The holidays are coming up, and there’s no better gift than piles of books. And luckily, there are tons of fantastic science fiction and fantasy books coming this month. Including Stephen King! Ethan Hawke! Plus time travel, space colonies, and tons more! Here are the books you can’t afford to miss in November.
Many people think of Stephen King primarily as a novelist, who cranks out 1,000-page tomes in the time it takes most of us to write a shopping list. But I’d argue he’s actually at his best in short fiction—his short stories are creepy, insane, and often perfect little gems of suspense and mindfuckery. There’s a reason the movies Shawshank Redemption and Stand By Me are based on King stories. USA Today says: “The supernatural is at play in his latest dream catcher, but so are deep meditations on age, morality and mortality.”
Modesitt’s been writing fantasy for ages now, but now he’s turning his gaze to science fiction, with this near-future thriller that imagines what would happen if we militarized space and turned it into contested territory the same way we’re currently starting to do with the Arctic. Add to this a strange artifact called the “Solar Express,” which looks like an asteroid until it speeds up after it passes the sun, and you’ve got all the makings of a tense situation. Early reviewers have praised the solid science and careful world-building.
Goldstein is another author who’s been making bigger waves in fantasy than science fiction, including the award-winning The Red Magician. But this novel about time travel is a pretty fascinating departure. In a nutshell, a computer geek gets recruited into a secret program, and discovers that time travelers from a somewhat horrendous near future are recruiting people in the early 21st century to help them change the past. But are these time-travelers trying to change history for better, or worse? I blurbed this book, so I’m obviously a big booster of it—expect an actual review soon. Read an essay by Goldstein about this book here.
Space pirates! This is basically a swashbuckling space adventure in which a smuggler, Captain Arkarin Blackhawk, rescues his friend’s daughter from a pirate king in the farthest reaches of known space. But then he’s faced with a host of problems—including an imperial governor who wants to impose order on the Far Stars (sound familiar?) and a planet that’s being torn apart by civil war. Publishers Weekly says: “This old-fashioned tale is a paean to the simple pleasures of exceedingly masculine adventures.” Did I mention space pirates?
Scher, a playwright and screenwriter, is turning his hand to fiction with this story about a teleportation experiment gone wrong. The government sends a psychologist, Dr. Hilary Kahn, to help investigate... but then she goes missing. Soon, it turns out that the scientists didn’t just invent teleportation, they proved Einstein wrong. And this could be very, very bad news for the whole world. Read an excerpt here.
What’s neat about this novel is that it imagines a future where humans have colonized another planet—and the most crucial job in the space colony is controlling the 3D printer. Which makes total sense, since the 3D printer makes everything the colonists need, including new organs as well as houses and tools. But also, this novel has a fascinating mystery about just what happened to the founder of this colony, and why the founder’s grandson doesn’t appear to be entirely human. RT Book Reviews calls this “a strange but mesmerizing book in which almost nothing is as it seems.” We ran an excerpt yesterday.
Here’s the long-awited third book in Grant’s Parasitology trilogy, and this time the tapeworms provoke an all-out war. The tapeworms have turned humans into basically mindless zombies, and it’s up to Sal to find a balance between the two sides of her nature before it’s too late.
This is sort of on the edge of being a fantasy book, but we couldn’t not include it. Hawke wrote this book, a letter from a knight who’s going to what may be his final battle, for his four children. It’s basically a set of rules for how to be a good knight, and by extension a good person. As Hawke writes, “A great knight uses his power to empower others.”
We loved Rickert’s The Memory Garden to distraction, so this book of her short fiction is a great prize. Kirkus says these are all stories about “people haunted by loss and transformed by grief. Ghosts walk through this collection. Witches are rumored. People collect bones, sprout wings, watch their feet turn into hooves. Above all, people tell stories.” Publishers Weekly says fans of Neil Gaiman and Kelly Link will appreciate this book.
