This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: False Memories, a War in Hell, and Star Wars from A- to X-Wing

God's Demon

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God’s Demon, by Wayne Barlowe
Fantasy artist Wayne Barlowe tries his hand at prose in this ambitious debut, inspired by Paradise Lost. Barlowe looks to the villains of that foundational text—the demons who allied with Lucifer and are now exiles from Heaven, forced to make do with the torments of Hell as their new home. After ages have passed, one of them, Sargatanas, begins to dream of reentering God’s good graces, and he assembles an army to help him overthrow the forces of Hell as a sign of his good faith. The general of this unusual army is the soul of famous, fearsome mortal Hannibal. Doomed sinners and repentant demons ally to defeat Beelzebub and Lucifer in a battle for eternity—literally. The imaginative setup is matched by the author’s ability to paint in lurid detail the horrific habits and habitat of his demonic characters.

The Hive: The Second Formic War, by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston
Orson Scott Card and co-writer Aaron Johnston continue the sketch out the history of the conflicts that led up to the events of the classic novel Ender’s Game with the middle volume of their second prequel trilogy, this one focusing on the second conflict between humans and the insect-like “Buggers.” Having fought off an initial scouting ship, the nations of Earth must come together to defend the world from a larger invasion aiming to overtake the planet. Ender-verse fans know how this all turns out, of course, but that doesn’t make the buildup any less interesting, as we see the forming of partnerships and alliances that will create the Battle School that will once day turn Ender into the warrior humanity needs.

The Faded Sun Trilogy Omnibus, by C. J. Cherryh
This classic trilogy from C.J. Cherryh, set in her larger Alliance-Union universe, takes place in the aftermath of a 40-year war between the alien Regul and the humans—who have proven to be the fiercest and most bafflingly violent enemy the Regul or their honor-bound mercenaries the Mri have ever faced. In fact, after thousands of years of service the Mri have been nearly wiped out by humanity’s ruthless warring, and as the story begins, their homeworld of Kesrith has been ceded to the humans as part of a peace settlement. When the extent of the Regul’s betrayal of the Mri becomes clear, one of their last warriors, Niun; his sister Melein, last priestess of the Sen; and a human traitor named Sten Duncan become determined to locate a relic that holds the key to the Mri’s survival. The trilogy—now available in one volume after years out of print—explores themes on genocide, cultural assimilation, and the brutal consequences of war, while expanding the worlds of one of the most complex and satisfying fictional universes ever created.

Recursion, by Blake Crouch
At the start of Blake Crouch’s latest mind-bending high-concept sci-fi thriller, New York City detective Barry Sutton begins to encounter people suffering from False Memory Syndrome—a condition where they “remember” lives they never lived, and suffer emotionally due to tragedies they never actually experienced. A year earlier, a brilliant neuroscientist named Helena Smith accepts funding from a mega-wealthy sponsor in order to create a device that can preserve memories to be re-experienced whenever desired—but it also allows people to literally enter those memories, changing everything. As the disorder spreads throughout the city, reality itself is threatened; who can say what is real when you can’t trust your own memories? As Harry connects with Helena and they realize her research is destabilizing the world, the two join forces to find a way to save the human race from this threat from within.

Alphabet Squadron (B&N Exclusive Edition), by Alexander Freed
Star Wars: Battlefront author Alexander Freed returns to the galaxy far, far away for a new story set in the wake of the Rebel Alliance’s triumph in The Return of the Jedi. The Empire is in disarray and the New Republic is struggling to establish itself and finish the galactic civil war for once and for all. Yrica Quell is a defector from the Empire, recruited to be a pilot for the elite Alphabet Squadron (so named because it includes each of the Rebel’s iconic alphabetical ship designs, from A-Wing to X-). The squadron has been charged with locating and destroying Shadow Wing, an elite force of TIE fighters gone rogue, which has been inflicting lethal damage to New Republic forces. The Alphabet Squadron is like the burgeoning government itself—rough and ragged and internal and external threats that are always on the verge of destroying them without a single shot fired. But they’re also resourceful and dedicated—not to mention some of the greatest pilots in the galaxy. Freed recreates the balance of memorable characters and high-stakes action that typified the best of the now-Legends X-Wing novels, but that’s not the only reason to read:in an interesting publishing experiment, the flip side of the story is told in Marvel’s TIE Fighter comic, which views things from the perspective of the Imperial pilots of the Shadow Wing who are seeking to destroy the New Republic before it can even begin. The B&N Exclusive Edition features a set of three bookmarks.

