The SF/fantasy/horror category, already a chimera, is budding new subcategories right and left. Many authors and publishers have given up on categorization altogether. Words like "amalgamation" and "blending" and "cross-genre" appear in our reviews with increasing frequency, and readers are eagerly gobbling up these unclassifiable books.
It's not quite a truism that experimental writers are good writers—as in science, some experiments go boom or simply fizzle out—but many of our top picks for the fall and winter are decidedly idiosyncratic. Christine Cody's Bloodlands, inexplicably promoted as a paranormal romance, is a postapocalyptic supernatural western that deftly subverts all three genres. Christopher Buehlman's debut, Those Across the River, is a period piece married to a Southern gothic horror novel. T.C. McCarthy's Germline takes apart the contemporary military romance and the near-future battlefield thriller and reassembles them into a gender-swapped tale of genetic manipulation, love, and war. It's impossible to identify a target audience for any of the three, but adventurous readers will love them all.
Short stories offer plenty of opportunities for genre alchemy. Jack Dann and Nick Gevers solicited stories of steampunk, suspense, and the supernatural for Ghosts by Gaslight, correctly noting that mysteries and hauntings are even more authentically Victorian than airships and clockwork. Christopher Golden's anthology The Monster's Corner is something like a method acting class for fantasy authors, encouraging them to get inside the heads of their inhuman characters; the result is a merging of the monster story with memoir, meditation, polemic, and other heartfelt expressions of self. Tim Powers will be releasing his first collection in six years, The Bible Repairman and Other Stories; like his novels, his short works draw inspiration from a wide variety of historical, religious, and fantastical notions and events.
Works that upend genre expectations often incorporate elements of dark fantasy and horror. This admixture is not so much a dilution of the horror genre as a gateway drug. Readers who want to try the harder stuff may turn to John Ajvide Lindqvist's Harbor, a hefty stand-alone novel that begins with psychological horror and gradually incorporates the supernatural—another blurring, but a more familiar one.
For readers who eschew unease and want solid ground underfoot before they stick their heads up into the clouds, the fall and winter will see a fine crop of high-quality sequels to established series. Chris Moriarty's Ghost Spin follows 2003's Spin State and 2006's Spin Control, sending interstellar colonies into chaos when teleportation networks begin to fail. Even longer-awaited is Vernor Vinge's The Children of the Sky, the sequel to his 1993 opus A Fire upon the Deep, which describes the aftermath of the disasters in Fire while exploring the world of the dog-like, hive-minded Tines. Readers who don't like decadeslong gaps in their series will be thrilled to see N.K. Jemisin's The Kingdom of Gods released just a year after her widely praised The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and The Broken Kingdoms, completing the epic-feeling fantasy trilogy with a cataclysmic battle between mortals and gods. Perhaps there's not so much stability and solidity to be found there after all, but is that such a bad thing? This season will be a great reminder that shaking up the status quo is what the speculative genres do best.
PW's Top 10 SF, Fantasy, & Horror
Christine Cody. Ace, Aug.
Those Across the River
Christopher Buehlman. Ace, Sept.
T.C. McCarthy. Orbit, Aug.
Ghosts by Gaslight: Stories of Steampunk and Supernatural Suspense
Edited by Jack Dann and Nick Gevers. HarperVoyager, Sept.
The Monster's Corner:
Stories Through Inhuman Eyes
Edited by Christopher Golden. St. Martin's Griffin, Sept.
The Bible Repairman and Other Stories
Tim Powers. Tachyon, Sept.
John Ajvide Lindqvist, trans. from the Swedish by Marlaine Delargy. Thomas Dunne, Oct.
Chris Moriarty. Spectra, Jan.
The Children of the Sky
Vernor Vinge. Tor, Oct.
The Kingdom of Gods
N.K. Jemisin. Orbit, Nov.
Frail by Joan Frances Turner (Oct., hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-0-441-02070-6). Being human is a disadvantage in this tale of postapocalyptic America.
Bloodlands by Christine Cody (Aug., paper, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-441-02062-1). Cody breaks all the rules in this genre-bending postapocalyptic paranormal western.
Down These Strange Streets, edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (Oct., hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0-441-02074-4). All-new tales of death and magic in city settings by some of the biggest names in urban fantasy.
Sins of the Angels by Linda Poitevin (Sept., paper, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-441-02091-1). Homicide detective Alexandra Jarvis answers to no one. Aramael is a Power—a hunter of fallen angels. Faced with a fallen angel hell-bent on triggering the apocalypse, Alex and Aramael must join forces and stop the end of days.
Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence (Aug., hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-0-441-02032-4). Lawrence debuts with a morbidly gripping, gritty fantasy tale.
Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlman (Sept., hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-0-441-02067-6). This remarkable debut, equal parts historical fiction, horror story, and fantasy novel, is set in the post–Depression-era South.
