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The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017, edited by by John Joseph Adams and Charles Yu
The Best American anthologies tend to reflect the state of the world in the year they’re published, and the 2017 installment is just as paranoid, terrified, and despairing as you might expect—though shot through with a persistent thread of hope for better times. Standouts of the 20 stories selected by Adams and guest editor Carles Yu include N.K. Jemisin’s “The City Born Great,” Catherynne M. Valente’s “The Future Is Blue,” and E. Lily Yu’s “The Witch of Orion Waste and the Boy Knight,” but any and all of them are sharp, imaginative blasts from possible futures and alternate presents that reflect and comment on our world in ways realistic fiction simply can’t.
Mageborn, by Stephen Aryan
The author of the Age of Darkness series (Battlemage, Chaosmage, Bloodmage) launches into a new era, The Age of Dread, set 10 years after the end of a bloody conflict in which thousands of mages died and the world was changed. Those who can use magic are still feared and hated. One man, Morgan Habreel, was once a Guardian of the Peace, but now is bent on killing anyone gifted with magic—including the students studying their craft in the Red Tower, the last safe place they can gather. But with forces aligned against it and conspiracy brewing within, the Tower cannot stand forever. Layering parallels to contemporary politics and a potboiler plot over the bones of epic fantasy, this is a propulsive combination of thrills, mystery, and magic.
Nimbus, by Jacey Bedford
The third novel in the Psi-Tech space opera series, in which technologically-augmented telepaths scour the galaxy for resources on behalf of their corporate masters, who control the hyperspace gates that allow trade across the stars. Former psi-techCara was once enslaved to Alphacorp, but she escaped, and has aligned with a group determined to upend the galactic status quo—the Free Company, led by Ben, the man who helped her escape her fate. Though the corporate plots are still a concern, the Free Company is facing something new: something strange and alien has been awakened from within the folds of space between dimensions. Ships traveling through the gates between systems are beginning to disappear—and Ben, who was trained as a pilot to believe the strange creatures visible to those traversing the folds were only false visions, begins to suspect the galaxy is under threat by a force far greater than corporate greed.
The Core, by Peter V. Brett
Brett delivers the fifth and final book of the Demon Cycle series, which finds the heroes of mankind—Arlen Bales, the Warded Man, and Jardir, The Deliverer—facing defeat despite their best efforts and incredible power. Their victories have pushed demonkind to the breaking point, calling forth something that might very well destroy humanity completely—a swarm of demonic beings. In order to prevent complete disaster, Arlen and Jardir must somehow force a demon prince to do their bidding and lead them to the Core, where the Mother of Demons breeds an infinite, unbeatable army. But the demon prince is devious and frighteningly intelligent, and Arlen and Jardir—and their closets allies—know that even if they make it to the Core, there is very little chance that they will return from their trip into the heart of evil.
The Monster Hunter Files, edited by Larry Correia and Bryan Thomas Schmidt
Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter novels are an addictive pleasure, and while we’ve already gotten a heady fix for the year in the form of Monster Hunter: Siege, this collection of shared world short stories, edited by Correia and Bryan Thomas Schmidt, makes a nice chaser. Contributing authors include Correia, Jim Butcher, John Ringo, Faith Hunter, Jonathan Mayberry, and more.
The Last Winter, by Samwise Diedier
A new illustrated tale from the artist who shaped the look of World of Warcraft, following last year’s lavish comedy romp Grimbeard: The Last Dwarf. This one aims a bit more for epic than comedy: following the death of its goddess, the island of Sprign is left vulnerable to attacks from invading giants. All the clans and heroes of the island must unite to save their home. This is a classic fantasy tale—dig those names: Hammerheart, Darkcloud, Mistcloak, Thundermaw—done up right, with gorgeous illustrations from a master. (Click through to the product page to see a few examples.)
The Trials of Solomon Parker, by Eric Scott Fischl
This companion novel to Dr. Potter’s Strange Medicine Show (one of our picks for the best books of the year so far) is the book Fischl wanted to write all along: a dark turn-of-the-century fable about a broken man who owes big money to bad folks and is running out of road ahead of him. He wants another chance at life, and the gods, via their servant, the mysterious Marked Face, are about to give it to him—but his fate will turn with a toss of the dice, and it might be a rigged game. Fischl never worries about making you like his characters, but you’ll certainly feel for them as they find their fates in a dusty, hope-drained world.
Machine Learning: New and Collected Stories, by Hugh Howey
This collection shows Howey’s true range and impact as a writer, offering up stories (including two previously unpublished) that dip into both established universes (the Wool series) and new ones. Howey explores perception and emotion from human, non-human, and artificial intelligences in a collection divided into three distinct sections—the first dealing with aliens and alien worlds; the second, artificial intelligence; and the third, fantasy. His stories take a more modern approach in their consideration of classic themes, hitting all the harder as a result. Best of all, Howey provides liner notes for each story explaining how they came to be.
