This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Unquiet Houses, Mutant Viruses, and a Return to the Dire Earth

Injection Burn, by Jason M. Hough
Hough returns to the post-apocalyptic sci-fi setting of his bestselling Dire Earth trilogy for the first book in a new duology (the sequel, Escape Velocity, arrives in June). Skyler Luiken commands a crew of scavengers and mercenaries for hire, and they’ve taken on a risky job: travel to an alien world under siege by a fleet of warships known as the Swarm Blockade. The rescue mission grows more complicated when they encounter another human ship, captained by the battle-hardened Gloria Tsandi, and are forced to work together against a common enemy and despite their better judgement if they hope to make it back to Earth in one piece.

White Hot, by Ilona Andrews
Andrews returns with the second installment of the Hidden Legacy paranormal romance series. Nevada is a woman with the magical gift to know when someone is being deceitful, a power that has helped her keep her family’s struggling detective agency running, but it’s no use in her latest case: Rogan, a billionaire and gifted magician, is able to resist her probing mind—which only makes Nevada want to get closer to him—is involved in some way in a murder. As she investigates the killing of the wife of an animal mage, Nevada keeps plucking at threads that lead back to Rogan, and to a powerful, shadowy force that recently almost destroyed a city. The setup is intriguing, but Andrews fans know the real charm of her novels are the eccentric, endearing characters—Nevada’s mom is a hardened sniper; her grandma loves talking tanks—and her ability to create a palpable sense of place.

Mormama, by Kit Reed
This malevolent haunted house tale is a Southern supernatural creeper in the tradition of Shirley Jackson. Down on their luck, Theo and his mother move back into their decrepit family home in Jacksonville, occupied by his three widowed aunts and a few other unwelcome residents—Dell, a vagrant with no memory of his past who fells an inexplicable connection to the house, and Mormama, the ghostly remnant of the family matriarch, who warns Theo of a danger that threatens all the males of the family. Dell and Theo both try to figure out how their histories—familial and otherwise—are connected, but the house won’t give up its secrets so easily.

The High Ground, by Melinda Snodgrass
Melissa Snodgrass, who masterminds the Wild Cards shared universe series alongside Goerge R.R.Martin, launches a new solo series following Mercedes, the daughter of an emperor and the first woman ever allowed to attend an elite military school known as The High Ground, which trains the Solar League’s best soldiers. Her goal is to secure her right to succeed her father as ruler, but there are many in this rigid, patriarchal system who would prefer to see her fail. Befriended by a fellow student who seeks to rise above his station, Mercedes must learn fast if she has any hope of meeting the challenges to come: social upheaval, a looming civil war, and a greater threat from the stars…

Lightning in the Blood, by Marie Brennan
The award-winning author of the Lady Trent series returns with another fast-moving fantasy novella, the followup to last year’s Cold-Forged Flame. Ree is an ageless spirit bound into a mortal body, and still lacking the memory of who she truly is. She’s spent years wandering the world, adrift, hunting the truth. She may finally find it when she joins another band of nomads, refugees traveling with another of her kind—one who seems to have the answers Ree seeks.

Extinction Horizon, by Nicholas Sansbury Smith
The first in Sansbury’s planned six-book Extinction Cycle introduces Master Sergeant Reed Beckham, the leader of the elite Delta Force Team codenamed Ghost. Beckham and Ghost are sent to deal with the worst problems in the world, so when a top-secret medical facility drops off the grid, they get the call. What they find at the site is terrifying: a mutant strain of Ebola that transforms people into monsters. Ghost and Beckham barely survive, and as the virus spreads, the world descends into chaos. Beckham is charged with keeping alive Dr. Kate Lovato—an elite virologist with the CDC—until she can develop a cure. What Lovato and Beckham uncover instead is bone-chilling, because the cure might actually be worse than saving humanity from complete extinction.

Doctor Who: Plague City, by Jonathan Morris
Go on a journey with the Twelfth Doctor in this original novel set during the most recent season of Doctor Who. The Doctor and his companions travel to Edinburgh in 1645, a city under siege by a deadly plague and haunted by the Night Doctor, whose patients never live to see another day. Unfortunately, they don’t quite stay dead, either. Unless you have a TARDIS of your own, this is the best way to find fresh adventures with the Doctor before his return to television later this year.

The Island Deception, by Dan Koboldt
The second book in Koboldt’s fast, fun portal fantasy series following Quinn Bradley, a Vegas stage magician pulled once again into another world, Alissia, where the magic is more than real. He’s tasked by CASE Global Enterprises, the powerful corporation that oversees the doorways between realms, to neutralize the threat of one of the company’s former researchers gone rogue. Succeeding will mean more fame and riches back on Earth, and possibly the ability to do real magic himself. Failure might mean getting eaten by a wyvern, or worse. If you think this all sounds like a hell of a lot of fun, you’re right.

Arabella of Mars, by David D. Levine
The recent winner of the Andre Norton Award is now in paperback. Levine pivots off of Victorian SF tropes to create a thoroughly modern book that also feels like a classic adventure from Jules Verne or H.G. Wells. Arabella is a teenage girl living on Mars in 1812. Her mother, fearing the planet’s “wild” influence on her child, moves her daughter to Earth, leaving Arabella’s father and brother on the colony. When Arabella’s father dies, she disguises herself as a boy and hires on with a ship heading back to the Red Planet in order to save her brother. Along the way, she encounters threats both within the ship and in the solar system at large. Arabella is a believably drawn young woman, determined and headstrong; readers will fall in love with her as they follow her on adventures across a steampunk-y alternate past.

What are you reading this week?

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