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Down Among the Dead, Dead Astronauts, and two more books from december sit on a book store counter Photo: Andrew Liptak for Polygon

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10 new science fiction and fantasy books to check out this December

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Winter is upon us, at least where I live in Vermont. With snow on the ground, it’s time to curl up with a blanket, a warm drink, and my to-be-read pile. The list of books that I’ve meant to read this year has grown pretty long, but I have two to recommend.

The first is Tamsyn Muir’s debut, Gideon the Ninth, a pulp science-fantasy story featuring swords, lesbian necromancers, and palace intrigue. The Emperor has invited all of the noble houses to compete for a deadly trial, and Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House, has selected Gideon to be her swordswoman. The two fiercely hate one another, but they have to rely on one another to survive.

The second is Cixin Liu’s Supernova Era. Liu is best-known for the epic novels The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest, and Death’s End, which put Chinese science fiction on the map for US readers. This novel, which sees Earth’s adult population wiped out after radiation from a supernova passes by, is about the young survivors as they work to rebuild human civilization once again. Like Liu’s other novels, it’s an ambitious, fun read that reminds me quite a bit of science fiction’s classic eras.

Here are 10 new science fiction and fantasy books hitting bookstores to check out this December. And if you missed it, here’s our list of must-read November titles.

Dec. 3

The Anyone cover, a fingerprint on a blue background HarperCollins

Anyone by Charles Soule

Charles Soule is best known for comic work like Star Wars, Daredevil, She-Hulk, but he’s also dipped into prose fiction. His second novel, Anyone, is set in in the near future after the development of a new technology that allows people to transfer their consciousness to other bodies. The technology is revolutionary, and has considerable ramifications for society. Publishers Weekly says that “present-day concerns about technology, privacy, and anonymity are projected into a dystopian but plausible future,” and that “Soule’s uncomfortable vision of the future will please readers of cutting-edge speculative fiction.”

Read an excerpt.


Blood of Empire by Brian McClellan cover with troops riding on horseback through a forest Orbit Books

Blood of Empire by Brian McClellan

In Blood of Empire, Brian McClellan brings his Gods of Blood and Powder trilogy (Sins of Empire, Wrath of Empire) to a close. In an alternate world, the frontier nation of Fatrasta faced insurrection, which spy Michel Bravis and war hero Ben Styke have tried to avert, but ultimately, the nation’s capitol Landfall was occupied by the Dynize. Now, Bravis must try to thwart their enemies plans by sowing discontent amongst the Dynize’s ranks, and while Styke’s own plans at a military strike go astray, Lady Vlora Flint marches her own forces on Landfall, hoping to exact revenge on those who removed her from power.

Read an excerpt.


Minecraft The End cover a purple spaceship floats over two block people Del Rey

Minecraft: The End by Catherynne M. Valente

Space Opera author Catherynne Valente’s latest novel is one set in the world of Minecraft. Endermen Fin and Mo have lived in the land of the End for as long as they can remember, and their lives are upended when strangers arrive: humans. As they begin to plunder their land for treasure, the pair must work to protect their home, only to discover that they aren’t as well-prepared for that task as they need to be.


dead astronauts cover  with three astronauts falling down a waterfall of color FSG

Dead Astronauts by Jeff VanderMeer

With books like Annihilation and Borne, Jeff VanderMeer has written some of speculative fiction’s most intriguing novels. His latest, Dead Astronauts, is set in the same world as Borne, one ruined by a mysterious biotech company. The story follows three astronauts, Chen, Moss, and Grayson, who navigate this strange world, one filled with strange biotech, talking ducks, and mind-reading foxes.

Kirkus Reviews gave the book a starred review, saying that Dead Astronauts might “be his best book yet.”

Read an excerpt.


Down Among the Dead cover: a spaceship floats the trees when an alien woman watches Orbit Books

Down Among the Dead by K.B. Wagers

The second installment in K.B. Wager’s The Farian War trilogy (itself set in the same world as their Indranan War trilogy) finds Empress Hail Bristol dealing with the aftermath of an attack that killed many of her friends and subjects. She herself was captured by an alien civilization known as the Shen, and as she tries to escape, she realizes that the war between the Shen and the Farians comes to a head, and she must figure out which side to back, in order to save all of humanity.


Scornful Stars cover: a sleek hero stands on a spaceship in his spacesuit Tor Books

Scornful Stars by Richard Baker

Richard Baker continues his military science-fiction Breakers of Empire series with Scornful Stars. In Valiant Dust, Baker introduced readers to Sikander Singh North, a crew member onboard the Aquilan Commonwealth ship CSS Hector, where was forced to prove his worth as they dealt with a planetary uprising while in Restless Lightning, he faced court martial and a posting to a remote outpost, where he had to smuggle out an alien ambassador. In this latest adventure, North has been promoted to Captain, commanding the destroyer Decisive. He and his ship are tasked with taking out pirates as two galactic empires try and entice an influential ruler into an alliance, a task that grows more complicated by the day.

Read an excerpt


Walk the Wind with Me cover: the title woven into green celtic vines DAW Books

Walk the Wild With Me by Rachel Atwood

Nicholas Withybeck spent his entire childhood in Locksley Abbey in Nottingham England after he was orphaned. He now spends his time working to embellish the Abbey’s manuscripts, adding in drawings of the strange creatures he sees in the woods and fields nearby. When he explores a crypt below the abbey, he finds the remains of an altar that dates back to roman times and a cup that features images of Elena, a Celtic goddess. The cup illuminates the hidden world around him and unlocks the magic in his blood. When the Fairy Queen Mab kidnaps the lover of a friend, it’s up to Nicholas to journey to the fairy world to retrieve her. Publishers Weekly says that the book is “tale is sure to appeal to lovers of mythology and folklore.”

Read an excerpt.


Dec. 17

Star Trek Discovery: Dead Endless by Dave Galanter cover: Stamets in profile looking up Gallery Books

Star Trek Discovery: Dead Endless by Dave Galanter

Dave Galanter spins out a new adventure for the USS Discovery in this latest tie-in to the CBS All Access series. In Dead Endless, the ship and its crew use their spore-based drive to respond to a distress call coming from within the mycelial network. They discover a human male, but once they arrive, however, they find themselves trapped, unless they can replenish their fuel. They have to figure out if the man they’ve discovered is really human, or if he’s an imposter, used to lure the ship into the trap.


Dec. 30

Best of Uncanny edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas cover: a woman sits on a jaguar Subterranean Press

Best of Uncanny edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas

Launched with a Kickstarter in 2014, Lynne M. and Michael Damian Thomas’s Uncanny Magazine has become one of the genre’s best-regarded publications for short fiction, earning numerous awards and nominations for their stories. The pair are set to release an anthology that collects the magazine’s best stories, and it contains a powerhouse of fantastic authors, including Hao Jingfang, Naomi Novik, Charlie Jane Anders, E. Lily Yu, N.K. Jemisin, , Elizabeth Bear, Arkady Martine, JY Yang, Fran Wild, and many others.


splintegrate cover: a woman in while leather and red lipstick holds a pole Tor Books

Splintegrate by Deborah Teramis Christian

In 1996, Deborah Teramis Christian published her debut novel Mainline, a science fiction adventure in which an assassin can see various alternate futures ahead of her. More than two decades later, Christian has returned for a standalone sequel: Splintergate. In this story, Kes is a professional dominatrix who has become a major attraction on the planet Lyndir. She’s pressured by the Imperial Authority to take out a prominent cartel boss, and is imprisoned and altered against her will, and is forced to fight back to regain her freedom and independence.

Read an excerpt.

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