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You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Bookshelf: John DeNardo on the Best June Science Fiction & Fantasy

Wednesday, June 26th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Girl in Red Christina Henry-small The Iron Dragon's Mother Michael Swanwick-small Wastelands The New Apocalypse John Joseph Adams-small

It’s been a while since we’ve checked in with John DeNardo, the most well-informed man in science fiction (way back in March, if you must know, when he recommended Titanshade and A Memory Called Empire to us.) John never slows down, and at the beginning of the month he surveyed the best new science fiction and fantasy arrivals in his regular column at Kirkus Reviews. Here’s a few of the highlights, starting with a post-apocalyptic version of Little Red Riding Hood from Christina Henry.

The Girl in Red by Christina Henry (Berkley, 304 pages, $16.00 in trade paperback/$11.99 digital, June 18, 2019)

With The Girl in Red, Christina Henry one again proves that retellings don’t necessarily lack originality. (Her previous re-spins of classic stories include 2015’s Alice, 2016’s Red Queen, 2017’s Lost Boy, and 2018’s The Mermaid.) In this post-apocalyptic take on Little Red Riding Hood, a Crisis has decimated much of the world population, forcing survivors to huddle in quarantine camps. But that doesn’t mean that the woman in the red jacket is helpless against the new kind of monster that the Crisis has created.

Next up is Michael Swanwick’s long-awaited sequel to his World Fantasy Award nominee The Iron Dragon’s Daughter (1993), which came in #2 in the voting for the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel, and The Dragons of Babel (2008).

[Click the images to embiggen.]

The Iron Dragon’s Mother by Michael Swanwick (Tor Books, 368 pages, $26.99 in hardcover/$13.99 digital, June 25, 2019)

Michael Swanwick returns to the post-industrial faerie world he created in The Iron Dragon’s Daughter with the long-awaited standalone fantasy The Iron Dragon’s Mother. In this imaginative world, magic and technology exist side-by-side. Thus, you have Caitlin Sans Merci, pilot of a sentient mechanical dragon named 7708 who serves in the Dragon Corps. The Corps main function is to steal the souls of children from alternate Earths. Returning from once such raid, Caitlin finds an unexpected stowaway, is framed by her superiors, flees, and fights to clear her good name.

One thing I enjoy is John’s dedication to short fiction, and his June list showcases enticing new anthologies and collections from Stephen King & Bev Vincent, Yoon Ha Lee, Fran Wilde, David Afsharirad, Jane Yolen, and others. But the highlight for me was John Joseph Adams’ new Wastelands anthology, the follow up to Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse (2008), which Brian Murphy reviewed for us here, and Wastelands 2: More Stories of the Apocalypse (2015).

Wastelands: The New Apocalypse, edited by John Joseph Adams (Titan Books, 528 pages, $14.95 trade paperback/$9.99 digital, June 4, 2019)

This heavy tome looks at the end of the world — whether via nuclear war, pandemic, climate change, or cosmological disaster — in brand new stories by Veronica Roth, Hugh Howey, Jonathan Maberry, Seanan McGuire, Tananarive Due, Richard Kadrey, Elizabeth Bear, Tobias S. Buckell, Jeremiah Tolbert, and others, and recent reprints by Carmen Maria Machado, Carrie Vaughn, Ken Liu, Paolo Bacigalupi, Charlie Jane Anders, Catherynne M. Valente, Jack Skillingstead, Sofia Samatar, Maureen F. McHugh, Nisi Shawl, Dale Bailey, Nicole Kornher-Stace, and others.

Stealing Worlds Karl Schroeder-small Dust Devils Jonathan Janz-small A Sword Named Truth Sherwood Smith-small

Stealing Worlds by Karl Schroeder (Tor Books, 320 pages, $29.99 hardcover/$14.99 digital, June 18, 2019)

Stealing worlds is a hacker heist set in the total surveillance society of mid-21st century America. Sura Neelin, on the run from creditors and her father’s murderers, escapes into the virtual world of an augmented reality game. That’s where she learns that the game itself is subverting people’s idea of what society should be. When Sura also discovers that the makers of the VR world are also controlling the surveillance net, she realizes she alone holds the key to upend society. (Read an excerpt here.)

Next up is a tasty Weird Western from an author I’m unfamiliar with, a reprint in the Fiction Without Frontiers series from Flame Tree Press. It’s likely one I would have missed if it weren’t for John’s sharp eyes.

Dust Devils by Jonathan Janz (Flame Tree Press, 304 pages New edition, $24.95 in hardcover/ $6.99 digital, June 27, 2019)

The malleability of literature is often best exhibited in mashups. Take, for example, Dust Devils, a horror novel that puts vampires in the Old West — the wilds of New Mexico in 1885, to be exact. That’s where Cody Wilson and twelve-year-old Willet Black team up to seek revenge against the traveling band of actors who have hurt them. Spoiler alert: said actors are vampires who are luring in new victims as they travel across the country.

And saving the best for last, we come to a brand new epic fantasy from Sherwood Smith, whom Rich Horton calls “supremely readable.” It’s Book 1 of a brand new series, Rise of the Alliance.

A Sword Named Truth by Sherwood Smith (DAW, 656 pages, $27 in hardcover/ $13.99 digital, June 11, 2019)

If your readerly tastes lean toward epic fantasy, here’s a book you’ll want to check out. In this epic fantasy trilogy opener, magic — which has been long dormant — begins to reappear in the world. The rulers of several nations, all young and inexperienced, wrestle with how to defend against the oncoming threat of dark magical forces. Their answer lies in forming alliances, of course… but how do you protect the world when you don’t even trust the people who are supposed to be helping?

See John’s complete rundown for June here.

We last sampled John’s monthly rec column back in March. Our recent coverage of John’s Kirkus articles includes:

John DeNardo on Terrific Science Fiction & Fantasy for Every Kind of Reader in March (2019)
John DeNardo on 31 Science Fiction & Fantasy Books You Should Read in July (2018)
John DeNardo on the Best Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror in May (2018)
John DeNardo on the Best SF and Fantasy in November (2017)
John DeNardo on August’s Must-Read Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Books (2017)
John DeNardo on Your Best Bets for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror in July (2017)
John DeNardo on The Science Fiction & Fantasy Books Everyone Will be Talking About in April (2017)
John DeNardo on the Definitive List of 2017’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy

See all our coverage of the best new book releases here.

3 Comments »

  1. Thanks for the signal boost!

    Comment by John D. - June 27, 2019 11:25 am

  2. Oh, and speaking of short fiction, my article on cool, recent short fiction reads is now up, too :)

    Adventures in Short Fiction: Supernatural Detectives, Civil War Airships, Harvesting the Dead, and Reality Shows with Guns

    https://www.kirkusreviews.com/features/adventures-short-fiction-supernatural-detectives-c/

    Comment by John D. - June 27, 2019 11:26 am

  3. Ooooo, that is a good article. Probably deserves a separate BG post all on its own (because we both know short fiction doesn’t get enough love these days). Thanks for the link!

    Comment by John ONeill - June 27, 2019 11:53 am


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