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The major sci-fi and fantasy books arriving this fall

New Star Wars, new Dune, a Ready Player One sequel, and tons of originals

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The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a huge number of changes for everyone this year. It’s still dangerous to go out in public in many places throughout the country (wear a mask!), and it’s a risk to go out for a game night or to the movies for the foreseeable future.

Fortunately, there’s always books, especially if you’re tired of endlessly scrolling through Netflix or Disney Plus for something new to watch. This fall is bringing a number of new science fiction and fantasy adventures to bookstore shelves, and being stuck inside, especially with cooler weather coming is the perfect opportunity to find your next favorite read.

Here are 15 new novels coming out this fall to add to your to-read list.

Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising by Timothy Zahn Image: Penguin Randomhouse

Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising by Timothy Zahn (Sept. 1)

Grand Admiral Thrawn is one of the Star Wars franchise’s best-known villains. Initially introduced in Timothy Zahn’s 1991 novel Heir to the Empire, the character has since returned to the franchise in Star Wars: Rebels, and a set of companion novels.

But Thrawn’s origins have never fully been explored … until now. Zahn is back with a new trilogy, Thrawn Ascendency, which follows Thrawn’s earliest days as he rises through the ranks within the Chiss Ascendency.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke Image: Bloomsbury

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (Sept. 15)

Susanna Clarke is best known for her epic fantasy novel Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, about two magicians who find themselves becoming bitter rivals over the course of their long relationship. For years, Clarke has teased a follow-up novel about some of the novel’s other characters, but that has yet to materialize. Her next novel is something very different.

Piranesi is a far cry from her best-known book: a slim, portal fantasy about a character named Piranesi who lives in a house of infinite rooms and endless corridors. Piranesi isn’t alone: he’s visited twice a week by a man called The Other, who’s researching some sort of Great and Secret Knowledge. But the more Piranesi explorers his home, the more he comes to realize that the world that he’s always known isn’t what it seems.

Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots Image: William Morrow

Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots (Sept. 22)

Supervillains are known for their outlandish schemes and plots to take over the world, or at least be a public nuisance. But all of that plotting requires help, and a woman named Anna is one of those helpers: she’s a “Hench”, who helps with data entry for Electric Eel’s Electrophorous Industries. When she gets a big break and is brought into the field (a mock press conference in which her boss announces that he’s kidnapped the son of the mayor), she’s injured when a superhero comes in to “save” the day.

Laid off and injured, she finds an entire community of other former henchmen, and to unveil the real problems that superheroes pose society, she turns to what she’s good at: data and marketing. When she attracts the attention of the world’s foremost supervillain, she has a chance to change the world.

Battle Ground by Jim Butcher Image: Ace

Battle Ground by Jim Butcher (Sept. 29)

For two decades, Jim Butcher has been telling the story of Harry Dresden, a Chicago-based wizard who’s saved the city from all manner of occultish and supernatural threats. Until 2014, Butcher has reliably turned out new entries in the series, but after the 15th installment, Skin Game, he took an extended break.

That break broke earlier this year with Peace Talks, which hit stores back in July. Butcher explained that the long gap came as he worked on an experimental Dresden Files novel, only to realize that it was too long and convoluted, and opted to split it into two volumes. Peace Talks features Harry as he’s split between his duties as a wizard for the White Council, being a Winter Knife, and being a father. That workload gets larger as he’s asked to be an emissary to peace negotiations between several rival factions, and things go a bit sideways. The immediate follow-up to that book is Battle Ground, in which Harry faces down a Titan to save Chicago. As the title suggests, some violence ensues.

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik Image: Penguin Randomhouse

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik (Sept. 29)

There are a number of novels about magical academies out there, but Naomi Novik, author of the celebrated Temeraire series, puts her own unique spin on it with her latest novel, A Deadly Education.

Scholomance is a deadly school for magic, full of monsters, cursed artifacts, and students who will do anything to get ahead of their classmates in order to survive until graduation. El is one of its students, and she has a secret: she’s one of the most powerful dark sorceresses around, and is brimming with dangerous energy. She’s been working to contain her powers and has a plan to survive, only to have a fellow student, Orion Lake get in her way time and time again. But after they kill off the smallest monsters, only the larger ones remain, and the two must team up to save the school and themselves.

Image: MacMillan

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab (Oct. 6)

Be careful what you wish for. In 1714, a young woman named Adeline LaRue makes a bargain with the devil to live forever, and to escape from her oppressive life in France. As always, there’s a catch: nobody will remember Addie after they meet her.

Cursed to live a life of loneliness, it’s 300 years before something shocking happens: when she goes to a New York City bookstore to return a book that she stole, one of the store’s employees remembers her.

The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson Image: Orbit

The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson (Oct. 6)

Climate change is a topic that is becoming more prevalent in science fiction, and one of the best writers to tackle the crisis is Kim Stanley Robinson. His books 2312, Aurora, New York 2140, and others have extensively looked at the repercussions of a changing world in the far future.

In his latest novel, set just decades from our present, an agency set up by the Paris Climate Agreement, the Ministry for the Future, is tasked with mitigating the effects of climate change. Led Mary Murphy, it works to try and shift the economic pressures that are responsible for the changing climate in the first place. But when she’s kidnapped by a survivor of a devastating heat wave in India, she’s pushed to action to set up a secretive group within her department to force the needed changes.

Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark Image: MacMillan

Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark (Oct. 13)

Over the last couple of years, there’s been a number of horror works that specifically dissect the intersection of race and white supremacy, upending old tropes to tell biting, relevant new stories. P. Djèlí Clark’s new novella Ring Shout reimagines the racism of the early 1920s as a supernatural fight between good and evil.

The 1915 film Birth of a Nation was more than just a movie: it was a spell cast by Sorcerer D.W. Griffith, which brought more people into the ranks of the KKK, and unleashed a plague of demons known as Ku Kluxes. They have an ulterior plan: summon an even greater demon, and it’s up to Maryse Boudreaux and her friends Sadie and Chef to save the world.

Attack Surface by Cory Doctorow Image: Tor Books

Attack Surface by Cory Doctorow (Oct. 13)

Little Brother and Homeland are two of Cory Doctorow’s best-known books, about activists fighting against an oppressive, dystopian regime that’s taken over the United States in the aftermath of a series of terrorist attacks.

His latest is Attack Surface, which follows Masha Maximov, who worked for a cybersecurity firm and who helped out dissidents in other oppressed places around the world. When she begins to understand the danger that her work poses closer to home, she has to make a choice between her job and saving her friend/rival Marcus Yallow after he’s targeted.

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow Image: Redhook

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow (Oct. 13)

Last year, Alix E. Harrow’s debut novel The Ten Thousand Doors of January quickly became my favorite fantasy read of the year, the story of a young girl who goes on a journey across worlds to save her father after he goes missing. In her next book, Harrow turns her attention to witches and the suffragette movement in the 1800s.

Three sisters, James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna, residents of New Salem, come together as adults to bring back a forgotten magic. Aided by activists and workers from their hometown, they’re forced to fight against darker powers that aim to hold onto power at all costs.

Dune: The Duke of Caladan by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson Tor Books

Dune: The Duke of Caladan by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson (Oct. 13)

Frank Herbert’s classic novel Dune is getting a new big-budget adaptation later this year from Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve, and ahead of its release is a new prequel novel: Dune: The Duke of Caladan.

Written by Herbert’s son Brian and collaborator Kevin J. Anderson (who have written a number of other Dune prequels and sequels), this new adventure is set just before the events of Dune, following Duke Leto and how he built House Atreides into a powerful rival to House Harkonnen.

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse Image: Saga Press

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse (Oct. 13)

Rebecca Roanhorse earned considerable acclaim with her first two novels, Trail of Lightning and Storm of Locusts, as well as a Star Wars novel, Resistance Reborn. In her latest, she turns to a new fantasy world set in Pre-Columbian America.

The annual winter solstice is usually a major celebration in the City of Tova, but this year brings a solar eclipse and a deepening sense of foreboding. Meanwhile, a ship leaves for Tova, captained by a woman with special abilities, Xiala, and a young blind man named Serapio, who has set off to fulfill a vengeful destiny. As the solar eclipse approaches, the three characters collide in a confrontation that’s been pushed along by history, power, and violence.

The Fires of Vengeance by Evan Winter  Image: Orbit

The Fires of Vengeance by Evan Winter (Nov. 10)

Evan Winter burst onto the fantasy scene with his self-published novel The Rage of Dragons, which was re-released last year by Orbit books. The start of a series, it’s set in an ancient part of Africa where the Omehi have waged a war against their neighbors, the Hedeni. Some of the Omehi are gifted with the ability to call dragons or to transform into magical warriors, but Tau wants to escape from his oppressive and regimented life and becomes obsessed with vengeance when his friends are killed.

In this sequel, Tau finds himself immersed in a new type of battle. His home is once again on the verge of collapse, as the indigenous people of Xidda march on their capitol. He joins forces with Omehi’s exiled queen, and if he can stave off the invasion, it will give her enough time to marshal an army to help her retake the throne that’s been stolen from her, and bring her people together.

The Burning God by R.F. Kuang Image: Harper Voyager

The Burning God by R.F. Kuang (Nov. 17)

R.F. Kuang earned the Astounding Award for Best New Writer earlier this summer on the back of her two novels The Poppy War and The Dragon Republic, set in a fantasy world that’s been plunged into a brutal, horrifying war. One young woman, Rin, was recruited into her country’s military academy, and discovers the horrors of war firsthand.

Now, Kuang brings her trilogy to a conclusion with The Burning God. Rin has acquired apocalyptic powers of a god, and has struggled to contain them, and despite being betrayed and left for dead, she returns home to fight for her people. But the power that she wields is seductive, and she is forced to walk a fine line between pushing back her enemies and burning down the entire world.

Ready Player Two book cover Image: Ballantine Books

Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline (Nov. 24)

2011 was a simpler time in the world of pop culture, and Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, the story of a boy and his friends searching through a vast digital world for nerdy easter eggs hit the sweet spot for a geek culture that was rapidly going mainstream.

Nearly a decade later, Cline’s back with a follow-up, although his publisher has yet to release any details about the plot. It’s not hard to imagine what it’ll be about, though: a devoted fan’s nostalgia for the movies, tv shows, games, and comics that we grew up with.

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