If there’s a theme that permeates this month’s best science fiction and fantasy reads, it’s page-turning action and unadulterated fun. Here are the picks for November’s best SF/F reads:
Fortuna by Kristyn Merbeth (Orbit, Nov. 5)
The first book in The Nova Vita Protocol trilogy by newcomer Merbeth has all the hallmarks of a rip-roaring space opera. Scorpia Kaiser wants to make her mark in the family smuggling business, but she’s always stood in the shadow of her brother Corvus. When Corvus abandons his family to participate in a war, Scorpia feels like it’s her chance to shine. It’s not easy running a smuggling operation in space, especially when you’re a recovering alcoholic at the helm of an aging cargo ship. It gets even tougher when Corvus returns from war just as a dangerous deal goes sour in the worst possible way, thrusting Scorpia and Corvus into a much deadlier conflict than either of them could have imagined.
Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse (Del Rey, Nov. 5)
Roanhorse, hot off the success of her hit urban fantasy novels Trail of Lightning and Storm of Locusts, delivers a fun science fiction adventure set in the Star Wars universe. Resistance Reborn bridges the films The Last Jedi and the forthcoming The Rise of Skywalker. Having suffered a devastating blow from the evil empire, the resistance forces—including Poe Dameron, Gen. Leia Organa, Rey, and Finn—must fight back and gain the upper hand. To do so, they must journey throughout the galaxy, forming alliances with new and legendary heroes, to strengthen the resistance against the nefarious First Order.
Life and Limb by Jennifer Roberson (DAW, Nov. 5)
Roberson’s supernatural adventure takes two polar-opposite strangers—one a leather clad, motorcycle riding ex-con, the other a country music loving rodeo cowboy from west Texas—and casts them as reluctant demon killers. Both share the same “grandfather,” an apparent angel who revealed to each of them their divine destiny when they were young. Their inevitable paths, whether they accept them or not, include fighting the devil’s minions in all their otherworldly guises. Life and Limb is the first book in the Blood and Bone series and sets the stage for even more demon killing by the angelic heroes who must come to terms with their higher purpose while keeping the world safe from the forces of evil.
Skein Island by Aliya Whiteley (Titan Books, Nov. 5)
Skein Island, a private and isolated refuge for women, is located 12 miles off the coast of Devon. Visitors are only allowed access via a rarely given invitation by the reclusive Lady Amelia Worthington. The only form of payment Lady Worthington accepts is a story from the invitee’s past; a written Declaration that will be forever stored in the island’s vast underground library. Once they have the story, they own it, and what becomes of it from then on is none of the visitor’s concern. After Marianne experiences a traumatic event, she receives an invitation to the island, just like her mother did years before; but her mother never returned. Whiteley’s novel, steeped in mythology, is a lyrical journey that’s ultimately about learning to let go of the past.
Fate of the Fallen by Kel Kade (Tor Books, Nov. 5)
What happens when someone less-than-heroic is chosen to be a savior? Kade’s epic fantasy upends the “chosen one” and “hero’s journey “ tropes by having a pair of adventurers— Mathias, a popular go-getter looking forward to the task, and Aaslo who most assuredly isn’t—set out to save the world, only to fail miserably at the start. Aaslo. a forest-dwelling recluse, is the one who must forge ahead on his own to fulfill the prophecy. He does the only thing he can: bands together with a group of fellow miscreants to continue the journey. The odds are against them, and the people have given up hope and wonder if surrendering to evil isn’t the best course. Will our band of “sidekicks without heroes” win? Fate of the Fallen, the first book in The Shroud of Prophecy series, recounts their surprising adventures.
The Andromeda Evolution by Michael Crichton and Daniel H. Wilson (Harper, Nov. 12)
Longtime readers and science fiction fans will be happy to know that there is finally a sequel to Michael Crichton’s 1969 technothriller The Andromeda Strain, a novel that looked at the emergence of a deadly alien biothreat—a virus that turns human blood into powder—and Project Wildfire, the efforts to stop it. (The book was also adapted into a 1971 film and a 2008 television miniseries.) In the sequel, 50 years have passed since the microbe was first discovered. Research continues, and Project Eternal Vigilance has seen no instance of the microbe’s return. Then the unthinkable happens: A Brazilian terrain-mapping drone detects an anomaly of otherworldly matter in the middle of the jungle whose signature matches Andromeda. Project Wildfire is relaunched with a new team of experts who must deal with an Andromeda microbe that is evolving into something new and just as deadly.
