April is bringing a whole new enticing batch of science fiction and fantasy books that will stretch your imagination. Here's a selection of the ones that will be generating the most buzz. You'll find fallen angels, Death's assistant, human refugees in space, a revolution against the One Percent, matriarchal lunar colonies, giant robots, genetic thrills, biotech-weird, and origin stories for Captain Future and Admiral Thrawn!
The Dastardly Miss Lizzie by Viola Carr
In this steampunk fantasy adventure based in an alternate Victorian London, based on the classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, crime scene physician Dr. Eliza Jekyll feels compelled to investigate bizarre crimes. Her secret weapon: an elixir that transforms her into the dark and diabolical Miss Lizzie Hyde. Lizzie has a mind of her own, too, and she unfortunately seems intent on destroying Eliza's life. But Eliza needs to keep her mind focused on the task at hand: thwarting the evil genius who is killing eminent scientists.
Convergence by C. J. Cherryh
In the eighteenth installment of Cherryh's popular and long-running Foreigner series, a space station orbiting the world of the alien atevi takes in five thousand refugees from a destroyed station in a distant sector of space. Bren, the human ambassador to the atevi, is tasked with relocating the refugees planetside, on the human island of Mospheira. Bren has a huge task ahead of him; the Mospheiran government is not too keen on accepting the refugees because they represent a political faction that the people of Mospheira broke away from two centuries ago.
The House of Binding Thorns by Aliette de Bodard
Set in the aftermath of an arcane war fought in the city of Paris, The House of Binding Thorns involves the great Houses of Paris, ruled by fallen angels, as they attempt to rebuild what was lost. In House Silverspires, once considered to be the most powerful of Houses until an ancient evil destroyed it, an immortal man attempts, at great cost, to resurrect someone he lost. Meanwhile, in House Hawthorn, Madeleine the alchemist, recently addicted to angel essence, is forced to undertake a perilous diplomatic mission to an underwater dragon kingdom where the previous emissary met with an untimely end.
Walkaway by Cory Doctorow
In the not very distant future of Cory Doctorow's Walkaway, society will undergo a collapse, of sorts. The rich One Percent will get richer and everyone else begins to walk away from modern society. That's not as hard as it sounds – technology has made it possible for anyone with a computer to produce life's necessities like food, clothing, and shelter – but it is still dangerous. The so-called walkaways, building their own post-scarcity society, live in the ravaged lands affected by climate change and industrial flight. Even worse, the walkaways discover a means to become immortal via posthumanism, thus starting a war between the Old Guard and the New Revolutionaries.
The Ship by Antonia Honeywell
The Ship is a post-apocalyptic novel of a different color. Declining under the weight of dwindling resources, bombings, military restrictions, and a ruined environment, London has seen better days. Lalage "Lalla" Paul has mostly been sheltered from this thanks to her parents' affluence, but even they've had enough. So, on Lalla's sixteenth birthday, her father uses his planned escape route: a ship stocked with lots of supplies and room enough for 500 virtuous people. Life on the ark isn't quite the Utopia her father paints it to be, however. There's no clear destination for the ship, and Lalla cannot forget the plight of those back home.
The Moon and the Other by John Kessel
It's the middle of the twenty-second century and not only has Earth's moon been colonized, but three million people reside there in underground cities. One such city is the Society of Cousins, a matriarchy where men can choose whatever career they want but have no right to vote. A loner named Mira challenges the Society's political domination and falls in love with Carey, the poster boy for male privilege. Meanwhile, Erno rebelled against this society and now lives in a rival colony where he meets Amestris, the defiant daughter of the richest man on the moon. An impending investigation by the Organization of Lunar States offers life-changing opportunities for all of these lifelike characters…but it also starts a war that forces them to make tough choices.
Void Star by Zachary Mason
Void Star is a mind-bending story set in the near-future that follows three characters. There's Irina, possessing an artificial memory that lets her earn a living by acting as a medium between her employers and their complex artificial intelligences; there's Kern, a refugee who lives in a drone-built slum who gets by as a thief and paid enforcer; and Thales, the mathematically-inclined scion of a Brazilian political clan, who has fled to L.A. after the attack that left him crippled and his father dead. Strangers at the outset, events – or more specifically forces that remain just out of sight – conspire to push these characters towards the same path.
