Looking for something to jump-start your reading? I found a healthy armful of novels and short fiction titles that will do just that, including stories about dragons roaming the skies of a futuristic New York City, a spy infiltrating a floating nation of pirates, a futuristic surveillance state, nuclear superpowers fighting across alternate realities, and the last generation of humankind.
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
The lead character of Holly Black's brand-new fantasy series is Jude, a seventeen-year-old who, along with her two sisters, was orphaned and taken away to live in the perilous High Court of Faerie. Jude and her sisters are despised by the immortal Fey for the unforgivable fact that they are human. Despite that, Jude wants nothing more than to belong. To do so, she must face Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King, navigate her way through palace intrigue, and ultimately save the Fey from destruction.
Iron Gold by Pierce Brown
In the latest book of the bestselling Red Rising series, ten years have passed since Darrow became the leader of the revolution on the planet Mars and changed the status quo between the elite Golds and the lowly Reds. But instead of getting the expected freedom and peace for his people, the endless war rages on. All it will take to bring about a society of equals is one last mission. (If you like The Red Rising sequence, be sure to check out Pierce Brown's Red Rising: Sons Of Ares, a new prequel graphic novel written by Brown and Rik Hoskin and illustrated by Eli Powell.)
The Sky Is Yours by Chandler Klang Smith
It's survival at all costs in Smith's genre-defying debut. The futuristic city of Empire Island is a crumbling metropolis under threat from a pair of dragons that circle the skies and threaten the population. Fleeing everything they've ever known are reality star Duncan Humphrey Ripple V, the spoiled scion of the city's last dynasty; his death-obsessed fiancé, Baroness Swan Lenore Dahlberg; and a wild girl named Abby, who Duncan brings home just before his mansion is invaded by marauders from a prison colony. When all hell breaks loose, the trio escape into the heart of the dangerous city.
Emergence by C. J. Cherryh
Emergence is the nineteenth book in C.J Cherry's sprawling Foreigner space opera series. The series focuses on human/alien relations as seen through its diplomat protagonist Bren Cameron. In Emergence, Bren must contend with problems on several fronts: a space station orbiting the world of the alien atevi is overflowing with refugees and running dangerously short on supplies; the alien atevi refuse to accept any refugees on their native lands; and the humans who are relegated to the atevi island of Mospheira are forced to share their land with descendants of humans with whom they suffered a bitter parting of the ways.
The Queen of All Crows by Rod Duncan
Duncan's gas-lit fantasy, a kind of Victorian-esque cousin to steampunk, occurs in an alternate world in which a Luddite revolution has all but halted the progress of technology. In this version of 2012, the nations are bound together by the strong arm of the International Patent Office. When airships go missing over the Atlantic Ocean, which lies beyond the IPO's jurisdiction, they send a spy to investigate the matter in secret. Elizabeth Barnabus thus poses as a man and takes to the high seas to infiltrate a floating nation of pirates who threaten the world order.
Gnomon by Nick Harkaway
Cited as one of the Best Science Fiction Books of 2017 when it was published in the U.K. last year, the near-future puzzle that is Gnomon is now available to U.S. readers. It offers a harrowing view of a society where democracy has reached a level of complete transparency; everyone's actions and words are recorded and available for all to see. The System even has access to your thoughts and memories. In this high-tech surveillance state, a trusted state inspector who believes in the infallibility of the State investigates the death of a suspected dissident who is the first person to have ever been killed during an interrogation.
Markswoman by Rati Mehrotra
The Order of Kali is a highly-trained sisterhood of elite warriors who are armed with deadly telepathic blades and sworn to protect the people of Asiana. Their youngest Markswoman is Kyra and, like all sisters of the Order, she is sworn to disavow her former life. The trouble is, Kyra secretly desires to avenge her dead family. Kyra is forced on the run when her mentor dies and Tamsyn, the dangerous Mistress of Mental Arts, makes a power grab. She's certain that Tamsyn murdered her mentor, and now she must find proof before her sisterhood turns towards a path of darkness.
Elysium Fire by Alastair Reynolds
Alastair Reynolds launched a successful literary career writing cutting edge space operas. His most astounding achievement in that arena has been a sequence of stories set in the same awe-inspiring universe, which appears to be a never-ending wellspring for page-turning stories. Case in point: Elysium Fire, a futuristic detective story set amongst the Glitter Band, a ring of ten thousand space habitats orbiting the planet Yellowstone, each one a city-state unto itself. This near-perfect democratic human society is policed by the prefects of the Panoply. Prefect Tom Dreyfus' new case involves the mysterious rash of sudden deaths caused by the malfunction of their neural implants. The future of the Glitter Band itself is at stake when a charismatic leader sows seeds of insurrection causing some habitats to break away and form their own independent colonies.
Dark State by Charles Stross
The focus of Stross' Merchant Princes multi-verse (in which a family who is genetically-predisposed to travel between alternate realities has created an import/export empire) is on paratime espionage. Think: "techno-thriller meets parallel worlds." Dark State depicts the collision between two nuclear superpowers across timelines. In one timeline, Miriam Burgeson, head of the Ministry of Intertemporal Research and Intelligence paratime espionage unit, assigns agents to a risky extraction mission. Meanwhile, in another timeline that is much like a "hyper-surveillance state" version of our own, Rita (freshman spy and Miriam's adopted daughter) must contend with the activities of a sleeper cell.
The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley
Every night, away from the cities and towns, a group of men and boys gather around the fire to listen to their stories told by their storyteller, Nate. The story they most like to hear is the one about how all the women died. This the last generation of mankind. Or is it? One night, Nate tells the others a secret: strange mushrooms are growing out of the ground where the women's bodies lie buried underneath.
…AND FOR READERS OF SHORT FICTION…
If you're not reading short fiction, you're selling yourself short. Short fiction is where some of the liveliest stories are being told. Do yourself a favor this month: pick up one of the following and dive in:
- Dark Screams: Volume Nine edited by Richard Chizmar
- Witches Brew: Stories for the Season edited by Paula Guran
- Black Wings of Cthulhu, Volume 5 edited by S. T. Joshi
- The Year's Top Short SF Novels edited by Allan Kaster (audiobook)
- Robots vs. Fairies edited by Dominik Parisien & Navah Wolfe
- The Cackle of Cthulhu edited by Alex Shvartsman
Single Author Collections
- Cry Your Way Home by Damien Angelica Walters
Short Fiction One-Shots
- The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander
- Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire
- Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor