This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy: Bite-Sized Zombie Tales, Liars and Demons in Tinsel Town, and a Super Spy with a Pocket Universe

waypointMust be Tuesday: another hefty stack of new SFF is hitting store shelves and exploding your to-read pile. Zombies, time-travelers, and angry god twins, oh my!

Rise, by Mira Grant
Fans of the lively zombie-cum-virus-cum-survival universe explored in Grant’s Newflesh series can rejoice: Rise collects all of her Newsflesh-set short fiction into one epic volume. What has always set Grant’s zombie universe apart is her focus on the way society bends and snaps under the pressure, but people still fall in love, still need to live their lives, still need to attend sci-fi conventions—even if it means occasionally having to shoot an old friend or loved one in the head. Best of all, in addition to the eight published Newflesh stories, there are two never-before-published novellas, making this collection an absolute must-have for fans.

Pride’s Spell, by Matt Wallace
If you haven’t been reading Matt Wallace’s novella series about Sin du Jour, a New York catering company with a clientele of demons, goblins, and other all-too-real beasties, you’re missing out on the most inventive, irreverent, and unapologetically obscene urban fantasy series…maybe ever? In volume three (of a planned seven, naturally), the crew heads west to prepare a feast for the false gods of Hollywood, where liars reign (including one Mr. The Prince of Lies). Meanwhile, back in Queens, one of the crew is targeted by a strange squad of assassins, suggesting that someone is angling to put the Sin du Jour crew on the menu.

Judenstaat, by Simone Zelitch
The latest entry in the specific but strangely robust sub-genre of alt-history novels that consider the fate of the Jewish people, Zelitch’s lauded latest takes place in a vision of 1948 in which a Jewish state is established in Saxony, on the edges of Germany and Poland, sending history spinning off of its familiar axis. Decades later, filmmaker Judit Klemmer begins a project to document the impact the young nation has had on the world stage, even as she continues to struggle with her grief over the death of her husband, a symphony conductor and Saxon murdered by a sniper during a performance. As she delves deep into her research, Judith uncovers damning evidence about one of Judenstaat’s founding fathers, and an enigmatic note that will catch her up in a conspiracy of world-changing proportions: “They lied about the murder.” It’s a poignant, measured, and beautifully written examination of real tragedies by way of imagined ones.

Waypoint Kangaroo, by Curtis C. Chen
What better way to improve the already irresistible spy thriller genre than to add a bit of hi-tech wizardry? Kangaroo is already the coolest secret agent in the room—highly trained, with a quick wit and the coolest gadgets—even before you consider the fact that he has exclusive access to “the pocket,” a tiny device that opens a portal to another dimension. Cool and interdimensionally connected he may be, but Kangaroo isn’t always the best at actual, er, secret agenting, and after his latest case goes south, he’s placed on mandatory leave, with a ticket on a cruise to Mars. But trouble follows him in the form of dead passengers, competing spycraft, and a conspiracy that might, you know, pluge the galaxy into all-out war. Sounds like a great vacation. Chen is said to have studied at the feet of both John Scalzi and Ursula K. LeGuin, so I guess this book answers that age-old riddle.

The Weaver’s Lament, by Elizabeth Haydon
Haydon’s expansive, nine-book Symphony of Ages series comes to a lyrical close. With the Cymerian Alliance on the brink of civil war, Rhapsody faces an impossible choice: she can save her husband, dooming thousands to death, or her two closest allies, dooming herself in the bargain.

New Pompeii, by Daniel Godfrey
In Godfrey’s deliciously readable debut, a shadowy mega-corporation (aren’t they all?) develops time-travel technology and comes up with the brilliant idea to use it to transport the doomed citizens of Pompeii forward hundreds of years into the future, just moments before they were to be buried in lava. Historian Nick Houghton is brought on board to serve as a liaison between cultures and across the divide of centuries, but he soon begins to realize than the ancient survivors aren’t quite as helpless—or as awed by the “gods” who saved them from oblivion—as the suits at Novus Corp thought.

Born of Legend, by Sherrilyn Kenyon
The ninth entry in the Nemesis Rising series finds Dagger on the run and with a bounty on his head. His vulnerable status doesn’t stop him from saving the life of a magical child doomed to a life of servitude. The boy’s mother, an Andarion Fyreblood, has sworn a vow to kill all of the royals responsible for driving her race to near-extinction. And yet, one of them has just saved her son’s life. It’s another propulsive, heart-pounding installment of the popular romantic fantasy series.

In the Shadow of the Gods, by Rachel Dunne
Dunne’s epic fantasy debut treads in grim and grimy waters, telling the story of a band of hapless mortals, united under a cunning and dangerous man, who set out to make war on two powerful gods. Ages ago, the Twins were banished from the heavens and bound beneath the earth; in order to keep them imprisoned, every pair of human twins born since has been slaughtered at birth. But the Twins, in their exile, have a plan to escape, and rain down torment on gods and mortals alike. Only the anything-but-peaceful priest Joros and his mismatched band of fighters, mages, and mercenaries (including a rare pair of twins) may be able to stop the enraged dieties from literally tearing down the sun. The first in a trilogy.

Duskfall, by Christopher P. Husberg
An ambitious new epic fantasy quintet begins (no mere trilogy, this!) with the story of a man known only as Knot, who is pulled from icy waters with his body pierced by arrows and his brain empty of memories. But his dreams—his dreams are filled with violent terrors. Elsewhere, a woman named Winter, Knot’s wife for a single day, searches for her missing husband and along the way discovers an unexpected truth about her own power. And in the wider world, a priestess named Cinzia discovers that her family has sparked an uprising and is being hunted by the Inquisition. The setting is a world believed free from the influence of magic and demons, but dark powers are rising, and Knot may hold the key to the future.

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