September 2014 might just be the craziest month for new science fiction and fantasy books we've ever seen. We had a nearly impossible time whittling down our list of the month's most essential new titles. But here are 23 books that you absolutely cannot afford to miss this month.

Consumed by David Cronenberg (Scribner)

What it is: The master film-maker is putting out his first novel, in which two journalists investigate a French philospher's death and get drawn into a surreal nightmare. And one of them gets a rare STD called Roiphe's Disease.

Early review: "The convolutions of the plot are as uninhibited by plausibility as the characters are by common decency, but readers will find it impossible to look away from the grotesque spectacle." - Publishers Weekly


Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld (Simon Pulse)

What it is: Young Darcy Patel has put off college to work on a supernatural novel about the Afterworlds, a place between life and death... and fiction and reality start blending together.

Early review: "The back-and-forth between Darcy's story and her thriller is dizzying, but "Reading Zealots" like the kids Darcy hung with in high school will love the insider details about the YA writer's life... An ambitious concept, well executed." - Publishers Weekly (starred)

Read an excerpt here.


Maplecroft by Cherie Priest (Roc)

What it is: What if Lizzie Borden had a good reason for taking an axe to her parents? This is a sinister, intense reimagining of the Lizzie Borden mythos that recasts her as a supernatural hero.

Early review: "Once I started reading Maplecroft, I was basically glued to my chair until I was finished. So be prepared to lose an afternoon to this book." - io9

Upgraded edited by Neil Clarke (Wyrm Publishing)

What it is: The Hugo-winning editor of Clarkesworld Magazine compiles 26 stories about cyborgs, from Greg Egan, Madeline Ashby, Elizabeth Bear, Peter Watts, Ken Liu, Robert Reed, Yoon Ha Lee and other authors.


Early review: "Readers of Clarkesworld will recognize the author lineup, with a fine selection of the genre's newer stars." - Locus Magazine

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg (47North)

What it is: In this debut fantasy novel, Ceony Twill is determined to study metal magic, but is dismayed to be assigned to paper instead — so she starts dabbling in the forbidden dark arts. Bad idea, I'm guessing.

Early review: "Short (almost too short) and to the point, this promising debut recalls the early work of Patricia Wrede." - Publishers Weekly


The Last Plane to Heaven by Jay Lake (Tor)

What it is: The final story collection by the late, dearly missed fantasy/SF author.

Early review: "Here both literal and metaphoric narratives deal with Lake's struggles with terminal cancer, but readers will enjoy plenty of adventure and pure flights of fancy as well." - Library Journal

Read an excerpt here.


The Falcon Throne by Karen Miller (Orbit)

What it is: The veteran fantasy author gives us another story of massive power struggles, against the backdrop of sinister magic. Including a bastard fighting for his father's legacy, a widow trying to protect her daughter, and two brothers at each other's throats.

Early review: "Despite some flaws, the story is complex and engrossing; fans of George R.R. Martin and Joe Abercrombie should particularly take note." - Publishers Weekly

Read an excerpt here.


Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire (Candlewick)

What it is: The Wicked author takes on the Baba Yaga mythos, along with the story of a young peasant girl whose a family is doomed until a train full of nobles comes through their town. It's already been optioned as a movie.

Early review: "An ambitious, Scheherazade-ian novel, rather like a nesting-doll set of stories, that succeeds in capturing some of the complexities of both Russia and life itself." - Kirkus Reviews (starred)

Stone Mattress – 9 Tales by Margaret Atwood (McClelland & Stewart)

What it is: Atwood's first story collection in eight years includes tales of a woman mistaken for a vampire, a crime solved via a 1.8 million-year-old stromatolite in the Arctic, and an old lady who keeps seeing tiny people.


Early review: "Atwood's trademark dark humour and withering social commentary are pervasive throughout and the stories are so stealthily plotted that I gasped at one particular denouement despite it having been clearly signposted in the story's title." - The Express

Read an excerpt here.

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (Random House)

What it is: The Cloud Atlas author writes another ambitious novel that jumps between the 18th and 19th centuries and the near future, and we follow the story of Holly, who has psychic powers that enable her to hear the "radio people" in her head.


Early review: "With The Bone Clocks, Mitchell rises to meet and match the legacy of Cloud Atlas.... Mitchell, whose work has dipped into science fiction, commits to the genre with a huge dose of the supernatural." - Los Angeles Times

Read an excerpt here.

The End is Now (The Apocalypse Triptych Book 2) edited by John Joseph Adams & Hugh Howey (CreateSpace)

What it is: The second volume of this three-part apocalyptic anthology series features stories where the apocalypse is actually happening right now.


Early review: None yet.

Read an excerpt here .

Rooms by Lauren Oliver (Ecco)

What it is: The adult debut by the author of Before I Fall and the Delirium trilogy. A wealthy man leaves his house to his estranged family, but they have to share the house with a bunch of pissed-off ghosts. And then a brand new ghost shows up, with an entirely different agenda.


