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New adventures: what to read in science fiction and fantasy this month

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Dinosaurs, Deep Space Opera, and a bespectacled wizard boy

Every month, a trove of undiscovered worlds arrive in bookstores, waiting for explorers. New adventures is a new weekend series that will preview the month ahead in science fiction and fantasy novels.

This month, we’ve got books from places such as Russia and Cuba, tales from the First World War, deep space operas, and quite a lot more!

July 1st

The Doomed City, Arkady Strugatsky, Boris Strugatsky, translated by Andrew Bromfield

The Strugatsky brothers are widely known for some amazing works of science fiction — just look at their book Roadside Picnic (best known as the basis for the Russian SF film Stalker). The Doomed City is considered one of their most philosophical novels: a group of people from various places and times across Earth are placed in a city in a mysterious experiment. Everything begins to go wrong, and the egalitarian system of order is replaced with a dictatorial one. While the book was finished in 1972, it wasn’t until 1989 that it was first published in Russia. This new edition marks the first time that it’s been published in English.

July 5th

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, Becky Chambers

This debut novel from Becky Chambers was originally published in the UK in 2015, but it’s now finally available in the United States, and you should read it. The book has not only been nominated for a whole bunch of major awards such as the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, it’s a helluva lot of fun to read. Set on a starship called The Wayfarer, it follows Rosemarie, a new crew member who is brought onboard to help with the ship’s paperwork. Along the way, you’re introduced to an amazing cast of fully fleshed-out characters as they hurtle through space on a mission to build a hyperspace lane.

The Continuous Katherine Morenhoe, D. G. Compton, introduction by Jeff VanderMeer

Originally published in 1973, D.G. Compton’s novel feels as though it’s a novel made for the modern day. Katherine Mortenhoe lives in a world where death has been vanquished, but she’s dying from a terminal brain disease due to her inability to process an ever-increasing volume of sensory input. Her illness puts her in the public eye, but even as she refuses to be made the star of a reality show, she doesn’t realize that she’s being watched.

Heroine Complex, by Sara Kuhn

Even superheroes sometimes need some help. Evie Tanaka is the personal assistant to Aveda Jupiter, San Francisco’s famous superheroine, and she does a great job at it. Despire that, she’s not as good at being a parent or standing up for herself, and when Jupiter asks her to fill in for her for a night, she discovers that she has powers, too. She’s going to have to get a handle on her own issues as the city she’s now tasked with protecting is faced with a demonic invasion. Superhero novels are sometimes hard to pull off outside of their native comic book habitat, but this looks like it has all the markings of a really fun read.

Dinosaur Knights, Victor Milan

Victor Milan had a brilliant idea for a book: put knights in armor atop dinosaurs. His first book, the Dinosaur Lords, formed the basis for a new trilogy set in the fantastic world of Paradise. This second novel was originally part of one long novel, which now forms the middle part of the trilogy. In it, a knight named Karyl Bogomirsky is pressed into service to protect Paradise against a religious crusade, while an ancient order known as the Grey Angels return to cleanse the world of all sins, including the people they deem unworthy.

The Interminables, Paige Orwin

In 2020, the world was transformed when a magical cataclysm changed everything. A cabal of wizards is keeping the peace on the US East Coast, and two of its agents, Edmund and Istvan (a mystery man from the 1940s and a ghost, respectively), are tasked with tracking down a smuggling ring that threatens all of Massachusetts. As they do so, they discover that there’s more to the cabal and to the order of the world than they first understood. Magic in the modern world is always a fun trope.

Underground Airlines, Ben H. Winters

Ben H. Winters’ new book takes place in a world that looks much like ours: there’s the internet, social networks, and more, with one notable difference: the Civil War never happened, and a small number of states still utilize slavery. A young black man named Victor works as a bounty hunter for the US Marshals Service, and he’s tasked with tracking down a runaway from the "Hard Four" slaveholding states. As he tracks down the fugitive, he works to infiltrate the Underground Airlines, an abolitionist movement, discovering a secret at the core of the relationship between the United States and the Hard Four, something that they’re willing to kill in order to keep quiet.

July 12th

Time Siege, Wesley Chu

Wesley Chu opened up a new world of possibility with his novel Time Salvager. In its sequel, James Griffin has turned fugitive and is hiding out on a poisoned Earth, gathering a group of scientific allies who he hopes can help heal the planet. Time is running short, however: the solar system’s military and corporate overlords are ready to dispatch their forces against him, including Kuo, a ruthless security officer who will stop at nothing to remove Griffin from the equation.

A Natural History of Hell, Jeffrey Ford

Jeffrey Ford is regarded as one of the best authors writing short horror fiction right now, and his latest collection, A Natural History of Hell is a fantastic grouping of 13 of his best short stories. The stories here range from stories about exorcisms to beheaded sea captains to monstrous angels. Kirkus Reviews praised the book, noting that its contents are a series of "violent, unsettling stories that nevertheless offer a great deal of humor, wit, and feeling."

The Heavenly Table, Donald Ray Pollock

Set in 1917 on the border of Georgia and Alabama, the three sons of a farmer named Pearl Jewett are left on their own after their father drops dead. Meanwhile in Ohio, Ellsworth Fiddler has his family’s fortune stolen from under him. The action puts him on a violent and unexpected path with the Jewett sons, who have embarked on their own journey, inspired by a dime store novel that puts them into more trouble than they expected.

