With the recent onslaught of multiverse superhero movies out there, I’m feeling a little multiversed-out, and it takes something special for me to get back into it. These books all fit the bill.
1916: The Western Front. Private Percy Blakeney wakes up. He is lying on fresh spring grass. He can hear birdsong and the wind in the leaves. Where have the mud, blood, and blasted landscape of no-man’s-land gone? For that matter, where has Percy gone?
2015: Madison, Wisconsin. Police officer Monica Jansson is exploring the burned-out home of a reclusive—some say mad, others allege dangerous—scientist who seems to have vanished. Sifting through the wreckage, Jansson finds a curious gadget: a box containing some rudimentary wiring, a three-way switch, and… a potato. It is the prototype of an invention that will change the way humankind views the world forever.
“In this thought-provoking collaboration, Pratchett (the Discworld series) and Baxter (Stone Spring) create an infinity of worlds to explore. . . fascinating premise.”
Possibly the first parallel-world book ever written, The Blazing World is a highly original work: part Utopian fiction, part feminist text, it tells of a lady shipwrecked on the Blazing World where she is made Empress and uses her power to ensure that it is free of war, religious division, and unfair sexual discrimination.
Author Margaret Lucas Cavendish was Maid of Honor to Queen Henrietta Maria from 1643 to 1645. She wrote a total of fourteen works on a broad selection of topics: scientific and philosophical treatises, science fiction, a biography, an autobiography, essays, letters, poetry, “orations,” and several plays.
Co-written by the actor that played Q.
The Maelstrom, a metaphysical whirlpool of apocalyptic proportions, is pulling all of reality into its maw, devouring the totality of time and space while bringing together people and places from throughout the universe. The Q Continuum pronounces that the end of everything has come, but Q refuses to meekly accept the complete termination of all he has known.
Defying the judgment of the Continuum, he sets out to derail doomsday at whatever the cost. Q is joined in his quest by his young son, little q, as well as by two displaced Starfleet officers.
Snatched from the Enterprise by the inexorable pull of the Maelstrom, Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Lieutenant Commander Data have no choice but to accompany Q on a hazardous journey into the very heart of the vortex, where they will encounter wonders and dangers enough to render Q himself speechless. Almost.
When four supremely sensual and unspeakably cerebral humans—two male, two female—find themselves under attack from aliens who want their awesome quantum breakthrough, they take to the skies and zoom into the cosmos on a rocket roller-coaster ride of adventure, danger, ecstasy, and peril through a myriad of universes.
Only a few know the terrifying truth: an outcast Earth scientist, a rebellious alien inhabitant of a dying planet, a lunar-born human intuitionist who senses the imminent annihilation of the Sun…
But who will listen? They have foreseen the cost of abundant energy, but who will believe? These few beings, human and alien, hold the key to the Earth’s survival.
There is actually some science fiction in this book, but there’s plenty of magic, too.
THE VILLAIN: The Dark One—probably not fun at parties, definitely cool with murder—was running around North America engulfing whole cities in supernatural chaos and destruction.
THE HEROES: Five Chosen Ones—ordinary strangers with nothing in common—were recruited by the government because they fit the narrow criteria of a prophecy made by [redacted]. You know the rest…heroes fought villain, heroes defeated villain, and everything went back to normal.
Only… not so much.
Now, it’s ten years later, and Sloane Andrews, recovering Chosen One, has discovered that all the fame, gratitude, and parade floats in the world can’t erase what she endured—what she had to do—to take down the Dark One. All she wants now is to be left alone, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards.
As it turns out, that plan for annihilation set in motion by the Dark One? It’s not finished yet. Last time, Sloane saved the day with a magical needle and a can-do attitude. This time, she’s fresh out of both.
“Those who like twisty power plays and very detailed worldbuilding will appreciate this… [L]ots of sarcasm, and a hint of romance.”
Lior Tirosh is a semi-successful author of pulp fiction, an inadvertent time traveler, and an ongoing source of disappointment to his father.
Tirosh has returned to his homeland in East Africa. But Palestina―a Jewish state founded in the early 20th century―has grown dangerous. Unrest in Ararat City is growing; the government is building a vast border wall to keep out African refugees. Tirosh has become state security officer Bloom’s prime murder suspect, while rogue agent Nur stalks them through transdimensional rifts―possible futures to prevented only by avoiding the mistakes of the past.
“[W]ildly inventive and entertaining novel that moves at a breathless gallop… [Tidhar] has already staked a claim as the genre’s most interesting, most bold, and most accomplished writer.”
Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their groundbreaking achievements. Their most astonishing invention, called the Firebird, allows users to jump into multiple universes—and promises to revolutionize science forever. But then Marguerite’s father is murdered, and the killer—her parent’s handsome, enigmatic assistant Paul—escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.
Marguerite refuses to let the man who destroyed her family go free. So she races after Paul through different universes, always leaping into another version of herself. But she also meets alternate versions of the people she knows—including Paul, whose life entangles with hers in increasingly familiar ways. Before long she begins to question Paul’s guilt—as well as her own heart. And soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is far more sinister than she expected.
“An action–packed start… Gray effortlessly moves between the SF, historical, and contemporary aspects of her story.”
Harper Curtis is a killer who stepped out of the past. Kirby Mazrachi is the girl who was never meant to have a future. Kirby is the last shining girl, one of the bright young women, burning with potential, whose lives Harper is destined to snuff out after he stumbles on a House in Depression-era Chicago that opens on to other times.
At the urging of the House, Harper inserts himself into the lives of these shining girls, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. He’s the ultimate hunter, vanishing without a trace into another time after each murder—until one of his victims survives.
Determined to bring her would-be killer to justice, Kirby joins the Chicago Sun-Times to work with the reporter, Dan Velasquez, who covered her case. Soon Kirby finds herself closing in on an impossible truth.
“A grisly crime thriller meets sci-fi action meets historical fiction in a wildly inventive summer page-turner.”
In the ashes of a dying world, Red finds a letter marked “Burn before reading. Signed, Blue.”
So begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents in a war that stretches through the vast reaches of time and space.
Red belongs to the Agency, a post-singularity technotopia. Blue belongs to Garden, a single vast consciousness embedded in all organic matter. Their pasts are bloody and their futures mutually exclusive. They have nothing in common—save that they’re the best, and they’re alone.
Now what began as a battlefield boast grows into a dangerous game, one both Red and Blue are determined to win. Because winning’s what you do in war. Isn’t it?
“[An] exquisitely crafted tale… Part epistolary romance, part mind-blowing science fiction adventure, this dazzling story unfolds bit by bit, revealing layers of meaning as it plays with cause and effect, wildly imaginative technologies, and increasingly intricate wordplay…”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
The Light Brigade: it’s what soldiers fighting the war against Mars call the ones who come back… different. Grunts in the corporate corps get busted down into light to travel to and from interplanetary battlefronts. Everyone is changed by what the corps must do in order to break them down into light. Those who survive learn to stick to the mission brief—no matter what actually happens during combat.
Dietz, a fresh recruit in the infantry, begins to experience combat drops that don’t sync up with the platoon’s. And Dietz’s bad drops tell a story of the war that’s not at all what the corporate brass want the soldiers to think it is.
Is Dietz really experiencing the war differently, or is it combat madness? Trying to untangle memory from mission brief and survive with sanity intact, Dietz is ready to become a hero—or maybe a villain; in war it’s hard to tell the difference.
“A smart, brutal, and structurally sophisticated military science fiction tale with a time travel twist.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
1992: After a confrontation at a riot grrl concert, seventeen-year-old Beth finds herself in a car with her friend’s abusive boyfriend dead in the backseat, agreeing to help her friends hide the body. This murder sets Beth and her friends on a path of escalating violence and vengeance as they realize many other young women in the world need protecting too.
2022: Determined to use time travel to create a safer future, Tess has dedicated her life to visiting key moments in history and fighting for change. But rewriting the timeline isn’t as simple as editing one person or event. And just when Tess believes she’s found a way to make an edit that actually sticks, she encounters a group of dangerous travelers bent on stopping her at any cost.
Tess and Beth’s lives intertwine as war breaks out across the timeline—a war that threatens to destroy time travel and leave only a small group of elites with the power to shape the past, present, and future. Against the vast and intricate forces of history and humanity, is it possible for a single person’s actions to echo throughout the timeline?
“An intelligent, gut-wrenching glimpse of how tiny actions, both courageous and venal, can have large consequences. Smart and profound on every level.”
―Publishers Weekly, starred review
It’s 2016, and in Tom Barren’s world, technology has solved all of humanity’s problems—there’s no war, no poverty, no under-ripe avocadoes. Unfortunately, Tom isn’t happy. He’s lost the girl of his dreams. And what do you do when you’re heartbroken and have a time machine? Something stupid.
Finding himself stranded in a terrible alternate reality—which we immediately recognize as our 2016—Tom is desperate to fix his mistake and go home. Right up until the moment he discovers wonderfully unexpected versions of his family, his career, and the woman who may just be the love of his life.
Now Tom faces an impossible choice. Go back to his perfect but loveless life. Or stay in our messy reality with a soulmate by his side. His search for the answer takes him across continents and timelines in a quest to figure out, finally, who he really is and what his future—our future—is supposed to be.
“Entertainingly mixes thrills and humor.”
Shannon Moss is part of a clandestine division within the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. In western Pennsylvania, 1997, she is assigned to solve the murder of a Navy SEAL’s family—and to locate his vanished teenage daughter. Though she can’t share the information with conventional law enforcement, Moss discovers that the missing SEAL was an astronaut aboard the spaceship U.S.S. Libra—a ship assumed lost to the currents of Deep Time. Moss knows first-hand the mental trauma of time-travel and believes the SEAL’s experience with the future has triggered this violence.
Determined to find the missing girl and driven by a troubling connection from her own past, Moss travels ahead in time to explore possible versions of the future, seeking evidence to crack the present-day case. To her horror, the future reveals that it’s not only the fate of a family that hinges on her work, for what she witnesses rising over time’s horizon and hurtling toward the present is the Terminus: the terrifying and cataclysmic end of humanity itself.
“A fascinating blend that doesn’t skimp on the criminal investigation or the [sci fi]… Describing much more than [the] simple setup would rob the reader of the trippy experience of navigating the time-travel intricacies of this nail-biting speculative thriller.”
—Library Journal, starred review
“Are you happy with your life?”
Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.
Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.
Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”
In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.
Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.
“A fast, tasty read with a killer twist. It’s a whole bag of barbecue chips…just sitting there waiting for you to devour in one long rush.”
A lot of philosophy seems to boil down to: “So, this life thing. What are we supposed to do with this? And crap, there’s all these other people; that makes it even more complicated! Let’s drink.”
The books below examine what it means to be human, to be part of humanity, and what you would do or sacrifice for what you really loved.
Here is the story of Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, who, from her place in the store, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her. Klara and the Sun offers a look at our changing world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator, and one that explores the fundamental question: what does it mean to love?
“As with Ishiguro’s other works, the rich inner reflections of his protagonists offer big takeaways, and Klara’s quiet but astute observations of human nature land with profound gravity… This dazzling genre-bending work is a delight.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
Candace Chen, a millennial drone self-sequestered in a Manhattan office tower, is devoted to routine. With the recent passing of her Chinese immigrant parents, she’s had her fill of uncertainty. She’s content just to carry on: She goes to work, troubleshoots the teen-targeted Gemstone Bible, watches movies in a Greenpoint basement with her boyfriend.
So Candace barely notices when a plague of biblical proportions sweeps New York. Then Shen Fever spreads. Families flee. Companies cease operations. The subways screech to a halt. Her bosses enlist her as part of a dwindling skeleton crew with a big end-date payoff. Soon entirely alone, still unfevered, she photographs the eerie, abandoned city as the anonymous blogger NY Ghost.
Candace won’t be able to make it on her own forever, though. Enter a group of survivors, led by the power-hungry IT tech Bob. They’re traveling to a place called the Facility, where, Bob promises, they will have everything they need to start society anew. But Candace is carrying a secret she knows Bob will exploit. Should she escape from her rescuers?
“A biting indictment of late-stage capitalism and a chilling vision of what comes after… [Ma] knows her craft, and it shows. [Her protagonist] is a wonderful mix of vulnerability, wry humor, and steely strength… Ma also offers lovely meditations on memory and the immigrant experience. Smart, funny, humane, and superbly well-written.”
―Kirkus, starred review
This is a love story that could only happen because of an accident of time travel.
Tom and Penny belong to a world so perfect there’s no war, no poverty, no under-ripe avocados.
But when something awful happens to Penny, and Tom tries to make it right, he accidentally destroys everything, waking up in our broken, dysfunctional world.
Only here, Penny and Tom have a second chance.
Should Tom go back to his brilliant but loveless existence, or risk everything by staying in our messy, complicated world for his one and only chance at true love?
“[An] amazing debut novel… Dazzling and complex… Fearlessly funny storytelling.”