Back to the Moon by Travis S. Taylor and Les Johnson (Dec., paper, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4516-3773-1). While NASA stages a 50th anniversary return to the Moon, a gritty private company puts together its own Moon shot.
Carnelians by Catherine Asaro (Oct., hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1-4516-3748-9). Two emperors navigate an uneasy peace, while a powerful trader guild does everything in its power to bring on war.
Invasion: Book One of the Secret World Chronicle by Mercedes Lackey, with Steve Libby, Cody Martin, and Dennis Lee (Dec., paper, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4516-3772-4). It's good to be meta-human, a superhuman hero in a world of normals—until robotic warriors from an alternate and incredibly advanced Third Reich break through and force the meta-humans to actually use their powers for good.
The Diviner by Melanie Rawn (Aug., hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-0-7564-0681-3). Bestselling author Rawn returns with this Arabic-inflected high fantasy.
Darkness Unbound: A Dark Angels Novel by Keri Arthur (Sept., paper, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-440-24572-8). Arthur spins a new paranormal series off her Riley Jenson Guardian books.
Ghost Music by Graham Masterton (Nov., paper, $14, ISBN 978-1-4285-1222-1). When Gideon, a successful composer, traveled to Europe with Kate for a romantic affair, he was expecting passion and excitement, not a journey into a nightmare.
The Bloodlight Chronicles: Retribution by Steve Stanton (Oct., paper, $14.95, ISBN 978-1-55022-989-9). A family seeks solace and revenge after the death of its matriarch.
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Eldritch Tales: A Miscellany of the Macabre by H.P. Lovecraft, illus. by Les Edwards, afterword by Stephen Jones (Oct., hardcover, $34.95, ISBN 978-0-575-09935-7). This companion volume to Necronomicon brings together Lovecraft's remaining major stories plus his weird poetry, a number of obscure revisions, and some notable nonfiction.
Ghosts by Gaslight: Stories of Steampunk and Supernatural Suspense, edited by Jack Dann and Nick Gevers (Sept., paper, $14.99, ISBN 978-0-06-199971-0) showcases a collection of new stories by modern masters of horror and the supernatural.
The Rook: A Novel by Daniel O'Malley (Jan., hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-316-09879-3). "The body you are wearing used to be mine." So begins the letter Myfanwy Thomas is holding when she awakes in a London park surrounded by dead bodies all wearing latex gloves. Myfanwy must follow the instructions her former self left behind to discover her identity.
Blood Bound by Rachel Vincent (Aug., paper, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-7783-1255-0). Liv Warren is special: a paranormal tracker who follows the scent of blood. Liv makes her own rules, and the most important one is "trust no one."
Germline by T.C. McCarthy (Aug., paper, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-316-12818-6). In this compelling novel of near-future war, a cynical journalist falls in love with a supersoldier whose genetically engineered body will begin to fail shortly after her 18th birthday.
Blood Rights by Kristen Painter (Oct., paper, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-316-08477-2). Born into a life of secrets and service, Chrysabelle's body bears the telltale marks of a comarré—a special race of humans bred to feed vampire nobility. When her patron is murdered, she becomes the prime suspect, which sends her running into the mortal world.
The Kingdom of Gods by N.K. Jemisin (Nov., paper, $13.99, ISBN 978-0-316-04393-9). Jemisin concludes her widely heralded Inheritance Trilogy with a tale of ambition, vengeance, and destruction.
Day by Day Armageddon Omnibus by J.L. Bourne (Sept., paper, $18, ISBN 978-1-4516-3303-0). Armies of undead have risen up across the U.S. and around the globe; there is no haven. In the heat of a Texas wasteland, a small band of survivors attempt to counter the millions closing in around them.
The Restoration Game by Ken MacLeod (Sept., paper, $16, ISBN 978-1-61614-525-5). Revolution is brewing in a tiny region of the former U.S.S.R., and organizers decide there's no safer place to meet than in an online game designed by Lucy Stone—who then must fight through a maze of political and family manipulation to take control of her own life.
Boneyards by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Jan., paper, $16, ISBN 978-1-61614-543-9). Multiple Hugo Award–winner Rusch places her popular character, Boss, in an adventure in a sector of space she's never seen before.
Blackdog by K.V. Johansen (Sept., paper, $17, ISBN 978-1-61614-521-7). Escaping a bloody conflict, the caravan guard Holla-Sayan stops to help an abandoned child and a dying dog—but the girl is the incarnation of a goddess, and the dog her guardian spirit.
Mirror Maze by Michaele Jordan (Oct., paper, $16, ISBN 978-1-61614-529-3). In this erotic and chilling Victorian ghost story, a man becomes obsessed with his dead wife's doppelgänger.
