You already have plenty to do, so allow me to point you to some books that are worthy of your attention. These are the best science fiction, fantasy and horror books coming out this month, which include stories about cursed mummies, a second American Civil War, giant robots, modern-day Irish myths and a sentient artificial intelligence who helps a woman change the social order.
Sound appetizing? Read on!
Artificial Condition by Martha Wells
Looking for a short novel that packs a punch? Check out the fun Murderbot Diaries series by Martha Wells. In the first one, All Systems Red, attempts by the people of a company-sponsored mission on another planet to mount a rescue are complicated by a rogue robot who hacked its own governing module and ends up with identity issues. In the new book, Artificial Condition (the second of four planned short novels), the robot's search for his own identity continues. To find out more about the dark past that caused him to name himself "Murderbot," the robot revisits the mining facility where he went rogue where he finds answers he doesn't expect.
Fury From the Tomb by SA Sidor
Fury From the Tomb is your cure for the pulp fiction blues you never knew you had. (The cover promises "Mummies, grave-robbing ghouls, hopping vampires, and evil monks." Just sayin'!) This tantalizing mashup combines supernatural horror, western and adventure in one shiny package. It concerns the archaeological discovery of a bunch of coffins and a sarcophagus in 1888 Egypt. The Egyptologist who discovers the cursed mummies, Rom, returns them to America to hand over to his reclusive sponsor. But in the Arizona desert the train carrying the ancient cargo is hijacked by murderous banditos who flee over the border. Now it's up to Rom and his ragtag team of friends to reclaim them.
Afterwar by Lilith Saintcrow
If anyone asks whether science fiction can be relevant, point them to Afterwar, Lilith Saintcrow's new book, which depicts a fictional future that is frighteningly close to becoming a reality. Afterwar is a dystopian novel set in a near-future America that is rebuilding itself from the ashes of a second civil war. Although the war is declared to be over and the fascist regime has been toppled, the journey to rebuilding the nation is far from easygoing. After years of being violently divided, how can fellow citizens find common ground and peace?
Song of Blood & Stone by L. Penelope
The hero of this imaginative epic fantasy, Jasminda, is an orphan who was eventually outcast in her homeland of Elsira because they fear her magical gift of Earthsong. As war looms between Elsira and Lagrimar, Jasminda meets Jack, a spy caught behind enemy lines who threatens to steal her heart. After healing him with her gift of Song, Jasminda and Jack undertake a perilous journey to save Elsira and its people from the True Father, a mission for which Jasminda's gift of Earthsong is essential. Unfortunately, their journey lands them right in the middle of a war between two powerful rulers.
84K by Claire North
What is the value of a single human life? In or society, that's a question we dare not answer. In the dystopian future of Claire North's 84K, where money reigns supreme, the question is asked, answered and asked again on a daily basis. Theo Miller, an auditor at the Criminal Audit Office, assesses the monetary value of crimes to ensure that society's debt is repaid for every criminal offense, including the taking of another person's life. This system precludes the need for prison terms, as long as you have the money to pay for your crime. In other words, if you are rich, you can get away with murder. Theo has had enough of this system when he witnesses a murderer-for-hire calmly phoning in his crime while standing over the body of his latest victim. The killer will go free, but this time Theo wants true justice.
Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel
Only Human is the third book (following Sleeping Giants and Waking Gods) in the genuinely page-turning Themis Files series, about what happens after mankind finds a giant robot of alien origin scattered around the globe. The discovery led to the formation of Earth Defense Corps, whose mission was to learn how to leverage the futuristic technology to defend Earth from invaders, who not only showed up, but gave us a sound beating. Now, ten years after the aliens brought holy hell down onto Earth, scientist Rose Franklin must deal with the resulting power struggle between the United States and Russia, which may hinge on more deadly artifacts left behind by the aliens. I love this series to pieces and I highly recommend starting this series from the beginning and then holding on for a fun ride.
Nightflyers & Other Stories and Nightflyers: The Illustrated Edition by George R. R. Martin
The entertaining collection Nightflyers & Other Stories is being re-released because the title story, "Nightflyers," is the basis for a new TV series. It's the perfect chance to pick it up if you missed it the first time around. If you did, know that "Nightflyers" is a gripping story about a group of scientists who charter an interstellar starship to take them into deep space in search of an alien species thought by some to be myth. Also included in this collection are the stories "Override," "Weekend in a War Zone," "And Seven Times Never Kill Man," "Nor the Many-Colored Fires of a Star Ring," and "A Song for Lya," two of which take place in the same "Thousand Wolds" setting as "Nightflyers." If you really like the title story, there is an illustrated edition being published this month as well.
The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang
In this historical military fantasy debut inspired by China's history in the twentieth century, a young girl named Rin excels at the Empire-wide placement test and finds herself at Sinegar, a prestigious military school. Being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south at an elite military academy comes with many challenges, mostly from the hardships aimed at Rin by her rival classmates'. But at Sinegar, Rin learns that she possesses an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Aided by her seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns to hone her powers and prepare for an inevitable war with a neighboring rival Empire.