The Pursuit of William Abbey by Claire North (Orbit, Nov. 12)
North’s powerful novel looks at the choices we make and how we live with guilt from the bad ones. In 1880s South Africa, a young English doctor named William Abbey witnesses the lynching of a local boy by white colonists. The boy’s mother curses Abbey. Abbey thinks nothing of it until he notices the shadow of the dead boy following him as he travels around the world. On the one hand, the shadow gives Abbey the power to see what’s really within a person’s heart. On the other, the shadow is also relentless and if it catches up with Abbey, someone close to him will die.
SHORT FICTION PICKS
There’s more to literature than novel-sized meals. Check out these tasty sf/f/h short fiction treats landing on shelves this month.
- Epic Fantasy Short Stories edited by Laura Bulbeck (Flame Tree Publishing)
- The Best of Jerry Pournelle edited by John F. Carr (Baen)
- Clarkesworld Magazine A 10th Anniversary Anthology edited by Neil Clarke (Prime Books)
- The Killing Light by Myke Cole (Tor.com)
- The Lights Go Out in Lychford by Paul Cornell (Tor.com)
- And Go Like This: Stories by John Crowley (Small Beer Press)
- The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2019 Edition edited by Paula Guran (Prime Books)
- Myths & Revenants by David Guymer, Andy Clark, Evan Dicken, et al. (Games Workshop)
- A Midnight Clear by Sam Hooker, Alcy Leyva, et al. (Black Spot Books)
- The Praying Mantis Bride by Dean Koontz (Amazon Original Stories)
- Seasons: All-New Tales of Valdemar edited by Mercedes Lackey (DAW)
- The Menace From Farside by Ian McDonald (Tor.com)
- All Worlds Are Real: Short Fictions by Susan Palwick (Fairwood Press)
- My Beautiful Life by K. J. Parker (Subterranean)
- A Very Scalzi Christmas by John Scalzi (Subterranean)
- Talk Like a Manby Nisi Shawl (PM Press)
- Infinite Stars: Dark Frontiers edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt (Titan Books)
- The Deep by Rivers Solomon (Gallery / Saga Press)
- Made Things by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Tor.com)
- Into Bones Like Oil by Kaaron Warren (Meerkat Shorts)
- Mingus Fingers by David Sandner and Jacob Weisman (Fairwood Press)
- Castle of Blood by C L Werner (Warhammer Horror)
In addition to The Andromeda Evolution, a sequel that took 50 years to arrive, here are November’s sequels for more recent in-progress SF/F/H series.
- False Value (Rivers of London)by Ben Aaronovitch (DAW)
- The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air) by Holly Black (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
- Gwendy’s Magic Feather (Button Box) by Richard Chizmar (Cemetery Dance Publications)
- The Secret Chapter (The Invisible Library series) by Genevieve Cogman (Pan)
- The Impossible Contract (Chronicles of Ghadid) by K. A. Doore (Tor Books)
- Revolution (Cold War Magic)by W. L. Goodwater (Ace)
- Knight of the Silver Circle (The Dragonslayer)by Duncan M. Hamilton (Tor Books)
- Upon the Flight of the Queen (The Ring-Sworn Trilogy)by Howard Andrew Jones (St. Martin’s Press)
- A Rising Moon (Sunpath) by Stephen Leigh (DAW)
- Age of Legends (Pantheon) by James Lovegrove (Solaris)
- Rage (Rogue Team International) by Jonathan Maberry (St. Martin’s Griffin)
- Sorcery Reborn (The Rebellion Chronicles) by Steve McHugh (47North)
- Supernova (Renegades) by Marissa Meyer (Feiwel & Friends)
- Chokehold (The Final War) by David Moody (St. Martin’s Griffin)
- Dead Sky (Burning Sky)by Weston Ochse (Solaris)
- The Rise of Magicks (Chronicles of The One) by Nora Roberts (St. Martin’s Press)
- Starsight (Skyward) by Brandon Sanderson (Delacorte Press)
- The Eternity War (Dominion)by Jamie Sawyer (Orbit)
- OtherLife (Last Reality) by Jason Segel (Delacorte Press)
- The Toll (Arc of a Scythe) by Neal Shusterman (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
- Realm of Ash (The Books of Ambha) by Tasha Suri (Orbit)
- Sunset (Legend of the Galactic Heroes) by Yoshiki Tanaka (Haikasoru)
- War of the Spark: Forsaken (Magic: The Gathering) by Greg Weisman (Del Rey)
- Quillifer the Knight(Quillifer) by Walter Jon Williams (Gallery/Saga Press)
Science Fiction/Fantasy correspondent John DeNardo is the founding editor of SF Signal, a Hugo Award-winning blog. Follow him on Twitter @sfsignal.