From hugely anticipated fantasy debuts to continuing adventures in science fiction’s most popular universes, here are some of the most exciting recent releases in the world of sci fi and fantasy books, as well as the best of what's still to come.
Exhalation by Ted Chiang
This groundbreaking collection of science fiction short stories is the second from acclaimed author Ted Chiang. In these nine stunningly original and poignant stories, we encounter a portal through time in ancient Baghdad, a scientist who makes a shocking discovery that will affect all of humanity and a woman who cares for an AI ‘pet’ for over twenty years. Addressing, among others, essential questions around the nature of the universe and what it means to be human, this is science fiction at its most thoughtful.
Recursion by Blake Crouch
This high concept sci-fi thriller asks the question: what if someone could rewrite your entire life? When Detective Barry Sutton is called to help a woman threatening to jump from a building, he’s unaware of the series of events the incident will trigger. Unable to stop the woman taking her own life, the last words she says to him are ‘My son has been erased.’ As Barry begins to investigate her case, he finds she’s not the only one making such claims. All over the country, people are waking up to different lives, an epidemic the media have dubbed ‘False Memory Syndrome’. But what if the cause is more sinister than a disease?
Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Following on from Tchaikovsky’s Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning novel, Children of Time, Children of Ruin finds modern humanity dealing with the consequences of Earth’s ancient empire building. A terraforming program transforms the world of Nod, with unplanned and ominous side effects. Aeons later, an exploration mission finally discovers this part of space. They are hoping to find cousins from old Earth, but realise that something else entirely awaits.
Danny had Adrian on the Uncaring Universe podcast a while ago to discuss how he makes really alien aliens and his hopes for the series – so get yourself acquainted. Children of Ruin is evolutionary science fiction of the absolute highest order.
Buy Children of Ruin
A Time of Blood by John Gwynne
The second book in John Gwynne's epic Of Blood and Bone series, A Time of Blood sees Riv, Drem and the Bright Star battling to save their land, as demonic forces gather to destroy their enemies and the rule of man.
Buy A Time of Blood
The True Queen by Zen Cho
Muna and her sister Sakti wake on the shores of Janda Baik, long a home to witches, victims of a curse that has stolen away their memories. They must head to Britain, where their only hope lies in the academy for female magicians. But they must travel through the Fairy Queen's realm, where Sakti disappears without a trace . . .
Buy The True Queen
Bloodwitch by Susan Dennard
Susan Dennard’s Witchlands series has gone from strength to strength. Windwitch and Truthwitch were both excellent and foreshadowed a ton of character lore and plot details that Bloodwitch will explore.
Existing fans won’t need much persuading to be very excited for the next instalment in the series. If you're new to the series, check out our introduction to the Witchlands series here.
Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee
Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of Empire trilogy was lyrical, imaginative military science fiction. So Dragon Pearl, a YA space opera based on Korean folklore, is a change of pace. The novel tells the tale of Min, a human from a family imbued with fox-magic and able to shape-shift (although this is forbidden, in order to avoid raising suspicion). Tired of her daily routine and unexciting planet, she yearns to follow her brother into the Space Forces, and to see the Thousand Worlds. Highly recommended for younger readers, but frankly enjoyable whatever your age.
Buy Dragon Pearl
The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons
Jenn Lyon’s debut is the first of a brand new series entitled A Chorus of Dragons. It’s one of those fantasy novels that is brim-full of big ideas – body-swapping, prophecy, rich worldbuilding and grim commentaries on many aspects of empire – to name but a few.
This tale of Kihrin, a young prince cursed with bad luck and worse prophecy, is fantastically complex and multi-layered. Characters like Doc and Galen, Kihrin’s own well-balanced set of talents and flaws, and some innovative narration techniques make for a strong start to a promising series.
But don’t just take our word for it! Lev Grossman had this to say about the novel: ‘What an extraordinary book. The Ruin of Kings is everything epic fantasy should be: rich, cruel, gorgeous, brilliant, enthralling and deeply deeply satisfying. I loved it.’
Buy The Ruin of Kings
A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
Arkady Martine’s debut is something for fans of Asimov, Simmons, Leckie et al to get really excited about. You’re in at the deep end from the opening pages in the best possible way.
One thing is for certain: the Teixcalaan Empire seems enormous, and due for a fall. There are definitely parallels to Leckie’s Ancillary Justice or Seth Dickinson’s The Traitor in that set up, but Martine’s voice is unique. It helps that her universe-building places one of the most fascinating themes possible at the very centre of the pan-galactic stage. This is the ‘memory’ mentioned in the title. Martine creates a technology by which a select few can carry their predecessors in their minds, so they may take advantage of their wisdom and memories. But this is hidden, a dangerous secret. Discovering the way in which this works - or doesn’t – is one of the biggest pleasures of the book.
All told this is a political space opera of the highest order and an astonishing debut.
Buy A Memory Called Empire
The Warship by Neal Asher
2018 saw Neal Asher return to his Polity Universe for a new trilogy, Rise of the Jain. His follow-up, The Warship, sees protagonist Orlandine facing a new threat, [SPOILERS] following her defeat of the Jain super-soldier. Rebel forces on her home world plan her assassination; tensions between Earth Central and the crab-like Prador intensify; the alien accretion disk contains yet more mystery. Something tells us it won’t be resolved over tea.
Asher’s trademark interstellar politics and exotic, military-alien warfare are back in full force. The Warship raises the stakes and sets the stage for a universe-shaking finale.
Buy The Warship
The Dragon Republic by R. F. Kuang
We discussed The Poppy War by R.F Kuang in the Best of 2018: Science Fiction and Fantasy blog, so it’s little surprise that we’re chomping at the bit for the follow up. Expect copious amounts of opium, vengeful gods, traitorous rulers and a deepening of protagonist Rin’s compelling moral complexity – and powers. Even more of the same would be amazing, but The Dragon Republic essentially sees Rin go rogue, which opens up so many more possibilities. This is fast opening up into one of the best fantasy series of recent years.
Buy The Dragon Republic
Salvation Lost by Peter F. Hamilton
Salvation Lost is the second book in Peter F. Hamilton’s stunning series, The Salvation Sequence. The comparatively utopian world of 23rd century Earth is about to change forever, as the alien race the Olyix, previously thought to be benign, plan to harvest humanity as an offering to their god at the end of the universe. With almost no time to fight back, some want to flee, while others want to stand strong in the face of a new enemy.
Buy Salvation Lost
Buy Salvation, the first book in The Salvation Sequence
Here, Peter F. Hamilton introduces The Salvation Sequence
For even more science fiction book recommendations, discover some of the best sci fi classics in this episode of Book Break:
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