Emily Dickinson had it wrong: There is no star cruiser like a book. When you want to journey past the furthermost limits of your own imagination, you turn to books. And August's new book releases are just packed with brilliant new ideas and thrilling stories, from some of the world's best writers.
Here's every book that will be making your brain a cooler place in August.
A Guile of Dragons by James Enge (Pyr Books)
We featured a great quote from Enge the other day, and The Magicians author Lev Grossman says this is the author he could read forever. This is the first book in a new series, A Tournament of Shadows, so this is a great jumping-on point — and it tells the origin of Enge's long-running character Morlock Ambrosius. The dragon-dwarf war is ancient history — but now the dragons have returned, and they've got some seriously scary helpers: the Dead Kings of Cor and the Masked Gods of Fate and Chaos.
At the Mouth of the River of Bees: Stories by Kij Johnson (Small Beer Press)
If you haven't already gotten turned on to the writing of Kij Johnson, then this is a great place to start. This book includes the award-winning stories "Spar," "Fox Magic," and "26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss." There's also her widely acclaimed recent novella, "The Woman Who Bridged The Mist." You can read several of the gorgeous, melancholy stories in this book — or listen to them as podcasts — over at Small Beer Press.
Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines (Daw)
Expect our review of this book on Monday or Tuesday — but for now, let's just say that this is a super fun, goofy fantasy novel about a magician who can pull any object out of any book — as long as it's small enough. That includes rayguns and all sorts of other demented gadgets. And he fights a conspiracy of vampires who are all straight out of Stephenie Meyer, Anne Rice and other books. It's meta, in a hilariously weird way.
Breakdown by Katherine Amt Hanna (47North)
This book actually came out last year, as a self-published edition — but now Amazon's in-house publishing company, 47North, is putting out a fancy new edition. Judging from the rapturous reader reviews on the Amazon page, this is another self-published book that's gotten a ginormous following — and by all accounts, this is a gripping post-apocalyptic story which people are comparing to the work of Margaret Atwood. A rock star named Chris Price leaves New York to go back to England after a pandemic has decimated the human race, and his journey leaves him scarred "in body and mind."
Bullettime by Nick Mamatas (ChiZine Publications)
Mamatas' name has become synonymous with jarring, strange stories — his two previous novels were the Lovecraft-meets-Kerouac Move Under Ground and strange domestic terrorism epic Under My Roof. But this might be his strangest novel yet — it's about a man named David Holbrook who's caught between three very different versions of his life, with his finger on the trigger and his only guidance coming from "the dark wisdom found in a bottle of cough syrup." This is likely to be one of those books that leaves strange afterimages in your mind.
Angel And You Dogs: Stories by Kathleen Ann Goonan (PS Publishing)
Goonan is the acclaimed author of Queen City Jazz and In War Times — and now you can delve into her short fiction. Find out why her reality-warping, literary storytelling has been compared to Philip K. Dick and Thomas Pynchon.
Crackpot Palace: Stories by Jeffrey Ford (William Morrow)
Speaking of great short story collections... award-winning Jeffrey Ford has a way of bringing genre tropes to a new life and revitalizing places you might have seen before. In this collection, he tells what really happened on the island of Dr. Moreau and gives a new, weird slant on vampire mythos. Ford is widely praised for his dreamlike, magical realist writing, and these stories are a great chance to find out why so many people love his work.
Fate of Worlds: Return from the Ringworld by Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner (Tor Books)
It's been a brand new Known Space book! One featuring Louis Wu and giving more details about the history of the Puppeteers and their impact on human history. Have the fabled race of Puppeteers come to the end of their days? You can read the first chapter of this book here.
Lauriat: A Filipino-Chinese Speculative Fiction Anthology by Charles Tan (Lethe Press)
Charles Tan has been celebrating the best of Philippine science fiction for years now — and this book is the fantastic result. This book explores the intersections of Filipino and Chinese cultures, with stories about "voyeur ghosts, taboo lovers, a town that cannot sleep," and the Chinese zodiac. If you want to venture beyond the usual concerns of European SF and fantasy, this is a must-read book.
Wake (Watersong) by Amanda Hocking (St. Martin's Griffin)
The first book in a new series by the self-publishing sensation, this book follows two sisters, Harper and Gemma. After Gemma falls in with a group of "beautiful, fearless" new kids who just came into town for the summer, she spends the night by the beach — and wakes up with no memory of what's happened. Suddenly, she has new "mythical powers," and she has to choose between staying with her loved ones or venturing into a mysterious new world.
Report from Planet Midnight by Nalo Hopkinson (PM Press)
PM Press has been doing these "Outspoken Authors" books for a while now, and they're always a great look into the politics and social ideas of some of your favorite writers. This time around, Hopkinson is looking at race and racism in literature, through the lens of speculative fiction. In the title story, "at the International Association of the Fantastic in the Arts, an alien addresses the crowd, evaluating Earth's 'strange' customs, including the marginalization of works by nonwhite and female writers." Also, there's a story called "Message in a Bottle" that's a "radical new twist on a time travel story," and "Shift," an erotic adventure about Caliban. Also, Terry Bisson interviews Hopkinson. If you care about race and feminism in your speculative fiction, this book is an essential read.
