Geez, it’s the last day of the month already. I’m used to failing at my ambitious monthly reading plans, but at least I usually try. This month has been so busy that I haven’t even been able to keep track of all the great books I missed, much less crack any of them open.
September still has a few hours left, and I’m going to use that time to educate myself. And the best resource for that are book blogs like The Verge, Unbound Worlds, Kirkus Reviews, and especially the excellent Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog, which has gradually become my go-to source for the best new releases. This month Jeff Somers does his usual top-notch job, pointing me to 26 tantalizing titles I might have otherwise overlooked. Here’s the best of them.
The Hidden Sun by Jaine Fenn (Angry Robot, 448 pages, $12.99 trade paperback/$8.99 digital, September 4)
Fenn is as known for her short fiction as she is for her Hidden Empire novel series — and for her tendency to take stories in unexpected directions, whether on the micro-scale in short stories or the macro-scale of novels. [In] Hidden Sun Fenn kicks off an all new series set in a universe of shadowlands and bright alien skylands. Rhia Harlyn is a well-born woman in the shadowland Shen, struggling against old-fashioned sexism as she pursues scientific knowledge. She gets a tragic opportunity to use his skill for research and discovery after her brother vanishes. She sets off to the skylands to seek the truth behind his disappearance and finds herself caught between a rebel and a cult leader on an alluring, dangerous world.
Jaine Fenn won the British Science Fiction for her short fiction. She’s the author of the 5-volume Hidden Empire series, published in the UK by Gollancz, which does not yet have a US publisher. The Hidden Sun is the first volume of a 2-part series titled Shadowlands; the sequel, Broken Shadow, will be released on April 4. This is her first US release; if it does well, I hope that means we get to see a lot more of her.
[Click the images to embiggen.]
Rosewater by Tade Thompson (Orbit, 432 pages, $15.99 trade paperback/$4.99 digital, September 18)
Thompson’s novel-length debut, published last year in ebook but now out in print from Orbit, is set in the near future, in the wake of Earth’s settlement by alien visitors, who have constructed a huge biodome in Nigeria. The newcomers are rumored to have healing powers, and the sick and suffering gather around the biodome, forming the city of Rose Water around it. Thompson, whose sci-fi/horror novella The Murders of Molly Southbourne was released last year to significant acclaim, was born in London to Yoruba parents, and brings a unique worldview to a story that runs the disparate threads of those disparate cultures through a sci-fi idea machine. The result combines a sprawling timeline, engaging speculative concepts, and aspects of old-school detective fiction to craft one of the most unique books of the year.
Rosewater looks like my favorite debut of the month. It was originally published by Apex in 2016, and came in second for the Campbell Memorial for Best Science Fiction Novel. The new Orbit edition is advertised as Book 1 of The Wormwood Trilogy.
Salvation by Peter F. Hamilton (Del Rey, 576 pages, $30 hardcover/$14.99 digital, September 4)
That Hamilton remains under the radar of many sci-fi readers (particularly in the U.S.) is a crime; not only has he consistently offered up amazing science fictional concepts, he’s packed them into character-focused epics with the sprawl to rival Dickens. In his newest, which stands alone from his earlier series, is set in the 23rd century, by which time humanity has achieved a complacent sort of ascendancy, managing a far-flung interstellar empire via networked “jump gates” that allow for instantaneous travel to anywhere. The cargo on a crashed spacecraft found on a newly discovered planet, however, threatens to fatally undermine that hegemony. Paralleling that story is taking place in the 51st century, where an ancient enemy pursues the genocide of the human race and a team of genetically altered soldiers prepare to face it. Per usual for Hamilton, the ideas as invigorating as the plot, which earns the epic page count.
Salvation is already being billed as the opening novel in The Salvation Sequence, so if you’re looking for a meaty sci-fi epic, read no further.
Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds by Brandon Sanderson (Tor, 352 pages, $27.99 hardcover/$14.99 digital September 18)
Sanderson is famous for lengthy, meticulously detailed fantasy series like Mistborn and The Stormlight Archive, but over the years he’s also been quietly publishing sci-fi novellas featuring the character of Stephen Leeds, a man who can learn anything and master any skill in a matter of hours by creating a separate personality in his head. Leeds calls these personalities ‛Aspects,’ and he’s gotten to the point where there are almost too many of them fighting for space in his brain. This book collects the previously published Leeds novellas — Legion and Legion: Skin Deep — as well as a new, concluding novella, Lies of the Beholder, which offers a glimpse into Stephen’s origins as he’s hired to recover a stolen camera that reportedly takes photos of the past. Signed copies are available from Barnes & Noble, while they last.
I love novellas! They’re the perfect length for those long fall evenings. And I definitely need to read more Brandon Sanderson.
The Late Great Wizard by Sara Hanover (DAW, 336 pages, $16 trade paperback/$11.99 digital, September 11)
Hanover puts a contemporary spin on beloved portal fantasy tropes, telling the story of Tessa Andrews, a bitter young woman still reeling from the disappearance of her gambler father. When her neighbor Professor Brandard’s house burns down, though, he is reborn into a younger body, and soon reveals to Tessa that he’s a phoenix wizard, and he needs her help to regain his powers before a terrible evil descends — a malevolent entity that might have something to do with her father’s disappearance.
This looks like a smart debut novel.
Mecha Samurai Empire by Peter Tieryas (Ace Books, 464 pages, $16 trade paperback/$11 digital, September 18)
Tieryas follows up and expands on his 2016 novel United States of Japan, an alternate history story set in a world where the Axis Powers won World War II and Japan has occupied the U.S. The first book — in which an underground video game featuring giant battling mecha, distributed by a rebel group called the George Washingtons, urged Americans to question the official history of Japan’s noble victory — moved much like a detective novel. The sequel spins a different sort of story set in the same universe, focusing on young Makoto “Mac” Fujimoto, a war orphan who wants to be a mecha pilot — but just as he sits for the exams that will determine his future, a terrorist attack by the National Revolutionaries of America kills his best friend, setting Mac on a darker path. Even more so than its excellent predecessor, Mecha Samurai Empire fulfills the promise of a book with a giant robot on the cover.
Mecha Samurai Empire is the second book in the Unites States of Japan; for this second installment, Tieryas switched publishers from Angry Robot to Ace, which is odd but not unprecedented. Andrew Liptak selected the first volume as one of the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels of 2016. We covered it here.
Read Jeff’s complete list of 31 fabulous titles for September here.
Hungry for more? Here’s a few other handy resources:
The Best Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Books of September by John DeNardo (Kirkus Reviews)
9 science fiction and fantasy books coming out this September you should add to your reading list by Andrew Lipta (The Verge)
The Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books of September 2018 by Matt Stags (Unbound Worlds)
Best New Fantasy Books in September 2018 by Den of Geek
All the New Fantasy Books Coming Out in September! by Tor.com
All the New Science Fiction Books Coming Out in September! by Tor.com
See all our recent New Treasures here.