June’s pace of outstanding new science fiction and fantasy books doesn’t let up for a even a week, with (at least) eight more new books you don’t want to miss. At least you’ll have plenty to read over the holiday weekend.
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Age of Myth, by Michael J. Sullivan
Sullivan returns to Elan with a standalone prequel set 3,000 years before the events of The Riyria Chronicles, and offers up an irresistible premise: when Raithe and Herkimer of the Dureyan clan venture across the Bern River into the forbidden land of the gods, they are almost immediately detected and confronted. In the ensuing conflict, Raithe kills a Fhrey—which should be impossible, as the Fhrey are thought to be immortal gods. This sets in motion an epic chain of events, as the foundations of society are shaken by the revelation; after all, if your gods can be killed, why would you worship them if you could make war on them? Sullivan brings his masterful world-building and agile imagination to bear on a host of interesting characters and a story that feels new and vibrant.
Descendant, by Jenna Black
Black’s Descendant series gets the omnibus treatment, collecting three novels (Dark Descendant, Deadly Descendant, and Rogue Descendant) along with a previously digital-only novella (Pros and Cons) that bridges the story between the second and third books. In a world where all the ancient gods are real—and, more importantly, all of their children, variously immortal and super-powered (and, to say the least,maladjusted)—Nikki Glass is a descendant of Artemis the Huntress working as a private investigator. In Glass, Black has created a well-rounded character who rises above cliché and reacts in believable ways to incredible events, making it a series worth devouring in one go.
Hope and Red, by Jon Skovron
Skovron’s first foray into adult fiction is an unexpected ride into a richly-imagined fictional world. On an island realm ruled by amoral and self-interested Biomancers—men and women skilled in a powerful combination of magic and science—two children from vastly different backgrounds come of age. Bleak Hope survives the destruction of her village by a biomancer and is trained by a group of warrior priests for revenge. Red is the son of drug addicts and prostitutes, trained to be the greatest thief the world has ever known. That their fates are intertwined is a given, but Skovron’s briskly-paced story doesn’t skimp on the world-building—and thank goodness, because it’s quite a world.
Icon, by Genevieve Valentine
Valentine continues to explore the politics of the fascinating near-future world first introduced in Persona, once again following Suyana Sapaki, the “Face” of the United Amazonia Rainforest Confederation. In an age where politics operates with the flash and spectacle of reality TV, Faces are the celebrity representative of a country—attractive, charismatic people who simply deliver the decisions made those who hold the real power. After surviving the deadly events of the last book, Suyana and her official paparazzi Daniel Park get involved with the Face of America as Suyana rises to giddy heights of fame—until unpredictable events result in worse than a simple assassination attempt: public disapproval. Valentine deepens and broadens one of the best-conceived futures in recent sci-fi, and adds in plenty of tension and twists to keep the pot boiling.
The Perdition Score, by Richard Kadrey
Sandman Slim is back, and once again embroiled in a supernatural plot that holds dark implications, not just for James Stark and his band of demons and freaks, but for every single soul on the planet. Called in by the Sub Rosa Council to investigate a missing child case, Slim acquires a vile of mysterious black liquid with which a friend is inadvertently poisoned. The only place to secure an antidote is, of course, Hell itself, and Slim and Candy head there determined to save the day. Along the way, they discover evidence that Wormwood’s undead servants have made a deal with rebel Angels seeking to block humanity from Heaven—and the consequences might be worse than anything Sandman Slim has ever encountered before.
Wolf’s Empire, by Claudia Christen and Morgan Grant Buchanan
Beloved Babylon 5 star Claudia Christen launches an ambitious new science fantasy series with co-writer Morgan Grant Buchanan. In a galactic empire modeled on ancient Rome, young noblewoman Accala Viridius gives up her titles in order to train as a gladiator and seek revenge against those who slaughtered her family. Her turn in the gladiatorial games gives her more than she bargained for when the emperor decides to use them as a means to settle a burgeoning civil war, the alien life that inhabits the planet that has been coopted as a massive arena begins to fight back, and Accala herself is forcibly conscripted to fight against those she’s sworn to kill. Filled with inventive world-building and memorable sci-fi details (Accala’s weapon of choice is a lethal-disc that always returns to her hand) make this one a genre-bending winner.
The Nightmare Stacks, by Charles Stross
Stross’s giddy skewering of genre tropes and bureaucratic red tape continues in the seventh novel in the Laundry Files, about a secret occult intelligence agency within the British government, tasked with defending Her Majesty’s realm against supernatural threats. Alex Schwartz is a math-minded day trader who discovered an algorithm that had the unfortunate side-effect of transforming him into a vampire. With no stomach for bloodsucking, he is drafted as the latest agent of the Laundry. Alex’s first assignment seems mundane enough—prepare an aging Cold War-era bunker for use as the Laundry’s new HQ—but said bunker is in his hometown, which means explaining his presence (and his odd nocturnal behavior) to his parents. It’s a sticky wicket, even before he discovers a lurking conspiracy much stranger and more dangerous than mere inadvertent vampirism.
The Seascape Tattoo, by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes
Regular collaborators Larry Niven and Steven Barnes team up for a new epic fantasy about Aros of Azteca and Neoloth-Pteor, a swordsman and a sorcerer, respectively, who have been at each other’s throats for decades. When Neoloth’s beloved is abducted, he knows he has no choice but to make peace with his bitter enemy, the only man capable of rescuing her from a group of dangerous dark wizards. Lovers of old-fashioned sword & sorcery will find much to adore here, from the unapologetic embrace of time-tested tropes (from the bickering former enemies turned reluctant comrades, to the enigmatic princess stolen away to an isolated tower) and world-building that brings in elements of ancient Aztec culture.
What are you reading this week?