Fantasy, Science Fiction

42 SF/F Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2016…In 2 Sentences or Less

2016take2We know how it is. You’ve got a lot going on this time of year. The last thing you want to think about is the fact that it’s almost over. But even as you scramble to close out 2015 in a somewhat orderly fashion, the new year is rapidly approaching. It’s time to start planning. Nothing practical, mind you—just what you’ll be reading in the next 12 months. And because you are so busy, we’re giving you the whole year at once…in bite-sized, two-sentence chunks. Here are 42 SF/F books we can’t wait to read in 2016.
2016-1Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee (June 14, Solaris)
Yoon Ha Lee’s short fiction has been praised for its elegant prose, outsize SF-nal ambition, and rigorous technical detail. Hard SF space opera from a mathematician and data analyst: one of those times you put a bunch of boring words together, and the result is only awesome.
Infomocracy, by Malka Older (June 7, Publishing)
Older’s debut novel, set in a near-future world in which information is power and privacy is a memory, has been called “what you’d get if you put The West Wing and Snow Crash into a particle accelerator.” That’s three of our favorite things.
Children of Earth and Sky, by Guy Gavriel Kay (May 10, NAL)
After two detours to ancient China, master historical fantasist Kay explores a new canvas with an epic novel set in a world inspired by the intrigues of Renaissance Europe. It’s Kay, so you know it will be big and beautiful and tragic.
Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, by Lois McMaster Bujold (February 2, Baen Books)
Bujold’s Vorkosigan novels have earned more Hugo awards than any other series, so what more reason do we need to be jazzed about another one? How about this: after nearly two decades, she’s finally once again placed the focus squarely on Cordelia, Miles Vorkosigan’s mother, the series’ first protagonist, and a total badass.
2016-2 City of Blades, by Robert Jackson Bennett (January 26, Crown/Archetype)
Anyone who read City of Stairs knows why this offshoot/sequel/side quest is a must read. Anyone who hasn’t read City of Stairs should immediately buy a copy and start reading it.
A Criminal Magic, by Lee Kelley (February 2, Saga Press)
In her second novel, Kelley leaves behind the dystopian future of City of Savages to explore an alternate version of the Roaring ’20s imbued not with the magic of bathtub booze, but…actual magic. Gals, gangsters, molls, magicians…sounds like our kind of party.
Borderline, by Mishell Baker (March 1, Saga Press)
Saga Press editor Navah Wolfe labeled this one an incredibly subversive take on the urban fantasy genre, and what details we’ve been able to piece together are more than intriguing: the narrator is a “cynical double amputee with borderline personality disorder” recruited to oversee diplomatic relations between Hollywood and the Fae realm. You won’t believe the cameos.
League of Dragons, by Naomi Novik (May 10, Del Rey)
Novik’s dragons-in-the-Napoleonic-Wars mashup series comes to an end after nine novels, which means saying goodbye to some of the greatest dragons in all of fantasy literature, not to mention one of the most intriguing, inviting alternate histories ever conceived.
Morning Star, by Pierce Brown (February 9, Del Rey)
Brown mixed dystopian tropes and lush SF landscapes in the first two installments of his Mars-based revolutionary thriller trilogy, Red Rising and Golden Son. In Morning Star, the time has finally come for Darrow to tear down the world of the aristocratic, despotic Golds from the inside.
The Winged Histories, by Sofia Samatar (March 15, Small Beer Press)
Samatar’s debut, A Stranger in Olondoria, is a glorious exercise in world-building, a lush, literary fantasy set in a world in which the ability to read is the source of all magic. She returns there in this standalone followup, in which four women fight a revolution with both pen and sword.
Medusa’s Web, by Tim Powers (January 19, William Morrow)
From the secret, vampiric exploits of Lord Byron to the occult mysteries of World War II, Powers is the master of the secret history. His latest shines his spotlight on classic Hollywood; it promises to be another time-twisting story of familial betrayal, dark magics, and delightful celebrity cameos (hello, Rudolph Valentino!).
Sleeping Giants, by Sylvain Neuvel (April 26, Del Rey)
Neuvel’s buzzy debut, communicated entirely in interview transcripts, tells the story of a little girl who falls through the earth while riding her bike and uncovers a mystery buried deep underground: a giant metal hand, far too intricate to have been constructed by humans. Nearly two decades later, that little girl is a physicist leading the team determined to solve the puzzle—and figure out what the answer will mean for the fate of humanity.
2016-4 The Everything Box, by Richard Kadrey (April 19, Harper Voyager)
The author of the Sandman Slim novels begins a wickedly funny new series about the strange fates of gods and men. A devious angel planning to destroy the few humans who lived through the flood misplaces his weapon of divine destruction; it turns up 4,015 years later in the possession of a thief named Coop, who specializes in tracking down magical objects, even ones he has no idea may bring about the end of the world.
Death’s End, by Cixin Liu (August 30, Tor Books)
The final installment of Cixin Liu’s sensational, Hugo-winning alien invasion trilogy (beginning with The Three-Body Problem) set China ablaze when it was published there in 2010. Next year, English-speaking readers will finally get the chance to finish the story that has become an international publishing sensation, and a new science fiction classic.
