Like a busy sommelier, voracious readers also need to cleanse their palate. For bookworms, that translates into reading outside your genre and for many readers, the solution could be as simple as choosing a book of the following selection of must-read speculative fiction titles out in April. This month's selection features the science behind dragons, town curses, violent gaming tournaments, JFK's Psych Corps, and a technology that allows you to inhabit multiple bodies.

 

In the Labyrinth of Drakes by Marie Brennan

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: The glamorous Lady Trent, a woman of the Victorian age in the pursuit of scientific inquiry, recounts how her interest in the study of dragons was initiated, which in itself is an adventure.

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WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: The Memoirs of Lady Trent is a science-in-fantasy series that has proven itself to be both engaging and fun. This back story is no different.

 

Fellside by M. R. Carey

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Jess Moulson could end up spending the rest of her life at Fellside, a maximum security prison on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors. The scary part isn't that the walls whisper, it's that the voice of a little boy has a message specifically for Jess.

WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: Carey wowed audiences with his bestselling hit The Girl with all the Gifts. This new literary thriller promises to do the same.

 

Visitor by C. J. Cherryh

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Bren Cameron, a human translator and diplomat to an alien race, struggles to keep the peace amongst humans and the Atevi.

WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: Cherryh's much-loved and long-running series (19 books strong!) is a rich tapestry of multiple story arcs that can be consumed independently of each other.

 

Hex_cover HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A group of teens plans to escape Black Spring, a scenic Hudson Valley town under quarantine to prevent the spread of a curse initiated by the town's creepiest resident: a seventeenth century witch whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut.

WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: This is the first English novel for Dutch novelist Thomas Olde Heuvelt, who has already been nominated for Hugo and World Fantasy awards for his shorter-length work.

 

Shadow Rites by Faith Hunter

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Jane Yellowrock, proprietor of the premier vampire hunting and paranormal tracking company in the United States, must unravel the mystery behind the discovery of a master vampire who was presumed dead long ago.

WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: This is another long-running series that has proven itself to be an urban fantasy fan favorite.

 

Arena by Holly Jennings

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: In the near future, competitive video gaming is taken to new heights with the advent of worldwide televised RAGE tournaments. The catch is, wounds reflected in the games translates to real-world pain. Kali Ling, the first female captain in RAGE tournament, is soon confronted with the startling truth about the tournaments.

WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: Today's real-world video gaming technology makes this premise sound eerily possible.

 

The Everything Box by Richard Kadrey

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A two-bit thief is hired by a mysterious client to steal an innocuous, small box that is in reality a doomsday device.

WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: The Everything Box is a book that doesn't take itself too seriously and reminds us why reading is fun.

 

Kill Switch by Jonathan Maberry

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Joe Ledger of the Department of Military Sciences confronts a terrorist plot to unleash a plague. Meanwhile, a team of remote viewers has the ability to completely take control over any person and turn ordinary citizens into killers out to get Joe.

WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: Maberry's Joe Ledger series is a certified hit with fans because of its action-filled plots and swift pace.

 

Hystopia by David Means

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: In an alternate history where he was never assassinated, John F. Kennedy sets up a government-sponsored Psych Corps dedicated to "maintaining the nation's mental hygiene by any means necessary.” Unfortunately, this often means wiping the minds of honored Vietnam veterans.

WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: Hystopia uses satire to approach the tough subject of wartime trauma.

 

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A girl falls down a well and into a giant metal hand. Years later, the world is still trying to unravel the secrets of that bizarre artifact and what it might mean for humanity.

WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: The mystery that's central to the story will keep you turning the pages to find out what happens next.

 

Wraith by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A rogue force has learned how to reanimate the dead and make an army of zombies capable of lethal action.

WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: This puts an interesting spin on the zombie story.

 

Join by Steve ToutonghiJoin_cover

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A revolutionary technology allows small groups of minds to unite into a single consciousness inhabiting multiple bodies, effectively allowing you to live multiple lives simultaneously. But what happens when that technology is used by a ruthless killer?

WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: It's a fast-moving science fiction thriller with a thought-provoking premise.

 

The Edge of Worlds by Martha Wells

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: In the world of the shape-shifting Raksura, the discovery of an ancient city spells trouble when it is believed to be connected with a calamitous prophecy.

WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: This is a great chance to get in on the ground floor of a new series set in the world ofthe Raksura, which readers have been praising as a well-imaged fantasy setting.

 

Barren Cove by Ariel S. Winter

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Sapien, a robot of a distant time, seeks solitude by retiring to a beach house, where he becomes increasingly fascinated with the Victorian home's past residents.

WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: By examining the relationships between robots and humans, Winter's lyrical novel is really exploring human relationships in a way that's emotionally compelling.

 

SHORT FICTION

If short fiction is more your speed, check out these fascinating collections of stories:

  • Sharp Ends: Stories from the World of the First Law by Joe Abercrombie
  • Clockwork Phoenix 5 edited by Mike Allen
  • First Communions: A Collection of Dark Fiction by Geoffrey Girard
  • Street Magicks edited by Paula Guran
  • The Man Underneath: The Collected Short Fiction, Volume Three by R.A. Lafferty
  • Dead Letters Anthology edited by Conrad Williams

Happy reading!

John DeNardo is the editor of SF Signal, the Hugo Award-winning group science-fiction and fantasy blog featuring news, reviews and interviews. You can follow him on Twitter as @sfsignal.