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Andrew Liptak on 20 Sci-fi and Fantasy Books to Check Out in August

Sunday, August 30th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

By Force Alone by Lavie Tidhar-small Seven Devils by Laura Lam and Elizabeth May-small The Mother Code-small

Cover art: uncredited, Dan dos Santos, and Anthony Ramondo (click to embiggen)

I’ve grown to rely on Andrew Liptak’s newsletter to keep me up-to-date on the latest releases, especially during the era of the pandemic. He’s got a keen eye, and roves far and wide to compile a list of the best new books every month. His list of August’s most noteworthy titles does not disappoint, with new releases from Carrie Vaughn, Tamsyn Muir, Seth Dickinson, L. Penelope, Lavie Tidhar, Lisbeth Campbell, Marina J. Lostetter, Emily Tesh, Gardner Dozois and Michael Swanwick, Karen Osborne, Carole Stivers, and Ashley Blooms. Here’s a few of the highlights.

By Force Alone by Lavie Tidhar (Tor Books, 416 pages, $27.99/$14.99 digital, August 11, 2020)

Over the years, I’ve really enjoyed Lavie Tidhar’s work — particularly The Violent Century and Unholy Land. (I still need to read Central Station). He likes to play with tropes, upending conventional characters and stories, and his next is an intriguing-sounding take on the King Arthur mythos.

Tidhar puts a gritty edge to the Arthurian legend, portraying Arthur and his companions as gangsters and criminals running drugs and weapons through a London that’s been abandoned by Rome. Writing for Locus, Ian Mond writes that “For all its foul language and radical deconstruc­tion, of which I’ve provided only a taste (you should see what Tidhar does with the Holy Grail), By Force Alone isn’t a desecration of the Arthurian romances. Instead, he pays homage to the writers and poets who took their turn in adapting and refining Monmouth’s text.”

[Click the images to embiggen.]

Seven Devils by Laura Lam and Elizabeth May (DAW, 464 pages, $26 hardcover/$13.99 digital, August 4, 2020) — cover by Dan dos Santos

Laura Lam and Elizabeth May team up for a new space opera duology, starting with Seven Devils. Eris was the heir to a galactic empire, but faked her death to escape from it, eventually joining up with a resistance movement working to stop its ruthless expansion across space.

She’s assigned to a mission to sneak into a spaceship and gather intelligence on its cargo. However, once she and her difficult partner Cloelia get onboard, they find three refugees who know a lot about the empire’s inner workings, and they have to get them out before they’re captured. Publishers Weekly says that “this epic, if occasionally bumpy, voyage will appeal to fans of underdog stories and bombastic feminist sci-fi.”

Seven Devils is the opening novel in a new series. Read the first two chapters at Tor.com.

Mother Code by Carole Stivers (Berkley, 352 pages, $26 hardcover/$13.99 digital, August 25, 2020) — cover design by Anthony Ramondo

A couple of decades from now, a US-designed bioweapon mutates and goes wildly out of control, threatening life on Earth. Scientists work quickly to try and figure out how to save the human race: genetically engineered children raised by a robotic mother. In the American southwest, a boy named Kai is born and raised by his robotic mother, Rho-Z, who raises him in this strange new world. Eventually, the government decides to destroy the machines, and Kai is forced to make a devastating choice. Kirkus Reviews calls the book “fast-paced plague fiction that weds realism and SF while posing truly profound questions about the nature of motherhood.”

We could eventually get a film adaptation of this. Stivers sold the rights to the book to Steven Spielberg’s Amblin last year.

Read an excerpt at Tor.com.

City Under the Stars-small City Under the Stars-back-small

Cover by Raphael Lacoste

City Under the Stars by Gardner Dozois and Michael Swanwick (Tor.com, 272 pages, $14.99 paperback/$4.99 digital, August 25, 2020) — cover by Raphael Lacoste

Gardner Dozois tragically died in 2018. He’s best known as an anthologist, but he was also a well-regarded writer as well. In 1995, he collaborated with writer Michael Swanwick on a novella called The City of God, and had returned to it to expand it into a novel before Dozois passed. Swanwick has an overview of what happened next.

Set in the distant future, God lives just 15 minutes away behind a giant wall. Hanson is a laborer who’s toiled away shoveling coal, only to leave the city after a tragedy that he’s responsible for. When he escapes, he’s able to step through the wall, only to discover that the “gods” have vanished, leaving behind some fantastical technologies.

Every Bone a Prayer by Ashley Blooms-small Every Bone a Prayer by Ashley Blooms-back-small

Cover by Karina Vegas/Arcangel Images

Every Bone a Prayer by Ashley Blooms (Sourcebooks Landmark, 352 pages, $16.99 paperback/$9.99 digital, August 4, 2020) — cover by Karina Vegas/Arcangel Images

10-year-old Misty has grown up in a hollow nestled deep in the Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky. She has a particular ability: she can speak to her surroundings, like crawdads, the trees, and the rocks. Her world is falling apart: her parents are separating, and she’s the target of horrific abuse from her teenage neighbor. The novel is described as magical realism, and as Misty works to survive, she learns more about the deeper history of her hollow and the cycles of abuse that go back generations.

Read an excerpt from Every Bone a Prayer at Tor.com.

Read Andrew’s complete list in his Newsletter — and sign up while you’re there. You’ll be glad you did.

See our discussions of his previous lists here, and all our recent New Treasures here.

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