Seventeen science fiction books kick off the year, featuring time travel, space diplomats, space murders, digital privacy, and so much more. Charles Stross begins a new series with Empire Games, Neil Clarke presents a selection of Galactic Empires, Marissa Meyer transforms her fictional world into graphic novel form, and—last on this list but certainly not least—Nnedi Okorafor returns to the world of her award-winning Binti with Binti: Home. What to read first?
Fiction Affliction details releases in science fiction, fantasy, and “genre-benders.” Keep track of them all here. Note: All title summaries are taken and/or summarized from copy provided by the publisher.
Defiant (Lightship Chronicles #3)—Dave Bara (January 3, DAW)
Peter Cochrane and his new wife, Karina, have just embarked on a diplomatic mission to Sandosa, an old ally of Pendax, the newest member of the Union. But during their mission the government of Sandosa attacks Peter’s new command, Defiant, and tries to assassinate Karina and him. Peter responds the only way he can, with all the power at his disposal to protect both his wife and Defiant. Then suddenly Defiant is called away to Skondar, where Peter’s old flame Dobrina Kierkopf and her new ship Impulse II have come under attack by the Butcher of Carinthia, Prince Arin. Though Defiant chases away the prince, it is not before some pretty devastating events have occurred. And soon Peter finds himself racing toward the mysterious world of Altos, where he discovers an unpleasant truth about the Union’s allies, the Historians of Earth. All of this can only have one conclusion, a final confrontation in which Peter and Arin will battle over the future of humanity—Union or Empire.
Agent of Chaos (X-Files Origins: Mulder)—Kami Garcia (January 3, Imprint)
In the spring of 1979, seventeen-year-old Fox Mulder has bigger problems than applying for college. Five years ago, his younger sister disappeared from their home and was never heard from again. Mulder blames himself, and his mother blames his father, who has retreated into his top-secret work for the State Department. In Fox’s senior year, his dad has moved him to Washington, DC—away from his friends on Martha’s Vineyard. While Mulder doesn’t mind the fresh start and not being known as “that kid with the missing sister,” he’s still obsessed with finding Samantha. So when a local boy turns up dead and another child is abducted, Mulder can’t stop himself from getting involved. Could there be a link to his sister’s case? As he uncovers the truth, Mulder and his friends find themselves on the trail of a serial killer. Sucked into a world where conspiracies, the occult, and madness overlap, Fox Mulder starts to believe.
Devil’s Advocate (X-Files Origins: Scully)—Jonathan Maberry (January 3, Imprint)
In the spring of 1979, fifteen-year-old Dana Scully has bigger problems than being the new girl in school. Dana has always had dreams. Sometimes they’ve even come true. Until now, she tried to write this off as coincidence. But ever since her father’s military career moved the family across the country to Craiger, Maryland, the dreams have been more like visions. Vivid, disturbing, and haunted by a shadowy figure who may be an angel … or the devil. When a classmate who recently died in a car accident appears before Dana, her wounds look anything but accidental. Compelled by a force she can’t name, Dana uncovers even more suspicious deaths—and must face the dangerous knowledge that evil is real. But when a betrayal of faith makes her question everything, she begins to put her faith in being a skeptic.
No Time Like the Past (Chronicles of St. Mary’s #5)—Jodi Taylor (January 3, Night Shade)
Behind the seemingly innocuous facade of St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research, a different kind of academic work is taking place. Just don’t call it “time travel”—these historians “investigate major historical events in contemporary time.” The Chronicles of St. Mary’s tells the chaotic adventures of Madeleine Maxwell and her compatriots as they travel through time, saving St. Mary’s (too often by the very seat of their pants) and thwarting time-travelling terrorists, all the while leaving plenty of time for tea. In No Time Like the Past, St. Mary’s has been rebuilt, and it’s nearly back to business as usual for the history department. Except for the visit to St. Paul’s Cathedral with a seventeenth-century ghost that only Mr. Markham can see. And getting trapped in the Great Fire of London. And an unfortunately-timed vacation at Thermopylae that leaves the fate of the western world hanging in the balance. Actually, that sounds quite like business as usual for Max and the gang.
Chasing Shadows—Stephen W. Potts & David Brin, editors (January 10, Tor Books)
As we debate Internet privacy, revenge porn, the NSA, and Edward Snowden, cameras get smaller, faster, and more numerous. Has Orwell’s Big Brother finally come to pass? Or have we become a global society of thousands of Little Brothers—watching, judging, and reporting on one another? Partnering with the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, and inspired by Brin’s nonfiction book The Transparent Society, noted author and futurist David Brin and scholar Stephen Potts have compiled essays and short stories from writers such as Robert J. Sawyer, James Morrow, William Gibson, Damon Knight, Jack McDevitt, and many others to examine the benefits and pitfalls of technologic transparency in all its permutations.