The Good Omens Script Book, by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens is a classic of humorous apocalyptic fantasy, and pretty much since the day it was published, various people have been trying to turn it into a movie. Well, despite the valiant efforts of both authors, that never happened, and the dream of adaptation seemed to have died with one of the co-authors when Terry Pratchett passed away in 2015 and Gaiman swore never to allow it to move forward. But Pratchett had suspected that might happened, and penned his friend a letter, delivered posthumously, encouraging him to soldier on. So Gaiman did, ultimately serving as writer and showrunner for the Good Omens miniseries. This book give you a look at the blood, sweat, and tears the author put into adapting his 30-year-old novel into a new medium, featuring the complete scripts of all six episodes.

Green Valley, by Louis Greenberg
Louis Greenberg sets this Black Mirror-esque novel in Stanton, a city that has thoroughly rejected the surveillance state, banning all forms of intrusive digital tracking and data collection. Across from Stanton is the last holdout—Green Valley, a bunker where the inhabitants live in a permanent virtual-reality, offering up all the data they can generate. When dead kids with VR implants start turning up in Stanton, police consultant Lucie Sterling—whose niece Kira lives in Green Valley—is called in to take the case, which takes a desperate turn when Kira is abducted. Lucie will have to dive into the virtual world in order to save her and solve the mystery—but she quickly discovers the surface image of a perfect digital paradise Green Valley presents hides a much darker reality.

The Outside, by Ada Hoffmann 
In a universe where incredibly advanced AI are worshiped as gods and cyborg angels serve as their avatars, humanity’s last hope to break free lies with the space station The Pride of Jai, built entirely without gods’ help and powered by brilliant scientist Yasira Shien’s innovative reactor design. But when the reactor is powered up, disaster strikes—a singularity destroys the station and kills almost everyone on board. Yasira is brought before the gods and told that the disaster is part of a plot to warp reality itself, allowing for an invasion of terrifying monsters from outside our reality. The all-powerful AI believe the plot was engineered by Yasira’s own long-missing mentor Evianna Talirr, but as Yasira is transported to the edge of the galaxy to confront her former teacher, she finds herself questioning the divinity of the gods and the ruthless angels she has always obeyed without question. Hoffman’s debut is starkly original, and tinged with hints of horror fantasy—truly operatic stuff.

God of Broken Things, by Cameron Johnston
As this sequel to last year’s The Traitor God opens, outcast mage Edrin Walker has saved the world, but at great cost: he’s defeated the monster unleashed by his enemies, but it has already infected the leaders of his city with mind-controlling parasites. Edrin’s own mind control magic is all but gone in the wake of his recent, exhausting trials, and an amy of invaders in marching on the city, giving him little time to gather his strength. Edrin gathers a band of anti-heroes to head them off in the mountains, but there also lie difficult trials: vengeful gods, deadly monsters, and secrets Edrin would rather stay buried. A wicked sense of humor and a cast of flawed but striving-for-good characters keeps this mid-series entry from getting too grimdark.

The Grand Dark, by Richard Kadrey
Richard Kadrey takes a detour from his bestselling Sandman Slim series for a dark, gritty novel with shades of dystopian sci-fi and bizarre fantasy. In the aftermath of the Great War, Lower Proszawa is a city finally free to sink into endless hedonism and decadence. Largo Moorden has already been swallowed by the city—an addict, he works for a shadowy crime lord, navigating a world covered in mysterious “city dust,” inhabited by genetically engineered monsters, plagued by a ruthless disease known as The Drops, and crawling with artificially intelligent automata that are relentlessly replacing humans. Largo has a plan to get out of the slums and rub shoulders with the elites, but his ambitions run him smack into those of other forces, which share a much darker collective vision for the future of Lower Proszawa—and the world beyond. Even readers who might miss the more overt gallows humor of Kadrey’s other work will goggle at the scope of the imaginative worldbuilding on display here.

