The summer beach reads are finished—but the book party is just getting started! This month’s science fiction and fantasy must-reads include Terry Pratchett’s final Discworld novel, plus new books from Stephen Baxter, Seanan McGuire, Salman Rushdie and Margaret Atwood. And Star Wars and Star Trek!

Xeelee: Endurance by Stephen Baxter

Baxter has been busy with his collaborations with Terry Pratchett, the Long Earth series. But now at last, here’s another book in his Xeelee saga—a collection of stories that range from the near future to the far future. The mysterious alien race known as the Xeelee push humanity’s inventiveness to its limits.

Updraft by Fran Wilde (Tor Books)

Wilde’s debut takes place in a city of bone towers, where people fly around on great artificial wings—and one person discovers that her voice can control the predators around the city. LibraryJournal gave it a starred review, and our own Andrew Liptak, writing in Barnes & Noble, called it “a soaring fantasy debut.” Writes Liptak, “Wilde’s book bridges the divide between adventurous entertainment and serious messaging, surrounding important thematic material with compelling action and endearing characters.” Read an excerpt here.

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Undermajordomo Minor: A Novel by Patrick deWitt (Ecco)

This “perverted fairytale” comes from a Booker Prize finalist who specializes in over-the-top horror, grotesquerie and weird humor. Lucien “Lucy” Minor takes a job as an “undermajordomo” at a gothic castle, where he meets two rogueish thieves and falls in love. The Telegraph enjoyed the “uproariously perverse” silliness, but felt the book didn’t entirely live up to its potential.

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If Then by Matthew de Abaitua (Angry Robot)

As we mentioned in our Fall books roundup, de Abaitua is the author of the Clarke-nominated Red Men, one of our favorite messed-up dystopian novels of the past decade. Now he’s back, with a story about the mysterious Process that controls an entire town—and is turning everything into a weird recreation of the First World War.

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Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com)

Okorafor makes a turn towards space opera, with this story of a woman going to a prestigious universe in deep space. Unfortunately, she’s going to a planet that’s been at war against an alien race for years, and she has to pass through the nightmarish aliens’ territory to get to school. Here’s an excerpt from the novella.

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The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher

The creator of the Dresden Files series is creating a whole new world, in which a catastrophe has left the planet’s surface uninhabitable, so everybody lives in high-up spires and travels around by airship. And the crew of the AMS Predator is sent on a secret mission to prevent a huge disaster. Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review and said, “Butcher brings a fresh and exciting perspective to secondary-world steampunk, giving the reader a thrilling ride.”

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The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett (Doubleday)

I’m in the middle of reading this one right now, and I’m torn between finishing it quickly so I can get a review up, versus taking my time and savoring the last ever Discworld book. The late fantasy mastermind brings the saga of the young witch Tiffany Aching to a conclusion, but also gives us one last look at some other favorite characters. Bring the tissues.

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The Promise of the Child by Thomas N. Toner (Night Shade)

The first book in the Amaranthine Spectrum series takes place in the 147th century, in the kind of posthuman space-opera setting that is always fun to visit. The over-arching story involves two immortals that are battling over power after centuries of stability. Publishers Weekly says it’s slow to get going, but packed with lots of fascinating worldbuilding.

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A Red-Rose Chain, by Seanan Maguire (Daw)

New October Daye novel! It feels like ages since we got one of these. This time around, Toby is taking on a role she never expected to play—that of diplomat, helping to avoid war between the Kingdom of Silences and the Mists. She has to travel to the far-off, exotic land of... Portland, Oregon? Read an excerpt here.

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The Autobiography of James T. Kirk by David A. Goodman (Titan Books)

There’s nothing about this book’s title that doesn’t sound excellent. The greatest captain in Starfleet has finally written his memoirs, and it’s sure to include lots of tall tales. Personally, I’m sending it back if it doesn’t include a page of quotations from that poem about a tall ship and a star to sail her by. The above video contains William Shatner reading portions of the book aloud at Comic-Con.

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Dragon Heart: A Fantasy Novel by Cecelia Holland (Tor Books)

Holland, a historical fiction author, makes a turn towards fantasy with this book about an arranged marriage that throws a family into turmoil. The book’s mute protagonist, Tirza, is caught in the middle of political wrangling when her mother is forced to marry the brother of a neighboring emperor. Publishers Weekly likes the book’s combination of politics and family drama.

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Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho (Ace/Roc)

This book, set in an alternate nineteenth century England, is getting all the buzz right now. Zacharias, a former slave, becomes the new Sorcerer Royal, and has to deal with unreasoning prejudice as well as the magic shortage that threatens to bring the Empire to a standstill. Both Publishers Weekly and Kirkus were thrilled to bits by this one, and you can read an excerpt here.

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Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald (Tor Books)

We’ve praised McDonald’s novels set in India before, and featured him in the io9 Book Club, and now he’s back with a near-future thriller set on the Moon, where Adriana Corta has to fight for control of her family’s mining empire. It’s already been optioned for television. Read an excerpt here.