Galactic Empires—Neil Clarke, editor (January 17, Night Shade)
From E. E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman to George Lucas’ Star Wars, the politics and process of empire have been a major subject of science fiction’s galaxy-spanning fictions. The idiom of the galactic empire allows science fiction writers to ask (and answer) questions that are shorn of contemporary political ideologies and allegiances. What social, political, and economic issues do the organizing structure of “empire” address? Often the size, shape, and fates of empires are determined not only by individuals, but by geography, natural forces, and technology. As the speed of travel and rates of effective communication increase, so too does the size and reach of an Imperial bureaucracy. At the beginning of the twentieth century, writers such as Kipling and Twain were at the forefront of these kinds of narrative observations, but as the century drew to a close, it was writers like Iain M. Banks who helped make science fiction relevant. That tradition continues today, with award-winning writers like Ann Leckie, whose 2013 debut novel Ancillary Justice hinges upon questions of imperialism and empire. Here then is a diverse collection of stories that asks the questions that science fiction asks best. Empire: How? Why? And to what effect?
The Fortress at the End of Time—Joe M. McDermott (January 17, Tor.com Publishing)
Captain Ronaldo Aldo has committed an unforgivable crime. He will ask for forgiveness all the same: from you, from God, even from himself. Connected by ansible, humanity has spread across galaxies and fought a war against an enemy that remains a mystery. At the edge of human space sits the Citadel—a relic of the war and a listening station for the enemy’s return. For a young Ensign Aldo, fresh from the academy and newly cloned across the ansible line, it’s a prison from which he may never escape. Deplorable work conditions and deafening silence from the blackness of space have left morale on the station low and tensions high. Aldo’s only hope of transcending his station, and cloning a piece of his soul somewhere new is both his triumph and his terrible crime.
Empire Games—Charles Stross (January 17, Tor Books)
The year is 2020. It’s seventeen years since the Revolution overthrew the last king of the New British Empire, and the newly-reconstituted North American Commonwealth is developing rapidly, on course to defeat the French and bring democracy to a troubled world. But Miriam Burgeson, commissioner in charge of the shadowy Ministry of Intertemporal Research and Intelligence—the paratime espionage agency tasked with catalyzing the Commonwealth’s great leap forward—has a problem. For years, she’s warned everyone: “The Americans are coming.” Now their drones arrive in the middle of a succession crisis. In another timeline, the U.S. has recruited Miriam’s own estranged daughter to spy across timelines in order to bring down any remaining world-walkers who might threaten national security. Two nuclear superpowers are set on a collision course. Two increasingly desperate paratime espionage agencies try to find a solution to the first contact problem that doesn’t result in a nuclear holocaust. And two women—a mother and her long-lost daughter—are about to find themselves on opposite sides of the confrontation.
Martians Abroad—Carrie Vaughn (January 17, Tor Books)
Well-known for her bestselling series Kitty Norville, Carrie Vaughn moves to science fiction with Martians Abroad, a novel with great crossover appeal. Polly Newton has one single-minded dream, to be a starship pilot and travel the galaxy. Her mother, the Director of the Mars Colony, derails Polly’s plans when she sends Polly and her genius twin brother, Charles, to Galileo Academy on Earth. Homesick and cut off from her plans for her future, Polly cannot seem to fit into life on Earth. Strange, unexplained, dangerous coincidences centered on their high-profile classmates begin piling up. Charles may be right—there’s more going on than would appear, and the stakes are high. With the help of Charles, Polly is determined to find the truth, no matter the cost.
Planet of the Apes: Tales from the Forbidden Zone—James Beard and Rich Handley, editors (January 24, Titan)
The 1968 Planet of the Apes film has inspired generations of authors. Now a who’s who of modern writers produces sixteen all-new tales, exclusive to this volume, set in the world of the original films and television series. Featuring stories by Dan Abnett, Kevin J. Anderson, Greg Cox, Jonathan Maberry, John Jackson Miller, Dayton Ward, and many more, each story explores a different drama within the post-apocalyptic world, treating readers to unique visions and nonstop action.