—The Washington Post
In a post-apocalyptic world, four men and one woman are all that remain of the human race, brought to near extinction by an artificial intelligence. Programmed to wage war on behalf of its creators, the AI became self-aware and turned against all humanity. The five survivors are prisoners, kept alive and subjected to brutal torture by the hateful and sadistic machine in an endless cycle of violence.
Pissing off science fiction writers everywhere, Ellison wrote the story “I Have No Mouth, & I Must Scream” in a single night in 1966, making virtually no changes from the first draft. He won a Hugo award for it, too. Bastard.
In the dream-like Annihilation, a section of the Californian coast has turned so weird that it’s now called Area X. This happened thirty years ago, and no one on the outside knows why everyone inside Area X died, why there are weird structures inside, or why there’s a border you can’t get through except through one invisible entrance. Is it a slow alien invasion, a mass hallucination, or something else?
Annihilation covers the twelfth expedition into Area X, where the members have given up their names and refer to each other only by profession: the biologist, the linguist, and so on. All the previous expeditions into Area X have ended in death, madness, or cancer.
This book is a gentle ride into subtle weirdness. You don’t get too many straight answers about what Area X is or is even like on the inside. Some things are normal, some fantastical, and most of it messes with your head. It all feels truly alien and you get the sense that this is going to be impossible to understand, no matter how many facts you have at your disposal.
“[G]ripping… thoroughly suspenseful… VanderMeer weaves together an otherworldly tale of the supernatural and the half-human.”
—Booklist, starred review
As you can see by the cover, this story is the inspiration for Blade Runner.
By 2021, the World War has killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending mankind off-planet. Those who remain covet any living creature, and for people who can’t afford one, companies build incredibly realistic simulacra: horses, birds, cats, sheep. They’ve even built humans. Immigrants to Mars receive androids so sophisticated they are indistinguishable from true men or women.
Fearful of the havoc these artificial humans can wreak, the government bans them from Earth. Driven into hiding, unauthorized androids live among human beings, undetected. Rick Deckard, an officially sanctioned bounty hunter, is commissioned to find rogue androids and “retire” them. But when cornered, androids fight back—with lethal force.
“A kind of pulp-fiction Kafka, a prophet.”
—The New York Times
On the world called Hyperion, beyond the reach of galactic law, waits a creature called the Shrike. There are those who worship it. There are those who fear it. And there are those who have vowed to destroy it. In the Valley of the Time Tombs, where huge, brooding structures move backward through time, the Shrike waits for them all.
On the eve of Armageddon, with the entire galaxy at war, seven pilgrims set forth on a final voyage to Hyperion seeking the answers to the unsolved riddles of their lives. Each carries a desperate hope—and a terrible secret. And one may hold the fate of humanity in his hands.
“An unfailingly inventive narrative… generously conceived and stylistically sure-handed.”
—The New York Times Book Review
Written in 1970 and published in 1975, The Female Man is a feminist novel that combines utopian fiction and satire.
In the book, the character Joanna calls herself the “female man” because she believes that she must forget her identity as a woman in order to be respected.
The novel follows the lives of four women living in parallel worlds that differ in time and place. When they cross over to each other’s worlds, their different views on gender roles startle each other’s preexisting notions of womanhood. In the end, their encounters influence them to evaluate their lives and shape their ideas of what it means to be a woman.
It looks like a good deal at first: a peaceful alien invasion by the mysterious Overlords, whose arrival ends all war, helps form a world government, and turns the planet into a near-utopia.
However, they refuse to answer questions about themselves and govern from orbiting spaceships. Clarke has said that the idea for Childhood’s End may have come from the numerous blimps floating over London during World War II.
Written in 1959, A Canticle for Leibowitz is one of the first real literary science fiction books, and an enduring, if not exceptionally well-known, classic.
The story takes places several hundred years after a nuclear apocalypse, and civilization barely exists. It’s a leisurely read that thoughtfully deals with the aftermath of a post-apocalyptic world through the lens of the denizens of a monastery in the Utah desert.
In this monastery are bits of scientific knowledge that the monks do not understand, and keep to themselves amid their trials and squabbling.
As the story occasionally skips forward in time hundreds of years, you don’t get to really settle in a consistent group of characters, but you do experience their civilization advancing.
Interestingly, during World War II, author Miller was a tail gunner in a bomber crew that participated in the destruction of the 6th-century Christian monastery at Monte Cassino, Italy, founded by St. Benedict, and recognized as the oldest surviving Christian church in the Western world. It’s generally assumed that this experience heavily influenced his writing this story.
Psychohistory is one of Asimov’s best inventions: using a combination of history, psychology, and statistics, one can accurately predict the behavior of large groups of people.
Foundation is arguably the first time a believable galactic empire was created in print. Unfortunately, Asimov’s characters tend be one-dimensional, but his stories are so entertaining that it’s easy to forgive that lapse.
Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, heir to a noble family tasked with ruling an inhospitable world where the only thing of value is the “spice” melange, a drug capable of extending life and enhancing consciousness. Coveted across the known universe, melange is a prize worth killing for…
When House Atreides is betrayed, the destruction of Paul’s family will set the boy on a journey toward a destiny greater than he could ever have imagined. And as he evolves into the mysterious man known as Muad’Dib, he will bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream.
“It is possible that Dune is even more relevant now than when it was first published.”
—The New Yorker
Heinlein got the idea for this novel when he and his wife Virginia were brainstorming one evening in 1948. She suggested a new version of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book (1894), but with a child raised by Martians instead of wolves. He decided to go further with the idea and worked on the story on and off for more than a decade.
Despite mixed reviews, Stranger in a Strange Land won the 1962 Hugo Award for Best Novel and became the first science fiction novel on The New York Times Book Review’s best-seller list.
Children are genetically programmed in the womb and sent through indoctrination programs, preparing them for lives in predetermined castes. It’s a utopian society that maintains its peace by removing the humanity of its members, and only one man is brave enough to vocally challenge the status quo.
Both Brave New World and 1984 saw dystopian futures, but Huxley seems to have gotten much of it right (though Orwell did nail the surveillance state). According to social critic Neil Postman:
“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egotism… Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.”
Author Stanislaw Lem has the best aliens, mostly because he makes them completely and profoundly, well, alien. Communication with them is often impossible, and the humans that attempt to interact with them are well intentioned but unsuccessful. Lem’s humans are some of the best in science fiction, as well: they screw up, are late, fail to see the whole picture, act irrationally, and even the brightest of them can be swayed by vanity and pride.
It’s possible to argue that Stanislaw Lem is the best science fiction writer ever, and Solaris is his most famous book.
When Kris Kelvin arrives at the planet Solaris to study the ocean that covers its surface, he finds a painful, hitherto unconscious memory embodied in the living physical likeness of a long-dead lover. Others examining the planet, Kelvin learns, are plagued with their own repressed and newly corporeal memories. The Solaris ocean may be a massive brain that creates these incarnate memories, though its purpose in doing so is unknown, forcing the scientists to shift the focus of their quest and wonder if they can truly understand the universe without first understanding what lies within their hearts.
I’d argue that Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus is the first science fiction novel. It’s certainly the first transhumanist one (though who knows what Shelley would have made of that term). It delves into the humanity of the monster and those around him, as opposed to the precise methods the doctor used to animate him.
Shelley published it anonymously in 1818, and 500 copies were printed.
It wasn’t until 1831 that the “popular” version was sold (which is probably what you’ve read). Shelley edited the book significantly, bowing to pressure to make the book more conservative. Many scholars prefer the 1818 version, claiming it holds true to Shelley’s original spirit.
The Giver, winner of the 1994 Newbery Medal, is set in a society which is at first presented as utopian, but gradually appears more and more dystopian. The society has eliminated pain and strife by converting to “Sameness,” a plan that has also eradicated emotional depth from their lives. Twelve-year-old Jonas is selected to inherit the position of Receiver of Memory, the person who stores all the past memories of the time before Sameness, in case they are ever needed to aid in decisions that others lack the experience to make. Jonas learns the truth about his dystopian society and struggles with its weight.
The Giver is a part of many middle school reading lists, but it is also on many challenged book lists and appeared on the American Library Association’s list of most challenged books of the 1990s.
“Wrought with admirable skill—the emptiness and menace underlying this Utopia emerge step by inexorable step: a richly provocative novel.”
—Kirkus, starred review
Across the world, thousands of people are shocked by a notification that they once chose to have a memory removed. Now they are being given an opportunity to get that memory back. Four individuals are filled with new doubts, grappling with the unexpected question of whether to remember unknown events, or to leave them buried forever.
Finn, an Irish architect living in the Arizona desert, begins to suspect his charming wife of having an affair. Mei, a troubled grad school dropout in Kuala Lumpur, wonders why she remembers a city she has never visited. William, a former police inspector in England, struggles with PTSD, the breakdown of his marriage, and his own secret family history. Oscar, a handsome young man with almost no memories at all, travels the world in a constant state of fear.
Into these characters’ lives comes Noor, a psychologist working at the Nepenthe memory removal clinic in London. The process of reinstating patients’ memories begins to shake the moral foundations of her world. As she delves deeper into how the program works, she will have to risk everything to uncover the cost of this miraculous technology.
“A cleverly conceived and wonderfully executed ensemble piece: intriguing, frightening, witty and humane.”
—Wall Street Journal
Aster has little to offer folks in the way of rebuttal when they call her ogre and freak. She’s used to the names; she only wishes there was more truth to them. If she were truly a monster, she’d be powerful enough to tear down the walls around her until nothing remains of her world.
Aster lives in the lowdeck slums of the HSS Matilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South. For generations, Matilda has ferried the last of humanity to a mythical Promised Land. On its way, the ship’s leaders have imposed harsh moral restrictions and deep indignities on dark-skinned sharecroppers like Aster. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer, Aster learns there may be a way to improve her lot—if she’s willing to sow the seeds of civil war.
“Solomon debuts with a raw distillation of slavery, feudalism, prison, and religion that kicks like rotgut moonshine…Stunning.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
Guy Montag was a fireman whose job it was to start fires…
The system was simple. Everyone understood it. Books were for burning, along with the houses in which they were hidden.
Guy Montag enjoyed his job. He had been a fireman for ten years, and he had never questioned the pleasure of the midnight runs nor the joy of watching pages consumed by flames. He never questioned anything, until he met a seventeen-year-old girl who told him of a past when people were not afraid.
Lauren Olamina and her family live in one of the only safe neighborhoods remaining on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Behind the walls of their defended enclave, Lauren’s father, a preacher, and a handful of other citizens try to salvage what remains of a culture that has been destroyed by drugs, disease, war, and chronic water shortages.
While her father tries to lead people on the righteous path, Lauren struggles with hyperempathy, a condition that makes her extraordinarily sensitive to the pain of others.
When fire destroys their compound, Lauren’s family is killed and she is forced out into a world that is fraught with danger. With a group of other refugees, Lauren must make her way north to safety, along the way conceiving a revolutionary idea that may mean salvation for all mankind.
“A real gut-wrencher… What makes Butler’s fiction compelling is that it is as crisply detailed as journalism… Often the smallest details are the most revelatory.”
The future is here…in an adventure of cosmic dimension. When a signal is discovered that seems to come from far beyond our solar system, a multinational team of scientists decides to find the source. What follows is an eye-opening journey out to the stars to the most awesome encounter in human history. Who—or what—is out there? Why are they watching us? And what do they want with us?
“[Sagan’s] informed and dramatically enacted speculations into the mysteries of the universe, taken to the point where science and religion touch, make his story an exciting intellectual adventure and science fiction of a high order.”
Shizuka Satomi made a deal with the devil: to escape damnation, she must entice seven other violin prodigies to trade their souls for success. She has already delivered six.
When Katrina Nguyen, a young transgender runaway, catches Shizuka’s ear with her wild talent, Shizuka can almost feel the curse lifting. She’s found her final candidate.
But in a donut shop off a bustling highway in the San Gabriel Valley, Shizuka meets Lan Tran, retired starship captain, interstellar refugee, and mother of four. Shizuka doesn’t have time for crushes or coffee dates, what with her very soul on the line, but Lan’s kind smile and eyes like stars might just redefine a soul’s worth. And maybe something as small as a warm donut is powerful enough to break a curse as vast as the California coastline.
As the lives of these three women become entangled by chance and fate, a story of magic, identity, curses, and hope begins, and a family worth crossing the universe for is found.
“The book brought me to tears… and bursts with love and insights on food, music, inheritance and transformation.”
―The New York Times
During a time racked by war and environmental catastrophe, George Orr discovers his dreams alter reality. George is compelled to receive treatment from Dr. William Haber, an ambitious sleep psychiatrist who quickly grasps the immense power George holds. After becoming adept at manipulating George’s dreams to reshape the world, Haber seeks the same power for himself. George—with some surprising help—must resist Haber’s attempts, which threaten to destroy reality itself.
“The Lathe of Heaven reminds us of the radical power of collective imagination… the novel puts Le Guin’s distinctively artful combination of psychological and sociological themes with dynamic science fiction storytelling on full display.”
