2015 was a fantastic year for books, including a lot of titles that did things we’d never seen before. But 2016 looks like it could be just as incredible, including titles from some of our favorite authors. Here are the must-read science fiction and fantasy books of 2016.
Carlos Delacruz is an agent for the Council of the Dead, taking care of ghosts in New York City. When a group of accidents claim the lives of a bunch of civilians, Kia is beginning to see ghosts, and there’s a lot more of them. Daniel José Older knocked it out of the park with his first novel, Half-Resurrection Blues, and this one looks like urban fantasy at its very best.
A boy watches his father commit unspeakable acts in a far off town. After he tries to flee, he’s visited by a stranger who offers some salvation. China Miéville’s novels are always strange and intriguing, and this short book is no exception. We really liked this book.
Enormous disclaimer up front: this is a book by the editor of io9, who was reluctant to let me include it in the first place. This list wouldn’t be complete without it. Having read the book (and under absolutely no pressure to say this), I’d say that it’s a phenomenal work of speculative fiction, and that you should read it, pronto.
Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead parted ways during school. She is a magician, and he’s a scientist, and something is bringing them together to either save the world or destroy it.
Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series continues! Miles Vorkosigan, is dispatched to investigate his own mother, and learns that even his past holds unexpected secrets. Bujold’s series is one of the best space operas out there, and we’re excited to see more.
We’ve been excited for this book since it was first announced last year, because we really love Will McIntosh’s books. This one looks intriguing: Sully sells spheres in his store: nobody knows where they came from—they just appeared—but they make you just a little bit better at random things. When Sully meets Hunter, a girl who excels at finding Spheres, they discover a new one that’s colored Gold, and the fate of the world rests in their hands.
Arcadia tells the story of one Professor Henry Lytten, an Oxford professor who’s trying to follow in the footsteps of Tolkien and Lewis by writing his own fantasy novel. When he’s transported to a new world, things get strange. This novel was a storytelling experiment by Pears, and it looks like it’s a fantastic, complex read.
Montrose Turner vanishes, prompting his son Atticus to drop everything and head off to New England to find him, accompanied by his childhood friend Letitia. Along the way, they find horrors, ghostly and real, deep inside white America. This looks like an intriguing, powerful novel.
V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic was one of our favorite books in 2015, and its sequel, A Gathering Of Shadows, picks up four months after that adventure. Even though things have sort of returned to normal, Kell feels guilty about what happened, and it seems that Black London might be rising again.
Allen M. Steele has written some amazing hard SF stories in the past, and his next novel looks like it’ll be just as good. A man named Nathan Arkwright is a major science fiction author, and before he dies, he sets up a foundation dedicated to building a colony on a newly discovered world light years from Earth. This looks like an intriguing novel, and we’re interested to see where Steele takes us with it.
Billed as a spiritual successor to Philip K. Dick’s Man in the High Castle, this novel depicts a future in which the United States has lost World War II. By the late 1980s, the Japanese Empire rules over the Western US with a fleet of giant mecha. When a video game emerges that depicts an alternate history, a government agent discovers some hard truths about his world.
This is probably one of my more anticipated books this year: Central Corps chief engineer, Commander Elena Shaw’s crewmate, Danny, is murdered on a far-off colony, and is shocked when her boyfriend is implicated. This sets off an investigation that shows that the death has deeper implications.
Ken Liu is at the top of his game and is one of this decade’s best short fiction authors. Now at last, his absolute best short fiction has been collected into a new volume. This is going to be a must-buy volume for everyone.
Sofia Samatar’s A Stranger in Olondria earned the British Fantasy Award, and its followup, The Winged Histories transports us back to the same world, following four women on various sides of a rebellion. This looks like an intriguing and engrossing book.
Brian Staveley’s been one of our favorite fantasy novelists: we loved The Emperor’s Blades and The Providence of Fire. With The Last Mortal Bond, he brings his trilogy to an end, just as the ancient csestriim have returned to destroy humanity. The assassinated Emperor’s three children, Valyn, Adare and Kaden are all that stand in their way, but the lengths they must go to to protect humanity might drastically change the world.
What happens when you bring a Navy SEAL back from the dead? Myke Cole’s novel Gemini Cell asked that question when Jim Schweitzer was resurrected using magic, to do the jobs that no living man could do. He’s escaped from the hands of the government, and he and his family are on the run from his former unit. Cole’s writing is engaging and exciting, and we can’t wait to devour the next installment of this series.
The town of Black Spring is haunted by a 17th Century ghost who enters people’s homes for nights on end. The town quarantines itself with high-tech surveillance to contain the curse, but when the town’s teenagers rebel, they risk spreading it far beyond the town limits. Thomas Olde Heuvelt recently won the Hugo Award, and we’re excited to finally read this novel in English.
We love Naomi Novik’s Temeaire novels, and when Napoleon’s invasion of Russia fails, we’re about to get more of them. Captain William Laurence and Temeraire pursure the French emperor’s forces back home, but when he promises to provide dragons all over the world, he gains new allies, along with internal tensions that might tear everyone apart.
The 25th century is home to a post-scarcity world, but the downside is that everything is tightly controlled and regulated. There, Mycroft Canner, a convict, and Carlyle Foster, a sensayer, come across a boy named Bridger, who might be the key to overthrowing this utopian society. We’ve enjoyed Palmer’s short fiction in the past, and now we’re excited to see her debut novel.
We loved Lavie Tidhar’s novel Violent Century a couple of years ago, and we can’t wait to see what he does with his science fiction novel, Central Station. In a worldwide diaspora, Boris Chong returns home to Tel Avivi from Mars, where the virtual and the real mix.
