Summer is not over yet! Neither is summer reading. There are still plenty of excellent books hitting shelves in August that you should know about. Here's a roundup of the month's best reads, including novels, short fiction and those sequels you've been waiting for!

The Cruel Stars by John Birmingham

What do you do when a defeated enemy force returns years later to wage a relentless war on humans it deems impure? You fight back. The Sturm are a "pure" faction of humanity who see themselves as better than those who have been genetically and cybernetically modified. Thought to be long since defeated, the Sturm have risen again and wipe out mankind's defenses. It's up to a wayward band of survivors to save the future for all humans.

Turning Darkness Into Light by Marie Brennan

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Brennan, author of the eminently readable Lady Trent Memoirs/ Natural History of Dragons series, extends that world even further with a new fantasy of manners. Audrey Camherst, like her grandmother Lady Trent, is destined to make her mark in the scholarly pursuit of knowledge. Unfortunately, her intellectual curiosity leads to conspiracy when a shadowy Lord hires her to decipher the ancient tablets of the Draconean civilization.

Rule of Capture by Christopher Brown

Brown painted a somewhat hopeful American dystopia in 2017's Tropic of Kansas. In this standalone dystopian legal thriller prequel, we get to see how we got there. In a climate-ravaged, post-war U.S., the current administration maneuvers to maintain their questionably-obtained power, and that means cracking down on enemies of the state, a fluid definition that seems to include anyone who disagrees with them. Donny Kimoe is one of the last lawyers to defend these dissidents in court. His latest case involves a young filmmaker who witnessed the death of the resistance movement's leader. Donny has days to save her from being exiled to a detention camp from which nobody ever returns, even it means breaking the rules and exposing those in power. Brown's riveting story is frightening for how possible it could be and it's delivered with stylistically insightful prose that makes it legitimately hard to put down.

The Gossamer Mage by Julie E. Czerneda

Here's your chance to get in on the ground floor of a new epic fantasy series. In the realm of Tananen, people worship a single deity called the Deathless Goddess. The voiceless words of the Goddess flow through the Mage Scribes, who turn them into spells to make beasts or plants for any purpose. If the spell is cast incorrectly, the creature created is wild and free and the toll exerted on the Mage Scribe, who ages with each spell, is great. Seeking to end this terrible cost, the greatest mage in Tananen vows to find and destroy Her, not realizing that She is all that keeps magic alive and keeps the realm safe from what waits outside.

Echoes: The Saga Anthology of Ghost Stories edited by Ellen Datlow

I never met an Ellen Datlow anthology I didn't like. This one is no different, offering readers twenty-nine ghost stories written by some of today's best authors. As editor of numerous supernatural suspense and dark fantasy anthologies for the past few decades, Datlow has been instrumental in shaping the literary field with anthologies like these. Read it and see why. Contributors for this themed anthology of all-new stories include Aliette de Bodard, Pat Cadigan, Jeffrey Ford, Richard Kadrey, Seanan McGuire, Garth Nix, Joyce Carol Oates, Lee Thomas, Paul Tremblay, A.C. Wise, and more.

Star Wars Galaxy's Edge: Black Spire by Delilah S. Dawson

Star Wars is one of the richest fictional universes in film and books. This latest novel seeks to leverage the media storm around Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge expansion of the Disney theme park experience. On the world of Batuu, located at the edge of the galaxy, General Leia Organa has dispatched her top spy, Vi Moradi, to ignite the resistance there. Vi, however, is being tracked by the First Order and inadvertently leads a shuttle full of stormtroopers to Batuu. Now the clock is ticking to launch a resistance on Batuu before the First Order squashes it before it even begins.

Our War by Craig DiLouie

In this harrowing dystopia, America is in the midst of a second Civil War, which erupted after the president was impeached but refused to leave office. 10-year-old Hannah, orphaned by the fighting, joins the Free Women citizen militia as a soldier, where she finds a new family. Her older brother Alex, meanwhile, is also a soldier but fighting for the other side. They both see their militant organizations as the last hope for a better America. On the battlefields of America, Hannah and Alex will risk everything for their country.

Hellrider by JG Faherty

In this intense story of revenge, Eddie Ryder, member of the Hell Riders motorcycle gang, is burned alive by fellow members for ratting on them. With his last, dying breath, he vows revenge. As luck (or the devil) would have it, Eddie returns as a motorcycle-riding ghost who can possess people and spout fire and lightning from his fingers. These are not a bad set of skills to have when you're seeking revenge. The only people who can possibly stop Eddie are his younger brother and the police chief's daughter—the only two who really understand what's going on.

The Warehouse by Rob Hart

The Warehouse is described as a "near-future thriller about what happens when Big Brother meets Big Business." It's set in the sprawling live/work facilities—and panopticon—of the megacorporation known as Cloud. Paxton is a new hire, loving the company's new in-house lifestyle, complete with entertainment halls and more. It's certainly better than what lies outside. Zinnia is secret operative who has infiltrated Cloud hoping to expose it. For that, she'll need to use Paxton as her pawn. Together, they will discover to what lengths the company will go to make the world a better place.

What the Wind Brings by Matthew Hughes

Hughes is perhaps best known for the wry wit employed in his writing, notably in his Dying Earth sequence of stories. While hugely entertaining, it sometimes masks his mastery over literature. That will change with the release of What the Wind Brings. This historical slipstream novel, flavored with South American magical realism, is based on events from the mid-1500s, when shipwrecked African slaves integrated with the indigenous peoples of coastal Ecuador and together fought the Spanish colonial power to a standstill, after which they remained independent for centuries.

