This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Alien Dogs, Shapeshifters, and the Wedding from Hell

Dark Sky, by Mike Brooks
The sequel to Dark Run finds former pirate Ichabod Drift and crew deep into unexpectedly dangerous territory. When the crew of the Keiko visit a pleasure planet to spend their ill-gotten gains, they are hired by a powerful crime boss to retrieve a message from mining colony Uragan before a huge storm cuts the planet off from all communication. Drift and company assume easy money. What they find instead is a politically volatile situation that erupts into violent revolution. The crew is stranded, forcing them to pick sides, form alliances, and think fast as the action revs up to a breakneck pace.

Lost Boy, by Christina Henry 
Any thoughtful reading of Peter Pan reveals Peter as a rather dark and cruel character beneath the flying, shadow-fleeing free spirit on the surface. Henry makes this subtext text in a retelling in which Peter Pan kidnaps children and forces them to play violent games—as so Captain Hook tells it. Revealed to be one of the first and once the favorite of the Lost Boys, the one-handed pirate explains how he became Peter’s bitter enemy. It’s a mature take on a childhood favorite that adds a whole new dimension to Neverland and the mythology of the boys who didn’t want to grow up.

Heroine Worship, by Sara Kuhn 
The second in Kuhn’s enormously fun superhero urban fantasyseries sees Aveda Jupiter (aka Annie Chang) struggling to deal with the ascension of her assistant, Evie Tanaka, into full-blown superheroine status. As Evie’s popularity among the demon-fearing populace of San Francisco threatens to eclipse her own, Aveda must deal with more than jealousy—in the aftermath of their epic battle against the force of the Otherworld, there hasn’t been a demon sighting in months, leaving Aveda bored and rudderless. So when Evie gets engaged, Aveda is more than happy to throw herself into being the Maid of Honor and planning the greatest wedding ever for her best friend. Which means when a supernatural force begins attacking brides, Aveda has to rise to the occasion to be the greatest hero—and bestest friend—she can possibly be.

The Cityborn, by Edward Willett 
The City is a towering edifice of corroding metal, twelve tiers ruled by the Officers in the name of the semi-mythical Captain. The higher tiers are for the rich and the powerful, the lower tiers for the poor and oppressed, and the Middens—the enormous trash heap in the canyon below the City—is for the outcasts. Danyl was kidnapped from a nursery in the highest levels of the city 20 years ago, and now eeks out a life in the Middens, desperate to enter even the city’s lowest levels. Alania was also in that nursery—but was raised as the ward of a powerful officer. When Alania escapes an ambush and crashes into the Middens, the two meet and find themselves pursued by Officers. To survive, they must discover the mystery of their connection—a mystery that might reshape not just their own existence, but the fate of the rotting City itself.

The Reluctant Queen, by Sarah Beth Durst 
The second in Durst’s Queens of Renthia series finds Queen Daleina of Aratay still suffering—from both the psychological effects of the coronation day massacre that secured her crown, and the physical effects of a fatal illness sapping her ability to control the bloodthirsty spirits that inhabit the woods. A suitable heir must be found, but the massacre killed most of them, and the women being trained to control the spirits keep dying in the attempt. A powerful candidate is finally identified, but the woodswoman Naelin would rather protect her family than rule a kingdom. Political scheming, spirit slaughters, and betrayals from within the palace all contribute to rising tension as the situation worsens—and the spirits wait impatiently for the Queen to weaken enough for them to surge forward and kill everyone.

An Oath of Dogs, by Wendy Wagner 
Kate Standish is sent to the forest planet of Huginn by her employer, the enormous corporation Songheuser, which she suspects had her boss killed prior to her assignment. On Huginn she finds very few of the farmers and mill workers are interested in a death officially ruled an accident—they have their own problems dealing with a rash of eco-terrorism and the ravages of the strange, sentient dogs native to the planet. Kate herself, suffering from anxiety, has a therapy dog that helps her keep her head as she investigates an ancient diary dating back to the founding of the colony, a book found in the house her dead boss once occupied. It’s a murder mystery set in a fascinating sci-fi universe that slowly unfolds the history of Huginn in perfectly-paced episodes that lead to a satisfying conclusion.

