Every new month brings a slew of new science fiction, fantasy and horror books to read, and this month is no exception. In fact, January seems to be overstuffed with tasty reading choices. Here are my picks for the best SF/F/H reads this month...
Earth Thirst by Mark Teppo
Teppo's Earth Thirst, the first in The Arcadian Conflict sequence, puts a topical spin on the vampire story. It takes place in a corporate-run world which pays no heed to the environment. The thing is, uncontaminated soil is the last safe haven for the Arcadians, the supernatural vampires who must now fight back against the world's environmental vandals. I, for one, welcome our eco-warrior vampire overlords...
Ever After by Kim Harrison
Harrison's long-running Rachel Morgan/Hollows series continues with this latest installment in which the demonic realm known as the Ever-After starts shrinking. If it disappears, so does all the magic, and that means the precarious balance between things magical and human goes with it. It's up to former witch and demon hero Rachel to fix it, and not just because she created the problem in the first place, but because an evil and powerful demon has vowed to destroy her and has kidnapped her loved ones.
Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton
One thing I always liked about Hamilton's space operas was the element of political intrigue and mystery than ran through them. Those elements come to the fore in Great North Road, in which a technological dynasty is held by a family of clones who, over years of genetic anomalies, have diverged into separate factions. This leads to much finger-pointing when one of those factions is met with murder and a police detective must track down the killer, who may just be an alien monster. I, for one, welcome our alien monster overlord...
Ice Forged by Gail Z. Martin
Gail Z. Martin is known for sprawling fantasies and this one, though it seems smaller in scope, is no less epic. Here, a condemned man named McFadden has spent the last several years in Velant, a frozen penal colony wasteland that relies on the supplies from the faraway kingdom to fight the harsh environment and maintain order. But the supplies stop coming and it can only mean bad news for the kingdom back home, and McFadden must fight to survive when the world's magic runs amok.
Impulse by Steven Gould
The newest standalone book in Steven Gould's much-loved Jumper series features a young girl named Cent. Her father can teleport himself and those around him, but has been taken captive by a government that wants to harness his abilities for their own ends. So Cent, unable to transport herself, lives in hiding, powerless but safe. That is, until she triggers an avalanche while snowboarding alone and suddenly finds herself in her own bedroom.
Kalimpura by Jay Lake
Jay Lake's Green universe depicts the life story of its strong-willed female lead character. Here, Green, now a mother, heads back to the city of Kalimpura and the service of the Lily Goddess. But the gods have laid claim to her and her children and Green finds that she must rescue the two girls taken hostage by one of Kalimpura's rival guilds.
Shades of Earth by Beth Revis
The final book in Revis' well-received Across the Universe trilogy sees the spaceship Godspeed on dangerous Centauri-Earth where Amy and Elder must face the planet's deadly pterodactyl-like birds, not to mention an even greater life force. Also noteworthy: the book's release comes with a (literally) stellar marketing campaign: if the number of pre-orders of Shades of Earth exceeds those of the first two books (Across the Universe and A Million Suns), then the publisher will launch a copy of Across the Universe into space.
Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente
If you haven't read any stories that can be classified as "Weird Westerns," here is your chance to dive in. In this case, it won't feel entirely unfamiliar as Catherynne M. Valente retells the classic story of Snow White in the setting of the Old West. Here, Snow White is a half-native, half-white child who has–you guessed it–a wicked stepmother. There's something oddly appealing about this mashup, and in Valente's capable hands, this is one worth checking out.
The Aylesford Skull by James P. Blaylock
Who better to tell a steampunk story than one of its progenitors? It's been 20 years since Blaylock has written steampunk, and he's back in fine form. The premise: it's 1883, and a brilliant but eccentric scientist/explorer named Professor Langdon St. Ives must confront his nemesis, Dr. Ignacio Narbondo, who kidnaps the Professor's son and steals a skull from a grave. What else can the Professor do but give chase?
The Crossing by Mandy Hager
The small Pacific island of Onewere is home to the people that were chosen by the great Apostles of the Lamb to survive the deadly Tribulation that consumed the Earth. A young girl named Marayam must face a difficult decision: obey the Apostles and very likely die, or renounce every belief she ever held. With situations like that, The Crossing sounds like a very compelling dystopian coming-of-age story.
The Explorer by James Smythe
Here's a space thriller that's sure to keep readers turning pages. In it, journalist Cormac Easton is chosen to document the first manned mission into deep space. Unfortunately, after waking from hypersleep, the captain is found dead. Tasked with completing the mission, the space crew carries on...even when more people start suspiciously dying. Can Cormac stop his own seemingly inevitable death?
The Mad Scientist's Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke
I love robot stories because they often play with themes about what it means to be human. Here, a robotic construct named Finn is programmed to teach Cat, a scientist's daughter, and to act as guardian. Although the government soon grants legal rights to the ever-increasing robot population, Finn still struggles to find his place in the world. Sounds like my kind of story. And I, for one, welcome our robotic overlords...
Also on my Radar...
If there were a manageable list of books on my radar, this list would be done. But, as usual, there are plenty of other titles that caught my eye and I'm out of room:
Adam Robots by Adam Roberts
Dead Aim by Joe R. Lansdale
John Brunner (Modern Masters of Science Fiction) by Jad Smith
Lord of Darkness by Robert Silverberg
Mad Gods and Englishmen: A Fantasy by Ian Armer
Seconds by David Ely
Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole
Take Back Plenty by Colin Greenland
The Kassa Gambit by M.C. Planck
The Red Knight by Miles Cameron
The Six-Gun Tarot by R. S. Belcher
The Warlord of the Air by Micheal Moorcock
We Modern People: Science Fiction and the Making of Russian Modernity by Anindita Banerjee
Wide Open by Deborah Coates
Wool - Omnibus Edition by Hugh Howey
John DeNardo is the editor of SF Signal, a Hugo Award-winning group science-fiction and fantasy blog featuring news, reviews and interviews. He also likes bagels.