This novel is finally coming to bookstores, and we can’t wait. Hwa is one of the last people in Company Town who’s refused to have bioengineered parts, and she’s tasked by The Family to train their youngest, who’s been threatened, while a serial killer has been working its way through the settlement. Ashby’s done some really excellent work with post-humanism, and this should be a treat.
Joe Hill’s next novel has already sold the film rights, it’s that hot. A new plague, Dragonscale, is spreading like wildfire across the country. Victims get beautiful black and gold markings... before they spontaneously combust. Hill’s writing is outstanding, and we absolutely can’t wait to pick this one up.
Justin Cronin made a huge splash a couple of years ago with The Passage, and now he’s bringing his trilogy to a conclusion with City of Mirrors. A century’s reign has ended, and the survivors are coming out from behind their walls, ready to rebuild. But, lingering in the shadows is Zero, and he’s biding his time to destroy Amy, humanity’s only hope.
Far out in space, a starship crew takes on a job to deliver a cargo to Earth that’ll but them firmly in the black. The problem? Captain Ichabod Drift only took the job because he was blackmailed into it. Plus it’s a Dark Run—meaning that nobody can know about it—and it might be their last mission. This looks to be a fantastic space opera, and we can’t wait to crack it open.
Blake Charlton’s been out of the spotlight for a couple of years now. His first novels, Spellwright and Spellbound, were both outstanding—and now, he’s back to complete the trilogy. The Warden of Ixos, Leandra Weal discovers that she’ll kill a loved one in the future. As she investigates her future, the Ixonian Archipelago faces conflict all over, and she and her family have to get to the bottom of the chaos before they’re torn apart.
We love the Expanse books, and after last year’s amazing entry, we’re excited to pick up the adventures of James Holden and his crew. Nemesis Games ended with a bombshell—and in Babylon’s Ashes, the protomolecule is back and ready for war against humanity. We’re excited to see where this picks up, and where they’re off to next.
Captain Kel Cheris, a disgraced officer, is given the opportunity to redeem herself by retaking the Fortress of Scattered Needles, a heretic stronghold. She allies herself with an undead tactician, someone she might not be able to trust. Yoon Ha Lee has written some stunning short fiction in the past, and we’re eager for this debut novel.
This novel was described by its editor as being one of the funniest novels he’d ever read. In it, an ex-sergeant rejoins the fleet and gets ready for an unexpected war, something he wants no part of. This looks like it’ll be a hilarious riff on military absurdity and a really neat satirical novel.
Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamour novels have been popular fantasies, and she’s returning with a new, historical world: World War I. Here, mediums use the deceased for intelligence gathering and communications, and when the Spirit Corps is targeted, Ginger has to make some tough choices.
We don’t have a cover or even a table of contents for this book yet, but we can’t wait to see what it contains. The Vandermeers have put together some stunning anthologies and books about steam punk and time travel, and this historical look at the genre will be a must by. A third of its contents will be new translations, which has us really excited.
W.C. Bauers introduced us to Promise Paen and delivered a kick-ass military SF adventure with Unbreakable. Now, in its followup, Indomitable, we watch Paen as she returns home after her fight against the Lusitanian Empire. When a new battle flares up, she’s implicated in a friendly fire incident, throwing her future into question, right before a deployment to the depths of space.
We’ve loved Max Gladstone’s Craft sequence of post-industrial fantasy novels. In this new installment, the city of Alt Coulumb is in crisis when the moon goddess Seril is back. There’s protests and hostile takeovers by creditors. If this is anything like his earlier books, this’ll rock.
Lovecraft’s fiction has been closely examined in recent years, and who better to write a meta novel about the man’s legacy than Nick Mamatas? At an annual H.P. Lovecraft convention, Summer Tenacular, a guest is murdered, and horror author Colleen Danzig attempts to figure out who’s behind it.
The second China Miéville novel coming out this year, The Last Days of New Paris, takes place in an alternate June 1940 after the city falls to the Germans. One combatant in the city constructs a surrealist bomb, and accidentally uses it, transforming the city into a “violent, weaponized dream logic.” It sounds amazing, and we can’t wait to see how this plays out.
Jemisin’s novel The Fifth Season earned its accolades last year, and its sequel looks like it’ll top it. Alabaster Tenring has returned to train his successor, Essun to help save the world. We’re really excited to see just where Jemisin takes us this year.
Liu Cixin blew us away with The Three-Body Problem, and he’s bringing the trilogy to a close with Death’s End. An engineer from the 21st century is awoken far in the future, armed with the knowledge of a program from the Trisolar Crisis, something that will upset the balance between Earth and the Trisolarians. Ken Liu is once again translating this novel, and we can’t wait to see how it ends.
Fran Wilde made a splash with her debut novel Updraft, and we’re equally excited for its sequel, Cloudbound. We don’t know exactly what this’ll be about, but if it’s as good as the first, we’re in for a treat.
We can always get excited for a new Connie Willis novel. Briddey is a mobile phone executive, and she’s about to meld minds with her partner, Trent. This is described as a romantic comedy, and it’s one that looks like it’ll touch on things like privacy and our five-minutes-into-the-future world.
Another author who’s been busy this year: Ken Liu’s debut collection of his short fiction comes out in March, but the second installment of his Dandelion Dynasty trilogy is set to be released in October of this year. We were blown away by The Grace of Kings, and we’re extremely excited for this the next, Wall of Storms.
From what we’ve heard about this book, it involves Vampires and Mexico City. After reading Moreno-Garcia’s debut, Signal to Noise, that’s all we need to know.
Kameron Hurley has written some incredible fantasy novels lately, and her next, The Stars are Legion, takes her into space. Two families are fighting for control over a fleet of worldships. We can’t wait to see what she does with space opera.