This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: American SF Classics, Fallen Heroes, and Living Puppets

American Science Fiction: Four Classic Novels, 1960-1966, edited by Gary K. Wolfe
The Library of America continues to build out its collection of science fiction classics with this new edition of classic novels, brought together by accomplished editor Gary K. Wolfe. Included in the handsome hardcover volume are The High Crusade by Poul Anderson, an alien invasion story set during the Hundred Years’ War; Clifford D. Simak;s Hugo-winning Way Station, which chronicles the surprisingly unremarkable life of Enoch Wallace, a 124-year-old Civil War veteran who monitors the traffic passing through an intergalactic outpost; Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon, a staple of high school reading lists in which a developmentally disabled man is giving a medical treatment that grants him normal intelligence… but only for a time; and Roger Zelazny’s …And Call Me Conrad, co-winner of the 196 Hugo with a little book called Dune. Zelazny’s novel in particular merits attention: originally published as This Immortal and reedited over the years, it is presented here in a version that more closely aligns with the author’s original vision. Also available today: volume two of the series, American Science Fiction: Four Classic Novels, 1968-1969, featuring Past Master by R.A. Lafferty, Picnic on Paradise by Joanna Russ, Nova by Samuel R. Delany (reprinted for the first time with text corrected by the author), and Emphyrio by Jack Vance, also restored to the author’s original text.

Fire Sail: A Xanth Novel, by Piers Anthony
If that pun-tastic title didn’t give it away, we’re back in Xanth for the 42nd (!) enty in Piers Anthony’s long-running humorous fantasy saga. A young man named Lydell and an old woman named Grania are the unlikely duo at the center of the story involving a run-in with the Good Magician, who both are seeking to inject some excitement into their dull lives. They get what they ask for and more after ol’ GM asks them to deliver a fireboat to its new owners, but gives them little more to go on than that, a few obscure clues, and a crew made up of an annoying bird and a robot fish. Sounds like just another day in Xanth…

The Cunning Man, by D.J. Butler and Aaron Michael Ritchey
In 1935 Utah, there are witches—evil and scheming—and there are cunning men—people who know the lore and magic necessary to defend against them. When the Kimball coal mine descends into chaos amidst rumors of a malevolent spirit in its depths, beet farmer Hiram Woolley steps forward as a cunning man and offers to help. As his efforts bring him into contact with a spirited union organizer named Mary McGill, Woolley also runs up against Gus Dollar, local business owner and fellow cunning man, and begins to realize the darkness he’s up against might be beyond his understanding—and his power to stop.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Illustrated Edition), by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Elise Hurst
It’s perfectly natural that this Gaiman classic is getting a lushly-illustrated reissue, as reading it again is very much like returning to a childhood home after a long time away. It is the story of a man who returns to his own hometown in Sussex to attend a funeral, sparking a flood of tragic childhood memories involving the not-quite-human Hempstock family, their young daughter Lettie, and a dark force brought into the world by a despairing man’s suicide. As the unnamed protagonist’s past blurs with the present, the beautiful details of the story are perfectly captured by Elsie Hurst’s vintage style, which incorporates hints and visual feints to evoke the mood of the story while still leaving much to the reader’s imagination.

The Fate of the Fallen, by Kel Kade 
Self-publishing bestseller Kel Kade makes her major publishing debut with a dark, fascinating subversion of fantasy tropes in the story of Mathias, who is destined by prophecy to be the savior of the world. He gathers his best friend Aaslo and a team of allies for what promises to be a grand adventure ending in prophesied victory. But when things turn out to be much more challenging than expected, Mathias finds himself shedding allies, and the people he’d sought to save begin to openly contemplate surrender, thinking the prophecy misinterpreted. Mathias and Aaslo realize that perhaps the title “hero of destiny” isn’t something that’s conferred to you via ancient prophecy—but something you have to truly earn.

The Novice Dragoneer, by E.E. Knight
Ileth is an orphan, and has dreamed of becoming a Dragon Rider for all of her 14 years. When she applies to the Serpentine Academy in the Vale Republic, she secures her place, and spends years doing drudge work and learning the ropes, eventually being promoted to dancer of the dragons. With her new status comes a downside, however; when a political hostage is needed, the Masters of Apprentices choose Ileth, and she must travel to a neighboring kingdom, where she faces misogyny and the dense intrigues of a foreign court. Centering a protagonist who will appeal to anyone who loves strong, adventurous heroes—and shares her wish to someday ride a dragon—and a world that recalls the dragon-packed adventures of Anne McCaffrey, this series-starter makes for an addictive reading experience.

