Future Treasures: The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Five edited by Neil Clarke

Friday, September 25th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

The Best Science Fiction of the Year- Volume Five-smallThe 2020 pandemic has thrown a wrench into publishing schedules this year, and no mistake. Seems like less than half the books I was looking forward to this summer appeared at all. So I’m relieved to see that this year’s class of Year’s Best anthologies — edited by Rich Horton, Jonathan Strahan, Paula Guran, John Joseph Adams, and others — are still in the pipeline. A little delayed maybe, but none the worse for wear.

Jonathan’s volume arrived on Sept 8; next on the docket is Neil Clarke’s The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Five, which will be published by Night Shade Press late next month. It contains fiction by N.K. Jemisin, Cixin Liu, Tobias S. Buckell, Gwyneth Jones, Dominica Phetteplace, Alastair Reynolds, Vandana Singh, Ann Leckie, Annalee Newitz, Alec Nevala-Lee, Aliette de Bodard, Carolyn Ives Gilman, Yoon Ha Lee, Indrapramit Das, A.T. Greenblatt, and many others. Here’s the description.

From Hugo Award-Winning Editor Neil Clarke, the Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year Collected in a Single Paperback Volume

Keeping up-to-date with the most buzzworthy and cutting-edge science fiction requires sifting through countless magazines, e-zines, websites, blogs, original anthologies, single-author collections, and more — a task that can be accomplished by only the most determined and voracious readers. For everyone else, Night Shade Books is proud to present the latest volume of The Best Science Fiction of the Year, a yearly anthology compiled by Hugo and World Fantasy Award–winning editor Neil Clarke, collecting the finest that the genre has to offer, from the biggest names in the field to the most exciting new writers.

The best science fiction scrutinizes our culture and politics, examines the limits of the human condition, and zooms across galaxies at faster-than-light speeds, moving from the very near future to the far-flung worlds of tomorrow in the space of a single sentence. Clarke, publisher and editor-in-chief of the acclaimed and award-winning magazine Clarkesworld, has selected the short science fiction (and only science fiction) best representing the previous year’s writing, showcasing the talent, variety, and awesome “sensawunda” that the genre has to offer.

Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

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Future Treasures: Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots

Friday, September 18th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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You know what we need in these dark, pandemic filled days? A good superhero tale. Natalie Zina Walschots’s debut novel Hench looks like it could fit the bill. Kirkus says it’s “A fiendishly clever novel that fizzes with moxie and malice,” and in a starred review Publishers Weekly calls it a “hilarious peek behind the scenes of supervillains’ lairs… [with] gripping action and gut-wrenching body horror.” It arrives in hardcover on Tuesday. Here’s the description.

The Boys meets My Year of Rest and Relaxation in this smart, imaginative, and evocative novel of love, betrayal, revenge, and redemption, told with razor-sharp wit and affection, in which a young woman discovers the greatest superpower — for good or ill — is a properly executed spreadsheet.

Anna does boring things for terrible people because even criminals need office help and she needs a job. Working for a monster lurking beneath the surface of the world isn’t glamorous. But is it really worse than working for an oil conglomerate or an insurance company? In this economy?

As a temp, she’s just a cog in the machine. But when she finally gets a promising assignment, everything goes very wrong, and an encounter with the so-called “hero” leaves her badly injured. And, to her horror, compared to the other bodies strewn about, she’s the lucky one.

So, of course, then she gets laid off.

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A Dead Colony and a Deep Space Mystery: The Memory War by Karen Osborne

Sunday, September 6th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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Here’s something interesting — an ambitious two-book space opera from debut novelist Karen Osborne. Opening novel Architects of Memory, which Publishers Weekly calls “a twisty, political space opera about corporate espionage and alien contact,” will be released in trade paperback on Tuesday. Book Two, Engines of Oblivion, arrives in February.

Here’s a snippet from the feature review of the first book at The Nerd Daily.

Architects of Memory by Karen Osborne is a stellar debut that explores the corruption in capitalism and what we will go through to protect the ones we love.

Salvage pilot, Ashland Jackson, just wants to finish her company indenture and get the citizenship she desperately needs to gain access to the treatment for the celestium sickness that is quickly killing her. When Ash and the crew of the Twenty-Five stumbled upon a mysterious weapon while on a salvage op, they are thrown into a world of corporate espionage and betrayals. As buried secrets and alliances become revealed, Ash and the crew must figure out who to trust and how to keep the weapon out of the wrong hands….

