This is my favorite Stephenson novel since Snow Crash. Which is saying a lot, because I think this will be for hard sci-fi what Snow Crash was for cyberpunk: an impressive and timeless example of that particular sci-fi subgenre. So, Seveneves in a nutshell: Neil deGrasse Tyson, Elon Musk, and a large group of diverse badass women do incredibly difficult nerdy stuff in space. Honestly, this book is so intelligent that it hurts. If you're the kind of geek that really wants to read hundreds of pages about what cool stuff people can do with orbital mechanics, swarm physics, hijacked comets, and micro-robotics, look no further. Think of it as Andy Weir's The Martian on steroids, plus some H. G. Wells-style utopia, and a healthy dose of World War Z end-of-the-world horror. Yes, it's really that awesome, I promise. —JENNIE
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I think the best sci-fi is capable of waking up the world to the all-too-real problems that affect us all. And Paolo Bacigalupi, through the vivid, terrifying, dystopian world he brings to life, does just that. In 23rd century Thailand, companies control the world's food supply, producing genetically grown food and wreaking havoc on what's left of the world through bioterrorism tactics. With each character Bacigalupi introduced, I found myself more and more drawn to the personal stories of people who are desperately attempting to retain what once made them who they were--or, in Emiko the windup girl's case, to find it. There are many reasons this novel won a Hugo Award and a Nebula Award, and there are many reasons we should see it as not only an outstanding novel, but a warning to be more aware of the environmental travesties that await us if we don't pay attention and care.— Becky
With each of Jonathan Howard’s books I can’t help but love the curmudgeon necromancer Johannes Cabal more, even though Mr. Cabal would probably hate me for saying that. In his latest book Howard has readers follow Johannes’s brother Horst Cabal on an adventure that would could be described as a mix of steampunk airplane chases and deadly necromancer battles. Horst finds himself mixed up in a world filled with shapeshifters, secret societies, and zombies and there’s only one person he knows who can help him in this crazy supernatural problem solving adventure, Johannes Cabal. This series is a must for those like twisted humor and good ol’ sibling rivalry. --Jess
Cambias tackles some of my very favorite topics in sci-fi: alien contact and the "hard" science behind realistic near-future space exploration. Here, he crafts a tale of three dueling cultures (two alien, one human) through several different points of view. Where he really shines is through the character of Broadtail -- a curious and scientifically-motivated being living beneath the massive pressure and icy crust of his dark homeworld ocean. Outcast from his home, he wanders through the depths in hope of finding an achievement to call his own. Through almost accidental contact with the intrepid and stubborn human explorers, and their isolationist foes, he finds his own destiny. I'd highly, highly recommend this to fans of Kim Stanley Robinson, Larry Niven, Arthur C. Clarke, or Andy Weir's The Martain, and the movies Interstellar and Gravity. --Jennie
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Elite, deadly mercenaries, an evil ancient brotherhood, a centuries-old (yet still hot) forest mother, and – of course – magic, are just the beginning of the many wonderful things within this book. Kashina’s characters are both real and complex – my favorite kind – and I’m already stamping my feet with impatience for the sequel. If you don’t finish this book secretly wishing you were a Diamond-ranked Majat warrior capable of performing the Viper’s Kiss in blazing combat, I feel sorry for you. Happy sword-fighting, er, reading. I meant reading. --Em
There are books you read to enrich yourself, to revel in the artistry of the English language. And then there's books that you read because they keep you up all night with giant freaking space battles. Golden Son the latter, and a paragon in the "neat, something else blew up" genre. Pretty much everything you could possibly want in a dystopian sci-fi novel is turned up to eleven, and then Brown adds even more explosions, betrayals, and gory duels. This book was exciting enough that I cried, couldn't eat, and then experienced a little chest pain. Highly recommended to people who enjoy juggling things on fire or wrestling alligators. --Jennie
