Looking for a good summer read filled with thrills, action, and aliens? Speculative fiction has you covered! Here's a handy guide to this month's best reads in science fiction, fantasy, and horror. In this selection, you'll find post-humans, murder on the moon, dragon armies, a murder-free society, alternate histories, and yes…space veterinarians.
End of Watch by Stephen King
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: The infamous Mercedes Killer, though in a coma in the hospital 5 years after he killed 8 people and injured many others, gains a supernatural power to drive his enemies to suicide—a power that he plans to seek revenge on the entire city.
False Hearts by Laura Lam
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Two sisters, Taema and Tila, are conjoined twins who live a sheltered imprisonment in a cult. When their shared heart begins to fail, they escape to San Francisco, where they are separated and lead their lives with their own artificial hearts. 10 years later in this murder-free society, Tila is accused of homicide and Taema goes undercover within a crime organization to clear her sister's name.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: The intriguing premise and the depiction of a murder-free future.
Infomocracy by Malka Older
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Different factions wrestle for control in a precarious, politically-charged future heralded by a search engine company that turned warring nation-states into a global micro-democracy.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: Older's post-cyberpunk political thriller will make today's political scene look like the Good Old Days.
Judenstaat by Simone Zelitch
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: In 1948, the sovereign state of Judenstaat was created in the territory of Saxony, bordering Germany, Poland, and Czechoslovakia. Now, 40 years later, a documentary filmmaker, aiming to chronicle Judenstaat's history while dealing with her own painful memories about her dead husband, is given footage that proves that history is different than the collective population realizes.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: If the alternate history angle doesn't grab you, then the intricate conspiracy will.
League of Dragons by Naomi Novik
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: In this final volume of the well-received Temeraire series, Napolean, though on the run, mounts a new offensive with an army of dragons.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: The action-packed Temeraire novels combine the excitement of Patrick O’Brian's historical seafaring adventures with the dragon-filled wonder of Anne McCaffrey's Pern novels.
Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Kel Cheris, a captain disgraced for her unconventional methods in the galactic fight against heretics, is given a chance to redeem herself by capturing a star fortress back from the heretics. However, to do so, she enlists the aid of an undead (that is, resurrected) tactician who went mad in his first life.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: Ninefox Gambit is a smart space opera that pushes the frontier of science fiction.
Spear of Light by Brenda Cooper
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A group of post-humans, recently re-introduced to humanity, attempt to assimilate back into human society. But not everyone agrees with their return, and there are those who see them as enemies.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: The author, a futurist by day, infuses her fiction with realistic and cool science fictional ideas, while simultaneously presenting thought-provoking ideas about humanity and co-existence.
Super Extra Grande by Yoss, translated by David Frye
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: In the distant future, humans have spread across the galaxy where they have encountered an incredible array of alien races. When colonial conflict threatens the fragile peace between the galaxy's seven intelligent species, it's up to space veterinarian Dr. Jan Amos Sangan Dongo to save the day...by entering a gigantic space creature to find two swallowed ambassadors who, coincidentally, happen to be love interests competing for his affection.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: Part adventure, part parody, this Cuban science fiction author's lighthearted space opera is sure to please.
The Dark Side by Anthony O'Neill
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: An exiled cop arrives on a wayward moon colony where he investigates a series of brutal murders. The prime suspects are the eccentric billionaire founder of the colony and his daughter, but an amnesiac android also holds the key to the crimes.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: The flavorful mixture of science fiction and noir detective story.
The Long Cosmos by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Decades after the doorway to other earths is discovered, a world of post-humans receives instructions from an even more advanced race to build a super artificial intelligence. But to do so, they must enlist the help of the more primitive Long Earth worlds (that would be us).
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: This final volume to the series continues its thoughtful examination on the meaning of life.
The Medusa Chronicles by Stephen Baxter and Alastair Reynolds
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Howard Falcon, the first astronaut to explore the planet Jupiter, came close to death before he returned home. However, he is no longer the same. He is now an augmented human:part man, part machine, and possessing extraordinary abilities.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: This novel serves as a posthumous sequel to Arthur C. Clarke's classic science fiction story "A Meeting with Medusa."
The Mermaid's Secret by Katie Schickel
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A 23-year-old woman wastes her summers flipping burgers for tourists on a fishing boat and surfing off the coast of Maine. Then, a perfect wave transforms her into a mermaid with super-human powers, allowing her to seek justice for the death of her sister.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: I cannot think of any other title on this list that screams "beach read."
The Nightmare Stacks by Charles Stross
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Alex Schwartz, a vampire working for Britain's secret counter-occult agency, while on assignment in his old hometown, hides his undead condition from his parents and is attracted to a drama student who may be more than she appears to be.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: The tongue-in-cheek novels of The Laundry Files, which include elements of Lovecraftian horror, are consistent crowd-pleasers.
There are plenty of short speculative fiction books to fill in those in-between reading times. "Best of the Year" season is officially open with a slew of anthologies of editors' best short fiction picks (always a great place to start). Here are this month's picks:
o The Year's Best Military & Adventure SF 2015: Volume 2 edited by David Afsharirad
o The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume One edited by Neil Clarke
o The Best Horror of the Year Volume Eight edited by Ellen Datlow
o Genius Loci: Tales of the Spirit of Place edited by Jaym Gates
o The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2016 Edition edited by Paula Guran
o The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2016 Edition edited by Rich Horton
o Beyond the Aquila Rift: The Best of Alastair Reynolds by Alastair Reynolds
o Galactic Games edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt
o Sisters of Tomorrow: The First Women of Science Fiction edited by Lisa Yaszek and Patrick B. Sharp