A book that will be beloved by you hasn’t been born. Yet. You may not have learned your favorite author’s name. Yet.
A new year means a whole new slate of books from your favorite writers, and long-awaited next installments in favorite series. But some of the books we’re most looking forward to over the next 12 months are from new voices, or from established ones who are nevertheless debuting their first novels after winning acclaim for their shorter work. There’s nothing more exciting than finding the next writer who speaks to us. Here are 25 science fiction and fantasy debuts coming this year that we can’t wait to read.
Here and Now and Then, by Mike Chen (January 29)
Kin Stewart is just a normal guy with a wife and daughter working IT in the Bay area. Sort of. Before he got stranded in our time 18 years ago, he was a time-traveling secret agent from the future. Now his rescue team is here, ready to return him to the life and family he left behind. What a great, genre-bending premise—hardly a surprise from Chen, a mainstay in the SFF community and a contributor to sites like The Mary Sue and Tor.com.
We Cast a Shadow: A Novel, by Maurice Carlos Ruffin (January 29)
In a southern American city of the near future, ghettos and police violence are rampant. But people of color have a way out: Dr. Nzinga offers a complete “demelanization,” providing skin-deep whiteness to clients with the means to pay for it. It’s a semi-satirical premise, and promises the kind of cutting commentary that can make for a great novel.
The Ruin of Kings, by Jenn Lyons (February 5)
This is the beginning of a new epic fantasy series, and we’re excited to get in on the ground floor. Which, in this case, is a dungeon holding Kihrin, a slumdog thief who is recognized as a missing prince—which does not improve his life in the way you might think. The buzz for this one has been building for months—advance copies were a hot item at last summer’s San Diego Comic-Con—and everything we’ve heard indicates the hype is totally warranted.
Infinite Detail, by Tim Maughan (March 5)
Tim Maughan imagines the unthinkable: a techno-apocalypse in the form of end of the internet, triggered after an act of cyberterrorism shuts everything down. Lost, unplugged souls make their way to the Croft, an area of Bristol that had already unplugged itself. There, a young woman claims she has found other ways of connecting with others. It sounds like we’re in for a story offering a unique take on all that we sacrifice for digital convenience.
Famous Men Who Never Lived, by K. Chess (March 5)
Hel is a refugee in New York, but he didn’t cross into America over international borders, but from an alternate timeline facing nuclear annihilation. She struggles to preserve what’s left of her culture in a world that’s increasingly hostile. Should be a timely science-fictional meditation on cultural displacement.
Today I Am Carey, by Martin L. Shoemaker (March 5)
A robot caregiver to a woman with Alzheimer’s must make its way in the world through the progression of the woman’s illness and beyond. Shoemaker’s short work is acclaimed—indeed, this novel began as the short story “Today I Am Paul,” published in Clarkesworld—and we’re looking forward to a very human book (even though it’s about a robot).
The Women’s War, by Jenna Glass (March 5)
We’re going to have to clear our calendars come March, if only to make way for what’s been billed as a fantasy epic for the #MeToo era. Women are nothing more than bargaining chips in Glass’s world, until a spell gives them control over their own fertility. The result is a feminist epic fantasy, offering strong characters and inventive worldbuilding to match the provocative premise.
The Near Witch, by V.E. Schwab (March 12)
Perhaps it is cheating to tout a book by a beloved (and bestselling) talent like V.E. Schwab on a list of debuts. But when she published The Near Witch in 2011, the world wasn’t ready for her, and the book slipped quietly out of print. Now, we’re ready for it to come roaring back. It’s the story of a town plagued by missing children and haunted by a witch straight out of a bedtime story, and the woman who must divine the truth of the legend to set things right.
Titanshade, by Dan Stout (March 12)
Rumors of the death of urban fantasy have been greatly exaggerated—there’s still a lot of life (and a ton of fun) to be found in the genre. This fantasy noir is set in Titanshade, an oil boomtown going bust in a world where magic is real and humans live alongside creatures who are decidedly not. The town’s only hope is via the investment of the amphibian race known as Squibs—until one of them is murdered. Carter is the cop pressured to make an arrest, but there’s no doubt that’ll be entertainingly tough to do.
The Perfect Assassin: Book One in the Chronicles of Ghadid, by K. A. Doore (March 19)
Amastan is a troubled novice assassin in a powerful family, but the time for questioning his vocation comes to an end when some of the best in the business start showing up dead. It’s assassin versus assassin, as Amastan does what he can to stop the murders and protect the reputation of his family.
A Memory Called Empire, by Arkady Martine (March 29)
Nothing beats a grand new space opera, and no less than Ann Leckie has assured us we’re gonna love this one. An ambassador to the Teixcalaanli Empire has to navigate an increasingly unstable political situation that threatens her home. And also figure out who murdered her predecessor. Complex politics, sweeping universe-building, and lofty, controlled prose are the hallmarks of this series-starter.
