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13 new science fiction and fantasy books to check out in late May

13 new science fiction and fantasy books to check out in late May


Steampunk, fantastical cities, and lost astronauts

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One of the books that defined my childhood was Richard Preston’s The Hot Zone: A Terrifying True Story. National Geographic has adapted it for a dramatic series set to start next week, and to prepare, I flipped through a couple of the chapters to refresh my memory on it.

The book is as it felt to me back when I read it in 7th grade: it’s a gripping story about the horrors of Ebola and the early outbreaks that brought it to the world’s attention. Reading it again in 2019 is a good reminder that worse outbreaks were to come: one in West Africa between 2013 and 2015 (Preston has a new book, Crisis in the Red Zone: The Story of the Deadliest Ebola Outbreak in History and of the Outbreaks to Come, out in July, about that outbreak) and another that’s currently ongoing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The book was roughly adapted before — remember the Dustin Hoffman film Outbreak? — but this new series looks like it’ll better capture the book that kept me up at night when I was a teenager.

If you’re looking for something to read rather than watch, here are 13 books hitting stores in the latter half of May. (Here are the books from earlier in the month.)

May 15th

Image: Serial Box

Alternis by Maurice Broaddus, Andrea Phillips, Jacqueline Koyanagi, and E.C. Myers

The latest serial from digital publisher Serial Box dropped last week, and it features a great team of writers: Maurice Broaddus, Andrea Phillips, Jacqueline Koyanagi, and E.C. Myers, with Firefly star Summer Glau handling the audiobook narration. In this story, a video game developer learns that the game she’s working on is part of a top-secret government project where countries around the world are competing for real resources.

You can read the first installment for free.

May 21st

Image: Apex Book Company

Pimp My Airship by Maurice Broaddus

Maurice Broaddus isn’t just releasing a story on Serial Box. His latest novel is Pimp My Airship, a steampunk adventure that follows a poet named Sleepy whose only goal is to stay out of trouble. That changes when he runs into a protester called (120 Degrees of) Knowledge Allah and an heiress named Sophine Jefferson whose life has fallen apart after her father was murdered. The three find themselves on a journey where they encounter mediums and criminals and a possible battle for the heart of the country.

Read an excerpt.

Image: HMH

Gather the Fortunes by Bryan Camp

The next installment of Bryan Camp’s Crescent City series is Gather the Fortunes. It follows Psychopomp Renaissance Raines as she leads the dead to the Seven Gates of the Underworld. One of her charges, a boy named Ramses St. Cyr, escapes, and she ends up in the midst of a bigger plot that threatens that the world is going down in New Orleans — and the gods are involved somehow. Kirkus Reviews says that it’s a little slower than the first book in the series, The City of Lost Fortunes, but that “the richness and inventiveness of Camp’s vision and the vivacity, warmth, and compassion of his leading woman keep you alert to whatever’s happening next.”

Image: Ace Books

Triumphant by Jack Campbell

The latest installment of Jack Campbell’s The Genesis Fleet military science fiction series is Triumphant, which is set on the new colonial world of Glenlyon. After assisting its neighboring planet, Kosatka, Glenlyon has become a target itself. Fleet officer Rob Geary has only a single destroyer to protect the planet, and he has to fend off attacks while they wait for reinforcements. Kirkus Reviews says that the book is “a solid entry to extend an always reliable sequence.”

Read an excerpt.

Image: Angry Robot

Broken Shadow by Jaine Fenn

In the sequel to last year’s Hidden Sun, Jaine Fenn introduced readers to Rhia Harlyn, a noblewoman in Shen, one of the kingdoms in the shadowlands on an alien world. (Locus Magazine has a good overview here.) When her brother Etyan went missing, she set off on a search party to try and find him. He had been experimented on by a scientist, and now Rhia’s been accused of heresy. Etyan’s girlfriend, Dej, is disturbed by the changes that Etyan has undergone and escapes into the perilous skylands, only to discover something that could upend their lives.