I had reservations the final volume of Vandermeer's dazzling Southern Reach trilogy would not be able to live up to the hype established in the first two books, but this truly is an excellent conclusion. Everything about this series has been pitch-perfect--brilliant writing, excellent pacing, and all published in a beautiful package. Annihilation and Authority both included themes of their namesake in the story, and Acceptance is no different. The motivations of the characters and the origins of Area X become more clear but does that mean anything can be done about it? A genre defying and mind-bending trip, this is a series I will recommend for years to come. --JEREMY
I'd been eyeing Andy Weir's debut novel for a while so the anticipation had been building when I started reading it. The cover while eye catching is also a good summation of the story: a man stranded on the red planet Mars. Weir keeps you fully engaged as the main character, Mark Watney, becomes the sole member of the Ares 3 mission left behind when the crew are forced to evacuate Mars due to a rabid storm (oh yea, Mars has storms). From beginning to end Weir does an amazing job creating a story that is full of scientific accuracy and suspense as you watch the main character face obstacles and celebrate successes all while keeping his spirits up through sarcasm and wit. --ANDY
Jane Lindskold never does anything halfway, and Artemis Awakening is no exception. Hundreds of years after an inter-galactic war has caused technology on Artemis to cease functioning, archaeologist Griffin Dane crash-lands there to find the bio-engineered descendants of this man-made planet have continued to develop peculiar adaptations that make them particularly suited to life on Artemis. One of the most interesting things I've seen done with science fiction in a long, long time, and one that will have you wondering just what will happen when Artemis herself awakens? --EM
If I had to sum up this book in one statement, I'd call it a hybrid child of Anne McCaffrey and Jane Austen--a mix I didn't know anyone could pull off. Leonard's debut novel, while marked in places by the hesitance of a new author, is nonetheless richly imagined and highly entertaining. Definitely worth the read. --EM
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As soon as I started The Queen of the Tearling, I could tell this was going to be a big one. In fact, I kept looking up Erika Johansen because I had a hard time believing such a creative and complex dystopian/fantasy could be from a debut author. The Queen of the Tearling is the closest thing I've come across that's truly like a female-oriented Game of Thrones. With the book's omniscient point of view, you get the sense of a bigger picture just beginning to be unveiled. Since her mother's death long ago, Kelsea is the to-be queen raised in secrecy, for fear of assassination. Now, on her 19th birthday, Kelsea comes into power; she has to rule a country who hasn't seen a queen in almost twenty years, as well as stave off a looming battle with the neighboring country Mortemense, ruled by the elusive and ageless Red Queen. What's most unique about this world is it's Europe in the future. It's vaguely dystopian, but has the foremost feel of fantasy, with only small reference to world-past. With this unique blending of genres and a relatable heroine, I couldn't stop turning the pages. --LEAH
Styled after an Ikea catalog, this horror novel delighted my inner typesetting/design nerd. Then it played to my sympathies by starring a cast of characters that work for the great and powerful Orsk--an Ikea knock-off store. The eclectic group of "team partners" is drafted by the store's fearless leader to solve the reoccurring problems that keep cropping up in the off hours of the store. A couple of them suspect the property's shady past as a panopticon-style prison in the 19th century might play a role in the late-night shenanigans. The creep-factor in this frequently grotesque story had me continuing to keep my back to the wall to prevent being ambushed by an army of blank faced penitents wanting to "reform" me. --CHRIS
This is the first book I've ever read by John Scalzi and I'm kicking myself for being so late a fan! In Lock In he writes of a near future transformed by a flu epidemic that left some of its sufferers "locked in"--fully conscious, but unable to move or communicate in any way. The world has adapted to meet their needs but tensions between those with "Haden's disease" and those without are at an all-time high. Now there's a rash of inexplicable murders and attacks on people with Haden's and it's up to brand-new FBI agent Chris Shane, himself a victim of "lock in," to investigate. Scalzi's newest is the perfect mash-up of classic murder mystery and futuristic sci-fi and I enjoyed every page! --LAUREN
