This week’s new releases offer an even dozen examples of pretty much everything SF/F has to offer, from near-future thrillers to classic romantic fantasy (and the weirdest cyberunk future we’ve encountered in ages).
The Book of Phoenix, by Nnedi Okorafor
This prequel to Okorafor’s World Fantasy Award-winning, future-Africa dystopia Who Fears Death takes the story in a more overtly science fictional direction, with shades of Frankenstein and the X-Men. It follows the story of Phoenix, a genetically engineered super weapon created in a secret laboratory in Tower 7 of the World Trade Center complex, who has never set foot in the outside world. When one of her fellow experiments—and her romantic partner—witnesses something so terrible he kills himself, Phoenix is suddenly faced with the truth of her existence, and sets off on a mission of vengeance that will have devastating consequences.
Day Shift, by Charlaine Harris
This followup to Midnight Crossroad continues Charlaine Harris’s new series of tales set in Midnight, Texas, which is proving to be as fertile ground for otherworldly mayhem as the Louisiana setting of her Sookie Stackhouse novels. In a story that’s ostensibly about local psychic Manfred Bernardo being wrongly accused of an unexplainable murder, Harris manages to layer in subplots about a supernaturally aging boy, a pet cemetery, ghosts, a fallen angel, and a big corporation attempting to turn the town into a tourist trap for senior citizens. Oh, and there’s a vampire too—plus a big clue that indicates the author hasn’t totally left Sookie’s story behind.
The Gospel of Loki, by Joanne M. Harris
In an irresistibly sly, contemporary voice, the trickster god Loki explains Norse myth from his own untrustworthy point of view in this unusual fantasy from British literary novelist Harris (Chocolat). On one hand a straight-forward reimagining of ancient stories, and on the other, a masterful example of creating a character through narrative voice, this one is just flat-out fun to read. (Though it should go without saying that this is not the Loki of the Thor films.)
Straits of Hell: Destroyermen, by Taylor Anderson
In Anderson’s action-packed, delightfully bizarre alternate history series, the crews of two WWII-era vessels, one American and one Japanese, are transported to an alternate version of Earth in which humans never became the dominant species. Instead, the planet is ruled by two civilizations in conflict: the peaceful, agrarian Lemurians, evolved from ancient giant lemurs, and the Girk, descended from bloodthirsty dinosaurs. If for some reason you need to know more, the plot of this 10th installment revolves around an attempt to defend the Lemurian homeland of Madagascar from an assault by the Dominion, an allied force of Japanese survivors and the Girk.
The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier—Leviathan, by Jack Campbell
The latest installment in one of the best military science fiction series running finds Admiral John “Black Jack” Gaery scrambling to defend the Alliance against a threat from within. Two neighboring star systems have already fallen to a dangerous new foe—a fleet of rogue A.I. warships originally developed by Alliance military. Now, the artificial minds have turned their attention toward their makers. Gaery must pursue this deadly threat in defiance of his government, which is eager to deny any culpability in the creation of an enemy that may bring about the end of civilization.
Binary, by Stephanie Saulter
Published to great acclaim in the U.K. last year, the middle book in Saulter’s dystopian Revolution trilogy finally arrives in the U.S. In the near future, humanity owes its continued existence to the Gems, engineered humans created to combat a deadly genetic affliction known as the Syndrome. But with the crisis past, society doesn’t know what to do with the Gems. The companies that created them view them as property, much of the populace thinks of them as slaves (or worse, abominations), and the Gems…they just want to be free. In Binary, the Gems must place their trust in Zavcka Klist, formerly ruthless gemtech thug, now apparently reformed. The Gems need her help to access the technology they need to survive. In return, they agree to help the gemtech scientists continue their research down the same paths that led to the Syndrome crisis in the first place.
Blood Sisters, edited by Paula Guran (May 5, Night Shade Books—Paperback)
From Dracula to Twilight, few horror icons have been reworked and reimagined more than the vampire. Edited by Bram Stoker Award-winner Paula Guran, this collection includes inventive vampire tales from female writers, including Holly Black, Nancy Holder, Catherynne M. Valente, and Carrie Vaughn, ranging from bloodsoaked, to sexy, to outright strange.
Hexed: The Sisters of Witchdown, by Michael Alan Nelson
Based on the Hexed comic, this series-opener follows Luci Jenifer Inacio das Neves (aka Luci, aka Lucifer), a teenage ne’re-do-well who makes a living stealing magical objects from the underworld that exists alongside our own. When the daughter of the local police chief is kidnapped, only Luci knows where she was taken, and by whom. To save the girl, Luci and the missing girl’s boyfriend David must travel to another dimension and square off against the Seven Sisters of Witchdown. But as Luci begins to fall for David, she realizes that saving the damsel in distress may mean losing her only shot at happiness.
Unseemly Science, by Rod Duncan
The second entry in the Philip K. Dick Award-nominated, steampunkish Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire series that began with The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter. Duncan knows how to spin a great story out of threaded tropes of Victoriana, romance, mystery, and political intrigue, but the real fun is exploring his fascinating world, a version of historical England split into two nations, where the Industrial Revolution never occurred and the Patent Office has been granted supreme authority over all scientific discoveries. Heroine Elizabeth Barnabus lives a double-life as a proper Lady and her own “brother,” a detective investigating the mysterious inventions the Patent Office has declared “unseemly science.” This time, she brings her alternate identity out of the closet to look into a new charitable organization in town, one run by a group of women Elizabeth fears may be connected to recent body-snatchings and other nefarious deeds.
Corsair, by James L. Cambias
Cambias sails the seven seas of digital piracy in his sophomore effort. David Schwartz is a hacker who makes a clandestine living using his skills on behalf of powerful criminals, cracking code in order to send shipments of H3 mined in space crashing into Earth’s oceans, to be retrieved by the bad guys. Elizabeth Santiago is a intelligence agent tasked with stopping people just like David from breaking bad. The stage is set for a showdown, but there’s one more little detail complicating matters: the two knew each other in college. Like, knew each other. Cambias makes an abrupt left turn from his celebrated debut A Darkling Sea, a story of first contact with an underwater alien race, but his writing and ideas lose none of their flair.
Cash Crash Jubilee, by Eli K.P. William
This cyberpunk thriller keeps tongue planted firmly in cheek as it develops its future Tokyo, where every aspect of human existence has been licensed by mega-corporations, from eating, to sex, to breathing. Internalized computer chips track—and charge for—every moment, allowing citizens to remain hooked up to the global information network. Go bankrupt, though, and “Liquidators” like Amon Kenzaki come for you. But Kenzaki himself is targeted when he is tasked with “cash crashing” a prominent citizen and subsequently finds himself on the hook for an incredibly expensive action called a “jubilee,” though he has no idea what that is. As he tries to extricate himself from an impossible situation, he begins to question the very system he has worked inside of for years.
The Waterborne Blade, by Susan Murray
This intriguing romantic fantasy launches a new series. Her kingdom facing invasion, Queen Alwenna allows herself to be taken to safety across country, purportedly to keep her safe from challengers to the throne. But she finds the journey much more difficult (and dangerous) than she thought, and a pampered court life has left her ill-equipped at survival. Discovering previously untapped strengths and abilities, she must rely on her own wits and skill if she is going to make it back home and save both her husband and her kingdom from ruin.
What new books are you reading this week?