Science fiction and fantasy books are seriously going to blow your mind this fall. William Gibson returns to the future. Plus there are new books by David Mitchell, Anne Rice, Michael Moorcock, Margaret Atwood and Patrick Rothfuss. Here are the 30 books you absolutely cannot afford to miss this fall.
Top image: Willful Child by Steven Erikson.
Note: Because we tried to keep this to just 30 titles, we had to leave a lot of stuff out. (And as usual with these things, we mostly focused more on debuts and thestarts of new series, rather than sequels and continuations of existing series.) We'll be doing the monthly book guides as usual — but please let us know below what titles you're especially excited about in the next four months!
This is the first book in a brand new continuity — relaunching the Star Wars books in the run-up to Episode VII, and replacing the Expanded Universe. This novel takes place right after Revenge of the Sith and tells how two of the main characters from the upcoming Rebels animated series met.
The bestselling author Jonathan Kellerman teams up with his son for this weird mystery story — an L.A. detective gets reassigned to a special unit he didn't know existed. And his first case involves a severed head, with the only clue being a Hebrew word carved into the table nearby. Could the Golem of Prague have come back to life and made the journey to the New World?
We adored Miller's Godspeaker trilogy, and now she's back with a brand new series that sounds like it's chock full of scheming and intrigue. There's a prince who everybody thinks is dead, and he's maneuvering to take back his father's throne. There's a bastard lord who tries to overthrow his tyrannical cousin, with a high cost in blood. And the widow of a duke tries to protect her daughter from all the court schemers. Nobody does ambition, bloodshed and politics like Karen Miller.
Jay Lake left a huge, unfillable gap when he passed away recently. But at least there's one more book — a story collection in which people grapple with, among other things, the inevitability of death, and discover that "in the end, words are all that survive us." As Publishers Weekly writes, "Lake's characters emotionally embody the doomed heroism of Nordic gods sneering at grim fates, finding bittersweet redemption in dark byways of human ignorance."
The Wicked author takes on the Russian Baba Yaga myth, the story of the witch who lives in a house that walks on chicken legs. Elena Rudina is a poor girl living in the Russian countryside with her dying mother, until a train shows up with every possible luxury aboard. A noble family, with a girl Elena's age, is on its way to Saint Petersburg to visit the Tsar, and Elena gets caught up in a story of mistaken identity, plus there's a prince traveling incognito, and a monk trapped in a tower.
We've already told you of our undying love for this novel about Lizzie Borden in the Cthulhu universe. To quote from our review: "In Priest's retelling of the Borden story, she didn't murder her father and stepmother at all, unless you consider monster hunting to be murder. Lisbeth was protecting her tiny Massachusetts town from two people who were gradually turning into something foul and unexplainable."
The Cloud Atlas author is back with a novel that's already been long-listed for the Booker Prize in the U.K. Holly Sykes isn't your ordinary teenager — she's a lightning rod for psychic phenomena, who can hear the "radio people." And she's in the crosshairs of a group of dangerous mystics. In true Mitchell style, this novel ranges from 19th century Australia to a near-future Manhattan townhouse. Publishers Weekly named this one of the season's top 10 books.
Westerfeld's newest novel sees fiction and reality colliding — Darcy Patel writes a weird novel about the Afterworlds, a place where the living and dead collide. And Darcy's life starts to bleed together with that of her main character Lizzie, who slips into the Afterworlds to survive a terrorist attack.
This long-awaited anthology features optimistic stories in which science and technology solve real world problems — written in collaboration with actual scientists. This project was spearheaded by Stephenson's 2011 article, "Innovation Starvation," where he called on science fiction to inspire more creativity and invention. Contributors include Cory Doctorow, Elizabeth Bear, Gregory Benford, and Bruce Sterling. (Plus io9's Annalee Newitz, and myself.)
Atwood's first story collection since 2006, including a number of stories with speculative elements. In one, a fantasy writer gets guided by the voice of her dead husband. In another, a woman with a rare genetic abnormality gets mistaken for a vampire. In the title story, which you can read here, a 1.9 billion-year-old stromatolite is the key to solving a crime.
It's another apocalyptic novel — but this one sounds pretty unusual. It jumps back and forth between a few time periods. In one, an actor named Arthur falls in love, not realizing he's doomed to become one of the first victims of a plague that will devastate the human race. In another, a young woman travels around with a theater troupe 15 years after the apocalypse, with a Star Trek quote tattooed on her arm.
Carroll turns his attention surreal fantasy in this story about five people living in the same small town, who all share the same hyper-realistic dream. When they wake up, they realize the truth: they were all once "mechanics," working to keep the universe running in the face of people's messes and the evil schemes of Chaos. They were retired, but now they're being called back to work because Chaos has something bigger planned.
A new novella set in the world of the Kingkiller Chronicles, focusing on Auri, a former student at the University. The brightest minds are studying the "enlightened sciences" like artificing and alchemy, in the University, but deep beneath the sprawling campus, Auri lives alone in a maze of abandoned passages. Hidden away, she discovers truths that her former classmates have ignored.
At long last, Rice returns to her most famous creation, the Vampire Chronicles. This new novel sees the vampire world in crisis, because the vamp population has grown out of control, and now there are mass burnings of vampires all over the world, similar to the ones ordered by Akasha in Queen of the Damned. Meanwhile, long-slumbering ancient vampires are rising again, obeying orders from a mysterious Voice. A whole host of Rice creations seek the truth about this mysterious Voice — but the key turns out to be the missing rebel outlaw, Lestat.
Now that Leckie's Ancillary Justice has completed its sweep of all the awards in the universe by winning the Hugo, it's time to get excited for the second book in the trilogy. This time Breq gets a new ship, and an uncontrollable new crew, and she's ordered to go to the last place she wants to go: to Athoek Station, to protect the family of a lieutenant that she murdered. Kirkus has already declared that this sequel proves Leckie is "no mere flash in the pan."
