The spring is a time for new growth, which may explain why the spring SF/fantasy/horror list is packed full of debuts, series launches, and wild experiments.
The genre publishing world is still dominated by U.S. and U.K. houses, but those publishers are increasingly looking for books with an international flavor, and authors of diverse backgrounds are more than happy to provide them. N.K. Jemisin, fresh from the success of her first epic fantasy trilogy, is launching a new one with The Killing Moon (Orbit), set in a land loosely based on ancient Egypt. Saladin Ahmed debuts with Throne of the Crescent Moon (DAW), a distinctly Arab fantasy that’s already garnering wide acclaim. And Grace L. Dillon has collected a tremendous variety of indigenous science fiction from around the world in the extraordinary anthology Walking the Clouds (Univ. of Arizona).
Urban fantasy and alternate history are still in the ascendant, and authors are finding new ways to infuse the familiar with the fantastic. Robert Jackson Bennett reimagines turn-of-the-century America with The Troupe (Orbit), in which vaudeville performers sing to save the universe. Caitlín R. Kiernan’s stunning The Drowning Girl (Roc) blurs the already faded line between hallucination and true supernatural experiences as a schizophrenic woman becomes obsessed with someone who shouldn’t—and maybe doesn’t—exist. Benedict Jacka’s debut urban fantasy, Fated (Ace), turns London into the battleground for a war between Light and Dark—except that both sides are equally myopic and self-absorbed, and the most ethical course Jacka’s hero can find is staying out of it altogether. In Suzanne Johnson’s powerful first novel, Royal Street (Tor), Hurricane Katrina destroys not only the levees of New Orleans but also the boundaries between our world and the Otherworld, leaving the beleaguered city’s residents fighting both nature and the unnatural.
True horror remains rare, but horror elements, most notably those having to do with physical form and its mutability, are making increasingly frequent appearances in other genres. Ted Kosmatka’s gripping and terrifying The Games (Del Rey) marries horror to SF as an insane artificial intelligence is allowed to build a new life form from the ground up, with monstrous results. T.C. McCarthy’s Exogene (Orbit) also examines the nature of humanity with the heart-pounding story of a genetically engineered supersoldier who escapes the army even as her body begins to fall apart. Sharon Shinn combines a love story with serial killer suspense in The Shape of Desire (Ace), in which a woman wonders whether to protect her shape-shifting lover despite believing him to be the culprit in a recent series of murders.
It’s refreshing to see so many publishers taking chances despite a constrained economic climate that could easily lead to conservatism. The speculative genres are devoted to change, and fans of SF, fantasy, and horror are eager to see where these groundbreaking authors will lead us.
PW’s Top 10: SF/Fantasy/Horror
The Killing Moon
N.K. Jemisin. Orbit, May.
Throne of the Crescent Moon
Saladin Ahmed. DAW, Feb.
Walking the Clouds
Edited by Grace L. Dillon. Univ. of Arizona, Mar.
Robert Jackson Bennett. Orbit, Feb.
The Drowning Girl
Caitlín R. Kiernan. Roc, Mar.
Benedict Jacka. Ace, Mar.
Suzanne Johnson. Tor, Apr.
Ted Kosmatka. Del Rey, Mar.
T.C. McCarthy. Orbit, Mar.
The Shape of Desire
Sharon Shinn. Ace, Apr.
Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Listings
Fated by Benedict Jacka (Feb., mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-937007-29-4). Jacka’s extremely promising urban fantasy series starter introduces cheeky British diviner Alex Verus, who’s caught in the middle of a conflict between Light and Dark mages over an ancient magical weapon.
Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris (May 1, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-1-937007-44-7). Harris’s penultimate Sookie Stackhouse novel begins to resolve some longstanding questions as the series nears its conclusion.
Fair Game by Patricia Briggs (Mar., hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0-441-02003-4). Bestseller Briggs’s Alpha and Omega series goes into hardcover with this serial killer mystery where all the victims are werewolves.
The Shape of Desire by Sharon Shinn (Apr., hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-1-937007-17-1). Loving a shape-shifter requires a life full of lies in this touching domestic fantasy, which quietly builds the question of whether the true monsters are those who change shape or humans with the capacity to hurt those they love.
Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig (Apr., mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-85766-230-9). In this bracing urban fantasy thriller set in the rust belt, a woman touches people and learns when they will die. Then she sees a death she must try to prevent—even though she knows she’ll fail.
