When you 're looking for something to read, there are so many excellent books to choose from that it may be difficult to know where to begin. Might I suggest any of the following science fiction and fantasy books headed this month to a bookstore near you?
Red Country by Joe Abercrombie
Abercrombie made a splash in the fantasy genre back in 2008 with the beginning of his well-received First Law trilogy. Red Country is his newest stand-alone novel and it promises to be just as much of a page-turner as his other works. It features a strong female protagonist named Shy South who seeks revenge against the people who took her family away from her. Accompanied by her stepfather, a man who is harboring a dark secret that puts them at peril, Shy travels the lands making uneasy alliances to reunite her family.
Captain Vorpatril's Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold
Lois McMaster Bujold's long-running military science fiction Miles Vorkosigan series continues with Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, which features Miles' cousin Ivan Vorpatril. Ivan is safely assigned on the planet Komarr, away from his troublesome cousin Barrayar and his mother's constant reminders to marry and continue the family line. At least, he thinks he is safe. When asked to help an apparent damsel in distress, Ivan gets more than he bargained for. The damsel is not quite alone; she's accompanied by a blue companion named Rish. Even worse, the distress comes this particular damsel being hunted by lethal enemies.
The Creative Fire by Brenda Cooper
In this exciting new series inspired by the life of Argentine political leader Evita Peron, author and futurist Brenda Cooper delivers a wonderful work of social science fiction. It takes place on board the generation starship Creative Fire, where social structure is rigidly divided, with young Ruby Martin at the bottom of the ladder. But a ship-wide accident soon gives Ruby the chance to make a difference and fight for the freedom she so desperately craves. Armed with a quick-witted intellect, a profound stubbornness and a beautiful voice, Ruby attempts to transform herself from rebellious teen to revolutionary leader. The only things that might prevent her from doing so are numerous enemies and an unreliable artificial intelligence.
The Rise of Ransom City by Felix Gilman
Like The Half-Made World that came before it, The Rise of Ransom City brings us a re-imagined tale of America's Old West, mixing steampunk and magic realism to great effect. This well-drawn world features two warring, rival factions looking to dominate the "unmade world": the Line, which paves the lands with technology, picking up slaves along the way, and the Gun, a cult of terror and violence that elicits fear in the victim population. Psychologist Liv Alverhuysen is caught in the middle, unknowingly guarding a secret that either side would do anything to possess. Now Liv is lost on the edge of the world with an agent of the Gun, and Harry Ransom, inventor of the brilliant Ransom Process that changed the world, is heading their way as he sets the edge of the world aglow.
The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories by Ursula K. Le Guin
Few writers today are as universally acclaimed as Ursula K. Le Guin. Proof of such claims can be found in The Unreal and the Real, a must-have two-volume set of stories hand-picked by the author herself. The first volume, Where on Earth, collects the author's earthbound stories while the second volume, Outer Space, Inner Lands, includes many of her worldview-changing stories. Both volumes showcase the author's talents in stories that are witty, provocative, memorable and utterly enjoyable.
The Cassandra Project by Jack McDevitt & Mike Resnick
Jerry Culpepper was a capable public relations officer even when he was just going through the motions. But being hired as public affairs director for The National Aeronautics and Space Administration was the career boost he needed, especially with NASA on the cusp of an exciting new space program. That is, until budget cuts and public disinterest circumvented that age of discovery. Now it's 50 years after the first moon landing and Jerry feels like the only one with dreams of space exploration... until a half-century-old secret about the Apollo XI mission is revealed. In The Cassandra Project, two science-fiction giants team up for a thriller that reveals the secret history of the U.S. space program.
Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm by Philip Pullman
What do you get when you cross 200-year-old fairy tales with one of modern literature's lauded authors? You get Philip Pullman's Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm, a retelling of 50 of the author's favorite fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm. Whether it's re-spinning popular and much-loved classics like "Cinderella" and "Rumpelstiltskin," or lesser-known tales like "The Girl with No Hands," Pullman's version of Grimms' Fairy Tales showcase his unique vision and his imagination in a series of timeless stories.
The Inexplicables by Cherie Priest
Cherie Priest's magnificent steampunk series, which began with Boneshaker, is as fun as is it inventive. The latest book, The Inexplicables, not only brings the series back to its zombie roots, it also ups the ante. Rector “Wreck ‘em” Sherman, who once helped Zeke Wilkes into the zombie-infested city of Seattle, tries to find out Zeke's fate and see if the rumors of Zeke's death are true. Into the city he goes—poisonous gas and zombies everywhere—only to discover that there's a new threat in town. The so-called "Inexplicables" have freakishly long arms, glowing yellow eyes and are definitely not human.
Reflections & Refractions by Robert Silverberg
Robert Silverberg is one of science fiction's legendary, larger-than-life figures. His writing is incisive and entertaining whether he's writing fiction of non-fiction. This collection assembles the science fiction Grand Master's essays and articles from the second half of the 20th century, in which he ruminates on the current events from which he draws inspiration for his fiction, scientific ideas, society and culture, writing, and fellow SF contemporaries like Isaac Asimov, Phillip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison, Robert Heinlein, James Tiptree Jr. and Jack Vance.
Edge of Infinity edited by Jonathan Strahan
Mankind's first trip out into space meant we were no longer confined to Earth. It also meant that our destiny was to explore forever outward. That's exactly what the contributing authors do in this fantastic anthology put together by one of the field's most skilled and influential editors. Here you will find wonder-filled stories by Stephen Baxter, John Barnes, Elizabeth Bear, Pat Cadigan, Stephen D. Covey, James S. A. Corey, Gwyneth Jones, Paul McAuley, Sandra McDonald, An Owomoyela, Hannu Rajaniemi, Alastair Reynolds, Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Bruce Sterling.
There are more worthwhile titles hitting the shelves this month than I have room to write about, but do consider the following books as well.
- A Fantasy Medley 2 by Tanya Huff & Seanan McGuire & Amanda Downum & Jasper Kent
- Apollo's Outcasts by Allen Steele
- Brimstone by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
- Cold Days by Jim Butcher
- Crossed Blades by Kelly McCullough
- Downside Girls by Jaine Fenn
- Epic edited by John Joseph Adams
- Errantry: Strange Stories by Elizabeth Hand
- Flame of Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier
- Hair Side, Flesh Side by Helen Marshall
- Interview with the Vampire: Claudia's Story by Anne Rice
- Jagannath: Stories by Karin Tidbeck
- Heaven to Wudang by Kylie Chan
- Magic: An Anthology of the Esoteric and Arcane by Audrey Niffenegger & Dan Abnett & Gemma Files
- Silhouette by Dave Swavely
- The Colony by A. J. Colucci
- The Fractal Prince by Hannu Rajaniemi
- The Lazarus Machine by Paul Crilley
- The New Moon's Arms by Nalo Hopkinson
John DeNardo is the editor of SF Signal, a Hugo Award-winning group science-fiction and fantasy blog featuring news, reviews and interviews. He also likes bagels.