I run the science fiction & fantasy section at the University Book Store in Seattle, WA. I also work in the children’s books area, and try to keep my boss sane.
Our store was founded in 1900 as a student co-op in a cloak room on the campus, and grew from there. We are still proudly independent, and sell more “real” (ie non-textbooks) books than any other college bookstore in the US. We carry the largest selection of SF (new books at least) in the Pacific Northwest, and I would argue we would stack up against any US bookstore. Our author reading series is decades old, covering authors from all genres and affiliations. We try in particular to corner the market on SF authors, and have given many of them their first public event.
With that in mind, here are some SFF titles we recommend that are coming out in April:
Angels of Vengeance by John Birmingham
The world has been tumultuous following the mysterious energy “wave” that took out nearly all of humanity in North America. (Depicted first in Birmingham’s Without Warning and then After America) The absence of the world’s greatest superpower has resulted in wars erupting across the planet, governments toppling, and a shocked mid-level public servant in Seattle finding himself elected the new President.
Now in the conclusion of the Wave Trilogy, Birmingham weaves together the disparate tales of three women scattered across the world caught up in the continuing chaos, trying to make things better, earning a living in the fractured economy, and finally achieving their revenge.
Agatha H & the Clockwork Princess by Phil & Kaja Foglio
For years the Foglios have been creating one of the web’s best comics, the collections of which are stupendously popular. The ongoing tales of “Girl Genius”, or Agatha Heterodyne, and her companions take place in a madcap alternate history steampunk saga. Last year saw the publication of the first prose novel set in this world, Agatha H & the Airship City. Now Agatha is back in the sequel, Agatha H & the Clockwork Princess, as she continues to dig into the secrets of her past and begins to learn what she is truly capable of. Part thrilling spy caper, part mad-cap Mel Brooks movie, Agatha’s story careens across this variant Europe, as she hides within a circus celebrating her clan’s past, while she engineers her part in its future.
Banner of the Damned by Sherwood Smith
The studious and quiet Emras has one goal to excel in her training as a scribe. She succeeds beyond all her competitors, and is assigned to Princess Lasva. But when Lasva is kidnapped, Emras is caught up in the story of the suitor Prince Invandred. His kingdom of Marloven Hesea has long been regarded as barbaric by her home of Colend, and the denizens primitive, but he has the qualities needed to resolve this crisis, for he is the descendent of Inda the Fox, a legendary lord of four centuries past.
But even if their quest to rescue the princess is triumphant, Emras will find herself even more embroiled in the politics of the kingdoms. Magic, betrayal, love and war all will ensue, and Emras and all around her will be forced to decide where their loyalties, and what is really true.
Set in the world of the Inda quartet, but four hundred years later, this can be enjoyed by returning fans, or readers new to this world.
Triggers by Robert J. Sawyer
Long the public point man for Canadian SF, Robert Sawyer has, despite a platter constantly full of projects, not lost his ability to craft compelling works of fiction. Equally adept at ongoing series and standalone novels, here he has built a new version of one of the stronger SF sub-genres, the SF thriller.
When President Seth Jerrison is nearly assassinated, the nation is thrown into shock. As doctors struggle to save his life, another terrorist attack results in a bomb going off in the operating room and the President experiencing a true near death experience. However, once he begins to recover it becomes clear that what he experienced are not his own memories, and that someone may now be walking around with a head full of top secret information that only the President had been briefed on.
Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore
Ever wanted more personal space on the bus, train or subway? The best way I know to arrange this is to read a Christopher Moore novel. The hysterical laughter that ensues when I read one inevitably clears room around me on the transit system.
In “Sacre Bleu,” Chris has once again bounced into a completely new arena, that of modern French art, and in particular the quest of a young artist into the reasons the tormented Vincent Van Gogh would shoot himself. Featuring Moore’s familiar mixture of real historical settings and characters, intertwined with a few people added to enrich the depth of moods, it roars off with his trademark fusion of tragedy and wild humor. Featuring, among others, Toulouse-Lautrec, the mysterious “Colorman,” and our lead, the baker/artist Lucien Latrec, and the quest for that certain maddening hue….
Losers in Space by John Barnes
In the 22nd century, success is determined by only a handful of factors. Unless you’re born into immense wealth, or brilliant in your field, the only way to gain prominence is to be famous. Susan and a handful of her teen buddies, facing an adulthood without enough of any of these qualities, dream up a doozy of a plan, They will arrange to stow away on a Mars-bound ship, and use the ensuing rush of publicity to lock themselves into adult stardom before it’s too late.
The only problem is that her sometimes-boyfriend Derlock is certifiable, and they’re out in deep space. (What could possibly go wrong?) Now Susan and her friends will find out what they are truly capable of, and what they really care about.
Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal
This followup to Kowal’s debut novel Shades of Milk and Honey continues the story of Jane, whose world is a hauntingly evocative England that Jane Austen herself would have felt perfectly at home within, except for one detail. Here magic exists and has been nutured into an art where ladies of the gentry with the talent learn to harness it for artful illusions and atmospherics.
Having chosen her love at the end of our prior novel, Jane and her man (read the first book or it’s a spoiler!) have traveled to the mainland of Europe for their honeymoon. But how much fun could a peaceful France be? Why not travel to when the deposed Emperor Napoleon will escape from Elba and attempt to retake his throne?
After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress
If you ask any informed reader of SF just who is the current master of SF across multiple formats, I bet a common answer would be Connie Willis, who has won more Nebulas than any writer.
Just as good an answer would be Nancy Kress, who is beloved by her peers, but doesn’t get enough recognition elsewhere. Masterful at the short story, the novella and the novel, she excels at all of these.
With the human race attacked by the Tesslies, and reduced to a literal handful inside the “Shell,” we watch as Pete in 2035 and Julie in 2013 both attempt to prevent the human race from becoming just a memory.
Here she has woven a taut tale of the approaching destruction of the human race, told from 3 different voices, from three different points of the catastrophe. And while hope is always there, one of the joys of reading Kress’s work is you never know how things will end, since she never goes for the obvious or easy way out.