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10 new science fiction and fantasy books to check out in May

10 new science fiction and fantasy books to check out in May


Stories of alternate realities, futuristic tech corporations, and sentient spiders

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I picked up two books about the modern state of Star Wars recently. The first is Making Solo: A Star Wars Story by Industrial Light and Magic supervisor Rob Bredow. The book is an exhaustive behind-the-scenes look at how the last Star Wars movie came together through Bredow’s photographs, looking at the locations, actors, props, and special effects process. It also wasn’t the exhaustive look in the vein of J.W. Rinzler’s trilogy of books for the original films, neatly sidestepping the drama that occurred during production.

The second book is Star Wars After Lucas: A Critical Guide to the Future of the Galaxy by Dan Golding. It’s an in-depth analysis of the new generation of films and how Disney has rebooted the franchise, although it feels like it’s come a little early, given that Rise of Skywalker has yet to hit theaters, not to mention Disney’s pivot to TV with the upcoming The Mandalorian and Rogue One prequels. But it’s an interesting read for anyone who is following the franchise.

Here are 10 science fiction and fantasy books that will hit stores in the first half of the month. (Check back later in May for more coming in the second half of the month).

May 7th

Image: Harper Voyager

Westside by W.M. Akers

In an alternate 1921 New York City, Manhattan has been split into two sides: the prosperous East Side, and the West Side, which has shunned modern technology and exists as a slum from which few can escape. Gilda Carr is one such resident, and she finds work as a detective, solving small problems. When an East Side housewife hires her to track down a missing glove, she finds herself in the midst of a bigger supernatural conspiracy that could spell the end of the entire city. Kirkus Reviews gave the book a starred review, saying that it’s an “addictively readable fusion of mystery, dark fantasy, alternate history, and existential horror.”

Read an excerpt.

The Warship by Neal Asher

The Warship is the latest installment in Neal Asher’s Rise of the Jain series, which follows last year’s The Soldier. On the border of human space lies a solar system created by a long-dead civilization known as the Jain. It’s littered with dangerous technologies that could destroy civilizations, and a being named Orlandine has been tasked with protecting it from harm. Humanity’s Polity AIs and aliens known as the prador have dispatched warships to the system, expecting a conflict. But the system contains a deadly secret, and Orlandine might have been used to fulfill other, malevolent motives. Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, calling the book a “riveting sequel,” and that “Asher depicts warfare as a catalyst of biological and technological evolution while entwining the reader in twisty conundrums and misdirections.”

Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang

Ted Chiang is one of the best science fiction writers working right now, and he’s put together a new collection of short fiction, Exhalation: Stories, his first since 2002’s Stories of Your Life and Others (the title story of which was the basis for the 2016 film Arrival). The book includes seven short stories for which he’s received acclaim over the years, as well as two new originals. Chiang has also included notes on each of the stories. The collection earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly, which says that the “stories are brilliant experiments, and [Chiang’s] commitment to exploring deep human questions elevates them to among the very best science fiction.”

Read “What’s Expected Of Us,” “Exhalation,” and “The Great Silence.”

Image: Knopf

Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

The two authors behind the Illuminae Files trilogy have a new series that kicks off with Aurora Rising. Set in 2380, a group of academy graduates gets their first assignments as interplanetary peacekeepers. Tyler Jones is one graduate, assigned to a team of six misfits. When they discover a transport ship that’s been missing for centuries and rescue a cryogenically frozen woman named Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, trouble ensues. Kirkus Reviews gave the book a starred review, saying that “this intergalactic space opera has it all: action, thrills, suspense, laughs, and all the feels.”

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire

Seanan McGuire’s latest is a standalone fantasy set in a new world, following a pair of twins who live on either side of North America in the late 19th century: Roger Middleton and Dodger Cheswich. Roger is skilled when it comes to understanding language and storytelling, and Dodger shares the same abilities with understanding mathematics. The two share a strange, telepathic connection. They aren’t completely human, and their creator, James Reed, has horrific plans for both of them. Kirkus Reviews awarded the book a starred review, saying that it’s “satisfying on all levels of the reading experience: thrilling, emotionally resonant, and cerebral. Escape to Witch Mountain for grown-ups.”

Read an excerpt.

Million Mile Road Trip by Rudy Rucker

While William Gibson and Bruce Sterling are the names most associated with cyberpunk, one name that might not be as well-known is Rudy Rucker, a mathematician and writer who is considered one of the founders of the cyberpunk genre. His new novel follows a trio of teenagers who accidentally open a portal to an alternate universe called Mappyworld, and they embark on a trippy road trip to prevent Earth from being invaded by sentient flying saucers. Publishers’ Weekly gives the book a starred review, and says that Rucker “populates this story with boldly surreal, humorous personalities and environments and moves it at a frenzied, ever-increasing pace,” and that the “wacky adventure is a geeky reader’s delight.”

May 14th

Image: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal 

Hafsah Faizal’s debut novel is the first in her Sands of Arawiya series, which is set in a world inspired by ancient Arabia. It follows a woman named Zafira, a hunter who disguises herself as a man to find food for her family in a cursed forest, and Nasir, an assassin. Neither are happy with their lives, and as Zafira embarks on a quest to locate a lost artifact to save the world from the forest, she finds herself clashing with Nasir, who’s been sent to find the same relic. Kirkus Reviews says that it’s an “appealing spin on traditional fantasy elements.”

Read an excerpt.

Last Tango in Cyberspace by Steven Kotler

Set in the near future, Lion Zorn is a former journalist and “empathy tracker.” A tech billionaire from Arctic Pharmaceuticals hires him to track down the leader of a mysterious cult, and he ends up discovering a brutal murder scene. That sends him on the trail of a conspiracy that leads him into space and back as he contends with assassins and empathy hackers. Publishers Weekly calls the book “a fun story with plenty of SF media reference for fans to enjoy.”

Read an excerpt.

Breach by Eliot Peper

Eliot Peper’s third and final installment of his Analog trilogy is Breach. Set in the near future, major tech firms manipulate information and shape global economic policies. An ex-hacker named Emily Kim has found a new life as a fighter, and she is drawn into a conspiracy to overthrow the company behind the world’s leading social network. As her past catches up with her, she discovers that her friends are being targeted in a way that has drastic consequences for the future of society.

Image: Orbit Books

Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky

One of the best books I read last year was Adrian Tchaikovsky’s 2015 novel Children of Time, a brilliant space opera about the rise of a sentient race of spiders on a distant, terraformed world, and humanity’s descent into feudalism as it escapes from a broken Earth, meeting up in a spectacular clash. Tchaikovsky is back with a sequel, Children of Ruin, which picks up after humanity’s first contact moment. After they detect radio signals, the humans and their allies dispatch an expedition to a distant world called Nod, another of humanity’s terraforming experiments, where they find that something has been lurking under the terraforming process.