It's a frozen nightmare outside. Nothing but snowblindness and navigational hazards for miles in all directions. So it's a perfect time to escape into a book. Luckily, we've got 20 amazing science fiction and fantasy books coming out in February — here's your required reading list for the month!
Top image: The Waking Engine cover art by Stephan Martiniere.
The concept behind this novel sounds kind of insane — when you die, you don't go to an afterlife, you're just reborn on another planet, as yourself. And then another, and another. And eventually, you end up in the City Unspoken, where gods and mortals alike can go through the portal to True Death. But one very confused New Yorker dies and finds himself in the City, where the portal is failing, and the City is being overrun with pissed-off immortals who just want to die. Read excerpts here and here.
And here's another novel with a different spin on the afterlife — Leiyin is a young woman who dies in China in 1935, and she finds herself still trapped on Earth, and forced to relive her life accompanied by her "three souls" — her stern yin, her romantic yang and her wise, shining hun — which guide her towards understanding. She witnesses how she lived through a turbulent time in Chinese history and hurt people through her selfishness. And she has to figure out how to make it right, or risk becoming a crazy ghost. This is getting raves on Goodreads.
Strange Bodies: A Novel by Marcel Theroux (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
A man turns up insisting that he is Dr. Nicholas Slopen, a leading expert on Samuel Johnson — except that Nicky Slopen died months ago. How can he be alive after his death, and what does this have to do with a mysterious procedure practiced by the Soviet Union? I'm halfway through reading this one right now, and enjoying it so far. Read an excerpt here.
This sounds a like a metafictional weirdgasm. Emma Lindsay is a 17 year old girl whose parents are dead, so she lives with her guardian, a crazy artist who's become a vegetable after a stroke. She has weird daydreams about other lives, and her head is full of metal — but other than that, her life is okay until she writes "White Space," a story about kids trapped in a creepy house, which turns out to be exactly the same as an unfinished novel by a mysterious writer who died years ago. And then Emma gets trapped inside the novel that she and the dead writer both wrote, and she has to figure out how to write an ending that doesn't involve her death.
This near-future thriller has a lot of the crucial ingredients for a fun dystopia, including a world where the rich have access to fancy technology that lets them be young and healthy forever. Plus advertisements that go directly into your imagination. When a client is murdered inside the Great Spa, where the rich go to refresh their immortal bodies, DCI Oates has to go inside the sanctum of wealth and eternal youth and uncover all the dirty secrets buried inside there — and then he gets offered eternal youth for himself, but at a high price.
A survival thriller about one of the first people to walk on Mars, who's stranded in the middle of nowhere without enough supplies or gear to survive long enough to get rescued. Mark Watney ought to just give up and die — but instead, he uses every ounce of ingenuity to figure out ways to survive in the face of impossible odds. Everybody, including Chris Hadfield, has praised the MacGyver quality and technical accuracy of this novel.
An acclaimed poet retells the Bible from the point of view of Eve, whose version of the Garden of Eden story is very different from what you've read before. And then Storace's "Book of Heaven" is divided into four sections, each dealing with a woman from the Bible whose story was misrepresented, including Abraham's wife Sarah and the Queen of Sheba. This attempt at a "feminist cosmology" includes new constellations and a totally different version of the stories you've already read.
Kit is training to fight enemy fae and cast spells and live up to her role as a member of the Blackhart family, when she's forced to rescue a fae prince named Thorn while her family is away. Now she has to protect Prince Thorn at all costs, while the war between different groups of fae gets more and more dangerous. Until finally Kit is face to face with Elder Gods and the apocalypse looms. More novels about faerie should culminate in a meeting with Elder Gods.
Want an alternate history that's not just "the Nazis won World War II" yet again? Check this out. In this novel, it's 1877 and the Egyptian Empire never fell — in fact, Egypt rules the world. Otto Van Bismarck is a terrorist plotting against the rule of the Pharoah Djoser-George, and it's up to a prince from Albion and a Professor-Prince to thwart his scheme. They must travel across the Atlantic to the rival Incan empire and uncover an international conspiracy. Read an excerpt!
