This roundup comprises five of the best new science fiction and fantasy novels published in the last few months. Action-packed and astoundingly imaginative, they all offer to transport readers to exciting otherworldly locations populated by extraordinary beings. In fact, if you aim to explore strange new worlds and seek out new life and new civilizations, then these are the books for you.
Where the Drowned Girls Go
by Seanan McGuire
Tordotcom, 160 pages, $19.98
In Where the Drowned Girls Go, the seventh volume in Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series, a new anti-magical school is introduced and its students are forced to rebel against the overly authoritative faculty, which makes for a tense and fantastical read. When Eleanor West first opened her Home for Wayward Children, she had to acknowledge the fact that she wouldn’t be able to help all those who arrived at her door, although she determined to do her best to assist as many as possible. She’s surprised, however, when Cora turns out to be one of the children who might need to pursue their fate elsewhere. For her part, Cora is desperately seeking a different life, a different prophecy, and the ability to make her own fate. At Cora’s urging, Eleanor reluctantly agrees to transfer her to the Whitethorn Institute, a school that is run according to very different principles than the Home for Wayward Children. Once there, Cora soon realizes that something distinctly sinister is going on and that she might just be the only one capable of overcoming it.
The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer
by Janelle Monáe
Harper Voyager, 336 pages, $28.99
With The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer, Janelle Monáe and a host of collaborators have put together a collection of powerful short stories that explore what life is like under a near-future totalitarian regime and if there is any possibility of escape. Set in the Afrofuturistic world that informs one of Monáe’s albums, the stories interrogate issues such as sexuality, race, and gender, and they do so against a backdrop of a world in which thoughts can be controlled, modified, or even erased by a select group of powerful elites. As a consequence, the lives of all individuals—whether human, AI, or something else entirely—are overseen by a cabal of megalomaniacs who have assigned themselves the power to control the fate of everything. Well, that was the case until Jane 57821 took the chance to break free and start thinking for herself. The stories in this collection build on and expand the world inhabited by Jane 57821, fleshing it out in all its repressive horror and amazing opportunity.
The Devil’s Dictionary
by Steven Kotler
St. Martin’s Press, 336 pages, $27.99
An empathy tracker and emotional forecaster, Lion Zorn is unique. He is also uniquely placed to know why the world is the way that it is and what the future is likely to hold, although he mostly concentrates on more day-to-day matters. Still, his skills are very useful to have in a highly competitive market, despite occasionally bringing him into contact with the less desirable members of society. When what should have been a standard em-tracking mission suddenly goes wrong and his fellow em-trackers start disappearing, Lion is left without allies and with a serious puzzle to solve. As he searches for the truth, Lion finds himself on a collision course with the shadowy parties behind the mega-linkage, a continent-spanning national park that was billed as the best way to avoid environmental collapse and protect the planet’s biodiversity. Filled with action and intrigue, Steven Kotler’s The Devil’s Dictionary is pure cyberpunk weirdness that both thrills and amazes.
by Edward Ashton
St. Martin’s Press, 304 pages, $27.99
A thought-provoking blend of weighty science fiction concepts and hazardous moral dilemmas, Mickey7 by Edward Ashton is part futuristic farce and part all-too-likely horror story. Seeking a way to escape both his debts and the boredom of life on Midgard, the original Mickey signed up as an expendable on a mission to colonize the ice planet of Niflheim. He probably should have enquired further into why the position was vacant despite the mission being so prestigious, although he soon learned that the expendable is the person sent to do all the dangerous and likely deadly jobs that no one else on the crew wants to do. For the sake of efficiency, each time a Mickey dies, a clone is created that has most of the memories of the original guy and the subsequent iterations. For the Mickeys, space travel turns out to be not much fun after all, but when Mickey7 is erroneously declared missing and presumed dead, the newly created Mickey8 diligently reports for duty, which is when things really take a turn for the weird.
by Jayne Cowie
Berkley Books, 320 pages, $17.00
In the Great Britain of the not-too-distant future, women have taken charge of society and imposed a curfew on men, who must all wear electronic tags and stay in their homes between the hours of 7pm and 7am. While women no longer need to fear being out after dark, the curfew hasn’t proved great for all of them. In the case of single mother Sarah, for example, the curfew law resulted in her husband being sent to prison, although it isn’t going to do much to protect her now that he’s been released. Their daughter Cass also has issues with the curfew and the restrictions that it puts on the lives of boys like her friend Billy, which makes her determined to prove that he’s not a threat to anyone. Meanwhile, teacher Helen has applied for a cohab certificate with her partner, Tom, so that they can finally live together and have a baby. When one of these three women is murdered during the night, it seems clear that the killer can’t have been a man, but is that really the case? Jayne Cowie’s Curfew is a complex futuristic thriller that poses important questions while also delivering a heart-pounding story.