This month's roundup of top picks for speculative fiction reads includes several series conclusions, a retelling of Robin Hood, wizards, assassins, mercenaries, time traveling detectives and gun-toting monkeys!
Longtime fantasy readers might recognize the name Katherine Kurtz as the author of the Deryni historical fantasy series, a complex tapestry being told across five trilogies, the last of which is now complete with the release of The King's Deryni. In it, two princes grow up and assume their roles of power—one of royalty, one of magic. Speaking of conclusions to fantasy series, The Lost is the conclusion to James Patterson's five-volume Witch & Wizard saga where the pair of supernatural do-gooders face a new, possibly more evil threat than anything they have ever faced. Also, Guy Adams concludes his Heaven's Gate trilogy with For a Few Souls More, in which Paradise has become the 43rd state of America and where angels and demons must learn to get along with humans. There's also Darkness Falls, the final book in the Dark Angels urban fantasy series by Keri Arthur. Here, the half-werewolf/half-Aedh hero Risa Jones must protect the last key to the gates of hell from the evil head of the vampire council. Is there any other kind of vampire?
There is! The main character of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's Saint-Germain novels is a long-lived, noble vampire who only takes the small amount of blood he needs from willing victims. In the latest installment, Sustenance, Count Saint-Germain protects Americans fleeing persecution in a post–World War II Europe. Less noble vampires can be found in the New Orleans of Kristen Painter's City of Eternal Night, where vampires and Fae coexist uneasily at best. There, a newly appointed guardian and the daughter of his adopted mother join forces to battle supernatural foes.
More traditional fantasy fans may enjoy The Lady by K. V. Johansen, which features the quest of an assassin enslaved by necromancy and a land that prepares for war. Or if you're looking for a fantasy/mystery combination, check out the latest Mindspace Investigations novel from Alex Hughes, Vacant, in which the mind-reading detective Adam Ward takes on a case for the FBI where he must protect the son of a judge presiding over the trial of a mobster. Also worthwhile: Stephen Blackmoore picks up the Gods and Monsters torch passed by Chuck Wendig with Mythbreaker, where humanity finds itself caught between an epic battle between the old gods and the new gods. Meanwhile, Toby Venables continues his sidelong retelling of Robin Hood as a superhero archetype with The Red Hand, in which the series' hero, Guy of Gisburne, investigates the dangerous threats of a mysterious new foe who threatens the kingdom.
Turning to science fiction, it looks like sci-fi fans have a lot to look forward to. If space travel and other worlds are your thing, look to The Genome by Sergei Lukyanenko, a science-fiction thriller whose protagonist, Alex Romanov, is a ship pilot genetically modified with an imperative to care for his passengers and crew. That includes his latest passengers, a pair of aliens touring the human worlds who are not well-liked. Undercity by Catherine Asaro starts a brand new series within her vast Skolian Empire universe in which tough female Major Bhaajan, a former military office–turned–private investigator, uncovers intrigue in the massive capital of the vast Empire. Meanwhile, in the world of Warren Hammond's Tides of Maritinia, an agent of the Empire is sent to a faraway planet whose leaders are threatening to leave the Empire. The agents mission: assassinate one of the contributors.
Military science-fiction fans have a few choices on the table. There's William C. Dietz's Andromeda's War (set in his Legion of the Damned universe) in which the heroine, acting under an assumed identity in the military to protect herself from her family's enemies, comes face-to-face with that very enemy: the Empress herself. In Mike Resnick's The Fortress in Orion, war hero Colonel Nathan Pretorius and his team have a very dangerous but important mission for the Democracy: kidnap (or kill) an enemy alien general and replace him with a clone version grown and trained by the Democracy. Also worth checking out is The Tejano Conflict by Steve Perry takes place in the 24th century, where war is fought with privately hired mercenaries and the action is fast and furious.
Science fiction once again proves to be a genre with a large variety on nonspace stories. Looking for a little fun and humor? What's more fun than a gun-toting monkey? That's what you get in Gareth L. Powell's Ack-Ack Macaque series, named after its charismatic simian protagonist. In the conclusion to this fun trilogy, Ack-Ack Macaque faces off against an invasion of dimension-hopping monkeys and killer androids. Also fun: Gini Koch's long-running Aliens series which is about a supersecret organization set on defending the Earth…that was started by aliens. In the latest book, Universal Alien, hero Katherine “Kitty” Katt is thrown into an alternate reality.
If time travel is your bailiwick, The Beautiful and the Wicked by Liv Spector should be on your radar. It's a time-traveling mystery in which former Miami police detective Lila Day solves crimes by going back in time to prevent them. This time around, Lila goes back in time to clear the name of her sister, who was accused of murdering a software billionaire. Another engaging time-travel story is Chronica by Paul Levinson, the latest in the Sierra Waters stories. Here, Sierra finds that the future of 2062 shows a present that is vastly different from what she knows, prompting an adventure (featuring several notable historical figures) where the keys to time travel are up for grabs.
Or perhaps you are looking for a poignant story of love and survival. If so, check out Jennifer Marie Brissett's ambitious apocalyptic novel Elysium, in which a computer program etched into the atmosphere has a memorable story to tell.
Maybe there's a younger reader who likes (or would like) speculative fiction. A good place to start them down that fascinating and captivating road is The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami, an illustrated short novel about a boy imprisoned in a nightmarish library.
Short Fiction Picks!
As usual, there's a ton more short fiction available for those looking for the quick hit of reading. This month, look for these anthologies and collections:
¨ Carbide Tipped Pens: Seventeen Tales of Hard Science Fiction edited by Ben Bova & Eric Choi
¨ Dangerous Games edited by Jonathan Oliver
¨ Fantasy For Good: A Charitable Anthology edited by Jordan Ellinger & Richard Salter
¨ No True Way: All-New Tales of Valdemaredited by Mercedes Lackey
¨ The Collected Stories of Carol Emshwiller: Vol. 2by Carol Emshwiller
¨ The Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women edited by Alex Dally MacFarlane
¨ The Top of the Volcano: the Award-Winning Stories of Harlan Ellison
¨ Zombie Apocalypse! End Game edited by Stephen Jones