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17 new science-fiction and fantasy books to check out in April

Space operas, icy fantasy, and a new Firefly adventure

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As social-distancing and mandatory shelter-in-place orders have sprung up all around the US and rest of the world, plenty of people have worked to keep themselves entertained at home. Certainly, streaming services and games are one way, but books are just as absorbing.

With the pandemic on my mind, I’ve been paging through one book in particular to learn a little more about our history with such outbreaks: John M. Barry’s The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History. It’s an engrossing read, one that delves deeply into considerable depth about the 1918 flu outbreak, and its greater impact on the world.

Something to keep in mind: while we might be stuck inside, it’s a good time to consider supporting your local bookstore. Independent bookstores often operate on thin margins, and this pandemic represents an existential threat. Many are working to stay open amidst the crisis, some offering curbside pickup, delivery for their local customers, and many will ship books directly to you.

The outbreak is also causing some shuffling with book publication schedules: in light of the pandemic, some publishers have shifted some releases to later in the year, and it’s entirely possible that some of the books on this list could get delayed.

Here are 17 sci-fi and fantasy books that should hit stores in April and are worth checking out.

April 1

the cover of Now Then and Everywhen by Rysa Walker Image: 47 North

Now Then and Everywhen by Rysa Walker

Two time travelers cross paths while in the 20th century, and accidentally break their timelines. Madison Grace, from 2136, discovered a medallion that allows her to travel through time, and after jumping around, she returns home to find that millions of people have vanished. Meanwhile, CHRONOS historian Tyson Reyes (from the year 2304), visited the American Civil Rights movement, only to find history changing before him — he watches as Martin Luther King is killed in 1965 in Ohio, rather than years later in Tennessee. The two have to sort through the mess to try and set things right.

The novel is connected to Walkers’ CHRONOS Files series, and Kirkus Reviews says that fans “will enjoy seeing the pieces of that mythology falling into place,” and that the book is an “enjoyable, mind-bending time-travel adventure.”

Read an excerpt.

April 7

a flower on the cover of eden by tim lebbon Image: Titan Books

Eden by Tim Lebbon

As climate change enacts greater upheaval around the Earth, humanity sets up “The Virgin Zones,” 13 places where nature is allowed to take hold and is completely off-limits to people. Nature has returned in terrifying and unexpected ways, and armed patrols keep people away. That hasn’t deterred people from getting in: Dylan and his daughter Jenn are two adventurers who break into the zones to race across them. As they set out to cross the oldest zone, Eden, Jenn learns that her estranged mother vanished within its borders years ago, and once they enter, they discover that the reborn forests hide secrets that they’ll protect at all costs.

Kirkus Reviews calls the bookJurassic Park meets catastrophic climate change in this creepy, cinema-ready story.”

Read an excerpt.

faces on the cover of Bonds of Brass by Emily Skrutskie Image: Del Rey

Bonds of Brass by Emily Skrutskie

Bonds of Brass is the first installment of Emily Skrutskie’s Bloodright trilogy. Set in the far future, the book introduces 10-year-old Ettian Nassun, whose life was turned upside-down when the oppressive Umber Empire invaded his homeworld as it fought against the Archon Empire. Years later, Ettian enters the Empire’s military academy — a way for a war orphan like himself to move up in society. There he meets and befriends Gal Veres, the heir to the empire that irrevocably changed his life. When their classmates try to assassinate Gal, Ettian comes to his aid, then is forced to make a devastating choice: side with the man who stands to inherit the system that killed his parents, or join the growing rebellion to take it down.

Kirkus Reviews says that Skrutskie’s “thoughtful SF portrayal of children navigating war, displacement, and PTSD while finding love and friendship in unimaginable circumstances is very much worth the read.”

Read an excerpt.

