This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Deadly Magical Duels, a Sleeping Plague, and a Chase Through Time

Paradox Bound, by Peter Clines
Clines delivers a delightful, charming sci-fi romp blending National Treasure and Doctor Who. Eli Teague waiting in the small town of Sanders for the return of the Traveler, a woman driving a souped-up Model-A Ford and wearing a tricorn hat who has appeared to him twice before, fleeing a faceless man intending to kill her. When she does finally appear again, he joins her on an adventure through time, chasing the literal embodiment of the American Dream and being chased in turn by implacable—and somewhat terrifying—government agents hellbent on stamping out free will and individual freedom. This being a Clines novel, there are yet more unexpected twists as Eli and Harriet “Harry” Pritchard time travel through two centuries of history, following clues and encountering other temporal travelers.

Neverwhere: Illustrated Edition, by Neil Gaiman
In Gaiman’s beloved debut novel, a businessman slips into the magical underworld beneath London, and while London itself is just the regular old city you might actually visit, Gaiman’s imagination creates an incredible fantasy world below, with a mythology based on the tube stops of the London Underground. Including the story “How the Marquis Got His Coat Back,” this new edition offers Gaiman’s preferred text of the novel alongside charming illustrations by Chris Riddell, making it the ultimate version of a new classic.

Doctor Who: Now We Are Six Hundred, by James Goss
With illustrations by none other than Russel T. Davies, this first-ever collection of Whovian poetry is as clever, whimsical, and occasionally heartbreaking as you’d expect from everybody’s favorite Time Lord. Goss, author of several Doctor Who and Torchwood novels and other books, offers up poems that manage to unravel the twisty, timey-wimey history of the character, as in a poem in which The Doctor reflects on his various incarnations with pithy couplets—until he gets to notorious Number Six, and launches into a rambling paragraph that even name-checks companion Peri. These details will make even poetry-hating Whovians smile, and Davies’ charming ink drawings seal the deal.

An Unkindness of Magicians, by Kat Howard 
Hidden from most, the Unseen World of magic is ruled by competing Houses, who compete every generation in the magical tourney known as the Turning, which determines which house holds ultimate influence over the others. Sydney, a powerful magician once enslaved by the House of Shadows—which acts as a power source for all of magic by forcing sacrifices like Sydney to pay the painful price that comes with dealing it—is hired by House Beauchamps to compete in the Turning on their behalf. Meanwhile, magic everywhere is weakening, siphoned away by a mysterious darkness. Sydney may be the only magician with sufficient power and skill to combat what’s happening—but she’s not certain she wants to. Her escape from the House of Shadows left her more inclined to destroy magic, rather than save it. This is another dark delight from Howard, whose Roses and Rotwas one of our favorite books of 2016.

Sleeping Beauties, by Owen and Stephen King
Putting a lie to the theory that writing talent doesn’t have a genetic component: the King family. Joe Hill has more than proven himself as capable as dear old dad at crafting tense, terrifying thrillers, and now brother Owen is getting into the game with his first book in the family wheelhouse, co-written with the world’s bestselling horror writer. The premise is certainly killer,and oh-so-timely: it a near-near-future, all women suddenly drop into a coma-like state. While their minds are transported to an idyllic, female-dominated paradise, their bodies become shrouded in a gauzy substance. If the shroud is disturbed, the women awaken as feral monsters. As male society struggles to adapt to a world without women, we follow one woman immune to the sleeping state. With the epic length you expect from any book with “King” on the cover—and the thrills and chills to match.

Provenance, by Ann Leckie
Leckie returns to the universe of the every award-winning Imperial Radch trilogy with a completely standalone story centered on Ingray Aughskold, who hatches a plan to reclaim a powerful family’s heirlooms stolen and hidden by the neman Pahlad Budrakim (whose pronouns, if you’re curious how Leckie is handling gender this time around, are eeir, and em). Ingray bribes a broker to smuggle Pahlad out of the toughest prison in the universe—and unwittingly drops him into a cauldron of intrigue set in motion by her scheming brother, a rival planet that frames Pahlad for murder in a play against her politically-involved mother, and the machinations of an alien diplomat with motivations of their own. And this all becomes even more complicated when Pahlad reveals that e never stole the antiques in the first place—just one more wrinkle a typically complex, culturally-rich, and idea-inspiring Ann Leckie adventure.

