Just like theatergoers like seeing trailers before a film, many readers like to look ahead at the reading landscape to see what's headed their way. It's not enough that we are entertained, we also want to know how we are going to be entertained next. Fortunately you have my book-peeking ninja skills at your disposal. (Yes, that's a real thing.) I've looked ahead at the books that are slated for a 2017 release…and there are plenty!
I've already covered January. But read on for the rundown of what the rest of 2017 has in store for science fiction and fantasy readers…keeping in mind that publishing schedules are subject to change and the short-term literary landscape is more populated than the later months. Ready? Start making your 2017 reading lists!
February is stuffed with lots of terrific reading choices. For science fiction readers, there's Revenger by Alastair Reynolds, a science fiction adventure story about space pirates, buried treasure and revenge. In Kameron Hurley's space opera The Stars Are Legion, a power struggle emerges amidst a vast legion of dying world-ships. In Elan Mastai's wild novel All Our Wrong Todays, a time travel mishap lands one man from a Utopian retro future into our own (relative by comparison) Dystopian world. Empire's End by Chuck Wendig completes the Star Wars trilogy that chronicles the showdown between the New Republic and the Empire during the time between the films Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. Also offering readers grand-scale science fiction is Caine's Mutiny by Charles E. Gannon, in which our stalwart hero is tasked with apprehending raiders who are terrorizing a distant planet. Fields of Fire by Marko Kloos is a military sf adventure in which human forces attempt to regain control of Mars. In Humans, Bow Down by James Patterson and Emily Raymond (and illustrated by Alexander Ovchinnikov), humans are an endangered species in a world run by machines. In the futuristic society of Brett Savory's A Perfect Machine, so-called Runners are members of a secret society who are chased by the Hunters trying to kill them. In Post by Brenda Cooper, a girl longs to leave her life of relative safety to explore a world beset by social collapse. Norman Spinrad's The People's Police offers biting political commentary when it throws together three very different people affected by a system that they aim to take down. How's this for mashups? Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly is a spy thriller set in an alternate vintage era facing an impending fascist revolution. Looking for unapologetic action? Try Kill Before Dying by Travis S. Taylor, which pits humans against an evil artificial intelligence. Steve Rasnic Tem mixes science fiction and horror in Ubo, which explores the roots of human violence through a protagonist who is forced by gigantic roach-like insects to play a different figure from humanity's violent history. Short fiction sf lovers: watch for the collection The Voices of Martyrs by Maurice Broaddus and the military science fiction anthology War Without End edited by Laurie Goulding, which is set in the Warhammer 40K universe.
Fantasy readers should check out V.E. Schwab's A Conjuring of Light, which concludes the story of four parallel-world Londons, each one ruled by different monarchies where differing levels of magical powers exist. Also: Betsy Dornbusch concludes her Seven Eyes dark fantasy trilogy with Enemy, a story in which a man surrounded by bloodshed tries to find peace. In Bradley P. Beaulieu's new epic fantasy novel, With Blood Upon the Sand, a Blade Maiden becomes an elite warrior for vengeful Kings. In Chuck Wendig's dark urban fantasy Thunderbird, Miriam Black – a tormented psychic who can foresee a living person's death – tries to understand her curse, but instead encounters a cult of domestic terrorists. Richard Kadrey's comedic supernatural novel The Wrong Dead Guy has its lovable loser thief named Coop steal an ancient Egyptian mummy who's not quite dead…and also lovesick. And then there's In Calabria by Peter S. Beagle, which offers readers a new unicorn fable for the modern age. Short fantasy fiction lovers should definitely keep their eyes open for Black Feathers: Dark Avian Tales edited by Ellen Datlow.
March 2017 will see the release of several long-awaited novels, among them New York 2140 by the visionary Kim Stanley-Robinson. Here, as depicted on its striking cover, New York remains a bustling metropolis of the future despite being partly submerged by rising water levels. The corporate power struggle for control of Earth's colonized moon continues in Ian McDonald's Luna: Wolf Moon. In John Scalzi's space opera The Collapsing Empire, the advent of interstellar travel opens up the universe for human exploration and has ushered in a new empire of humankind. The bad news is that the empire is destined to end unless a scientist, a starship captain, and an Empress can save it.
Space opera lovers have two other books to check out this month: in Star's End by Cassandra Rose Clarke, a girl takes over her father's lucrative and powerful manufacturing company and is shocked to learn the truth about his secret past; and in A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers, a motley starship crew contends with a new human crew member who was formerly an artificial intelligence. The Return by Joseph Helmreich is about a man who is abducted by aliens and returned to Earth six years later only to go into hiding while denying the abduction ever happened. That doesn't stop powerful people from hunting him down, though. For military sf fans, check out two new Warhammer 40K novels: Shrike by George Mann, in which a space marine legend pursues an ork warlord; and Dante by Guy Haley, the untold origin story of the heroic Chapter Master of the Blood Angels. Fans of time travel (raises hand) can look forward to Pilot X by Tom Merritt, in which a time traveler is faced with the choice of destroying three warring alien races (including his own) or letting the universe be destroyed.
On the mainstream end of the science fiction spectrum are two novels about astronauts. In The Wanderers by Meg Howrey (which is being described as "Station Eleven meets The Martian") three astronauts-in-training for the first-ever mission to Mars confront their personal demons. Similar but more personal themes are explored in Jaroslav Kalfar's Spaceman of Bohemia, an intergalactic odyssey of a man who realizes too late that he chose space travel over his loving wife.
Readers of short fiction should look for the collection Dear Sweet Filthy World by Caitlin R. Kiernan.