Clash of Kings: The Illustrated Edition, by George R.R. Martin, illustrated by Lauren K. Cannon
Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the release of the second volume in George R.R. Martin’s legendary series, this special edition features more than 20 new color and black-and-white illustrations by Lauren K. Cannon, best-known for her cover work on Peter V. Brett’s books. These beautiful illustrations bring key scenes and characters to vivid life, making this a perfect way to re-experience masterful sequences like Arya’s escape from King’s Landing and meeting with Jaqen, Jon’s thrilling mission in the North with the Halfhand, and Theon’s less-than glorious return to the Iron Islands. Whether you want an excuse to reread the books or need to flush the TV series’ imagery out of your head, this is the perfect excuse to return to Westeros.

Fortuna, by Kristyn Merbeth 
Kristyn Merbeth’s latest (she wrote The Wastelanders under the name K.S. Merbeth) is a dark and gritty space opera bringing thriller-style crime fiction into a sci-fi universe. The criminal Kaiser family’s smuggling operation relies on the old cargo ship Fortuna. Scorpia resents her brother, and when he leaves to fight in the war she sees the opportunity to finally prove her worth and ascend to captain. But things go disastrously wrong just as her brother, Corvus, returns. The siblings have to put their rivalry aside in order to deal with the fallout of a bloody massacre, fighting to keep themselves alive and their family business up and running. But there’s a lot of history—and a lot of self-dealing—in the mix, which means the right choices are increasingly difficult to make.

The New Voices of Science Fiction, edited by Hannu Rajaniemi and Jacob Weisman
This quasi-sequel to the award-winning anthology The New Voices of Fantasy shifts into a new genre with a powerhouse collection of short stories by some of the best writers working today, revealing visions of a future by turns disturbing, amusing, and thought-provoking. Authors represented include Nino Cipri, Rebecca Roanhorse, Jason Sanford, Rich Larson, Amal El-Mohtar, Amman Sabet, Sam J. Miller, and many more. Editors Hannu Rajanjemi (The Quantum Thief) and Jacob Weisman offer up unexpected gems like Vina Jie-Min Prasad’s “A Series of Steaks,” about a bio-printer who forges fancy cuts of meat, and Sarah Pinsker’s award-nominated “Our Lady of the Open Road,” a near-future rock and roll road trip that inspired her marvelous novel A Song for a New Day.

Resistance Reborn (Star Wars): Journey to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (B&N Exclusive Edition), by Rebecca Roanhorse
Hugo- and Nebula-winner Rebecca Roanhorse delivers a must-read for Star Wars fans: a prequel to the upcoming The Rise of Skywalker that reveals what happened to the forces of good in the wake of their devastating defeat at the end of The Last Jedi. With the Resistance reduced to a tiny band of survivors and no one answering Leia’s desperate plea for assistance, the general sends out her best and brightest to seek help from the heroes of the past—the people who once led a rebellion against an Empire—and find new allies so they might mount one final stand against the First Order before it can crush them completely and seize the galaxy entire.

Life and Limb, by Jennifer Roberson 
Jennifer Roberson launches a new urban fantasy series in which biker Gabe Harlan and cowboy Remi McCue discover that they’re not really human—rather, they are made of “heavenly matter” sealed inside bodies of blood and bone. Their task is to fight the many, many monsters and forces of evil arrayed against heaven’s purposes, with assistance from an angelic adviser they dub “Grandaddy” and other magical forces. The learning curve is steep, and Gabe and Remi soon find out that their new life might be short—and very fatal—if they don’t learn fast. Readers who loved the monster-fighting camaraderie of Supernatural will definitely dig it.

Infinite Stars: Dark Frontiers, edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt
This followup to the anthology Infinite Stars collects more new stories by some of your favorite contemporary authors writing in their most popular universes, presented alongside time-tested tales from past masters. Highlights in this volume include new stories in Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers series, Tanya Huff’s Confederation, Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet, Curtis C. Chen’s Waypoint Kangaroo, Orson Scott Card’s Enderverse, Neal Asher’s Polity, and more.