The Last Supper Before Ragnarok, by Cassandra Khaw
The final volume of Khaw’s sharply funny and subversive urban fantasy series following Rupert Wong: by day, a cannibal chef for powerful ghouls; by night, a bureaucrat in Diyu, the hell of Chinese mythology. His efforts to please an ever-growing cadre of gods and ghouls are gruesome and grin-inducing, never more so than in this final volume, in which the Greek Pantheon is no more, and a world world of gods and monsters are vying to fill the power vacuum left by their violent destruction. Rupert and his allies—the assassin Tanis Barlas, the godkiller Cason Cole, and the prophet Louie Fitzsimmons—must deal with the mess while tackling larger questions that will determine their destinies. Which is to say, things could go very bad.

Velocity Weapon, by Megan E. O’Keefe
Megan O’Keefe (airship heist fantasy Steal the Sky) launches a new space opera series with the story of Sanda and Biran Greeve, a skilled pilot and politician respectively. Together they seek to defend their homeworld and deter an all-out war with its enemies. But when Sanda’s ship is attacked, she goes down—and wakes up more than two centuries later, missing a leg and marooned on an abandoned enemy warship. Her only company is the ship’s AI, the Light of Berossus, aka Bero, who informs her that both warring planets were destroyed long ago, and she might be the only human left in the universe. In the past, Biran struggles with the impact of war and a young thief named Jules plots a heist; in the present, another survivor arrives on Bero’s ship—an enemy combatant named Tomas. As the two timelines slowly converge, the twists come fast and furious, as Sanda must decide what it means to be human, and whether there is even room for humanity in a time of war. In a fantastic year for space opera (see below), this one shouldn’t be overlooked.

A Sword Named Truth, by Sherwood Smith
This series-opener from fantasy master Sherwood Smith is set in and closely tied to her epic Inda series, opening in the wake of a great conflict and a world just very much on the mend. A wide-ranging cast of characters, weathered by the recent hardships, must come together to combat a new threat: Jilo, a new leader unprepared to actually lead his people; Atan, the untested queen of a land that was frozen in time for decades; Senrid, who newly rules over a nation of warriors; and Hibern, a young wandering mage. You may notice that all of these characters are still growing into their powers, meaning they’ll face additional challenges as they ally and prepare to defend themselves against the Norsunder, an enemy force gathering strength. It’s easy to immerse yourself in the day-to-day struggles of these characters as they prepare for another war, and though new readers can pick up the narrative here, readers familiar with the characters, plot, and worldbuilding of the Inda series will be better equipped to tackle this impressive, multilayered novel.

The Sol Majestic, by Ferrett Steinmetz
This unusual SF romp from the author of the decidedly wacky Flex urban fantasy series centers on Kenna, a teenage member of a religious group called the Inevitable Philosophers. Followers like his parents once wielded great influence in the galaxy, but the religion has waned. One night, doubting Kenna arrives at the famous restaurant the Sol Majestic, where the rich and powerful wait years for a reservation and a nightly free meal is offered to the person who offers the best answer to the question “why do you love food?’” and wins the prize, endearing himself to the head chef, Paulius, who finds his religion intriguing. Kenna is brought into the restaurant’s  inner circle, and ersatz found family, and is introduced to the galaxy of great food. But as his Wisdom Ceremony approaches—even as his faith in the Inevitable Philosophies shrinks—Kenna must find his own truth, even as a villain emerges who threatens everything he’s come to suddenly find most dear.

The Fall, by Tracy Townsend
The dense and rewarding sequel to Townsend’s impressive debut The Nine. The series is set on an alternate version of Earth where science and alchemy serve as the dominant religion (which sounds like an oxymoron, but it isn’t when God appears to be something of a scientist Himself, His bible akin to a manual unlocking the secrets of creation itself). Teenage vagabond Rowena Downshire, now apprenticed to a powerful Alchemist, has learned she is one of the Nine described in God’s book—one of the creator’s test subjects used in his literal worldbuilding experiments. But the book is now in the hands of forces who’d rather kill the Nine than see God’s plan realized—which would be bad news for the world. This startlingly original and well-built science fantasy series deserves a wider readership.

What new SFF is on your list this week?

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