Summer’s Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books: Half-Kings, Saints, and Rogues
So, we kind of jumped the gun with our sci-fi and fantasy spring preview, highlighting a number of books that are technically early summer releases: The Girl with All the Gifts, Thief’s Magic, Defenders. We were just that excited about them! But as the weather turns warmer, we’ve also got a spate of summer releases for fans of sci-fi, fantasy, speculative fiction, and horror. This season, Charlaine Harris kicks off a new series; George R.R. Martin spearheads a devilishly intriguing anthology; and debut novels from Erika Johansen and Monica Byrne have us wishing we could be princesses and travelers.
Make sure you pick up all of these these books now that it’s warm and you can just sit outside with a cool drink and an engrossing book, and lose yourself in mystical worlds strikingly similar to, or entirely different from, ours.
Standin’ at the crossroads
When Charlaine Harris concluded her Sookie Stackhouse series last year, it brought out high emotions in readers ranging from delight to betrayal. Let’s hope that her new series tugs those same heartstrings! With Midnight Crossroad, she swaps the South for the West: Midnight, Texas, looks like your typical ghost town, save for its few eccentric inhabitants and the secrets they’re obscuring from those just passing-through. We’re definitely interested in staying awhile in Harris’ newest world.
On shelves: May 6
Every great story seems to begin with a snake
The Girl in the Road is easily one of my favorite books I’ve read this year. Playwright Monica Byrne transmits themes from her plays—feminism, sexuality, revolt—into a gripping, near-SF debut. Details like an even more immersive cloud social media network, attempted assassination by snake, and an exodus via a 3,000-kilometer bridge spanning the Indian Ocean will dazzle you, as will Byrne’s choice to feature a queer woman of color as the protagonist… just in time for the recent #WeNeedDiverseBooks outcry on Twitter and Tumblr.
On shelves: May 20
This girl is on fire
Leigh Bardugo fans are champing at the bit for the latest installment of her Grisha series. Who can blame them, since Ruin and Rising has protagonist Alina reluctantly embracing her Sainthood while searching for the elusive firebird? We’re fans of kickass heroines, prophecies, and absorbing fantasy worlds… and while we don’t usually buy in to love triangles, rumor has it this installment features a love square. We can’t say no to that.
On shelves: June 17
Galaxy Quest, eat your heart out
We’ve got to tip our hat to the cheesy SF works that defined the genre early on—and James Morrow’s intriguingly-titled The Madonna and the Starship hearkens back to exactly that. His satirical novel, set in the 1950s, sees aliens invading NBC studios to dispose of the millions of “irrational” viewers of a religious TV series. The only man who can stop them? A pulp writer who sounds like a cross between Kilgore Trout and Bill Nye the Science Guy: He must come up with a script that’s rationally absurd enough to deter the extraterrestrial invaders.
On shelves: June 10
Rogues of all genres
In his introduction to his latest anthology, A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin makes a point that not all of the stories in Rogues are explicitly SFF. But the archetype is certainly something we associate with our favorite fantastical tales—so it’s cool to see how Martin, Gardner Dozois, Gillian Flynn, and the other contributors were inspired.
On shelves: June 17
All those amazing AUs
We’ve seen plenty of alternate-history tales in SFF, but what elevates Paul Park’s new book is the personal connections. All Those Vanished Engines began as a multimedia art project exploring three distinct American AUs based on the Civil War, World War II, and a futuristic interstellar battle between humans and aliens. Park has carried those fascinating could-be worlds into his novel, lacing them with snippets from his own personal history, for an engaging read.
On shelves: July 1
Mother/daughter strife we haven’t seen since Snow White
How can we not like The Queen of the Tearling’s heroine, a bookish princess? We love that at the core of this high fantasy novel is the power struggle between 19-year-old Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn (who fails to resemble her vain, frivolous mother, Queen Elyssa) and the Red Queen who threatens to usurp her rightful throne. Because for all the magic and battles, even fantasy comes down to interactions between people. (Game of Thrones has taught us that much!) The fact that Kelsea’s being played by our celebrity girl crush Emma Watson in the forthcoming movie adaptation is just more reason to pick up Erika Johansen’s debut.
On shelves: July 8
Half a king has twice our attention
Speaking of high fantasy, we can’t wait for Joe Abercrombie’s latest. Prince Yarvi, born without the use of one hand and thus unable to do anything “manly” such as command a boat or hold a shield, must nonetheless become king—or Half a King—when his father is struck down. We’re suckers for underdogs swearing oaths of vengeance, especially when they’re aided by such colorful characters as ex-raiders, ex-bakers, and “the mother of crows.” You won’t be lacking for high fantasy this summer.
On shelves: July 8
Lock ‘em up and throw away the key
While you’re breathing in that clean summer air, spare a thought for your requisite seasonal pandemic panic novel. John Scalzi moves away from satire and toward frighteningly realistic fears in Lock In, in which he envisions a meningitis-like disease “locking” one percent of the population into their bodies—frozen from the inside, able only to observe as the disease spreads. Redshirts, this ain’t—we’re all susceptible.
On shelves: August 26
Separation between church and galaxy
Am I the only one who adores the merging of science and religion? Peter Watts’ Exchopraxia features vampire scientists solving problems humans can’t; soldiers with a “zombie switch” for battle; and religious zealots who worship “The Angels of the Asteroids.” This Catholic school survivor cannot wait.
On shelves: August 26