This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Drizzt’s Return, Solo’s Full Story, and 10 Years of Stories

Magefall, by Stephen Aryan
This direct sequel to Mageborn is set in the same world as Aryan’s Age of Darkness seriesv(Battlemage, Chaosmage, Bloodmage). The Age of Dread picks up the story 10 years after the end of a bloody conflict in which thousands of mages died, the world was changed, and those who can use magic became feared and hated. With their last stronghold in ruins, two young mages must prove to the world—and the gods—that they are no threat. While keeping one step against those hunting them, Wren and Danoph struggle to keep their kind safe while searching for a path forward, and bring about a world in which mages can live in peace. This fast-moving, plot-heavy series doesn’t skimp on the characters or worldbuilding; you’ll be deeply invested in the fates of Wren and Danoph and their companions, and the setting—a world struggling with how to regard magic-users in the wake of a supernatural conflict—is likewise unique and compelling.

Target Rich Environment, by Larry Correia
Correia is best known as the author of the high-octane urban fantasy series Monster Hunter International, but he’s also a prolific short story writer. This, his first  collection, features 14 stories that should appeal to his existing fans and win him some new ones among readers attuned to gore and monster mayhem. Demons, vampires, and other assorted horrors feature here, in stories focused on the stalwart men and women who take them down with military precision. Regular readers take note: this volume features several stories set within Correia’s various series, including MH:I and Dead Six.

Halo: Silent Storm: A Master Chief Story, by Troy Denning
The complexity of the universe spawned by the Halo video game franchise rivals any other in the speculative genres. Telling the story of a galaxy-spanning war between humanity and a coalition of aliens called The Covenant who worship an extinct race known as the Forerunners who were destroyed by a horrifying symbiotic parasite called The Flood. And that’s just the basics—over the course of several games, graphic novels, books, comics, and animated shorts the story and universe have become incredibly detailed and rich. This all-new standalone novel is by Halo-veteran Troy Denning, who’s also written book in the Star Wars universe; Denning got his start in video games so he’s got a natural touch for the Halo universe. Early in the war between humanity and the Covenant, mankind has pinned its hopes on the Spartans—super-soldiers trained to be the perfect warriors, and led by John-117, who will one day be the key hero in the Halo story. As the future Master Sergeant leads his team on a desperate mission to buy humanity some time, a group of traitors think making a deal with the Covenant to betray John-117 is the only way to survive.

The Hidden Sun, by Jaine Fenn 
Fenn is as known for her short fiction as she is for her Hidden Empire novel series—and for her tendency to take stories in unexpected directions, whether on the micro-scale in short stories or the macro-scale of novels. Hidden Sun Fenn kicks off an all new series set in a universe of shadowlands and bright alien skylands. Rhia Harlyn is a well-born woman in the shadowland Shen, struggling against old-fashioned sexism as she pursues scientific knowledge. She gets a tragic opportunity to use his skill for research and discovery after her brother vanishes. She sets off to the skylands to seek the truth behind his disappearance and finds herself caught between a rebel and a cult leader on an alluring, dangerous world.

Worlds Seen in Passing, edited by Irene Gallo
Since 2008, sci-fi and fantasy fans have known as one of the best sources for cutting-edge short fiction; publishing original stories weekly, to the tune of hundreds over the course of the decade, the site has featured acclaimed writers the likes of N.K. Jemisin, Ken Liu, Charlie Jane Anders, and Jeff VanderMeer. This anthology, painstakingly edited by Tor mainstay Irene Gallo (who, as art director for Tor, commissioned illustrations for every one of them—and thus has read everything the site has ever published), collects the best of the best. It’s a startling reminder of just how good their taste is, and how influential the site has become. Stories include new classics like Hugo-winner The Lady Astronaut of Mars” by Mary Robinette Kowal (since expanded into a series of novels), Alyssa Wong’s “A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers,” and the time-tripping, bittersweet romantic comedy of Charlie Jane Anders’ “Six Months, Three Days.” This is unquestionably one of the year’s essential anthologies, and a must for any reader interested in exploring sci-fi and fantasy’s universes in miniature.

Daughters of Forgotten Light, by Sean Grigsby
Grigsby, who when he isn’t writing works as a firefighter in Arkansas, has already given us one action movie in book form this year in Smoke Eaters, set in a world where the sudden arrival of dragons transforms firefighters into humanity’s first line of defense. Showing his range, his followup is a sci-fi saga that marries the thrills of Escape from New York with the righteous anger of Bitch Planet. In a deep space penal colony populated by the worst of the worst, a delicate peace exists between the titular lightcycle-riding prison gang and its two rivals, until the balance is upset by the arrivals of a fresh batch of prisoners, supplies to fight over—and a baby. Meanwhile, forces on Earth are looking for any excuse to blast the prison out of space for once and for all.

