Read on to discover a baker’s dozen of weird and wonderful new releases to start of the last month of 2015.
Impulse: The Lightship Chronicles, Book One, by Dave Bara
Bara launched a new series with his debut novel, now available in mass market paperback in advance of the January release of the sequel. It’s a grand old space opera in a well-crafted universe that clicks into the groove from page one. Peter Cochrane is the scion of a rich, powerful family, following his ordained career path through the Quantar Royal Navy. When a mysterious surprise attack on the Lightship Impulse kills Peter’s former girlfriend and several of his friends, however, everything changes: Peter is reassigned to the Impulse, where he’s surrounded by strangers, as well as an attractive executive officer. Bara’s universe is intriguing—technology is given to the navy by the mysterious Earth-based Historians, who know more than they are willing to explain about the history of everything—setting up as a strong first entry in a fun series.
The Elfstones of Shannara, by Terry Brooks
The second volume in the classic Shannara series, rereleased with a new cover to tie in with the MTV television adaptation hitting the small screen in January, returns to the far, far future Earth where the last vestiges of ancient technology hide in the shadows and wild and unpredictable magic rules the day. Demons, long imprisoned behind a magical barrier called The Forbidding, have begun to break through. Wil Ohmsford, heir of Jerle Shannara and possessor of the powerful Elfstones, must escort the elf Amberle along a perilous path on a quest to revitalize the Forbidding and protect the world from demonic invasion. One of the most detailed and inventive high fantasy universes in history remains a deeply satisfying read decades after its initial publication—a fact a whole new generation is about to discover.
Sword of Destiny, by Andrzej Sapkowski
While it’s common to see novels based on video games, the reverse is pretty rare. Sapkowski’s Witcher series is that rare bird, creating a world intricate to inspire a trio of games. This collection of short stories follows series hero Geralt, one of the last Witchers (powerful magic-users and monster hunters), through a series of adventures that expand the Witcher universe, deepen the characters and their relationships, and offer incredible action. The short story structure makes it a good bet for fans craving fresh material and newcomers who want to just a taste.
Ash and Silver, by Carol Berg
The second half of Berg’s Sanctuary duology, after Dust and Light, concludes the story of Lucian de Remeni-Masson, a gifted artist and noble who faced terrible consequences from the Pureblood Registry for associating with a commoner woman. Stripped of half his magic, his family murdered, Lucian is reduced to sketching portraits of the dead for a lowly undertaker…a job that unexpectedly connected him to the spirit world, and put him in danger of further persecution. Now stripped of his memories, Lucien must unravel the mystery of his past and figure out what he learned that was so dangerous, the Registry wanted it gone from his mind for good.
A Daughter of No Nation, by A.M. Dellamonica
The sequel to Dellamonica’s delightful portal fantasy Child of a Hidden Sea. Only just having returned to our world, Sophie Hansa is desperate to journey back to the fantasy kingdom of Stormwrack, where she was born, and from which she was sent away to live a mundane life in San Francisco when she was an infant. Recalled to Stormwack by her father, who wants her to use her skills as a biologist to determine who infested his land with throttlevine plants, Sophie jumps at the chance to learn more about her true home. Nothing can dissuade her—not a treacherous seafaring culture, not slavery or dangerous magic, not even her possibly psychotic father. With a determined protagonist and wonderful world-building, Dellamonica continues a buoyant fantasy series filled with mystery and wonder.
Enemy in the Dark: Far Stars Book Two, by Jay Allan
Allan returns to the world of the Far Stars: Marshal Lucerne, the mercenary Blackhawk, and the crew of the Wolf’s Claw, picking up directly after the successful rescue mission of Lucerne’s daughter Astra at the end of Shadow of Empire. Lucerne continues to pressure Blackhawk to join the resistance against an encroaching imperial power that threatens the independence of the Far Stars. Blackhawk is a compelling, haunted character, a man of skill and bravery who can’t outrun his dark past. As evidence of a devastating move by the imperial governor comes to light, the crew of the Wolf’s Claw is once again embroiled in Galactic politics as Lucerne strives to unite the Far Stars into a confederacy strong enough to withstand the blow. Allan’s universe is complex, and his deeply shaded characters a joy to spend time with.