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The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood (Nan A. Talese)

After an economic collapse a couple are forced to live in their car—until they get an offer that sounds great: Live in comfort, in an ideal community, every other month. And then in the off months, they’re sent to a hellish prison. Soon they’re obsessed with the people who live in their house while they’re locked up. This is in the same universe as Atwood’s “Positron” stories which were released online. Sadly, Kirkus gives this book a pretty savagely negative review, although apparently the ending takes place at a convention of gay Elvis impersonators.

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Last Song Before Night by Ilana C. Myer (Tor)

In this fantasy debut, the Red Death is returning to a magical world—which means that someone is experimenting with dark magic, and also that a lot of people are going to be toast. It’s up to Lin, a young woman on the run who has taken on the forbidden job of musician and lyricist, to find out what’s up. Read an excerpt here.

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Wonders of the Invisible World by Christopher Barzak (Knopf)

The teenage Aidan Lockwood has huge gaps in his memory, and doesn’t even remember his best friend from kindergarten—who reminds him that he used to see weird stuff that nobody else can see. Turns out that Aidan’s had his memories wiped somewhat, to protect him from a family curse. And his childhood best friend, Jarrod, might actually be becoming more to him than just a friend. Kirkus calls this “a captivating exploration of the power of place, family, memory, and time itself.”

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Ash & Bramble by Sarah Prineas (HarperTeen)

Here’s another fairytale retelling—this time Cinderella. Except there’s a weird twist: the heroine, named Pin, has been dropped into a fairytale and had her memory wiped so she really believes she’s an abused stepdaughter. And the Godmother is much more of a metafictional manipulator and much less of a benign figure. School Library Journal liked the action and romance, and compared it to Marissa Meyer.

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Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins (Riverhead)

This award-winning author and “5 under 35” recipient is finally publishing her debut novel—set in a near future where drought has turned California into an arid wasteland. People are being rounded up and put into internment camps, but a young couple decides to squat in a movie star’s abandoned mansion instead. Until they’re forced to take a hazardous journey Eastward. Kirkus gave it a starred review and called it a “tour-de-force first novel,” with “a touch of Terry Gilliam.”

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Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie (Random House)

In Rushdie’s latest novel, it’s the near future, a mysterious fog has descended, and certain people are displaying superpowers—because they’re the descendants of Jinns. The Atlantic seems to like this book, saying that “a bracing dose of self-mockery helps his antic magic and earnest message go down well.”

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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (Henry Holt and Co.)

Bardugo returns to the world of her Grisha trilogy for this story of young criminals who are looking for one big score in a city overrun by gangsters, slavers and early-industrial madness. It’s a world where magic and technology have developed together, and this time around we get a tour of this world’s version of Europe. Kirkus calls it a “cracking page-turner” in a starred review.

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The Best of Nancy Kress by Nancy Kress (Subterranean)

Subterranean has been doing these “Best of” volumes for ages, and they’re usually pretty much essential. If you’re already a huge fan of Kress (and the other authors featured in the series), you’ll appreciate having all the best stuff in one beautiful volume. But if you’re new to one of the genre’s most acclaimed authors—in this case, a master of hard science fiction—then this is a great way to dive in. The only downside? These books are limited editions, and they tend to sell out.

Three Days in April by Edward Ashton (Harper Voyager)

The world is divided into the genetically engineered elite and the rest of us—but Anders Jensen manages to be living next door to a crack house and flat broke, despite being genetically enhanced. Too bad he’s caught in the middle of a plague outbreak and a whole lot of “kinetic energy” gunfights, as he runs for his life.

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Lightless by C.A. Higgins (Del Rey)

Althea forms a unique connection with the computers aboard the experimental military spaceship Ananke, which turns out to come in handy when the ship is attacked by terrorists. Kirkus gave this hard science fiction debut a starred review, and you can read an excerpt here.

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The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

In the future, we’ve found the perfect way to keep peace—the children of world leaders are held hostage, and will be executed if those leaders start a war. Greta is used to being a hostage, under the control of an artificial intelligence named Talis, until another hostage arrives, and he’s determined to shake things up. Kirkus gave this one a starred review, too.

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The Unquiet by Mikaela Everett (Greenwillow)

I love the premise of this one: A girl is trained to go to an alternate earth and kill her duplicate, taking her place to prepare the way for an invasion. Except, of course, stuff goes wrong.

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Aftermath: Star Wars: Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Chuck Wendig (LucasBooks)

And last but not least... the author of Mockingbird writes the novel that reveals just what happened after Return of the Jedi. Now that Timothy Zahn’s books have been tossed out of Star Wars continuity, this is our official word on just how badly Luke, Leia and Han screwed up the winning hand they were dealt after the Battle of Endor. (I’m assuming they screwed it up, or else there wouldn’t be any new movies.)

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Sources: SFSignal, Locus, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Publisher Catalogs


Charlie Jane Anders is the author of All The Birds in the Sky, coming in January from Tor Books. Follow her on Twitter, and email her.

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