With the rolling over of the calendar, we’ve got an entire year’s worth of books coming our way. I’ve already written up a preview of what to expect — there are a ton of really excellent-looking reads coming throughout the year that I can’t wait to read — but this month brings its own crop of intriguing volumes.
My goal this year is to try to read a bit more in the way of nonfiction, particularly history. I’ve started with a new book from author Myke Cole, who’s known for his fantasy novels — his books from last year were some of my favorites of 2018 — but he also tried his hand at military history. He wrote Legion versus Phalanx: The Epic Struggle for Infantry Supremacy in the Ancient World, in which he looks at six battles between the Greek and Roman armies. It’s a fascinating account that goes deep into a series of battles between 280 and 168 BC, exploring how the Romans came to dominate the Mediterranean battlefields on which they fought.
Here are 10 books to check out this January. (We’ll get back to a bimonthly schedule in February.)
Arkad’s World by James L. Cambias
James Cambias has written a pair of intriguing novels already: Corsair, a near-future thriller about pirates in space, and A Darkling Sea, about first contact on an ice-covered moon. His latest is Arkad’s World is about a boy named Arkad who is the only human on an alien planet. As he struggles to survive, the arrival of a trio of humans upends his life. They’re searching for a long-lost treasure that might help keep Earth free from alien domination, and as he joins them, it becomes clear that a member of their group harbors a secret that could betray their entire mission. Publishers Weekly says that “readers looking for retro space adventure with modern sensibilities will find this hits the spot.”
The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden
I’m a big fan of Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale. It’s a fantastic story inspired by the folklore of medieval Russia. Now, Arden brings her Winternight Trilogy to a close with The Winter of the Witch. A demon reappears and devastates Moscow, and with the country set on a path to war, Vasilisa Petrovna has to try and find a way to save both Russia and the fantastical world of Morozko. The novel just hit The New York Times best-seller list, and it recently earned a starred review from Kirkus Reviews, which says that it’s a “striking literary fantasy informed by Arden’s deep knowledge of and affection for this time and place.”
Alliance Rising by C.J. Cherryh and Jane S. Fancher
Celebrated author C.J. Cherryh returns with Alliance Rising, a new installment of her long-running Alliance-Union series. In her universe, humanity has spread throughout space with a network of space stations, and the ones nearest to Earth are the Hinder Stars. When Merchanter vessel Finity’s End arrives, the inhabitants of Alpha Station believe that it’s coming to investigate a rival Earth Company starship The Rights of Man. The crew is investigating rumors about the ship, and they learn that there’s more to it than meets the eye: it has a mysterious mission that could change everything for humanity.
In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire
Seanan McGuire’s has been writing a fantasy series about transdimensional portals called Wayward Children, with each installment (Every Heart a Doorway, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, and Beneath a Sugar Sky) serving as a standalone adventure. In this latest installment, An Absent Dream, a young woman named Katherine Lundy discovers a door to another world that’s built on logic and reason. At first, she believes that it’s a paradise, but when it’s time to leave, she discovers that there’s a high cost to bargains that she has to make. Ars Technica said that it “combines a high-stakes plot, vivid world-building, and gentle character development best out of all of the Wayward Children novellas.”
Shadow Captain by Alastair Reynolds
Alastair Reynolds returns to the world of his 2017 book Revenger, which followed the crew of a starship that loots alien worlds for advanced technologies. In this sequel, crew members Adrana and Fura Ness have been reunited after a long separation, but they are changed by their experiences. Adrana is traumatized after being enslaved by feared pirate Bosa Sennen, while Fura has become obsessed with finding the pirate’s treasures. Both now have to contend with forces coming after the captain and her ship, including the people on it.
Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty
S.A. Chakraborty’s The City of Brass was one of our top reads of 2017, and she’s back this month with its sequel Kingdom of Copper. This novel follows Nahri — the last remaining member of a powerful family — after she summoned a Djinn and arrived in the magical city of Daevabad. The city is coping after a massive battle, and she has embraced her heritage while working to navigate the dangerous waters of the royal court, while Prince Ali is exiled and plots a rebellion. Kirkus Reviews gave the book a starred review, saying that it’s “as good or better than its predecessor.”
Golden State by Ben H. Winters
Laszlo Ratesic is a member of the Speculative Service in the nation of Golden State, formerly California. The country is governed by an inescapable law: lying is forbidden, punishable by jail time. He’s part of a vast surveillance state that’s set up to monitor the truth, and it’s his job to uphold the truth. But while investigating the death of a construction worker, he and his partner discover that there’s a vast conspiracy at play. Kirkus Reviews says that the book is a “skillful and swift-moving concoction.”
Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett
I recently reviewed Robert Jackson Bennett’s latest novel, Foundryside, and he’s back this month with another fascinating story called Vigilance. Set in 2030, a sociopathic TV network sets up “Vigilance,” a reality “game” show where they create an active shooter situation in public spaces, with prize money going to anyone who takes down the shooters. It’s a tense, biting satire of 2018.
Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen
Kin Stewart appears to lead a typical life. He works a normal job and raises his teenage daughter. But he has a secret: he’s really a former agent of the Temporal Corruption Bureau from 2142. Stranded since the 1990s, he can barely remember the life he left behind. Eighteen years later, his former colleagues come back to rescue him, and when his daughter’s life is put at risk, he works to try and find a way to save her. Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying that Chen’s “quick pacing, complex characters, and a fascinating premise make this an unforgettable debut.”
Tides of the Titans by Thoraiya Dyer
Thoraiya Dyer’s Titan’s Forest series is set in a fantastical world populated by massive trees, ruled by 13 Gods and Goddesses who sometimes are reincarnated into human bodies. In the latest installment, Tides of the Titans, Leaper is a courtier, explorer, and thief who yearns after Queen of Airakland. But when she’s murdered, he vows revenge, and finding the killer means leaving his forest home to the edge of the world.
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