Star Trek: Discovery: Desperate Hours, by David Mack 
To those who’ve been anticipating the new Star Trek TV series, Mack delivers a fantastic novel set on the Starship Shenzhou, where Lieutenant Michael Burnham has just been named First Officer despite the lingering doubts of Captain Philippa Georgiou. A human raised by Vulcans, Burnham knows she must prove herself, and the opportunity arrives when a newly-founded Federation colony comes under attack by a powerful, ancient alien vessel that has emerged from hiding in the deepest part of the planet’s oceans. The Federation concludes the colony is expendable in order to neutralize the awesome threat, but Burnham sees a way to avoid the deaths of thousands of people—by risking herself, tackling her own inner demons, and infiltrating the alien ship.

The Hunt, by Chloe Neill 
Neill’s third A Devil’s Isle novel reverses roles a bit as Claire Connolly, the Sensitive fighting to control the magic that infects her, searches desperately for Liam Quinn, the bounty hunter who broke all the rules by refusing to lock her up in Devil’s Isle with all the other paranormally-powered entities in New Orleans, who were changed after the Veil between worlds was destroyed, swamping the city in magic. Quinn is suspected of having killed a government agent, and Claire knows that she must find him before the authorities do—and her list of enemies is getting longer every moment. Assisted by those who know her role in the magical war that almost destroyed the city, Claire races against time to prove Liam is innocent, which she soon discovers is a task more difficult than she imagined.

The Eternity War: Pariah, by Jamie Sawyer 
The first of a new military SF series in the same universe as Sawyer’s Lazarus War books, The Eternity War: Pariah introduces the Simulant Operations Programme—mankind’s elite soldiers—and veteran Lieutenant Keira Jenkins. Jenkins leads the Jackals, a squad of untested recruits who make up for their lack of experience with intense eagerness to get their share of the Programme’s glory—a chance that comes when a terrorist group seizes control of a space station. Dispatched to deal with the problem, Jenkins and the Jackals discover there’s a conspiracy afoot, one that might result in more action than they want, in the form of an all-out galactic war.

Horizon, by Fran Wilde 
The concluding volume of Wilde’s inventive Bone Universe trilogy picks up directly after Cloudbound, in which childhood friends Kirit and Nat were thrown from the Bone Towers to fall through the clouds that have always marked the edge of the known world. On the ground, they discover the terrifying truth: their city of living bone is failing, and will soon crumble. Despite what they’ve been through, Nat heads back up to warn the citizens of the towers of the coming apocalypse, while Kirit sets off to find a new home for their people. The world below is strange and baffling, and the political maze to be navigated by those who would save the world is complex and dangerous. The final installment cements the setting of this Andre Norton Award-winning series as of the most imaginative we’ve encountered in recent years.

The Red Threads of Fortune/The Black Tides of Heaven, by JY Yang
Here’s a twofer: two debut novellas from celebrated short fiction author JY Yang arrive on the same day, standalone but interconnected tales of the lives of two children growing up on opposite sides of a conflict in a fascinating new fantasy realm inspired by Eastern literary traditions. Black Tides of Heaven follows a pair of twins—Mokoya and Akeha—over a 35-year period of their lives, through separation, rebellion, and loss. In The Red Threads of Fortune, we drop in on Mokoya and her herd of velociraptors as they hunt a Naga, which passes for a dragon in this world. Where the former book is fraught with politics and upheaval, the latter is rich with romance and adventure. Read them in either order, but damn, make sure to read them both.

What new books are you interested in this week?

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