The Alchemist of Souls: Night’s Masque, Vol. 1 by Anne Lyle (Mar., mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-85766-214-9). An alternate history in which magic and godlings are introduced to England from the New World. The faerie-like skraylings seem to be friendly—but appearances can be deceptive.
Elfhome by Wen Spencer (July, hardcover, $24, ISBN 978-1-4516-3783-0). In Spencer’s third novel of Elfhome, in which the gritty streets of Pittsburgh have been transplanted to a magical forest where elves and humans battle the evil oni, elf princess Tinker tries to improve the city while rescuing kidnapped children.
1636: The Kremlin Games by Eric Flint, Gorg Huff, and Paula Goodlett (June, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1-4516-3776-2). Flint’s popular alternate history series continues with the story of an auto mechanic who’s hired to modernize medieval Russia.
A Rising Thunder by David Weber (Mar., hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1-4516-3806-6). Bestseller Weber continues his long-running and much-loved Honor Harrington space opera series with an alien plot to enslave all of humankind.
The Road of Danger by David Drake (Mar., hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1-4516-3515-8). Daniel Leary, now a captain, is sent to stop a war masterminded by a turncoat intelligence officer in Drake’s latest space adventure. 45,000-copy announced first printing.
Jane Vows Vengeance by Michael Thomas Ford (Feb., trade paper, $15, ISBN 978-0-345-51367-0). Ford has another winner with the third novel featuring undead Jane Austen’s adventures in the modern world. This time she’s off to get married—except that she already got married, centuries ago, and her first husband is still around.
Sky Dragons by Anne McCaffrey and Todd J. McCaffrey (June, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0-345-50091-5). The late Anne McCaffrey’s final collaboration with her son returns to the world of Pern, which has been entertaining fantasy fans for decades.
The Games by Ted Kosmatka (Mar., hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0-345-52661-8). Kosmatka’s powerhouse debut, which explores the horrors of genetic engineering directed by an insane artificial intelligence, recalls the best of Crichton and Koontz.
Crucible of Gold by Naomi Novik (Mar., hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0-345-52286-3). In a delightful return to form, British aviator William Laurence and his dragon companion, Temeraire, are recalled from Australian exile for their seventh alternate history adventure.
Echoes of Betrayal: Paladin’s Legacy by Elizabeth Moon (Feb., hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0-345-50876-8). Moon piles on crisis after crisis, and the intriguing characters of her epic fantasy world must frantically build strength and courage to survive.
Kiss the Dead by Laurell K. Hamilton (June, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0-425-24754-9). Hamilton’s 21st Anita Blake urban fantasy sends the superpowered U.S. marshal to save a kidnapped child from vampires.
Candlemark & Gleam
Constellation Games by Leonard Richardson (Apr., trade paper, $19.95, ISBN 978-1-936460-23-6). A layabout gets to know aliens by playing their video games and unexpectedly uncovers a sinister plot in this inventive debut.
Green Light Delivery by Anne Johnson (June, trade paper, $19.95, ISBN 978-1-936460-28-1). Johnson blends noir with classic sci-fi in this story of a delivery man hired by an anonymous client to deliver mysterious cargo.
Matchbox Girls by Chrysoula Tzavelas (Feb., trade paper, $19.95, ISBN 978-1-936460-20-5). Won’t someone think of the children? In Tzavelas’s debut, they’re being used as pawns in a battle between unearthly forces, and only one human woman can save them.
Discount Armageddon: An InCryptid Novel by Seanan McGuire (Mar., mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-7564-0713-1). McGuire launches a new urban fantasy series in which human cryptozoologists attempt to study and protect semimythical creatures.
Home from the Sea: An Elemental Masters Novel by Mercedes Lackey (June, hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-0-7564-0727-8). Lackey continues the Elemental Masters series, set in a magic-infused Edwardian England, with this homage to Tam Lin and East of the Sun and West of the Moon.
Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed (Feb., hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-0-7564-0711-7). Ahmed’s Arab-influenced fantasy debut is full of vibrant description, characters, and religious expressions that will delight readers weary of pseudo-European epics.
Thirteen by Kelley Armstrong (July, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0-525-95283-1). Armstrong’s 13th Otherworld novel wraps up the bestselling urban fantasy series.
