Guess what? Your already-overflowing to-be-read pile will hate you after it sees what October's lineup of science fiction and fantasy looks like. This month's batch of can't miss reads includes a time-travel/fantasy mash-up, murder on the moon, a deadly mercenary who's a whiz at math, a medieval mobster, and a world run by Cthulhu.
Read on to see this month's sf/f lineup. (And stay tuned later this month for the best Horror picks!)
The Little Shop of Found Things by Paula Brackston
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: In this start of a new series, a mother and daughter (Flora and Xanthe Westlake) leave London to run an antique store in a small town. Xanthe possesses the ability to sense the history of the objects she touches. One object in particular, a silver chatelaine, is about to change her life. The spirit that haunts the Westlake's new home commands Xanthe to use the chatelaine to travel back in time to the less enlightened days of 1605 to save a servant girl.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: Brackstone is known for her tantalizing blend of magic and romance. This book will show you why.
Search Image by Julie E. Czerneda
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Esen is a benevolent shapeshifting alien, member of an endangered race trying to remain under the radar of those who would destroy her and her kind. She's done pretty well so far, forming a successful business with a human named Paul. Together, they've set up the All Species' Library of Linguistics and Culture. Instead of celebrating its one-year anniversary, however, they must contend with Paul's missing father, a crisis that could lead to extinction, and a very strange artifact.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: This is a welcome and long overdue return to Czerneda's Web Shifters universe. (See also: The Only Thing to Fear, a prequel novella.)
The Book of Magic edited by Gardner R. Dozois
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: This companion anthology to The Book of Swords rounds up sixteen all-new stories of magic and wonder, plus a classic story by George R. R. Martin. You'll be able to squeeze these stories into your life over a lunch break.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: George R. R. Martin, Elizabeth Bear, Tim Powers, Megan Lindholm (a.k.a. Robin Hobb), Lavie Tidhar, Kate Elliott and Scott Lynch, to name a few reasons.
An Easy Death by Charlaine Harris
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: In a fractured alternate United States where magic is possible, a pair of Russian wizards enlist the services of the young gunslinging mercenary Lizbeth Rose. She's hired to find Oleg Karkarov, a direct descendant of Grigori Rasputin, whose blood will provide healing powers to the current young tsar.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: This weird western is the kind of fun page-turning story you need right now.
Zero Sum Game by S. L. Huang
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: In this near-future science fiction thriller, Cas Russell is a mercenary who's crazy-good at math. So good, in fact, she uses it in real-time to dodge bullets and fight against opponents twice her size and win. (Hooray for math!) But Cas may have met her match in a new foe; one that can reach directly into people's minds and alter their thoughts.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: Did I mention the math-genius mercenary?
Time's Children by D.B. Jackson
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: In this fantasy-with-a-twist, Tobias Doljan is a young Walker, able to travel through time. The sovereign, Mearlan IV, assigns Tobias to go back in time (a process that ages him) to prevent a devastating war. When he does, Tobias finds that history has already changed and he must protect the infant princess.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: The unique blend of time travel and fantasy.
The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018 edited by N.K. Jemisin & John Joseph Adams
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: The latest entry into this relatively new anthology series aims to hand-pick the best stories that showcase the speculative genre's breadth. This year's selection includes stories by Charlie Jane Anders, Tobias S. Buckell, Samuel R. Delany, Maria Dahvana Headley, Maureen F. McHugh, Peter Watts, Caroline M. Yoachim and more.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: Science fiction and fantasy isn't just about spaceships and dragons. This anthology has something for everyone.
The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition by Ursula K. Le Guin and Charles Vess
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Le Guin's beloved classic fantasy series, Earthsea, is collected here in a massive omnibus volume perfect for the fantasy completist. Clocking in at 1,000+ pages, this edition also includes a never-before-printed Earthsea story.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: Besides having all the Earthsea, you mean? How about the more than 50 illustrations by renowned artist Charles Vess?
Murder on Millionaires' Row by Erin Lindsey
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: In this historical mystery, Rose Gallagher, Irish housemaid of the rich Thomas Wiltshire, sets out to find her employer, who has gone missing. Her investigation around Gilded Age Manhattan leads her to discover Wiltshire's secret life as a Pinkerton agent, as well as the existence of magic and ghosts.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: This 19th century whodunnit offers readers a refreshing setting for paranormal adventure.
Priest of Bones by Peter McLean
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: In this dark and gritty fantasy, the first of a promising new series, an army priest named Tomas Piety returns home after a brutal war with his regimen in tow. But Piety is not looking to relax. Before the war, he was a crime boss and during the years he's been off fighting, his criminal empire has been taken from him. So, Piety enlists his colorful band of soldiers to take back the streets of Ellinburg, mobster-style, and deliver harsh justice to those that stand in his way.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: McLean's fantasy reads like The Godfather set in medieval times. It's got interesting characters, a riveting story mixed with political intrigue, and a dash of magic. This is a reading recommendation you shouldn't refuse!
Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: It's thirty years into the future and the moon has been colonized. American Fred Fredericks is visiting, tasked with installing a quantum-entangled phone for Chang Yazu, chief administrator of the Chinese Lunar Authority. When Chang is murdered, Fred is made a pawn in a dangerous political game and accused of the crime.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: Robinson is a hard science fiction visionary, but those curious-but-fearful of hard sf should know this reads more like a riveting political thriller.
The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: In this sequel to The Collapsing Empire, the empire of humanity is still dealing with (or denying) the imminent collapse of The Flow, the extra-dimensional conduit that connects human-occupied worlds by allowing travel between the stars. Emperox Grayland II must save mankind from likely extinction while others attempt to use the crisis to further their own grasps for power.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: The Consuming Fire is space opera at its most accessible.
The Labyrinth Index by Charles Stross
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: As the blurb for this Cthulhu-infused adventure nicely sums up: "The Lovecraftian Singularity has descended upon the world." Elder Gods essentially control the world, including the British government and their supernatural-focused Lords Select Committee on Sanguinary Affairs. Mhairi Murphey, the head of that department, assembles a team to solve an American mystery: Where is the United States president and why does nobody seem to care?
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: This is the start on a brand-new story arc in the hugely entertaining Laundry Files series.
There Before the Chaos by K. B. Wagers
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Galactic gunrunner Hail Bristol hangs up her gun for the less-exciting (but no less challenging) work of an empress rebuilding an empire after the war. Then, a military crisis sends her on a diplomatic mission that lands her between two warring alien civilizations.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: This space opera begins a new sequel series to the exciting Indranan War series. Start here, or dive into the beginning with Behind the Throne.
In addition to the two anthologies noted above, I would be remiss if I didn't include these two horror titles ahead of a forthcoming roundup of Horror books. They are:
- The Best of the Best Horror of the Year: 10 Years of Essential Short Horror Fiction edited by Ellen Datlow – The title says it all. Think of this can't miss collection as a snapshot of the past decade of modern horror.
- The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2018 Edition edited by Paula Guran - A fantastic survey of 2017's best dark fantasy and horror offerings that's sure to keep you up at night.
Use these wonderful anthologies now to get an early start on your October horror reading!
Do you still want some more? Additional worthwhile short fiction can be found this month in:
- A Cathedral of Myth and Bone by Kat Howard
- Once and Forever by Kenji Miyazawa
- Driving to Geronimo's Grave and Other Stories by Joe R. Lansdale
- Tomorrow Factory by Rich Larson
- Exit Strategy: The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells
- Finding Baba Yaga: A Short Novel in Verse by Jane Yolen