Where California Bones really shines is the fantastic world-building. Urban fantasy is almost a dime-a-dozen today, but Eekhout's newest stands above a lot of the pack with an inventive (and gruesome) magic system and coherent dystopian setting inspired by the landmarks and history of Los Angeles. The familiar twists and turns of a heist plot seem more exciting and unique, cast in the light of Eekhout's dog-eat-dog (literally) Southern California. Yes, this book involves cannibalism. There's an awful lot of tension and horror to mine when your characters regularly face the existential crisis of being eaten alive by their foes. And this first installment of a trilogy very liberally exploits that feeding frenzy for a break-neck, never boring, thrill ride. --JENNIE
Pierce's dystopian sci-fi jaunt will inevitably draw comparisons to The Hunger Games or Ender's Game with its themes of stratified class structures and twisted youth worship, but in tone it echoes the brutality of A Game of Thrones or Battle Royale. Darrow is sixteen and already a man, employed as a Helldiver, the deadliest job in his caste of short-lived "Reds," who toil in virtual slavery to terraform Mars for Earth's colonists. But that thin veneer of soothing propaganda is ripped wide open when the higher colors hang his wife. Recruited to a terrorist group and surgically transformed into the highest caste to take them down from inside, Darrow must discover how far he's willing to go for revenge—and if hate alone can sustain a man. Dark and fast-paced, I didn't put this one down until it was already light outside. This deserves the hype! --Jennie
Living up to its namesake, Annihilation, this novel is permeated by a sense of dread. An expedition of 4 scientists travel to Area X—long isolated from the rest of the continent after some type of environmental Event, or something peculiar, happened there. After every expedition before has ended in a shroud of mystery, from mass suicides to others returning vastly changed, this story follows the biologist of the 12th expedition. Shortly after crossing the border into Area X, her team finds a mysterious structure buried in the landscape that was not in any of their maps or other briefing materials. A mysterious and existential plot within, this novel contains great nods to the likes of H.P. Lovecraft and Stanley Kubrick along with the intense pacing of television dramas like LOST. Just enough is revealed about Area X in this first installment of the trilogy that I am very excited to learn more in forthcoming installments all to be released this year. --Jeremy
A perfect example of a well-executed clash of genres, Shovel Ready mixes bitter crime noir with a bleak science fiction setting to fantastic results. Before a dirty bomb hit Times Square and anyone who had the means tapped into a global virtual reality, Spademan was just a simple garbageman--now he kills-for-hire the rich elite that are conveniently tuned out. Like many great crime novels, things become complicated for Spademan once a new case comes along involving a strange girl. It turns out this one is not just a simple hit, that this young woman has some big connections and Spademan has some tough choices to make about just how far he is willing to go to finish his job. --Jeremy
After the Golden Age is a fun, nostalgic read, tailor-made for comic book nerds. Every major plot point was a treat—with plenty of references to things like doomsday devices, spandex and how evil goons are never very reliable. But behind the send-up to Golden Age comic book geekery, there is a cast of real characters. Through her protagonist Celia West, Vaughn explores the timeless theme of growing up in the shadows of your parents and their accomplishments—Celia's parents are the most famous superheroes of Commerce City, and she's just a normal accountant. Vaughn manages to both satirize and celebrate comic book tropes while crafting such a compulsively readable novel that I couldn't put down. Oh, and the sequel, Dreams of the Golden Age, just came out, and it's just as good. --Jennie
Meet Shame Flynn. He’s a sarcastic death-magic user haunted by the ghost of a woman he killed when he lost control of his powers. That hasn’t happened in a long time, but lately Shame’s been feeling a bit…hungry. Not to mention homicidal. Add a red-headed assassin and a governmental interest in magic-users to the mix and things get interesting…and bloody. Shame is one of the funniest (in a dark, sarcastic way) characters I’ve ever read in urban fantasy, and he adds a humorous element to a book in which a lot of unpleasant things happen to him. Hell Bent is addictive—I read it in under twenty-four hours—and it has real characters I connected with who face equally real challenges and develop accordingly. (Also, as a shameless aside, though you in no way have to read Monk’s Allie Beckstrom series to understand and appreciate Hell Bent—they’re set in the same world—if you’re dying for more after reading this book, go read the first Allie Beckstrom novel, Magic to the Bone.) --Em