Chasing Cold by Stephen Graham King (Mar., trade paper, $16, ISBN 978-0-9839531-7-3). King’s far-future debut explores a man’s reasons for leaving his home and what he finds when he ventures into the unknown.
Pirates of Mars by Chris Gerrib (Feb., trade paper, $16, ISBN 978-0-9839531-3-5). Gerrib’s first novel is a pulp-style Mars adventure.
Raven Calls by C.E. Murphy (Feb., trade paper, $14.95, ISBN 978-0-373-80343-9). Shaman Joanne Walker leaves Seattle for Ireland and trades in romantic interest Mike Morrison and Seattle’s cityscape for her old pal Gary Muldoon and encounters with the Morrígan and wild banshees, in Murphy’s latest Walker Files adventure.
A Crown Imperiled: Book Two of the Chaoswar Saga by Raymond E. Feist (Mar., hardcover, $27.99, ISBN 978-0-06-146841-4). Feist’s second Chaoswar fantasy adventure continues the massive Riftwar cycle as the planet of Midkemia once more comes under attack.
A Perfect Blood by Kim Harrison (Feb., hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-0-06-195789-5). In Harrison’s 10th Hollows novel, Rachel Morgan’s pursuit of the Humans Against Paranormals Association, a domestic terrorist organization, plays out against a larger structure of warring power groups of demons, elves, vampires, and werewolves.
The Diamond Lens and Other Stories by Fitz-James O’Brien (July, trade paper, $14.95, ISBN 978-1-84391-358-0). This collection of the strange and often surreal stories penned by O’Brien (1828–1862) will introduce today’s readers to one of the forerunners of modern fantastical literature.
Hodder & Stoughton
Land of Hope and Glory by Geoffrey Wilson (May, trade paper, $12.95, ISBN 978-1-4447-2112-6). In Wilson’s alternate history, the Indian Rebellion of 1857 takes place in a very different England where magic rules and the only hope for the future lies in the story of King Arthur.
The Soul Consortium by Simon West-Bulford (July, trade paper, $14.95, ISBN 978-1-60542-393-7). The last man in the universe relives the stored lives of others, trying to understand why errors have appeared in the uploads.
2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson (May, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-316-09812-0). Robinson’s hefty stand-alone imagines a scientifically plausible and awe-inspiring vision of our solar system in 300 years, when scientific and technological advances have opened gateways to an extraordinary future.
Blackout by Mira Grant (June, mass market, $9.99, ISBN 978-0-316-08107-8). Grant (Seanan McGuire) concludes the Newsflesh horror/SF series as the survivors of the zombie Rising discover the true extent of a political conspiracy.
Caliban’s War by James S.A. Corey (June, trade paper, $15.99, ISBN 978-0-316-12906-0). Corey (Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) follows Leviathan Wakes with another epic space adventure, in which a creature of unknown origin and impossible physiology attacks soldiers on Ganymede, shattering the fragile balance of power in the Solar System.
Exogene by T.C. McCarthy (Mar., mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-316-12815-5). McCarthy’s second Subterrene War military adventure features a genetically enhanced soldier who tries to escape the military even as her body begins its programmed destruction.
The Fourth Wall by Walter Jon Williams (Feb., trade paper, $13.99, ISBN 978-0-316-13339-5). Williams turns in a sedate and sinister near-future mystery to follow thrillers This Is Not a Game and Deep State.
Sharps by K.J. Parker (July, trade paper, $15.99, ISBN 978-0-316-17775-7). In Parker’s new epic fantasy, two teams of fencers represent warring nations as an uneasy truce is declared.
The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin (May, trade paper, $14.99, ISBN 978-0-316-18728-2). Jemisin’s series launch follows assassin priests, mad kings, and the goddess of death in the city-state of Gujaareh, where peace is the only law.
The King’s Blood by Daniel Abraham (May, trade paper, $15.99, ISBN 978-0-316-08077-4). An act of betrayal triggers war in Abraham’s second the Dagger and the Coin epic fantasy installment.
The Kingdoms of Dust by Amanda Downum (Mar., mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-316-06898-7). Leavening fast-paced fantasy adventure with the anger and despair of those bound to preserve humanity’s safety, Downum creates a magnificent and multifaceted new adventure set against a richly detailed quasi-Arabian background.
The Minority Council by Kate Griffin (May, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-316-18725-1). In Griffin’s latest urban fantasy, Matthew Swift, sorcerer and Midnight Mayor, tries to solve the magical crime wave that’s sweeping London.