The Bloodprint, by Ausma Zehanat Khan
The first book in Khan’s Khorasan Archives tells the story of Arian, First Oralist of the Companions of Hira, a group seeking to preserve the Claim, a written work encompassing the land’s religion and magic. Although courted by Daniyar, the Silver Mage, Arian focuses on saving enslaved women from the growing forces of the Talisman, a male-dominated movement of violence and oppression led by the terrifying One-Eyed Preacher. The Talisman is ignorant and brutal and seeks to subjugate all women—and is growing larger by the day. Arian learns of a powerful text known as the Bloodprint, which might be capable of stopping the Talisman and destroying the One-Eyed Preacher. Arian and another warrior named Sinnia set off to locate the Bloodprint, knowing the journey may well kill them.
The Imposters of Aventil, by Marshall Ryan Maresca
We’re continually amazed at Maresca’s ability to keep showing us new corners of the world he’s created—he currently has ongoing series set in the fantasy city of Maradaine. The Maradaine Constabulary books, ride along with the city’s police force; and the Streets of Maradaine books explore the criminal element. This week, he returns to the original series, which began with The Thorn of Dentonhill, which introduced to Veranix Calbert, student by day, and the titular Batman-like vigilante by night. This time, Veranix must leap into action to defend his alter-ego when an imposter takes up the guise of the Thorn and begins killing members of a local gang.
Blackwing, by Ed McDonald
This exceptional fantasy debut tells the story of bounty hunter and agent of the Republic Ryhalt Galharrow, a gruff, bitter man who leads the Blackwings through the twisted, blasted land known as the Misery. The Misery was created decades earlier at the end of a brutal war between the Deep Kings and the Republic; the former were only stopped by the use of Nall’s Engine, a weapon so terrible it cowed the powerful Deep Kings—and created the Misery. Galharrow is sworn to follow his god-like patron Crowfoot, so when he’s ordered to rescue a noblewoman named Exabeth Tanza in the Misery, the Blackwings must obey. When the Deep Kings attack, only Ezabeth’s unexpected magic save them—in the process revealing a conspiracy surrounding the truth behind the Engine that puts the world in terrible danger.
The Seven, by Peter Newman
The concluding volume of Newman’s Vagrant trilogy begins some years after the Vagrant entered the Shining City. His adopted daughter Vesper has closed the tear between worlds, trapping the Infernal—but now, the Vagrant faces a new challenge that might be the most difficult one of all: co-existence. But just as he tries to gather the leaders of the various factions that have been tearing the world apart in the hopes of engineering peace, something unexpected happens: the Seven, the immortals who ruled the world before the Infernals’ invasion, awaken from their slumber and once again walk the world—and seek to “purge” the planet of the Infernal taint—which bodes well for exactly nobody.
Under the Pendulum Sun, by Jeannette Ng
This engaging, original fantasy debut follows Laon Helstone, a British missionary on a perilous quest into Arcasia, the land of the Fae, hoping to convert them. When he stops writing, his sister Catherine fears the worst—and travels north into Arcadia herself in order to save him. Laon is not at Gethsemane, the home given to him by the Queen of the Fae, and his retainer is reluctant to tell her anything. Catherine finds herself confined in the house, where she locates the journal of a previous missionary named Reverend Roche, rumored to have died in Arcadia, and another book written in a mysterious language. When Laon finally returns, it is alongside Queen Fab, and as Catherine gets her first taste of the Fae—cruel, prankish, amused at the misery of their human guests— she and Laon suspect they aren’t in Arcadia on missionary work at all, but merely for the amusement of the Fae.
Aftertaste, by Andrew Post
Do you eat up Matt Wallace’s Sin du Jour books? You’ll devour this hilarious horror romp about zombies, good cooking, fast food, and were-frogs. Saelig Zilch used to be a chef. As in, when he was alive. Now he’s undead, resurrected to serve as a monster hunter for a mysterious agency for reasons he doesn’t quite understand. Using nanotechnology, he’s inserted into the body of a corpse and has a few days to solve his latest case—which involves that killer were-frog we mentioned—before he goes to pieces, quite literally. It is, perhaps, even weirder and more fun than it sounds.