Early review: "A smoky and realistic ghost story that subverts cliché." - Kirkus Reviews

Read an excerpt here.

Final Days by Gary Gibson (Pan MacMillan)

What it is: In the year 2235, everybody uses wormholes to get around — but nobody realizes quite how risky that mode of transport really is. Case in point: You might accidentally be thrown 100 years into a post-apocalyptic future where the solar system has been utterly destroyed.


Early review: "Occasionally workmanlike prose and the frequent switches between various plots and settings are off-putting at times, but Final Days is an impressive achievement. The reader is required to pay close attention, but the convoluted plot fits together like a jigsaw. A masterclass in genre fiction." - The Guardian (British edition, 2012)

Made for You by Melissa Marr (HarperCollins)

What it is: Eva Tilling is recovering from a car accident when she discovers she's gained the power to predict the death of anyone she touches. Not surprisingly, a bunch of people around her are suddenly marked for death.

Early review: "Marr, who generally explores supernatural themes, here pens a tightly choreographed spine-chiller with an intriguing view into the mind of a psychopath. This riveting whodunit delivers a bouquet of teen romance, paranormal and thriller."


Read an excerpt here.

Star Wars: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller (LucasBooks)

What it is: The first book in a brand new Star Wars continuity, this novel sets up the backstories of a couple of characters from the new Rebels TV series.

Early review: "It takes awhile to get going, but A New Dawn is ultimately a confidently told story that gives fans a lot of reason to be hopeful about what's to come as we move into this new phase of Star Wars." - IGN


Read the first 71 pages here.

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer (Dutton Juvenile)

What it is: The first YA novel by the author of the brilliant The Interestings. Inspired by Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, this is a story of a group of teenagers at a school for emotionally troubled kids, who learn to visit Belzhar, a miraculous place "where the untainted past is restored, and where Jam can feel her first love's arms around her once again."

Early review: "An enticing blend of tragedy, poetry, surrealism and redemption." - Kirkus Reviews (starred)


Read an excerpt here.

Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer (FSG Originals)

What it is: The final installment of VanderMeer's trilogy. If you thought Area X was bad before, just wait until you see it in winter. An expedition has to venture in to try and find someone who was left behind last time.

Early review: "VanderMeer manages to avoid banality and opacity both, and generates some real emotional charge while he's about it... This is genuinely potent and dream-haunting writing." - The Guardian.


Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes (Mulholland Books)

What it is: Following on from The Shining Girls, this is another strange and terrible crime novel in which a monster is creating strange and horrific tableaux in Detroit, melding people and animals.

Early review: "At its best, this wickedly unpleasant thriller has a rare and intriguing capacity to make the reader think." - The Telegraph

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Knopf)

What it is: A novel in which a plague destroys most of the human race, and we keep jumping back and forth between the start of the disaster and the aftermath. Some 15 years after the disaster, a troupe of actors travels around the ruins performing Shakespeare.


Early review: "Survivors and victims of a pandemic populate this quietly ambitious take on a post-apocalyptic world where some strive to preserve art, culture and kindness... Mandel's solid writing and magnetic narrative make for a strong combination in what should be a breakout novel." - Kirkus Reviews (starred)

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (Broadway Books)

What it is: This fallen city used to rule over the entire world, terrorizing and enslaving millions, but now it's fallen from its former heights — but a young spy, sent by the new rulers of the world, suspects the city of Bulikov may not be as fallen as it seems.

Early review: "An excellent spy story wrapped in a vivid imaginary world." - Library Journal (starred)


Read an excerpt here.

The Witch with No Name by Kim Harrison (Harper Voyager)

What it is: The very last book in the Hollows series — Rachel Morgan has faced down countless threats, but just how far is she willing to go to save Ivy's soul?

Early review: "The resolution of Rachel's and her friends' woes might seem over-the-top idyllic, but Harrison's devoted fan base would expect no less. This is a glorious burst of high-pitched melodrama, epitomizing both the protagonist and her series." - Kirkus Reviews


Read an excerpt here.

Sherwood Nation by Benjamin Parzybok (Small Beer Press)

What it is: The author of Couch is back with a story of a water thief in drought-stricken future Portland, who takes water from the rich and gives to the poor. This future Robin Hood becomes known as Maid Marian, but soon she goes even further — and she leads a quarter of the city to secede from the rest, creating a micro-nation.

Early review: "Keeping Portland weird with a well-written tale of an American insurgency." - Kirkus Reviews


Hieroglyph, edited by Neal Stephenson, Ed Finn & Kathryn Cramer (William Morrow)

What it is: Stephenson puts his conviction that science fiction writers have a duty to help imagine a more hopeful future into effect, and recruits a slew of authors, including Cory Doctorow, Elizabeth Bear, Karl Schroeder and Bruce Sterling, plus io9's Annalee Newitz and myself.

Early review: None yet.

Sources: SF Signal, Locus, Amazon, Publisher Catalogs