What do March's science fiction and fantasy books have in store for you? Mermaids! Winged women! Interplanetary politics! Plus Kazuo Ishiguro's new novel, which is already garnering comparisons to Game of Thrones. Here are the March books you cannot afford to miss.
Top image: A Quantum Mythology by Gavin Smith, cover artwork by Spyroteknik
Note: As usual, this listing is pretty light on sequels and series books. If it's the end of a trilogy, or if it's a series that puts out volumes infrequently, then it's probably here. Otherwise, I tend to leave things out — purely because otherwise, this list would be twice as long and I would never get it done.
This book takes place in an underground, gaslit city where historians are incredibly important, because knowledge of the past is power. And when a major historian is murdered, Inspector Liesl Malone finds herself getting stonewalled by the government and threatened with death. Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review and said, "The subtly fantastical story is resplendent with surprisingly deep villains, political corruption, and a gripping whodunit feel."
The author of The Remains of the Day is back with a fantasy novel, full of ogres and dragons — an old couple set off on a quest to find their son, but we soon realize their real task is to defeat a dragon and dispel the mist that's destroying the land. Everybody is praising this book's fairytale weirdness, and Neil Gaiman calls it "an exceptional novel."
Smith is one of the British space opera writers who hasn't caught on as much stateside, but this book sounds like a rollicking great time. This novel takes place partly in the present day, as a man with incredible powers hunts down a similarly powered serial killer — and they're both empowered by strange alien technology. But other storylines take place thousands of years ago, as demons attack Ancient Britain and the far future, as a ruthless power struggle unfolds in space, centuries after the destruction of Earth.
Gilman's first Ben Jonson adventure was a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award — now here's the second, in which Shakespeare's contemporary writes a play in which the Prince of Wales himself will play Oberon, the King of Faerie. Except that the zombie playwright Kit Marlowe gets involved, and everything goes rather badly.
I couldn't possibly be more excited about this novel from the author of Something More Than Night. This takes place in an alternate universe where the Dutch empire has conquered everything, thanks to its clockwork soldiers, the Clakkers. But 200 years later, the Clakkers finally want to be set free. Publishers Weekly's starred review says, "Tregillis's complex setting is elegantly delivered, and the rich characters and gripping story really make this tale soar." Read an excerpt.
Richards is one of the most prolific Doctor Who book authors and editors, but he joins Paul Cornell, Rebecca Levene and Ben Aaronovitch as the author of standalone fiction. In this book, the Nazis are winning World War II, the way they usually do in alternate histories — but this time, they're helped by strange beings from beyond. And Richards' deep knowledge of World War II history reportedly adds a lot to this tale. Says SFSite, "The Suicide Exhibition is the kind of book which transcends its well trod themes to provide something that is always familiar, but still capable of producing a surprise."
The bestselling novelist takes us to 1890s Paris, where a woman fleeing her abusive husband finds herself possessed by a 16th century witch, La Lune. This ex-courtesan ghost opens up a secret world of darkness to the fugitive Sandrine. Kirkus calls this book, "Sensual, evocative, mysterious and haunting."
Connolly's Twenty Palaces books were a refreshingly dark spin on urban fantasy tropes. And now he's following up his self-published Great Way trilogy with another self-published book — his heroine, Marley Jacobs, has given up hunting supernatural creatures and tried to turn Seattle into a peaceful place where humans and the undead can exist together in peace. Too bad someone isn't down with the program.
If you're a regular io9 reader, you've seen Valentine's recaps of Sleepy Hollow and other shows — but before that happened, you also saw us praise her captivating fantasy novel Mecanique. Now she's written a near-future thriller set in a future where the lines between celebrity and diplomacy have become blurred. Suyana is the Face of the United Amazonia Rainforest Confederation, a target for paparazzi but also assassination attempts. Soon, though, she's forced to go on the run with a young paparazzo to unravel a conspiracy. Read an excerpt here.
Even for Dan Simmons, this sounds like an odd sort of novel. Famous author Henry James and famed detective Sherlock Holmes team up to solve the murder of a member of the Adams family (the presidents, not the monsters). Holmes is in hiding, having faked his own death at Reichenbach Falls. But there's one slight problem: Holmes is beginning to suspect he's a fictional character. And what does that make Henry James, his compatriot? Also, is Moriarty actually manipulating both of them? It got a star from Publishers Weekly and a mostly upbeat review from Kirkus.
You think you've had a bad breakup? You should see Henry. After his girlfriend Valerie leaves him, everything starts to fall apart — as in, reality itself begins to unravel. There's time travel, and other versions of Henry from the future, and everything is just whacked out. Henry's only hope to get his life back on track is to find his ex. Kirkus says, "An auspicious debut that blends a number of disparate-seeming tones into something surprisingly coherent—and moving."
