Are you ready for the wildest assortment of books you could possible hope for? I hope so, because this month's batch of brand new science fiction and fantasy releases is an eclectic mixture of reading goodness. Among August's great SF/F reads are a J.R.R. Tolkien fantasy with elves, the return of Captain Ahab, grimdark fantasy, cyberpunk, and a space noir detective story.
The Point by John Dixon
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Scarlett Winter, a born troublemaker with a secret super power to control pure energy, is recruited by a cloak-and-dagger training program at West Point Military Academy to hone her skills (as in: avoid becoming a human nuclear bomb).
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: This "school for superheroes" sci-fi action thriller moves faster than a speeding bullet.
Temper by Nicky Drayden
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Sibling rivalry comes to a boil in this genre-defying story set in an alternate southern Africa. Auben Mutze's vices mark him as inferior to his twin brother, Kasim. Then Auben begins to hear the voices of demons telling him to take a walk on the wrong side of evil.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: It's an enticing blend of science fiction, horror and magic combined with dark humor.
Stars Uncharted by S. K. Dunstall
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: The captain of a cargo runner finds a derelict exploration spaceship with potentially valuable cargo left behind: a record of unexplored worlds with untold riches.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: It combines the best parts of space action and space opera.
Ahab's Return: or, The Last Voyage by Jeffrey Ford
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: What if Moby Dick's Captain Ahab didn't die trying to kill the great white whale? In this fabulist story, Ford explains how Captain Ahab escaped the jaws of death and returned to the mainland to find stories of his supposed demise. He also embarks on a new quest: to find the wife who left when she thought she became a widow.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: It's a great excuse to finally read Moby Dick like you've been meaning to.
Relic by Alan Dean Foster
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: After a genetically engineered smart virus wipes out the human empire in the far future, the last man in the universe is rescued by an alien species who give him hope by promising to find the mythical human home world called Earth.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: It's an epic journey to find a cure for loneliness.
Ball Lightning by Cixin Liu
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: After a blast of ball lightning incinerates his parents, Chen dedicates his life to understanding the bizarre phenomenon. Unfortunately, those who are supposed to be helping him in his scientific pursuit of knowledge have more immediate and deadly applications in mind.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: It's an interesting examination of the quest for knowledge and its possible consequences.
The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: In an alternate 1961, Lady Astronaut Elma York aims to take space exploration to the next level: colonizing Mars.
Alternate Routes by Tim Powers
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: In this supernatural adventure story that posits phantom cars and imaginary lanes to nowhere on the freeways of Los Angeles, a disgraced ex-Secret Service agent (who now works as a driver for a covert supernatural-evasion car service, natch) becomes the target of a rival government agency.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: Like the cover says: This is "a modern ghost story as only Tim Powers can write it."
Before She Sleeps by Bina Shah
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: In a future where war, disease and gender selection have decreased the men-to-women ratio to dangerously low levels, women must take multiple husbands and have children as quickly as possible. An underground collective of women resists this tightly-controlled system of forced procreation while providing the elite with the world's most valuable commodity: intimacy without sex.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: This near-future dystopian novel depicts a horrifying post-religious authoritarianism that speaks volumes about life today.
The Tower of Living and Dying by Anna Smith Spark
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: The exiled son of a king fights to reclaim his throne while battling the inner demons who tell him that the supposedly glorious end justifies the super-violent means. The only one who can possibly keep him slipping to the even-darker side is the empire's former high priestess, and her influence is slipping away every day.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: Marked by intense, action-packed battle scenes, this grimdark epic fantasy is the escape you need right now.
Implantedby Lauren C. Teffeau
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A college student is blackmailed into being a courier for a shadowy organization and unhooks her from neural implant network that binds the people of the domed city together. Her job: to carry messages encoded in the DNA of her blood.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: It's cyberpunk!
The Fall of Gondolin by J.R.R. Tolkien
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: The rise and fall of the hidden Elven city of Gondolin in Middle Earth. The Fall of Gondolin is one of the original Lost Tales that later formed the basis for part of The Silmarillion. This is a book-length version of that story.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: Elves! Orcs! Balrogs! And an enjoyable back story to one of literature's most loved fantasy worlds.
The Tropic of Eternity by Tom Toner
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: It's the 147th century and turmoil abounds in The Amaranthine Firmament, the empire of radically advanced post-human worlds. Plot lines in this multi-arc, multi-character epic depict (for starters) the rise of emperor-wannabe Aaron the Long-Life and a giant's attempts to thwart him, as well as the search for a young queen who has been abducted.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: This literary space opera has received much praise for be ambitious and well-executed.
Irontown Blues by John Varley
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A detective, formerly a cop in one of the largest Lunar cities before a massive computer glitch upended his life, hunts for the biohackers who have created a dangerous new disease. At his side is a genetically altered dog named Sherlock.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: It's a space noir detective story. What's not to like?
The Stars Now Unclaimed by Drew Williams
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: After a weapon called "the pulse" destroyed all other weapons across the universe, planets entered a new era of technological regression. But the pulse also mutated some humans and gave them special abilities. Jane Kamali, a super-soldier who has a history with the pulse, now works recruiting children with miraculous gifts (like the telekinetic girl named Esa) to prevent another cataclysmic event from this devastating weapon
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: The action ramps up when readers learn that a faction called the Pax is looking to thwart Jane and rule the universe.
Terra Incognita by Connie Willis
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: This is a collection of three classic novellas by one of science fiction's living legends. In "Uncharted Territory," a group of explorers travel to the hostile terrain of another planet where they explore the paths of sex and love. "Remake" takes place in a future Hollywood where new films are made by digitally reinserted actors and actresses from older films. Finally, in "D.A.," a young woman is enrolled at an interstellar space cadet program she never signed up for. This last story reads like Robert A. Heinlein on speed.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: Are you not already aware of the beauty of science fiction novellas?
Short Fiction Reads
This month's selection of short fiction is mighty! Check out any of these books for excellent one-sitting reads:
- The Sacerdotal Owl and Three Other Long Tales by Michael Bishop
- The Black God's Drums by P. Djèlí Clark
- Gothic Tales by Arthur Conan Doyle
- Seven Stones to Stand or Fall: A Collection of Outlander Fiction by Diana Gabaldon
- War Cry by Brian McClellan
- Survivor edited by Mary Anne Mohanraj & J.J. Pionke
- The True History of The Strange Brigadeedited by David Moore
- The People's Republic of Everything by Nick Mamatas
- The Other Place and Other Stories of the Same Sort by J.B. Priestley
- Flights by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft
- Rogue Protocol: The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells
- Nebula Awards Showcase 2018 edited by Jane Yolen