People love a good thing. Even more so, people love a good, new thing. I hold the belief that the same is true about books. Readers love to be the ones to discover new authors. To help such readers get in on the ground floor of a good, new thing, here are a handful of debut science-fiction, fantasy and horror books by authors who just might be the Next Big Thing.
The Lost Boys Symphony by Mark Ferguson
I'm a fan of fiction that does time travel right, by which I mean that said story shouldn't just use time travel solely as a one-time method of transportation, but should instead embrace the idea of time travel and all of its implications. The Lost Boys Symphony by Mark Ferguson looks like it firmly grabs hold of its time travel premise.
The idea of the novel is that a lovesick college student named Henry, saddened by his girlfriend Val transferring to another school, begins to have hallucinations and eventually is abducted by future versions of himself—one who's old, and one who's middle-aged—who inform Henry that although they have lost the love of their lives, young Henry doesn't have to. Meanwhile, Henry's friend Gabe blames himself for Henry's apparent breakdown. After Gabe is approached by someone who impossibly appears to be an older version of Henry, he turns to Val for support. Thus sets the stage for a heart-rending literary debut about first love, loss, and mind-bending time travel.
The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig
The Fire Sermon may be a debut novel, but it's also the start of an intriguing new post-apocalyptic trilogy. It's set 400 years into the future, after nuclear fire has ravaged the Earth. The radiation may have died down, but the course of humanity is changed forever. Every person is now born with a twin. One of the twins, a so-called "Alpha," is perfect in every way. The other twin, branded an "Omega," is burdened with deformity, whether small or large. Society has deemed that Alphas are privileged while Omegas are outcasts. This, despite the fact that the twins are inexorably linked: when one dies, so does the other. The main character of the story is Cass, a rare Omega who is gifted with the power of psychic foresight. Cass aims to unite everyone, but ends up antagonizing everyone—both the alphas, who wish to maintain their hold on the world's scant resources, and the resistance, who aim to upend the social order.
Clash of Eagles by Alan Smale
Speculative fiction prides itself on being a genre whose stories ask the seemingly simple question "What if…?" That conceit is most evident in the sub-genre of alternate history, which often presents a scenario in which some historical event turned out differently than the reality we know. That's certainly the case with Alan Smale's debut novel, Clash of Eagles.
The question posed by the author is simple: What if the Roman Empire had not fallen and the North American continent had been discovered in the year 1218? In the book, the Roman Emperor sends Praetor Gaius Marcellinus and the 33rd Roman Legion across the great ocean to the continent we know as North America, in search of land of gold. Expecting an easy victory against any native inhabitants they might find, the Roman legion are surprised to learn that the civilization they find is not what they expected. The natives are armed with unique weapons and employ strategies heretofore unseen in warfare. Marcellinus is eventually captured and comes to form a newfound respect for his captors and the city-state of Cahokia, thus putting him in a difficult position when Roman and Native forces subsequently clash.
Dead Boys by Gabriel Squailia
Fiction works best when it makes you think. Take, for example, Gabriel Squailia's debut novel, Dead Boys, which the author infuses with elements of philosophy. The result is a novel said to appeal to fans of China Miéville and Neil Gaiman.
Dead Boys is about a man named Jacob Campbell who has been dead for 10 years. His job in the Land of the Dead is preservationist—a sort of afterlife taxidermist who keeps the dead looking like the living for as long as possible. But Jacob throws that all away for the chance to meet a legend in the Land of the Dead: the Living Man, who is said to be the only adventurer to ever cross into the underworld without dying first. Jacob wants to follow the Living Man back to the land of the living, but the Living Man has disappeared. So Jacob embarks on a quest to find him with the help of a boy named Remington, an innocent with strange powers over the bones of the dead, and a flamboyant rogue named Leopold l’éclair who was hanged for his crimes—all while trying to stay under the radar of the shadowy ruler known as the Magnate.
Flex by Ferrett Steinmetz
Flex is an urban fantasy by Ferrett Steinmetz that has, at its core, the heartbreaking story of a father trying to save his daughter. It takes place in a world where magic can be distilled down into a substance known as Flex. Flex has the power to turn dreams into reality. The bad news is the side effect, called Flux, which is the backlash that occurs by using Flex. Users of Flex may gain the temporary power of magic, but they also have to suffer the consequences of Flux, which could include death. Paul Tsabo is a bureaucromancer who’s turned paperwork into a magical Beast. But Paul must turn to the seedy and dangerous world of Flex when his bureaucromancer powers cannot help save his burned daughter.
The Devil's Detective by Simon Kurt Unsworth
Readers of mystery stories looking to dip their toes into the waters of speculative fiction may find something to rave about in The Devil's Detective, the debut novel by British author Simon Kurt. It's a story that relocates the mystery to Hell, which is portrayed less like a fiery factory and more like a city where you really don't want to be. Thomas Fool, a so-called Information Man, is mired down in the bureaucracy of it all, filing reports on crimes that are committed. Nobody particularly cares—it is Hell, after all—until a political delegation arrives and notes the particularly gruesome details of a murder. Fool, a man with no memory of past, just a blinding need to see justice, sets about to find the murderer. But how do you find a bad guy when you're in Hell itself?
Sing Me Your Scars by Damien Angelica Walters
Sing Me Your Scars is not a novel, it's the debut collection of Damien Angelica Walters, whose work has appeared in anthologies such as Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volume One, The Best of Electric Velocipede, Glitter & Mayhem, and in publications such as Nightmare, Lightspeed, Shimmer, Apex Magazine, and Strange Horizons. Sing Me Your Scars collects reprint and original fiction from the author, who sees short fiction "a playground of possibilities." The stories in the collection tackle topics as varied as origami elephants, a girl who's held together by stitches, the relationship between pain and art, and musical notes that build a bridge. But one thing they have in common is the author's unique voice and dark prose that weaves entertaining and unsettling stories.