Your reading time is short enough without having to sift through hundreds of new book releases every month to find something good to read. So let me help you. Here's a roundup of excellent science fiction and fantasy books coming out in April. This month's speculative fiction releases include stories about a floating arctic city where people resist the 99%, magic in a post–Katrina New Orleans, an extreme sport that requires getting the head of your opponent (you read that right), and a galactic talent shows with genocidal stakes.

Intrigued? Read on…

The City of Lost Fortunes by Bryan Camp

This magic-filled urban fantasy takes place in a post–Katrina New Orleans where street magician Jude Dubuisson possesses an innate magical ability to find lost things, a gift inherited from a father he never knew. Jude and the city itself are still trying to recover from the devastating effects of the hurricane. Despite endless amounts of things lost during that trying time, Jude's been lying low, denying his abilities and his legacy.  But when the Fortune god is murdered Jude is pulled back into the world he was desperately trying to put behind him.

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The Best Science Fiction of the Year, Volume Three edited by Neil Clarke

Clarkesworld Magazine editor Neil Clarke's annual roundup of the best of the previous year's science fiction has already proven itself to be an indispensable short fiction series. This year, Clarke hand-picked twenty-six stories from various sources—including print and online magazines, original multi-author anthologies and single author collections—and compiled them for voracious readers into one handy volume. This year's impressive table of contents includes stories by Alastair Reynolds, Nancy Kress, Vandana Singh, Linda Nagata, Gregory Benford, Yoon Ha Lee, Aliette de Bodard and more.

Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller

Proving that science fiction can be as relevant as any other kind of literature, Miller takes readers to a highly imaginative but eerily familiar floating city in the Arctic Circle. Created after the climate wars, the self-sustainable city was meant to be a template of a well-balanced equal society, but even the best plans are subject to the effects of entropy. Decay has set in; crime, political corruption and a significant imbalance of wealth have fostered a division amongst its citizens. Enter the so-called orcamancer—a newcomer to the city riding an orca with a polar bear by her side—who becomes the catalyst for a rebellion and unprecedented acts of resistance meant to save the city before it crumbles under its own weight.

Before Mars by Emma Newman

In this new Planetfall novel, Anna Kubrin finally arrives on Mars after a long, arduous journey but feels disconnected from her husband and baby back home on Earth. Anna, a geologist and artist, finds a mysterious note seemingly painted in her own hand, though she cannot remember ever making it. The note is a warning to not trust the colony psychiatrist. That's weird enough, but when Anna finds a footprint within the colony that the colony's artificial intelligence says has never been visited by humans before, she is drawn into a dangerous corporate conspiracy that threatens her sanity.

Fire Dance by Ilana C. Myer

Set in the world of Myers's Last Song Before Night, this standalone high fantasy novel follows Lin Amaristoth, a court poet from the Kingdom of Eivar. Lin is sent on a mission to aid a neighboring kingdom under attack from Fire Dancers, mysterious practitioners of a deadly magic. But something doesn't seem quite right. Lin must traverse the hallways of court intrigue and treachery to prevent events that would threaten countless lives.

Head On by John Scalzi

Head On, a standalone sequel to Lock In (which introduced readers to Haden's Syndrome, a condition that renders people unable to move while being completely awake), posits a near future that puts the "extreme" in extreme sports. Hilketa is a violent game in which players attack each other with swords and hammers. The goal is to remove your opponent's head and carry it through the goalposts. The good news is that, instead of live players, the brutal sport is played with robot-like bodies controlled by people with Haden's Syndrome. But then one of Hilketa's star athlete's dies on the field, prompting a police investigation that uncovers the darker side of sports and people who will do whatever it takes to win.

The Sisters Mederos by Patrice Sarath

In the historical fantasy adventure, two sisters set about to reclaim their family's name. Yvienne and Tesara Mederos belong to House Mederos, a once-wealthy merchant family since humbled by the mighty Merchants Guild. The two sisters aim to find out who was behind their family's downfall and restore their family name. But Tesara has a secret: she possesses untamed magic that could have contributed to problems with the family's merchant fleet. Can the sisters' magic schemes reclaim their former social status and wealth?

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume Twelve edited by Jonathan Strahan

Another "Best of the Year" collection? You betcha! What separates this one from the one mentioned above is that it covers both science fiction and fantasy and is curated by longtime, multi-award-winning editor Jonathan Strahan, which means a largely different set of excellent short fiction to consume. (Only five stories overlap with Clarke's anthology. I recommend reading both!) Strahan's lineup of stories, twenty-nine in all, include mind-expanding tales by Charlie Jane Anders, Samuel R. Delany, Mary Robinette Kowal, Maureen McHugh, and Karl Schroeder.

Space Opera Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente

In this gonzo adventure, sentient alien races compete against one another for glory in a universe-wide talent show—a vehicle designed to restore hope to a war-torn galaxy. This year, humankind has finally discovered other sentient beings in the universe. The trouble is, they must also take part in the contest, the participation of which is mandatory. The stakes? The fate of Earth itself. And so, mankind assembles a band of human musicians, dancers, and roadies to represent Earth and save the planet on the greatest stage in the galaxy.

Wonderblood by Julia Whicker

Five hundred years from now, a mad cow-like disease known as "Bent Head" has killed off millions and rendered America a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Those who remain worship the leftover ruins of NASA's space program while rejecting medicine and science in favor of magic, prophecy and blood sacrifice. A girl named Aurora is taken by a traveling band of marauders led by the maniacal Mr. Capulatio. Capulatio wants to usher in a new age of humanity and wants to make Laura his queen, even though that makes her a target of the other queens. Wonderblood is a post-apocalyptic fantasy about "religious war, perverse faith, and waiting for the space shuttles to return." Don't miss it.

…AND EVEN MORE SHORT FICTION…

Besides the short fiction mentioned above, April offers many more short fiction titles worth checking out…

  • Murder on the Titania and Other Steam-Powered Adventures by Alex Acks
  • Born to the Blade: Season 1 Episode 2 - "Fault Lines" by Marie Brennan
  • Still So Strange by Amanda Downum
  • Phoresis by Greg Egan
  • The Barrow Will Send What It May by Margaret Killjoy
  • Time Was by Ian McDonald
  • Not So Stories by David Thomas Moore
  • The Dark Angel: The Complete Tales of Jules de Grandin, Volume Three by Seabury Quinn
  • The Atrocities by Jeremy C. Shipp
  • Born to the Blade: Season 1 Episode 1 - "Arrivals" by Michael Underwood
  • Taste of Wrath by Matt Wallace
  • I Met a Traveller in an Antique Land by Connie Willis

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