This Season's Best New Releases in Science Fiction & Fantasy

A return to Westoros. A farewell to the land of Fillory. A sequel to one of the most acclaimed science-fiction debuts ever. A new novel from one of sci-fi’s undisputed modern masters. 2014 was a banner year for science-fiction and fantasy readers, and we’ve got a rundown of the can’t-miss, must-read titles.

The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin, Elio M. Garcia, and Linda Antonsson
There are two kinds of fans: those who are content with what is handed to them on the screen or between two covers, and those who constantly want to know more. This book is for the latter breed, the hardcore enthusiasts who not only know the names of all the background characters in Tywin Lannister’s court, but what House they hail from, what other lords they serve, and possibly what they ate for breakfast. The World of Ice & Fire is an exhaustive compendium to the people and places of George R.R. Martin’s enthralling fantasy series, and, by extension, the HBO adaptation. Featuring full-color maps, artwork, and comprehensive family trees, it is entirely made up of new material covering the lore and legends of the Seven Kingdoms, over half of which Martin wrote exclusively for this book.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things, by Patrick Rothfuss
Rothfuss came out of nowhere with his debut novel The Name of the Wind, the lushly written, luminous beginning to the Kingkiller Chronicles. Sadly, we’ve still years to wait for The Doors of Stone, the concluding volume to the tale of wunderkind magician-turned-depressed tavern owner Kvothe, but this related novella about Auri, who lives beneath the famed University where spellcasters learn their trade, is a welcome read.

Words of Radiance, by Brandon Sanderson
Leave it to the man who took over the reins of The Wheel of Time after Robert Jordan’s untimely death to create the next decade-spanning fantasy epic. Filled with the author’s trademarks—including intricately detailed magic systems and a carefully designed environment—Words of Radiance is the second volume of The Stormlight Archive, a planned 10-book series chronicling the destinies of the inhabitants of a world wracked by terrible storms.

Cibola Burn, by James S.A. Corey
Its reputation as A Game of Thrones in space has earned Corey’s series The Expanse (which began with Leviathan Wakes) considerable acclaim—and a forthcoming TV series on SyFy. Though filled with magnificent action sequences, the books don’t skimp on character development, and this fourth installment may be the strongest one since the first.

The Magician’s Land, by Lev Grossman
The long-awaited conclusion to The Magicians trilogy, this book doesn’t disappoint, giving fans an immensely satisfying sendoff for Quentin Coldwater, a spoiled New York trust fund kid who always dreamed of traveling to a magical world—and got his wish, only to discover that being a magician isn’t exactly a day at Hogwarts.

The Witch With No Name, by Kim Harrison
Harrison’s 13-book series The Hollows has provided the blueprint for countless urban/paranormal fantasy novels that followed in its wake, and fans won’t want to miss the climactic final installment, in which day-walking demon bounty hunter Rachel Morgan reaches her journey’s end.

Lock In, by John Scalzi
John Scalzi leaves starships and intergalatic warfare aside in this near-future thriller about the aftermath of a terrible plague that killed 400 million people and left millions more trapped inside their own minds, their bodies in a coma-like state. With breakneak pacing and a terrifyingly realistic handling of the premise, this one will appeal to sci-fi diehards and newbies alike.

The Broken Eye, by Brent Weeks
After breaking through with The Night Angel trilogy, Weeks threw caution to the wind with the Lightbringer series, which is bigger and more ambitious in nearly every way. The Broken Eye is the third installment in a planned quartet of books set in a pre-industrial world where magic is based on an ability to manipulate light and color, and bastard-born Kip Guile is working to master magical craft and confront his destiny.

Rogues, edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois
This volume of short stories and novellas includes tales of villainy (or at least bad behavior) from some of the biggest names in fantasy—including the biggest, A Song of Ice and Fire creator George R.R. Martin (also the volume’s coeditor), who pens an untold tale of the history of Westeros. Other heavy-hitting contributors include Patrick Rothfuss, Neil Gaiman, Scott Lynch, Gillian Flynn, and Connie Willis.

Half a King, by Joe Abercrombie
Abercrombie is known for writing big, bloodthirsty epics like the First Law trilogy, filled with violent skirmishes and amoral antiheroes. Half a King is his first book for young adults, but he hardly seems to have blunted his blade at all—this series-starter is as viscerally thrilling as anything he’s written.

Fool’s Assassin, by Robin Hobb
Fans have been waiting a decade for Hobb to return to the characters of her acclaimed Farseer trilogy, reluctant king’s assassin Fitzchivilary Farseer and the mysterious, enigmatic Fool. The wait is finally over.

Ancillary Sword, by Ann Leckie
Leckie’s debut, Ancillary Justice, was nominated for every major science-fiction award, and won the Hugo, Nebula, British Science Fiction, Locus, and Arthur C. Clarke awards. The sequel doesn’t disappoint, deepening the series’ exploration of themes of gender, identity, power, and oppression through the story of Breq, an artificial intelligence trapped in the body of one of her former human slaves.

The Peripheral, by William Gibson
The author of Neuromancer, in which he coined the word “cyberspace” and envisioned the global entity we now call the internet, has written his first far-future novel since the publication of Mona Lisa Overdrive in 1988. There’s no telling if this story of a former marine caught up in a murder plot in worlds both real and virtual will be regard as prescient one day, but it’s a heck of a good story either way.

The Girl With All the Gifts, by M.R. Carey
Even if you think you’ve had your fill of undead horror after World War Z and The Walking Dead, you owe it to yourself to pick up this chilling post-apoctalyptic novel, which somehow manages to both uphold and subvert every zombie trope in the book and rip your heart out (um, metaphorically) in the process.

The Martian, by Andy Weir
If watching Sandra Bullock figure out how to survive in the cold vacuum of space got your heart pounding, you’ll want to make sure you’re sitting down before you start in on this survival story about an astronaut stranded and left for dead on the barren surface of Mars. Read it now, before Ridley Scott’s film adaptation is released next fall.

Red Rising, by Pierce Brown
The start of a gripping new trilogy (book two, Golden Son, comes out in January), Red Rising is a dystopian thriller than blends the propulsive plotting of The Hunger Games with expansive sci-fi elements including genetic engineering and terraforming.

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