December brings a juicy batch of new and notable books that fall within the realm of science fiction and fantasy, so let's jump right in and take a look....


Science fiction set in space, if history is to be our guide, is usually marked by lots of action and sense of wonder. And if we are using history as our guide, it's also overwhelmingly populated with white, straight male characters. That's why Jacqueline Koyanagi's new book, Ascension, is a refreshing change. The main character, Alana Quick, repairs ships that use a technology that is quickly becoming outdated. Down on her luck, she stows away on a ship owned by the company who produces the newly predominant tech. Something nefarious is afoot when Alana discovers they are, in fact, searching for her sister. While this premise seems a perfect setup for traditional space adventure, that mostly takes a back seat to the depiction of personal relationships between diverse characters.

Speaking of history, sci-fi has had a long love affair with the planet Mars. As the nearest planet to Earth, it has always been a symbol of mankind's desire to explore the unknown. Ben Bova's new book, Mars, Inc., continues that love affair, while acknowledging current world economics. Here, bureaucracy has stalled any serious efforts to get to the Red Planet, so the world's billionaires form a club to finance a corporate-sponsored mission to Mars. As one might expect, the presence of those who seek profit presents its own set of problems.

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Fantasy fiction shows its versatility in Ian Tregillis' Something More Than Night. It’s a noir detective story, much in the mold of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, set in Thomas Aquinas’ vision of Heaven. The crime in this case is the murder of the angel Gabriel and the disappearance of the Jericho Trumpet. The main point-of-view protagonist is a fallen angel who has modeled himself on the fictional detective Philip Marlowe. Thus the stage is set for a classic murder mystery with set in a fantastical setting.Starter House

The creepiest horror stories are the ones that leverage everyday life to elicit scares. That's what Sonja Condit does in her debut novel, Starter House. It's about Lacey and Eric, a young couple expecting a child, just making their start and buying a new home to live their lives together. However, soon after they move into their dream home, things grow dark. Lacey, the daughter of a psychic, senses a malevolent force that is trying to harm her unborn child. That presence is somehow mysteriously tied to the odd little boy who only appears when Lacey is alone.

With so many book series in-progress right now (see below), it might seem overwhelming to try to catch up on ones you aren't already invested in. Here's a chance to get in on the ground floor. The Grendel Affair by Lisa Shearin is the first in a new series called SPI Files. SPI (Supernatural Protection & Investigations) goes up against all the monsters you thought didn't exist. Makenna Fraser, a Seer for SPI, is tasked with tracking down the supernatural creatures while her partner, Ian Byrne, takes them down for the count. Their latest case involves a sickle-wielding creature utilizing the subway tunnels of New York City to make his kills. And with New Year's Eve approaching, he's a bout to get a whole lot busier. 

Alternate history is a long-running staple of science fiction. Such stories are concerned with different versions of our own history, usually (but not always) set in the past. This is the case with The Suicide Exhibition by Justin Richards. It's essentially a World War II thriller set in an alternate Earth history that includes aliens. The main thrust of the novel is that the Nazis are trying to use a powerful alien artifact to win the war, unless a trio of unlikely heroes can put a stop to it. Thus explains the elevator pitch: "The Thirty-Nine Steps crossed with Indiana Jones and Quatermass".

I've only talked about stand-alone novels thus far. Readers of already-in-progress series may like to be informed about the following new and notable releases as well:

¨  A Dance of Mirrors (Shadowdance) by David Dalglish

¨  A Study in Ashes (The Baskerville Affair) by Emma Jane HollowayLost covenant

¨  Alien Research (Katherine "Kitty" Katt) by Gini Koch

¨  Andromeda's Choice (Legion of the Damned) by William C. Dietz

¨  Brazen (Otherworld Tales) by Kelley Armstrong

¨  Lost Covenant (A Widdershins Adventure) by Ari Marmell

¨  Once Upon a Time in Hell (The Heaven's Gate) by Guy Adams

¨  Seven Sorcerers (Books of the Shaper) by John R. Fultz

¨  Shannivar (The Seven-Petaled Shield) by Deborah J. Ross

¨  She Who Waits (Low Town) by Daniel Polansky

¨  Strykers (Strykers Syndicate) by K. M. Ruiz

¨  The Chosen Seed (The Forgotten Gods) by Sarah Pinborough

¨  The Cormorant (Miriam Black) by Chuck Wendig

¨  The Doctor and the Dinosaurs (A Weird West Tale) by Mike Resnick

¨  The Spider (Elemental Assassin) by Jennifer Estep

¨  Things Fall Apart (Supervolcano) by Harry Turtledove

¨  Vulkan Lives (Warhammer 40K: Horus Heresy) by Nick Kyme


Short FictionYear Best SF 18

Fancy a good short story? There are plenty of selections to fill those smaller reading moments. Notable multi-author anthologies include:

¨  Dangerous Women edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois

¨  Kicking It edited by Faith Hunter & Kalayna Price

¨  Raygun Chronicles edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

¨  There is Only War edited by Christian Dunn

¨  Year's Best SF 18 edited by David G. Hartwell


Best bets for single-author collections include:

¨  Her Husband's Hands and Other Stories by Adam-Troy Castro

¨  The Bread We Eat in Dreams by Catherynne M. Valente

¨  The Collected Stories of Carol Emshwiller: Vol. 2 by Carol Emshwiller

¨  Things Withered by Susie Moloney 

John DeNardo is the editor of SF Signal, a Hugo Award-winning group science-fiction and fantasy blog featuring news, reviews and interviews. You can follow him on Twitter as @sfsignal.