This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Highway Horror, Space Heists, and an Intergalactic Sideshow

King of the Road, by R.S. Belcher
R.S. Belcher, author of the occult-themed western Six-Gun Tarot and Shotgun Arcana, delivers a companion novel to 2016’s Brotherhood of the Wheel,  which follows a secret group of big rig acolytes (descended from the Knights Templar) who protect the highways and byways of America from the dark forces that stalk the open roads. Brotherhood member Jimmie Aussapile, his partner/squire Heck, a state trooper, and a road witch find themselves tied up in a snake’s nest of intertwining crimes and conspiracies: missing persons, a ghostly clown, a cultish alchemist, the risen dead, monstrous shadows, and warring biker gangs. Belcher wends his way through urban legends and American folklore, gunning the engine all the way to the explosive conclusion.

The Shattered Sun, by Rachel Dunne
Dunne concludes her Bound Gods series with suitably epic flair. After being cast down and imprisoned in the mortal realm by their parents, the gods Patharro and Metherra, Fratarro and Sororra—known as The Twins—are finally free, and the Long Night has begun as they revel in power. Only the rogue priest Joros has a hope of stopping them, and he’s assembled a desperate band of fellow rogues to aid in the attempt. But gods always have disciples, and it’s no different for The Twins, whose faithful exhibit powers only gods can comprehend—and are bent on revenge. Time is short; once The Twins are at full strength, they will be able to bend the world to their wills—so, ready or not, Joros and his champions must move quickly, or the whole world might be lost.

Soulbinder, by Sebastien de Castell
The fourth book in de Castell’s Spellslinger series continues the desperate adventures of Kellen, a mage whose magic failed him just as he was about to turn 16 and take part in the magical duel that would designate him a true spellcaster. Kellen used his brains and low cunning to hide his secret, but after his ruse was exposed, he was rescued by a mysterious stranger—and plunged into a complex web of skulduggery and black magic. After regaining his powers and mastering his magic as a hunter of renegade mages, Kellen is now cursed, and experiences frequent and violent visions even as he’s chased by a group of bounty hunters. Desperate, he sets out to find a group of monks rumored to be able to cure his affliction—but he knows little about them, nor what price the cure may cost him.

Splintered Suns, by Michael Cobley
Cobley’s fifth—and apparently final—entry in the Humanity’s Fire series is an interstellar Ocean’s 11, but with higher stakes and more space pirates. Brannan Pyke leads a crew on a heist that might gain them the Essavyr Key, an ancient relic that offers access to the long-lost technologies of a vanished alien civilization. First, however, they’ll have to break into a bio-engineered museum to steal a tracking device that will lead them to a shattered desert planet, where an immense alien ship is buried under the shifting sands. The key is somewhere on that ship—but claiming it will require Pyke to avoid or defeat an old enemy seeking the same prize. You needn’t be caught up on the other books in the series to enjoy this action-packed treasure hunt, but after you read it, you’ll probably want to circle back.

Tales from Plexis, by Julie E. Czerneda
Not every fictional universe is robust enough to sustain a whole series of books, and very few are inspiring enough to get other authors involved in the worldbuilding. The Clan Chronicles is now one of those rare creations to grow larger than its creator: Czerneda has opened up the sandbox to her peers, collecting 23 linked short stories into a mosaic novel centered on the legendary Plexis Supermarket, a place where the greedy, the desperate, and the adventurous come to find… just about anything. Authors like  Tanya Huff, Amanda Sun, Ika Koeck, and many more have a blast exploring the origins and teasing out the details of some of the Trade Pact’s most memorable bits—including the true nature of the Turrneds and the Neblokans, and a whole bunch about truffles. We can’t imagine a more fitting celebration of this legendary intergalactic hotspot.

Gnomon, by Nick Harkaway
Now in paperback, one of the year’s most mind-expanding science fiction novels. In a high-tech future in which everyone is under surveillance all the time, loyal investigator for the System Mielikki Neithis tasked with figuring out why a suspect died during an interrogation, and what she finds—the woman’s neural records indicate she wasn’t one person, but many—threatens to rewrite Mielikki’s reality… kind of literally? A noirish detective story; an argument on the nature of reality and the divine; a Borgesian nested narrative; and a twisted, fourth-wall-breaking indictment of the surveillance state, and of complacent thinking as a whole—it may be Nick Harkaway’s most challenging, provocative book yet (which is saying something).

A King in Cobwebs, by David Keck
At long last—a decade since the last book—David Keck completes his Tales of Durand trilogy with a classical fantasy flourish. Sellsword Durand has much to atone for, and his karmic debts have finally come due. The kingdom is at the mercy of a mad king, and a rebellion is brewing—and the conflict could loose the magical bonds keeping evil forces from being unleashed upon the world. To save the world, Durand must face the king in cobwebs who has been orchestrating unrest from the shadows.

Of Blood and Bone, by Nora Roberts
Mega-prolific genre maestro Roberts delivers the sequel to her epic fantasy novel Year One, taking us back into a world in which a seemingly typical family struggles against great forces of good and evil in a world ruined by a deadly plague. Twelve-year-old Fallon has learned that she is a child of prophecy, destined to change the world—but she’ll have to live long enough to do so, which means surviving a harsh landscape filled with vicious gangs of Raiders and Purity Warriors, explore a hidden world of elves and other mythical creatures, complete her training under the tutelage of the ageless sage Mallick, and come to grips with her own power.

Jack Jetstark’s Intergalactic Freakshow, by Jennifer Lee Rossman
Here’s a mashup we’ve never seen before: the traveling circus is given sci-fi flair as Jack Jetstark, captain of a rundown intergalactic carnival ship, tries to keep the show going, cruising from one backwater planet to the next. Jack once dreamed of a nobler life, taking down the evil corporation VesCorp, which ruthlessly rules the galaxy. But now the head of VesCorp is his old flame—and once co-revolutionary—Diantha. Determined to discover why his former lover would turn her back on her ideals, Jack gathers together the mutated victims of VesCorp’s foul experiments and sets off to on his ship learn the truth—and maybe finally fulfill his youthful dreams of galactic liberation. Characters you’ll love populate a welcoming, lived-in universe; this is non-serious, seriously fun space opera.

What are you reading this week?

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