The Luminous Dead, by Caitlin Starling (April 2)
Gyre Price, from a poor mining world, lies her way into a solo caving expedition on an alien planet, but finds herself in a battle of wills with her handler, Em. Oh, and they’re not alone deep underground. We’re suckers for this kind of creepy, claustrophobic, sci-fi-meets-horror thriller.
Descendant of the Crane, by Joan He (April 2)
Princess Hesina of Yan isn’t interested in her responsibilities at court—until her father is murdered and she suddenly finds herself made queen of an unstable realm. The lush, Chinese-inspired fantasy world sounds fabulous.
Finder, by Suzanne Palmer (April 2)
Palmer’s short work has already earned her a Hugo Award, so her debut novel comes pre-recommended. It’s a fun space opera concept: the story of Fergus Ferguson, an interstellar repo man—a rogue, thief, and con artist who gets a little too invested in the lives of those he encounters on his latest job.
We Hunt the Flame, by Hafsah Faizal (May 14)
Inspired by ancient Arabian history and legend, this is another fantasy world that we can’t wait to dive into. It’s where we’ll experience the story of Zafira, who disguises herself as a man to help feed her people, and Nasir, the conflicted son of an autocratic ruler. Each seeks an ancient magic for very different ends.
An Illusion of Thieves, by Cate Glass (May 21)
In a land where the practice of sorcery comes with a death sentence, the courtesan to a revolutionary noble falls from favor and is forced to use her secret magic to stop a civil war… via an elaborate heist. Nothing about that doesn’t sound amazing.
The Lesson, by Cadwell Turnbull (June 18)
The alien occupiers of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands are generally benevolent, but meet any dissension with violent wrath. Three families wind up in a horrific cycle of violence in a book about family trapped in turbulent times. It’s a debut that has been spoken of in the same breath as last year’s standout Rosewater.
Across the Void, by S.K. Vaughan (July 2)
Commander May Knox wakes up from a medically induced coma with no memory of why she’s onboard a ship that’s falling apart. They’re calling this one a Gravity-esque thriller from a unnamed movie director working under the “S.K. Vaughan” pseudonym, so mysteries abound.
David Mogo, Godhunter, by Suyi Davies Okungbowa (July 9)
Orisha (Yoruba spirits) are rampant in Lagos, and pursued by the titular David Mogo, a freelance Godhunter. When one of his prizes is put to work by a wizard looking to seize control of the city, David knows he has to fix his mistake. Nigeria has been the setting for some of the best and most original SFF novels of the last few years, and this one sounds like it’ll keep up the trend.
The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep, by H. G. Parry (July 23)
It’s got a great title, for one thing, but the premise is even better: it follows two brothers, one with the uncontrollable power to call characters from books into the real world; one who’d love to lead a normal life, but has to guard the world from his brother’s abilities. The balance is upset when they learn that someone else has similar powers. An adventure for book lovers.
Do You Dream of Terra-Two?, by Temi Oh (August 13)
There’s another world out there: an earth-like world to which we might escape, and build a utopia. After a century of dreaming, 10 astronauts set out to find it, and see what living their dream is really like. Getting there will only take 23 years trapped in the confines of a tiny spaceship, during which plenty can go wrong. And does. Intense—and Temi Oh’s background in neuroscience promises the mind games will unfold with horrifying plausibility.
Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsym Muir (September 10)
Tamsyn Muir has earned a plethora of awards for her short work, which alone would make her debut novel appealing. But it also promises “swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers” in a story about an swordswoman with magic that can bring bones to life who is called to fight in service of a powerful family seeking galactic power. Sounds great. [Editor’s note: I’ve read this one, and it really, really is. Skeletons!]
The Resurrectionist of Caligo, by Wendy Trimboli and Alicia Zaloga (September 10)
Who among us hasn’t dreamed of a lucrative career in Victorian-era bodysnatching? Risky, but it pays well. In the case of Roger Weathersby, living the dream goes wrong in a very unexpected way after he’s framed for the murder of one of his cadavers. Luckily, a little blood magic and a rebellious princess might help him find the real killer. (You had us at “blood magic.”)
The Ten Thousand Doors of January, by Alix E. Harrow (September 10)
Some of the very best stories (ever) begin with a magical portal to another world. That’s enough to get us interested, but there’s a lot more on offer in this buzzy debut. January Scaller finds such a portal in 1901, before forgetting all about it. Years later, a book stained with magic leads her back to that childhood discovery, but mysteries abound—and they’re not all nice. We’re expecting a literary fantasy full of secrets and shattering revelations.
Chilling Effect: A Novel, by Valerie Valdes (September 17)
The mercenary space captain of the La Sirena Negra battles to save her sister from a secret galactic organization. We’re hearing that this one is way fun, which is understandable since one of the plot descriptors included the phrase “space cats.” SPACE CATS.
What SFF debut are you most looking forward to reading in 2019?