Cloud Atlas begins in 1850 with Adam Ewing, an American notary voyaging from the Chatham Isles to his home in California. Along the way, Ewing is befriended by a physician, Dr. Goose, who begins to treat him for a rare species of brain parasite… Abruptly, the action jumps to Belgium in 1931, where Robert Frobisher, a disinherited bisexual composer, contrives his way into the household of an infirm maestro who has a beguiling wife and a nubile daughter… From there we jump to the West Coast in the 1970s and a troubled reporter named Luisa Rey, who stumbles upon a web of corporate greed and murder that threatens to claim her life… And onward, with dazzling virtuosity, to an inglorious present-day England; to a Korean superstate of the near future where neocapitalism has run amok; and, finally, to a post-apocalyptic Iron Age Hawaii in the last days of history.
“[David] Mitchell is, clearly, a genius. He writes as though at the helm of some perpetual dream machine, can evidently do anything, and his ambition is written in magma across this novel’s every page.”
—The New York Times Book Review
Includes “Story of Your Life”—the basis for the major motion picture Arrival.
Stories of Your Life and Others delivers dual delights of the very, very strange and the heartbreakingly familiar, often presenting characters who must confront sudden change—the inevitable rise of automatons or the appearance of aliens—with some sense of normalcy. With sharp intelligence and humor, Chiang examines what it means to be alive in a world marked by uncertainty, but also by beauty and wonder.
“[Blends] absorbing storytelling with meditations on the universe, being, time and space … raises questions about the nature of reality and what it is to be human.”
—The New York Times
Many of this year’s best fantasy books feature plenty of magic, monsters, and mayhem, with dashes (or more than dashes) of romance.
Fetter was raised to kill, honed as a knife to cut down his sainted father. This gave him plenty to talk about in therapy.
He walked among invisible powers: devils and anti-gods that mock the mortal form. He learned a lethal catechism, lost his shadow, and gained a habit for secrecy. After a blood-soaked childhood, Fetter escaped his rural hometown for the big city, and fell into a broader world where divine destinies are a dime a dozen.
Everything in Luriat is more than it seems. Group therapy is recruitment for a revolutionary cadre. Junk email hints at the arrival of a god. Every door is laden with potential, and once closed may never open again. The city is scattered with Bright Doors, looming portals through which a cold wind blows. In this unknowable metropolis, Fetter will discover what kind of man he is, and his discovery will rewrite the world.
“Dreamlike and inventive, this unusual novel is a complicated read that ably pairs the mundane with the mystical.”
Flair Hardwicke knows three things: magic is real, love isn’t, and relying on either ends in disaster. So while she’s grateful for the chance to take over her grandmother’s Kansas bakery after she finally leaves her cheating husband, she won’t be embracing Nana’s fortune-telling side-hustle. Hers is a strictly no-magic operation—until the innocent batch of Tarot card cookies Flair bakes for the town’s Halloween celebration unleashes the power of the family deck, luring Flair’s unpredictable mother to town, tempting Flair’s magic-obsessed daughter, and bringing back Flair’s first love while ensnaring her ex in a curse she can’t break.
Flair’s attempts to control the chaos only make things worse, playing right into the hands of a powerful witch. Suddenly there’s far more at stake than her status as the most reluctant witch in town, and the magic Flair has long rejected becomes the only card she has left to play.
“Dell’Antonia’s third novel is full of mysterious and eerie plot twists… A complex tale about motherhood and witchcraft…”
In this exuberant retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Lydia Bennet puts pen to paper to relate the real events and aftermath of the classic story. Some facts are well known: Mrs. Bennet suffers from her nerves, Mr. Bennet suffers from Mrs. Bennet, and all five daughters suffer from an estate that is entailed only to male heirs.
But Lydia also suffers from entirely different concerns: her best-loved sister Kitty is really a barn cat; Wickham is every bit as wicked as the world believes him to be, but what else would one expect from a demon? And if Mr. Darcy is uptight about etiquette, that’s nothing compared to his feelings about magic. Most of all, Lydia has yet to learn that for a witch, promises have power…
“[Taub] cleverly inserts Lydia’s magical misadventures into the original story, creating something wholly original and utterly charming.”
1968: Gemma Turner once dreamed of stardom. Now the actress is on the cusp of obscurity. When she’s offered the lead in a radical new horror film, Gemma believes her luck has changed—but her dream is about to turn into a nightmare. One night, between the shadows of an alleyway, Gemma disappears on set and is never seen again. Yet, Gemma is alive. She’s been pulled into the film. And the script—and the monsters within it—are coming to life. Gemma must play her role perfectly if she hopes to survive.
2007: Gemma Turner’s disappearance is one of Hollywood’s greatest mysteries—one that’s captivated film student Christopher Kent ever since he saw L’Étrange Lune for the first time. The screenings only happen once a decade and each time there is new, impossible footage of Gemma that shouldn’t exist. Curiosity drives Christopher to unravel the truth. But answers to the film’s mystery may leave him trapped by it forever.
“A wonderfully creepy tale of ambition, loss, and the lure of an unsolved mystery.”
The prequel to the excellent Legends & Lattes.
Viv’s career with the notorious mercenary company Rackam’s Ravens isn’t going as planned.
Wounded during the hunt for a powerful necromancer, she’s packed off against her will to recuperate in the sleepy beach town of Murk―so far from the action that she worries she’ll never be able to return to it.
What’s a thwarted soldier of fortune to do?
Spending her hours at a beleaguered bookshop in the company of its foul-mouthed proprietor is the last thing Viv would have predicted, but it may be both exactly what she needs and the seed of changes she couldn’t possibly imagine.
Still, adventure isn’t all that far away. A suspicious traveler in gray, a gnome with a chip on her shoulder, a summer fling, and an improbable number of skeletons prove Murk to be more eventful than Viv could have ever expected.
“Baldree’s prequel to Legends & Lattes cements his talent for cozy fantasy, engaging characters, and anachronistic references that would be at home in a Discworld novel.”
—Booklist, starred review
All Talasyn has ever known is the Hurricane Wars. Growing up an orphan in a nation under siege by the ruthless Night Emperor, she found her family among the soldiers who fight for freedom. But she is hiding a deadly secret: light magic courses through her veins, a blazing power believed to have been wiped out years ago that can cut through the Night Empire’s shadows.
Prince Alaric, the emperor’s only son and heir, has been tasked with obliterating any threats to the Night Empire’s rule with the strength of his armies and mighty shadow magic. He discovers the greatest threat yet in Talasyn: a girl burning brightly on the battlefield with the magic that killed his grandfather, turned his father into a monster, and ignited the Hurricane Wars. He tries to kill her, but in a clash of light and dark, their powers merge and create a force the likes of which has never been seen.
This war can only end with them. But an even greater danger is coming, and the strange magic they can create together could be the only way to overcome it. Talasyn and Alaric must decide… are they fated to join hands, or destroy each other?
“This romance stands out, with its lush Southeast Asian-inspired setting. Fans of slowburn enemies-to-lovers storylines are sure to relish this.”
Mikira Rusel’s family has long been famous for breeding enchanted horses, but their prestige is no match for their rising debts. To save her ranch, Mikira has only one option: she must win the Illinir, a treacherous horserace whose riders either finish maimed or murdered. Yet each year, competitors return, tempted by its alluring prize money and unparalleled prestige.
Mikira’s mission soon unites her with Arielle Kadar, an impressive yet illicit enchanter just beginning to come into her true power, and Damien Adair, a dashing young lord in the midst of a fierce succession battle. Both have hidden reasons of their own to help Mikira—as well as their own blood feuds to avenge…
“Josephson presents… ever-evolving figures with interestingly complementary approaches to the world and the circumstances they find themselves in. Jewish history strongly informs the backstory of this fantasy world’s people.”
Lin Chong is an expert arms instructor, training the Emperor’s soldiers in sword and truncheon, battle axe and spear, lance and crossbow. Unlike bolder friends who flirt with challenging the unequal hierarchies and values of Imperial society, she believes in keeping her head down and doing her job.
Until a powerful man with a vendetta rips that carefully-built life away.
Disgraced, tattooed as a criminal, and on the run from an Imperial Marshall who will stop at nothing to see her dead, Lin Chong is recruited by the Bandits of Liangshan. Mountain outlaws on the margins of society, the Liangshan Bandits proclaim a belief in justice―for women, for the downtrodden, for progressive thinkers a corrupt Empire would imprison or destroy. They’re also murderers, thieves, smugglers, and cutthroats.
Apart, they love like demons and fight like tigers. Together, they could bring down an empire.
“This wuxia eat-the-rich tale is a knockout.”
―Publishers Weekly, starred review
Viola Marek is a struggling real estate agent, and a vampire. But her biggest problem currently is that the house she needs to sell is haunted. The ghost haunting the mansion has been murdered, and until he can solve the mystery of how he died, he refuses to move on.
Fox D’Mora is a medium, and though he is also most-definitely a shameless fraud, he isn’t entirely without his uses―seeing as he’s actually the godson of Death.
When Viola seeks out Fox to help her with the ghost infestation, he becomes inextricably involved in a quest that neither he nor Vi expects (or wants). But with the help of an unruly poltergeist, a demonic personal trainer, a sharp-voiced angel, a love-stricken reaper, and a few mindfulness-practicing creatures, Vi and Fox soon discover the difference between a mysterious lost love and an annoying dead body isn’t nearly as distinct as they thought.
“Blake’s fans and readers looking for a sassy paranormal mystery will find plenty to enjoy.”
Two women embark on a quest into a world of dark gods and ancient magic inspired by the history and folklore of colonial South America.
Reina is desperate.
Stuck on the edges of society, Reina’s only hope lies in an invitation from a grandmother she’s never met. But the journey to her is dangerous, and prayer can’t always avert disaster.
Attacked by creatures that stalk the mountains, Reina is on the verge of death until her grandmother, a dark sorceress, intervenes. Now dependent on the Doña’s magic for her life, Reina will do anything to earn—and keep—her favor. Even the bidding of an ancient god who whispers to her at night.
Eva Kesaré is unwanted.
Illegitimate and of mixed heritage, Eva is her family’s shame. She tries to be the perfect daughter, but Eva is hiding a secret: Magic calls to her.
Eva knows she should fight the temptation. Magic is the sign of the dark god, and using it is punishable by death. Yet it’s hard to ignore power when it has always been denied you. Eva is walking a dangerous path. And in the end, she’ll become something she never imagined.
“A spellbinding sapphic fantasy…The lush worldbuilding and delightful blend of love, betrayal, and curses set the stage for a powerful and promising new series. This is a gem.”
Ten years ago, the kingdom of Jasad burned. Its magic was outlawed. Its royal family murdered. At least, that’s what Sylvia wants people to believe. The Heir of Jasad escaped the massacre, and she intends to stay hidden, especially from the armies of Nizahl that continue to hunt her people.
But a moment of anger changes everything. When Arin, the Nizahl Heir, tracks a group of Jasadi rebels to her village, Sylvia accidentally reveals her magic—and captures his attention. Now Sylvia’s forced to make a deal with her greatest enemy: Help him hunt the rebels in exchange for her life.
A deadly game begins. Sylvia can’t let Arin discover her identity, even as hatred shifts into something more between the Heirs. And as the tides change around her, Sylvia will have to choose between the life she wants and the one she abandoned.
“An Egyptian-inspired fantasy with a sprawling narrative that will immerse patient readers in its complex world.”
When you’re a geriatric armed with nothing but gumption and knitting needles, stopping a sorcerer from wiping out an entire dragon-fighting organization is a tall order. No one understands why 83-year-old Edna Fisher is the Chosen One, destined to save the Knights from a dragon-riding sorcerer bent on their destruction. After all, Edna has never handled a magical weapon, faced down a dragon, or cast a spell. And everyone knows the Council of Wizards always chooses a teenager—like the vengeful girl ready to snatch Edna’s destiny from under her nose.
Still, Edna leaps at the chance to leave the nursing home. With her son long dead in the Knights’ service, she’s determined to save dragon-fighters like him and to ensure other mothers don’t suffer the same loss she did. But as Edna learns about the abuse in the ranks and the sorcerer’s history as a Knight, she questions if it’s really the sorcerer that needs stopping—or the Knights she’s trying to save.
You were born to a king, but you marry a tyrant. You stand by helplessly as he sacrifices your child to placate the gods. You watch him wage war on a foreign shore, and you comfort yourself with violent thoughts of your own. Because this was not the first offense against you. This was not the life you ever deserved. And this will not be your undoing. Slowly, you plot.
But when your husband returns in triumph, you become a woman with a choice.
Acceptance or vengeance, infamy follows both. So, you bide your time and force the gods’ hands in the game of retribution. For you understood something long ago that the others never did.
If power isn’t given to you, you have to take it for yourself.
“Propulsive…richly drawn and lovingly rendered, Casati’s Clystemnestra is a brilliant, fierce woman placed, again and again, in untenable circumstances. Readers who are enjoying the current plethora of mythological retellings won’t want to miss this absorbing examination of a complicated queen.”
—Booklist, starred review
Ester’s family was torn apart when a manticore killed her mother and baby brother, leaving her with nothing but her father’s painful silence and a single, overwhelming need to kill the monsters that took her family.
