February's Must-Read Science Fiction and Fantasy

Looking for something fun to read? Something that will bend your mind and stretch your imagination. This month's lineup of science fiction and fantasy books has you covered! You'll find books about time-travel, retro-futures, space heists, magical parallel worlds, unicorns, a prison run by huge roach-like creatures, and more.

A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: The fates of monarchies are determined across four Londons in four very different parallel-worlds: Grey London, where there's zero magic but one very mad king; Red London, where life and magic are revered; White London, where people fight to control the magic and the magic fights back; and Black London, which nobody dares talk about.

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WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: This is the thrilling conclusion to Schwab's well-received and imaginative sf/fantasy hybrid.


2.1 Wrong Todays All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A ne'er-do-well who lives in a retro-future Utopian version of our world travels back in time, changes the past, and returns into a present-day Dystopia. You might recognize it because it's our own world.

WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: Mastai's sometimes-humorous, sometimes-mind-bending, always-fun romp can be read as an adventure, a love story, or a Literary contemplation of life. It's like a Choose-Your-Own Adventure for adults.


Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: In an alternate 1920's, the city of Amberlough City is on the verge of turning fascist. Struggling to survive the political turmoil are a spy who's past his prime, his lover who is a smuggler doubling as a cabaret emcee, and a dancer at the club who acts as the smuggler's runner.

WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: This debut spy thriller's unique genre blend is reason enough to give it a whirl, but the emotional pull of the story is what will linger.


Empire's End (Aftermath Trilogy #3) by Chuck Wendig

WHAT IT'S ABOUT:  A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...a hidden enemy threatens the stability of the rising new republic as a rebel pilot hunts an Imperial war criminal. But there is more than loyalty behind the hunt – there's also revenge.

WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: This concludes a new trilogy set in the Star Wars universe, the events of which take place between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.


2.1 GameofShadows Game of Shadows by Erika Lewis

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: The mythological land of Tara, hidden for millennia, will suffer a terrible fate from an evil sorcerer bent on controlling it, and only one person can save it: a teen from modern day Los Angeles who can see ghosts.

WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: The Celtic-tinged land of Tara lends a nice flavor to an already compelling premise of the teen rescuing his over-protective mother from evil.


In Calabria by Peter S. Beagle

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: On the beautiful hillside of Calabria, a region in Southern Italy, longtime resident Claudio Bianchi enjoyed his idyllic, if somewhat uneventful, life of farming and writing poetry. But his quiet life is thrown into disarray when one morning he discovers a unicorn.

WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: A new unicorn fable from the author who wrote The Last Unicorn? Yes, please!


Revenger by Alastair Reynolds

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A space-heist story set in the far future, where the universe has seen its fair share of empires and cavillations rise and fall. Seeking fortune by pilfering the ruins are Captain Rackamore and his crew, who routinely deal with space pirates. But this time, there's a new element: payback.

WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: I have yet to read a disappointing story from Alastair Reynolds, an author who always delivers the goods.


2.1 Etta The Book of Etta by Meg Elison

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Set in a post-apocalyptic future where women are scarce and child-bearing is dangerous, a woman named Etta struggles to survive and help repopulate the future.

WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: Elison's powerful, evocative narrative (a sequel to last year's Philip K. Dick Award-winning novel The Book of the Unnamed Midwife) will immerse you in the story and keep you turning the pages.


The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: The Legion is a fleet of decaying world-sized ships traveling the outskirts of the universe. Each ship is a world unto itself, populated by all-female clans who endlessly battle with the clans from other world-ships. A plan is thus hatched to allow one world ship to escape the warring Legion, the hopes of which rely on a recently wakened prisoner with no memory of her past.

WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: This is a space opera that makes readers rethink their default expectations. 


Ubo by Steve Rasnic Tem

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: From Ubo, a prison run by gigantic roach-like creatures, a man named Daniel is forced to take part in a series of experiments in which he is to play a different figure from humanity's violent history.

WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: Ubo's particular blend of science fiction and horror, used to explore the roots of violence, is chilling.


2.1 WithBlood With Blood Upon the Sand by Bradley P. Beaulieu

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A girl named Çeda is enlisted to fight as an elite warrior for vengeful kings in the great desert city of Sharakhai. But this so called "Blade Maiden" is learning the kings' secrets while she does their bidding…secrets that she can use to undo the terrible lost history of the past: that Blade Maidens were enslaved against their will hundreds of years ago, destined to live lives of servitude.

WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: The Song of Shattered Sands series is both gripping and engrossing.



Looking to sample a new author or squeeze more reading time out of your week? Here are some savory, short speculative fiction titles to look for:

  • Infernal Parade by Clive Barker
  • The Voices of Martyrs by Maurice Broaddus
  • Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Fire. by Elizabeth Hand
  • Agents of Dreamland by Caitlín R. Kiernan
  • The Man with the Speckled Eyes by R.A. Lafferty

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