The Outsider by Stephen King
Horrormeister King's latest harrowing tale begins with the discovery of the body of an eleven-year-old boy, found in the park where he was violated and killed. All evidence points to a standup citizen of this midwestern town of Flint City: Terry Maitland, Little League coach, husband and father. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son was once coached by Maitland, orders a quick and very public arrest to end the matter. It helps that there's DNA evidence seal the deal. But even after Maitland is put away, strange things continue to happen in Flint City...things that emerge from Stephen King's signature brand of supernatural horror.
What Should Be Wild by Julia Fine
Another striking debut novel, this one rooted in tradition of fairy tales. Young Maisie Cothay lives with her academic father in her family's secluded manor at the edge of a mysterious forest. The reason for the seclusion? Maisie is cursed with the power to kill or resurrect at her merest touch. Because of this curse, Maisie has never left her home. Then one day Maisie's anthropologist father, who sees Maisie more like an experiment than his daughter, disappears. That's when Maisie ventures out into the world for the first time and confronts her destiny: she is descended from a long line of cursed women.
Miss Subways by David Duchovny
David Duchovny (of X-Files fame) draws from Irish mythology in this darkly comic fantasy love story. The main character, Emer Gunnels, lives a seemingly ordinary life in New York City as a second-grade schoolteacher. She's quite happy living with her boyfriend Cuchulain Constance Powers. Then Emer is confronted by a modern day Celtic fairy and given a choice: leave Con forever or watch him die. Miss Subways is about one woman's "trippy, mystical journey down parallel tracks of time and love."
Medusa Uploaded by Emily Devenport
On the generation ship Olympia, Oichi Angelis is a nobody. She's part of the working class and has been genetically modified to see and hear only what the powerful ruling Executives want her to see and hear. Thus, when an Executive clan suspects Oichi of insurgency, resolving the problem is simply a matter of pushing her out of the airlock, leaving her to die in space. Bad idea. Left for dead, Oichi is rescued by a sentient artificial intelligence (a so-called "Medusa unit") and then mounts a crusade to upend Olympia's rigidly hierarchical social structure from the inside.
Alien Invasion Short Stories and Endless Apocalypse Short Stories edited by Laura Bulbeck
Flame Tree Publishing has steadily been putting out a steady stream of the elegant and readable themed anthologies sure to please speculative fiction fans. Two more are being released this month and they are jam-packed with entertaining stories, both new and old. Alien Invasion Stories includes stories literally about The Other. One of my favorites from this anthology was the short-but-sweet "Some Things I Probably Should Have Mentioned Earlier" by Laura Pearlman, a revealing letter from an alien to her lover. Another standout is the affecting story "Being Here" by Claude Lalumière, a bizarre but touching account of a man who goes missing, from the point of view of the man himself who's not missing at all, just invisible to others including his wife. Endless Apocalypse Short Stories, meanwhile, presents readers with depictions of the end of civilized life. For example, "Changed" by Jennifer Hudak focuses on a boarded-up group of survivors and ratchets up the tension as the predicament they face becomes apparent. You'll want to keep both anthologies close at hand so you can quickly dive into one of their many treats.
The Soldier by Neal Asher
In the latest entry into Neal Asher's highly-imaginative Polity universe—an entertainment-rich setting fraught with aliens and conflict—humans, artificial intelligence and monstrous aliens collide over control of dangerous new technology. That technology, which threatens all living beings, is located at the far end of space, on the border between the warring human and Prador races. Impartial parties are entrusted with watching over the tech: Orlandine the haiman (part-human, part-AI), and Dragon, a mysterious, spaceship-sized alien entity who suspects the tech is a trap lying in wait by the tech's creators: the long-dead Jain race. Spoiler: This is book one in the Rise of the Jain series and its grand-scale ideas are captivating.
…AND EVEN MORE SHORT FICTION…
Besides the short fiction mentioned above, this month's selection of short fiction collections and anthologies offer extra hours of reading you'll be able to squeeze in on your lunch break:
¨ All the Fabulous Beasts by Priya Sharma
¨ American Hippo: River of Teeth, Taste of Marrow, and New Stories by Sarah Gailey
¨ Black Helicopters by Caitlin R. Kiernan
¨ Hidden and Visible Realms: Early Medieval Chinese Tales of the Supernatural and the Fantastic edited by Professor Zhenjun Zhang
¨ How To Marry A Werewolf by Gail Carriger
¨ Terror Is Our Business: Dana Roberts' Casebook of Horrors by Joe R. Lansdale and Casey Lansdale
¨ Twelve Tomorrows edited by Wade Roush
¨ Year's Best Hardcore Horror Volume 3 edited by Randy Chandler and Cheryl Mullenax