Ester’s path leads her to the King’s Royal Mews, where the giant rocs of legend are flown to hunt manticores by their brave and dedicated ruhkers. Paired with a fledgling roc named Zahra, Ester finds purpose and acclaim by devoting herself to a calling that demands absolute sacrifice and a creature that will never return her love. The terrifying partnership between woman and roc leads Ester not only on the empire’s most dangerous manticore hunt, but on a journey of perseverance and acceptance.
“Gripping action set in vast spaces writ as clean and spare as a dry bone . . . the result is tremendous.”
―The New York Times
When Lore was thirteen, she escaped a cult in the catacombs beneath the city of Dellaire. And in the ten years since, she’s lived by one rule: don’t let them find you. Easier said than done, when her death magic ties her to the city.
Mortem, the magic born from death, is a high-priced and illicit commodity in Dellaire, and Lore’s job running poisons keeps her in food, shelter, and relative security. But when a run goes wrong and Lore’s power is revealed, she’s taken by the Presque Mort, a group of warrior-monks sanctioned to use Mortem working for the Sainted King. Lore fully expects a pyre, but King August has a different plan. Entire villages on the outskirts of the country have been dying overnight, seemingly at random. Lore can either use her magic to find out what’s happening and who in the King’s court is responsible, or die.
Lore is thrust into the Sainted King’s glittering court, where no one can be believed and even fewer can be trusted. Guarded by Gabriel, a duke-turned-monk, and continually running up against Bastian, August’s ne’er-do-well heir, Lore tangles in politics, religion, and forbidden romance as she attempts to navigate a debauched and opulent society.
But the life she left behind in the catacombs is catching up with her. And even as Lore makes her way through the Sainted court above, they might be drawing closer than she thinks.
“A perfect blend of shadowy gods, forbidden romance, and political court drama.”
Cambridge professor Emily Wilde is good at many things: She is the foremost expert on the study of faeries. She is a genius scholar and a meticulous researcher who is writing the world’s first encyclopaedia of faerie lore. But Emily Wilde is not good at people. She could never make small talk at a party—or even get invited to one. And she prefers the company of her books, her dog, Shadow, and the Fair Folk to other people.
So when she arrives in the hardscrabble village of Hrafnsvik, Emily has no intention of befriending the gruff townsfolk. Nor does she care to spend time with another new arrival: her dashing and insufferably handsome academic rival Wendell Bambleby, who manages to charm the townsfolk, muddle Emily’s research, and utterly confound and frustrate her.
But as Emily gets closer and closer to uncovering the secrets of the Hidden Ones—the most elusive of all faeries—lurking in the shadowy forest outside the town, she also finds herself on the trail of another mystery: Who is Wendell Bambleby, and what does he really want? To find the answer, she’ll have to unlock the greatest mystery of all—her own heart.
“Emily herself is delightful, brilliant but flawed, and often darkly funny. Her frustration with her feckless but charming colleague Wendell Bambleby is the perfect spark, and the romance is light but hits surprisingly hard when it chooses to.”
—The New York Times
The Catenan Republic—the Hierarchy—may rule the world now, but they do not know everything.
I tell them my name is Vis Telimus. I tell them I was orphaned after a tragic accident three years ago, and that good fortune alone has led to my acceptance into their most prestigious school. I tell them that once I graduate, I will gladly join the rest of civilized society in allowing my strength, my drive and my focus—what they call Will—to be leeched away and added to the power of those above me, as millions already do. As all must eventually do.
I tell them that I belong, and they believe me.
But the truth is that I have been sent to the Academy to find answers. To solve a murder. To search for an ancient weapon. To uncover secrets that may tear the Republic apart.
And that I will never, ever cede my Will to the empire that executed my family.
To survive, though, I will still have to rise through the Academy’s ranks. I will have to smile, and make friends, and pretend to be one of them and win. Because if I cannot, then those who want to control me, who know my real name, will no longer have any use for me.
And if the Hierarchy finds out who I truly am, they will kill me.
“Ancient Roman politics, dark academia, and epic fantasy coalesce in this brilliant and gut-churning masterpiece from Islington… This is powerful storytelling at its finest, and the mind-blowing ending opens the series to so much more potential.”
—Library Journal, starred review
Gods are forbidden in the kingdom of Middren. Formed by human desires and fed by their worship, there are countless gods in the world—but after a great war, the new king outlawed them and now pays “godkillers” to destroy any who try to rise from the shadows.
As a child, Kissen saw her family murdered by a fire god. Now, she makes a living killing them and enjoys it. But all this changes when Kissen is tasked with helping a young noble girl with a god problem. The child’s soul is bonded to a tiny god of white lies, and Kissen can’t kill it without ending the girl’s life too.
Joined by a disillusioned knight on a secret quest, the unlikely group must travel to the ruined city of Blenraden, where the last of the wild gods reside, to each beg a favor. Pursued by assassins and demons, and in the midst of burgeoning civil war, they will all face a reckoning. Something is rotting at the heart of their world, and they are the only ones who can stop it.
“An epic fantasy odyssey begins… It delivers high action while centering on characters that are not often depicted this fully.”
Tunuva Melim is a sister of the Priory. For fifty years, she has trained to slay wyrms—but none have appeared since the Nameless One, and the younger generation is starting to question the Priory’s purpose.
To the north, in the Queendom of Inys, Sabran the Ambitious has married the new King of Hróth, narrowly saving both realms from ruin. Their daughter, Glorian, trails in their shadow—exactly where she wants to be.
The dragons of the East have slept for centuries. Dumai has spent her life in a Seiikinese mountain temple, trying to wake the gods from their long slumber. Now someone from her mother’s past is coming to upend her fate.
When the Dreadmount erupts, bringing with it an age of terror and violence, these women must find the strength to protect humankind from a devastating threat.
“Epic in scope… The heroes shine in their uniqueness, with diverse family dynamics interwoven throughout and representation ranging from queer lords and warriors to genderfluid alchemists… This is expansive, emotionally complex, and bound to suck you in.”
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
The only life Tress has known on her island home in an emerald-green ocean has been a simple one, with the simple pleasures of collecting cups brought by sailors from faraway lands and listening to stories told by her friend Charlie. But when his father takes him on a voyage to find a bride and disaster strikes, Tress must stow away on a ship and seek the Sorceress of the deadly Midnight Sea. Amid the spore oceans where pirates abound, can Tress leave her simple life behind and make her own place sailing a sea where a single drop of water can mean instant death?
“Engrossing worldbuilding, appealing characters, and a sense of humor make this a winning entry in the Sanderson canon.”
―Kirkus, starred review
Once, Lan had a different name. Now she goes by the one the Elantian colonizers gave her when they invaded her kingdom, killed her mother, and outlawed her people’s magic. She spends her nights as a songgirl in Haak’gong, a city transformed by the conquerors, and her days scavenging for what she can find of the past. Anything to understand the strange mark burned into her arm by her mother in her last act before she died.
The mark is mysterious—an untranslatable Hin character—and no one but Lan can see it. Until the night a boy appears at her teahouse and saves her life.
Zen is a practitioner—one of the fabled magicians of the Last Kingdom. Their magic was rumored to have been drawn from the demons they communed with. Magic believed to be long lost. Now it must be hidden from the Elantians at all costs.
When Zen comes across Lan, he recognizes what she is: a practitioner with a powerful ability hidden in the mark on her arm. He’s never seen anything like it—but he knows that if there are answers, they lie deep in the pine forests and misty mountains of the Last Kingdom, with an order of practitioning masters planning to overthrow the Elantian regime.
Both Lan and Zen have secrets buried deep within—secrets they must hide from others, and secrets that they themselves have yet to discover. Fate has connected them, but their destiny remains unwritten. Both hold the power to liberate their land. And both hold the power to destroy the world.
Now the battle for the Last Kingdom begins.
“A complex and fantastic introduction to an epic new world.”
Eight years have passed since the Battle of the Serpent. But in the icy north, Lady Nore of the Court of Teeth has reclaimed the Ice Needle Citadel. There, she is using an ancient relic to create monsters of stick and snow who will do her bidding and exact her revenge.
Suren, child queen of the Court of Teeth, and the one person with power over her mother, fled to the human world. There, she lives feral in the woods. Lonely, and still haunted by the merciless torments she endured in the Court of Teeth, she bides her time by releasing mortals from foolish bargains. She believes herself forgotten until the storm hag, Bogdana, chases her through the night streets. Suren is saved by none other than Prince Oak, heir to Elfhame, to whom she was once promised in marriage and who she has resented for years.
Now seventeen, Oak is charming, beautiful, and manipulative. He’s on a mission that will lead him into the north, and he wants Suren’s help. But if she agrees, it will mean guarding her heart against the boy she once knew and a prince she cannot trust, as well as confronting all the horrors she thought she left behind.
―School Library Journal, starred review
In the wake of an unimportant battle between two long-forgotten kingdoms in fourteenth-century southern India, a nine-year-old girl has a divine encounter that will change the course of history. After witnessing the death of her mother, the grief-stricken Pampa Kampana becomes a vessel for a goddess, who begins to speak out of the girl’s mouth. Granting her powers beyond Pampa Kampana’s comprehension, the goddess tells her that she will be instrumental in the rise of a great city called Bisnaga—“victory city”—the wonder of the world.
Over the next 250 years, Pampa Kampana’s life becomes deeply interwoven with Bisnaga’s, from its literal sowing from a bag of magic seeds to its tragic ruination in the most human of ways: the hubris of those in power. Whispering Bisnaga and its citizens into existence, Pampa Kampana attempts to make good on the task that the goddess set for her: to give women equal agency in a patriarchal world. But all stories have a way of getting away from their creator, and Bisnaga is no exception. As years pass, rulers come and go, battles are won and lost, and allegiances shift, the very fabric of Bisnaga becomes an ever more complex tapestry—with Pampa Kampana at its center.
“A lavish fairytale [with] an infectious sense of fun.”
Amina al-Sirafi should be content. After a storied and scandalous career as one of the Indian Ocean’s most notorious pirates, she’s survived backstabbing rogues, vengeful merchant princes, several husbands, and one actual demon, to retire peacefully with her family to a life of piety, motherhood, and absolutely nothing that hints of the supernatural.
But when she’s tracked down by the obscenely wealthy mother of a former crewman, she’s offered a job no bandit could refuse: retrieve her comrade’s kidnapped daughter for a kingly sum. The chance to have one last adventure with her crew, do right by an old friend, and win a fortune that will secure her family’s future forever? It seems like such an obvious choice that it must be God’s will.
Yet the deeper Amina dives, the more it becomes alarmingly clear there’s more to this job, and the girl’s disappearance, than she was led to believe. For there’s always risk in wanting to become a legend, to seize one last chance at glory, to savor just a bit more power…and the price might be your very soul.
“Sheer joy, with quirky characters, spooky monsters, sprightly banter, and swashbuckling that puts Sindbad to shame.”
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
After being murdered, his consciousness dormant and unaware of the passing of time while confined in an elaborate water trap, Kai wakes to find a lesser mage attempting to harness Kai’s magic to his own advantage. That was never going to go well.
But why was Kai imprisoned in the first place? What has changed in the world since his assassination? And why does the Rising World Coalition appear to be growing in influence?
Kai will need to pull his allies close and draw on all his pain magic if he is to answer even the least of these questions.
He’s not going to like the answers.
“A wonderfully original world, sympathetic characters and a solid quest make Witch King the satisfying fantasy you yearn for when named swords and cursed rings begin to grow stale.”
―The Wall Street Journal
After centuries of sleep, the gods are warring again. But eighteen-year-old Iris Winnow just wants to hold her family together. Her mother is suffering from addiction and her brother is missing from the front lines. Her best bet is to win the columnist promotion at the Oath Gazette.
To combat her worries, Iris writes letters to her brother and slips them beneath her wardrobe door, where they vanish―into the hands of Roman Kitt, her cold and handsome rival at the paper. When he anonymously writes Iris back, the two of them forge a connection that will follow Iris all the way to the front lines of battle: for her brother, the fate of mankind, and love.
“An ardent romance and a harrowing exploration of war’s horrors and heartbreaks… with inventive worldbuilding, nuanced characterizations, and prose by turns dreamy and atmospherically tense.”
Book 2 of the Empire of the Wolf series. Book 1 is The Justice of Kings.
A Justice’s work is never done.
The Battle of Galen’s Vale is over, but the war for the Empire’s future has just begun. Concerned by rumors that the Magistratum’s authority is waning, Sir Konrad Vonvalt returns to Sova to find the capital city gripped by intrigue and whispers of rebellion. In the Senate, patricians speak openly against the Emperor, while fanatics preach holy vengeance on the streets.
Yet facing down these threats to the throne will have to wait, for the Emperor’s grandson has been kidnapped – and Vonvalt is charged with rescuing the missing prince. His quest will lead him—and his allies Helena, Bressinger and Sir Radomir—to the southern frontier, where they will once again face the puritanical fury of Bartholomew Claver and his templar knights—and a dark power far more terrifying than they could have imagined.
“[A] complex and dark historical fantasy series inspired by medieval state-military-church political conflicts.”
