You’d better clear your schedule—because October is just packed with amazing science fiction and fantasy books. Including George R.R. Martin’s tales of Westeros long before Game of Thrones. Plus Ann Leckie, Gene Wolfe, Doctor Who and Brandon Sanderson. And the most delightfully weird fantasy spinoff ever!

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Here are all the science fiction and fantasy books that you can’t afford to miss in October.

Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie (Orbit)

Here it is—the third book in the Imperial Radch trilogy, which began with the awards-sweeping Ancillary Justice. This time Breq is faced with her ultimate enemy, the “possibly insane” ruler Anander Mianaai, and everyone on Athoek Station is in deadly danger. Kirkus says this is a decent conclusion to the saga. Read an excerpt here.

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Doctor Who: City of Death by Douglas Adams and James Goss (BBC)

Douglas Adams wrote or co-wrote three scripts for Doctor Who, and they were never novelized after Adams became a bestselling author in his own right. Now, on the heels of Adams’ Shada becoming an actually quite good book from Gareth Roberts, here’s a novelization of “City of Death,” one of the best Who stories of all time. The Doctor and Romana go on vacation in Paris and make a shocking discovery: the Mona Lisa has no eyebrows.

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Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente (Tor)

Are you ready for “Decopunk”? This book takes place in an alternate universe where everything looks sort of like a Georges Méliès movie, and you can rocket to other planets pretty easily. In 1944, a young heiress goes to Venus and disappears, and it’s left to us to piece together what happened through paparazzi photos and documents. This book got a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly, which says, “This celluloid fairy tale about one woman’s life beyond her father’s legacy and the all-seeing eye of the lens will captivate readers with all the drama and wonder that Valente’s strange and wonderful golden age Hollywood demands.”

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Slade House by David Mitchell (Random House)

Right on the heels of Mitchell’s magnificent The Bone Clocks, here’s another fantastical story—this time, a series of stories, ranging from 1979 to the present, revolve around the mysterious Slade House, occupied by the soul-eating Grayer Twins. Early word is this is “entry level” Mitchell, and not really one of his greatest works. But any Mitchell is probably better than most other books, right?

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An Inheritance of Ashes by Leah Bobet (Clarion Books)

Six months ago, the men all marched south to fight an evil mad god. Now they’re back, and they’re kind of damaged from the war—but the fighting isn’t over, because the mad god is sending its dark servants raining down on the town where the 16-year-old Hallie has inherited half her father’s farm. This YA novel gets a starred review from PW, which calls it a “superb fantasy.”

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The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness (Harper Teen)

Just imagine how annoying it would be to go to the same high school as the chosen warriors against evil. In this book by the author of The Knife of Never Letting Go, Mikey Mitchell just wants to get through high school, but meanwhile the school’s “indie kids” are always fighting off vampires or an alien invasion. It’s annoying, right? Says Kirkus, “Magical pillars of light and zombie deer may occasionally drive the action here, but ultimately this novel celebrates the everyday heroism of teens doing the hard work of growing up.”

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Empire Ascendant by Kameron Hurley (Angry Robot)

Here’s the second book in the Mirror Empire saga—Publisher’s Weekly gave the first book a starred review. A dark star called Oma has appeared in the sky, and it brings a tide of war and destruction. This time around, the nation of Dhai is under siege and only an illegitimate ruler and a scullery maid can save everybody, using magic. Read an excerpt here.

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A Borrowed Man by Gene Wolfe (Tor)

This is such a neat concept—what if there was a library that you could take out people from? One such person is the novelist Ern A. Smith, who gets withdrawn from the library by a woman seeking clues to her brother’s murder. Publisher’s Weekly says this starts out as a science fiction noir tale, but then becomes unsettling and full of disturbing details.

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Silver on the Road (The Devil’s West) by Laura Anne Gilman (Saga Press)

In this “Weird West” tale, Isobel turns 16 and agrees to work for the Devil as his Left Hand West of the Mississippi. But it turns out that being the Devil’s hench-person in the Wild West is just as tough as being a frontier lawman. This is a “staff pick” at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore.

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Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor (HarperCollins)

This beloved podcast is now a book! Pawnshop owner Jackie Fierro and Night Vale PTA treasurer Diane Crayton are both looking for answers... and the truth lies in the mysterious King City. Publisher’s Weekly says, “Though the book meanders a bit in the middle, the end is satisfying, with a surprising origin story for one of the characters.”

