A secret history of vampires in America, the next installment in a gripping trilogy of a dystopian Martian society, two new urban fantasy series that explore hidden supernatural worlds that exist just out of the corner of your eye, and a silly primer on the science of an invented world: these are just a few of our top picks in Science Fiction & Fantasy in January.
Last American Vampire, by Seth Grahame-Smith
This followup to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter stretches the secret bloodsucking history of the United States into the 20th century. Heroic vampire Henry Sturges, bereft by Lincoln’s death, sets off for England, where he encounters an altogether different sort of monster: Jack the Ripper. From there, the book follows Sturges on a wandering path through the history we thought we knew, revealing vampiric involvement in the creation of electricity, two world wars, and the death of John F. Kennedy.
Golden Son: Book II of the Red Rising Trilogy, by Pierce Brown
Red Rising was one of the 2014’s breakout debuts, an addictive story of a revolution brewing among the “Reds,” the genetically engineered underclass forced to salve away in deadly mines on Mars that combined sci-fi imagination with the propulsive storytelling of The Hunger Games. Book one ended with our hero, Darrow, deep undercover on a mission to take down the corrupt society of the ruling “Golds.” Still driven by revenge, he is forced to recognize that there is pain and injustice even at the highest levels, and that true change will require more than just a revolution. Also available in an exclusive signed edition.
Half Resurrection Blues, by Daniel José Older
The launch of a new urban fantasy series, Older’s debut novel sells itself on its wicked premise alone: Carlos Delacruz is a half-dead detective, resurrected (mostly) in order to serve as an agent for the New York Council of the Dead. He’s tasked with tracking down a sorcerer summoning creatures capable of killing the varied undead, which is quite a feat in and of itself.
Pandorax, by CZ Dunn
The newest installment in the Space Marine Battles series within the Warhammer 40,000 shared universe, this debut novel travels to the death world of Pythos in the Pandorax system, where a millennia-old secret is awakened by a hapless team of stranded space troopers. Involving countless forces and factions (from the Death Guard to the Black Legion to the Dark Angels Chapter), this is a complex, fast-moving, action-packed adventure with the complex plotting that is a hallmark of the series.
Ahriman: Sorcerer, by John French
Another book in the expansive Warhammer 40,000 universe, this sequel to Ahriman: Exile continues the story of the title character, an exiled space marine sorcerer who led an entire legion of troops into hell (more or less literally) and is not plotting a return to power. If “space marine sorcerer” wasn’t a tip-off, those who are looking for a series that blends widescreen sci-fi with epic fantasy tropes would be hard-pressed to find a better fit.
The Globe: The Science of Discworld II, by Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart, and Jack Cohen
Across more than 40 novels, beloved British author Terry Pratchett has built Discworld from the giant turtle up into one of the weirdest, most fascinatingly oddball, fully-realized fantasy realms. If you’re the type of reader who really wonders about how real world rules like physics and geography operate when you are living on a giant disc suspended on the back of a giant space turtle, then this is the book for you. This sequel to The Science of Discworld, examines life on our own world from the skewed scientific perspective of the wizards at Unseen University (who, it turns out, unwittingly created us in an experiment gone sideways).
Strands of Sorrow, by John Ringo
The concluding fourth volume of Ringo’s post-apocalyptic military survival series finds the remaining members of Wolf Squadron still combatting the effects of a virus that turned most of the world’s population into mindless, flesh-hungry killers. After teaming up with the remnants of the U.S. Navy, however, they are finally ready to stop running and start fighting back, with a mission to retake the North American continent. Zombies, the line must be drawn here. You have shambled this far, no further!
Tales from the Nightside, by Simon R. Green
Supernatural P.I. John Taylor used his “private eye” (his cheeky name for an ability to find any missing object) to safeguard the London netherworld of Nightside throughout a dozen novels in Green’s now-completed series, which blends the fixtures of hardboiled detective novels with sci-fi and fantasy elements. Green provides a coda to Taylor’s story with a collection of short stories from the world of Nightside, including a new one written exclusively for this volume.
The Witches of Echo Park, by Amber Benson
Buffy the Vampire Slayer actress Benson continues her successful run as an urban fantasist with this series opener. When her great aunt dies, Lyse MacAllister inherits more than a ramshackle old house in Echo Park–she is also expected to take her aunt’s place in the local coven of witches. And because they wasn’t a big enough shock, there’s also the little matter of a prophecy that might indicate that Lyse is the only one standing between our survival and a global apocalypse involving an evil force known as “the Flood.” We miss the good old days, when the worst you could expect from a dead relative’s will was to be forced to spend a night in a haunted house.