Bookstore shelves are overflowing with lots of reading choices, but what is a curious reader to do? Here's a tip: use this handy guide to find your next speculative fiction read. This month's selection features a dystopian Egypt, cryogenically frozen humans, a woman who can assume anyone's physical appearance, a girl nobody remembers, and a pandemic of human spontaneous combustion.
Company Town by Madeline Ashby
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: In a world where bioengineering runs rampant, one woman chooses to remain her organic self. She's the local expert of self-defense in Company Town, a city-sized oil rig owned by her family located off the coast of the Canadian Maritimes. Her latest job is to train the family's youngest against death threats that seem to be originating from another timeline.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: After an 18-month publication delay, readers will finally have to answer to the question: "What is the brilliant author of vN and iD going to do next?"
The Queue by Basma Abdel Aziz
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: In a surreal version of modern-day Egypt where a powerful centralized authority called The Gate rules, citizens must obtain approval for even the most mundane tasks of their daily affairs. Yehia, a man who was shot during the events that led up to this dystopian society, awaits permission to remove a bullet lodged in his body. Tarek, a doctor tending to Yehia's case, attempts to maintain his principles despite the law and must choose between helping his patient or defying The Gate.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: This unsettling debut is said to evoke "Orwellian dystopia, Kafkaesque surrealism, and a very real vision of life after the Arab Spring".
Zero K by Don DeLillo
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Considerations of life and death surround a cryogenic facility where the unhealthy are frozen until such time that they can be thawed and cured. The story follows Jeffrey Lockhart and his sixty-year-old billionaire father, Ross, who is an investor at the cryogenic facility. Ross gives the long, cold goodbye to Artis, his young-but-ailing wife, who shares his view of delaying life in favor of a better world. Jeff, meanwhile, believes in the here-and-now.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: DeLillo is considered one of the great American novelists. It'll be interesting to see how he handles genre tropes while meditating on the meaning of life.
All Fixed Up by Linda Grimes
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Ciel Halligan is an aura adaptor extraordinaire, meaning she can replicate anyone's appearance by absorbing their energy and projecting it back out in flawless imitation. Ciel uses her talent to help pay the bills by assuming clients' identities to help them get out of jams. Her latest job is to impersonate a celebrated astronaut about to make a stunning announcement about the space program. However, there are those who see trough Ciel's outer aura and pose a danger not just to her, but other adaptors as well.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: Grimes' "light" urban fantasy is infused with humor that only adds to its appetizing flavor.
The God Wave by Patrick Hemstreet
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A team of neuroscientists discover a way to tap into the hidden capabilities of the human brain, unveiling a new phase of human evolution. Lead neuroscientist Chuck Brenton discovered the key to making humans god-like, but now a sinister group of power players want to control Brenton's superbeings.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: This techno-thriller is based on a cool idea.
The Fireman by Joe Hill
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A worldwide pandemic of spontaneous human combustion threatens the extinction of mankind. The spore known as Dragonscale marks its victims with flecks of black and gold before they burst into flame. Society is thrown into turmoil as self-appointed posses called Cremation Squads take to the streets to kill the infected. There is no cure, but a band of improbable heroes led by the enigmatic man known as the Fireman aim to try to stop it.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: The Fireman's premise is downright scary and Hill turns the suspense up to 11 eleven by telling the story of a woman looking to forestall Dragonscale's effects long enough for her to give birth to the baby she's carrying.
Roses and Rot by Kat Howard
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Two sisters, Imogen and Marin, grew up disliking their cruel mother. Now, as adults, they escape by enrolling in a post-grad arts program to live a fairy tale life. But all is not as it seems at school: events transpire that will pit Imogen and Marin against one another.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: This debut novel asks readers "What would you sacrifice for everything you ever dreamed of?"
Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: In this historical fantasy, the lives of several interconnected characters are impacted by a holy war: Danica, a woman warrior out to avenge her family; Leonora, an angry spy posing as a doctor's wife; Pero, a young artist traveling to the dangerous east to paint the grand khalif, and the captain of the merchant ship that carries them.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: Kay's lush, imaginative world is inspired by the real-life Renaissance Europe.
Camp Alien by Gini Koch
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: The continuing adventures of Jeff and Kitty Katt-Martini, once part of a super-secret organization set on defending the Earth from aliens, but now the President and First Lady of the United States. Their latest mission involves the sudden reappearance of a long-forgotten adversary, robots and androids attacking Earth, and new aliens with amazing abilities.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: Gini Koch's Alien books remind us why we read: it's fun!
The Summer Dragon by Todd Lockwood
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A young girl named Maia, whose family raise dragons for the political war machine, wants a dragon of her own. But her hopes are dashed when the war takes a turn for the worse and the family dragonry is called upon to help. However, the appearance of a Summer Dragon, one of the rare and mythical High Dragons, is an omen of change. Trouble is, powerful factions are bent on making it a change for the worse.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: Lockwood, a longtime professional illustrator, has been breathing fantasy for decades and knows his way around a dragon.
The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Hope Arden is a girl with a very strange life. Since age sixteen, she has been the girl that nobody remembers, not even her family. It makes her life difficult, but it also makes her very dangerous.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: The acclaimed author of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August knows how to write stories that, unlike this book's sympathetic protagonist, people will remember.
Central Station by Lavie Tidhar
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A collection of short stories set in a well-imagined and culturally diverse future in which much of mankind has travelled to the stars, and Earth is left behind.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: As he stated in this interview, this collection is rooted in real-world history, serves as a love letter, and offers us a hopeful future.
In addition to Central Station, there are more short fiction titles you'll definitely want to seek out if you enjoy short fiction:
¨ Fritz Leiber Masters of Science Fiction by Fritz Leiber
¨ James Patrick Kelly Masters of Science Fiction by James Patrick Kelly
¨ Nebula Awards Showcase 2016 edited by Mercedes Lackey
¨ The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume Ten by Jonathan Strahan
¨ The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu by Paula Guran
¨ The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2016 Edition edited by Rich Horton
¨ Writers of the Future 32 edited by David Farland