Polly sets fire to the family farm to escape from her abusive father, and winds up taking sanctuary with her brother at a Shaker community — but then it turns out that she's their new Visionist, who can see mystical realities. The New York Times calls this book "transfixing" and praises its "meditative consideration of the value of hardship and the transformative nature of ecstasy."
This book sounds weird, in a really fun way — Tralane is a master of "archaeotechnology," the science of uncovering miracles from past ages. She lives in an age of magic, inside a "matriarchal imperium," and her life is devoted to peaceful scholarship. Until she gets pulled into a war, and has to go on the run with an alien peacekeeper.
What's it like investigating crimes in Hell? Not surprisingly, it's Hellish. Crimes get "Do Not Investigate" stamped on them, and then you send it along to the infernal bureaucracy. Until a series of crimes that are too horrible even for Hell start happening, and investigator Thomas Fool is ordered to get to the bottom of them. The Financial Times says, "Appropriately awash with gore and bodily fluids, The Devil's Detective is damned good."
This strange YA book takes place in an alternate 1930s Australia, where gangs carry out their vendettas by fighting with razor blades. And two girls are bitter enemies: Kelpie, who was raised by ghosts, and Dympha, a teen sex worker. It's gotten starred reviews pretty much everywhere and was a Sydney Morning Herald Pick of the Week.
The author of Eats, Shoots and Leaves writes a weird tale where a man suddenly finds his cat talking to him — and the cat tells him all sorts of secrets, including stuff about his wife's death, and a conspiracy by sinister forces.
Roza gets kidnapped by a mysterious man, and the only witness is Finn, who can't remember anything about what that man looked like. The opening paragraph pretty much won me over: "THE PEOPLE OF BONE GAP CALLED FINN A LOT OF THINGS, but none of them was his name. When he was little, they called him Spaceman. Sidetrack. Moonface. You. As he got older, they called him Pretty Boy. Loner. Brother. Dude." Read a big chunk of the book here.
What if there was a party drug that contained distilled magic? That's the intriguing premise of this debut novel that the publisher is calling "Breaking Bad meets Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files." Unfortunately, if you snort the magical drug Flex, you get one hell of a crash afterwards, in which the universe takes back whatever you've gotten from it. A rules-obsessed "bureaumancer" is forced to try this dangerous drug in order to save his badly burned daughter. Read an excerpt!
An award-winning poet has written what sounds like a pretty intriguing dystopia — 400 years after some kind of calamity, everyone is born in twins. One twin is the Alpha, perfect and strong, and the other twin is a mutated Omega, who gets banished into special settlements. Feeling Fictional calls it "a great start to the series and it left me desperate to find out what will happen next."
The author of Afterparty writes a dark fantasy in which the young Harrison is suppressing memories of some kind of encounter with Lovecraftian monsters in the depths of the ocean. He lost a leg, and now walks with a high-tech prosthetic, and he's afraid of the water. But then he goes to a new school, where he meets a ghost, learns a secret sign language, and gets a note from a half-fish, half-human member of the Dwellers, who live in the sea. Kirkus seemed to like it a lot.
The Booker Prize-shortlisted author writes a very pomo-sounding novel about a man named U. who is a "corporate anthropologist," studying the strange phenomena of our times for a giant corporation. He starts seeing weird connections between South Pacific cargo cults and an epidemic of dead parachutists. NPR says "the satiny glow of those passages gives a reader hope for some kind of fusion of meaning and feeling in a world that's too carefully restrained." Associated Press calls it "a dazzling array of sentences and paragraphs and snippets of memory and thought that aren't quite sure where they are. "
Prudence Eleanor Vilkas was born with a pair of wings, but they were surgically removed when she was little, leaving nasty scars — and then she discovers that she comes from a family of winged women, back in Lithuania. She goes on a quest to find her ancestors and the meaning of the wings that only one other person can see. Read an excerpt here.
This "contemporary noir" noir novel takes place in the hot, rainy summer of 2015. Twin sisters discover a strange mushroom growing out of their hall closet, and it's weirdly phosphorescent. The women, along with a fugitive au pair and an actress are forced to flee their row house when the infestation gets out of control — but soon the whole city is being overrun with these strange growths. Kirkus gives it a starred review and says, "This absorbing novel about a luminescent fungus affixes itself to your psyche like a spore and quickly spreads to your heart, setting everything in its wake aglow."
The crew of the "freetrader" ship Pelquin's Comet are a group of misfits, ex-soldiers and thieves, and they're always looking for the score that will make them rich. And maybe they've found it — a cache of secret alien technology that's worth a fortune. If only they can get to it before the government, various corporations, and just about everybody else.