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A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston (Disney-Hyperion)

Yep, it’s a retelling of The Arabian Nights, and this young-adult book got a coveted starred review from Kirkus, which called it “[d]etailed and quiet, beautifully written with a literary rhythm that evokes a sense of oral tale-telling.” It turns out that the king, who needs to be distracted by a young girl telling stories, is actually possessed by a demon that needs to be kept at bay.

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Keep Mars Weird (Kindle Serial) by Neal Pollack (47North)

Pollack has written such tongue-in-cheek, self-referential literary hits as Never Mind the Pollacks and The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature. Now he’s writing a Kindle serial—buy the first installment, the others are free—set in a future where Earth has become boring and washed-up and Mars has turned into Austin, TX.


Carry On by Rainbow Rowell (St. Martin’s Griffin)

OK, so this is pretty awesome. Rowell made a big splash with her YA book Fangirl, in which her main character is obsessed with a non-existent fantasy series about a wizard named Simon Snow. Now Rowell has written a spinoff—a fantasy novel about Simon Snow. Which isn’t fanfic, but is a canon book in the Simon Snow universe. As Tor.com explains, it’s “basically Harry Potter, but if Harry and a Draco/Snape hybrid were roommates. And fell in love. Yes.”

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Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits: A Novel by David Wong (Thomas Dunne Books)

The John Dies at the End author is back with an unrelated novel about a cyberpunk theme park where everybody is trying to kill Zoey Ashe for a secret she doesn’t know she has. By all accounts, it’s another over-the-top funny ride full of comic-book action and weird details. And dialogue like “This whole city is a butt that farts horror.”

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An Ancient Peace by Tanya Huff (Daw)

Here’s the first book in a new military SF spinoff series, spun off of Huff’s Confederation series. Ex-Marine Torin Kerr takes on a new gig, doing covert missions that the Confederation can’t sanction. So when ancient weapons of mass destruction start showing up, it’s up to Kerr and her team to find them before someone else does.

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After Alice: A Novel by Gregory Maguire (William Morrow)

The author of Wicked is at it again, this time tackling Alice in Wonderland. And Maguire investigates what’s happening above ground while Alice disappears into that hole. Kirkus calls it “brilliant and nicely off-kilter” in their starred review.

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Our Lady of the Ice by Cassandra Rose Clarke (Saga Press)

Set in a “steampunk Antarctica,” this book follows the first private investigator in Hope City, a domed city which was originally built to house a collection of steam-powered automatons. Hope gets hired to find some stolen documents and finds herself caught between a robot uprising and an Antarctic independence movement. Publisher’s Weekly gave it a starred review and praised the worldbuilding and colorful characters.

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A Call to Arms (Manticore Ascendant) by David Weber (Baen)

The latest book in Weber’s Honorverse once again follows Travis Uriah Long, a lieutenant in the Royal Manticorean Navy who’s faced with a rising threat. Tor.com calls it “an entertaining space opera in the military mode.” And check out our recent interview with Weber about how to create an action movie in book form!

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Wake of Vultures (The Shadow) by Lila Bowen (Orbit)

Nettie Lonesome is half-Native American and half-African American, and she’s raised by foster parents who treat her like dirt. When she grows up, she dresses like a man and works as a ranch-hand out West, where she discovers that she can see monsters that nobody else can. Library Journal gave it a starred review and said, “this is a must-have for all modern fantasy collections and a great choice for adults and teens.”

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Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson (Tor)

The City of Elendel is facing a killer who moves too quickly to be seen, and only nobleman-and-ex-bounty-hunter Waxillium Ladrian can save everyone. Kirkus called this book a “fast-paced fantasy adventure set in a fascinating world and populated with lovable, memorable characters.”

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Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (Knopf)

Two teenagers are living on an illegal mining colony in the year 2575 when it’s attacked by a corporate rival, BeiTech Industries. They’re forced to flee aboard a freighter, Copernicus, while they try to piece together the details of what actually happened. This YA book is getting rave reviews across the board, including a star from Kirkus.

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A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms (A Song of Ice and Fire) by George R. R. Martin (Bantam)

This book collects Martin’s “Dunk and Egg” stories, which take place long before the events of A Game of Thrones. These stories have all been previously published in various anthologies and adapted to comics (pictured above), but I believe this is your first chance to read them all in one place—and they reveal a side of Westeros that we haven’t really seen elsewhere.

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Sources: SFSignal, Locus, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Publisher Catalogs. Top image: A Call to Arms by David Weber, art by David Mattingly.


Charlie Jane Anders is the author of All The Birds in the Sky, coming in January from Tor Books. Follow her on Twitter, and email her.