The First Last Unicorn and Other Beginnings by Peter S. Beagle (Tachyon Publications)
Peter S. Beagle is a treasure of fantasy literature, and this book should provide amazing new insights to everybody who loves his work. There's a "novella-length adventure of the last unicorn," where she teams up with a "duo of ambivalent demons" to look for her lost brethren. There are new chapters from his classic novel A Fine and Private Place, and sections of his unpublished novel Mirror Kingdoms. Plus correspondence, commentary and interviews, all of them adding to your appreciation of the master.
Seven Wonders by Adam Christopher (Angry Robot)
Given how great some of the superhero-themed novels of the past decade or two have been, it's sort of amazing there haven't been more novels in this genre. But on the plus side, when new books do come out of the superhero genre, they seem to have a fresh spin on it. In this book from the author of Empire State, a man named Tony gets superpowers and decides to take down the longstanding supervillain The Cowl — only to find out the local superhero team isn't as grateful as he thought they'd be. Early reviews have praised this book for its complex characters and clever approach to superhero tropes.
The Iron Wyrm Affair (Bannon and Clare) by Lilith Saintcrow (Orbit)
Steampunk, on the other hand, has generated plenty of books of late. And yet this, the first book in a series, sounds more fun than your average "corsets and cogs" book. The main character is Emma Bannon, "forensic sorceress in the service of the Empire." She's assigned to protect a "mentath" named Archibald, who sounds vaguely Sherlock Holmesian, and they do not get along at all. It's a weird version of the Industrial Revolution where magic has turned everything sideways — and you still can't get a hansom cab to save your life. Sound fun yet?
Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig (Angry Robot)
This is the second novel about Miriam Black, the woman who "knows when you'll die." (We reviewed the first one here.) This time, she's trying to settle down with a guy named Louis, living in a double-wide trailer while Louis is on the road. Until one bad day screws everything up again.
Devil Said Bang: A Sandman Slim Novel by Richard Kadrey (Harper Voyager)
Spoiler alert: Stark, aka Sandman Slim, has become the new ruler of Hell, in the absence of Lucifer. And not surprisingly, being the new Lucifer is a pain in the ass. Everybody wants to take him down so they can capture his throne. And meanwhile, back in L.A., a serial killer ghost is threatening to unravel reality. Worst of all, Stark is starting to care about people again, the last thing he ever wanted to do.
Precinct 13 by Tate Hallaway (Berkley)
This is the first novel in a new series by Hallaway, who also wrote a number of books under the name Lyda Morehouse. This time around, she's writing about Alex, a new medical examiner who discovers she can talk to the dead — but no traveling back in time one day, like in Tru Calling. She joins Precinct 13, a group of other "paranormals" who investigate crimes the regular police can't handle — like the corpse that goes missing on Alex's very first day on the job.
Kingmaker, Kingbreaker: The Omnibus Edition by Karen Miller (Orbit)
Miller, an Australian fantasy writer, hasn't quite gotten her due in the United States — but maybe this collected edition of the two novels in the Kingmaker, Kingbreaker series will start to change that. They're the story of a young fisherman named Asher, who has grand dreams that call him to the big city of Dorana — home of the warrior mages that have protected the kingdom for generations. But is he prepared to save the kingdom from the evil mage Morg... and face what comes afterwards? Nobody writes cracking great adventure fantasy like Miller — and she always manages to include a lot of moral ambiguity and tough questions, just when you least expect it.
The Unincorporated Future by Dani Kollin & Eytan Kollin (Tor Books)
It's the fourth book in the acclaimed Unincorporated series by the Kollin brothers. And this time, the Outer Alliance is facing a challenge that may force it to compromise all the principles that the revolution was founded. The Alliance's President, Sandra O'Toole, has been brought back from the dead and is determined to protect the Alliance at any cost.
The Shimmers in the Night (Dissenters) by Lydia Millet (Big Mouth House)
This is the second book in a new children's series by the award-winning author of literary novels like My Happy Life and Oh Pure and Radiant Heart. In the Dissenters series, Millet follows Cara and her family of geniuses in Cape Cod — and in the second book, we discover that Cara's missing mother belongs to an organization that wants to remake the world in its own image, eliminating all other life, human or otherwise.
Dark Eden by Chris Beckett (Corvus)
When this work of "theological science fiction" came out in England earlier this year, it spawned rave reviews. Eden is a planet where two humans were stranded six generations earlier, and now their incestuous children have spawned a huge family, full of genetic disorders and mental defects — awaiting the long delayed return of the "Landing Veekle." It sounds dark and weird and confounding, and well worth checking out.
The Unnaturalists by Tiffany Trent (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers)
We heard Trent read from this novel at Wiscon, and it was great fun. This is another alternate Victorian novel, and its title suggests, it's playing with the Victorians' real-life "Naturalists." Vespa Nyx works in her father's museum, cataloguing and studying the strange supernatural creatures from all over the world — but she's under pressure to find a husband and become a lady. And meanwhile, Syrus Reed's family of Tinkers who have served the Nyx family and their museum are captured and forced into slavery in a refinery. Syrus and Vespa must team up to save New London, and maybe the world, from a terrible new threat. It looks to be a jolly good read.
Sources: Locus, Amazon.com, Tor.com, and above all SFSignal's incredibly comprehensive cover gallery.