The Year 200, Agustin de Rojas

Restless Books brought a pair of Cuban Science Fiction novels to the US last summer, and they’re poised to do it again with The Year 200, by Agustin de Rojas, who has been called the "father of Cuban science fiction." Originally published in 1990, de Rojas sets his novel centuries in the future after a communist federation overcomes a capitalistic Empire and is administered by an artificial intelligence that suppresses "abnormal behavior." Its citizens have the choice of becoming cyborgs, or rejecting technology and living without the benefits of society. When the Empire returns and begins taking over the minds of citizens, it’s up to a pair of women to save the world.

The Big Book Of Science Fiction, Ann and Jeff Vandermeer

There are some amazing anthologies out there that cover the width and breadth of science fiction’s history such as the Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction or the Norton Book of Science Fiction, which collects some of the genre’s most important works in a definitive volume. Now, Ann and Jeff Vandermeer have assembled their own: The Big Book of Science Fiction, a massive tome with stories that go back as far as 1897, and include such luminaries as Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Ursula K. Le Guin, Philip K. Dick, and others — some translated into English for the first time. This is going to be a must-buy for any science fiction fan out there.

Necessity, Jo Walton

The final installment of Jo Walton’s philosophical trilogy that began with The Just City and The Philosopher Kings brings back her mind-blowing blend of science fiction and fantasy, picking up a generation after the events of the last installment. The cities of the planet Plato are flourishing, and trade with alien species has picked up. When the god Apollo returns in his natural form, a ship from Earth arrives at Plato, threatening to change everything.

Invaders: 22 Tales from the Outer Limits of Literature, Jacob Weisman

Invasions are a longstanding trope within science fiction literature, and this new anthology from Jacob Weisman collects an intriguing set of short stories from authors not typically associated with science fiction. This collection contains stories about first contact to epidemics to scientific experiments from authors such as Junot Díaz, Jonathan Lethem, Katherine Dunn, and a number of others.

July 19th

Nightshades, Melissa F. Olson

The Chicago office of the Bureau of Paranormal Investigations receives a new special agent just as everything is going to hell. Children are going missing, and the agents under Alex McKenna’s command are getting killed off. The BPI is tasked with investigating vampire-related crimes, and it’s up to her to get to the bottom of the crime spree before it’s too late.

Life Debt: Aftermath, Chuck Wendig

Chuck Wendig helped fill in the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens with his novel Aftermath, and he’s now returned with the second book in his trilogy, Life Debt. The Empire is in retreat as the New Republic advances across the galaxy, and Han Solo finds himself on his way to Kashyyyk to help Chewbacca liberate the planet. Meanwhile, Norra Wexley and her Imperial hunters are hot on the heels of Grand Admiral Rae Sloane, when they’re called in to help locate a now missing Solo and Chewbacca. Aftermath was a fun new adventure in the new Star Wars canon, and we can’t wait to see what Wendig has for us next.

July 26th

Indomitable, W.C. Bauers

W.C. Bauers introduced us to Promise Paen, a tough-as-nails soldier in the Republic of Aligned worlds and her fight against the Lusitanian Empire. After a tough fight on the planet Montana, she’s returned home with a new unit of marines to get ready for the next fight. Her career is put into jeopardy after a friendly fire incident shortly after they’re deployed to the planet Sheol. When the Lusitanians dispatch their own set of mercenaries to the proxy war, she’s given a second chance at redemption.

Dark Matter, Blake Crouch

Blake Crouch is known for his Wayward Pines books, and his latest is gearing up to be just as big of a hit. In it, a masked man asks Jason Dessen if he’s happy with his life before he’s knocked out. When he wakes up, he’s surrounded by strangers in protective suits, and welcomed back by a man he doesn’t recognize. He discovers that his life wasn’t the quiet one what he thought he had. Instead of being a college professor, he’s a genius who created something amazing. As he tries to figure out which world is real, he’s forced to confront his darker side.

Four Roads Cross, Max Gladstone

Max Gladstone’s Craft series has been a remarkable, addicting fantasy, and the latest, Four Roads Cross, is a continuation of his brilliantly conceived world. Set after the events of Three Parts Dead, Cat and Raz are caught in the midst of a crisis in Alt Coulumb. A god thought long dead has returned, sparking protests and a hostile takeover of the Fire God’s Church by its creditors. There’s also pirates, skeleton kings, demons, and farmers markets. Gladstone’s series is well worth picking up, and this latest installment appears to be its best yet.

Supernova, C.A. Higgins

C.A. Higgins’ debut novel Lightless was set in the depths of the solar system aboard an experimental spaceship that developed sentience. The Ananke has been transformed, with only Althea remaining aboard to guide its development. Together, they seek out the terrorist who had helped to bring life to the system, Matthew Gale, a trek that brings them back to Earth, currently embroiled in the midst of a violent revolution. Lightless was a fantastic, thoughtful novel, and this sequel appears to be just as intriguing.

The Unseen World, Liz Moore

In the 1980s, David Sibelius directed a computer science lab while raising his daughter, Ada, a child prodigy. As she grows older and his brilliant mind begins to fail, she’s taken in by one of his colleagues, and begins to look into her father’s mysterious past. This is a powerful novel about a woman coming of age, set in the beats of the history of artificial intelligence and cryptology.

July 31st

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts 1 & 2, J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany

Harry Potter is back. Almost a decade after J.K. Rowling ended her fantasy series, she’s returning to the wizarding world in a stage play in London’s West End. For those of you who can’t afford a ticket? You can pick up the "Special Rehearsal Edition" (A "Definitive Edition" will be released in 2017).

The story is written by Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorn, and stars Harry Potter in his later years. Now employed by the Ministry of Magic, married, and father to three children, he’s grappling with the legacy of his past and his family’s future.