10 new sci-fi and fantasy books to enrich your month of August ‹ Literary hub
There’s no better way to beat this brutal heat than to retreat to the nearest air-conditioned place, whether it’s your home or public transport, with one of the many promising SF and Fantasy readings. of this month. It seems almost every publisher has something to offer this month: the magic of consuming stories and bending words to translate them, or the magic of blood that leaves the deepest bruises; false soothsayers and real witches; a fantasy romance and a dark, incisive college that shines a light on the evil in our own world.
The book eaters by Sunyi Dean
(Tor Books, August 2)
Books about the magic of reading are simply the best, and it’s a pleasure to see writers find new and inventive ways to turn our love of the written page into a metaphor. Think Jasper Fforde’s series of characters literally dropping into a good book, but Sunyi Dean’s first fantasy has a darker side. In his world, beings like The Family literally consume books, each with a unique taste (spy capers are snacks, romances are decadent dessert). But not all book eaters are equal; girls and boys are entitled to different book regimes designed to keep them trapped in old gender roles. But when Devon learns that her son doesn’t need words, but real thoughts, to survive, she must decide what primal darkness she’s willing to draw from to protect her child from his family.
insomnia by Victor Manibo
(Erewhon Books, August 2)
It’s fair to say that the past five years have made many of us into insomniacs, so a near-future tale about our pandemic-altered world of insomnia feels very real. But Victor Manibo’s position stands out from other cautionary tales by claiming that insomnia could actually… be good? Citizens who move outside of circadian rhythms are able to optimize their time (for more money, naturally) and establish themselves as both inspiring and fearsome among their puny peers who need to lose eight hours of rest. . But of course, the restless turmoil can’t last forever, and when journalist Jamie Vega becomes implicated in his boss’ death, he must come clean about the unethical way he achieved insomnia… and potentially face a future in which he has to close his eyes yet again.
women could fly by Megan Giddings
(Amistad, August 9)
After delving into the horrors of early black body medical experimentation Lakewood, Megan Giddings evokes the traumatic history of witchcraft in the dystopian near future of her second novel. Nearing 30, Jo must either get married, but she’s ambivalent about her boyfriend and in love with her best friend Angie, or submit to the state registry to be watched for signs of witchcraft. . Instead, a new opportunity arises: to visit an island that may provide a clue to his mother Tiana’s disappearance 14 years ago. But is being accused of witchcraft an even worse fate than a life of control?
The bruises of Qilwa by Naseem Jamnia
(Tachyon, August 9)
I find tales of magic particularly compelling when that power draws from the body, such as Naseem Jamnia’s early fantasy centered around blood magic. But much like the unpredictability of our own blood, Firuz-e Jafari finds their magic hard to control and bears various social taboos. First, he exiles them from their homeland of Dilmun in the face of a devastating plague; then, as a refugee in the democratic Free City-State of Qilwa, the discovery of more decomposing bodies makes him a scapegoat again.
edge of the glacier by R. A. Salvatore
(Harper Voyager, August 9)
For over thirty years, RA Salvatore has been writing the adventures of Drizzt Do’Urden, a dark elf from the Forgotten Realms setting of the Dungeons & Dragons lore. While Drizzt is a well-known character in the fantasy genre, some of his books have contributed to racist stereotypes about dark-skinned elves. Last year saw the start of a new trilogy, The Way of the Drow, intended to offset these portrayals by more thoughtfully expanding the identity of the drow; this is the second installment after Stellar Enclaveand a good starting point for new readers.
The Oleander Sword by Tasha Suri
(Orbit Books, August 16)
After laying all the foundations of political intrigue for the kingdom of Parijatdvipa last year Jasmine’s Throne, Tasha Suri acts on the promise of the series called The Burning Kingdom. Malini and Priya – a newly crowned empress and rehabilitated priestess – have their respective plans to burn it all down; but they also burn for each other, especially since their allegiances and fates may continue to set them against the tide.
Terraform: watch/worlds/burnedited by Brian Merchant and Claire L. Evans
(MCD x FSG Originals, August 16)
This anthology brings together 52 sci-fi stories from VICE’s Terraform vertical, separated into equally crucial thirds. “Watch” is about surveillance, with stories from Laurie Penny, Rose Eveleth and Omar El Akkad, among many others, presented by Cory Doctorow. “Worlds” explores artificial intelligence via Sarah Gailey, Jess Zimmerman, Meg Elison and Lincoln Michel. And climate change is the name of the game in “Burn,” with E. Lily Yu, Tochi Onyebuchi, Jeff VanderMeer and more hinting at a potential future via short, incisive speculative fiction.
Babel or the necessity of violence: an obscure history of the Oxford translators’ revolution by RF Kuang
(Harper Voyager, August 23)
I was enthusiastic about babel ever since RF Kuang (The Poppy War Trilogy) first teased this dark and magical college tale on Twitter. Set at Oxford University in an 1828 version where the magic is woven into academia, the pull of this esteemed institution is nonetheless as compelling as ours: Canton-born orphan Robin Swift is enrolled at the Royal Institute of Translation, where he works in his native language of Chinese as well as Ancient Greek and Latin, using enchanted silver bars to recover meanings lost in translation. But despite his own enchantment with the island world of Babel (as the institute is nicknamed) and the friendships forged there, Robin cannot forget that he is helping Britain colonize and transform other countries. And when China is threatened for its money and its opium, it must choose between the land that made it and the land that shaped it.
Kalyna the diviner by Elijah Kinch Spector
(Erewhon Books, August 30)
In a genre filled with fortune tellers and clairvoyants, we like to see a trickster. Daughter and granddaughter of nomadic soothsayers, Kalyna Aljosanovna didn’t inherit her family’s Gift… but that didn’t stop her from playing clients to predict their future. But this scam has her kidnapped by neighbor Rotfelsen’s spymaster, trying to stay afloat during political intrigue while struggling with a vision of the end of the world. Elijah Kinch Spector’s debut brings the geopolitical intrigue of The traitor Baru Cormoran with a more optimistic (though still ruthless) protagonist.
A taste of gold and iron by Alexandra Rowland
(Tordotcom Editions, August 30)
To end the month, a tender fantasy romance unfolds in a matriarchal kingdom of the Ottoman Empire. But the protagonist is the shy Prince Kadou, whose debilitating anxiety inadvertently triggers a tragic misunderstanding that both estranges him from his sister the Sultan and saddles him with the cold new bodyguard Evemer. Or is Evemer stuck with Kadou? It certainly seems so, but Kadou’s insistence on investigating a crime within their guilds in order to put things right sparks a slow romance between the two men, in a fiery tale about what members of disparate social classes must.
Nathalie Zutter is a Brooklyn-based playwright and pop culture critic whose work has appeared on Tor.com, NPR Books, Geek’s Lair, and elsewhere. Find her on Twitter @nataliezutter.