Salvation, by Peter F. Hamilton (September 4, Del Rey—Hardcover)
That Hamilton remains under the radar of many sci-fi readers (particularly in the U.S.) is a crime; not only has he consistently offered up amazing science fictional concepts, he’s packed them into character-focused epics with the sprawl to rival Dickens. In his newest, which stands alone from his earlier series, is set in the 23rd century, by which time humanity has achieved a complacent sort of ascendancy, managing a far-flung interstellar empire via networked “jump gates” that allow for instantaneous travel to anywhere. The cargo on a crashed spacecraft found on a newly discovered planet, however, threatens to fatally undermine that hegemony. Paralleling that story is taking place in the 51st century, where an ancient enemy pursues the genocide of the human race and a team of genetically altered soldiers prepare to face it. Per usual for Hamilton, the ideas as invigorating as the plot, which earns the epic page count.

Solo: A Star Wars Story (B&N Exclusive Edition), by Mur Lafferty (September 4, Del Rey—Hardcover)
Fresh off the success of the Hugo- and Nebula-nominated Six Wakes, Mur Lafferty takes a break from her original stories and award-winning podcasting to dive into the ever-expanding Star Wars universe with this “expanded” novelization of this year’s woefully underrated saga spinoff. Going back to a time before A New Hope, Lafferty introduces the young scoundrel Han Solo before he’s acquired the famed ship the Millennium Falcon, his stalwart co-pilot Chewbacca, or his charming frenemy Lando Calrissian to show us how he bumped up against all three on his way to becoming a legend. This is no by-the-numbers tie-in, expanding upon the story in sequences not featured in the finished film. The Barnes and Noble exclusive edition includes a cool double-sided poster you won’t find anywhere else in the galaxy.

MJ-12: Endgame, by Michael J. Martinez
The final volume of Martinez’ fun alt-history/superhero/spy series, which reimagines the Cold War as fought by superhuman special agents. As Endgame begins, Stalin is dead and the Soviet Union is in chaos, which gives recurring villain (and former head of the secret police) Laverentiy Beria an opportunity to stage a coup. He places super-powered “Variants” into critical leadership positions. It’s up to the similarly gifted agents of America’s MAJESTIC-12 to put a stop to it—both preventing a madman from taking power, and ensuring their own kind don’t bring about the end of the world.

Night and Silence, by Seanan McGuire (September 4, DAW—Hardcover)
The prolific McGuire offers up the 12th October Daye novel (following The Brightest Fell), which finds the half-fae, half-human private investigator (Toby to her friends) dealing with a fraying relationship with her fiancé after she learns her daughter Gillian has been kidnapped. The twisting chase that follows shows why this series has become a mainstay in urban fantasy genre—McGuire balances emotional depth and character development with inventive worldbuilding that rewards old fans with subtle callbacks.

The Dreaming Stars, by Tim Pratt (September 4, Angry Robot—Paperback)
Tim Pratt has won or been nominated for a long list of sci-fi and fantasy awards, including the Locus, Nebula, and Hugo. His own stories have been heavily anthologized, and he’s an accomplished editor for Locus Magazine. His latest project, the engaging, inclusive, and entertaining Axiom series, may be his best work yet. The second book in the witty, heartfelt sci-fi romp, The Dreaming Stars (following last year’s Philip K. Dick Award-nominated The Wrong Stars), returns to the misfit crew of the White Raven, who are called upon to deal with a swarm of nanoparticles transforming everything it encounters—including hapless colonists. The investigation leads the crew to a facility created and occupied by the long-slumbering alien race known as the Axiom, who will undoubtedly destroy humanity whenever they decide to awaken. Pratt’s loveably screwed-up characters face tough choices in this fun, fast-paced adventure.

The Real-Town Murders, by Adam Roberts
If there’s one thing you can count on from an Adam Roberts novel, it’s that it will be nothing like the last Adam Roberts novel you read—not every author can jump from a book that explores the Fermi Paradox via an homage to John Carpenter’s The Thing (The Thing Itself) to this, a neo-noir thriller about a private detective in a near-future England overrun by the addictive technological wonder known as the Shine (think the internet on speed, taken internally). P.I. Alma has a lover who needs medical treatment every four hours or she’ll die, which poses a particular problem when Alma gets caught up in a murder investigation at an automated factory that leads her into a full-blown political conspiracy that will take a lot longer than four hours to crack open. It’s a race against time—literally—and yet another example of Roberts’ verisimilitude.

