B&N Bookseller’s Picks: The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of January 2015

unbreakableFor over a decade, Jim Killen has served as the sci-fi and fantasy book buyer for Barnes & Noble. Every month on the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog and Tor.com, Jim shares his curated list of the can’t miss upcoming genre releases.

First & Last Sorcerer: A Novel of the Noble Dead, by Barb & J.C. Hendee (January 6, Roc—Hardcover)
The Saga of the Noble Dead continues in the kick-off to “phase 4” of the expansive series. As the book opens, vampire/human hybrid Magiere and her companions are interrupted in their quest to locate the orb of the Air when they are captured and imprisoned by a mysterious interrogator. Their only hope for rescue is human sage Wynn Hygeorht and her companions, but that new arisen scourge of the undead complicates matters just a little.

Foxglove Summer: A Rivers of London Novel, by Ben Aaronovitch (January 6, DAW—Paperback)
Former Doctor Who scribe Aaronovitch’s fantastical police procedural series continues with the fifth installment, in which Metropolitan Police Investigator Peter Grant must once again solve a sinister supernatural crime. This time, he’s out of his London element, looking into the odd disappearance of children in the sleepy hamlet of Herefordshire. Small-town problems, small-town gods, carnivorous unicorns…it seems trouble follows Grant wherever he goes.

Gideon, by Alex Gordon (January 6, HarperCollins—Paperback)
This dark fantasy debut is as much a mystery novel as it is a supernatural thriller. Lauren is already reeling from her father’s sudden death when she makes the shocking discovering that he wasn’t the man she thought he was. With nothing to go on but an old photograph and the name of a town—Gideon—she sets off on an investigation to discover the truth behind dear old dad’s double life. Unfortunately, as they are wont to do, sinister unseen forces are doing everything they can to ensure she never gets to the bottom of things, and Gideon turns out to be a very strange place, where time is wonky and the the unexplained disappearances of a resident or two are par for the course.

Golden Son: Book II of the Red Rising Trilogy, by Pierce Brown (January 6, Random House Publishing Group—Hardcover)
Red Rising was one of the 2014’s breakout debuts, an addictive story of a revolution brewing among the “Reds,” the genetically engineered underclass forced to salve away in deadly mines on Mars that combined sci-fi imagination with the propulsive storytelling of The Hunger Games. Book one ended with our hero, Darrow, deep undercover on a mission to take down the corrupt society of the ruling “Golds.” Still driven by revenge, he is forced to recognize that there is pain and injustice even at the highest levels, and that true change will require more than just a revolution.

Half Resurrection Blues, by Daniel José Older (January 6, Roc—Paperback)
The launch of a new urban fantasy series, Older’s debut novel sells itself on its wicked premise alone: Carlos Delacruz is a half-dead detective, resurrected (mostly) in order to serve as an agent for the New York Council of the Dead. He’s tasked with tracking down a sorcerer summoning creatures capable of killing the varied undead, which is quite a feat in and of itself.

The Witches of Echo Park, by Amber Benson (January 6, Ace—Paperback)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer actress Benson continues her successful run as an urban fantasist with this series opener. When her great aunt dies, Lyse MacAllister inherits more than a ramshackle old house in Echo Park–she is also expected to take her aunt’s place in the local coven of witches. And because they wasn’t a big enough shock, there’s also the little matter of a prophecy that might indicate that Lyse is the only one standing between our survival and a global apocalypse involving an evil force known as “the Flood.” We miss the good old days, when the worst you could expect from a dead relative’s will was to be forced to spend a night in a haunted house.

Last American Vampire, by Seth Grahame-Smith (January 13, Grand Central Publishing—Hardcover)
This followup to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter stretches the secret bloodsucking history of the United States into the 20th century. Heroic vampire Henry Sturges, bereft by Lincoln’s death, sets off for England, where he encounters an altogether different sort of monster: Jack the Ripper. From there, the book follows Sturges on a wandering path through the history we thought we knew, revealing vampiric involvement in the creation of electricity, two world wars, and the death of John F. Kennedy.

Strands of Sorrow, by John Ringo (January 6, Baen—Hardcover)
The concluding fourth volume of Ringo’s post-apocalyptic military survival series finds the remaining members of Wolf Squadron still combatting the effects of a virus that turned most of the world’s population into mindless, flesh-hungry killers. After teaming up with the remnants of the U.S. Navy, however, they are finally ready to stop running and start fighting back, with a mission to retake the North American continent. Zombies, the line must be drawn here. You have shambled this far, no further!

Tales from the Nightside, by Simon R. Green (January 6, Ace—Hardcover)
Supernatural P.I. John Taylor used his “private eye” (his cheeky name for an ability to find any missing object) to safeguard the London netherworld of Nightside throughout a dozen novels in Green’s now-completed series, which blends the fixtures of hardboiled detective novels with sci-fi and fantasy elements. Green provides a coda to Taylor’s story with a collection of short stories from the world of Nightside, including a new one written exclusively for this volume.

The Globe: The Science of Discworld II, by Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart, and Jack Cohen (January 20, Doubleday—Hardcover)
Across more than 40 novels, beloved British author Terry Pratchett has built Discworld from the giant turtle up into one of the weirdest, most fascinatingly oddball, fully-realized fantasy realms. If you’re the type of reader who really wonders about how real world rules like physics and geography operate when you are living on a giant disc suspended on the back of a giant space turtle, then this is the book for you. This sequel to The Science of Discworld, examines life on our own world from the skewed scientific perspective of the wizards at Unseen University (who, it turns out, unwittingly created us in an experiment gone sideways).

Unbreakable, by W.C. Bauers (January 13, Tor—Hardcover)
Promise Paen left her homeworld of Montana after her father’s murder at the hands of mercenaries. Now, she’s been called back by the local government to lead a band of hardscrabble troops in the planet’s defense against both ruthless raiders and the merciless Lusitanian Empire. Fans of military sci-fi will find plenty to love about this series-opener: a promising protagonist, a colorful band of brothers, and plenty of powered armor battle action.

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Vicious, by V.E. Schwab (January 20, Tor—Paperback)
A few weeks out from the release of her (outstanding) second novel for adults, A Darker Shade of Magic, V.E. Schwab’s Vicious is out in paperback. The standalone story offers a brilliant twist on the superhero myth: College roommates Eli and Victor develop a revolutionary scientific breakthrough that can grant anyone superhuman powers. When the experiment goes terribly awry, the friends become foes, but neither is fully hero or villain.

Saga, Vol. 4, by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples (artist) (December 30, Image Comics—Paperback)
On the heels of the release of Saga Deluxe Edition: Vol. 1 comes the next installment in the weirdest, wackiest, smartest sci-fi graphic novel running. It has never been easier to get caught up on the story of star-crossed (and species-crossed) lovers Alana and Marko trying to protect their young daughter from both sides of a generations-long intergalactic war. It’s an unapologetically splashy space opera that never worries about going gonzo (which is pretty obvious, considering one of the main characters is a man with a small television for a head), and it may just be the future of science fiction.

 

 

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