United States of Japan, by Peter Tieryas (March 1, Angry Robot)
Tieryas imagines a mech-patrolled future United States controlled by the Empire of Japan, victorious in World War II, in this “spiritual sequel” to Philip K. Dick’s Man in the High Castle. And while we could claim we’re here for the highbrow literary allusions (Dick is considered literature now, right?), we’re really in the tank for the giant robots.
All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders (January 26, Tor Books)
io9 editor Charlie Jane Ander’s debut speculative novel is a story of love and friendship, hope and despair, science and magic, and the end of the world. A girl who can do magic falls for a boy who only believes in science, and together, they must figure out how to save our dying planet—assuming, of course, the planet even wants our help.
2016-5 The Immortals, by Jordana Max Brodsky (February 16, Orbit)
If the Greek gods are immortal, what are they doing these days, a few millennia since anyone seriously believed in them? In Brodsky’s contemporary debut, they’re hanging out in New York City, where Selene DiSilva (neé Artemis) is a vigilante investigating crimes against women and uncovering a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top of Mount Olympus.
A Green and Ancient Light, by Frederic S. Durbin (June 7, Saga Press)
In a world not quite our own, during a conflict that’s not quite World War II, a young boy is sent to live with his grandmother in a fishing village surrounded by strange, sacred grove of ruins. A crashed plane, a buried secret, and an interloper who claims to know the secret of Cinderella’s slipper will change everything in this parallel world fantasy editor Joe Monti likens to the beloved works of Peter S. Beagle.
The Courier, by Gerald Brandt (March 1, DAW)
Cyberpunk is back in this futuristic thriller about a motorcycle courier inhabiting a sprawling, multi-level megacity controlled by the corporations. When a missed delivery threatens her life, street smart Kris is forced to hide out on the lowest levels of the city, where she encounters dangerous new allies and is pulled into a conspiracy that reaches all the way to the top.
The Spider’s War, by Daniel Abraham (March 8, Orbit)
If Daniel Abraham can stick the landing on his five-book epic fantasy series The Dagger and the Coin with the same merciless precision with which he closed out The Long Price Quartet, we may just have to add a new classic to the annals of fantasy history. (If not, at least he’s got that little space opera experiment to fall back on.)
2016-take2Stiletto, by Daniel O’Malley (June 14, Little, Brown, and Company)
The sequel to O’Malley’s The Rook, an urban fantasy thriller about the elite government agency that keeps control of the things that go bump (or slither, or burst forth from the earth in a cloud of wriggling tentacles) in the London night, has been far too long in coming. We can’t wait to find out if he can pull off another irresistible mix of complex, zig-zagging plotting and magical, monstrous mayhem.
Snakewood, by Adrian Selby (March 15, Orbit)
20 years in the making, this debut novel takes us into a world in which plant life is imbued with magic, and brews made from leaves and roots can grant those who imbibe them great power—at a terrible cost. The publisher is very keen on this one, and with a fascinating world and a corker of a premise—a band of once-powerful mercenaries is being hunted down by a mysterious former victim—we can see why.
The Fireman, by Joe Hill (May 17, Harper Collins)
In Hill’s first book since 2013’s macabre holiday bauble NOS4A2a deadly illness known as Dragonscale is sweeping the populace, causing the skin of those it infects to harden and discolor—and burst into flame. Hunted by Cremation Squads determined to eliminate the afflicted, one woman is determined to see her child to safety, engaging the protection of the Fireman, the only one who knows the secret of keeping the fire under control.
A Gathering of Shadows, by V.E. Schwab (February 23, Tor Books)
In A Darker Shade of Magic, Schwab created a vision of parallel magical (or not) Londons rich with such tactile detail, we’d do anything to inhabit it. We’ll have to make do with this sequel, which also means a chance to revisit her vibrant, prickly, frustrating, lovable characters: gifted magician Kell, fearless thief Delilah Bard, and a dangerous foe, once thought vanquished, now back with a vengeance.
Every Heart a Doorway, by Seanan McGuire (April 5, Publishing)
Everyone dreams of being that special child: discoverer of a magic door, traveler through an enchanted mirror, accidental occupant of a mystical wardrobe—meant for greater things, and far more interesting worlds—but what do you once you’ve left fairyland and can’t find your way back? In McGuire’s bewitching novella, they enroll in a school for wayward chosen ones, and try to piece themselves back together any way they can.
Mechanical Failure, by Joe Zieja (June 7, Saga Press)
Mixing humor and sci-fi is a precarious balancing act, but we’ve got great faith in this debut about an officer who signed up expecting a relaxing peacetime tour in an outer space military unit who must instead uncover a coup that could end two centuries of calm. Rumor has it this “M*A*S*H meets sci-fi” romp features the best robot in literature since Marvin.
Too Like the Lightning, by Ada Palmer (May 10, Tor Books)
We don’t know a great deal about this one, other than the fact that no less an esteemed personage than Jo Walton called it, “The kind of science fiction that makes me excited all over again about what science fiction can do.” And she would know.
