Here's another roundup of the some of the best speculative fiction books coming out this month. Get ready for stories about a magic-infused 1920s Chicago, a mashup of two unlikely literary classics, a murder on the moon and many more…
The Tangled Lands by Paolo Bacigalupi & Tobias S. Buckell
This fantasy story, told in four interrelated parts, takes place in the so-called Blue City, Khaim, which is the last remaining place in a once-mighty empire that was all but destroyed because of their overdependence on magic. The city's tyrannical leader, The Jolly Mayor, and his right-hand man, the last archmage, seek to reclaim their former glory and decadent lifestyles. The price of power, however, comes at dire cost to the surrounding land. Now it's time for the people to stand up for what's right.
Semiosis by Sue Burke
This debut novel has it all: it's a colonization story of humans trying to find a home on another world; it's an attempt to create a more peaceful society; it's got alien lifeforms in the strange indigenous flora and fauna; it's a survival story when the humans learn that their alien environment sees them as a threat and is trying to kill them; and it's a first contact story when the humans attempt to communicate with this well-imagined alien species.
Moonshine by Jasmine Gower
Imagine a warped version of 1920s Chicago where magic, though real, is strictly forbidden. Welcome to Soot City, the colorful and flavorful setting of Gower's retro urban fantasy. Daisy Dell is a Modern Girl of the city; she's educated, stylish and independent. She wants to make a life for herself in the city, even if it means concealing the taboo magic inherited from her grandmother. Unfortunately, that gets harder to do when bounty hunters, on the hunt for dark magic, start combing the city for magicians.
How to Stop Time by Matt Haig
Meet Tom Hazard, a man with a rare condition that gives him an extraordinarily long lifespan. Tom, who only looks like he's in his forties due to his lack of aging, was born in 1581 and has to repeatedly change his identities to conceal his secret. His latest guise is that of a history teacher, albeit one who teaches history because he's secretly lived through it. Surely Tom, after living life for centuries, must know the secret of leading a fulfilling life, right? He will, once he breaks his cardinal rule of never falling in love. How to Stop Time is a bittersweet story about the meaning of life. Read it now because it's already being adapted to film.
Pride and Prometheus by John Kessel
In this compelling mash-up, Kessel combines the essence of two classics literary classics: Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, a novel about the romantic tribulations of Mary Bennet set during the British Regency period, and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, about scientist Victor Frankenstein who decides to play God by creating a creature built from the parts of dead bodies. In Kessel's version, Victor Frankenstein travels to England to find a bride for his creature. There, Mary Bennet falls in love with Victor Frankenstein and befriends his monstrous creation. But the need to find a bride remains and so, too, does the need to find a female body to create her.
Aliens Abroad by Gini Koch
Koch's Alien novels have proven themselves to be swift-moving, engaging and flat-out fun. Aliens Abroad is no exception. The premise is that aliens are real and walk among us and dealing with them is usually some combination of diplomacy, intrigue and conspiracy. At this point in the series, Earth and the solar system is becoming overcrowded with alien refugees, forcing humans to consider expanding to other worlds. The President and First Lady (series heroes Jeff and Kitty Katt-Martini) stumble on a call for help from a distant planet that could either be the answer to their problems or the end of life on Earth.
Into the Fire by Elizabeth Moon
Here's a military sci-fi thriller featuring Moon's determined and results-oriented protagonist Admiral Kylara Vatta that takes place on the heels of her leading a group of crash survivors to safety and uncovering a conspiracy that powerful people would rather stay hidden. Vatta has now located the headquarters of the conspiracy that is targeting her family and the planet's government itself. The last-ditch gamble of the conspirators is to initiate more direct attacks on Ky, including making the crash survivors she rescued disappear.
Gunpowder Moon by David Pedreira
This blend of mystery and science fiction depicts the first murder that takes place on the face of the moon. The year is 2072 and the moon is mined for minerals that power the fusion reactors that will return Earth from the brink of ecological collapse. When a bomb kills one of his diggers, Caden Dechert, chief of the U.S. mining operation and a former Marine, must deal with aftermath. Not only must he find the murderer before he strikes again, but he must navigate his way between two global powers who will stop at nothing to win.
Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell
One of the central characters in this story about the legacies of war is Trouble Dog, a sentient spaceship built for battle, but who is appalled at her part in genocide. She has since changed roles, opting instead for the more benevolent task of rescuing ships in distress. That role, however, is no less dangerous. Her latest mission involves a finding a missing ship which was carrying a passenger who is not at all what she appears to be.
Ambiguity Machines: and Other Storiesby Vandana Singh
In this excellent collection of short fiction, author and physicist Vandana Singh offers readers fourteen cutting-edge SF stories to explore. In one story, an eleventh century poet wakes up to discover he's an artificially intelligent companion on a starship. In another, a woman goes to Alaska to try and make sense of her aunt's disappearance. The beauty of reading short fiction is in the discovery of new voices and ideas, and Singh's collection delivers. (Try it now! You can read the title story online: "Ambiguity Machines: An Examination".)
The Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch
Described as "Inception meets True Detective", Sweterlitsch's science fiction thriller is a time travel novel of a different color. It centers on a horrible crime that takes place in 1997 in which a family is murdered and the daughter goes missing. All evidence points to ex-Navy Seal Patrick Mursult. Working the murder investigation is Shannon Moss, who's part of a covert division within the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). Shannon is one of the few federal agents who has special clearance to investigate crimes by exploring strands of the multiverse; she's able to experience multiple possible futures. That's how Shannon finds herself in 2014, following up leads to a seventeen years old murder, faced with the truth of what really happened and the far-reaching consequences that it brings.
Paris Adrift by E.J. Swift
Speaking of time travel, Paris Adrift puts a straight-up time portal in the keg room of a bar where the book's protagonist, Hallie, works. Hallie, who moved to Paris to escape her old dull life, is not unaccustomed to the bizarre: a strange woman known as The Chronometrist just won't leave her alone and garbled warnings from strange creatures keep her up at night. Turning to the time portal, Hallie finds herself visiting Paris in both the past and future, looking for meaning to it all. But traveling through time has its consequences; every time she travels to the past or future, she changes it, and if she's not careful, she will lose herself.
…AND FOR READERS OF SHORT FICTION…
In addition to the variety of fiction you'll find in Ambiguity Machines mentioned above, February also offers these tasty books of short fiction treats:
- Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories by Kelly Barnhill
- The Armored Saint by Myke Cole
- Sightwitch by Susan Dennard
- Still So Strange by Amanda Downum
- Starfire: Memory's Blade by Spencer Ellsworth
- Starlings by Jo Walton