The Deep, by Rivers Solomon with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes
A short novel that builds on a mythology originally created by electronic music duo Drexciya, and furthered by rappers William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes, and Tony-winner Daveed Diggs (collectively known as clipping.) in the song of the same name, The Deep tells the story of the wajinru, a race of mer-people living under the ocean who are descended from pregnant African women thrown overboard by slave-traders. As the history of the wajinru is too painful to bear, they exist without it, forgetful and at peace—except for Yetu, the historian whose purpose is to hold those terrible memories, releasing them once a year during a ceremony called the Remembering, and then take them back. Yetu struggles with this burden, and flees to the surface to try and escape it—but only finds trouble and complication as her choice to flee has terrible consequences. Award-winner Solomon finds a deep vein of anger, resistance, and redemption in the song’s haunting, harrowing narrative.

Made Things, by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Adrian Tchaikovsky is an author who excels at writing both expansively and in shorter, concentrated bursts; his latest expertly balances darkness and hope with a slender page count. It’s set in a crowded, oppressed city where everyone is under the heel of the ruling mages. Coppelia is an orphan and a puppet-maker scrambling survive by picking pockets and stealing what there is to steal. She’s assisted by Tef and Arc, two tiny homunculi made from wood and metal. When Coppelia and her mentor are tasked with tracking down a golem, Coppelia stumbles onto a vicious evil brewing under the streets of the city and becomes ensnared—and it’s up to her two inhuman companions to save her, proving along the way that humanity is about more than flesh and bone.

Unnatural Magic, by C. M. Waggoner
In C.M. Waggoner’s debut, two young women from vastly different cultures converge on the same goal. Onna is better at magic spells than any man in her village, but is denied an education due to her sex, so she sets off to the city of Hexos in hopes of finding a more enlightened university. Instead, she finds four dead trolls. Tsira is a troll with her own problems, who also leaves home, and stumbles on a grievously injured human soldier. She nurses him back to health, but is attacked by a mysterious mage. Onna and Tisra set out to discover who is attacking trolls—and why—each woman bringing their own powerful talents to bear on their quest as they slowly draw closer together. Humor, heart, non-human characters, and a mathematical magic system make this one a winner.

Legacy of Ash, by Matthew Ward
This series-launching epic fantasy debut is rich in intrigue and action. It is set in the Tressian Republic, a world in which the ruling families, who once united together to protect the kingdom from outside threats, have turned to infighting, lashing out at one another through hidden plots and attempted assassinations. Unfortunately, their power squabbles have left them vulnerable to attack from the invading forces gathering at their borders. A few heroes—including the Tressia’s champion, Viktor Akadra; Viktor’s greatest enemy, the political prisoner Josiri Trelan; and Calenne, Josiri’s sister, who seeks to escape the family legacy—may be the only ones who can save the day. But each is hiding secrets of their own that could spell both personal ruin and the end of the Republic.

Skein Island, by Aliya Whitley
The author of disturbing horror tales like The Beauty, Aliya Whitley returns with an unsettling novel about the way we choose—or are shaped by—our identities. Skein Island is a private resort where certain exclusive invitees are given they choice to stay for a week, offering up as payment only a story from their past, to be added to the island’s unusual library. But what happens to those stories after the guests have departed? Filled with stories of Greek heroes and wartime violence, the characters that populate the library turn out to be unwilling to stay within the confines of their own tales. This edition includes a new novelette set in the same world.

Quillifer the Knight, by Walter Jon Williams
At the end of Quillifer, Williams’ titular rogue-turned-hero was knighted, but he’s not one to rest on his laurels. In the sequel, he’s still building a name for himself by taking on quests—and then telling his lovers and friends all about them without much humility. Slowly, Quillifer finds himself drawn into the politics of Duisland, a kingdom descending inevitably into open war, and court intrigue including a plot involving the Queen’s sister. Quillifer may be a braggart, but he’s good at the whole hero job, and knows how to tell a story. Walter Jon Williams has a proven talent for writing in any genre, and “adventure fantasy” is certainly one of them.

What new SFF is on your TBR this week?

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