Also in March, look for several more books from ongoing series, including: Infinity Engine by Neal Asher (Transformation series), a military sf novel offering aliens and AIs; Seven Surrenders by Ada Palmer (Terra Ignota #2), in which a society formed around nations based on intellectual and philosophical alignment is disrupted by a child with godlike powers; The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon (The Bone Season #3) sees the fight continue in a near-futuristic society that tries to get rid of people with clairvoyant powers.
March fantasy novels are equally appealing. Spymaster by Margaret Weis and Robert Krammes is a swashbuckling fantasy adventure with dragons. In Phantom Pains by Mishell Baker (the second book the The Arcadia Project, referring to the secret organization that polices the traffic between this world and one filled with creatures from myth and fairy tales), a woman who left the Arcadia Project returns when her former boss is framed for murder. Brian McClellan serves up the beginning of a new epic fantasy series with Sins of Empire, although fans will be happy to know that its set in the same world as his flintlock fantasy Powder Mage setting. In The Lady of the Lake, Andrzej Sapkowski's new Witcher novel, Ciri finds herself trapped in an Elven world where she must defeat her enemy before returning to Geralt the Witcher. For urban fantasy fans, Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs sees its shapeshifting protagonist, Mercy Thompson, abducted by a powerful vampire. Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop also features shapeshifters and vampires, but focuses on the uneasy peace between humans and the supernatural beings known as The Others. Seanan McGuire is also releasing a new InCryptid novel titled Magic For Nothing, in which a family of cryptozoologists acts as a buffer between humans and the magical creatures living in secret around us. On the darker side of fantasy is Relics by Tim Lebbon, in which a woman learns that her missing lover was involved in obtaining supernatural items sold in an underground black market.
Fans of Short fantasy fiction should check out Swords Against Darkness by Paula Guran.
April is filled with fantastic sf reads, too. For starters, check out Borne by Jeff VanderMeer. Here, a scavenger in a ruined city of the near future discovers a living green lump – a discovery that subsequently threatens to tip the balance of her city. The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch is a reimagining of Joan of Arc set in a futuristic Dystopia ravaged by war. Cory Doctorow, meanwhile, imagines a more positive future in Walkaway, which explores what life might be like in a world where there are no shortages of resources.
In a more classic sf vein, Avengers of the Moon by Allen Steele is a throwback to the pulp sf days of yesteryear offering no less than the origin story of the one and only Captain Future. There's also Void Star by Zachary Mason, a near future story of the Haves and Have-Nots that features AI, artificial memory, and drone weapons. Near-future London is the setting of Dreams Before the Start of Time by Anne Charnock, which explores the definition of parenthood in a world where technology has solved the problem of infertility. Daniel Suarez serves up a cool-sounding premise in his sci-fi thriller Change Agent, which features humanity dictating its own evolution through the use of genetic engineering. Final Girls by Mira Grant explores what might happen if we possessed the technology to heal psychological wounds through virtual reality. Kokoro by Keith Yatsuhashi features a giant, sentient, armored suit used to pry open the portal between another world and Earth. On the lighter side of sf is Kieran Shea's Off Rock, the comedic story of a bank heist set in space.
Readers of ongoing series have some new books to look forward to. Elizabeth Moon returns to her popular Vatta's War universe with Cold Welcome. Here, Kylara Vatta returns home and stumbles into trouble when she learns society-changing secrets that the government will kill to protect. Meanwhile C. J. Cherryh returns with Convergence, the eighteenth (!) book in her long-running Foreigner series. Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel continues the riveting story began in Sleeping Giants, about humankind defending Earth from alien invaders with an army of giant robots. Adam Christopher serves up another book in his Spider Wars series with The Dead Stars, a space mystery that sees the crew of a new class of starship disappearing one by one after their test flight lands them in the space between worlds. And finally, Timothy Zahn revisits his classic Star Wars media tie-intrilogy about the villainous Grand Admiral Thrawnwith a new prequel novel simply titled Star Wars: Thrawn that details Thrawn's rise to power.
On the fantasy side of the spectrum, look for The House of Binding Thorns by Aliette de Bodard (sequel to The House of Shattered Wings), in which the fallen angels ruling the great houses of Paris jockey for power as the city rebuilds itself after a war fought with sorcery. Skullsworn by Brian Staveley is a standalone novel (set in his Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne setting) where a priestess attempts to join the ranks of the God of Death. Red Sister by Mark Lawrence, the start of a new series, focuses on a secretive order of holy warriors who were trained to kill ever since they were young girls. Meanwhile Marie Brennan concludes her enjoyable Lady Trent Memoirs series with Within the Sanctuary of Wings. Here, Lady Trent, a dragon scientist, makes her most startling discovery yet. Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys is an intriguing extension of H.P Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos. In it, the FBI seeks the help of the Old One's descendants to recover stolen magic secrets. Speaking of Cthulhu, Lois H. Gresh mashes together two great literary icons in Sherlock Holmes vs. Cthulhu: The Adventure of the Deadly Dimensions. Barbara Hambly's Pale Guardian is a vampire story of another color. Here, a former spy teams up with a vampire during World War I to face an even greater threat.
On the April short fiction front, look for the annual retrospective The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume Eleven edited By Jonathan Strahan; the action-heavy anthology Cosmic Powers: The Saga Anthology of Far-Away Galaxies edited by John Joseph Adams; and single author short fiction collections by Sofia Samatar (Tender) and John Kessel (The Moon and the Other).
Whew! That's a lot of books! Hold onto your lists – we're just getting started. Check back next week to continue this preview of 2017 speculative fiction!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.