Titan’s Day cover with a cool guy in sunglasses Image: DAW Books

Titan’s Day by Dan Stout

In this second installment of Dan Stout’s Carter Archives series, which kicked off with Titanshade, the magical city of Titanshade has recently discovered a new source of valuable manna (a magical fuel source) that could lift its citizens out of their meager lives. But with the discovery comes the arrival of federal soldiers, who are there to ostensibly keep the peace. As the discovery attracts newcomers, crime, and revolutionary sentiment, the body of a young woman turns up in an alley.

That attracts the attention of Detective Carter and his partner Ajax, who begins searching for the woman’s killer, only to find that there’s more to the case than he initially thought, potentially involving corrupt politicians and resistance leaders. Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying that “Stout’s detailed, impeccable worldbuilding and subtle characterizations are sure to captivate returning fans and new readers alike.”

Read an excerpt.

April 14

illuminati eye on the cover of simantov Image: Angry Robot

Simantov by Asaf Ashery, translated by Marganit Weinberger-Rotman

Israeli author Asaf Ashery’s debut novel has been translated into English for the first time, following two Soothsayer Task Force agents, Mazzy Simantov and Yariv Biton, as they track down a strange crime spree that might signal a coming apocalyptic war between two angels, Lilith and Nephilim.

Publishers Weekly says that “this moody, intricately constructed procedural’s exploration of gendered power struggles operates on levels both mythic and intimate, from the misogynist angels to Mazzy’s fights with her husband about the division of domestic labor. The accessible prose and nuanced characterization are sure to please urban fantasy readers.”

Read an excerpt.

The Book of Koli by M.R. Carey

M.R. Carey — known for books like The Girl With All The Gifts and The Boy on the Bridge — kicks off a new trilogy with The Book of Koli (the next installments, The Trials of Koli and The Fall of Koli come out later this year and early 2021). In the distant future, society has crumbled after genetically-modified plants took over the planet, leaving people to live in small, walled enclaves to survive. Koli Woodsmith lives in Mythen Rood, and is unhappy with hits village’s leaders and the rules that they’ve put into place. When he discovers a long-dormant AI, he realizes that the knowledge that it provides can challenge those leaders and the life that he knows.

Kirkus Reviews says that the book features an “ immersive, impeccably rendered world, and his speech and way of life are different enough to imagine the weight of what was lost but still achingly familiar, and as always, Carey leavens his often bleak scenarios with empathy and hope. Readers will be thrilled to know the next two books will be published in short order.”

Read an excerpt.

vagabonds cover Image: Saga Press

Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang, translated by Ken Liu

Vagabonds comes from Chinese science-fiction writer Hao Jingfan (translated by Ken Liu), who earned the Hugo Award for her novelette Folding Beijing in 2016. In the aftermath of a future war between Mars and Earth, the two sides have begun to re-establish ties, with the Martians sending a contingent of five teenagers to Earth for a five-year mission. Upon returning home, Luoing and her compatriots find themselves adrift: they find reintegrating back to life on utopian Mars troublesome, having spent so much of their lives on a hyper-capitalist Earth.

Publishers Weekly says that “Luoying’s growing disillusionment with Martian society is nimbly handled, as Jingfang vilifies neither capitalism nor communism, allowing for complex political commentary grounded in her characters’ emotions,” and that “fans of literary science fiction will relish this challenging tale.”

Read an excerpt.

bone silence by alastair reynolds cover has a spaceship Image: Orbit Books

Bone Silence by Alastair Reynolds

Alastair Reynolds returns to the world of his novels Revenger and Shadow Captain with Bone Silence. The series follows Adrna and Arafura Ness, who join up on a ship that’s rooting around ancient star systems for long-lost alien technology, in an effort to give humanity a better foothold in the galaxy.

When pirates attacked their ship, the sisters were separated, and in Bone Silence, they’re on the run, accused of crimes that they didn’t commit — which altered the nature of currency in the galaxy. With pirates and government agents after them, the pair work to find refuge on a world that might help solve some of their problems.

Review site Piled by the Bed says that the book is “Reynolds back at his best. The deep, ancient universe he has built for this series, full of giant constructed worlds, a range of alien species and a complicated history, continues to impress and the reveals only hint at a larger, more complex situation than is dealt with in these books.”

