This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Surrealist Bombs, Acolyte Assassins, and Horrors from the Deeps

nevernightIt’s never a bad week if there’s new a China Miéville book on the shelves, but his latest offering is just the start to another great week for new SFF.

The Last Days of New Paris, by China Miéville
A new Miéville book is always cause for celebration, and The Last Days of New Paris promises—and delivers—sensationally imaginative world-building on par with his best work. Set in a Paris still dealing with Nazi invaders in 1950, some years after the detonation of a “surrealist bomb” that brought the imagery in surrealist paintings to horrific life, Miéville’s latest paints a picture of an alternate history both beautiful and disturbing. Some of the surrealist creatures—known as Manifs—are harmless, but many are decidedly not, and the Nazis have begun summoning demons from hell in an attempt to tame or conquer them. Thibault works on the side of the surrealists, fighting Nazis and demons, and encounters a woman named Sam who professes to be in New Paris to photograph the Manifs. But Thibault soon comes to realize Sam is not what she seems, and neither are her stated goals. A knowledge of surrealism is helpful, but not essential, to your reading of this challenging, inventive novella.

Lord of the Darkwood (Tale of Shikanoko, Book 3), by Lian Hearn
The third entry in Hearn’s fabulous all-books-in-one-year quartet finds her characters scattered and struggling with torments of their own making as the story takes a step back from the breakneck pace of the first two volumes. Shika, mourning the death of the Autumn Princess, is in hiding, still unable to remove the magical deer mask given to him by his mentor. Yoshi, the hidden true emperor, is traveling in secret, and fears the moment when he will be asked to claim his throne. As the political intrigue thickens, the magical beings and spells multiply, and Hearn does a phenomenal job of complicating her story even as her characters pause to catch their breath. All in all, it’s an ideal middle volume that promises an explosive climax in the final book, due in September.

Nevernight, by Jay Kristoff
On a world orbiting three suns that bathe the surface in almost continuous daylight, Mia Corvere lives in shame, the daughter of a man who mounted a failed rebellion and paid for it with his life. In the wake of the tragedy, Mia found her way to Mercurio, who trained her in the arts of assassination in preparation for her mission of revenge. Now, she’s joined the Red Church, the deadliest assassins on the planet, training with the other acolytes in the hopes of becoming one of four chosen Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder. But someone is killing her compatriots, and their goals seem to go far beyond simple murder. It’s the first in a new series from Kristoff, offering an unrelenting mixture of intense action and creative world-building, with writing that treads into dark territory, despite the teenage protagonist.

Killfile, by Christopher Farsnworth
The author of the President’s Vampire series edges into techno-thriller territory with the story of John Smith, a former CIA agent turned private sector hired gun with a stunning ability: he can read the thoughts of others as easily as looking at them. It’s given him a good living, but it’s as much a gift as it is a curse—particularly when it attracts the attention of someone like Everett Sloan, billionaire tech wizard, who wants Smith to hunt down a former employee to determine wether he left the job along with valuable intellectual property. But it seems Smith may have zeroed in on the wrong target; he soon finds his own secrets exposed to the world, as is forced to go on the run if he has any hope of living to read another mind.

Not So Much, Said the Cat, by Michael Swanwick
Living SFF legend Michael Swanwick has won just about every award in the genres, including five Hugos, for his novels and short stories. This new collection brings together 17 recent tales, including four exclusive to this book, that prove he still has what it takes to enrapture readers with his lyrical prose and wild ideas. 

Welcome to Deadland, by Zachary Tyler Linville
The winner of the a recent contest by venerable geek haven the Nerdist to find the best of the best unpublished sci-fi and fantasy novels, Linville’s debut is an arresting mix of heartfelt coming-of-age narrative and eating-of-flesh zombie thriller. Three people—Asher, Wendy, and teenaged Rico—have managed to avoid the rampant plague that is turning the rest of their Florida community into a ravaged wasteland populated by ravenous, once-human monsters, but surviving in the ruins of a deserted theme park hardly means living well. The horror is just the backdrop for the emotional conflicts between Wendy and Asher, each harboring their own secrets and regrets, while Rico is forced to grow up fast when he reluctantly finds himself the sole protector of a child with no one else to count on.

Eterna and Omega, by Leanna Renee Hieber
In the second book of The Eterna Files, Hieber returns to an alternate 19th century where, in the wake of Lincoln’s assassination, a group of American magicians and scientists began to develop Eterna, a mix of technology and magic that would grant invulnerability and eternal life—but just as they neared a breakthrough, they were wiped from the face of the earth, leaving behind only Clara Templeton, gifted with supernatural abilities and determined to root out those responsible for the deaths of her colleagues. Clara blames the agents of Great Britian’s Omega division—who are just as certain that the Eterna Commission is behind a mass-killing of British agents.  It seems both sides are being manipulated by a third party with a far more sinister purpose than simply starting an international conflict between the two clandestine organizations. 

Pathfinder Tales: Starspawn, by Wendy N. Wagner
Lightspeed Magazine editor Wendy N. Wagner’s second book in the world of Paizo’s Pathfinder games finds once notorious pirate Jendara looking to settle down and raise her son—but fate’s not having it. When her frost-bitten homelands are slammed by a supernaturally powerful tsunami, she and her crew venture out to investigate the strange island that has suddenly risen from the sea at the center of the storm. What they encounter—from mysterious, ancient structures to a cult bent on awakening a sleeping terror from the deep—will complicate Jendara’s retirement plans, to say the least. 

What are you reading this week?

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