One of the things that I like about the winter months here in Vermont is the cold. It’s a bit of a stereotypical thing, I realize, but every time I end up going to my parents, I find myself sitting in a comfortable chair, inching closer and closer to their cast iron wood stove. When I’m at home, there’s nothing better than curling up on a couch, with a stack of books and a pot of tea close at hand. I can escape the cold in that pile of adventures, coming up for air hours later.
One adventure that I’ve found myself on is almost a half-century old: Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Word for World is Forest. I picked up a copy while I was traveling for the holidays, and have been picking away at it. Le Guin originally published the novella in Harlen Ellison’s Again, Dangerous Visions, and it earned her a Hugo Award. It’s a really remarkable short book, one that subverts many of science fiction’s long-held tropes and is a powerful work of ecological SF. I recommend picking it up.
There’s a whole bunch of new books coming out this month. Let’s dig in and take a look at what’s coming up.
With Blood Upon the Sand by Bradley P. Beaulieu
This is a hefty epic fantasy novel, the second in Beaulieu’s Song of Shattered Sands duology. In the first novel, Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, Çeda discovered a terrible secret about the kings of the city. She is now a Blade Maiden in their service, and after a recent defeat, they’re out for blood. Çeda and her friend Emre are pulled into a conspiracy that might destroy the kings, provided they can navigate the palace intrigue of Sharakhai.
Crown of Doom and Light by Jayde Brooks
The latest in Jayde Brooks’ Daughter of Gods and Shadows series finds the Earth at the brink of war. Her heroine, Eden Reid, is the world’s one savior in a world gone to hell. Demons and vampires are everywhere, and she has to not only contend with her dark powers, but a rival who has returned from the dead.
Magic of Blood and Sea by Cassandra Rose Clarke
Saga Press has collected two of Cassandra Rose Clarke’s novels into one volume: The Assassin's Curse and The Pirate's Wish. The combined edition follows a pirate princess named Ananna and an assassin named Naji. Ananna accidentally triggers a curse, and the two have to team up to undo it.
Universal Harvester: A Novel by John Darnielle
Music fans know of John Darnielle as the vocalist and songwriter for The Mountain Goats, but he’s become an accomplished novelist. Universal Harvester is his second novel, set in the late 1990s in Iowa. Jeremy works in a rundown video store, and when a movie is returned with a strange complaint, he investigates, discovering that the world around him isn’t quite as it seems.
Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly
This is a novel that I’ve been hearing about through the author grapevine, and everything that I’ve heard has been overwhelmingly positive. In an alternate world, a spy named Cyril is captured as Amberlough City is undergoing a fascist revolution. He works to protect his lover, Aristide, while trying to figure out if he can trust Cordelia, a dancer and runner for Aristide.
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman’s novels are loaded with references to Norse mythology, and he’s put together a book that retells the original legends in a novelistic format. Gaiman tells the tales of the major gods, such as Odin, Thor, and Loki, from the beginning of the world to the end.
Nightshift by Charlaine Harris
Charlaine Harris is best known for her Stookie Stackhouse novels — the basis for HBO’s True Blood series. Now she has a new urban fantasy series, set in the town of Midnight, where strange creatures roam the streets. In the latest installment, Nightshift, the vampire Lemuel has discovered why the paranormal have been attracted to the town, while a rash of suicides has swept the community.
The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley
Deep in space, a group of dying world ships known as the Legion has been making its journey between the stars. A battle for power has been taking place between them as various factions try and take control of the Legion. One soldier, Zan, awakens with no memory of her past, and is used as a weapon to try and take control of Mokshi, a world ship with the power to leave the Legion. Kameron Hurley is one of the genre’s best new writers, and this book is a really impressive feat.
All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
In Tom Barren’s 2016, humanity lives in our imagined, science fictional future. There are flying cars, moon bases, and time travel. Tom is having his own problems fitting in, and accidentally ends up in an alternate 2016: our own. He might have also broken the fabric of reality. While he discovers his perfect place in the world, he has to choose between fixing things and returning home, or making his way in this dreary, dystopian world.
The People's Police by Norman Spinrad
In this politically charged thriller, three people are pulled together in a television studio. A New Orleans cop who has served in some tough places, only to be forced to serve his own eviction notice. A brothel owner’s business goes into foreclosure, while a television star and voodoo queen can speak to the Loa spirits. None of them expect Papa Legba to answer them with a question: "What do you offer?"
Winter Be My Shield by Jo Spurrier
In this epic fantasy, Sierra has a forbidden gift: she can draw power from the suffering of others. She’s recently escaped from a brutal king, only to fall into the company of a fugitive prince. They’re on the run from the king’s torturer Rasten, and from other dangers. When Sierra is presented with the choice to help Rasten kill the king, she has to decide what cost her freedom is worth.
Idle Ingredients: A Sin du Jour Affair by Matt Wallace
Matt Wallace has been spinning out some entertaining, food-themed novellas following a demonic catering agency. The male staff of Sin du Jour find themselves incapacitated, and it’s going to take some skill and cunning to undo the curse.