Assassin’s Creed: Underworld, by Oliver Bowden
Bowden eighth foray into the detailed universe of the Assassin’s Creed video game series is, first and foremost, a gripping SFF adventure. While fans of the games will find plenty of grace notes and references, Bowden has created a story and character that will appeal to anyone looking for a steampunk-y adventure: in 1862, when the Industrial Revolution has inspired the first underground railroad to be built beneath London, a dead body discovered at the dig site sets the newest chapter in an ancient war between Assassins and Templars into bloody motion, and a lone Assassin known only as Ghost struggles to destroy the Templar hold on the city.
The Rising, by Ian Tregillis
This crackerjack sequel to Tregillis’ The Mechanical picks up this gearpunk alt-history story where we left it: Jax, one of a race of mechanical golems called Clakkers, has defied achieved free will…and paid the price. Crippled and on the run from the Dutch Empire, which is on the verge of crushing the remaining Free France forces and completing their conquest of the world, Jax searches for a legendary leader of “free Clakkers,” seeking to bring freedom to his magically-enslaved brethren. Meanwhile, agents of New France prepare for the inevitable invasion with the full knowledge that no other country has withstood the Dutch’s invincible Clakker army. The breathless ending will leave you straining for the trilogy-ending third volume, due next year.
Thunderbird, by Jack McDevitt
McDevitt returns to the universe he created in his novel Ancient Shores as another incredible discovery is made on a Sioux Indian Reservation in North Dakota: an ancient stargate. Travel through the gate leads to three possible destinations: a lush, apparently uninhabited garden planet immediately named Eden, a vast array of underground passages, and a space station located in ideal position to observe the Milky Way Galaxy. Various players compete for control of the stargate, which promises incredible rewards—and incredible danger, as it’s clear that two-way traffic through the stargate is possible. McDevitt offers a seamless blend of SF ideas, Sioux Indian culture and mythology, and breakneck plotting.
Alien in Chief, by Gini Koch
The twelfth adventure of alien hunter Katherine “Kitty” Katt lands with as much energy and verve as the first, offering a rollicking sci-fi yarn that doesn’t skimp on the crazy (Koch’s fans expect no less). When he planetary council requests a meeting with the president and vice president (who happens to be Kitty’s husband, Jeff, a native of Alpha Centauri), a wave of dangerous criminals escape a supermax prison, and a deadly virus is released, Kitty is nearly overwhelmed with crises to deal with. (Don’t worry, we said “almost.”) It’s another fast-paced, banter-filled adventure that will please long-time fans while remaining accessible to newcomers.
Nevermore: A Cal Leandros Novel, by Rob Thurman
The tenth entry in Thurman’s popular urban fantasy series finds its half-man, half-monster protagonist in deep trouble, marked for death by The Vigil, the group tasked with ensuring the paranormal remains hidden from the world. They send a terrifying, superpowered assassin named Lazarus to kill Cal, and when the straightforward approach fails, send the killer back in time to try to accomplish the deed retroactively. When Cal follows, timelines get twisty and lives and memories are knotted up in unexpected ways. While a bit dense for newcomers, this is a tense and satisfying new adventure for old fans.
Unbound, edited by Shawn Speakman
Most short fiction collections are based on a theme, from a particular plot element, to a specific setting, to answering a certain imagination-sparking question. The contributors to Unbound faced no such restrictions (hence the title). 23 original stories from the likes of Terry Brooks, Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine, Delilah S. Dawson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Seanan McGuire, and Sam Sykes have only one thing in common: these were tales the authors desperately wanted told.
Meeting Infinity, edited by Jonathan Strahan
Though not unbound, Meeting Infinity is no less exciting an offering. Veteran editor Strahan has assembled another exciting volume in his sci-fi short fiction SF series collecting stories that consider how the human race will come together to answer the questions and challenges imposed by the future, from climate change, to interstellar travel, to digital immortality. Featuring contributions from Madeline Ashby, John Barnes, James S.A. Corey, Gregory Benford, Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Simon Ings, Kameron Hurley, and many more.
What are you reading this week?