The Tiger’s Daughter, by K. Arsenault Rivera
This epic fantasy debut is the story of two women born a month apart in a time of desperate need, joined from birth by a powerful set of omens. Shizuka is the niece of the Hokkaran Emperor Yoshimoto; Barsalyya Shefali Alshar is the daughter of Kharsa Burqila, Queen of the horsemen and women of the Qorin steppes. Their mothers know a magical bond when they see one, and so the girls are raised to be the best of friends despite their cultural differences. As they grow into their incredible supernatural powers, they experience a series of adventures that make them living legends. But darkness is gathering on the empire’s borders—and it’s drawing closer every day. In gorgeous prose, Rivera creates a fascinating setting drawn from Mongolian lore, and an adventure headlined by strong, queer female heroes the likes of which are rarely found in fantasy.
The Name of the Wind (10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition), by Patrick Rothfuss
This deluxe edition of the first book of Rothfuss’ instantly classic Kingkiller Chronicle is perfect for fans who want an excuse to experience the adventure all over again, as Kvothe, secret hero of a thousand legends, tells his life story to Chronicler. His fascinating tale— growing up as part of a nomadic family, seeing them slaughtered, living on the street, becoming a student of magic at an elite school, and later a hero and legend—is plenty entertaining, but hints that the storied hero is both greater and lesser than the sum of his experiences. This handsome anniversary edition features a striking new cover, interior illustrations by Dan Dos Santos, an updated world map, a new author’s note, and more.
The Murders of Molly Southbourne, by Tade Thompson
This slim debut is crazed and horrific in the best way. Molly Southbourne’s childhood is oppressed by her parents’ rigid rules: “If you see a girl who looks like you, run and fight. Don’t bleed. If you bleed, blot, burn, and bleach. If you find a hole, find your parents.” The reason for these cryptic instructions lies in Molly’s unique condition: if she bleeds, an identical copy of herself is created. If left to its own devices, this copy (known as a molly) will turn murderous and try to kill her—and so mollys must be destroyed on sight. Molly spends her youth protecting herself from harm and murdering her identical copies, which would mess with anyone’s head. As she enters college, she wearies of the rules and begins sliding into a dark place—but there are mollys out there willing to take advantage of her weakness. The revelations behind Molly’s condition are twisty and twisted, and as the body count rises, she has reason to wonder if the last thing she’ll ever see is herself.
From a Certain Point of View, by Various
You might think it would be a challenge to find a new way of looking at Star Wars, but the more than 40 brilliant authors in this anthology have proven you wrong. Each story retells a moment from A New Hope from the point-of-view of a supporting character you’ve probably never considered before, offering an entirely fresh takes on the 40-year old film. With stories by the likes of Nnedi Okorafor, Delilah S. Dawson, Daniel José Older, Chuck Wendig, and Ken Liu, we get to Luke’s origin story through the eyes of characters like Aunt Beru, Grand Moff Tarkin, and even the trash compactor monster. All authors’ proceeds are being donated to charity, making an easy purchasing decision that much easier.
The Genius Plague, by David Walton
The author of Supersymmetry and Superposition jumps from quantum physics to eco-terror in his latest, a sci-fi thriller in which the world is under siege by an Amazonian fungus that can control people’s minds. Mycologist Paul Johns goes missing in the jungle, and when he returns, his brother Neil, an NSA codebreaker, is convinced he’s acting strange—Paul is missing memories, even as his mid seems to be sharper than ever. And Paul isn’t the only one—in countries across South America, people are developing new abilities after being exposed to a fungal infection. Neil is the only one who sees a pattern in the chaos: those exposed seem to be part of a sort of biological network, pieces of a program working to bring about a grand, mysterious design. Paul thinks it’s simply humanity evolving, but Neil can’t shake the feeling there’s an alien influence at work, reshaping humanity to serve an unknown purpose.
Quillifer, by Walter Jon Williams
Half flashman, half hero, Quillifer is a quick-witted young man living an easy life in the city of Ethlebight in the realm of Duisland. When the city is attacked and his family killed, Quillifer is rocketed into a life of adventure, relying more on his charm and brains than his swordplay. Getting in and out of trouble with a exhausting regularity, he takes up with a gang of bandits, finds himself drowning in court politics, and the toy of a jealous, flighty goddess. He makes his way to the capital city to begin a career, only to find himself in the midst of a civil war and reluctantly serving as a soldier—where his quick wit is finally able to change his fortunes. Walter Jon Williams has proven once again he’s a writer who can’t be confined to a single genre—and when the books are this addictively readable, who would want to?
William Shakespeare’s The Force Doth Awaken, by Ian Doescher
Ian Doescher clearly had a ball transforming the original Star Wars trilogy and the prequels into surprisingly convincing faux-Shakespearean plays, so why would you expect him to stop there? Episode VII gets the Elizabethan treatment, just in time for The Last Jedi, and it’s worth it just for the cover.