Bedbugs by Ben H. Winters (Sept., paper, $14.95, ISBN 978-1-59474-523-2). Alex and Susan Wendt are the perfect couple in search of the perfect brownstone, and they find their dream house in the heart of Brooklyn Heights. The only problem is a minor infestation—of supernatural origin.
I, Robot: To Protect by Mary Zucker Reichert (Nov., hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-0-451-46419-4). First in a new trilogy inspired by Isaac Asimov's legendary science fiction collection I, Robot.
Stone Spring: The Northland Trilogy by Stephen Baxter (Nov., hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-0-451-46418-7). Alternate history at its most mind-blowing—from the national bestselling author of Flood and Ark.
Dead Mann Walking: A Hessius Mann Novel by Stefan Petrucha (Oct., paper, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-451-46421-7) is the first in a new series.
Working Stiff: A Revivalist Novel by Rachel Caine (Aug., paper, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-451-46413-2) is a new zombie series from the New York Times bestselling author of the Weather Warden novels.
Petrified by Graham Masterton (Nov., hardcover, $28.95, ISBN 978-0-7278-8072-7). Braydon Harris is convinced God has it in for him. Although Suki, his little girl, seemed thrilled to be kidnapped from her mom's parents' house, an electric storm has hit, and it looks like the Lord isn't going to make it easy for Braydon to get away with his crime.
Genie Knows Best by Judi Fennell (Nov., $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4022-4190-1). In a world where genies grant three wishes, each one is bound to come with complications. An impulse buy in a bazaar turns recently jilted Samantha Blaine into the master of cursed genie Kal. Before he can say, "Yes, Master," Kal falls for the woman standing between him and freedom.
Mr. Darcy's Bite by Mary Lydon Simonsen (Oct., $14.99, ISBN 978-1-4022-5077-4). In the tradition of Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange (35,000 copies sold) this fresh, original paranormal Jane Austen sequel by bestselling author Simonson recreates Mr. Darcy as the leader of a secret world of werewolves threatened with extinction.
Ghost Spin by Chris Moriarty (Jan., paper, $15, ISBN 978-0-553-38494-9). Sometimes a ghost of a chance is all you get. Award-winning author Moriarty returns to a dazzling cyber-noir far future in this gritty, high-stakes thriller where the only rule is "Evolve or die."
The Traitor's Daughter by Paula Brandon (Oct., paper, $15, ISBN 978-0-553-58380-9). Brandon debuts a fantasy trilogy in which a young noblewoman is tested to the limits of her resourcefulness and courage.
St. Martin's Griffin
Dead of Night: A Zombie Novel by Jonathan Maberry (Oct., paper, $14.99, ISBN 978-0-312-55219-0). Bestseller Maberry spins an original tale of zombie Armageddon in which a group with few skills must battle evil forces controlled by a hidden intelligence.
The Monster's Corner: Stories Through Inhuman Eyes, edited by Christopher Golden (Sept., paper, $14.99, ISBN 978-0-312-64613-4). An all original anthology from some of today's hottest supernatural writers, featuring stories of monsters from the monster's point of view.
Kafkaesque: Stories Inspired by Franz Kafka, edited by John Kessel and James Patrick Kelly (Nov., paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-1-61696-049-0) is an anthology inspired by the life and works of Franz Kafka.
The Bible Repairman and Other Stories by Tim Powers (Sept., paper, $14.95, ISBN 978-1-61696-047-6). Imaginative yarns woven into historical contexts by the author of On Stranger Tides.
The Urban Fantasy Anthology, edited by Peter S. Beagle and Joe R. Lansdale (Aug., paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-1-61696-018-6). Contributors include Patricia Briggs, Neil Gaiman, Emma Bull, Charles de Lint, Peter S. Beagle, Carrie Vaughn, Holly Black, and Tim Powers.
St. Martin's/Thomas Dunne Books
Harbor by John Ajvide Lindqvist, trans. from the Swedish by Marlaine Delargy (Oct., hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-312-68027-5). Lindqvist (Let Me In) turns in a gripping stand-alone horror tale.
Vacation by Matthew J. Costello (Sept., hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-0-312-68007-7). Jack Murphy and his family need a vacation, but this one might just kill them.
All Men of Genius by Lev AC Rosen (Sept., hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-2794-9) is a steampunk retelling of Twelfth Night and The Importance of Being Earnest.
The Children of the Sky by Vernor Vinge (Oct., hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-312-87562-6). The long-awaited direct sequel to the Hugo Award–winning bestseller A Fire upon the Deep.
The Thirteen Hallows by Michael Scott and Colette Freedman (Dec., hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-2852-6). Bestseller Scott (The Alchemyst) and Freedman launch a new series. 100,000 first printing.
Awakenings by Edward Lazellari (Aug., hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-2787-1). Otherworldly magic collides with modern times, and the fate of two worlds hangs in the balance.