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18 science fiction and fantasy books to read this January

18 science fiction and fantasy books to read this January


Start off your year with a good book (or two)

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It’s a brand new year, and that means that it’s time to dust off the reading list and take a look at what’s coming ahead.

In the last days of 2017, I finally found some time to catch up on Brian K. Vaughn and FIonna Staples’s brilliant comic Saga. I’ve loved the series, but for one reason or another, I’ve fallen behind. I plowed through the latest three volumes, and was once again enthralled in their vivid world, and can’t wait to pick up the next one.

In the meantime, here’s 18 books hitting bookstores this January to start the new year off with.

January 2nd

Emergence by CJ Cherryh

CJ Cherryh is one of the modern titans of science fiction literature, known in part for her long-running Foreigner series, which follows the descendants of a lost starship. Emergence marks the 19th entry in the series, and begins a new adventure for a human diplomat named Bren Cameron, who is working to broker peace between human refugees of Alpha Station and the atevi, whose world they’re orbiting.

Black Star Renegades by Michael Moreci

A young man named Cade Sura reluctantly controls the most powerful weapon in the galaxy, and it puts him into the path of the evil Praxis Kingdom. Michael Moreci is known for his comic books, but his debut novel is a mashup of familiar tropes from space operas like Star Wars and Guardians of the Galaxy. Kirkus Reviews says that he’s assembled all of these tropes “with such devotion and style that it’s impossible not to love this strange mashup for its own sake.”

January 9th

The Transition by Luke Kennard

In the near future, Karl is a freelance writer who writes fake 5-star reviews and homework assignments to stave off debt. One of his pieces lands him in legal trouble, and he’s given a choice: go to prison, or enroll in “The Transition,” a mentor program designed to rehabilitate a lost generation. Publisher’s Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying that “Kennard calibrates satire and sentiment, puncturing glib diagnoses of a generation’s shortcomings.”

Image: 47 North

Points of Impact by Marko Kloos

Marko Kloos’s Frontlines military science fiction series comes to an end (for now) with Points of Impact. Our solar system was invaded by the aliens known as Lankys, and in the last installment, Earth’s forces were able to repel their advances. The war is far from over, however. Andrew Grayson and his wife Halley deal with the lingering enemy forces, and prepare for the next phase of the war, beyond human space.

Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire

The third entry in Seanan McGuire’s Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Wayward Children series returns to her magical boarding school designed to rehabilitate children who have experienced fantasy adventures. In this standalone entry, Rini arrives at Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children from the world of Confection, only to discover that her mother died before she was conceived, and she has to find a way to restore her mother before reality kicks in and eliminates her. Publisher’s Weekly calls the book “delicious.”

Dark State by Charles Stross

Charles Stross returns to his Merchant Princes universe with a followup to last year’s Empire Games. That book kicked off a new trilogy, chronicling the clash of two nuclear states in a pair of alternate timelines. In one timeline, the US has dispatched spies into the other worlds as tensions begin to spill across timelines to threaten all. Kirkus Reviews gave the book a starred review, saying that it is “sheer brilliance: when Stross is in this mood, nobody else comes close.”

Sinless by Sarah Tarkoff

The first in a new series portrays a world in which morality is physically enforced: those deemed “good” are bestowed with beauty, while the “bad” are disfigured. When the daughter of a cleric, Grace, comes to question her society, she finds herself in the midst of a much larger power struggle between good and evil.

Image: Knopf Books

Gnomon by Nick Harkaway

Nick Harkaway’s novel Gnomon is set in a high-tech surveillance state in the near future. Everyone’s lives, thoughts, and memories are open to the System in the name of Transparency. When a dissident named Diana Hunter dies in government hands, the incident threatens to undermine the perception of the System’s reliability, and a state inspector is assigned to find out what went wrong. Kirkus Reviews gave the book a starred review, staying that it’s a “multilayer, sprawling novel that blends elements of Philip K. Dick.”