The Edge of Worlds, by Martha Wells (April 5, Night Shade Books)
In her Raksura books, Martha Wells has created a truly singular fantasy world, populated not be the same old human historical analogues, but by winged shape-shifters with their own, alien culture, customs, and rituals. After a trio of novels and two short story collections, she returns to the Three Worlds with the first book in a trilogy continuing the story of Moon, Jade, and the rest of the Indigo Cloud Court.
2016-8 The Raft, by Fred Strydom (May 3, Talos Press)
This may be the best dystopian premise we’ve encountered in years: one day, DayZero, every single person on the planet loses their memory. Toppling the all-controlling government that arises in the wake of the disaster will require discovering what caused it in the first place—but all Kayle Jenner really cares about is getting to the bottom of his hazy, haunting recollections of the son he’s lost.
Central Station, by Lavie Tidhar (May 10, Tachyon Publications)
Tidhar’s novels can always be counted on to come sideways at established SF/F tropes and turn everything you thought you knew about genre on its ear. His latest, set in a future in which millions have been forced to flee Earth and seek refuge in an overcrowded space station, likely says more about the times we’re living in than the days to come, despite intriguing science fictional touches, from cyborg soldiers to digital telepathy.
Escapology, by Ren Warom (June 7, Titan Books)
Warom’s debut has been described as “New Weird cyberpunk;” it’s about a tech whiz who’s a legend in the virtual world and a total loser offline. Conned into participating in a digital heist by an ex-flame, he’s drawn into a seedy world of assassins, crime lords, and corporate espionage.
The Race, by Nina Allan (July, Titan Books)
A small press sensation in the U.K. comes stateside. Allan’s SF debut is set in a near-future Great Britain ravaged by fracking and environmental collapse, four strangers cross paths in a complex plot involving genetically engineered greyhound races, killer whales, and secret government research.
2016-9 Lustlocked, by Matt Wallace (January 26, Publishing)
Wallace’s Envy of Angels, about the exploits of a Manhattan catering company with a particularly unusual clientele (demons, and the U.S. government), was one of 2015’s most sinfully delicious surprises. In the followup, they’re sitting down to dinner with an even more exacting connoisseur of fine cuisine: the Goblin King.
Spells of Blood and Kin, by Claire Humphrey (June 14, St. Martin’s Press)
This blood-soaked fantasy debut sounds like more than another story of love and werewolves. When her grandmother dies, 22-year-old Lissa Nevsky takes over her position as their small community’s folk healer, but she’s also inherited a far greater responsibility—paying her grandma’s debt to Maksim Volkov, a dangerous stranger afflicted with a bloodlust he can’t control.
False Hearts, by Laura Lam (June 14, Tor Books)
This near-future thriller has a premise unlike any we’ve encountered before, as two formerly cloistered, conjoined twin sisters are pulled into a deadly criminal world when one of them is accused of murder and the other is given the chance to go undercover to clear her name. Sounds like one to shelve next to the Lauren Beukes’ bloody brilliant The Shining Girls and Broken Monsters.
Arena, by Holly Jennings (April 5, Ace Books)
We love video games as much as the next geek, but what is all this virtual violence really doing to our brains? In this near-future thriller, the players in the Virtual Gaming League’s RAGE tournaments fight for glory and wealth to the digital death, but the pain inflicted is real—and someone is killing the best players before they can step into the arena.
The Thorn of Emberlain, by Scott Lynch (July 21, Del Rey)
We’re so excited to read the fourth delightfully dark fantasy caper from Scott Lynch that we’re including it here despite the fact that it hasn’t officially been announced for U.S. release. Sooner or later, Locke Lamora has to show his face again.
The Last Days of New Paris, by China Miéville (August 9, Del Rey)
Miéville’s novella This Census Taker is out in January, but we’re trés impatient for his next novel, which sounds like a return to form for the master of the New Weird. Two words: surrealist bombs.
A few titles we’re eager to read have yet to receive cover art, but that’s no reason not to get excited about them now…
Certain Dark Things, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (October, Thomas Dunne Books)
We adored Moreno-Garcia’s debut fantasy, Signal to Noise, an enchanting mixtape of the magical and the mundane, of teenage longing and adult angst. Her next book sounds just as inventive and ripe with metaphorical truth, centered on a garbage-picking teen in Mexico City who falls for a vampire and is caught up in a war between factions of the undead.
Crosstalk, by Connie Willis (October 4, Del Rey)
It’s been more than five years since the release of Willis’ epic-length time travel duology Blackout/All Clear, leaving us more than ready to read something new from the beloved author. This one has been described as a futuristic Hollywood romantic comedy, which sounds…just…perfect.
A Taste of Honey, by Kai Ashante Wilson (Fall, Publishing)
Set in the same world as his much-lauded debut Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, Wilson’s next novella promises to be just as weird and wonderful, with language and world-building that recall Gene Wolfe and Samuel R. Delany, but are still utterly his own.
The Winds of Winter, by George R.R. Martin (2016?, Bantam)
If we wish hard enough, maybe we can make it true. Winter has to come eventually, right?
What are you looking forward to reading in 2016?