Read an excerpt.

the last emperox by john scalzi has a space station Image: Tor Books

The Last Emperox by John Scalzi

John Scalzi brings his interdependency space opera trilogy to a close with The Last Emperox. In the series, he introduced readers to a galactic empire that was connected via The Flow, a metaphysical phenomenon that allowed ships to travel the vast distances between star systems.

In The Collapsing Empire and The Consuming Fire, The Flow has begun to collapse, leaving star systems isolated and threatening to destroy the Interdependency. In The Last Emperox, the collapse has begun to accelerate, forcing Emperox Grayland II to maintain her hold on her rule, while working to try and save all of humanity from destruction.

Kirkus Reviews gave the book a starred review, saying that it “ serves as an acknowledgment that intelligence and good intentions are not an impregnable armor against venality and the pitiless laws of physics.”

Read an excerpt.

April 21

shorefall cover with a creepy death figure on the cover Image: Del Rey

Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett

Robert Jackson Bennett’s Foundryside proved to be one of my favorite novels of 2018, a slick cyberpunk novel wrapped up in the guise of an epic fantasy. Set in the fantastical magical city of Tevanne, Bennett followed a young woman named Sancia Grado, who has some special abilities: if she touches an object, she can sense what it is designed to do, giving her an edge as a thief. When she steals a key that calls itself Clef, she discovers that there are some extremely powerful people after it, and that what she learns could completely transform society.

In Shorefall, Bennett picks up Sancia’s story as she works with her new allies to try and rebuild the city, taking control of the city from the rich barons who have ruled for decades. Everything changes when she learns that a long-dead hierophant, Crasedes Magnus — who remade himself into a god — is about to return, and it’ll be up to Sancia to save Tevanne from him.

Kirkus Reviews described the book as “an expertly spun yarn by one of the best fantasy writers on the scene today.”

Read an excerpt.

the girl and the stars: a black woman looks over her shoulder Image: Ace Books

The Girl and the Stars by Mark Lawrence

Mark Lawrence kicks off a new epic fantasy series, one set in the same world (though thousands of years earlier) as his Book of the Ancestor trilogy (Red Sister, Grey Sister, and Holy Sister). In The Girl and the Stars, Yaz is part of a northern Ice tribe called the Ictha, which practices a brutal rite of passage to weed out weak and undesirable youth by tossing them down into a place called Pit of the Missing.

Yaz is different, and accordingly, she’s tossed down into the pit, and is forced to make her way through an unforgiving maze of tunnels in the ice. Her journey leads her to discover lost communities of the broken, discarded people, as well as dangerous shadows that lurk under the ice.

Grimdark Magazine says that it’s “an exceptional, haunting, and claustrophobic take on fantasy that presents some of Lawrence’s finest storytelling.”

Read an excerpt.

a woman holding a bow and arrow rides a horse on the cover of ranger of marzanna Image: Orbit Books

The Ranger of Marzanna by Jon Skovron

For years, Sonya Portinari has trained to join the legendary Rangers of Marzanna, an ancient order that was forced into hiding by the Auremuian Empire, while her brother has shown talent as a magician. Their father had worked to keep them away from the Empire, but when he’s murdered by Imperial soldiers, Sebastian is conscripted into its ranks.

Sonya sets out to get revenge, venturing out into the frontier to try and raise an army to fight back, something that will pit the two siblings against one another.

Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying that “Skovron does an admirable job balancing large-scale and interpersonal conflicts, and strong supporting characters and cultural specificity add texture. This is epic fantasy done right.”

creatures of charm and hunger cover: a hand pets a cat Image: Mariner Books

Creatures of Charm and Hunger by Molly Tanzer

Molly Tanzer closes out her her Diabolist’s Library series with Creatures of Charm and Hunger, (set in the same world as her novels Creatures of Will and Temper and Creatures of Want and Ruin, which which is otherwise standalone) set in an alternate Second World War in which Nazi Germany dabbles in the occult, conducting experiments on prisoners. In England, Jane Blackwood and Mirian Cantor, members of a secret society called the Société des Éclairées are training to become diabolists, and are on the verge of taking the final tests.

