This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Gender-Flipped Holmes and Watson, Life in Garbagetown, and Monsters Descending

Shadow’s Bane, by Karen Chance
The fourth entry in the Dorina Basarab urban fantasy series, which follows dhampir—half-human, half-vampire—Dorina, newly appointed to the Vampire Senate and facing down threats from the Faerie kingdom. A fey acquaintance of Dory’s goes missing, and fears that he was sold to a slavery ring that organizes brutal fight club-style bouts involving unwilling supernatural beings could spark open conflict between the vampires and the fairies.

Arabella the Traitor of Mars, by David D. Levine
The third and final novel in Levine’s Andre Norton Award-winning alternate history series that mixes Victorian Era trappings and mores with a fantastical world in which the solar system has been colonized and ships with riggings sail between the stars. In this climactic volume, Arabella and her husband return home to Mars triumphant after the events of The Battle of Venus, but find their home and livelihood on the Red Planet is being threatened by forces that seek to absorb it into the Galactic Empire.

Planetside, by David Mammay
Here’s one for fans of high-concept, hard-edged old-school military sci-fi. Seasoned soldier Col. Carl Butler has his sights set on retirement, but his plans are disrupted when he is dispatched to a remote, war-torn world to track down a missing soldier, the son of a government official. The silver-rich world is a key asset, but its native inhabitants don’t take too kindly to humanity’s mining operations, and fears that the AWOL lieutenant’s disappearance might be linked to an insurgency have the entire planet on edge.  As key witnesses clam up or go missing and officials refuse to cooperate, Butler plunges deeper into a conspiracy with far-reaching consequences. Full of action and intrigue, this debut’s true standout quality is the gruff voice of its narrator, no doubt benefitting in verisimilitude from Mammay’s own years of military service.

A Study in Honor, by Claire O’Dell
O’Dell (aka Beth Bernobich) sets her alternate Earth fantasy in the wake of a second Civil War. The conflict has torn the country apart and inflamed racial tensions. Dr. Janet Watson, who lost an arm in the fighting, moves to post-war Washington D.C. to work at the Veterans Administration hospital and get used to her new mechanical arm. She rooms with the brilliant, arrogant Sara Holmes in a tidy flat in Georgetown, where the fact that they’re two black women cohabiting inflames lingering racial attitudes in an area still recovering from the hostilities. If you’re wondering, those surnames aren’t accidents—Watson and Holmes quickly find themselves embroiled in a mystery involving Civil War veterans who are dying off one by one, as evidence suggests a plot somehow connected to the upcoming election, with implications for the future of the country.

Dreadful Company, by Vivian Shaw
The followup to Strange Practice, one of the most delightful fantasy surprises of 2017, returns us to the trails and tribulations of Dr. Greta Helsing, physician to the undead monsters and supernatural creatures of London. With a wink and a nod to Twilight, the plot finds the refined vampires of the city at odds with their glitzier young counterparts, who favor glitter and eyeliner. Elsewhile, Greta deals with baby monsters infesting her hotel room and a rash of hauntings that could spell trouble from the fabric of reality. This series remains fast-moving, funny, and irresistibly fun.

The Future Is Blue, by Catherynne M. Valente
Available as either a deluxe, limited-edition hardcover or as a budget-friendly ebook (the $4.99 list price is a steal!), this collection of short fiction from the prolific Valente spans styles, tones, and genres with kaleidoscopic flair. Of particular note is the title story, set in Earth’s drowned future, when the remnants of humanity survive on islands of floating trash; the story will continue next year in a novella called Green Like Dying.

The Descent of Monsters, by JY Yang
Yang’s third entry in the imaginative Tensorate series centers on Chuwan Sariman, an investigator for the Protectorate. Sariman is given the job of writing the official government report on a horrific accident at the Rewar Tang Institute, where a genetically-altered animal slipped its leash and massacred the entire staff. Sariman is quickly frustrated as she is given access to a limited amount of information and is thus forced to write an account that can’t possibly represent what happened—as was intended, she realizes. Seeking the truth, she continues to investigate, finding a partner in the relative of one of the slain scientists and discovering, much to her horror, the precise nature of the experiments being conducted at the institute.

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