In the last book list, I mentioned that I was reading The Hobbit to my son. While I was reading that, I was personally reading another Tolkien-related book: Anything You Can Imagine: Peter Jackson and the Making of Middle-earth by film journalist Ian Nathan. The book is an extensive behind-the-scenes account of Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, and after reading it, I’m a little astounded that the resulting film trilogy was as good as it was.
The book draws on Nathan’s extensive interviews with Jackson, the cast, writers, and crew, which he covered while the films were in production. If you’re a fan of the trilogy, this is a really interesting look at just how complicated and daunting of a project it was — nothing like it had ever been done before. My only complaint about the book is that it also covers Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, but where he devotes hundreds of pages to its predecessor, his examination of the lead-up to that series comes in right at the end, and feels a bit like it was tacked on as an afterthought.
Here are 11 new science fiction and fantasy novels hitting stores in the later half of this month that are worth checking out.
Radicalized by Cory Doctorow
Cory Doctorow is best known for novels, but his new book is a little different: it’s made up of four novellas set in the near future — “Unauthorized Bread,” about a woman who goes to great lengths to jailbreak the appliances in her subsidized housing; “Model Minority,” in which a superhero tries to tackle police corruption; “Radicalized,” about a man who sparks a violent uprising against his insurance company; and “Masque of the Red Death,” which ties in with Doctorow’s novel Walkaway. Publishers Weekly says that each story’s “characters are well wrought and complex, and the worldbuilding is careful.”
The Perfect Assassin by K.A. Doore
In this debut novel from K.A. Doore, an assassin named Amastan who’s being trained to protect his city has to leave his profession after it’s banned. Amastan begins an apprenticeship to a historian, only to be pulled back into his former life when members of his family are targeted and killed, threatening the city’s safety. He’s tasked with solving the murders to clear his family’s name. Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review and says that “Doore is a force to be reckoned with, blending a stirring plot, elegant worldbuilding, effortless style, and diverse, empathetic characters. Her debut is sure to be a hit with fans of Sarah J. Maas and George R.R. Martin.”
The Municipalists by Seth Fried
An unlikely pair are tasked with saving a futuristic city from a terrorist threat in The Municipalists, Seth Fried’s latest novel. In this future, United States Municipal Survey investigator Henry Thompson is dispatched to the city of Metropolis to try to figure out who was behind a cyberattack. He teams up with OWEN, an alcoholic hologram of his agency’s AI. Upon arriving, they end up on the trail of a rogue member of the USMS, who’s eloped with the daughter of the city’s mayor. Kirkus Reviews called it “a fun, relatively harmless comic thriller about the nature of cities, the threats of technology, and how to blow stuff up good.”
The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley
Military science fiction has a long history, with classics such as Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War, and John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War exploring the nature of warfare and combat. Kameron Hurley jumps into the field with her novel The Light Brigade. The novel follows Dietz — a “ghoul,” someone who wasn’t affiliated with any of the major corporations that control life on Earth — who joins one of the corporate corps in a war against Mars. Soldiers are broken into beams of light and beamed down into combat, and after being deployed again and again, Dietz begins to experience the war in strange ways, slipping through time and out of order. The book has earned heaps of praise, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews. The former says that “like Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War, this book is both a gripping story of future warfare and an incisive antiwar fable. Readers will savor this striking novel’s ambitious structure and critique of rapacious, militarized capitalism.
Firefly: The Magnificent Nine by James Lovegrove
The story of the crew of Serenity continues in the latest Firefly tie-in novel, The Magnificent Nine. The first such novel, Big Damn Hero, came late last year, and felt very much like a lost episode from the series. This new book focuses on mercenary Jayne Cobb, who responds to a distress call from an old flame, Temperance. Jayne persuades the crew of the Serenity to help, and when they land, they find that they’re up against a bandit gang that’s attempting to overrun her settlement to control its water supply. After arriving, Jayne has another surprise in store — Temperance’s daughter, born just after he left, who’s named Jane McCloud.
Inspection by Josh Malerman
An adaptation of Josh Malerman’s novel Bird Box became a viral hit after its recent release on Netflix, and now, his next book is hitting stores. Inspection follows J, a student at a mysterious school located deep in a forest. He’s part of a class of 24 male students, all of whom are being trained as prodigies in a variety of fields and raised by a mysterious headmaster. The students endure strange and harsh punishments, and when J slips out, he discovers another school, this one made up of female students, upending everything he was taught. Kirkus Reviews describes the book as an “unlikely cross between 1984 and Lord of the Flies.”
Luna: Moon Rising by Ian McDonald
Ian McDonald’s fantastic Luna trilogy comes to a close with Luna: Moon Rising. In the prior installments, Luna: New Moon and Luna: Wolf Moon, he sets up a world where the Moon is ruled by the Five Dragons — corporate families that control its resources. In New Moon, the Corta family was violently thrown out of power, and in this final installment, Lucas Corta once again rises to power, only to face off against someone he didn’t expect: his sister.
Permafrost by Alastair Reynolds
Alastair Reynolds is known for his epic space operas, but in this new story, he turns his attention closer to home, with a time travel novella about climate change. Scientists in 2080 decide to make a small change to the past to try to fix the future, and recruit a woman whose mother was an expert on the potential paradoxes that time travel could potentially bring. The story jumps to 2028, where a woman begins to hear a voice after brain surgery, one that seems to be trying to shift the direction of her life.
Tiamat’s Wrath by James S.A. Corey
The penultimate installment of The Expanse is here. The series has come a long way since Leviathan Wakes, exploring a brutal interplanetary war that culminated in the discovery of a massive, interstellar gate system that opened up the cosmos to humanity. A rogue Martian faction had fled through the gates and has since set up the beginnings of their own authoritarian empire, Laconia. They’ve retaken the entire solar system, while the crew of the Rocinante have fled and begun their own action to take down the Laconia’s empire — all while the ancient threat that took out the gate makers looms between the stars. Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying that it is “brimming with vivid characters and intrigue, this tightly plotted space thriller gives readers an electrifying future carved by alien science and human ambition.”
Miranda in Milan by Katharine Duckett
Katharine Duckett’s debut book takes its inspiration from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. This book follows Miranda after the events of that story, as she travels with her father to Milan to marry Ferdinand, only to be met with a frosty reception at his castle. But rather than follow the path expected of her, Miranda instead falls in love with Dorothea, a local witch, and the two of them begin to unravel the story behind Prospero’s exile.
A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
Arkady Martine — the pen name for Dr. AnnaLinden Weller, an expert on the Byzantine Empire, releases her debut novel, A Memory Called Empire, this month. The space opera is set in the interstellar Teixcalaanli Empire, and follows Mahit Dzmare as she’s called to the capitol to serve as the ambassador for her home station, Lsel, and replace a predecessor who died under mysterious circumstances. Dzmare is placed between various factions at home and abroad, and must work to ensure the safety and independence of her home. The book has garnered a lot of praise already — Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews have each given the book a starred review, with the former saying that “Martine allows the backstory to unroll slowly, much as Mahit struggles with her intermittent memories, walking delicately upon the tightrope of intrigue and partisan battles in the streets to safely bring the tale to a poignantly true conclusion.”