It’s a whole new year, and already the science fiction and fantasy publishers are hitting the ground running. There are tons of great new books in January, including China Miéville, Amber Benson, and Tim Powers! These are all the science fiction and fantasy books that should be on your radar this month.
(Plus in addition to the books below, I have a book of my own coming out on January 26. See my bio at the bottom for details about that!)
Tim Powers is one of the greats, and with this novel he takes us back to the Hollywood of the silent film era, for a story about addiction, obsession and time travel. Two orphaned siblings go to visit their cousins, who are a recovering addict and a hermit, in a grand old house in the Hollywood hills. The result, writes Catherynne M. Valente, is “a twisted journey” in which “delights abound.”
This is billed as Friday Night Lights meets The Time Traveler’s Wife, and it’s about a girl who sees weird things. At first, it’s just subtle differences, like a door is the wrong color. But then one day, her whole town disappears for a little while. Then the mysterious ghost she calls Grandmother tells her she has three months “to save him”—and then she meets someone named Beau. You can read an excerpt here.
In this novel, a family is hauling their messed-up uncle across the country for one last attempt at rehab, but they get caught in a snow storm. They’re forced to spend the night at a mysterious Shining-esque hotel, where they get lost in its confusing corridors and lulled by its weird powers. The Portland Mercury says, “the fallible and relatable characters make for good company in the punchy cabin-fever atmosphere.”
When aliens want to move among us on Earth, they often cause a lot of trouble—so they’ve created their own race of fake humans, known as Servs, to clean up after them. Lucy was left on Earth as a baby and raised by human parents, and she doesn’t realize she’s actually an alien plant until she reaches adulthood. And then she gets implicated in the death of a Serv child, and everything goes sideways. Kirkus calls it “high-caliber, often engrossing literary sci-fi,” but warns it’s a bit slow at first.
Publishers Weekly calls this book “astonishingly good” in its starred review. A retired general goes looking for a spy that’s gone missing in a country that used to be ruled by the goddess of war and death. Once there, she reunites with an old comrade in arms, along with the daughter of a great assassin.
A former Colombian politician writes a novel of magical realism, against the backdrop of Argentina’s “dirty war.” Julia has grown up with the ability to see the future through the eyes of others, although it comes with a certain amount of synesthesia. Unfortunately, she and her lover Theo fall afoul of the authorities because of their politics and get sent away for a long stretch, in a sequence that draws on Betancourt’s own imprisonment at the hands of guerillas. Kirkus gives it a mixed review.
A conman and his sidekick need to get out of the oasis city of Aransa in a hurry, because he’s pulled one con too many. Luckily, there’s a totally beautiful airship moored in town, just waiting to be stolen. Too bad a shapeshifter is murdering everybody in sight, and things are about to get messy. Koeur’s Book Reviews says, “Holy shjtballz this was good. The storyline and world building were impeccable as were the depth of the characters that inhabited it.”
David is a very unusual burglar—he’s a lucid dreamer who has dreams of being at the bottom of the sea, where the vividness of his imagination keeps a bubble of breathable atmosphere around him. And in the city that he dreams up, he breaks into houses and steals things—and then, when he wakes up, he coughs up whatever he’s stolen. There’s a whole organization that fences ectoplasmic stolen goods. Edward Gauvin, who translated this book into English, writes that “An air of noir black as squid ink suffuses Serge Brussolo’s most celebrated novel... Word by word, phrase by phrase, Brussolo’s world seeps in through your pores, gets under your skin, and starts crawling around.” (Gauvin will be reading from his translation at my literary event, Writers With Drinks, this Saturday.)
The witches of the Echo Park Coven are reeling from the death of their leader in the first book, and now they’re facing more attacks. Their new master, Lyse MacAllister, is trying to get up to speed, and meanwhile, a group of fanatics is determined to wipe out all witches, at any cost. Publishers Weekly says, “multiple plot lines will keep readers hopping, and the stage is set for major fireworks to come.”
This novel won tons of praise when it was self-published last year, and now it’s out in reworked form as a deluxe hardcover. Eleanor’s identical twin Esmeralda dies in a terrible accident at age six, and Eleanor is left alone to care for her alcoholic mother. But soon, she’s falling out of her ordinary world and into a dreamlike alternate reality, getting more and more lost. Kirkus calls it “An ambitious novel that explores grief with elements of the fantastic but sometimes stumbles on its own implausible efforts.”