―Kirkus, starred review
Every year, thousands in the kingdom of Talin will flock to its capital twin cities, San-Er, where the palace hosts a set of games. For those confident enough in their ability to jump between bodies, competitors across San-Er fight to the death to win unimaginable riches.
Princess Calla Tuoleimi lurks in hiding. Five years ago, a massacre killed her parents and left the palace of Er empty… and she was the one who did it. Before King Kasa’s forces in San can catch her, she plans to finish the job and bring down the monarchy. Her reclusive uncle always greets the victor of the games, so if she wins, she gets her opportunity at last to kill him.
Enter Anton Makusa, an exiled aristocrat. His childhood love has lain in a coma since they were both ousted from the palace, and he’s deep in debt trying to keep her alive. Thankfully, he’s one of the best jumpers in the kingdom, flitting from body to body at will. His last chance at saving her is entering the games and winning.
Calla finds both an unexpected alliance with Anton and help from King Kasa’s adopted son, August, who wants to mend Talin’s ills. But the three of them have very different goals, even as Calla and Anton’s partnership spirals into something all-consuming. Before the games close, Calla must decide what she’s playing for—her lover or her kingdom.
“Spectacular worldbuilding, breathtaking action, and plenty of mischief.”
—Kirkus, starred review
Book 2 of the Alex Stern series. Book 1 is Ninth House.
Find a gateway to the underworld. Steal a soul out of hell. A simple plan, except people who make this particular journey rarely come back. But Galaxy “Alex” Stern is determined to break Darlington out of purgatory―even if it costs her a future at Lethe and at Yale.
Forbidden from attempting a rescue, Alex and Dawes can’t call on the Ninth House for help, so they assemble a team of dubious allies to save the gentleman of Lethe. Together, they will have to navigate a maze of arcane texts and bizarre artifacts to uncover the societies’ most closely guarded secrets, and break every rule doing it. But when faculty members begin to die off, Alex knows these aren’t just accidents. Something deadly is at work in New Haven, and if she is going to survive, she’ll have to reckon with the monsters of her past and a darkness built into the university’s very walls.
“A tour de force of suspenseful pacing and empathetic writing… The beauty of Hell Bent is that for all the bleakness, the sense of wonder somehow still remains.”
—The New York Times
This past year gave us a lot of stories about environmental catastrophe (not a surprise) and humor (to help us deal with impending environmental catastrophe).
Adam Rubenstein and Sunil Rao have been reluctant partners since their Uzbekistan days. Adam is a seemingly unflappable American intelligence officer and Rao is an ex-MI6 agent, an addict and rudderless pleasure hound with the uncanny ability to discern the truth of things—about everyone and everything other than Adam. When an American diner turns up in a foggy field in the UK after a mysterious death, Adam and Rao are called in to investigate, setting into motion the most dangerous and otherworldly mission of their lives.
In a surreal, action-packed quest that takes Adam and Rao from secret laboratories in Colorado, to a luxury lodge in Aspen, to the remote Nevada desert, the pair begins to uncover how and why people’s fondest memories are being weaponized against them by a spooky, ever-shifting substance called Prophet. As the unlikely twosome battles this strange new reality, Prophet’s victims’ memories are materializing in increasingly bizarre forms: favorite games, beloved pets, fairground rides, each more malevolent than the next. Prophet is like no enemy Adam and Rao—or the world—have ever come up against.
“Intriguing and deftly plotted… pulse-pounding, philosophically fascinating, even blackly funny… A crisply written, inventive, complicated brew of a novel.”
Bridget Kittinger has always been paralyzed by choices. It has a lot to do with growing up in the long shadow of her mother, Jo, a troubled neuroscientist. Jo’s obsession with one mythical object, the “dreamworm”—which she believed enabled travel to other worlds—led to their estrangement.
Now, suddenly, Jo is dead. And in packing up her home, Bridge finds a strange device buried deep in Jo’s freezer: the dreamworm. Against all odds, it actually can open the door—to all other realities, and to all other versions of herself, too. Could Bridge find who she should be in this world, by visiting the others? And could her Jo still be alive somewhere? But there’s a sinister cost to trading places, and others hunting the dreamworm who would kill to get their hands on it…
“Ass-kicking, mind-bending entertainment.”
Book 2 of the Mickey7 series. You’ll probably want to read the first one, Mickey7
Summer has come to Niflheim. The lichens are growing, the six-winged bat-things are chirping, and much to his own surprise, Mickey Barnes is still alive—that last part thanks almost entirely to the fact that Commander Marshall believes that the colony’s creeper neighbors are holding an antimatter bomb, and that Mickey is the only one who’s keeping them from using it. Mickey’s just another colonist now. Instead of cleaning out the reactor core, he spends his time these days cleaning out the rabbit hutches. It’s not a bad life.
It’s not going to last.
It may be sunny now, but winter is coming. The antimatter that fuels the colony is running low, and Marshall wants his bomb back. If Mickey agrees to retrieve it, he’ll be giving up the only thing that’s kept his head off of the chopping block. If he refuses, he might doom the entire colony. Meanwhile, the creepers have their own worries, and they’re not going to surrender the bomb without getting something in return. Once again, Mickey finds the fate of two species resting in his hands. If something goes wrong this time, though, he won’t be coming back.
“Ashton’s breezy characters, especially a few alien creepers able to communicate with the humans, delight, and the grungy details of colony life are rendered as realistically as Mickey’s hunger pangs. It’s good fun with a surprisingly effective closing twist that sci-fi fans will savor.”
1931, New Galveston, Mars: Since Anabelle’s mother left for Earth to care for her own ailing mother, her days in New Galveston have been spent at school and her nights at her laconic father’s diner with Watson, the family Kitchen Engine and dishwasher as her only companion. When the Silence came, and communication and shipments from Earth to its colonies on Mars stopped, life seemed stuck in foreboding stasis until the night Silas Mundt and his gang attacked.
“A propulsive story that reads like a love letter to the space western.”
—The Sunday Times
Lou is a happily married mother of an adorable toddler. She’s also the victim of a local serial killer. Recently brought back to life and returned to her grieving family by a government project, she is grateful for this second chance. But as the new Lou re-adapts to her old routines, and as she bonds with other female victims, she realizes that disturbing questions remain about what exactly preceded her death and how much she can really trust those around her.
Now it’s not enough to care for her child, love her husband, and work the job she’s always enjoyed—she must also figure out the circumstances of her death.
“Williams deftly swirls science fiction and domestic suspense plotlines into this fresh and unpredictable tale.”
—The Washington Post
Jay Gardiner has given himself a fool’s errand—to find the remains of his deceased father in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Monastery Beach. He knows it’s a long shot, but Jay feels it’s the only way for him to lift the weight of guilt he has carried since his dad’s death by suicide the previous year.
The dive begins well enough, but the sudden appearance of a giant squid puts Jay in very real jeopardy, made infinitely worse by the arrival of a sperm whale looking to feed. Suddenly, Jay is caught in the squid’s tentacles and drawn into the whale’s mouth where he is pulled into the first of its four stomachs. He quickly realizes he has only one hour before his oxygen tanks run out—one hour to defeat his demons and escape the belly of a whale.
“This gripping sci-fi thriller from bestseller Kraus takes readers quite literally into the belly of the beast… Kraus provides solid nautical science alongside the stretchy coincidences that fuel Jay’s survival. Just on the brink of horror fiction, especially for the claustrophobic, Kraus’s deep-sea thrill ride will have readers on the edges of their seats.”
The dust may have just settled in the failed war of conquest between the Holy Vaalbaran Empire and the Ominirish Republic, but the last Emperor’s surrender means little to a lowly scribe like Enitan. All she wants is to quit her day job and expand her fledgling tea business. But when her lover is assassinated and her sibling is abducted by Imperial soldiers, Enitan abandons her idyllic plans and weaves her tea tray up through the heart of the Vaalbaran capital. There, she will learn just how far she is willing to go to exact vengeance, free her sibling, and perhaps even secure her homeland’s freedom.
“A breathtaking space opera debut… Delving into serious sociopolitical matters without ever losing the shine of hope, this tense adventure packs a punch.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
In a strange little home built into the branches of a grove of trees live three robots―fatherly inventor android Giovanni Lawson, a pleasantly sadistic nurse machine, and a small vacuum desperate for love and attention. Victor Lawson, a human, lives there too. They’re a family, hidden and safe.
The day Vic salvages and repairs an unfamiliar android labelled “HAP,” he learns of a shared dark past between Hap and Gio—a past spent hunting humans.
When Hap unwittingly alerts robots from Gio’s former life to their whereabouts, the family is no longer hidden and safe. Gio is captured and taken back to his old laboratory in the City of Electric Dreams. So together, the rest of Vic’s assembled family must journey across an unforgiving and otherworldly country to rescue Gio from decommission, or worse, reprogramming.
Along the way to save Gio, amid conflicted feelings of betrayal and affection for Hap, Vic must decide for himself: Can he accept love with strings attached?
“A wholly charming post-robot-apocalypse retelling of Pinocchio. Speculative fiction readers will fall in love with this whimsical, bittersweet fable.”
—Shelf Awareness, starred review
It is the eve of Earth’s environmental collapse. A single ship carries humanity’s last hope: eighty elite graduates of a competitive program, who will give birth to a generation of children in deep space. But halfway to a distant but livable planet, a lethal bomb kills three of the crew and knocks The Phoenix off course. Asuka, the only surviving witness, is an immediate suspect.
As the mystery unfolds on the ship, poignant flashbacks reveal how Asuka came to be picked for the mission. Despite struggling through training back on Earth, she was chosen to represent Japan, a country she only partly knows as a half-Japanese girl raised in America. But estranged from her mother back home, The Phoenix is all she has left.
With the crew turning on each other, Asuka is determined to find the culprit before they all lose faith in the mission―or worse, the bomber strikes again.
“Cerebral SF, tackling both humanity-wide problems and the smaller but ever-present conflicts closer to home.”
―Kirkus Reviews, starred review
The Pandominion: a political and trading alliance of a million worlds. Except that they’re really just one world, Earth, in many different realities. And when an A.I. threat arises that could destroy everything the Pandominion has built, they’ll eradicate it by whatever means necessary.
Scientist Hadiz Tambuwal is looking for a solution to her own Earth’s environmental collapse when she stumbles across the secret of inter-dimensional travel, a secret that could save everyone on her dying planet. It leads her into the middle of a war on a scale she never dreamed of. And she needs to choose a side before every reality pays the price.
“[A] brilliant dimension-hopping sci-fi thriller… Readers will be wowed.”
―Publishers Weekly, starred review
Book 6 of the Red Rising series, so you may want to start with book #1, Red Rising
The Reaper is a legend, more myth than man: the savior of worlds, the leader of the Rising, the breaker of chains.
But the Reaper is also Darrow, born of the red soil of Mars: a husband, a father, a friend.
Marooned far from home after a devastating defeat on the battlefields of Mercury, Darrow longs to return to his wife and sovereign, Virginia, to defend Mars from its bloodthirsty would-be conqueror Lysander.
Lysander longs to destroy the Rising and restore the supremacy of Gold, and will raze the worlds to realize his ambitions.
The worlds once needed the Reaper. But now they need Darrow, and Darrow needs the people he loves—Virginia, Cassius, Sevro—in order to defend the Republic.
So begins Darrow’s long voyage home, an interplanetary adventure where old friends will reunite, new alliances will be forged, and rivals will clash on the battlefield.
Because Eo’s dream is still alive—and after the dark age will come a new age: of light, of victory, of hope.
Since she was born, Kyr has trained for the day she can avenge the murder of planet Earth. Raised in the bowels of Gaea Station alongside the last scraps of humanity, she readies herself to face the Wisdom, the powerful, reality-shaping weapon that gave the majoda their victory over humanity.
They are what’s left. They are what must survive. Kyr is one of the best warriors of her generation, the sword of a dead planet. When Command assigns her brother to certain death and relegates her to Nursery to bear sons until she dies trying, she knows she must take humanity’s revenge into her own hands.
Alongside her brother’s brilliant but seditious friend and a lonely, captive alien, Kyr escapes from everything she’s known into a universe far more complicated than she was taught and far more wondrous than she could have imagined.
“Raw and action-packed… This riveting adventure deserves a space on shelves alongside genre titans like Ursula K. Le Guin and Octavia Butler.”
―Publishers Weekly, starred review
In the first decades of the 21st century, the world is convulsing, its governments mired in gridlock while a patient but unrelenting ecological crisis looms. America is in upheaval, battered by violent weather and extreme politics. In California in 2013, Tony Pietrus, a scientist studying deposits of undersea methane, receives a death threat. His fate will become bound to a stunning cast of characters—a broken drug addict, a star advertising strategist, a neurodivergent mathematician, a cunning eco-terrorist, an actor turned religious zealot, and a brazen young activist named Kate Morris, who, in the mountains of Wyoming, begins a project that will alter the course of the decades to come.
“This book is, simply put, a modern classic. If you read it, you’ll never forget it. Prophetic, terrifying, uplifting.”
