Here's a look at some of the science fiction and fantasy book highlights coming your way this month.
SF/F/H With Wide Appeal
Are you a casual reader of science fiction and fantasy? You may want to check out A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar, a literary ghost story about a merchant's son who is haunted by the ghost of a girl. Or, try Guy Gavriel Kay's River of Stars, which takes place four centuries after his acclaimed novel Under Heaven and spins a dramatic tale of world-changing events in the Song Dynasty, a land evocative of ancient China. Mary Robinette Kowal continues her wonderful Jane Austen tribute Glamourist Histories series in Without a Summer, where magical intrigue threatens romance. Geoff Ryman's The Warrior Who Carried Life explores gender issues when a girl uses magic to transform herself into a male warrior to defeat her enemies.
Horror fans will definitely want to seek out Joe Hill's supernatural suspense novel NOS4A2, which re-spins the vampire tale in new and interesting ways; it's about a 140-year-old man who takes children for a not-so-fun ride to the mysterious Christmasland in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith, which brandishes the titular license plate. (Do you get the title reference?) Mystery fans will want to seek out Jack Glass by Adam Roberts, which blends science fiction and crime fiction into a captivating mystery. Video game culture references abound in You by Austin Grossman, a mystery against the backdrop of a software company. Adam Christopher follows up his acclaimed novel Empire State with Age Atomic, a superhero-noir fantasy thriller that takes place in an alternate 1950s New York. The foundations of modern science are challenged in Ted Kosmatka's Prophet of Bones, when DNA from an archaeological dig offers new proof about mankind's history. Looking for more lighthearted fare? Then try The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu, where an ancient alien life-form occupies the mind of an out-of-shape IT technician, who thus trains to be a secret agent in an alien civil war.
Traditional Science Fiction
Readers of more traditional science fiction will be happy to know that C. J. Cherryh has written another book in her popular Foreigner series. Protector continues the detailed and enthralling depiction of the interaction between human and alien. Ian Douglas' Star Carrier series, portraying mankind's struggle to bring about the downfall of an evil space empire, also continues with Deep Space. Age of Scorpio by Gavin G. Smith is a visionary stand-alone SF thriller set in the far future. The Serene Invasion by Eric Brown shows us a near-future alien occupation on a troubled Earth, where not everyone agrees with the apparent alien agenda of making the world a better place. In Fire with Fire by Charles E. Gannon, mankind's colonization of space is hindered by the discovery of an alien alliance that threatens war. Baneblade by Guy Haley is a military sf story revolving around a super-heavy battle tank. David Drake & Tony Daniel team up for The Heretic, a far-future tale about a low-tech race on another planet that worships a supercomputer from the past. The noir-ish Sharp by Alex Hughes is a telepathic detective story. Zombie lovers should check out Plague Nation by Dana Fredsti, which features a tough, zombie-killing superheroine; and Dust by Joan Frances Turner, which offers a more personal look at zombies as seen through the eyes of a young girl killed in a car accident. And finally, steampunk lovers will appreciate A.A. Aguirre's Bronze Gods, where criminal investigators—including the first female inspector—search for a missing heiress and find murder.
Those drawn to the pages of traditional fantasy will no doubt want to see Robin Hobb's Blood of Dragons, the final volume in her Rain Wilds series about dragons, dragon keepers and the quest for a lost city. Also concluding existing series are Freda Warrington, who wraps up her contemporary magical fantasy series with Grail of the Summer Stars, in which the lives of human and fey revolve around a mystical painting; and Jon Courtenay Grimwood, whose gritty Assassini fantasy series concludes with The Exiled Blade, which depicts a struggle for power in a Venice on the brink of war. Looking to start a brand new fantasy series? Check out John Marco's The Forever Knight which is about a knight fallen from grace who's looking for redemption. Or, try Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan, which begins a new epic fantasy that combines swords, magic and guns. Perhaps less traditional, but steeped in tradition, Helene Wecker's The Golem and the Jinni puts mythical beings in turn-of-the-century New York; specifically, a golem made of clay and a magical jinni become unlikely friends in a story that combines Yiddish and Middle Eastern literature, historical fiction and magical fable, into one rich narrative.
There is a lot of genre blending going on in science fiction these days, and there's a trio of new novels that seek to dabble in the monstrous...like Necessary Evil by Ian Tregillis, where a Bristish spy travels to another Earth to fight Cthulhu-like monsters. In Reaper's Legacy by Tim Lebbon, heroes and monsters collide in an apocalyptic London that is cut off from the rest of the word. Speaking of London, Paul Cornell's London Falling features police officers who develop a supernatural ability that they use to fight monsters. In Amanda Carlson's Hot Blooded, the protagonist herself is the monster; Jessica McClain is the only female werewolf who, with a ragtag team of cohorts, aims to rescue her mate who has been kidnapped by a Goddess hell-bent on revenge. All of these stories play in the tropes of sf/f while adding a tasty dose of the macabre.
Books Targeted at Younger Readers (But Enjoyable by Adults, Too)
Just because some books are targeted at younger readers doesn't mean adults won't find some entertaining reads, too. For example, The Silver Dream by Neil Gaiman, Michael Reaves & Mallory Reaves is sequel to Neil's and Michael's popular Interword novel, and provides more adventure involving interdimensional battles and alternate realities. Darren Shan also has a follow-up novel in Zom-B City, a zombie novel aimed at teens, but no less harrowing for adults. Meanwhile, Martha Wells tells us the story a stowaway on a steamship who inadvertently finds adventure on her way to the center of the planet in Emilie and the Hollow World. Spirit's Chosen by Esther Friesner features a strong, young princess turned shaman-warrior and mixes up historical fiction and fantasy into a riveting adventure. Finally, in what has to be every kid's fantasy, Light by Michael Grant posits a future where all the adults have disappeared.Bite-Size SF/F/H
If you want a quick taste of what the fields of science fiction, fantasy and horror have to offer to sample over lunch and on bus rides, check out any of the awesome short fiction multi-author anthologies and single-author collections due this month, including: The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume Seven edited by Jonathan Strahan; Best British Fantasy 2013 edited by Steve Haynes; The Mammoth Book of Dark Magic edited by Mike Ashley; Unnatural Creatures by Neil Gaiman; Good-bye Robinson Crusoe and Other Stories by John Varley; Hauntings edited by Ellen Datlow; The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All by Laird Barron; and the two short-novel collection Stepping Stone / Love Machine: Crosstown to Oblivion by Walter Mosley.
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 likes cute puppies and kittens. You can follow him on Twitter as @sfsignal. Or not. See what he cares.