I’ve been conditioned to think that summertime is for blockbuster stories. For poolside reading, I love a thriller with a formidable female hero (or antihero), big stakes, nonstop action, and no Middle Eastern terrorists (skip the cliches, please!). These starred picks—an SF page-turner in which language is a commodity; a fun twist on battling alpha zombies and other foes while roaming a wrecked planet; and a bleak, violent police procedural set in Copenhagen—meet the above criteria and then some.

In a world where everyone speaks the same language thanks to a chip implanted at birth, what happens if that language network crashes? In The Babel Apocalypse by Vyvyan Evans,corporations control every utterance—a profitable business. But when that business fails, the world tips into chaos. The head of Europol’s cybercrime department attempts to investigate the outage’s source but instead unearths a vast, deadly conspiracy. Only one person has the power to save him: “The enigmatic Ebba Black, a linguistics professor, heiress, hacker extraordinaire, and the world’s last natural speaker of multiple dead or proscribed languages.” The Babel Apocalypse, an energetic series opener, has a lot to like—“deeply considered and meticulously described worldbuilding, an impressively complex storyline with numerous bombshell plot twists, emotionally compelling characters, and weighty themes concerning the power of language and the danger of humankind’s becoming overly dependent on technology,” according to our reviewer. “A perfect fusion of SF, thriller, and mystery—smart speculative fiction at its very best.”

Zombies never get old. In Viktor Csák’s Welcome to the Silent Zone, a teenage girl and a man join together in a relentless battle against hungry, undead creatures who are, unfortunately, also agile and clever. “Cassius unofficially adopted Abigail when her mother and a group of small children were bitten by ravenous creatures and transformed into vicious, zombielike creatures,” explains our reviewer. “After training her to use automatic weaponry, the fierce duo strategize, shoot, and slash their way through deadly regions, searching for the rumored safe colony sanctuary they hope to call their home.” Abigail and Cassius stick together despite their inevitable differences, as Csák’s grisly adventure winds this way and that before reaching a heart-stopping finale. Our reviewer calls it a “creatively accomplished, atmospheric, and gripping adrenaline rush for monster fans.”

For those who take their Nordic noir extra bleak, Michael Katz Krefeld’s Darkness Calls, translated by Ian Giles, is a must-read. Inspector Cecilie Mars is a Copenhagen police detective and the target of a deepfake video that frames her for murder. “Lazarus” threatens to release the video unless the inspector follows his orders and kills multiple rapists and murderers who were insufficiently punished by Danish law. The moral conundrum and increasingly twisted murders lead to a showdown between Lazarus and Mars that involves opening old, traumatic wounds. “In Giles’ deft English translation, Krefeld’s tale is an intricate police procedural, taut with intrigue that explodes into terrifying violence, and a gritty depiction of a far-from-quaint Copenhagen characterized by cynical legal bureaucrats, grim concrete high-rises, and menacing street gangs,” raves our reviewer. “Choice Nordic noir featuring a pressure-cooker scenario, gripping action, and nerve-wracking psychological tension.”

Chaya Schechner is the president of Kirkus Indie.