This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: A Workers’ Rebellion on Silicon Isle, Mage Warfare, and a Sci-Fi Legend’s Hopeful Vision of the Future

Cruel Fate, by Kelly Armstrong
Since finishing off the Cainsville urban fantasy series a few years back, Kelly Armstrong has continued the tale in a series of novella-length stories set at different points along the narrative timeline. This latest, available as both an ebook and a limited edition hardcover from Subterranean Press, is set after the final book, picking up with Olivia after she’s dealt with her discovery that her biological parents were serial killers and taken a job as an investigator for hard-nosed defense attorney Gabriel Walsh (who is also her love interest). Olivia is celebrating her adoptive father’s release from prison, where he spent 20 years for a crime he didn’t commit, but her life is thrown into turmoil again when it becomes apparent that someone wants Todd Larsen back behind bars, and they’re willing to use long-hidden evidence of the one murder her really did commit—that of a brutal serial killer—to do it.

Parable of the Sower, by Octavia E. Butler
This gorgeous reissue of Octavia Butler’s prescient near-future novel includes an incisive foreword by N.K. Jemisin. It’s more relevant today than when it was first published. Climate change is often framed not only in environmental terms, but economic ones: many foresee a world in which the rich, always getting richer, are the only ones able to afford the scarce resources that will be left after nature turns fully against humanity. Butler’s novel starts there, with the last elite remnants of the human race living in walled communities that protect them from the aggressive hordes of homeless, jobless, and nearly hopeless people suffering from the effects of ecological collapse. When her home in one of these fortresslike neighborhoods is attacked and looted, a young girl named Lauren flees, seeking safety and plagued by a mysterious ailment that forces her to feel others’ pain as if it were her own. Ultimately, this is a tale of hope—and considering how much less speculative this classic seems every day, a little extra hope might just be what you need to help you fall asleep tonight.

The Unbound Empire, by Melissa Caruso
The third and final book in Caruso’s engaging Sword and Fire trilogy finds the deep snows of winter slowing the Witch-Lord Ruven’s advance on the city of Raverra, where Lady Amalia Cornaro and the fire warlock Zaira—whose magic is tethered to Amalia—are working desperately to free mages who can help them defeat Ruven. Their first goal is opposed by the Raverran Empire’s ruling class, who want to maintain their control over all magic; the second is threatened by Ruven latest devastating attack. Desperate, Amalia trades secrets and makes alliances to gather information that will aide both her causes. It’s all leading toward a final confrontation that might require Zaira to use her own magical abilities in ways she’s never before imagined.

Hope for the Best, by Jodi Taylor
It’s been a little while since we checked in with Jodi Taylor’s Chronicles of St. Mary’s series, which follows a group of historians rambling about in time and generally making a temporal mess of things, however accidentally. In the past, we’ve labeled the series “perfectly bingeable,” and that hasn’t changed at all with the 10th (but not the last) installment, which follows protagonist Max on a stint with the time police. The change of venue means a few favorite characters sit this one out, but Taylor makes up for it with one of the most tightly plotted, eventful, and heart-wrenching volumes of the series.

Waste Tide, by Chen Qiufan
“Translated by Ken Liu” is a serviceable marketing slogan this days; certainly the phrase adorns the covers of some of the best Chinese science fiction arriving in America in recent years. Qiufan’s story follows a woman named Mimi, and inhabitant of Silicon Isle, where the world’s toxic electronic trash is piling up. She’s one of thousands of poor migrant workers who came to the Isle looking for good wages in exchange for hard work, only to find themselves in an economic trap; Silicon Isle is ruled by three rich clans who regard Mimi and her fellow workers as subhuman. Mimi’s rough circumstances grow worse when she’s blamed for the illness of a powerful clan leader’s son. It’s a final straw that, rather than breaking Mimi, propels her to the forefront of a growing workers’ rebellion—even as greater forces seek to make her kind unnecessary altogether by automating the recycling processes. Smart, relevant,and propulsive: this is what sci-fi was made for.

What new sci-fi & Fantasy books are on your list this week?

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