One common lament of readers is that there are so many books they'd like to read and not enough time in which to read them. That could be because they don't have a handy monthly guide like this one to help them whittle down the choices. Don't you feel lucky?
Not so fast! Looking at all the tasty speculative fiction titles coming out in March, I think the scale is still out of balance, with the books I want to read weighing heavier than the books I have time to read. Oh well, I guess there are worse problems to have in life.
SF/F with Wide Appeal
Casual science fiction and fantasy readers will find a nice selection of enticing books this month. The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates, whose story hooks readers with the disappearance of young women from elite families, is a historical novel infused with eerie supernatural elements. Chandler Klang Smith's Goldenland Past Dark is a haunting and surreal story centered around a travelling circus in 1960s America. In Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson, a woman named Makeda, the only member of her family to lack magical abilities, must reconcile with her twin sister to help find their father. And Robert J. Sawyer, who excels at writing solid and accessible science fiction stories, offers Red Planet Blues, a noir-ish mystery set on Mars.
Sequels and Series
More seasoned sf/f readers are already knee-deep in ongoing series. March sees the release of several new installments that belong to a series. Empty Space by M. John Harrison is the third novel in his literary Kefahuchi Tract Trilogy space opera sequence. Sarah A. Hoyt offers A Few Good Men (third in her Darkship series), in which an imprisoned man escapes to learn that his father, a member of the ruling class, has been assassinated...a discovery that leads to a century-old conspiracy. Hellhole Awakening by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson is the second book in their trilogy about a very harsh colonization world that humanity's outcasts call home. The Mobius Murders by Brian Lumley is the latest in his very popular Necroscope sequence and features Harry Keough, who can communicate with the dead, and his attempts to solve a murder. Shattered Pillars by Elizabeth Bear, the second book in The Eternal Sky trilogy, continues the saga of magic, politics and war. Meanwhile, The Age Atomic by Adam Christopher (sequel to Empire State) continues the superhero-noir fantasy thriller set in an alternate New York City. There are also follow-up novels in Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville series (Kitty Rocks the House), Seanan McGuire's Incryptid series (Midnight Blue-Light Special), Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series (Frost Burned) and Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover sequence (The Children of Kings, with Deborah J. Ross).
Military Science Fiction
For readers whose specific tastes are geared toward the military end of the science fiction spectrum, there are also lots of choices. Fire Caste by Peter Fehervari is about a years-old war between human an alien. Shadow of Freedom, the latest in David Weber's Honor Harrington series, involves lots of action and a healthy dose of deception too, in a multi-factioned story of battle. Not one, but two novels take place in worlds created in the video games. First is The Slab by Karen Traviss, part of the Gears of War universe, in which a soldier is imprisoned for abandoning his post during an alien attack to rescue his father. Silentium by Greg Bear (part of the Halo universe) details the infiltration of a terrible shape-changing parasite into the Forerunner empire.
Books Targeted at Younger Readers (But Enjoyable by Adults, Too)
Some of the best reads are from books that are targeted at younger readers. Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare, for example, uses its steampunk backdrop to ask: If the only way to save the world was to destroy what you loved most, would you do it? Earth Girl by Janet Edwards posits a future where the handicapped live on Earth while the "normals" traipse around the galaxy. MILA 2.0 by Debra Driza is about a girl who discovers her true identity and goes on the run to avoid those who would have her destroyed. The plot of Karen Healey's When We Wake concerns a girl who dies and then wakes up 100 years in the future, locked in a government facility with no idea what happened. Fox Forever by Mary E. Pearson is about a young man who spends more than two and a half centuries as a disembodied mind in a little black box, only to be revived to fulfill the dastardly ends of a nefarious faction.
Short Fiction Picks
Looking to sample many different types of stories by lots of authors? Anthologies and collections are what you want. For anthologies, check out The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume Seven edited by Jonathan Strahan (featuring the best sf/f from last year), Solaris Rising 2 edited by Ian Whates (featuring new fiction) or Queen Victoria's Book of Spells, edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling (a compilation of Gaslamp Fantasy). To experience the creative variety of stories emerging from a single author, check out collections from Jack Vance (Magic Highways), Kit Reed (The Story Until Now) and Christopher Barzak (Before and Afterlives).
A Cornucopia of Other Science Fiction Goodies
There's plenty more books that could easily be included on a "Best of the Month" list. Among them are two thrillers: Extinction Machine by Jonathan Maberry, in which aliens return to Earth for technology that was left here in the age of dinosaurs; and Warren Fahy's Pandemonium, in which a new life form is discovered beneath the Ural Mountains. There's also Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines, a novel that dares to ask what would happen if you combined zombies and superheroes. The Good the Bad and the Infernal by Guy Adams is a steampunk weird Western about a town that appears for 24 hours just every hundred years. The Curve of the Earth by Simon Morden takes place in a post-apocalyptic London of the future, where technological marvels help a man search for his missing adopted daughter, likely taken by any one of his numerous enemies. Finally, in Wool by Hugh Howey, the survivors of a post-apocalyptic world live deep underground in a strictly controlled society...until one of them dares to go outside.
John DeNardo is the editor of SF Signal, a Hugo Award-winning group science-fiction and fantasy blog featuring news, reviews and interviews. He also like bagels. You can follow him on Twitter as @sfsignal. Or not. See what he cares.