Summer movie season is pretty much over — but books are just getting started. This month's books include bracing space opera, poignant magical realism, dark subversive futures, epic fantasy. And most of all, lots and lots of mind-blowing action. Here are all the books you can't afford to sleep on in August.

Image: Jon Sullivan art for the Owner Trilogy by Neal Asher.

Zero Point (The Owner) by Neal Asher (Night Shade Books)

It's the second book in Asher's Owner series, and this time things are becoming way more complicated. There's a power struggle in the ruins of Earth, a Martian base facing total annihilation due to a crashing space station. And on board that space station, a man's cybernetic consciousness may have uncovered the secret of eternal life — and the truth about some unspeakable experiments on human subjects.

Billy Moon by Douglas Lain (Tor Books)

The author of the beloved novella "Wave of Mutilation" is finally putting out his first proper novel — and it's a bizarre magical realist tale with political overtones. Billy Moon is Christopher Robin Milne, aka the son of A.A. Milne and the inspiration for the famous Winnie the Pooh stories. In 1968, he's a middle-aged veteran of World War II, still dealing with war trauma and his parents' fame — when a friend lures him to Paris, where protests are tearing everything loose.

Dust by Hugh Howey (CreateSpace)

The final act in Howey's Silo series, which began with Wool. This is the book that ties everything together and wraps up all of the major storylines in Howey's post-apocalyptic universe. There's still not much info about the plot on the Amazon page, but by all accounts this is Howey's last word in the Silo universe.

The Sensory Deception by Ransom Stephens (47North)

Stephens, a former physics professor, has come up with a really thought-provoking premise here — a neurologist and an engineer have come up with a virtual reality system that really lets you feel what it's like to be an endangered animal fighting for survival. But once they get funding from venture capitalists, their backers want the VR experience to be scarier and more ferocious, and maybe something that can be sold as a game. How far will these animal-lovers go to preserve the purity of their environmentalist vision?

Blood of Tyrants (Temeraire) by Naomi Novik (Del Rey)

To quote from our review: "Perhaps the most fascinating part of Novik's series has always been the evolving role of dragons. In England, homeland to our hero Captain William Laurence, dragons are treated as chattel. Though they are clearly intelligent, able to speak, read, and reason, English dragons are treated as sentient bombers in the Aerial Corps. But all of that begins to change when Laurence is adopted by a brilliant, fierce and slightly eccentric Chinese dragon named Temeraire."

Shadows of the New Sun: Stories in Honor of Gene Wolfe by Bill Fawcett & J.E. Mooney (Tor Books)

This volume of stories in tribute to one of America's finest writers includes new works by "Neil Gaiman, David Brin, David Drake, Nancy Kress, and many others, plus two new short stories by Gene Wolfe himself. If you believe in the potential of science fiction to elevate storytelling, then this book ought to be something special.


The Woman Who Thought She Was a Planet and Other Stories by Vandana Singh (Zubaan Books)

This is technically a reissue, not a new book — but it's probably the first time most of us have had the chance to read the stories of India's first woman SF author, all in one place. (You can read Singh's stories at Lightspeed Magazine and Strange Horizons, and her work has appeared in some of the Year's Best anthologies.) In these weird stories, a woman tells her husband she believes little aliens are traveling around inside her — and her husband reacts by being concerned about how she'll act in public. And a girl finds a mysterious tetrahedron in Delhi, that might be a weapon or a spaceship.

Transcendental by James Gunn (Tor Books)

The science fiction grand master is back for his first novel in ages, after the classics The Joy Makers, The Immortals, and The Listeners and (with Jack Williamson) Star Bridge. This time around, he's got a strange interplanetary spin on Canterbury Tales, about a group of pilgrims traveling to another planet to meet a mysterious prophet who grants "transcendence," or a kind of spiritual enlightenment. Along the way, they share their weird and funny stories. Except that the book's main character doesn't want to be enlightened at all — he's on a mission to kill the prophet.

Celestial Inventories by Steve Rasnic Tem (ChiZine Publications)

A collection of 22 ultra-weird stories by the master of strange tales. A husband and wife start fading into invisibility, terrorists make people's heads explode, an artist tries to contract as many diseases as possible, and a couple who are growing older find that they're actually unraveling the fabric of reality. If Tem's previous oddities are anything to go by, this should be a really crazy ride.

Satan’s Reach (Weird Space) by Eric Brown (Abaddon Books)

I've heard good things about the Weird Space series that Brown is writing for Abaddon, and even though this is the second book, it sounds like it might be a good jumping-on point, judging from this review. Telepath Den Harper is on the run from the Earth authorities after the events in the first book, and they've got some bounty hunters on his tail — plus the sinister aliens known as the Weird are still threatening the survival of the human race. But in this book, Harper is more concerned with protecting a strange girl from the dangerous creatures that want to capture her.

The Third Kingdom by Terry Goodkind (Tor Books)

The long-awaited next volume in the second phase of the Sword of Truth series. Richard has lost his wizard powers and been infected with "the stench of death," but he still has to race to stop a sinister magical conspiracy assembling to the north. Or his friend Kahlan will die. Richard has only his sword and his wits, against an unstoppable enemy.

Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block (Henry Holt and Co.)

This post-apocalyptic novel from the author of The Elementals and the Weetzie Bat books is a weird spin on The Odyssey, except the heroine is Penelope (Pen) instead of Odysseus. Pen has to journey through a dark world full of strange creatures, in search of home — before facing her mortal enemy. This may be a book aimed at young adult readers, but it sounds like it'll offer something unnerving and awesome to adults as well.

Children of Fire by Drew Karpyshyn (Del Rey)

Chances are you've read one of Karpyshyn's Star Wars or Mass Effect books — now he's finally creating his own series, an epic fantasy tale about the four people who have inherited aspects of the former champion of the gods. Once, Daemron was chosen by the gods to fight for them, and given three magical talismans: a ring, a sword and a crown. Then Daemron, mad with power, chose to challenge the gods, and was imprisoned. Now his four successors have to choose whether to free Daemron or restore the legacy of the gods.

Codex Born: (Magic Ex Libris: Book Two) by Jim C. Hines (DAW Hardcover)

We really liked the first book in this series about a wizard who can bring anything from books into reality. And now at last the second volume is out, and it sounds like it's zooming in on the most interesting aspect of the first book: the dryad Lena, who was created from a pulp fantasy book to be the ultimate fantasy woman. She's a powerful weapon, as well as your ultimate sex fantasy, but she's also a person with a mind of her own — even though she's happiest when she belongs to someone. This time around, evil wizards are trying to control her, and it's going to get ugly.

The Bone Season: A Novel by Samantha Shannon (Bloomsbury USA)

It's a dystopian future, but not one you've ever seen before — there's an evil corporation oppressing everybody, sure, but there's also the hidden city of Oxford that was erased from the map 200 years ago. And in that city, there are mysterious beings from beyond who have a sinister agenda and want to turn psychics like the main character, Paige, into soldiers in their army.

Sources: SFSignal, Locus,