Book 7 of the excellent Murderbot series. Start with book #1, All Systems Red
Following the events in the previous book Network Effect, the Barish-Estranza corporation has sent rescue ships to a newly-colonized planet in peril, as well as additional SecUnits. But if there’s an ethical corporation out there, Murderbot has yet to find it, and if Barish-Estranza can’t have the planet, they’re sure as hell not leaving without something. If that something just happens to be an entire colony of humans, well, a free workforce is a decent runner-up prize.
But there’s something wrong with Murderbot; it isn’t running within normal operational parameters. ART’s crew and the humans from Preservation are doing everything they can to protect the colonists, but with Barish-Estranza’s SecUnit-heavy persuasion teams, they’re going to have to hope Murderbot figures out what’s wrong with itself, and fast!
In a United States not so unlike our own, the Department of Balance has adopted a radical new form of law enforcement: rather than incarceration, wrongdoers are given a second (and sometimes, third, fourth, and fifth) shadow as a reminder of their crime—and a warning to those they encounter. Within the Department, corruption and prejudice run rampant, giving rise to an underclass of so-called Shadesters who are disenfranchised, publicly shamed, and deprived of civil rights protections.
Kris is a Shadester and a new mother to a baby born with a second shadow of her own. Grieving the loss of her wife and thoroughly unprepared for the reality of raising a child alone, Kris teeters on the edge of collapse, fumbling in a daze of alcohol, shame, and self-loathing. Yet as the kid grows, Kris finds her footing, raising a child whose irrepressible spark cannot be dampened by the harsh realities of the world. She can’t forget her wife, but with time, she can make a new life for herself and the kid, supported by a community of fellow misfits who defy the Department to lift one another up in solidarity and hope.
“[An] electric debut… This book is as sexy as it is dystopic, which is saying a lot.”
Book 2 of the Delta-V series. Start with the first book, Delta-V
When unforeseen circumstances during an innovative—and unsanctioned—commercial asteroid-mining mission leave two crew members stranded, those who make it back must engineer a rescue, all while navigating a shifting web of global political alliances and renewed Cold War tensions. With Earth governments consumed by the ravages of climate change and unable to take the risks necessary to make rapid progress in space, the crew must build their own nextgen spacecraft capable of mounting a rescue in time for the asteroid’s next swing by Earth.
In the process they’ll need to establish the first spin-gravity station in deep space, the first orbiting solar power satellite and refinery, and historic infrastructure on the moon’s surface—all of which could alleviate a deepening ecological, political, and economic crisis back on Earth, and prove that space-based industry is not only profitable, but possibly humanity’s best hope for a livable, peaceful future.
“Hard science fiction has a new virtuoso, and Critical Mass is a fine piece of futurism, startlingly entertaining and exceptionally thought provoking.”
—New York Journal of Books
Founded by the mysterious genius known as the Designer, the archipelago of Prospera lies hidden from the horrors of a deteriorating outside world. In this island paradise, Prospera’s lucky citizens enjoy long, fulfilling lives until the monitors embedded in their forearms, meant to measure their physical health and psychological well-being, fall below 10 percent. Then they retire themselves, embarking on a ferry ride to the island known as the Nursery, where their failing bodies are renewed, their memories are wiped clean, and they are readied to restart life afresh.
Proctor Bennett, of the Department of Social Contracts, has a satisfying career as a ferryman, gently shepherding people through the retirement process—and, when necessary, enforcing it. But all is not well with Proctor. For one thing, he’s been dreaming—which is supposed to be impossible in Prospera. For another, his monitor percentage has begun to drop alarmingly fast. And then comes the day he is summoned to retire his own father, who gives him a disturbing and cryptic message before being wrestled onto the ferry.
Meanwhile, something is stirring. The Support Staff, ordinary men and women who provide the labor to keep Prospera running, have begun to question their place in the social order. Unrest is building, and there are rumors spreading of a resistance group—known as “Arrivalists”—who may be fomenting revolution.
“It’s a hefty book that moves with an astounding quickness—yet another excellent offering from an author with a boundless imagination and talent to spare. Twisty, thrilling, and beautifully written.”
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
The final book in The Final Architecture trilogy. Start with book one, Shards of Earth
Idris Telemmier has uncovered a secret that changes everything—the Architects’ greatest weakness. A shadowy Cartel scrambles to turn his discovery into a weapon against these alien destroyers of worlds. But between them and victory stands self-interest. The galaxy’s great powers would rather pursue their own agendas than stand together against this shared terror.
Human and inhuman interests wrestle to control Idris’ discovery, as the galaxy erupts into a mutually destructive and self-defeating war. The other great obstacle to striking against their alien threat is Idris himself. He knows that the Architects, despite their power, are merely tools of a higher intelligence.
Deep within unspace, where time moves differently, and reality isn’t quite what it seems, their masters are the true threat. Masters who are just becoming aware of humanity’s daring—and taking steps to exterminate this annoyance forever.
“The characters Adrian Tchaikovsky has populated this world with are so grounded, so emotionally rich, and so vibrant… not to say that Tchaikovsky does not deliver an incredibly satisfying conclusion to the mysteries of unspace (he does!). But what I’ll remember most is how he crafted the perfect emotional resolution to this intellectually intricate tale that left me in tears and has stayed with me since.”
Using the myth of Eurydice as a structure, this riveting science fiction novel is set in a near-future London where it has become popular for folks to have a small implant that allows one access to a more robust social media experience directly as an augmented reality. However, the British government has taken oversight of this access to an extreme, slowly tilting towards a dystopian overreach, all in the name of safety.
“Drawing on ancient Greek myths and modern brain science, this is a plausible, complex vision of the future, a fascinating story that never shies away from the contradictions in human nature.”
Qven was created to be a Presger translator. The pride of their Clade, they always had a clear path before them: learn human ways, and eventually, make a match and serve as an intermediary between the dangerous alien Presger and the human worlds. The realization that they might want something else isn’t “optimal behavior.” It’s the type of behavior that results in elimination.
But Qven rebels. And in doing so, their path collides with those of two others. Enae, a reluctant diplomat whose dead grandmaman has left hir an impossible task as an inheritance: hunting down a fugitive who has been missing for over 200 years. And Reet, an adopted mechanic who is increasingly desperate to learn about his genetic roots—or anything that might explain why he operates so differently from those around him.
As a Conclave of the various species approaches—and the long-standing treaty between the humans and the Presger is on the line—the decisions of all three will have ripple effects across the stars.
“Leckie’s humane, emotionally intelligent, and deeply perceptive writing makes this tautly plotted adventure feel fundamentally true while also offering longtime fans a much anticipated glimpse into the Radch’s most mysterious species. Readers will be thrilled.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
The near future. Tens of thousands of species are going extinct every year. And a whole industry has sprung up around their extinctions, to help us preserve the remnants, or perhaps just assuage our guilt. For instance, the biobanks: secure archives of DNA samples, from which lost organisms might someday be resurrected . . . But then, one day, it’s all gone. A mysterious cyber-attack hits every biobank simultaneously, wiping out the last traces of the perished species. Now we’re never getting them back.
Karin Resaint and Mark Halyard are concerned with one species in particular: the venomous lumpsucker, a small, ugly bottom-feeder that happens to be the most intelligent fish on the planet. Resaint is an animal cognition scientist consumed with existential grief over what humans have done to nature. Halyard is an exec from the extinction industry, complicit in the mining operation that destroyed the lumpsucker’s last-known habitat.
Across the dystopian landscapes of the 2030s—a nature reserve full of toxic waste; a floating city on the ocean; the hinterlands of a totalitarian state—Resaint and Halyard hunt for a surviving lumpsucker. And the further they go, the deeper they’re drawn into the mystery of the attack on the biobanks. Who was really behind it? And why would anyone do such a thing?
“A madcap adventure story set in a dystopian world ravaged by climate change.”
Charlie’s life is going nowhere fast. A divorced substitute teacher living with his cat in a house his siblings want to sell, all he wants is to open a pub downtown, if only the bank will approve his loan.
Then his long-lost uncle Jake dies and leaves his supervillain business (complete with island volcano lair) to Charlie.
But becoming a supervillain isn’t all giant laser death rays and lava pits. Jake had enemies, and now they’re coming after Charlie. His uncle might have been a stand-up, old-fashioned kind of villain, but these are the real thing: rich, soulless predators backed by multinational corporations and venture capital.
It’s up to Charlie to win the war his uncle started against a league of supervillains. But with unionized dolphins, hyper-intelligent talking spy cats, and a terrifying henchperson at his side, going bad is starting to look pretty good.
“In this clever, fast-paced thriller, Hugo Award winner [Scalzi] subverts classic supervillain tropes with equal measures of tongue-in-cheek humor and common sense… The result is a breezy and highly entertaining genre send-up.”
When level-headed Francie arrives in Roswell, New Mexico, for her college roommate’s UFO-themed wedding—complete with a true-believer bridegroom—she can’t help but roll her eyes at all the wide-eyed talk of aliens, which obviously don’t exist. Imagine her surprise, then, when she is abducted by one.
Odder still, her abductor is far from what the popular media have led her to expect, with a body like a tumbleweed and a mass of lightning-fast tentacles. Nor is Francie the only victim of the alien’s abduction spree. Before long, he has acquired a charming con man named Wade, a sweet little old lady with a casino addiction, a retiree with a huge RV and a love for old Westerns, and a UFO-chasing nutjob who is thoroughly convinced the alien intends to probe them and/or take over the planet.
But the more Francie gets to know the alien, the more convinced she becomes that he’s not an invader. That he’s in trouble and she has to help him. Only she doesn’t know how—or even what the trouble is.
“An absolute blast with abundant humor, copious references to old westerns, and… a delightful, intergalactic twist on the romantic comedy.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
The best military science fiction isn’t just a bunch of space battles and cigar-chomping armed combat (although those are fun). The most interesting books also examine what life in the military actually involves, and what combat can do to a person’s mind.
These novels were all published in the 21st century.
When a Joint Task Force of elite Rangers are transported to a strange and fantastic future where science and evolution have incarnated the evils of myth and legend, they find themselves surrounded, pinned down, and in a desperate fight for their very survival—against nightmares of flesh and blood made real. Which means only one thing.
It’s time to Ranger Up and stack bodies.
The forces of evil have no idea how dangerous a Ranger has been trained to be, and once the action starts, it won’t let up in this no-holds-barred, full-auto, epic battle for survival in the Forgotten Ruin.
For Josette Dupre, the Corps’ first female airship captain, it might just be a bullet in the back.
On top of patrolling the front lines, she must also contend with a crew who doubts her expertise, a new airship that is an untested deathtrap, and the foppish aristocrat Lord Bernat, a gambler and shameless flirt with the military know-how of a thimble. Bernat’s own secret assignment is to catalog her every moment of weakness and indecision.
So when the enemy makes an unprecedented move that could turn the tide of the war, can Josette deal with Bernat, rally her crew, and survive long enough to prove herself?
“Bennis writes a pleasing mix of banter and gritty battle scenes, combining both the adrenaline rush of combat and its horrifying results, and never indulging in too-sudden social victories that might cheapen the long struggle against embedded prejudice.”
Naval officer Mila Blackwood is determined to keep her country’s most powerful secret—shrouding, the ability to traverse their planet in seconds through an alternate realm—out of enemy hands.
But spies are everywhere: her submarine has been infiltrated by a Dhavnak agent, and her teenage brother has been seduced by an enemy soldier. When Blackwood’s submarine is attacked by a monster, she and fellow sailor, Holland, are marked with special abilities, whose manifestations could end the war. But in whose favor?
Forced to submit to military scientists in her paranoid and war-torn home, Blackwood soon learns that the only people she can trust might also be the enemy.
“Hogan writes with tangible energy, capturing the trials of divided loyalties in the midst of global war… Fans of military SF will enjoy Hogan’s fresh take on the genre.”
Ten thousand years ago, a single alien super-ship survived a desperate battle. The vessel’s dying crew set the AI on automatic to defend the smashed rubble of their planet. Legend has it the faithful ship continues to patrol the empty battlefield, obeying its last order throughout the lonely centuries.
In the here and now, Earth needs a miracle. Out of the Beyond invade the New Men, stronger, faster and smarter than the old. Their superior warships and advanced technology destroy every fleet sent to stop them. Their spies have infiltrated the government and traitors plague Earth’s military.
Captain Maddox of Star Watch Intelligence wonders if the ancient legend could be true. Would such an old starship be able to face the technology of the New Men? On the run from killers, Maddox searches for a group of talented misfits. He seeks Keith Maker, a drunken ex-strikefighter ace, Doctor Dana Rich the clone thief stuck on a prison planet, and Lieutenant Valerie Noonan, the only person to have faced the New Men in battle and survived to tell about it.
Maddox has to find a place hidden in the Beyond and bring back a ship no one can enter. If he fails, the New Men will replace the old. If he succeeds, humanity might just have a fighting chance…
Quick-witted Tanner Malone has bombed the Test, an all-important exam that establishes how much he owes for his corporate-funded education. With his future plans crushed under a mountain of debt, Tanner enlists in the navy of his home star system of Archangel. But he hasn’t factored in the bullying shipmates, the civil war brewing on the border, or the space pirates.