Winter of the Gods (Olympus Bound) by Jordanna Max Brodsky
Jordanna Max Brodsky follows up her 2016 novel Immortals with Winter of the Gods. It’s winter in New York City, and Selene DiSilva is after the people who left a dead body on the Charging Bull statue. While searching, she discovers an ancient conspiracy that threatens her — and the existence of the other gods in the city.
Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey
Prospero was the revenge-driven lead of Shakespeare’s Tempest. In her latest novel, Jacqueline Carey expands on the story, focusing on Miranda and Caliban and their friendship. Away from Prospero, they fight against the dark force that keeps them chained to the island.
Gilded Cage by Vic James
Gilded Cage is the start to a new series by debut author Vic James. The world belongs to a class of gifted magical aristocrats, and commoners must serve them for a decade. A woman named Abi is a servant to a powerful family and discovers a secret that can upend the power in society, all while her brother toils away in a factory town, building a revolution.
An Impossible War by Andy Remic
A soldier named Robert Jones during the First World War endures the horrors of the trenches on the front lines. While fighting, the armies engaged in the terrible war begin to shape-shift into demonic entities, and he discovers that he’s caught in No Man’s Land in a much greater, metaphysical struggle. This is a collection of three of Andy Remic’s shorter novellas: A Song for No Man’s Land, Return of Souls, and The Iron Beast.
The Book of Etta by Meg Elison
Etta hails from Nowhere, a community that survived a huge plague in this sequel to Meg Elison’s 2016 novel The Book of the Unnamed Midwife. While women are scarce in the world, she would prefer to scavenge than raise children, and is forced to brave the outside world, dodging slave traders who would capture and sell her.
Parable of the Talents / Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
If you’ve never read Octavia Butler, you should stop what you’re doing and go read a bunch of her books right now. Fortunately, there’s a pair of new editions of Parable of the Talents and Parable of the Sower from Seven Stories Press which look stunning. The novels take place in 2025, where society has collapsed with a far-right crusader in the White House, with only small sheltered communities fending off bands of scavengers and violent addicts. One woman, Luaren Olamina has an ability to feel the pain of others, and sets off on a journey north. This edition features an introduction from Gloria Steinem.
A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab
The Shades of Magic trilogy comes to a close with A Conjuring of Light. Picking up right after A Gathering of Shadows, the four worlds of London have been separated for centuries. Kell and Delilah have participated in the Elemental Games, while another London — thought long lost — is coming back to life, and threatens to plunge the world into darkness.
Cold Counsel by Chris Sharp
Slud of the Blood Claw Clan, Bringer of Troubles, was born during a massive and terrible storm. His birth changed his father, who rallied the remaining trolls to take back their former mountain home, only to be eradicated by an army of elves. Slud was carried away and hidden, and as he grows up, he becomes an unwitting weapon of revenge.
Aftermath: Empire's End by Chuck Wendig
Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy is coming to an end with Empire’s End. The novel will set up one of the pivotal events from The Force Awakens, the Battle of Jakku. Former rebel pilot Norra Wexley is back in service tracking down Grand Admiral Rae Sloane, who is on her own chase after Gallius Rax. All parties end up above Jakku, and a massive battle is about to begin.
Agents of Dreamland by Caitlín R. Kiernan
A strange event occurred in Arizona, and a government agent known as the Signalman goes in to investigate. NASA’s New Horizons has abruptly vanished, while a cult gets ready for a strange future. Something is lurking out at the end of the Solar System. Caitlín R. Kiernan is known for her horror and weird stories, and this new Lovecraftian novella looks like it’ll be a really intriguing and scary read.
Fields of Fire by Marko Kloos
Marko Kloos has been a rising star in the world of military science fiction. His ongoing Frontlines series is a lot of fun, set in a futuristic Earth besieged by an alien civilization known as the Lankies. Thus far in the series, humanity has been waging a losing battle, and the aliens have taken Mars. The time has come to strike, and major combined fleet action is underway. This series kicks ass, and it’s been building to this book.
Game of Shadows by Erika Lewis
In this debut novel from Erika Lewis, a battle took place in ancient Ireland, forcing the local deities to flee to a new continent they called Tara. A thousand years later, a young man comes to terms with a gift: he can see ghosts. After discovering that his apartment has been trashed and his overprotective mother missing, he teams up with a captain from Tara on a journey that leads him to the hidden world of Tara.
Revenger by Alastair Reynolds
If you want to read a great, hard SF novel, you’ll probably have Alastair Reynolds recommended to you. The author is known for books like Revelation Space and Chasm City, and his latest novel follows starship let by Captain Rackmore that explores ancient alien civilizations, searching for advanced technologies that can give humanity a foothold. A pair of new crewmates signed on to save their family from financial ruin, only to discover that Rackmore’s rivals might be just as deadly.
Thunderbird by Chuck Wendig
Every now and again, an author will have a couple of releases in the same month: that’s the case with Chuck Wendig. In addition to his aforementioned Star Wars novel, he has a new entry in his Miriam Black urban fantasy series. Black is a fantastic, sharp character, and in this new installment, she seeks out another psychic who can help her understand her “gift”: whenever she touches someone, she sees how they will die. It’s a problem, because she’s getting addicted to these visions.