Once you've finished reading the Bible from Eve's point of view, how about reading Norse myths from Loki's POV? This is Loki's story, from his beginnings in the underworld of Chaos to his betrayal of the gods and the fall of Asgard. This novel from the author of Chocolat (which was made into a movie with Johnny Depp) is, by all accounts, beautifully written and has a funny spin on the Asgardian gods as celebrities.
A warrior woman finds herself stuck in a conflict between duty and honor, which is always a fun time. After years of serving Prince Kythar as his bodyguard, Kara and the Prince must return to her Guild to negotiate the Prince's continued protection. Unfortunately, when they get there, they find out the Majat Guild, which works for the highest bidder, has already made a deal to hand the Prince over to his enemies, the Kaddim. So does Kara obey her masters or save the man she's been protecting for years? (No guesses.)
Emma wakes up in a hospital with no memories — but luckily, her loving husband is there to tell her everything she needs to know. Except that she keeps dreaming of a different life, and then a man turns up whom she seems to know. And she soon finds that she's living in a future where women are a rare commodity, and people will do anything — even erase your memories — to get hold of them. Early reviews are very very promising.
Apparently this YA fantasy is a strange version of the "changeling myth" — Jesse's father suddenly tells her when she's a teenager that she's not his child, and then she discovers she's a "DNA orphan," who shares no genetic material with either of her parents. And there are others like her out there. Then she wakes up to find her house on fire, and her brother missing. Check out an excerpt here.
The super-prolific YA author and comics creator is back, with her first straight-up science fiction novel. Tula's traveling with her family to a new planet, when the colony's leader beats her almost to death, and she's left stranded on a space station. She winds up befriending an alien and learning how to survive on the station, but when three humans show up she starts concocting an escape plan. Read an excerpt here!
The world ends, and only six people survive — to travel to another reality, where they suddenly have superpowers. And on this alternate Earth, everything has been transformed by the discovery of a superscience that lets you manipulate time and matter and stuff. It sounds as though this novel throws crazy new ideas at you at a pretty intense clip, but everybody I've talked to who's read it says it works amazingly well.
This novel has already been optioned as a movie by Fox. And ithas a pretty cool concept: the reason why we have smartphones and neat computers, but not super-medicine or space stations or other insane advances that we expected, is because a few people are hoarding all the super-science. As one scientist discovers when he makes a major breakthrough and then wakes up in a dungeon in a secret hideaway. Oops. This novel has been described as the thinking person's action movie, on paper.
There's a mysterious virus that ages its victims to death in a matter of hours, and somehow this is connected to Mia's secret past as "the girl who fell down a well." Mia starts to wonder about her father's secret work as Director of Fenton Electronics, which is doing strange experiments in its headquarters, the Cave. We posted art from this book by Kate Beaton a while back.
Who didn't want to see Captain Kirk team up with Seven of Nine? And if so, what's wrong with you? Cox, a regular Star Trek author (and io9 commenter) tells what happens when a lone Borg from the future finds herself stranded in the past — and the only person who can help her is a legendary Starfleet captain who understands just how bad things can get when time travelers mess with the timeline.
The writer/actor from The Office has a book of ultra-weird stories — like a man who dies and goes to Heaven and then tries to flake on his promise to visit his grandmother there. Read an excerpt in The New Yorker and another one on NPR.
And finally — the author of Finch and City of Saints and Madmen is back with a new horror-fantasy trilogy, all three books of which are coming out this year. A team of scientists go to the mysterious Area X to investigate a strange entity that writes doomsday prophecies on the walls of its subterranean lair, using a fungus as ink. The L.A. Times just published a rave review of the first book, which reads in part: "Annihilation, in which the educated and analytical similarly meets up with the inhuman, is a clear triumph for Vandermeer, who after numerous works of genre fiction has suddenly transcended genre with a compelling, elegant and existential story of far broader appeal."