As Tanner begins basic training, the government ramps up its forces to confront the vicious raiders wreaking havoc throughout human space. Led by the complex and charismatic Captain Casey, the outlaws never let their egalitarian and democratic ideals get in the way of a little murder or mayhem.
Assigned to the front lines, Tanner learns there’s only one way to deal with his ruthless foes, cruel comrades, and the unforgiving void of space: he’ll have to get up close and personal.
The Krakau came to Earth to invite humanity into a growing alliance of sentient species. However, they happened to arrive after a mutated plague wiped out half the planet, turned the rest into shambling, near-unstoppable animals, and basically destroyed human civilization. You know—your standard apocalypse.
The Krakau’s first impulse was to turn around and go home. (After all, it’s hard to have diplomatic relations with mindless savages who eat your diplomats.) Their second impulse was to try to fix us. Now, a century later, human beings might not be what they once were, but at least they’re no longer trying to eat everyone. Mostly.
Marion “Mops” Adamopoulos is surprisingly bright (for a human). As a Lieutenant on the Earth Mercenary Corps Ship Pufferfish, she’s in charge of the Shipboard Hygiene and Sanitation team. When a bioweapon attack wipes out the Krakau command crew and reverts the rest of the humans to their feral state, only Mops and her team are left with their minds intact.
Escaping the attacking aliens—not to mention her shambling crewmates—is only the beginning. Sure, Mops and her team of space janitors and plumbers can clean the ship as well as anyone, but flying the damn thing is another matter.
As they struggle to keep the Pufferfish functioning and find a cure for their crew, they stumble onto a conspiracy that could threaten the entire alliance… a conspiracy born from the truth of what happened on Earth all those years ago.
“[Terminal Alliance] is also good science fiction: a solid premise, an expansive universe, a compelling history, a strong and varied cast of characters, pulse-pounding action, and a galactic crisis with high stakes. The fact that it’s funny is icing on a rich and delicious cake. Clever, and should appeal to fans of Douglas Adams and John Scalzi.”
When Captain Kel Cheris of the hexarchate is disgraced for her unconventional tactics, Kel Command gives her a chance to redeem herself by retaking the Fortress of Scattered Needles from the heretics. Cheris’s career isn’t the only thing at stake: if the fortress falls, the hexarchate itself might be next.
Cheris’s best hope is to ally with the undead tactician Shuos Jedao. The good news is that Jedao has never lost a battle, and he may be the only one who can figure out how to successfully besiege the fortress. The bad news is that Jedao went mad in his first life and massacred two armies, one of them his own.
As the siege wears on, Cheris must decide how far she can trust Jedao—because she might be his next victim.
“Beautiful, brutal and full of the kind of off-hand inventiveness that the best SF trades in, Ninefox Gambit is an effortlessly accomplished SF novel. Yoon Ha Lee has arrived in spectacular fashion.”
—Alastair Reynolds, author of Revelation Space
Ky Vatta is a highly promising military cadet with a great future ahead of her, until an insignificant act of kindness makes her the focus of the Academy’s wrath. She is forced to resign, her dreams shattered.
For the child of a rich trading family, this should mean disgrace on a grand scale. And yet, to her surprise, Ky is offered the captaincy of a ship headed for scrap with its final cargo.
Her orders are absolutely clear, but Ky quickly sees potential profit in altering the journey. Because, whatever the risks, it’s in her blood to trade—even if the currency is extreme danger.
Legion General Bill Booly knows that peace is just a pause between wars. He’s just crushed one uprising, and now a new rebellion is already brewing on a remote world light years away—spawning a web of terrorism that is close enough to catch the vulnerable Confederacy in its grasp.
“Dietz has created an intricate tapestry of local and star-faring culture with topnotch action sequences.”
Sergeant Gastovsky—Gas to everyone but his superior officers—never wanted to be a soldier. Far from it. But when a con goes wrong and he needs a place to lay low for a while, he finds himself wearing the power armor of the augmented infantry.
After three years on a six-year contract, Gas has found his groove running low-level cons and various illegal activities that make him good money on the side. He’s the guy who can get you what you need. But he’s always had his eye out for a big score—the one that might set him up for life after the military.
When one of his soldiers is left behind after a seemingly pointless battle, Gas sees his chance. He assembles a team of misfit soldiers that would push the term “ragtag” to its limits for a big con that leads them on a daring behind-the-lines mission, pitting him not only against enemy soldiers but against the top brass of his own organization.
If he pulls this off, not only will he save his squadmate, he might just become the legend he’s always considered himself. He might also change the way the entire galaxy looks at this war. But for any of that to happen, he has to live through this insane plan.
And charm rarely stops bullets.
—Library Journal, starred review
The undead Emperor has ruled his mighty interstellar empire of eighty human worlds for sixteen hundred years. Because he can grant a form of eternal life-after-death, creating an elite known as the Risen, his power is absolute. He and his sister, the Child Empress, who is eternally a little girl, are worshipped as living gods.
The Rix are machine-augmented humans who worship very different gods: AI compound minds of planetary size. Cool, relentless fanatics, their only goal is to propagate such AIs. They seek to end the Emperor’s prolonged rule, and supplant it with an eternal cybernetic dynasty. They begin by taking the Child Empress hostage. Captain Laurent Zai of the Imperial Frigate Lynx is tasked with her rescue.
Separated by light years, bound by an unlikely love, Zai and pacifist Senator Nara Oxham must both face the challenge of the Rix, and both will hold the fate of the empire in their hands.
“Westerfeld’s exceptionally smart and empathetic novel…confirms the buzz that space opera is one of the most exciting branches of current SF.”
―Publishers Weekly, starred review
For millennia, the Shaa have subjugated the universe, forcing the myriad sentient races to bow to their joyless tyranny. But the Shaa will soon be no more. The dread empire is in its rapidly fading twilight, and with its impending fall comes the promise of a new galactic order… and bloody chaos.
A young Terran naval officer marked by his lowly birth, Lt. Gareth Martinez is the first to recognize the insidious plot of the Naxid—the powerful, warlike insectoid society that was enslaved before all others—to replace the masters’ despotic rule with their own. Barely escaping a swarming surprise attack, Martinez and Caroline Sula, a pilot whose beautiful face conceals a deadly secret, are now the last hope for freedom for every being who ever languished in Shaa chains—as the interstellar battle begins against a merciless foe whose only perfect truth is annihilation.
“Space opera the way it ought to be […] Bujold and Weber, bend the knee; interstellar adventure has a new king, and his name is Walter Jon Williams.”
—George R.R. Martin
The year is 2108, and the North American Commonwealth is bursting at the seams. For welfare rats like Andrew Grayson, there are only two ways out of the crime-ridden and filthy welfare tenements: You can hope to win the lottery and draw a ticket on a colony ship settling off-world… or you can join the service.
With the colony lottery a pipe dream, Andrew chooses to enlist in the armed forces for a shot at real food, a retirement bonus, and maybe a ticket off Earth. But as he starts a career of supposed privilege, he soon learns that the good food and decent health care come at a steep price, and that the settled galaxy holds far greater dangers than military bureaucrats or the gangs that rule the slums.
Book 4 of the Freehold series.
Kenneth Chinran commanded the elite unit assigned to take out an entire planet in a terrible war. Millions died; billions more perished in the aftermath. One doesn’t send a sociopath on such a mission. A sociopath might not stop. Chinran did stop—but in the process nearly lost his sanity and his soul.
But one of Chinran’s men was a sociopath going in. Now he’s a trained sociopath with the knowledge and firepower to take out entire tactical teams, evaporate through security cordons and change identity at will. Who do you send after a killer like that? There’s only one answer: the man who trained him. The man who made him.
John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife’s grave. Then he joined the army.
The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce―and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So: we fight. To defend Earth, and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding.
Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity’s resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force. Everybody knows that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don’t want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You’ll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You’ll serve two years at the front. And if you survive, you’ll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets.
John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine―and what he will become is far stranger.
“This virtuoso debut pays tribute to SF’s past while showing that well-worn tropes still can have real zip when they’re approached with ingenuity.”
―Publishers Weekly, starred review
In the Chaos-infested Sabbat System, the massed ranks of the Astra Militarum—more commonly known as the Imperial Guard—stand shoulder to shoulder as they counter an invasion by heretical forces. Among the defenders of the Imperium are the troops of the Tanith First-and-Only, a displaced regiment forced to flee their home planet before it succumbed to the unrelenting assault of Chaos. Nicknamed “the Ghosts,” their specialist scouting role sees them thrown into the thickest of the fighting. Led by Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt, they must evade the treacherous scheming of rival regiments and the lethal firepower of the enemy if they are to have any hope of achieving victory over the forces of Chaos.
First Contact sucked. Now they own us.
Earth has been conquered by a massive galactic empire, and its war machine needs soldiers. In a cruel twist of fate, fourteen-year-old Joe Dobbs accidentally ends up on a ship carrying Earth’s children to an alien training planet. To make it out alive, he must survive an apathetic bureaucracy that sees humans as little more than spare rations. Meat with guns. Or, if they’re really unlucky, slaves.
The oldest of the children drafted from humanity’s devastated planet, Joe unwittingly becomes the centerpiece in a millennia-long alien struggle for independence. Once his training begins, one of the elusive and prophetic Trith gives Joe a spine chilling prophecy that the universe has been anticipating for millions of years: Joe will be the one to finally shatter the vast alien government known as Congress. And the Trith cannot lie.…
But first Joe has to make it through boot camp.
At the top of the galactic pecking order is the United Free, a civilization of awe-inspiring technological prowess so far in advance of other space-faring powers as to seem untouchable gods. Most of the known universe has fallen under their inscrutable sway. The rest is squabbled over by two empires: one ruled with an iron fist by OctoV, a tyrant who appears to his followers as a teenage boy but is in reality something very different, the other administered by the Uplifted, bizarre machinelike intelligences, and their no-longer-quite-human servants, cyborgs known as the Enlightened.
Sven Tveskoeg, an ex-sergeant demoted for insubordination and sentenced to death, is a vicious killer with a stubborn streak of loyalty. Sven possesses a fierce if untutored intelligence and a genetic makeup that is 98.2 percent human and 1.8 percent . . . something else. Perhaps that “something else” explains how quickly he heals from even the worst injuries or how he can communicate telepathically with the ferox, fearsome alien savages whose natural fighting abilities regularly outperform the advanced technology of their human enemies. Perhaps it is these unique abilities that bring Sven to the attention of OctoV.
Drafted into the Death’s Head, the elite enforcers of OctoV’s imperial will, Sven is given a new lease on life. Armed with a SIG diabolo–an intelligent gun–and an illegal symbiont called a kyp, Sven is sent to a faraway planet, the latest battleground between the Uplifted and OctoV. There he finds himself in the midst of a military disaster, one that will take all his courage—and all his firepower—to survive.
But an even deadlier struggle is taking place, a struggle that will draw the attention of the United Free. Sven knows he is a pawn, and pawns have a bad habit of being sacrificed.
But Sven is nobody’s sacrifice. And even a pawn can checkmate a king.
“The finest military science-fiction debut in years.”
Original title: Ōru Yū Nīdo Izu Kiru
All You Need Is Kill has been adapted into manga, a graphic novel, and the film Edge of Tomorrow.
When the alien Mimics invade, Keiji Kiriya is just one of many recruits shoved into a suit of battle armor called a Jacket and sent out to kill. Keiji dies on the battlefield, only to be reborn each morning to fight and die again and again. On his 158th iteration, he gets a message from a mysterious ally—the female soldier known as the Full Metal Bitch. Is she the key to Keiji’s escape or his final death?
Earth is introduced to extraterrestrial life by the Galactics, who tell world leaders that an invasion by another alien race, the Posleen, is coming, and they are bringing with them a terrible book cover.
A Hymn Before Battle is the first book in Ringo’s Legacy of the Aldenata series, which already has twelve books, and at least two more planned.
“An exceedingly impressive first novel… executed with skill, verve, and wit.”
First book of the Lost Fleet series.
The Alliance has been fighting the Syndics for a century—and losing badly. Now its fleet is crippled and stranded in enemy territory. Their only hope is a man who’s emerged from a century-long hibernation to find he has been heroically idealized beyond belief….
Captain John “Black Jack” Geary’s exploits are known to every schoolchild. Revered for his heroic “last stand” in the early days of the war, he was presumed dead. But a century later, Geary miraculously returns and reluctantly takes command of the Alliance Fleet as it faces annihilation by the Syndics.
Appalled by the hero-worship around him, Geary is nevertheless a man who will do his duty. And he knows that bringing the stolen Syndic hypernet key safely home is the Alliance’s one chance to win the war. But to do that, Geary will have to live up to the impossibly heroic “Black Jack” legend….
“The Lost Fleet is some of the best military science fiction on the shelves today.”
