I’m constantly surprised at the wide range of stories offered within the science fiction and fantasy genres. Just take a look at this month’s top science fiction and fantasy picks and you’ll see what I mean. (And if you’re looking for horror books, October offers plenty of those, too—tune in later this month for a great selection of horror reads.)
The Library of the Unwritten by A. J. Hackwith (Ace, Oct. 1)
The Library of the Unwritten is a unique story in that it brings books themselves to life as objects that can affect the real world. This first entry in a new fantasy series deals with all the unfinished novels that authors never complete. Those unfinished books end up in Hell’s Library of the Unwritten, where they are tended to by Claire, the Head Librarian. Claire’s job is to prevent the restless characters from these incomplete stories from escaping the library and appearing on Earth to wreak havoc. Unfortunately, that’s just what happens when one unfinished book’s hero goes in search of his author/creator. It’s up to Claire, along with a failed muse and a nervous young demon, to bring him back.
Half Way Home by Hugh Howey (John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Oct. 1)
The premise behind Half Way Home begins with an audacious project: launch an automated, A.I.-controlled ship to colonize a faraway planet, and populate that ship with 500 people who are grown in vats and educated along the way. When they arrive as 30-somethings, the colonization can begin. There’s just one problem: Midway through the 30-year flight, an explosion kills most of the crew and destroys their resources. The 60 teenaged survivors are ill-prepared for the harsh environment in which they find themselves. Even with the Artificial Intelligence helping them, they soon find that the greatest threat to their survival is each other.
The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2019 edited by Carmen Maria Machado and John Joseph Adams (Mariner Books, Oct. 1)
The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy anthology series, started in 2015 by series editor Adams, began as a way to showcase the country’s finest science fiction and fantasy writers. Each year, a guest editor picks the best stories from the previous year and assembles them into a can’t-miss anthology. This year, World Fantasy Award finalist Machado chose 10 science fiction and 10 fantasy stories to satisfy readers looking for the quick thrill of short fiction. Readers will enjoy wonder-filled tales from new voices on the edge of the speculative fiction frontier. This year’s volume includes stories by Adam-Troy Castro, P. Djèlí Clark, Sarah Gailey, Daryl Gregory, N.K. Jemisin, Usman Malik, Seanan McGuire, Annalee Newitz, Sofia Samatar, and others.
How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse by K. Eason (DAW, Oct. 8)
If you’re undecided between reading science fiction or fantasy, direct your attention to Eason’s whip smart SF/F mashup. How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse, the first book of a duology, is a reimagining of familiar fairytale tropes as applied to a space opera setting. Rory Thorne is a princess who, after unexpectedly not inheriting the throne, becomes engaged to the prince of a distant world. There, she discovers a plot by a deceitful minister who names himself Regent to unseat her new prince and steal his throne. Rory, with a small team of allies, must stop the conniving politician.
Salvaged by Madeleine Roux (Ace, Oct. 15)
In this dark science fiction thriller, Rosalyn Devar is a woman on the run from her well-known family, a bioengineering job she despises, and her less-than-perfect life. She eventually ends up cleaning up after ill-fated research expeditions. Her latest salvage assignment lands her on the Brigantine, a research vessel that has gone dark and whose crew is believed to be dead. However, the crew is not dead at all. They are alive—but infected with a sentient alien parasite that has made them something other than human. Rosalyn, now trapped aboard the Brigantine, must work with Captain Edison Aries to stop the parasitic alien from spreading across the universe.
Supernova Era by Cixin Liu (Tor Books, Oct. 22)
Liu, the Chinese author who made huge waves in recent years in American science fiction with his Three-Body Problem trilogy, offers a new mind-bending vision of a possible future without adults. (Think Lord of the Flies across the entire Earth.) It starts eight light years from Earth, when a dying star becomes a supernova, sending a wave of energy that bathes the Earth with deadly levels of radiation. Within a year of the event, everyone over the age of 13 will be dead. That doesn’t leave much time for the adults to pass the entirety of their knowledge down to the younger generation, which now has the weight of humanity’s future on its shoulders.
Salvation Lost by Peter F. Hamilton (Del Rey, Oct. 29)
This sweeping and inventive space opera is set in a comparative utopia two centuries in the future. Thanks to advanced technology, transportation to faraway galaxies is as simple as walking through a gate. That leads to some amazing discoveries—and also some dangerous ones. One of the latter is a seemingly benign alien race. The Olyix, however, are anything but peaceful. They are driven by a deep religious extremism to bring everyone to their version of God. The threat to human life unites the galaxy in the common goal of survival.
Short Fiction Picks
Your journeys into fantastic worlds shouldn’t stop with novels. Short fiction delivers the goods, too. Check out these prime short SF/F titles available this month:
Beyond Time: Classic Tales of Time Unwound edited by Mike Ashley (British Library Publishing)
Doorway to Dilemma: Bewildering Tales of Dark Fantasy edited by Mike Ashley (British Library Publishing)
Frozen Hell by John W. Campbell Jr. (Wildside Press)
Future Tense Fiction: Stories of Tomorrow by the Editors of Future Tense (The Unnamed Press)
Hex Life: Wicked New Tales of Witchery edited by Christopher Golden & Rachel Autumn Deering (Titan Books)
Inferno! Volume 4 by Guy Haley, George Mannm et al. (The Black Library)
Laughter at the Academy by Seanan McGuire (Subterranean)
Lords and Tyrants by Chris Wraight, Ian St. Martin, et. al. (The Black Library)
Moon Flights by Elizabeth Moon (Night Shade)
Ormeshadow by Priya Sharma (Tor.com)
salt slow by Julia Armfield (Flatiron Books)
The Best of Greg Egan by Greg Egan (Subterranean)
The Last Seance: Tales of the Supernatural by Agatha Christie (HarperCollins)
The Penguin Book of Mermaids (Penguin Classics)
Science Fiction/Fantasy correspondent John DeNardo is the founding editor of SF Signal, a Hugo Award-winning blog. Follow him on Twitter @sfsignal.