Salvation’s Fire, by Justina Robson
This companion volume to Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Redemption’s Blade continues Solaris’s new publishing experiment, which sees two authors working together to create novels that share a setting but tell stories that can be enjoyed independently (see also Dave Hutchison’s Shelter and Adam Roberts’ Haven). Redemption’s Blade and Salvation’s Fire share the subtitle “After the War,” and the books deliver just that, exploring a fantasy world living through the aftermath of a titanic magical conflict in which a dark lord was defeated, but left scars on the land. Robson’s effort follows a young girl who discovers an abandoned superweapon of sorts, left over from the war: a dark goddess created as a Bride for the being known as the Kinslayer. The end result of a thousand sacrifices, the Bride was meant to ensure the Kinslayer’s rule. In the wake of his defeat, her role is unclear—and could depend on the actions of Kula, the young girl who awakened her from slumber.

Timeless: A Drizzt Novel (B&N Exclusive Edition), by R. A. Salvatore
The dark elf Drizzt Do’Urden was introduced three decades ago as a character in a media tie-in novel, and improbably grew to become one of the most popular characters in epic fantasy. Salvatore, author of more than forty novels, created Drizzt for TSR’s Forgotten Realms series, part of the Dungeons and Dragons role-playing milieu, but the character has moved beyond his tabletop gaming roots, and this novel in particular offers a fresh start for both longtime fans and new readers. In dual storylines, Timeless goes into the past to explore the origins of Drizzt’s father, and then jumps to the present, after he is impossibly resurrected. Return to the world of Manzoberranzan with the Barnes & Noble exclusive edition, which includes a short story showing how Drizzt, Zaknafein, and Jarlaxle became legendary warriors.

Occupy Me, by Tricia Sullivan (September 4, Titan Books—Paperback)
Sullivan is one of those writers who remains under the radar despite winning critical acclaim (and an Arthur C. Clarke award—for 1999’s Dreaming in Smoke). Occupy Me, which comes to the U.S. after being published in the U.K. in 2016, shows her deserving of more attention. It’s one of those books that defies expectations and runs over with imagination. It’s the story of Pearl, a woman who works for the Resistance, a group that intends to make the world a better place simply by performing acts of kindness on a regular basis. But Pearl is more than just a do-gooder; found in a junkyard, her origins are mysterious—as are the angelic wings that she sprouts when under stress, and the incredible reality-bending powers she sometimes exhibits. When Pearl encounters a killer bearing a suitcase that’s really a hole in the universe, she gives chase, not knowing what she’ll encounter—or learn about herself—along the way.

Her Majesty’s American, by Steve White
Fans of military science fiction will enjoy White’s alt-future space thriller, set hundreds of years hence, in a timeline where the British Empire’s influence never waned. The ships of Her Majesty’s Navy now sail the spaceways of a galactic Empire—including American-born Commander Robert Rogers, who can trace his lineage back to the Robert’s Rangers who put down an upstart rebellion in America in 1776. Here, he faces his most formidable challenge yet: in deep space, a terrorist faction known as the Sons of Arnold is attempting to throw off British rule, and has staged a series of deadly attacks. Meanwhile, alien warships are entering the system, preparing for a full-blown assault.

The Accidental War, by Walter Jon Williams (September 4, Harper Voyager—Paperback)
Williams’ kicks off a new story in the universe of his Dread Empire’s Fall trilogy, in which the extinction of the galaxy-conquering alien race known as the Shaa set off a violent civil war as the client species fought for supremacy. The Accidental War picks up years after the defeat of the principle villains in that conflict, the Naxids, and finds Terran officers Captain Gareth Martinez and Captain the Lady Sula sidelined due to their contempt for the traditions of the military elites, forced to funnel their enthusiasm for battle toward more peaceful pursuits. But the commonwealth that emerged from the ashes of the Shaa Empire is fragile, and hatred of Terrans spurs a conspiracy to recall all the human fleet crews and frame them for mutiny—prompting Gareth and Sula to gather loyal officers and set out for the last Terran stronghold. Williams specializes in patient plotting, building slowly toward a satisfying, action-packed finale.

The Reincarnated Giant: An Anthology of Twentieth Century Chinese Science Fiction, edited by Mingwei Song and Theodore Huters
Since Cixin Liu became the first author to win the Hugo for Best Novel for a work in translation, Chinese science fiction has been on the rise in the English-speaking world. This new collection offers a good snapshot of what Chinese-language SF looks like right now, bringing together 15 stories from writers in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, including  Cixin Liu and Chen Qiufan, who has seen his stories translated into English by such outlets as Clarkesworld and F&SF. The stories run the gamut, from deep space warfare, to near-future thought experiments, to cerebral stories exploring technological dreamscapes and the birth of artificial intelligence, from space opera, to cyberpunk, to techno-horror.

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