The Dragon Republic by R. F Kuang

In this sequel to the historical military fantasy The Poppy War (one of 2018's Best Books), shaman and warrior Rin is forever changed by the atrocities she committed to save her beloved homeland. Although blessed with the powers bestowed by a vengeful God Phoneix, Rin is looking for escape; from her guilt, from her opium addiction, and from the murderous calling of Phoenix. Rin aligns herself with the powerful Dragon Warlord, who plots to conquer Nikan, unseat the traitorous Empress, and create a new republic. But neither the Empress nor the Dragon Warlord are what they appear to be.

The Heart of the Circle by Keren Landsman

Described as an alternate world fantasy thriller, this fascinating story takes place in a world where sorcerers, who were once idolized, are now exploited for their abilities. And in Israel, a group of religious extremists called the Sons of Simeon persecute sorcerers while the government turns a blind eye. Reed is an empath who becomes their next target. While his sorcerous and "normie" friends try to ferret out Reed's future killers, he complicates matters by falling hopelessly in love.

The Passengers by John Marrs

In this science fiction thriller, set in the not-too-distant future, automated cars are in common use and no cause for any concern. Until one day, when eight people—including an illegal immigrant, a faded TV star, a pregnant woman, and a wife fleeing her abusive husband—find themselves locked inside their cars, their predetermined destination changed, and a voice telling them they are going to die. Their ensuing panic is broadcast to the world from cameras hidden in their cars. Used as a (if you'll pardon the expression) vehicle to examine the effects of social media and mob mentality, this taut thriller is being described as "an episode of Black Mirror meets Agatha Christie by way of Speed."

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa & Stephen Snyder (Translator)

Here's a provocative fable that uses an Orwellian surveillance state to examine the power of memory and the trauma of loss. It takes place on an unnamed island off an unnamed coast where objects keep disappearing. Most of the inhabitants are completely unaware of the changes while those who are aware live in fear of the Memory Police—a task force charged with making sure that what has disappeared remains forgotten. Against this background, a novelist tries to adapt to her her-changing reality.

First Cosmic Velocity First Cosmic Velocity by Zach Powers

First Cosmic Velocity presents an alternate history in which the 1964 Soviet space program is mostly a hoax. Although able to send people into space, none have successfully come back to Earth. To maintain an illusion of success, they use identical twins and a lot of propaganda. Things come to a head when the program runs out of twins. Combining real history and a fascinating "what-if?" of deception, First Cosmic Velocity is a testament to both mankind's achievements and folly.

Empty Hearts by Juli Zeh & John Cullen (Translator)

In this politically-charged social satire from German novelist Zeh, nationalism and ultrapopulism are on the rise and Germany's democracy is in danger. Britta is a successful businesswoman who focuses on her family and her work running a clinic specializing in suicide prevention. But Britta's true cash cow is working with The Bridge, an outfit that supplies suicide bombers to terrorist organizations. When the Bridge's database is stolen and some of Britta's colleagues are murdered, she flees into hiding. On her heels is a brand-new terrorist organization called Empty Hearts, and they're looking to eliminate the competition.

SHORT FICTION PICKS!

It's easy and fun to squeeze more short fiction into your life. In addition to Echoes listed above, here's another batch of short fiction releases out this month to help you do just that:

  • And Cannot Come Again: Tales of Childhood, Regret, and Innocence Lost by Simon Bestwick
  • Evil Roots: Killer Tales of the Botanical Gothic edited by Daisy Butcher
  • Mortal Echoes: Encounters With the End edited by Greg Buzwell
  • Spirits of the Season: Christmas Hauntings edited by Tanya Kirk
  • Terra Nova: The Wars of Liberation edited by Tom Kratman
  • Sing Your Sadness Deep by Laura Mauro
  • The Boughs Withered: When I Told Them My Dreams by Maura McHugh
  • New Horizons: A South Asian Science Fiction Anthology edited by Tarun K. Saint
  • Servants of the Imperium by Various Authors
  • Champions of the Mortal Realms by Various Authors
  • Soot And Steel: Dark Tales of London edited by Ian Whates

SEQUEL WATCH!

"My God! It's full of sequels!" said David Bowman as he travelled through the star gate in Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Or maybe it was stars. At any rate, in addition to the sequels mentioned above, here's a roundup of this month's newly-released next-book in that sf/f series you're reading...

  • The Emperor's Fist: A Blackhawk Novel by Jay Allan (Far Stars)
  • Magebane by Stephen Aryan (The Age of Dread)
  • Rebel Born by Amy A. Bartol (Secondborn)
  • Witchy Kingdom by D.J. Butler (Witchy Eye)
  • Rage by Cora Carmack (Stormheart)
  • Reticence by Gail Carriger (Custard Protocol)
  • Konrad Curze: The Night Haunter by Guy Haley (The Horus Heresy: Primarchs)
  • Raging Storm by Markus Heitz (Age of Dread)
  • Inch by Inch by Morgan Llywelyn (Step by Step)
  • Good Company by Dale Lucas (The Fifth Ward)
  • Spaceside by Michael Mammay (Planetside)
  • Knaves Over Queens edited by George R. R. Martin (Wild Cards)
  • The Darwin Strain by Bill Schutt  & J. R. Finch (R. J. MacCready)
  • The House of Sacrifice by Anna Smith Spark (Empires of Dust)
  • Antilia: Seer and Sacrifice by Kate Story (The Antilia Series)
  • Kingmaker by Margaret Weis & Robert Krammes (The Dragon Corsairs)
  • Pale Kings by Micah Yongo (Lost Gods)

Happy reading!

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