Please judge this book by its cover, you will not be disappointed. This book just kept the hits coming. In the near future, as humans with growing abilities start to disrupt the status quo, mankind starts to do anything to keep itself safe. One of these extraordinary men works to hunt the enemies mankind fears, but soon the line of friends and enemies doesn't just blur, it shatters. That's right, it's an action-adventure, mystery, science-fiction thriller all rolled into one. It's okay to say thank you. --Drew
I've been wanting to read a Tim Powers novel since I was fourteen, but somehow the timing just never seemed right. When I saw he'd taken on Christina Rosetti, whose poetry I love, I knew the time had come to give him a try. Powers reinvents the lives of Christina and her brothers in a well-researched and riveting read that both entertains and makes a fictional, yet believable, case for explaining the idiosyncrasies of both her life and the often haunting yet beautiful lines of her poetry. While sure to please those who love Rossetti, I promise that even if you've never heard of her it will keep you turning the pages to find out what happens next, and just maybe the snippets of poetry scattered throughout will inspire you to read her own work. --Em
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As a general rule, I don't like to read books surrounded by a lot of hype, so when I saw this one slated as the “Next Big Thing,” I was reluctant to even pick it up. Fortunately I did, because it's one of the best books I've read all year. The protagonist, Paige Mahoney, is in the dangerous position of being a clairvoyant in a world where clairvoyance is considered a dangerous abomination. After being caught and enslaved by the non-human Rephaim, she's determined to do the impossible--escape. But even if she can, she may not have anywhere left to go. Bone Season vividly brings to life a future world of clairvoyants, spirits and zombie-like creatures from the spiritual ether. I was drawn in by the narrator's voice, by her story, by her feelings. I kept reading to see her through, and I'm glad I did. --Em
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Catherynne Valente is a master at her craft. From the first word to the last The Melancholy of Mechagirl is a rich and textured experience. Valente never makes you wait for the hook, not a single story or poem in this book drags you along. I promise you will volunteer for the ride. Her Locus Award winning, Hugo nominated, short story Silently and Very Fast is included in this collection and that alone is reason enough to take it home. It is a near perfect example of science fiction at its very best. Every reason I've fallen in love with her writing is brilliantly on display in this collection of science fiction stories dedicated to Japan. --Heather
I could say so many wonderful things about North American Lake Monsters without telling you how much it's going to hurt just to get you to open the cover, but you deserve better than that. Nathan Ballingrud's first collection of short stories is brutal. I read most of the stories in this book stomach clenched in horror and breath catching in my throat. There are no happy endings and there are certainly no heroes, though the last few stories do have a touch of sweetness. These are stories about the down-trodden and damned that bare no sentimental ideas of redemption–just folks being folks hardly phased by the sometimes horrific supernatural because real life has already treated them so terribly. The thread that ties this book together is monsters and I can tell you there are plenty here, and as uncomfortable as I was reading it, I loved every second of it. --Heather
In Gameboard of the Gods, sci-fi meets fantasy in a futuristic world where dazzling new technology permeates everyday life, and the ancient gods are out to reclaim their places in a world where the government has legally declared them fictitious entities. This book has everything I love: great characters, well-written action scenes, devious gods, and a substantial plot that keeps me entertained and guessing. The titular character, Mae Koskinen, has officially been added to my list of Favorite Bad-Ass Fantasy Heroines Ever, and I'm betting she'll make it on to yours too. - Em