Cold Welcome by Elizabeth Moon
Space fleet Commander Kylara Vatta (the hero of the author's Vatta's War series) is called back to her home planet and expects a hero's welcome. Instead, she is thrown into danger, isolated from her family and the outside world, and she finds herself leading a ragtag team of unfamiliar troops across a deadly environment with sabotaged gear. Along the way, she uncovers a government and military conspiracy that threatens the survival of the entire planet.
Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel
This exciting sequel to last year's riveting Sleeping Giants continues the story of a powerful, giant robot whose parts were distributed across the globe. Rose Franklin and her team of investigators get another piece of the puzzle when a second robot, even larger than the first one, suddenly materializes and lashes out with deadly force. Then, a nightmare alien invasion scenario is made real when more huge machines appear all over the world. Rose and her team at the Earth Defense Corps refuse to surrender. Their only fighting chance is to unlock the secrets of the strange, alien technology.
The End of the Day by Claire North
In the unconventionally-told novel The End of the Day, Claire North explores the human condition through the eyes of the Harbinger of Death, who goes by the name of Charlie. Charlie appears to people just before they die and readers get to see just what his job is like. Charlie may appear to people in the hospital, in a war zone, or while they're on vacation. He may bring warning, or just be there to observe. People have many different reactions to Charlie when they meet him. Some are accepting, some try to negotiate their way out of death, and some just accept their fate.
Avengers of the Moon by Allen Steele
In this rollicking tribute to Edmond Hamilton's classic Captain Future stories approved by the Hamilton estate, Allen Steele wonderfully captures the pulp flavor of yesteryear. But rather than provide another story, Steele gives readers nothing less than Captain Future's origin story. When young Curt Newton's parents were murdered, his existence was kept hidden from the rest of humankind by his new guardians: a robot, an android, and the disembodied brain of a renowned scientist. But Curt's innate curiosity and nose for trouble soon leads him towards the trail on an insidious plot to destabilize the Solar Coalition and assassinate the president. To stop the evil mastermind, Curt must become Captain Future.
Change Agent by Daniel Suarez
In this near-future thriller, Suarez contemplates a world where mankind can control its own evolution through genetic engineering. It's 2045 and Interpol has a team, led by Kenneth Durand, charged with fighting genetic crimes like "vanity edits" on human embryos. Many of the crimes are performed on victims of human trafficking. At the center where genetic crime and trafficking converge, you'll find the leader of a large, powerful cartel led by Marcus Demang Wyckes. Wyckes knows that Durand is on to him, so as a pre-emptive strike, he injects Durand with a change agent that transforms him into a Wyckes lookalike. Durand, now seen as the world's most wanted suspect, goes from hunter to fugitive.
Borne by Jeff VanderMeer
Rachel lives in a city destroyed by drought and conflict, which is also home to a bunch of discarded bio-tech experiments from the supposedly defunct Company. She lives with Wick, who develops his own brand of homegrown psychoactive biotech. During a scavenging mission, Rachel finds a green lump named Borne that may be either plant or animal, but nonetheless touches Rachel emotionally. As Borne grows, he learns to speak. His very existence threatens the balance of power in the city and the Company (not quite dead) aim to fix that.
Thrawn by Timothy Zahn
In this prequel to the most popular of all literary Star Wars series, readers get to witness the rise to power of one of the most popular (and cunning) characters in that universe: Grand Admiral Thrawn of the Galactic Empire. Thrawn captures the attention of Emperor Palpatine after he’s rescued from exile by Imperial soldiers. Time and again he proves himself to be a valuable asset to the Empire, defeating its enemies at every turn. He quickly rises through the ranks to face the ultimate test: stop an insurgent uprising that threatens Empire's mighty grip across the galaxy.
…AND FOR READERS OF SHORT FICTION…
If you want to squeeze even more reading out of your day (who doesn't?), look for these short fiction collections and anthologies:
- The Best of Gordon R. Dickson Volume 1
- Dark Screams: Volume Six edited by Brian James Freeman & Richard Chizmar
- Entropic Angel by Gareth L. Powell
- The Horror on the Links: The Complete Tales of Jules De Grandin, Volume One by Seabury Quinn
- Entropy in Bloom: Stories by Jeremy Robert Johnson
- The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Two edited by Neil Clarke
- Cosmic Powers: The Saga Anthology of Far-Away Galaxies edited by John Joseph Adams
- The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume Eleven edited by Jonathan Strahan