Get ready, fans of alternate Earths: 2015 is going to be an excellent year. Whether it’s a Scandinavian-inspired London, a 19th century steampunk Seattle, or a Regency England with a Sorcerer Royal, this year’s new release landscape is littered with fantastic versions of our very own world. Here are 5 books that are waiting to take you away, no passports and/or space travel required.
Karen Memory, by Elizabeth Bear
Release Date: February 3
Set in a steampunk Seattle, where airships sail the skies and steam-powered “mechanicals” abound, Karen Memory follows a teenage “seamstress” (wink, wink) who has to deal with a pimp in possession of a mind-control machine and a Jack-the-Ripper-esque killer on the loose…because it never rains, but it pours. Karen’s narration sets the book apart from the steampunk crowd, and the book’s been lauded for it’s ability to handle dark subject matter with a light touch. For those who love steampunk and/or Frontier stories, this is a slam-dunk.
A Darker Shade of Magic, by V. E. Schwab
Release Date: February 24
Forget about having just one London: why not three? There’s Grey London, a world without magic inspired by our own London circa 1819. There’s Red London, an eastern-inspired version where magic is revered. There’s White London, a Scandinavian-inspired one where people struggle to control magic, but the magic fights back. And there was, once, a fourth London… A Darker Shade of Magic is the start of a new series that follows Kell, a magician who can travel between these worlds, and it has been getting fantastic reviews (we loved it too).
The Mechanical, by Ian Tregillis
Release Date: March 10
Imagine an Earth where the Netherlands is the world’s greatest power. Now imagine that they got there by developing a magical clockwork army back in the 1600s, and that they’ve spent the last few decades fighting a lengthy war with the French (who think that universal rights apply to all people, whether fleshy or mechanical). Now imagine no more, and pick up The Mechanical. Ian Tregillis has been getting rave reviews from the likes of George R.R. Martin and Cory Doctorow, so this one seems very promising.
Radiance, by Catherynne M. Valente
Release Date: August 18
I simply could not be more excited for this book, from the author of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. First, it’s described as a “decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery,” which just…I mean, I didn’t even know that decopunk was a thing, but now that I do I feel like my whole life may have changed. Second, it’s set in an alternate Hollywood where talking movies are still rare because the Edison family is hoarding patents. Third, that other-Hollywood is itself within an alternate universe in which all the planets in our solar system are inhabited (hello, Martians.) August seems like a really long way away.
Sorcerer to the Crown, by Zen Cho
Release Date: September 1
Sorcerer to the Crown, the debut novel from Zen Cho and the first book in a trilogy, has been called “Jonathan Strange meets Georgette Heyer“—so, um, sign me up. It takes place in a Regency England where aristocrats butt heads with fairies and our protagonist, Zacharias Wythe, is the first African Sorcerer Royal to the Crown. Poor Wythe faces a bunch of problems: England’s magical stores are drying up, the fairies think he killed the last Sorcerer Royal, and then, naturally, there’s a woman. Cho had me from Heyer + magic, but the synopsis sure doesn’t hurt any, nor the glowing early notices from Ann Leckie and others.
Which alternate world are you itching to visit?