Golden only just made waves with his near-future thriller about supersoldiers, Tin Men, and now he’s changing gears with this supernatural horror book. Tess sees her ex-husband in the street, but he refuses to speak to her or even pay attention to her—and then it turns out that her ex is actually far away, on a romantic getaway with his new girlfriend. Soon other people are seeing weird doppelgangers of people they know. Publishers Weekly says, “Deeply disturbing and studded with ghastly imagery, this beautifully written narrative will inspire shudders with every turn of the page.”
It’s a fantasy adventure about traveling bards in medieval France. Are you excited yet? Devin Roché and his friend Gaspard travel around their province trying to collect all the local tales because their local Master Bard died without passing his oral collection of stories down. But the Master Bards are being murdered, and soon their own lives are in danger, because someone will stop at nothing to protect a great secret. Wallace says this book was inspired by the idea of “bards travelling the countryside to tell their stories,” and the French legend of “The Beast of Gevaudan.”
The final book in Drake’s series about an alternate Rome is also a standalone novel. The forces of magic and the supernatural are battling against the forces of reason and logic, and the supernatural is winning. It’s up to the soldier Corylus to try and turn the tide for reason, before civilization falls.
Tanzer, the author of Vermillion and A Pretty Mouth, is back with this tale of a late 18th-century wig-maker who gets disgraced and then falls into a world of libertines and fringe science. By all accounts, this is a strange and disturbing exploration of sexuality and gender, with a main character who’s vain and foolish, but whose attempts to better himself keep you engaged in spite of your reservations. The Novel Commentary says, “At times funny, at times creepy, and in the end, profoundly touching, this book is definitely worth picking up.” Over in The Monitor, David Bowles writes, “this fascinating novel subverts Pygmalion, rags-to-riches and boy-meets-girl tropes to memorable effect.”
Czerneda returns to the universe of her Clan Chronicles, for the first book in a new series. Sira de Sarc is possibly the most powerful telepath the Clan has ever produced, and now she’s expecting a baby, but her parents don’t approve of her choice of spouse. But it turns out she’s got bigger problems—because someone is killing off members of the Clan, reducing their numbers from just under a thousand to just under 200. Little Red Reviewer calls Czerneda “the ultimate master of writing convincing alien species.”
A psychiatric nurse discovers a number of his patients are dying mysteriously—and this turns out to be connected to a conspiracy to unravel all of reality, by stealing dreams. Someone is turning the Firmament Surgeons (who keep the order of creation going) into Autoscopes, who wage a war against hope. Says Publishers Weekly, “Skin-crawling dread is explored with relish, and creatures right out of a Bosch painting will please horror fans hungry for visceral terror, but the real entertainment of this novel lies in the juxtaposition of the wondrous and the grotesque, along with wry wit.”
The first book in a new trilogy set in Elliott’s Crossroads book series. King Anjihosh has defeated some unkillable demons to secure his realm, but his successor will have a harder time holding on to this victory. Kellas, the leader of Anjihosh’s regiment of Black Wolves, suffers a horrible setback, and has his reputation ruined. Then, decades later, Kellas is pulled out of retirement for one last mission. Both Kirkus and Publishers Weekly praised the action and epic scope, but also had some reservations.
And here’s one more story collection by someone whose short fiction is among their best work. We’ve praised Kowal’s stories, such as “Evil Robot Monkey,” before, and this is a collection of 19 stories that range from alternate worlds to generation ships to alien biology. Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review and said, “Kowal sends readers off on a breathless trip to the stars.”
Like Allan’s Shadow of the Empire, this is another old-fashioned space adventure, something we always need more of. Kivita Vondir is a space scavenger who looks for technology from the ancient Vim race. Until she finds an artifact that’s so valuable that theocratic maniacs and evil aliens will kill to get their hands on it. She has to team up with a smuggler and rebel agent, as they’re hunted by “the cruelest pirate in the Cerutto Arm,” and their relationship apparently takes on a distinct Han-and-Leia feeling. We can basically never get enough space pirates and space smugglers. Never.
Top image: Shadow of Empire cover by Marc Simonetti. Sources: SFSignal, Barnes & Noble, Locus, Tor.com, and publisher catalogs. Originally this piece listed Ken Liu’s The Paper Menagerie, which has been pushed back to March.