Have you made any reading-related New Year's resolutions? If speculative fiction is on your reading radar, allow me to offer some suggestions. Here's an abundant selection of tasty speculative titles being released this month. Titles here include a two-second time machines, cosmic horrors, multiple worlds, a prison memoir, 1920s Hollywood, and airship heists.
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Two very special teenage friends—Patricia, who knows magic and Laurence who possesses a two-second time machine—have a falling out, but are reunited as adults. Separately, they work in their own ways to heal a dying Earth. Meanwhile, some outside force is trying to bring them together to either save society or destroy it.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: Comprised of equal parts magic and science, All the Birds in the Sky has something for everyone.
Ancestral Machines by Michael Cobley
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: In an unprecedented feat of stellar engineering and a show of galactic peace, 200 worlds are harnessed to a sun and travel together through space. But years later, the rulers of the so-called "Warcage" seem more intent of capturing new worlds and discarding the old.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: This is a stand-alone "Big Idea" novel in Cobley's excellent Humanity’s Fire space opera series. What a great opportunity to sample the series without committing to it entirely (but I'll bet you'll want to afterwards).
Broken Hero by Jonathan Wood
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A secret government organization is tasked with protecting Britain from uncountable and unspeakable cosmic horrors.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: Wood's ask-questions-later hero is a hoot and the story is 100% aimed at entertaining its readers.
Daughter of Blood by Helen Lowe
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: An epic fantasy set in a world where a massive mountain range protects nine great houses from the dangers of the evil Darkswarm. But now that barrier is weakening, and our hero seeks the fabled Shield of Heaven to help protect them.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: This third book in The Wall of Night series (you have been reading this Gemmell Award–winning series, yes?) is a richly drawn and imaginative as its predecessors.
Jani and the Great Pursuit by Eric Brown
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Janisha Chatterjee, the Cambridge-educated daughter of an Indian government minister, is pursued by British, Chinese, and Russian powers who want the powerful device she possesses: a key that will open the door to other worlds.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: The tasty steampunk flavor gives the parallel world story a unique spin.
Kurt Vonnegut: Novels 1987-1997 by Kurt Vonnegut
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: This is an omnibus edition of three satirical Vonnegut novels. In Bluebeard, an aging artist plots his revenge on the worldly forces that conspired to corrupt his talent. In Hocus Pocus, Vonnegut tackles free speech, racism, environmental calamity, deindustrialization, and globalization by way of a fictional prison memoir. The author's final novel, Timequake, is part science-fiction yarn and part mid-1990s diary written by the author.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: Publisher Library of America's goal is to create definitive editions of literary classics by celebrated authors.
Medusa’s Web by Tim Powers
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Scott and Madeline Madden are siblings who are summoned to the eerie house in the Hollywood hills in which they were raised with their cousins. But the house contains a dark secret that dates back to 1920s Hollywood: the ability to transport people into past and future visions.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: Powers' lyrical prose lends weight to a story that evokes horror stories of yesteryear.
Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A young girl is led on an odyssey across New York State by her mysterious aunt.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: This is contemporary gothic ghost story whose dual narrative adds yet another layer of enjoyment.
Skinner Luce by Patricia Ward
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Unbeknownst to humanity, often-violent aliens move about the Earth disguised as humans, using "servs" (also indistinguishable from humans) to clean up their bloody messes. Lucy is a serv who is inadvertently adopted by humans struggling to find her way in the world. Not helping: when Lucy is accused of murdering a serv child.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: The interesting premise and resonating themes of identity and purpose.
Steal the Sky by Megan E. O’Keefe
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A con man who targets the city's elite sets his sights on the ultimate heist: the gorgeous airship of an exiled commodore. But his plans land him in the middle of a conspiracy when a face changer known as a doppel starts murdering key members of the city's government.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: Come for the heist, stay for the inventive world building.
The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A researcher sets about to investigate the reported appearance of the mythical "bands of mourning," an artifact which supposedly grants its wearer the same powers as the Lord Ruler.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: Readers get to return to Sanderson's popular Mistborn-spinoff world.
The Blue Line by Ingrid Betancourt
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A young girl in 1970s Buenos Aires sees mysterious visions and terrible apparitions from the future and must intervene to prevent bad things from happening.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: This coming-of-age story is infused with magical realism and set against Argentina’s Dirty War.
The Deep Sea Diver's Syndrome by Serge Brussolo
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Lucid dreamers called "mediums" dive into their dreams and return with ectoplasms—sticky blobs with curiously soothing properties that are the only form of art in the world. A medium named David is a professional thief in his dreams who is losing his touch, but he wants that one last big score.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: This reads like a dream-state version of a James Bond film.
The House of War and Witness by Mike Carey
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: In a 1740 Europe on the brink of war, an Austrian regiment is assigned to protect the frontier. But their garrison is well and truly haunted by the spirits of all the people who ever lived there, both past and future.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: This is a unique kind of ghost story as seen through the stories told by the ghosts.
This Census-Taker by China Miéville
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A man recounts his boyhood days living in a lonely hilltop house, and the profoundly traumatic event that shaped his future.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: The atmospheric and claustrophobic feel of this short novel is both beautiful and thought-provoking.
Written in Fire by Marcus Sakey
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Thirty years after humanity learned of the existence of people with extraordinary powers (called "Brilliants"), the future of all mankind hangs in the balance of a civil war between brilliants and normal humans.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: This is a spectacular conclusion to the highly lauded Brilliance Trilogy.
MORE SHORT FICTION TO DEVOUR...
If that's not enough to occupy you're reading time, here's a quick shout-out to some marvelous short speculative fiction books newly available in January:
o Xenowealth: A Collection by Tobias S. Buckell
o Worst Contact edited by Hank Davis
o The Mammoth Book of Kaiju edited by Sean Wallace
o The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria by Carlos Hernandez
o Digital Dreams: A Decade of Science Fiction by Women edited by Ian Whates
o Best of Apex Magazine edited by Jason Sizemore & Lesley Conner