Welcome to our monthly roundup chronicling the best books the B&N SFF stable of bloggers has read over the previous month. Old or new, it doesn’t matter—these are the ones that will stick with us.
Andrew: I’ve been a huge fan of Joe Hill ever since I picked up Horns, and by now, I really look forward to everything he writes. His latest, The Fireman, is a fantastic story of one woman’s quest to survive a viral apocalypse; I’m not quite finished yet, but I’m burning through it as fast as I can, desperate to see how it ends.
T.W. O’Brien: A Throwback Thursday post on this blog led me to pick up a book I missed reading back in the ’70s. Jack L. Chalker’s Midnight at the Well of Souls is as good a read as was promised. Characters muse upon the meaning of life, the nature of the universe, and other topics dear to my liberal-arts-educated heart. The hero’s quest is eventful and comes to a satisfying conclusion. I can imagine how seven more books could be spun from the yarn of this tale, but it stands well on its own.
Kelly: I’ve been slowly working my way through the fantastic books on this blog’s Best SFF of 2015 list, and Emma Newman’s Planetfall came highly recommended by multiple sources I trust. It proved to be an excellent return to sci-fi, after a long time spent in my beloved lands of epic fantasy. The concept is intriguing enough (a psychological locked-room mystery set in the confines of a remote space colony), the writing is even better, and what’s more—what always matters most to me—is that it triggered in me a true emotional connection.
Rich: I know I’m late to the party with Daniel O’Malley’s The Rook, but I’m glad I finally discovered it. The cover tagline—”On Her Majesty’s Supernatural Secret Service”—should tell you all you need to know about this unapologetically supernatural adventure set within a highly specialized branch of the British government. Fast, fun, and lots of action.
Renay: I have a complicated relationship with fantasy, so when I find novels I like, I tend to obsess over them for weeks. It happened with Peter Newman’s The Vagrant, which positions itself as a dark, apocalyptic chase adventure, but is, at its core, about optimism, hope, and the goodness of people. I love the way the titular Vagrant is revealed to us, carefully, as an empathetic hero. Plus, he’s carting a tiny baby across a hellscape, and it’s just as exciting as it sounds.
Joel: I’ll likely make a few people jealous when I say that I just finished N.K. Jemisin’s The Obelisk Gate, the followup to the masterful The Fifth Season, which was unquestionably my favorite book of 2015. The second book in the Broken Earth trilogy is just as impossibly good as the first, delving ever deeper into the strata of a fantasy world imagined with near-scientific rigor, and the mind and heart of its protagonist, a woman who refuses to be broken, even if you try to drop an entire continent on top of her.
Ross: There’s never been a better exploration of the psycho-sexual hangups of pulp heroes than in the works of Philip José Farmer. The Evil in Pemberley is a couple of years old, and the last work that Farmer was involved with before his death. It follows Pat Wildman, the daughter of Doc Savage and descendant of Tarzan and Sherlock Holmes, who inherits the Pemberley House from Pride and Prejudice. It’s all sorts of weird and kinky fun, with lots of action and a fair bit of sex.
Aidan: To the surprise of no one, Guy Gavriel Kay’s Children of Earth and Sky is a warm, intricately plotted fantasy. Kay’s a master fantasist, and any time he releases a new book is a time for celebration. If you’re looking for something that’s full of feeling, packed with characters you’ll love, loathe, respect, and miss long after you turn the final page, this book will satisfy you immensely.
Sam Riedel: Beth Cato’s debut series, The Clockwork Dagger, established her as an exciting new voice in steampunk, a creator of compelling characters and a builder of fantastic worlds. Her latest novel, Breath of Earth, out later this summer, takes place in an alternate San Francisco in which geomancers keep the San Andreas faultline in check—and institutional sexism and racism keep Ingrid Carmichael from achieving her full magical potential. Cato weaves a compelling tapestry of clashing cultural values, bringing much-needed diversity to the genre.
Calliope: While many comic readers know Dave McKean for his work as cover artist for Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, his limited series Cages proves his worth as a writer on his own. Coupling long prose with multimedia visuals, this graphic album offers a surreal introspection on the nature of humans and gods.
Ardi: Award-winning short fiction author Kat Howard proves to be a master storyteller at any length with her debut novel, Roses and Rot. The story of two sisters at a retreat for artists is haunting, surreal, and magical; it feels like a ghost story wrapped up in a fairy tale. There is a quote that I think sums up the feeling I get reading it: “But there are fairy tales where there is a cost, where the veins of the story run deeper than ball gowns and handsome princes. I don’t think they’re real, but I think they’re true.” If you love a good soul-achingly dark fairy tale, add this one to your list.
What’s the best book you read last month?