Image: Tor Books

An Illusion of Thieves by Cate Glass

In Cate Glass’ debut novel, Romy is a courtesan to the Shadow Lord in the kingdom of Cantagna. When her brother Neri is caught using magic to steal, she intervenes and is banished as a result. She has to rely on her own talents and forbidden magic to survive, and as she tries to forge a new life in Begger’s Ring, she discovers a conspiracy to plunge the kingdom into a civil war. Fantasy Book Critic says that An Illusion of Thieves is “pure fantasy fun, rich, engaging, with intriguing worldbuilding, thoughtful character development and a storyline that grows tenser with every chapter.”

Read an excerpt.


Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water by Vylar Kaftan

Vylar Kaftan’s new novella follows Bee and Chela who have been imprisoned on a distant world known as Colel-Cab and have to try and survive between supply drops. They’re telepaths and have been implanted with a chip to keep them from using their powers. Bee has lost her memory, and Chela tells her that they were responsible for killing the entire population of a starship. But soon, Bee begins to hear another voice and starts to question that story. Publisher’s Weekly says that “this invigorating, cleverly introspective novella is the perfect length for its plot and themes, and its ghost will linger in the reader’s memory.”

Image: Simon & Schuster

Vessel by Lisa A. Nichols

When astronaut Catherine Wells’ spaceship loses contact with Earth after an accident in deep space, she’s presumed dead, along with the crew. But she survived, and when she makes contact with NASA after a decade away from Earth, she discovers that people have moved on: her husband has remarried and her daughter has grown up. She’s also begun to experience strange things, like waking up in restricted areas of NASA, and starts to question the accident that took her memory. Publishers Weekly says that it’s a “tense, character-driven debut.”

Read an excerpt.

May 28th

Image: Tor Books

The Red-Stained Wings by Elizabeth Bear

The latest installment of Elizabeth Bear’s Lotus Kingdoms series (set in the same world as her Eternal Skies trilogy) follows the Gage and the Dead Man after they delivered a message from the greatest wizard of Messaline to the ruling queen of Sarathai in The Stone in the Skull. Now that queen, Mrithuri, finds herself besieged by a rival, Anuraja, and one of her inner circle might be a traitor. Publishers Weekly says that “sorcery and scheming successfully propel the characters and plot lines of this rich and lovely India-tinged fantasy.”

Read an excerpt.


Longer by Michael Blumlein

In this novella, two scientists, Gunjita and Cav, orbit the Earth as part of an experiment to make themselves younger. They have two chances to do so. Gunjita has already jumped back twice, but Cav grapples with questions of mortality. Kirkus Reviews says that it’s a “cerebral story about the ethics and emotional impact of extending the human life span.”

Image: Del Rey Books

Stranger Things: Darkness at the Edge of Town by Adam Christopher

The third season of Stranger Things will debut on Netflix later this summer, but in the meantime, Adam Christopher has penned a new novel that follows the life of Chief Jim Hopper and his experiences before he ends up in Hawkins, Indiana. During the Christmas holiday in 1984, Eleven discovers a box labeled “New York” in Hopper’s basement, and he’s forced to explain his experiences in Vietnam and his time as a husband and father in New York City as a police detective.

Read an excerpt.

Image: J. Dianne Dotson

Ephemeris: The Questrison Saga: Book Two by J. Dianne Dotson

In the latest installment of her Questrison saga, J. Dianne Dotson follows the story of Galla-Deia, a humanoid creature who was discovered in space and raised in a city of androids. She is chosen to lead the city through a natural disaster and alien attack, but in order to do so, she must gain the trust of both humans and non-humans in order to bring them to safety.

Image: Orbit Books

The Gameshouse by Claire North

Claire North originally published The Gameshouse as three online novellas: The Serpent, The Thief, and The Master. Now, they’ve been published as a standalone volume. The Gameshouse is a mysterious gambling den that sometimes appears in different cities, with patrons who appear to be from different times and places. To partake, players must gamble away parts of themselves — language, years, or love. The book spans centuries, following three characters as they try to win control of the Gamehouse itself. Kirkus Reviews says that it’s an “unusual, intriguing novel that’s both a paranoid fantasy about a world where anyone can be bought and a broody tale about what really matters when anything can be gambled away.”