This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Planetary Corporate Politics, a Collapsing Empire, and One Angry Dwarf

Phantom Pains, by Mishell Baker 
In her followup to the Nebula Award-nominated Borderline, Baker brings us up to date on what happened to Millie—a former film student-turned-member of the Arcadia Project, a secret organization that serves as a liaison between the human and fairy realms—following the disastrous climax of the last book. In the wake of tragedy, Millie has left Arcadia behind. But when she and her old boss, Cheryl, visit the site where Millie’s former partner lost his life, they meet what seems to be his ghost—something Caryl says should be impossible, because ghosts don’t exist. What follows is another intriguing, trope-twisting mystery exploring the hidden history of human-fae interaction. But more than that, it’s another opportunity to spend time with Millie, whose struggles with borderline personality disorder are just one part of what makes her one of the most complex, engaging, occasionally frustrating protagonists urban fantasy has to offer. 

Relics, by Tim Lebbon
Lebbon’s slow-boil horror novel introduces us to Vince and Angela, a young couple in London struggling with what appears to be normal everyday malaise: their sex life is complicated, he has a wandering eye, and she’s uncertain what he actually does for a living. When Vince goes missing, Angela—a student of criminology—uses her skills to investigate, and discovers she didn’t know her fiancé very well. As Vince struggles against mysterious captors, Angela delves ever-deeper into an underground society built on the trade of otherworldly relics stripped from the remains of magical creatures—relics that may be much less ancient than they originally appear.

The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi
After humanity discovers The Flow, an extra-dimensional field that allows us to travel around faster-than-light, but only along specific pathways, a huge empire of colonized planets is formed. But The Flow can shift course like a river, and when its discovered that many of the colony worlds will soon be cut off from FTL travel, the empire begins to fragment, and people begin to panic. With signature Scalzi style, we follow these big movements through the eyes of characters who feel instantly real and relatable, even as they are unexpectedly thrust into positions of power and influence. This book launches a brand new series from one of the genre’s most cinematic writers; we’re grabbing an extra large bucket of popcorn and settling in for several books worth of beautiful chaos.

Star’s End, by Cassandra Rose Clarke
In the far future, Phillip Coramina runs a powerful “corpocracy” that owns a planetary system consisting of a gas giant and four engineered moons, where bioengineered weapons are manufactured. Esme, Phillip’s oldest daughter, is being groomed to take over the family business—and when Phillip reveals he is dying of a terminal illness, she’s tasked with bringing her three stepsisters home to handle the transfer of power. But as Esme takes on control of her father’s corporation, she begins to find evidence of a disturbing secret at the center of its profits—a secret involving alien DNA and, quite possibly, her own sisters. Esme must grow up quickly as she learns more and more of the truth—and decide whether the time has come to stop following her father’s orders.

Chalk, by Paul Cornell
A man named Andrew Waggoner looks back on his experiences as a tortured 14-year old boy living in 1982, at the height of Thatcher’s England. A boy also named Waggoner, a boy with the same face and same friends, who prays every day the bullies will pass him by. They don’t always. One day they force him into the woods and do something terrible—something that kills off some part of Andrew. The Cherhill White Horse is carved out of chalk in the mountainside, and legend has it that magic stirs there—legends Andrews discovers are true. Meanwhile, his classmate Angie is discovering her own magic—a power that tells her something terrible is coming, just as Andrew gains a magical friend only he can see, and his enemies begin to suffer terrible fates. This is a book for everyone who knows that the hardest thing in life is to grow up being the wrong sort of person.

Flames of Rebellion, by Jay Allan
The planet Haven is ruled by Federal America, which has installed planetary governor Everett Wells as its representative. When confronted by a growing rebellion, Wells attempts to find a reasonable, peaceful solution. When that approach fails, he finds his authority subverted by the arrival of Asha Stanton, a federal agent known for her ruthless effectiveness, and two battalions of security troops under the command of the insane Colonel Robert Semmes. As Wells realizes Stanton and Semmes will commit any atrocity to put down the revolt, the people of Haven prove to be more independent and capable than the subjugated masses back on Earth, setting the stage for an epic battle for freedom in the latest military sci-fi saga from the author behind the Far Stars trilogy.

Orbital Cloud, by Taiyo Fujii
The War onTerror moves into orbit in the new novel from the author of Gene Mapper . It’s the year 202o. Kazumi Kimura, who runs a website tracking meteor movements, discovers a suspicious cloud of debris in orbit, setting the rumor mill buzzing that he’s really stumbled across a top-secret weapon positioned to target the International Space Station. As if that wasn’t ominous enough, there’s also another high-profile target in the vicinity: a billionaire businessman and his daughter, who are traveling to the first hotel to circle the earth in order to promote the extra-planetary tourism market. It’s a tightly plotted mix of anti-terror espionage novel and near-future thriller from a rising star in Japanese sci-fi.

Ashes to Fire, by Emily B. Martin
The second book in Martin’s Creatures of Light series, after Woodwalkershifts the focus to Mona, newly restored queen of Lumen Lake, who has sworn her life to protecting her people. Every decision she has ever made has been in pursuit of this goal, and now that she has retaken the throne, she’s determined to do what’s best for her subjects—but when a diplomatic mission goes sour and she finds herself on the run through harsh territory with allies she’d never have expected, she must think of her own survival first, and use all the skills she’s earned and the mistakes she’s learned from to see herself home. An avid hiker and a working park ranger, Martin’s affinity for nature shines through in this nature-filled fantasy.

Grimbeard: Tales of the Last Dwarf, by Samwise Didier
If you’re looking for a bit of silliness in-between serious fantasy tomes, pick up the chronicles of Grimbeard, a hard-fighting, elf-loathing dwarf who, through a magical mishap, traveled forward in time 1,000 years to find his people wiped out and those damned pointy-ears in charge. These hilarious short stories follow Grimbeard’s adventures in a world he never made and would just as soon leave,. Each features illustrations by the author, celebrated Blizzard Entertainment art director Samwise Didier (who may have the best nom de plume of any fantasy author ever).

Spymaster, by Margaret Weis and Robert Krammes
Margaret Weis (The Dragonlance Chronicles) and her Dragon Brigade co-writer Robert Krammes launch a new trilogy set in the world they created together. Sea-faring rogue Kate Fitzmaurice is a privateer captain hired by a spymaster to the queen to track down the man claiming the throne should rightly belong to him. It’s a mission that turns out to be more dangerous than she imagined, one strand in a web of intrigue obscuring a plot by a dangerous criminal organization (controlled by a fiendish dragon!) to manipulate the great powers of the world. Swashbuckling action, plus dragons: sounds like a winning combination. 

Mass Effect Andromeda: Nexus Uprising, by Jason M. Hough and K.C. Alexander
If you play video games and are reading this blog, chances are excellent you’re familiar with Mass Effect, BioWare’s hugely successful series marrying ambitious sci-fi storytelling and top-notch action gameplay. This year, BioWare and Titan Books have launched a partnership to produce a new series of companion novels to the latest Mass Effect game, Andromeda, written by top-tier authors in the SFF genres. With a storyline that ties directly into the game, this first installment comes to use from the team of Jason M. Hough (the New York Times bestselling Darwin Elevator series) and K.C. Alexander (the truly badass cyberpunk thriller Necrotech).

What new books are you reading this week?

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