A Fading Sun, by Stephen Leigh 
Voada Paorach has inherited her family’s ability to see the dead—most of whom don’t realize they are dead. She helps as she can to guide the ghosts to the land beyond, but she keeps her abilities secret—as her family has ever since the Mundoan Empire conquered the land. But then she encounters a ghost different from the others she’s known—a ghost that seems very aware of its status and implores her to walk a new and more dangerous path, one that will show her exactly how powerful her people are, and how dangerous the future will be.

Harbors of the Sun, by Martha Wells 
The fifth and final book in Wells’ Raksura series is a direct sequel to The Edge of Worlds, and picks up the action immediately after that book’s cliffhanger. Betrayed by a former ally, the Raksura and their Groundling friends are thrust into a race to save their kidnapped kin while the Fell and the Empire of Kish plot attacks that might destroy everything in their path. The kidnapped Raksura discover their captors have a deeper plan involving a magical artifact that could unlock more danger and destruction than even the Fell can muster. It becomes a race against time as the Raksura must risk everything they have and everything they are to stop what very well might be the end of the world.

Sungrazer, by Jay Posey 
The sequel to Outriders sees an elite team of near-immortal super soldiers tasked with the impossible. As tensions between Earth and the Martian colonies reach Cold War levels, an autonomous spaceship with devastating “orbital strike” capabilities goes missing in the vicinity of the red planet. If it falls into the wrong hands, it could upset the delicate balance between the two sides. The Outriders are the best of the best, but even they will need every shred of guts, brains, and brawn when their investigation leads directly to the powerful Martian People’s Collective Republic, where they’ll have to navigate the deadly maze of secrets, alliances, and plots to prevent the situation from blowing up into a devastating Hot War.

Grave Ransom, by Kalayna Price 
The fifth Alex Craft book finds the Grave Witch in Nekros City facing the one thing she never expected: the walking dead. Craft has raised specters and shades, conversed with the dead, and is even romantically involved with Death himself. But she always believed dead bodies are dead bodies; they don’t get up and cause mischief. When a rash of crimes is attributed to reanimated corpses, Craft finds herself reluctantly partnered with Briar Darque of the Magical Crimes Investigation Bureau. But even with that support, it’ll take everything Craft has to get to the bottom of the mystery before things go from bad to really, really bad.

The Song of the Orphans, by Daniel Price
The long-in-coming sequel to The Flight of the Silvers catches us up on the events that have befallen Hannah and Amanda Given, two sisters who were rescued from the end of our world and taken to a new Earth in which technology has progressed far beyond the modern day and alien spacecraft flit through the skies. The sisters and four other refugees from Earth have been gifted with strange new abilities—powers that make them a target for mysterious forces hunting them down, because their new world is dying too, and this alternate U.S. government believes the survivors are the ones responsible.

Crashing Heaven, by Al Robertson
Released a few years ago in the U.K., this gonzo space opera finally arrives in paperback in the U.S., and it is so worth the wait. In a dark future, Earth is devastated and desolate, and all of humanity lives in a giant space space station run by a network of sentient corporations known as the Pantheon. The Pantheon is at war with rogue AIs known as the Totality, and Jack Forster was a soldier in that war, a human implanted with an artificial mind known as Hugo Fist, which appears only to Jack as a chilling ventriloquist’s dummy. Called a traitor for his actions in the war, Jack hopes to set the record straight—but the unexplained deaths of two old friends only deepen the mystery surrounding him. He’ll have to hurry to get to the bottom of things, because his license on Hugo’s software is expiring, at which point the AI will take control of his body.

The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2017 Edition, by Paula Guran 
If your tastes in the fantastic run toward dark corners, this is the collection you’ve waited all year for. Guran has assembled some of the most disturbing, horrifying, and downright frightening stories from some of the best writers working today, including stories like “Wish You Were Here” by Nadia Bulkin, “Red Dirt Witch” by N. K. Jemisin, “The Jaws That Bite, The Claws That Catch” by Seanan McGuire, “Only Their Shining Beauty Was Left” by Fran Wilde, and many more. This is the ideal collection for anyone who thinks there’s simply too much hope and optimism in most speculative work.

What are you reading this week?

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