Looking for a good book? Look no further than these fantastic offerings of science fiction and fantasy!
"Mainstream" Speculative Fiction
Newcomers to speculative fiction—a term meant to encompass science fiction, fantasy and horror—will be interested in knowing some of the more accessible titles in the genre. You may want to check out The Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi, a contemporary and relevant thriller that looks at the availability of public information and how it could be put to use for monetary gain—specifically by corporations looking to cover up some dark secrets. The Blood of Angels by Johanna Sinisalo is an eco-speculative novel in which an epidemic hits Earth's food chain and it's only a matter of time before the devastation climbs up the chain and destroys mankind. Spark by John Twelve Hawks is a thriller about a deadly assassin who is chillingly effective because of an accident that effectively makes him think he is already dead, thus disconnecting that part of brain which determines right from wrong. Meanwhile, The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber contrasts the newly born with the slowly dying when a man of faith becomes a missionary on a faraway, recently colonized planet...only to learn from afar that Earth is undergoing a series of social upheavals and planet-ending catastrophes. Finally, William Gibson offers The Peripheral, a novel whose brother-and-sister characters seem to have differing opinions on whether a job beta-testing a new game is just a virtual way to pay the bills, or a cover-up for murder.
Science Fiction Picks
Science fiction readers will no doubt be looking forward to the sequel to Ann Leckie's multi-award-winning Ancillary Justice. In Ancillary Sword, despite the military setting and the crumbling empire, the author offers up a personal story of its protagonist, Breq (the soldier who used to be a warship), helping to protect the family of a lieutenant she murdered in cold blood. Those readers looking for a little more traditional military sci-fi should check out War Dogs by Greg Bear, first of a new trilogy in which aliens arrive at Earth and offer humans advanced technology in exchange for assistance in fighting a deadly alien foe. David Weber and Timothy Zahn team up for A Call to Duty, the start of a new military sci-fi trilogy in Weber's Honor Harrington universe, in which a young enlistee in the Royal Manticoran Navy learns that the universe is not a safe place.
There's a gamut of other sub-genre's from which to choose your next read. Space Opera fans will want to check out Peter F. Hamilton's The Abyss Beyond Dreams, an extension of the rich tapestry that is his Commonwealth universe, in which the key to destroying the Void—an anomaly in space that threatens all life in the universe—may be known only by a race of enigmatic and deadly aliens. Or perhaps you like gaming? In Real Life, written by Cory Doctorow and illustrated by Jen Wang, is about gamer girl Anda, who learns through her massively multiplayer role-playing game a little something about ethics and the complexity of people in real life. Short fiction fans will want to check out Paula Guran's new anthology, Time Travel: Recent Trips, which offers a great selection of time travel stories from such talent as Elizabeth Bear & Sarah Monette, Ken Liu, Mary Robinette Kowal and more. Fish Tails by Sheri S. Tepper posits a watery apocalypse in which mankind must adapt to living underwater. Falling Sky by Rajan Khanna is a unique novel that takes place two generations after a disease turned most people in North America into feral-like beasts. The survivors have taken to the air, living in airships, and one airship captain is determined to help a group of scientists look for a cure.
Speaking of airships, steampunk fans will want to check out one of these titles: The Time Roads by Beth Bernobich, a 19th century alternate-history steampunk romp; Sky Piratesby Liesel Schwarz, a steampunk adventure that also mixes in romance and urban fantasy; and The Steampunk User's Manual: An Illustrated Practical and Whimsical Guide to Creating Retro-futurist Dreams by Jeff VanderMeer and Desirina Boskovich, a beautiful and lavish coffee table book about all things steampunk.
There are lots of fantasy titles to satisfy readers this month. For starters, there's The Slow Regard of Silent Things, in which Patrick Rothfuss offers readers the bittersweet back story of Auri, one of the characters from his Kingkiller Chronicles. Richard K. Morgan's realistically gritty The Dark Defiles is about a reluctant hero in search of a deathless human sorcerer-warrior. Hawk by Steven Brust returns to the much-loved world of Vlad Taltos with a new story about Vlad's return to the imperial capital with his family and friends, determined to end the threat of the assassins that have long pursued him. Scarlet Tides by David Hair is the continuation of an epic fantasy about a crusade to recover an object that is the source of all magical power. Heraclix and Pomp by Forrest Aguirre is about the travels of its two protagonists, one a man who dies and was reanimated, the other one the immortal who resurrected him to help defeat and evil necromancer. Riding the Unicorn by Paul Kearney is about a down-and-out man who escapes to an alternate, magical world to become the hero he wants to be in real life.
Urban fantasy goes dark in Caitlin Kittredge's Black Dog, a novel about hellhounds and reapers that's described as "Kill Bill with demons and gangsters". The Shotgun Arcana by R.S. Belcher is a weird Western about the sheriff of a small town who must deal with the dozens of outlaws, lunatics, serial killers and cannibals who are converging upon it.
For a quick hit of diverse fantasy stories, check out Fearsome Magics edited by Jonathan Strahan, which includes exciting stories by Genevieve Valentine, K.J. Parker, Ellen Klages, Karin Tidbeck, Garth Nix and more. Or check out Ysabeau S. Wilce's wildly imaginative collection Prophecies, Libels & Dreams.
Young Adult Picks
Several titles this month are being targeted at young adult readers, but can be enjoyed by readers of any age who are looking for stories that range from relevant to fun. In A.S. King's Glory O'Brien's History of the Future, for example, a troubled girl acquires the ability to see a person's infinite past and future. Girl on a Wire by Gwenda Bond is about a girl and boy from rival circus families who unite to find the source of magical talismans that begin to appear and disrupt things. The Calling by James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton is about a dangerous, millennia-old game on which the future of the human race hangs in the balance. Tricia Sullivan blends martial arts and mythical creatures in her story Shadowboxer, where a young martial arts fighter named Jade stumbles on a conspiracy in which the souls of children are being harvested by a man seeking immortality. The Ice Dragon by George R. R. Martin is the heartwarming story (beautifully illustrated by Luis Royo) of a girl and her dragon. Yes, it's set in the world A Song of Ice and Fire.
A couple of in-progress series get new books this month. Darren Shan continues his popular series with a new entry, Zom-B Family, where the young zombie protagonist ends up in the clutches of a former foe. Garth Nix also has a new Old Kingdom book with Clariel, a prequel actually, in which the titular character, daughter of a noble family, must deal with an unwanted marriage arrangement, a dangerous Free Magic creature loose in the city, and the realization that she possesses emerging magical powers.
Speaking of powers, Marie Lu's The Young Elites features a group of children that acquire special powers. However, these so-called "young elites" are sought by the Inquisition Axis, a faction intent on destroying them. Mark Leslie's I, Death features a boy coming to terms with his innate power to end the lives of those around him.
What About Horror?
Huh? It's Halloween month and there are no Horror titles mentioned? Don't fret, dear reader: Next week, I'll offer up a selection of the best new horror reads. Stay tuned!