Miriam discovers that the group might have been betrayed to the Nazis by her missing parents, and she sets off to try and find them and clear their names, while Jane dabbles in some dangerous and forbidden magic.

Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying that “Moral ambiguity abounds in this dark, captivating coming-of-age fantasy that expertly depicts the painful loneliness of growing up and apart.”

Read an excerpt.

circuits wind around the cover of repo virtual cover Image:

Repo Virtual by Corey J. White

Julius Dax is a thief and virtual repo man who lives in Neo Songdo — a smart city that’s a mix of augmented and virtual spaces in Korea. He often takes on weird jobs, but when a woman named Kali Magdalene hires him to steal a virus from a reclusive billionaire named Zero Lee, he discovers that he’s in way over his head.

The book follows JD’s heist, the prize of which turns out to be a sentient AI, and the private security forces that are sent off to retrieve it.

Kirkus Reviews says that “White hasn’t reinvented the wheel, but it’s fun to read and more relevant to the present day than similar works in the canon, combining plausible technology with that age-old question of what it means to be human.”

Read an excerpt.

April 28

empire city cover with a city Image: Atria Books

Empire City by Matt Gallagher

In Matt Gallagher’s alternate history / superhero novel Empire City, the US won the war in Vietnam, but has found itself mired in a number of unending conflicts around the world, while terrorism is on the rise on the homefront. The exploits of the Volunteers — a group of superpowered individuals – distracts the public as the country descends into violence. Those superheroes are waiting for orders after the government announces that they’ll be tasked with fighting domestic terrorists, amidst a contentious presidential election that could bring the country under further control by the military.

Kirkus Reviews says that Gallagher “doesn’t spoon-feed readers the plot,” and that it includes “acute explorations of America’s current political and ideological divisions, the heavy responsibility superheroes would be forced to shoulder in real life, and a keen extrapolation of a country launched down a radically altered historical continuum.”

Read an excerpt.

Critical Point by S.L. Huang cover with an explosion Image: Tor Books

Critical Point by S.L. Huang

Former stuntwoman S.L. Huang follows up her novels Zero Sum Game and Null Set with Critical Point. The series focuses on Cas Russell, a mercenary with a special ability to instantly calculate things like bullet vectors, essentially giving her superpowers. In those prior installments, she took on a shadowy organization bent on brainwashing the world and the true origin of her powers.

In this new entry in the series, another super-powered individual attacks Cas’ Los Angeles office, putting her and her friends in danger as it surfaces a long-hidden conspiracy involving her past.

Publishers Weekly says that “Huang allows plenty of opportunities for antihero Cas to showcase her supernatural mathematical skills by defusing bombs, examining evidence, and executing fantastic feats during the exhilarating action sequences.”

Read an excerpt here and here.

illustrated versions of the firefly characters on the ghost machine cover Image: Titan Books

Firefly: The Ghost Machine by James Lovegrove

James Lovegrove continues the story of Joss Whedon’s cult science fiction TV series with The Ghost Machine. The novel is the latest in a new series (which includes Big Damn Hero, and The Magnificent Nine, with Generations set to come out later this year) that’s continued the story of the crew of the spaceship Serenity. In it, crime lord Badger hires Captain Malcolm Reynolds and his crew to transport a mysterious, sealed crate to another planet. But after it’s brought onboard, psychic River Tam says that it’s full of ghosts, and says that it should be sent out the airlock.

That doesn’t happen, and after the ship gets underway, the crew finds themselves experiencing strange hallucinations, sending the ship and its crew out of control, with only River to save them and the ship.

At the very least, the novel should be a fun trip back to the ‘Verse for fans of the series while we wait for the inevitable streaming service reboot that’s sure to come at some point in the next decade or two.

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