Architects of Memory is a good debut that leads me to believe Karen Osborne will definitely be taking up space on my favourites of science fiction bookcase. Her subtle way of building up characters brings them to life in ways that few authors can achieve. If you are looking for a science fiction story with authentic characters, twisty plots, a stuffed unicorn toy, and plenty of action and feels, then this is the one for you!

Here’s a peek at the back cover for Architects of Memory, and complete publishing deets both volumes.

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Future Treasures: The Year’s Best Science Fiction Vol. 1: The Saga Anthology of Science Fiction 2020 edited by Jonathan Strahan

Tuesday, September 1st, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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Cover design by Richard Yoo (click to embiggen)

Jonathan Strahan’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction Vol. 1 feels like a beginning. Probably because it is a beginning, in more ways than one. Jonathan has been editing Year’s Best books since 2003, and he curated thirteen volumes of the excellent Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, the first seven with Night Shade (2007-2013) and the last six with Solaris (2014-19). He’s now switched publishers to Saga Press/Gallery Books, and with that transformation comes other changes as well.

Most obvious is a switch in title, to The Year’s Best Science Fiction Vol. 1: The Saga Anthology of Science Fiction 2020, a reset in the numbering scheme (back to #1), and a refocus (dropping fantasy altogether). But the most interesting alteration (to me, anyway) is foreshadowed by the touching dedication:

In memory of my dear friend Gardner Dozois (1947-2018), who would have loved these stories.

With the title change, it seems to me that Jonathan assumes the mantle of Dozios (who edited 35 volumes of his own The Year’s Best Science Fiction between 1984-2018), and the duties and responsibilities that go with it. For example, Gardner’s introductions to his volumes were legendary, an annual summation of the Year in Science Fiction that fans looked forward to and read with relish. Jonathan’s summations have always been more modest — his intro to last year’s edition was a humble 8 pages — but with this one, titled A New Beginning, Jonathan stretches his legs admirably. His introduction to The Year’s Best Science Fiction Vol. 1 clocks in at 23 pages, room to weigh in not just on the best stories of the year, but the finest novels, collections, anthologies, magazines, and nonfiction, and well as report on rumblings in publishing, deaths in the field, award news, and more. Jonathan is a natural at this kind of opinionated writing, and he nails it.

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Future Treasures: The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

Saturday, August 22nd, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart. Orbit Books, September 8, 2020. Cover by Sasha Vinogradova.

I love a good fantasy debut, and Andrea Stewart’s The Bone Shard Daughter, coming from Orbit next month, looks like a doozy. It’s the tale of Lin, the former heir to an empire controlled by bone shard magic, fighting to reclaim her magic and her place on the throne, and it’s the opening volume of an epic fantasy trilogy by an unknown author purchased for a six-figure advance. Library Journal called it a “richly told, emotional, action-laced debut” in a starred review. Here’s an excerpt from S.W. Sondheimer’s rave review at The Roarbots.

You know what I love? I love that we are getting a tsunami of fantasy based in cultures that aren’t medieval Western Europe. I love it a lot….

Roving island chains? Hybrid constructs powered by bone magic? A collapsing Empire akin to that of Imperial China? Newly and inexplicably minted elemental wizards with mysterious, talking familiars (who compromise me emotionally, excuse me, your honor, I love Jovis and Mephi and will die for them)?

Inexplicable ships and missing memories? Queer rep that is without it being a thing? Yes, thank you, I’ll take it all, and I’ll take as many entries in Andrea Stewart’s The Drowning Empire series as she’ll write… It all starts when Deerhead Island sinks without sign, without warning, and without mercy. Jovis, searching for his lost wife, finds himself rescuing a child from the same ceremony that killed his brother years before – the ceremony in which the empire harvests a small shard of bone from every child’s skull to be used to power the emperor’s constructs. These creatures, created from leftovers and remains to do the ruler’s bidding, are powered by the life tethered to the shard.

Lin, the emperor’s daughter, tries to salvage lost memories, desperate to please her father while Phalue and Ranami try to love each other through a rebellion. As the three stories converge, the truth of the emperor’s plans – and the depth of his grief-driven madness – are revealed.

I love a good creepy magic system, and there’s a lot to like about this one. The Bone-Shard Daughter will be released by Orbit Books on September 8, 2020. It is $28 in hardcover and $14.99 in digital formats. The cover art is by Sasha Vinogradova. Read a lengthy excerpt at Gizmodo., and see all our recent Future Treasures here.


Gorgeous Celtic Imagery in a Haunting Fairy Tale: The Warrior Bards Novels by Juliet Marillier

Friday, August 21st, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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The Harp of Kings and A Dance With Fate. Ace Books,
September 2019 and September 2020. Covers by Mélanie Delon and unknown.