This short story collection not only has a fantastic title, it’s also getting rave reviews. In one story, a woman turns herself into a giant panda to help with breeding efforts. In another, a man is growing a horn on his head and this causes some distress. A lot of the stories deal with the question of life after death. Publishers Weekly’s starred review calls this book “witty” and “insightful.”
In this novel’s alternate world, certain people are born with rare gifts. Safi can see your lies, and her friend Iseult can tell whom you love. Safi tries to keep her gift a secret, but the two girls get caught up in a conspiracy and wind up on the run, hunted by an assassin monk. Hypable writes, “It’s too bad the holiday season is over, otherwise I would demand you stuff Truthwitch inside the stocking of everyone you love because in my opinion, the only thing wrong with this five-star book is that we have to wait until 2017 to read the sequel.”
This book has a neat concept: Nat Morgan is a CIA agent who can’t be remembered, thanks to some weird quantum thingy. If you meet him, you forget a moment later that you ever saw him. Even his boss needs constant reminding that he exists. Until Nat meets a Russian spy named Yalena whose mission is in conflict with his own—and she remembers him. And they’re handcuffed together. The Deseret News says, “Overall, Unforgettable is a memorable novel in which Stone packs many adventures and new technology that is both exciting and frightening if it gets into the wrong hands.”
Mamatas is always good for a weird time, and this novel sounds like a fun spin on the “zombie apocalypse” genre. In Mamatas’ version, the zombie onslaught has happened and now the task of dealing with the walking dead is akin to pest control. Vasilis “Billy” Kostopolis is an alcoholic who goes around drilling the newly dead with his Black & Decker, to make sure they don’t come back. Teleread says, “The prose is sardonic, droll, and tackles both the pre-zombie travails of an aspiring writer and post-apocalyptic decay even-handedly.”
Kenna has the power to eat your life-force just by touching you—as one obnoxious neighborhood boy discovers, when he kills some kittens. After Kenna realizes what she’s capable of, she has to learn to control her powers and understand what she is, so she gets shipped off to stay with some relatives in the middle of nowhere. Publishers Weekly praises the magical lore and the explorations of Kenna’s weird past, but finds the ending too neat and easy.
Miéville’s first novel in ages and ages is a short, simple attempt at a Kafka-esque fable. A man who’s being kept prisoner someplace where they call him their “guest” reflects on the terrible events of his childhood, and the whole thing turns on the fallibility and strangeness of memory. NPR calls it “a small, quiet and gentle book with murder at its center,” but also says its ambiguity may drive you a little crazy.
The author of The Invention of Everything Else is back with a novel that Gregory Maguire raves about in the New York Times. This novel follows two girls going on journeys—Ruth is a young girl who was left at a foster home by her older sister and apparently abandoned, and then a grown-up Ruth is escorting her sister’s daughter Cora to safety. And the young Ruth takes part in seances to contact her dead mother, and ends up contacting an entity named Mr. Splitfoot instead.
This stand-alone novel takes place in Cobley’s ongoing space opera universe, but apparently requires no prior knowledge. The Gun-Lords of Shuskar live in a huge “exotic mega-structure” known as the Warcage, where the populations of the planets they’ve stolen are forced to do battle. A smuggler captain is forced to lead a rebellion against the Gun-Lords, helped by an alien military leader and a human officer who thought he was out.
This is another one of those novels that jumps between different time periods. In 1878, a woman living in an old New England house gets obsessed with a gruesome murder involving a severed face and arsenic. In 2014, another woman living in that same house starts delving into its weird history after a series of unexplained happenings, such as her daughter’s bruise. Publishers Weekly gives it a starred review and says, “Arsenualt’s gift for letting readers feel the characters’ anguish from the inside while showing their irrational strangeness from the outside makes for terror that sticks.”
A new Mistborn novel! Waxillium Ladrian has just gotten married and wants some quiet time with his new bride—but soon he’s off on a quest for the Bands of Mourning, mysterious artifacts that grant immense power to anyone who holds them. Unfortunately, Wax’s uncle wants them too, and he may be holding Wax’s sister captive. Kirkus calls it “part Wild West, part Indiana Jones, and wholly entertaining, combining high emotional stakes with a deep, good-natured sense of humor.”