This Week’s New ScI-Fi & Fantasy Books: Steampunk Venus, The Revenant with Witches, and Time Travel Shenanigans

Arabella and the Battle of Venus, by David D. Levine 
Levine’s Andre Norton Award-winning steampunk series continues with a rousing adventure that finds smart, fearless heroine Arabella Ashby launching a rescue operation for her fiancé, Captain Prakash Singh, who has been captured by the French in the wake of Napoleon’s escape from his lunar prison. Discovering Singh is being held on Venus, Ashby recruits reluctant privateer Daniel Fox and his ship Touchstone to bring the fight to her enemies—but her brother sends along Lady Corey as a chaperone. Arriving on Venus, Ashby and friends discover Napoleon has developed a superweapon that changes everything—and it’s up to them to stop him.

Devil’s Call, by J. Danielle Dorn
Accurately, awesomely described as “The Revenant but with witches,” Dorn’s weird western features a rifle-toting pregnant witch burning a swath across the West on the trail of the three men who killed her husband in cold blood. Narrated by Li Lian, the scion of a powerful clan of witches, in a letter to her unborn child, Devil’s Call is a tense, gritty, atmospheric ride, featuring a flawed, hardened, and compelling antiheroine navigating a cold, hard, and realistically depicted of the Old West on a mission to confront the monsters who shattered her life and destroyed her family.

Exodus, by Alex Lamb
The third book in Lamb’s Roboteer trilogy finds Will Monet, the Roboteer, still marooned on a planet with only himself for company—literally; he’s surrounded by millions of copies of himself. This is unfortunate for humanity, under siege by the insidious Photurians (or Photes) that assimilate humans by offering them unending ecstasy in exchange for their sanity and individual will. As the book opens, Earth itself has fallen to the Photes and is being evacuated, and the last human stronghold is Galatea, a militarized world the older generation of human “heroes” finds inexplicable and unwelcoming. But since the Photes can pretend to be human, paranoia reigns as refugees stream in—and humanity could really use the help of the most powerful being in the human universe, the Roboteer. A rescue mission is organized to find Will and bring him into the war as humanity’s last hope—even though the Roboteer is no longer, strictly speaking, human.

Armistice, by Harry Turtledove
Alt-history master Harry Turtledove closes a What if? trilogy imagining what might have happened if the Cold War had turned hot. In the wake of nuclear disaster, President Harry Truman (who took office in 1945) struggles to hold together the remnants of a America littered with radioactive craters where cities once stood. Germany and America are allied against Stalin’s USSR, and when an allied attack finally kills the Soviet leader, leaving the Red Army without a commander, the world is thrown into further chaos. This drama plays out on stages large and small, in the lives of world leaders and everyday citizens, as Turtledove brings the story of The Hot War to a powerful conclusion.

And the Rest is History…, by Jodi Taylor
The eighth installment in Taylor’s quirky time travel series plunges us back into the harried world of St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research and its merry band of misfit adventurers and academics. We drop in on a no-good, very-bad day for the heart of this outfit, Madeleine “Max” Maxwell, who has become ensnared in one history’s many booby traps: the sandstorm that swallowed the army of Cambyses II. That’s nothing, though, compared with the danger she’ll face back at St. Mary’s, where it’ll take all of Max’s experience and training to put things right again.

Graveyard Shift, by Michael F. Haspil
Haspil’s debut mixes all the grit, weirdness, and dirty politics of Florida crime thrillers with the intricate worldbuilding of urban fantasy. Alex Romer, an undead Egyptian pharaoh, and his vampire partner Marcus keep the uneasy peace between vampires, werewolves, and humans in Miami, heading up the Nocturn Affairs desk. When an ages-old serial murderer named Abraham suddenly resurfaces, the city is thrown into chaos. While the action, intricate politics, and numerous twists are enough reason to pick this one up, it’s also good to see often-overlooked mummies getting some time in the urban fantasy spotlight.

Raining Fire, Rajan Khanna
Khanna delivers the third book in the Ben Gold series, set in a steampunk post-apocalyptic future where most of humanity has taken to hidden cities and airships to escape the growing ranks of the Ferals, virus-infected cannibals who have completely lost their humanity. Gold, an airship captain, is committing slow suicide through alcohol and self-loathing after the apparent death of his lover, Miranda, a scientist whose lab had been working on a cure. As Gold’s life collapses around him, he launches a brutal quest for revenge against those he believes killed her, alienating the last of his allies and putting him on course for a very bad end. Along the way, he is distracted by a defenseless village at the mercy of cruel pirates, and his fundamental decency compels him to help—a choice that has implications for both his soul and the survival of humanity itself.

War for the Planet of the Apes, by Greg Cox
The rebooted Planet of the Apes film series has been better than it has any right to be, delivering thoughtful sci-fi ideas alongside some of the best popcorn summer thrills in ages, and the official film novelizations follow suit. This one is penned by veteran screen-to-page bestseller Greg Cox, and it goes a little deeper into exploring the storyline of the final film (for now) in the blockbuster trilogy.

Doctor Who: The ShiningMan, by Cavan Scott
Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor will soon make way for the historic Thirteen, but before this alien being tries on a new biological sex for the first time, he stars in this on-the-page adventure from Cavan Scott. The Doctor and Bill investigate a city stalked the The Shining Men, terrifying, lanky creatures who lurk in the corner of your eye; no one knows what happens when they grab you. There are lights burning in the dark—burning like the eyes of The Shining Men.

Star Wars: On the Front Lines, by Daniel Wallace
If you don’t like pesky reality getting in the way of your space opera fantasies, pick up this in-universe guide to the tactics, weapons, and armor from a galaxy far, faraway. It’s packed with trivia and detail about waging warfare in the Star Wars universe, written as if it was all very real. Because it is, right? It’s history, after all.

Firefly: Back from the Black, by Joey Spiotto
If you’re still mourning Firefly’s cancelation some 15 years ago (sob!), this cute cartoon collection will give you a revivifying jolt of nostalgia and feels. Carttonist Joey Spiotto imagine what might happen if Mal and Co. ever made it to “Earth-That-Was,” aka our world. Luckily, Mal fits right in; Captain Tightpants is definitely on-trend. 

What are you reading this week?

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