I discovered Juliet Marillier’s Blackthorn & Grim Celtic fantasy trilogy last year. How I missed the whole series for years I dunno, but was very glad to find them when I did. So I was excited to see a sequel series featuring a new generation arrive in 2020, opening with The Harp of Kings, which Andrew Liptak at Polygon selected as one of the Best Fantasy Releases of September 2019, saying it was “Soaked in gorgeous Celtic imagery and mythology.” Carolyn Cushman reviewed it warmly at Locus Online, saying:

Sibling bards determined to become warriors end up on a special mission to recover a magic harp in this Celtic fantasy novel, the first in the War­rior Bards series, a next-generation sequel to the Blackthorn & Grim series. Liobhan sings and plays the whistle, while her brother Brocc is a harpist with the voice of an angel, skills that turn out to be useful when the warrior group they’re training with needs to infiltrate a court where the legendary harp used at coronations has gone missing. Dealing with princes turns out to be the least of their problems, though, when druids and otherworldly influences are revealed to be involved. The trainees – includ­ing Liobhan’s biggest rival – have a tricky time staying in their assigned roles, and staying out of problems at court, but ultimately it’s Liobhan and Brocc’s knowledge of old stories and their mother’s wisewoman skills that save the day in a tale that draws on some haunting fairy tale elements while telling an exciting adventure all its own.

The next book in the series arrives in two weeks. A Dance With Fate will be published by Ace Books on September 1, 2020. It is 512 pages, priced at $17 in trade paperback and $11.99 in digital formats. I don’t know who did the cover. Read an excerpt from The Harp of Kings here, and see all our recent coverage of the best new fantasy series here.


Future Treasures: The Vanished Queen by Lisbeth Campbell

Wednesday, August 12th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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The Vanished Queen (Saga Press, 2020). Cover design by Alan Dingman.

On Monday I mentioned that the publishing house that’s impressed me the most with their late-summer line up was Skybound Books, in large part because of Linden A. Lewis’s debut The First Sister, an epic space opera that Library Journal selected as their Debut of the month. Coming in a close second is the always-reliable Saga Press, and the star in their crown is Lisbeth Campbell’s debut fantasy The Vanished Queen, which Beth Cato calls “One of the best fantasy books out this year.” It arrives in hardcover next week.

Buzzfeed‘s feature 17 Summer Must-Reads For Fantasy Lovers called The Vanished Queen “One of the best epic fantasies I’ve read in a long time,” and the starred review at Library Journal says it’s “filled with political intrigue, personal anguish, and family ties that bind.” Here’s an excerpt from the Publishers Weekly review.

Campbell skillfully balances action and introspection as rebellion rises against an oppressive regime in this promising epic fantasy debut. The city of Karegg is under the control of the brutal King Karolje. When college student Anza breaks into one of the libraries that Karolje has ordered closed, she discovers the journal of Mirantha, the former queen who Karolje had disappeared. After Anza’s father is executed for unknown reasons, Anza joins the resistance movement against Karolje, inspired, in part, by reading Mirantha’s tale… By situating Anza within a larger resistance movement, Campbell steers refreshingly clear of typical “chosen one” tropes, instead illuminating the collective effort required for revolution while drawing pointed parallels to the current U.S. political climate.

The Vanished Queen will be published by Saga Press on August 18, 2020. It is 488 pages, priced at $27.99 in hardcover and $7.99 in digital formats. The cover was designed by Alan Dingman. Read the complete first chapter (14 pages) or listen to an audio excerpt at the Simon & Schuster website.

See all our coverage of the best upcoming SF and fantasy here.


Future Treasures: Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar

Sunday, August 2nd, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Star Daughter-smallShveta Thakrar’s short fiction has appeared in the anthologies A Thousand Beginnings and Endings, Toil & Trouble, The Underwater Ballroom Society, and Clockwork Phoenix 5, and magazines such as Uncanny, Enchanted Living, Faerie Magazine, Mothership Zeta, Mythic Delirium, and Fantastic Stories of the Imagination. Her debut novel Star Daughter mixes Hindu mythology and contemporary fantasy into something quite original.

It arrives from HarperTeen next week. Here’s the description.

The daughter of a star and a mortal, Sheetal is used to keeping secrets. Pretending to be “normal.” But when an accidental flare of her starfire puts her human father in the hospital, Sheetal needs a full star’s help to heal him. A star like her mother, who returned to the sky long ago.

Sheetal’s quest to save her father will take her to a celestial court of shining wonders and dark shadows, where she must take the stage as her family’s champion in a competition to decide the next ruling house of the heavens — and win, or risk never returning to Earth at all.