Robots Vs. Fairies by Navah Wolfe and Dominik Parisien

Themed anthologies are always fun to dig into, especially if they have a wacky premise. Enter Navah Wolfe and Dominik Parisien’s new anthology, which asks the question: Robots or Fairies? This book has a bunch of well-known authors, such as Max Gladstone, Ken Liu, John Scalzi, Alyssa Wong, and Catherynne M. Valente.

January 16th

Apart in the Dark: Novellas by Ania Ahlborn

If you’re looking for a pair of shorter reads, Ania Ahlborn’s new book is a pair of supernatural novellas, The Pretty Ones and I Call Upon Thee. In the first, New York City is gripped with fear in the midst of the Son of Sam murders, and when her best friend is murdered, Nell Sullivan knows that there’s something else responsible. In the other, Maggie Olsen spent her childhood stalked by a shadow, and years later, she’s forced to return home to confront her past.

Iron Gold by Pierce Brown

Pierce Brown kicks off a new chapter in his popular Red Rising trilogy with Iron Gold. Set on Mars, that series chronicled a brutal class struggle led by a member of the Red caste Darrow on Mars, which toppled the tyrannical Society. This new installment is set a decade later, with Darrow and Virginia "Mustang" au Augustus leading the new Solar Republic, which now faces a new threat from the outer solar system.


Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor finishes off her Binti trilogy with The Night Masquerade, which began with the fantastic Binti and Binti: Home. Those novellas introduced us to its titular character, a young African woman who leaves home to study in an interstellar academy, and accidentally brokers a peace between humanity and aliens known as the Meduse. In The Night Masquerade, Binti returns home after it is attacked, and it’s up to her to help prevent a war.

Frankenstein: The Original 1817 Text by Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein turns 200 this year, and Penguin Classics is re-releasing the novel in its original form. This volume contains additional materials from two Shelley scholars, Charlotte Gordon and Charles E. Robinson.

Blood and Sand: A Novel by C. V. Wyk

In C.V. Wyk’s debut novel, we meet a gladiator and a young warrior princess from Sparta who were enslaved and brought to Rome. The two form a bond and hatch a plan to bring down the entire Roman Empire. Publisher’s Weekly gave the book a starred review, calling it an “action-packed debut novel.”

January 23rd

The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander

Over the last couple of years, Brooke Bolander has earned considerable acclaim for her short fiction. Her latest novella is about a factory worker who is suffering from radiation poisoning in Newark, New Jersey. She’s training an elephant with an uncanny intelligence to do the work that made her ill, and the two hatch a plan to exact revenge on those who put them in their predicaments.

Image: Orbit Books

Elysium Fire by Alastair Reynolds

Alastair Reynolds is known for his epic, hard science fiction books such as Revelation Space and Chasm City. His latest is a sequel to his 2007 novel The Prefect about a Prefect named Tom Dreyfus, a cop who patrols the space habitats orbiting the planet Yellowstone. Dreyfus faces a new crisis: people are starting to randomly die, victims of malfunctioning implants, while a breakaway faction is beginning to urge a group of habitats to break away to form their own colonies.

Frankenstein in Baghdad: A Novel by Ahmed Saadawi, translated by Jonathan Wright

Originally published in 2013, the book earned Iraqi author Ahmed Saaadawi the 2014 International Prize for Arabic Fiction. The book is set in the aftermath of the US invasion, and a scavenger named Hadi collects body parts to assemble into a full body and tries to get the government to give them a proper burial. But the body (which Hadi calls “Whatsitsname”) goes missing and causes a string of brutal murders, he realizes that he’s created a real monster. Publisher’s Weekly says that the book is a “harrowing and affecting look at the day-to-day life of war-torn Iraq.”

January 30th

Starlings by Jo Walton

Noted author and commentator Jo Walton collects some of her works, including a play, poetry, and short fiction, alongside extended commentary on each entry. Alongside stories of sentient search engines, generation ships, and fantastic quests, Walton musts on the nature of writing and storytelling. Kirkus Reviews calls the book an “intriguing peek inside a fertile mind.”