New Book Roundup: From Post-Apocalyptic New York City, to Steampunk Seattle, to the Far Reaches of Outer Space

karenmemoryThis week’s new sci-fi and fantasy books are all about taking what we think we know, and showing us that we have no idea. From familiar cities (New York, Seattle) imagined in new ways, to short stories from Neil Gaiman that reveal that the clouds on the horizon sometimes have a darker lining, these books will change the way you look at the world.

City of Savages, by Lee Kelly
The first book from Saga Press, the new speculative fiction imprint from Simon & Schuster, is a post-apocalyptic thriller set in a dystopian New York 20 years after a world-ending conflict. In alternating narratives, sisters Skylar and Phee Milliar tell us of their hardscrabble fight to survive in the hollowed-out shells of once-towering skyscrapers, a Central Park POW camp lorded over by a despot, and cannibal-infested subway tunnels. Excerpts from their mother’s diary reveal how things got to be so bad. Kelly’s debut breaks out of a crowded field by placing its focus on the bond between the two sisters, who fight to maintain their connection in a ever more isolating landscape.

Karen Memory

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Karen Memory, by Elizabeth Bear
You never know what you’re going to get from an Elizabeth Bear novel—in the best possible sense. From Eternal Sky, a richly innovative epic fantasy trilogy; to Jacob’s Ladder, a sci-fi saga that puts a dark fantasy twist on generation ship tropes, her books are always deeply imaginative, beautifully rendered, and definitely, definitely different. Now, she gives us Karen Memory, a standalone steampunk western in an alternate version of late 19th century Seattle. Karen Memery is a “seamstress” in the house of Madame Damnable, who employs a number of women, and whose ornate sewing machines never seem to get much use. Karen and the rest of Damnable’s girls are pulled into a complex plot when they give shelter to a battered, bloodied woman who arrives late one night seeking shelter from her abuser, one of the city’s most powerful men, who may have in his possession a device that can control men’s minds. Bear is clearly having a ball with this one, from incorporating crazy gadgetry to writing in Karen’s idiosyncratic, irresistible voice.

Daughter of God and Shadows, by Jayde Brooks
Eden Reid is a young woman living a directionless life in modern-day Brooklyn. She’s also the reincarnation of an ancient god from another dimension, but she’s just learning about that part. Brooks’ debut novel packs Reid’s coming-of-age story with a fascinating backstory involving a war between almighty beings, monsters from another world, and a reawakened romance from a past life.

Impulse: Lightship Chronicles, Book One, by Dave Bara
This space opera from debut author Dave Bara is set in a universe still slowly recovering in the aftermath of a centuries-old galactic war, where planets have become isolated and civilizations are only just starting to reconnect. Hotshot young naval officer Peter Cochrane has just received his first plum assignment aboard a lightship when he is transferred to serve aboard the HMS Impulse, under the command of a captain from another culture. Cochrane is tasked with helping to discover why the Impulse was ambushed while investigating the ruins of the once-dominant empire, a mission that quickly goes south when the Impulse is stolen by one of the Historians, leaving the crew stranded aboard a small shuttlecraft. A propulsive blend of military tropes, space combat, and romance, this series-starter will be irresistible to fans of widescreen interstellar epics.

The Thorn of Dentonhill: A Novel of Maradine, by Marshall Ryan Maresca
Maresca’s light-hearted debut introduces your favorite new fantasy rogue, Veranix Calbert, hapless magic student by day, daring magician vigilante by night (think Spider-Man meets Harry Potter). Under the guise of the Thorn of Dentonhill, Calbert works to disrupt the harmful drug business of crime boss Willem Fenmere, quickly propelling him into the top spot on the list of the underworld’s most wanted…dead. As if that wasn’t enough pressure, he still has to worry about curfews and keeping up his grades (his excuses, while valid, aren’t exactly the kind you can email to your professor at the eleventh hour).

Trigger Warning, by Neil Gaiman
Though he is best known for expansive works like American Gods and Sandman, Gaiman is also a wizard of the short form, spinning tales that slowly unravel the world we know, transforming the mundane into the fantastical. This new collection features previously published work, including stories, poems, and Gaiman’s celebrated script for an episode of Doctor Who. Best of all, there’s a new story set in the world of American Gods, written exclusively for this collection.

Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, by Judd Trichter
In this most unusual love story, a man falls for an android woman is a near-future Los Angeles. When she is kidnapped and sold for spare parts on the black market, he must travel to the darkest corners of the city in order to track down all of her parts and put her back together, avoiding both the darker denizens who trade in mechanical souls and the LAPD, which wants to put him behind bars. An entirely plausible version of a robotic future butts up against a compelling love story in this impressive debut.

The Sculptor, by Scott McCloud 
The first graphic novel from the “Aristotle of comics” is a rumination on the artist’s struggle for immortality, a examination of the superhero mythos, and, above all, a heartbreaking love story that will remind you of the value of every rapidly passing moment of your life. David, once a celebrated sculptor, is a has-been by his mid-20s after being shunned by the art world. A literal deal with death gives him the ability to mold any material with his bare hands, but only 200 days to use it to leave his mark on the world. But then he meets Meg, a messed-up girl would could be his ticket to salvation—if only he has enough time to find it. Its thematic depth and expertly cinematic storytelling have won the book major kudos from no less than Neil Gaiman.

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