Star Daughter has been warmly reviewed by Publishers Weekly, Nerd Daily, and other sites. But I think my favorite critique comes from the Utopia State of Mind blog. Here’s an excerpt.

Star Daughter is a gorgeous fantasy debut about love, family, and humanity. You’ll be enchanted by the blending of Stardust elements meets Hindu mythology. Then the gorgeous writing will captivate you until you fall into the story of family and humanity…. Torn in two, Sheetal must grapple with her love for her father, her feelings of abandonment towards her mother, and her new family’s past in the celestial court. She so desperately wants to feel like she belongs… I loved the added element of this talent competition meets political upheavals and family secrets. Star Daughter asks what we will do for family, the desperation and agony and love and resentment.

Star Daughter will be published by HarperTeen on August 11, 2020. It is 448 pages, priced at $17.99 in hardcover and $9.99 in digital formats. The beautiful cover is by Charlie Bowater. Read an excerpt at Enchanted Living.

See all our recent coverage of the best in upcoming SF and Fantasy here.


Future Treasures: Harrow the Ninth, Book 2 of The Locked Tomb Trilogy by Tamsyn Muir

Wednesday, July 29th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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Covers by Tommy Arnold

Gideon the Ninth was… well, just about the most acclaimed SF novel released last year. Acclaimed by whom? Everyone who read it in the Black Gate offices, for one thing. People who vote for awards, for another — it’s been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards for Best Novel, and it won the Locus Award for Best First Novel. It was voted one of the Best Books of 2019 by NPR, the New York Public Library, Amazon, BookPage, Shelf Awareness, BookRiot, and Bustle.

Book 2 arrives next week, and as you can imagine, anticipation is high. Here’s a taste of the feature review over at Nerd Daily.

When I read Gideon the Ninth last year, I didn’t know that I would be a wreck by the end of the book. I didn’t know it would create such an impact in my emotional well-being. I didn’t know that it would be one of the best books I read in 2019. Reading its sequel, Harrow the Ninth, now is like enjoying a nice, eventful walk… and then getting hit by a bus. This brilliant, confounding, and heartstopping sequel will quench the thirst of the fans, but not without leaving a new set of mysteries to keep us hooked.

Harrow the Ninth focuses on Harrow training in the Emperor’s haunted space station to fight an impossible war. Fresh off of lyctorhood, everything should be going easy for Harrow. But the truth is that both her body and her mind are failing her. And on top of that, someone just keeps trying to kill her…. Harrow the Ninth is mind-boggling from start to finish, and it’s an electrifying sequel you do not want to miss.

The third book in the series, Alecto the Ninth, is scheduled to be released next year.

Harrow the Ninth will be published by Tor.com on August 4, 2020. It is 512 pages, priced at $26.99 in hardcover and $13.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Tommy Arnold. Download the complete first act (all 139 pages!) in multiple digital formats at Tor.com.

See all our coverage of the best new SF and Fantasy here.


Future Treasures: Chaos Vector by Megan E. O’Keefe

Tuesday, July 21st, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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Covers by Sparth

Megan E. O’Keefe’s 2019 space opera Velocity Weapon was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award, and earned a bucket full of great press. The Guardian called it “A brilliantly plotted yarn of survival and far-future political intrigue,” and Booklist described it as “Full of twists, feints, and deception… [in] a visionary world rife with political intrigue and space adventure.” But my favorite review was from Kirkus:

The last thing Sanda Greeve remembers is her ship being attacked by rebel forces. She’s resuscitated from her evacuation pod missing half a leg — and two centuries — as explained to her by the AI of the rebel ship that rescued her. As The Light of Berossus — aka Bero — tells her, she may be the only living human for light-years around, as the war wiped both sides out long ago. Sanda struggles to process her injuries and her grief but finds friendship with the lonely spaceship itself. Sanda’s story is interspersed with flashbacks to the war’s effects on her brother, Biran, as well as scenes from a heist gone terribly wrong for small-time criminal Jules. The three narratives, separated by a vast gulf of time, are more intertwined than is immediately apparent. When Sanda rescues Tomas, another unlikely survivor, from his own evacuation pod, she learns that even time doesn’t end all wars….

Meticulously plotted, edge-of-your-seat space opera with a soul; a highly promising science-fiction debut.

We previously covered Velocity Weapon, and O’Keefe’s Scorched Continent fantasy trilogy.

The sequel to Velocity Weapon is one of the more hotly anticipated books of the year. Chaos Vector arrives from Orbit on July 28. It is 592 pages, priced at $16.99 in trade paperback, and $9.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Sparth. See all our recent coverage of the best upcoming SF and fantasy here.


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