A meteorite lands in the fields near Arianne's family's farm — and a year later, one of their horses gives birth to a centaur. Arianne's family isn't too thrilled about this discovery, because they are already mired in controversy because Arianne's six-year-old brother was born with a birth defect due to an experimental drug. So they decide to keep the half-horse, half-boy creature a secret, and you can guess how well that turns out.
The first book in a new military SF series from Bear, who's been busy with Halo books and the multi-author Mongoliad saga for the past few years. And this sounds like it has a suitably dark premise: some aliens make themselves known on Earth, giving us advanced technology and extraterrestrial wisdom. We start calling them the Gurus and hailing their friendship — until they want something from us in return. The Gurus were running from some nastier aliens that have hounded them across the universe, and now they want some human soldiers as cannon fodder. On Mars.
We kind of dropped the ball on hailing the first volume in this series, Mermaid in Chelsea Creek, which is coming out in paperback soon. So consider this your wake-up call: Michelle Tea, the author of beloved queer literary books like Valencia, Rent Girl and Chelsea Whistle, is writing young-adult fiction about a dirty, mean mermaid named Syrena. Her human best friend Sophie is supposed to save the world, but has no idea how to do it. And Sophie has awakened some dark magic that's hunting her and Syrena.
Here's Gibson's first novel since 2010's Zero History. It takes place in a future where the only jobs left are in the drug business — but Burton is lucky enough to have veterans benefits for the neural damage he suffered from some implants during his stint in the Marines' Haptic Recon force. Burton is also lucky enough to have a job, beta-testing a weird sort of game where you walk around the perimeter of the image of a tower building, blocking the path of weird little bug-like creatures. Except that when his sister Flynne covers for him on this "job," she finds it's a lot more sinister than she expected.
Weber starts a brand new series, set in his Honorverse but following a new set of characters, with Zahn's help. Travis Uriah Long thinks joining the Royal Manticorean Navy is the answer to all his problems... until he actually sees it for himself. Turns out in the wake of a recent plague, the Navy is pretty much broke. Some factions in Parliament want to scrap the Navy altogether, but then they get a wake-up call that the universe is still not a safe place.
The Flora Segunda author publishes a linked short story collection set in the fictional Republic of Califa — which is sort of like Gold Rush-era California, but with some Aztec traits. The stories deal with murderous gloves, "rock star magicians," blue butlers, superintelligent squids, and a vengeful pig plushie. And these tales are also described as "screwball comedies for goths." Sold.
After experimenting with mystery and science fiction, this novel sees King returning to horror. After the Reverend Jacobs' family is stricken by tragedy, the Reverend curses God and mocks religion, and then is driven out of town. But years later, one of Rev. Jacobs' parishoners, a young rock musician named Jamie, meets the former Reverend again while he's on tour — and the two men form a bond "beyond even the Devil's devising."
One of the most popular and award-winning books of Chinese science fiction finally comes out in English, with a translation by the multi-award-winning SF author Ken Liu. (It's the first book in a trilogy, and the other two are translated by other writers.) During China's Cultural Revolution, a secret government project sends signals into space to try and contact alien life. Unfortunately, it succeeds. The aliens plan to invade us — and some humans think maybe it wouldn't be a bad thing if our corrupt civilization was overturned by alien invaders.
The first new book in Martin and Snodgrass' superhero shared universe since 2011. People are going missing in Jokertown, and the police are unwilling to investigate, except for one newbie lieutenant. But meanwhile, a group of Jokers are willing to "take matters into their own hands — or tentacles." Contributors include some stalwart contributors to the series, but also Ian Tregillis, Mary Anne Mohanraj and Carrie Vaughn.
The massively influential author writes a semi-autobiographical story of London after World War II that captures what it was like to be in the city during the late 1940s. The main character, a young man named Michael, discovers a hidden mystical realm that was protected from all harm since it was created by King Henry III. This realm was untouched by the Blitz — but now, it faces the first threat in its centuries-long history.
The first book in a new series from the author of the Shadowfell series. A bitter magical healer named Blackthorn finally gets out of the prison she's been stuck in, but she has to promise to forswear vengeance against those who wronged her. And she has to go live on the edge of a magical forest and help anyone who asks for her help — and of course the first person who asks for her help is a prince who's trying to get out of an arranged marriage to a psychopath.
The author of the Malazan Book of the Fallen series massively changes gears, and joins John Scalzi in writing a Star Trek spoof. Except, by the sound of things, less meta. From the book's official description: "These are the voyages of the starship A.S.F. Willful Child. Its ongoing mission: to seek out strange new worlds on which to plant the Terran flag, to subjugate and if necessary obliterate new life-forms, to boldly blow the..." Basically, it's the Mirror Universe version of Kirk and his crew, except more bumbling. Read a chapter here.
First in a brand new series from the Hugo and Nebula-winning author. Major Bhaajan used to be a military officer with Imperial Space Command. But now she's a private investigator working the streets of Undercity, the capital of a vast and deadly space empire. If the crooks don't kill her, her clients just might.
The first book in a brand new series, and it has a pretty intriguing premise. The human Democracy is at war with the alien Traanskei Coalition, and the human race has managed to clone the Traanskei's leading strategist, General Michkag. It's up to war hero Nathan Pretorius to smuggle the clone into the Traanskei fortress and replace the real Michkag with the clone. By any means necessary.
This YA novel is being billed as The Princess Diaries, except with magic. Imogen Rockford has finally gotten a life for herself in New York — but then something happens to force her to go back to her family's mansion in England, where her parents died in a fire. And just before her father died, he warned her that there's something living in the maze.