Last week, I blew through a new novella from Robert Jackson Bennett who you might remember as the author of Foundryside, a novel about industrialized magic. This shorter science fiction book, Vigilance, is a bit of a jump from that. It’s about a sociopathic TV network in the future that fields a “game show” in which active shooters are introduced to a public place. The “winners” get prize money if they take down the shooter.
It’s a blistering satirical novel about the fanatical arguments about gun ownership in the wake of just about every mass-casualty event that involves guns: it’s a right of citizenship, people need to be responsible and prepared for their safety, and so forth. It’s a terrifying read about where these arguments lead and how these sorts of environments and attitudes persist. But as outrageous as it is, it’s a book that doesn’t feel as though it’s going to change anyone’s mind on the issue: gun nuts and anti-gun advocates are already entrenched in their respective positions, and I don’t think this short read will tell anyone anything new, other than projecting a pretty horrifying future for everyone.
Here are eight new science fiction and fantasy books coming out in the first part of February that you should check out.
Smoke and Summons by Charlie N. Holmberg
In Charlie N. Holmberg’s new novel, a woman named Sandis has been enslaved because of her ability to host a demon. After a death, Sandis flees from her captor and meets up with a thief named Rone. He possesses a magical device that makes him immortal, which should come in handy when Sandis’ former captor brings out more than just men to track her down. You won’t have to wait long before the next installments: Myths and Mortals comes out in April, and Siege and Sacrifice hits stores in September. Publishers Weekly says that it’s “gripping from the start, with a surprising plot and a lush, beautifully realized setting.”
A People’s Future of the United States edited by John Joseph Adams and Victor LaValle
Anthologist John Joseph Adams and author Victor LaValle team up for a new anthology: A People’s Future of the United States, which collects 25 stories about freedom, justice, and resistance. They’ve put together an impressive roster of authors as well, including Charlie Jane Anders, Hugh Howey, Justina Ireland, N.K. Jemisin, and Charles Yu. Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying that it’s a “bold collection is full of hope, strength, and courage, and will be welcomed by readers looking for emotional sustenance and validation of their experiences in a challenging time.”
Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds by Gwenda Bond
Stranger Things has been a hit on Netflix since it debuted. Now, for the first time, there’s a novel coming out about the series. Suspicious Minds will delve into a storyline that the TV show hasn’t explored: how a woman named Terry Ives infiltrates a secret test project called MKULTRA, hoping to blow the lid off what it’s doing. There, she meets a fellow test subject, a young woman with extraordinary powers known as 008.
Snow White Learns Witchcraft by Theodora Goss
I loved Theodora Goss’ debut novel The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter when it came out in 2017. Goss is also an accomplished writer of short fiction and poetry, and this month, she’s publishing a collection of her fairy tale-inspired stories, in which a young woman looks for her missing shadow, a sea witch explains why she stole a mermaid’s voice, and an alternate Snow White tries to retell her story. Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying that this “toothsome collection is best read in one go.”
Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
In 2015, Marlon James earned the prestigious Man Booker Prize for his book, A Brief History of Seven Killings. Shortly after winning the award, he noted that he was going to try his hand at epic fantasy. The first installment of his new trilogy is Black Leopard, Red Wolf follows a man named Tracker. He’s pulled into a quest to find a missing boy, joined by strange companions, including a shape-shifter known as Leopard. The book has already earned widespread acclaim and picked up a starred review from Kirkus Reviews, which says that James “brings a fresh multicultural perspective to a grand fantasy subgenre, but also broadens the genre’s psychological and metaphysical possibilities.”
The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons
Jenn Lyons launches a new epic fantasy series with her debut novel The Ruin of Kings, which follows a young man named Kihrin who grows up on the streets. He’s plucked from the slums when he’s discovered to be the missing son of a corrupt prince, and he’s pulled into the world of the royal court. As other factions of the court pursue him for a valuable talisman he carries, he encounters dragons, gods, sorcerers, and more. The book earned a starred review from Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly, which says that there is “more mystery than action in this tightly plotted tome, and its lore and memorable characters will leave epic fantasy fans eager for the second volume.”
Read the first 16 chapters here.
Binti: The Complete Trilogy by Nnedi Okorafor
Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti novellas are fantastic reads about a young woman who leaves her family behind to attend an interstellar university. If you missed out on them over the last couple of years, all three are now bound up in an omnibus edition. There’s a bonus as well: a new story called “Binti: The Sacred Fire.”
Sisters of the Fire by Kim Wilkins
Kim Wilkins has a new installment her epic fantasy series Sisters of the Fire, which follows last year’s Daughters of the Storm. That novel introduced us to five sisters who embark on a quest to save their dying father and to save their home from an ambitious stepbrother. This new adventure is set four years later, and while they ended up saving their kingdom, their family is broken, and four of the five sisters have scattered, each harboring their own grudges that could break the kingdom apart once again. Kirkus Reviews says that the “story gathers more depth and originality in this solidly action-packed middle volume.”