This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Galactic Empires, Love Among the Monsters, and Women of the Future

In the Night Wood, by Dale Bailey
A couple mourning both the death of their child and their crumbling marriage arrive at the palatial estate of a famed 19th century writer Caedmon Hollow and find themselves sinking into their own Victorian nightmare in this richly written work of understated horror. Charles Hayden becomes obsessed with uncovering the secrets hidden on Hollow’s estate, while Emily is suffocating under the heavy earth of grief. After they begin seeing visions of their dead daughter and a strange devil creature haunting the woods near the edges of the property, Charles discovers a connection between their experiences, a past tragedy, and one of Hollow’s works, “In the Night Wood.”

Power Failure, by Ben Bova
This near-future thriller from veteran SF author Bova is the third to star Jake Ross, science advisor to Senator Frank Tomlinson, who inhabits a world flirting with the implementation of a reliable, inexhaustible high-tech solution to the energy crisis—provided those with the vision to make it a reality can play the political game. In this volume, Senator Tomlinson hopes to advance the agenda in the fastest way possible—by becoming president. Naturally, forces are lining up to oppose him and Ross, with the fate of the future at stake.

The Rift: Coda, by Amy S. Foster
The final installment of Foster’s propulsive trilogy, set in a dystopian world where doorways to other realities have been opened and teams of teenage soldiers are trained from birth to defend against those who would attempt to cross through them. Naturally, this being a dystopia and all, the young, physically augmented super-soldiers haven’t been given the whole story—something tough, vulnerable heroine Ryn discovered in The Rift: Uprising when a boy named Ezra came through the rift she was tasked to guard, upsetting her worldview in the balance. Now at the head of something resembling a rebellion, Ryn must learn how to be a leader if she’s going to make the world into a place worth living in.

The Phoenix Empress, by K. Arsenault Rivera
Rivera made a splash last year with her richly romantic debut The Tiger’s Daughter, an epic fantasy story inspired by Asian cultures and told using a variety of narrative techniques, including epistolary narration and second-person sequences that feel like the stuff of role-playing games. The second book in the Their Bright Ascendancy series continues the story of a worldwide empire that’s crumbling into chaos, beset by monsters creeping from the dark edges—and the two very different young women who find themselves bound together by love and destiny. As the sequel opens, Shefali and Shizuka have been apart for eight years, but are still bound to each other. As the demonic invasion gathers force, however, they struggle to find trust again, as Rivera dives deep into character exploration, worldbuilding, and lore, and trusts her readers to keep up.

There Before the Chaos, by K.B. Wagers
Wagers’ woman-led space operas offer a perfect blend of political intrigue and realistically-conveyed action. There Before the Chaos kicks off a sequel series to her popular trilogy The Indranan War, which detailed the rise of Hailimi “Hail” Bristol from self-exiled gunrunner to empress of the Indranan Empire, and her battles against enemies both obvious and hidden. Having saved her family’s empire, Hail’s concerns now turn outward, as one of the empire’s oldest allies, the Farians, march to war against another power, with potential consequences that are disastrous for the Indranans. Kick-butt women, space battles, complex relationships, and fiendish plots abound.

The Compendium of Magical Beasts: An Anatomical Study of Cryptozoology’s Most Elusive Beings, by Veronica Wigberht-Blackwater, Melissa Brinks, and Lily Seika Jones
Move over, Newt Scamander, there’s a new definitive compendium of magical creatures hitting shelves. This “long-lost” tome (which we are told was only recently discovered—cough—and prepared for publication by Melissa Brinks and illustrator Lily Seika) was “written” by pioneering feminist and cryptozoologist Dr. Veronica Wigberht-Blackwater, who brings a scientist’s eye to the fantastical with research that considers legendary beasts of folklore in terms of their history, biology, and anatomy. From mermaids, to banshees, to goblins, cyclops, and skelkies, Wigberht-Blackwater’s work will make you look at the fantastical world around you in a whole new way.

The Future Is Female! 25 Classic Science Fiction Stories by Women, from Pulp Pioneers to Ursula K. Le Guin, edited by Lisa Yaszek
There’s a popular refrain in genre think pieces that women are suddenly, just now, writing science fiction, but those of us paying attention know they’ve been doing it since the very beginning. This new collection only goes back so far—the 1920s—but still goes a long way toward making the point. It brings together 25 stories published between the Roaring Twenties and the turbulent 1960s, and seeks to highlight women’s contributions to sci-fi’s vaulted “Golden Age”: emotional nuance, varied takes on gender roles, and a more complex treatment of the alien. Featuring stories by writers both largely forgotten and part of the canon, with accompanying biographical information, it’s a vital primer for anyone interested in the history of science fiction.

What new SFF are you picking up this week?

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