The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett (Feb., trade paper, $13.99, ISBN 978-0-316-18752-7). Bennett (The Company Man) melds an energetic reimagining of medieval myth with an engrossing backdrop of impresarios, puppeteers, and amazing feats of strength in this tale of turn-of-the-century vaudevillians.
Timeless by Gail Carriger (Mar., mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-316-12718-9). Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series concludes with this fifth installment (after Heartless), in which steampunk inventions take a back seat to the witty and affectionate depictions of the characters and their relationships.
Report from Planet Midnight by Nalo Hopkinson (May, trade paper, $12, ISBN 978-1-60486-497-7). A lecture, a short story, and an interview show different facets of Hopkinson’s continued efforts to promote the work of minorities and uncover sexism and racism in literature.
The Devoured Earth by Sean Williams (July, e-book, $11.99, ISBN 978-1-61614-627-6). Williams concludes the Books of the Cataclysm series as ancient forces struggle for ascendancy.
The Night Sessions by Ken MacLeod (Apr., trade paper, $17.95, ISBN 978-1-61614-613-9). In this science fiction mystery, religious believers have become a marginal minority. When a bishop’s murder is the first of many killings, Adam Ferguson suspects atheist extremists, but the truth is far worse.
The Drowning Girl by Caitlín R. Kiernan (Mar., trade paper, $16, ISBN 978-0-451-46416-3). Kiernan’s finely crafted stand-alone fantasy guides an artistic young woman through a maze of false memories and blurred realities.
The Mammoth Book of Steampunk by Sean Wallace (May, trade paper, $13.95, ISBN 978-0-7624-4468-7). Wallace collects well-known and obscure steampunk stories for this exhaustive anthology.
Fountain of Age: Stories by Nancy Kress (Apr., $16, ISBN 978-1-931520-45-4). This collection includes the Nebula winning title story and the Hugo Award winner “The Erdmann Nexus.”
Unconquered Countries: Four Novellas by Geoff Ryman (June, $16, ISBN 978-1-931520-49-2). Ryman works on a scale as vast as the universe and as intimate as the soul in these four novellas, first published in 1994 and long out-of-print.
Wicked City: A Zephyr Hollis Novel by Alaya Johnson (Mar., hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-312-56548-0). Johnson follows 2010’s Moonshine with another light urban fantasy set in an alternate 1920s New York City, packed with fun little details as well as an intriguing mystery.
Arctic Rising by Tobias S. Buckell (Feb., hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-1921-0). Working from actual U.S. Navy reports, bestseller Buckell produces an intimate techno-thriller about an ecological showdown in an ice-free Arctic.
Earth Unaware by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston (June, hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-2904-2). Card and Johnston collaborate on a prequel to Card’s bestselling Ender series.
Existence by David Brin (May, hardcover, $27.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-0361-5). Brin returns to globe-spanning, high concept SF as aliens send a series of conflicting and worrying messages to Earth.
Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi (May, hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-1699-8). Scalzi riffs off Star Trek’s expendable ensigns with this entertaining tale of what happens when all the extras on the exploring starship start comparing notes.
Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson (Mar., trade paper, $14.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-2779-6). Hurricane Katrina destroyed the borders between New Orleans and the Otherworld, and now the city’s wizards have their hands full in this urban fantasy debut.
Songs of the Earth by Elspeth Cooper (Feb., hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-3165-6). In Cooper’s promising epic fantasy, a magician exiled by his beloved church learns to harness his talents. The story flows effortlessly with strong characterization and authorial voice.
The Scar by Sergey and Marina Dyachenko (Feb., hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-2993-6). An arrogant man is scarred and cursed to roam the world until he repents of the harm he has caused to others in this dramatic epic fantasy.
Univ. of Arizona Press
Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction by Grace L. Dillon (Mar., trade paper, $24.95, ISBN 978-0-8165-2982-7). Dillon highlights long-overlooked authors in this thought-provoking and perspective-twisting anthology, the first of its kind. 1,500-copy announced first printing.
The Future Is Japanese: Stories from and About the Land of the Rising Sun by Viz Media (May, 15, trade paper, $14.99, ISBN 978-1-4215-4223-2). Authors in and familiar with Japan explore the themes of ancient culture, immense social transformation, terrible disasters, and economic booms.