read short fiction includes: The Year's Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Fourth Annual Collection edited by Gardner Dozois; Ex Libris: Stories of Librarians, Libraries, and Lore edited by Paula Guran; Time Travel Short Stories by Flame Tree Publishing; The Hole in the Moon and Other Tales by Margaret St. Clair; and Telling the Map by Christopher Rowe.
This month's other notable sequels include Assassin's Price (Imager Portfolio #11) by L. E. Modesitt Jr.; The Harbors of the Sun (Raksura #5) by Martha Wells; Buried Heart (Court of Fives #3) by Kate Elliott; Armistice (The Hot War #3) by Harry Turtledove; God's Last Breath (Bring Down Heaven #3) by Sam Sykes; The Reluctant Queen (The Queens of Renthia #2) by Sarah Beth Durst; Killing Is My Business (L.A. Trilogy #2) by Adam Christopher; and Dark Sky (Keiko #2) by Mike Brooks.
Had enough? We're not done with 2017 yet! Check back next week to complete this preview of 2017 speculative fiction!