The least human character in All Systems Red is also the most human. A half-robotic creature (or maybe more than half) privately calls itself Murderbot, and it’s got a good reason to. All the humans around it consider it just another security android, which is fine by Murderbot; it’d rather watch bad TV than have to interact with humans.
But when things start to go seriously wrong with the planetary exploration team that Murderbot is supposed to protect, more truths are revealed than it would prefer.
“We are all a little bit Murderbot… we see ourselves in its skin. And that reading about this sulky, soap-opera-loving cyborg killing machine might be one of the most human experiences you can have in sci-fi right now.”
Why yes, ladies can bring the techno-wow as much as the gents.
You’re finally vacationing on a planet with a decent set of rings, your kid just got promoted to Hyper-engineer, and there’s a cold drink levitating right next to you.
Depending who you ask, the Golden Age of science fiction lasted from the 1930s to the 1950s, and marked when science fiction rose out of its pulpy beginnings and began to resemble actual literature.
The biggest names—Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Heinlein, and such—are not on this list in order to give some room for the lesser-known but still worthy denizens of the Golden Age.
Author Leigh Douglass Brackett was an early female icon of science fiction, sometimes referred to as the “Queen of Space Opera.” She was the first woman ever to be short-listed for a Hugo award.
Len and Esau are young cousins living decades after a nuclear war has destroyed civilization as we know it. The rulers of the post-war community have forbidden the existence of large towns and consider technology evil.
However, Len and Esau long for more than their simple agrarian existence. Rumors of mythical Bartorstown, perhaps the last city in existence, encourage the boys to embark on a journey of discovery and adventure that will call into question not only firmly held beliefs, but the boys’ own personal convictions.
For millions of years, the part of the galaxy containing our solar system has been moving through a vast force field whose effect has been to inhibit “certain electromagnetic and electrochemical processes” and thus certain neurotic functions. When Earth escapes the inhibiting field, synapse speed immediately increases, causing a rise in intelligence, which results in a transfigured humanity reaching for the stars, leaving behind our earth to the less intelligent humans and animal lifeforms.
Father Ruiz-Sanchez is a dedicated man: a priest who is also a scientist, and a scientist who is also a human being. He has found no insoluble conflicts in his beliefs or his ethics… until he is sent to Lithia.
There he comes upon a race of aliens who are admirable in every way except for their total reliance on cold reason; they are incapable of faith or belief. Confronted with a profound scientific riddle and ethical quandary, Father Ruiz-Sanchez soon finds himself torn between the teachings of his faith, the teachings of his science, and the inner promptings of his humanity. There is only one solution: He must accept an ancient and unforgivable heresy, and risk the futures of both worlds.
Pulp SF magazine editor Keith Winton was answering a letter from a teenage fan when the first moon rocket fell back to Earth and blew him away.
But where to? Greenville, New York, looked the same, but Bems (Bug-Eyed Monsters) just like the ones on the cover of Startling Stories walked the streets without attracting undue comment.
And when he brought out a half-dollar coin in a drugstore, the cops wanted to shoot him on sight as an Arcturian spy.
Wait a minute. Seven-foot purple moon-monsters? Earth at war with Arcturus? General Dwight D. Eisenhower in command of Venus Sector?
What mad universe was this?
One thing was for sure: Keith Winton had to find out fast, or he’d be good and dead, in this universe or any other.
Written by the famed behaviorist, this fictional outline of a modern utopia has been a center of controversy ever since its publication in 1948. Set in the United States, it pictures a society in which human problems are solved by a scientific technology of human conduct.
In this surrealist tale, animals and inanimate objects reflect the emotions of humans. Multiple plot lines include the love stories of two couples, talking mice, a man who ages years in a week, and a newlywed man whose wife develops a rare and bizarre illness that can be treated only by surrounding her with flowers.
“[A] mad, moving, beautiful novel.”
A collection of the trend-setting stories from “the Dean of Science Fiction” which opened and explored such topics as first contact with aliens, the Internet (called a different name, of course), transfers among parallel universes, and many more.
“The best of [these stories] are remarkable inventions, providing a window on to science fiction’s first Golden Age that demonstrates exactly what made it golden.”
A meteorite collides with Earth! Tintin is part of the expedition to the Arctic Ocean to locate the fallen star. But they aren’t the only ones hungry to make the new discovery—someone is trying to sabotage Tintin and his team!
Thousands of years have passed since humankind abandoned the city—first for the countryside, then for the stars, and ultimately for oblivion—leaving their most loyal animal companions alone on Earth. Granted the power of speech centuries earlier by the revered Bruce Webster, the intelligent, pacifist dogs are the last keepers of human history, raising their pups with bedtime stories, passed down through generations, of the lost “websters” who gave them so much but will never return.
With the aid of Jenkins, an ageless service robot, the dogs live in a world of harmony and peace. But they now face serious threats from their own and other dimensions, with perhaps the most dangerous of all being the reawakened remnants of a warlike race called “Man.”
“To read science-fiction is to read Simak. The reader who does not like Simak stories does not like science-fiction at all.”
—Robert A. Heinlein
Written during the dark hours immediately before and during World War II by the author of the Chronicles of Narnia.
While searching for a place to rest for the night, Dr. Elwin Ransom is abducted by a megalomaniacal physicist and his accomplice and taken to the red planet of Malacandra (Mars) as a human sacrifice for the alien creatures that live there. Once on the planet, however, Ransom eludes his captors, risking his life and his chances of returning to Earth, becoming a stranger in a land that is enchanting in its difference from Earth and instructive in its similarity.
“This book has real splendor, compelling moments, and a flowing narrative.”
—The New York Times
Captain van Toch discovers a colony of newts in Sumatra which can not only be taught to trade and use tools, but also to speak. As the rest of the world learns of the creatures and their wonderful capabilities, it is clear that this new species is ripe for exploitation: they can be traded in their thousands, will do the work no human wants to do, and can fight.
But the humans have given no thought to the terrible consequences of their actions.
Many tribes endure their harsh and stunted lives in a maze of corridors. Though legends exist that they’re actually on a ship traveling through the universe, no one really believes it. But that conviction doesn’t stop a group of people from embarking on a mission to find the rumored “Forwards” section and its control room. Through a tangled, hydroponic jungle, they’ll encounter telepathic animals, giants, outcasts, and mutants in an epic race to uncover the truth—and survive.
“Worth reading, and quite a significant contribution to the long SF history of generation ship novels.”
The Chung-Li virus has devastated Asia, wiping out the rice crop and leaving riots and mass starvation in its wake. The rest of the world looks on with concern, though safe in the expectation that a counter-virus will be developed any day. Then Chung-Li mutates and spreads. Wheat, barley, oats, rye: no grass crop is safe, and global famine threatens.
In Britain, where green fields are fast turning brown, the Government lies to its citizens, devising secret plans to preserve the lives of a few at the expense of the many. Getting wind of what’s in store, John Custance and his family decide they must abandon their London home to head for the sanctuary of his brother’s farm in a remote northern valley.
And so they begin the long trek across a country fast descending into barbarism, where the law of the gun prevails, and the civilized values they once took for granted become the price they must pay if they are to survive.
Ragle Gumm has a unique job: every day he wins a newspaper contest. And when he isn’t consulting his charts and tables, he enjoys his life in a small town in 1959. At least, that’s what he thinks.
But then strange things start happening. He finds a phone book where all the numbers have been disconnected, and a magazine article about a famous starlet he’s never heard of named Marilyn Monroe. Plus, everyday objects are beginning to disappear and are replaced by strips of paper with words written on them like “bowl of flowers” and “soft drink stand.”
When Ragle skips town to try to find the cause of these bizarre occurrences, his discovery could make him question everything he has ever known.
“Marvelous, terrifying fun, especially if you’ve ever suspected that the world is an unreal construct built solely to keep you from knowing who you really are. Which it is, of course.”
In an overpopulated near-future world, businesses have taken the place of governments and now hold all political power. States exist merely to ensure the survival of huge transnational corporations. Advertising has become hugely aggressive and boasts some of the world’s most powerful executives.
Through advertising, the public is constantly deluded into thinking that all the products on the market improve the quality of life. However, the most basic elements are incredibly scarce, including water and fuel.
The planet Venus has just been visited and judged fit for human settlement, despite its inhospitable surface and climate; colonists would have to endure a harsh climate for many generations until the planet could be terraformed.
Mitch Courtenay is a star-class copywriter in the Fowler Schocken advertising agency and has been assigned the ad campaign that would attract colonists to Venus, but a lot more is happening than he knows about. Mitch is soon thrown into a world of danger, mystery, and intrigue, where the people in his life are never quite what they seem, and his loyalties and core beliefs will be put to the test.
“A novel of the future that the present must inevitably rank as a classic.”
—The New York Times
Full of philosophical puzzles and supernatural surprises, these stories contain some of Borges’s most fully realized human characters.
With uncanny insight he takes us inside the minds of an unrepentant Nazi, an imprisoned Mayan priest, fanatical Christian theologians, a woman plotting vengeance on her father’s “killer,” and a man awaiting his assassin in a Buenos Aires guest house.
This volume also contains the hauntingly brief vignettes about literary imagination and personal identity collected in The Maker, which Borges wrote as failing eyesight and public fame began to undermine his sense of self.
“He has lifted fiction away from the flat earth where most of our novels and short stories still take place.”
—author John Updike
Triplanetary was first serialized in Amazing Stories in 1934 and later formed the first of the Lensman series, where it set the stage for what is one of the greatest space-opera sagas ever written.
This original publication brings us to a distant planet inhabited by a highly developed aquatic race called the Nevians. They have managed to harness the atomic power of iron and have an enormous need for the metal to generate energy, but their planet has virtually no iron reserves. They build a spaceship to venture into the universe and find iron. Eventually they discover that Earth has huge amounts of iron and the Nevians start to extract all the iron out of Pittsburgh with a special ray. This ray shoots into the city and immediately vaporizes and removes any iron from the buildings, machines, earth, and even from human blood.
It is up to Conway Costigan, a mercilessly competent, two-fisted whiz agent of the military Triplanetary Service, and his colleagues to save the planet.
Bill Masen undergoes eye surgery and awakes the next morning in his hospital bed to find civilization collapsing. Wandering the city, he quickly realizes that surviving in this strange new world requires evading strangers and the seven-foot-tall plants known as triffids—plants that can walk and can kill a man with one quick lash of their poisonous stingers.
“Frightening and powerful, Wyndham’s vision remains an important allegory and a gripping story.”
Winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and International Fantasy Awards.
There’s Lone, the simpleton who can hear other people’s thoughts and make a man blow his brains out just by looking at him. There’s Janie, who moves things without touching them, and there are the teleporting twins, who can travel ten feet or ten miles. There’s Baby, who invented an antigravity engine while still in the cradle, and Gerry, who has everything it takes to run the world except for a conscience. Separately, they are talented freaks. Together, they compose a single organism that may represent the next step in evolution, and the final chapter in the history of the human race.
Winner of the First Hugo Award.
In a world policed by telepaths, Ben Reich plans to commit a crime that hasn’t been heard of in 70 years: murder. That’s the only option left for Reich, whose company is losing a 10-year struggle with rival D’Courtney Enterprises. Terrorized in his dreams by The Man With No Face and driven to the edge after D’Courtney refuses a merger offer, Reich murders his rival and bribes a high-ranking telepath to help him cover his tracks. But while police prefect Lincoln Powell knows Reich is guilty, his telepath’s knowledge is a far cry from admissible evidence.
A contemporary Earthman joins a community of explorers who travel to the farthest reaches of the universe, seeking traces of intelligence. Along the way, they encounter nautiloid water beings, races of hyperspiders and hyperfish, composite group intelligences, plantlike creatures, and other strange life forms.
It is the year 2650 and Earth has become a world of non-Aristotelianism, or Null-A. This is the story of Gilbert Gosseyn, who lives in that future world where the Games Machine, made up of twenty-five thousand electronic brains, sets the course of people’s lives. Gosseyn isn’t even sure of his own identity, but realizes he has some remarkable abilities and sets out to use them to discover who has made him a pawn in an interstellar plot.
“Interplanetary skullduggery in the year 2650. Gilbert Gosseyn has a pretty startling time of it before he gets to the root of things. Fine for addicts of science-fiction.”
―The New Yorker
In this case, a mixed group of people in Melbourne await the arrival of deadly radiation spreading towards them from the northern hemisphere following a nuclear war.
If you’re a tough guy that doesn’t cry, be alone when you read the end of the book.
“The most shocking fiction I have read in years. What is shocking about it is both the idea and the sheer imaginative brilliance with which Mr. Shute brings it off.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
Most artificial intelligence in books is very similar to human intelligence, but with perfect memory and incredibly fast speed of thought. My guess is that, in reality, true artificial intelligence will feel completely alien to us. If that happens, then the first contact with an alien intelligence will happen with an alien we’ve created ourselves.
So much of science fiction is filled with woe, a parade of apocalypses, and wretched, soul-crushing dystopias.
These books are slightly happier! In them, things are generally fine. Some bad things do happen (gotta keep the story interesting), but they won’t spin you off into a miserable, existential funk.
Special thanks to reader Amanda Reber for the idea for this list.