December brings a diffuse slate of new science fiction and fantasy releases, from a new space opera saga that will delight fans of Firefly to a deeply strange new novel by the author of the Nebula Award-winning Annihilation. Read on, and explore new worlds.
Wicked Hour, by Chloe Neill
Shifters and vampires come together in the second installment of Chloe Neill’s bestselling urban fantasy series the Heirs of Chicagoland. Elisa Sullivan—the only vampire ever born, not made—has been running from her true nature all her life, even as she was forced to embrace her supernatural abilities in order to keep the Windy City safe. But after saving Chicago from a terrible threat—with a little help from shapeshifter and potential romantic interest Connor Keene—Elisa is forced to confront her past: while attending a wedding between two members of the shifter Pack, held in the remote north woods of Minnesota, Elisa bears witness to a brutal killing, as the Pack whispers about monsters in the woods…
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker—The Visual Dictionary, by Pablo Hidalgo
This is it: on December 20, the final chapter of the Skywalker saga arrives, and Star Wars will never be the same. Luckily, we’ve got one more beautiful, comprehensive Star Wars Visual Dictionary to soften the blow. This must-have companion to the film includes information on the new characters we’ll meet in the movie, a look into what the heroes of the Resistance have been up to since The Last Jedi, and detailed cross-sections of key vehicles that we’ll soon see blasting off on the big screen.
Spear of the Emperor: Warhammer 40K, by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
The latest entry in the sprawling novel series based on the popular role playing universe of Warhammer 40K, Spear of the Emperor opens in the waning days of the Emperor’s Spears, a group of warriors tasked with protecting Elara’s Veil nebula. The worlds accessed via the nebula were once protected by three Chapters of soldiers; two of them have already fallen to fate and treachery, putting countless lives at risk. Only the Emperor’s Spears still stand against the forces of the Outer Dark—but as a new conflict arises, even they may soon fall…
Fortuna, by Kristyn Merbeth
A gritty new space opera saga for Firefly fans begins in the first volume of a new sci-fi trilogy from Kristyn Merbeth (who previously published the Wastelanders series under the name K.S. Merbeth). Scorpia Kaiser has always lived in the shadow of her brother Corvus, and does nothing to distinguish herself when she takes over her mother’s galactic smuggling operation—and the controls of the cargo ship Fortuna—after Corvus leaves to go to war. After a botched smuggling run is made worse by her brother’s unexpected return from the front, Scorpia faces a new challenge related to revelations about her family’s dark past. This is an engaging start to a series that blends crime family drama with the sort of character-focused sci-fi that made Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers series an award-winning favorite.
Anyone, by Charles Soule
Award-winning comics writer Charles Soule (Curse Words) returns to prose with a second novel every bit as fiendishly inventive as 2018’s The Oracle Year. While researching a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, scientist Gabrielle White inadvertently develops a procedure that allows for a consciousness to be transported into the body of another human. Twenty-five years later, “flash” technology has changed the world, and not necessarily for the better: it allows people to legally move their minds into other bodies for limited periods of time, a process overseen by a mega-corporation known as Anyone, resulting in benefits to commerce, entertainment, and the environment. But there’s a dark side to this strange future—a black market for illegal flash runs wild, the government regulations can only do so much, and not even Anyone can truly be trusted. As digital surveillance and ever-expanding social media infect our own world, the future of Soule’s dark imagination seems only too plausible.
Minecraft: The End, by Catherynne M. Valente
Yes, this one’s aimed at kids, but we figured you’d want to know about it: Hugo Award-nominated author Catherynne M. Valente (Space Opera) ventures into the world of the Minecraft video game for this middle grade adventure set in the End, the strange city on the far edges of the world. Endermen twins Fin and Mo have always lived there, exploring ancient ruins and dodging dragons, and they think they have life all figured out—until visitors from another dimension drop into their midst. These creatures, known as “humans,” plan to steal the End’s riches and slay its dragons, and only Fin and Mo can stop them.
Dead Astronauts, by Jeff VanderMeer
The creator of the Southern Reach trilogy—the inspiration for the film Annihilation—delivers an unclassifiable new novel set in the same world as his 2017 bestseller Borne, revealing the origins of the titular trio of doomed space explorers who appeared in the pages of that earlier book. The plot is diffuse—following by turns a space-faring blue fox, a demon-haunted homeless woman, three rebels fighting an omnipresent corporation, a prophet who wanders an endless desert, and a monster whose origins are a mystery even to himself—and the prose verges on the poetic; the end result is a reading experience like no other. This is a book you want to own in print: beneath the vivid dust jacket, there are words embossed directly into the cover; experimental typography and graphic elements demand to be absorbed on paper.
Down Among the Dead, by K.B. Wagers
Hail Bristol—a character we’ve previously dubbed “the fiercest princess this side of Westeros”—is back in the followup to There Before the Chaos, set in the same universe as the Indranan War trilogy. The explosive climax of the last book has left for dead almost everyone who mattered to Hail, who has been captured by fearsome enemy aliens the Shen. It seems the Shen want her help to defeat their own fearsome foes, and to try to convince her, they show her terrifying visions of a grim possible future. Torn between the pain she already feels and a future she fears, Hail’s only choice is to go down fighting—which is easier said than done. Wagers excels at balancing the high-stakes action with the tumultuous inner life of her protagonist, whose swaggering confidence has been cracked by terrible trauma.
What new sci-fi & fantasy books are on your list this month?