Dreadnought—April Daniels (January 24, Diversion Books)
Young adult. Danny Tozer has a problem: she just inherited the powers of Dreadnought, the world’s greatest superhero. Until Dreadnought fell out of the sky and died right in front of her, Danny was trying to keep people from finding out she’s transgender. But before he expired, Dreadnought passed his mantle to her, and those secondhand superpowers transformed Danny’s body into what she’s always thought it should be. Now there’s no hiding that she’s a girl. It should be the happiest time of her life, but Danny’s first weeks finally living in a body that fits her are more difficult and complicated than she could have imagined. Between her father’s dangerous obsession with “curing” her girlhood, her best friend suddenly acting like he’s entitled to date her, and her fellow superheroes arguing over her place in their ranks, Danny feels like she’s in over her head. She doesn’t have time to adjust. Dreadnought’s murderer—a cyborg named Utopia—still haunts the streets of New Port City, threatening destruction. If Danny can’t sort through the confusion of coming out, master her powers, and stop Utopia in time, humanity faces extinction.
A Sterkarm Tryst (Sterkarm #3)—Susan Price (January 24, Open Road)
James Windsor—leader of FUP, the twenty-first-century megacorporation that created a tunnel back to the past called the Time Tube—has no intention of giving up his plan to pillage resources from pristine sixteenth-century Scotland. Unfortunately for Windsor, the Sterkarm clan, who will do anything to protect their lands from invaders, continues to stand in his way. But if Windsor’s modern-day mercenaries, with their technology, rifles, and rocket launchers, can’t beat the primitive Sterkarm warriors, who can? And who could possibly understand the wild Scottish moors and the clan’s brutal ways better than the Sterkarms themselves? When FUP opens up a new portal, two universes of Sterkarms are pitted against each other, but anthropologist Andrea Mitchell—originally sent back in time by FUP to study the clan—will risk her life to save Per, the warrior she loves, and the community she has grown to call home.
The Weight of the World (Amaranthine Spectrum #2)—Tom Toner (January 24, Night Shade)
It is the 147th century; the turning of the Amaranthine new year. In the provinces of the Old World, the giant Elatine’s war of liberation has come to an impasse, leaving the wicked monarchy of the First in possession of the throne. In the Vaulted Lands of the Firmament, acolytes have risen up to execute their immortal masters. The opportunistic races of the Prism, intoxicated with greed, have arrived inside every Solar Satrapy to scavenge what’s left. In the wild Investiture, on a forgotten water moon, a crew of shipwrecked Privateers come face to face with their greatest terror, and with it the most valuable treasure in all the galaxy. Jatropha, legendary Immortal, must escort his precious charge through the exotic Westerly Provinces, knowing all the world would steal her if they could. Sotiris, his mind fading fast, must set out to find his dear, drowned sister in a land previously unglimpsed by anyone but the dead. Lycaste, now far from home, must journey in strange company to the edge of a tempestuous sea, to the lair of someone so dangerous that even the legendary Amaranthine fear his name.
Six Wakes—Mur Lafferty (January 31, Orbit)
A space adventure set on a lone ship where the clones of a murdered crew must find their murderer—before they kill again. It was not common to awaken in a cloning vat streaked with drying blood. At least, Maria Arena had never experienced it. She had no memory of how she died. That was also new; before, when she had awakened as a new clone, her first memory was of how she died. Maria’s vat was in the front of six vats, each one holding the clone of a crew member of the starship Dormire, each clone waiting for its previous incarnation to die so it could awaken. And Maria wasn’t the only one to die recently…
Exo—Fonda Lee (January 31, Scholastic Press)
Young adult. It’s been a century of peace since Earth became a colony of an alien race with far reaches into the galaxy. Some die-hard extremists still oppose their rule on Earth, but Donovan Reyes isn’t one of them. His dad holds the prestigious position of Prime Liaison in the collaborationist government, and Donovan’s high social standing along with his exocel (a remarkable alien technology fused to his body) guarantee him a bright future in the security forces. That is, until a routine patrol goes awry and Donovan’s abducted by the human revolutionary group Sapience. When Sapience realizes who Donovan’s father is, they think they’ve found the ultimate bargaining chip. But the Prime Liaison doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, not even for his own son. Left in the hands of terrorists who have more uses for him dead than alive, the fate of Earth rests on Donovan’s survival. Because if Sapience kills him, it could spark another intergalactic war. And Earth didn’t win the last one…
Wires and Nerves—Marissa Meyer (January 31, Feiewl & Friends)
Young adult. In her first graphic novel, bestselling author Marissa Meyer extends the world of the Lunar Chronicles with a brand-new, action-packed story about Iko, the android with a heart of (mechanized) gold. When rogue packs of wolf-hybrid soldiers threaten the tenuous peace alliance between Earth and Luna, Iko takes it upon herself to hunt down the soldiers’ leader. She is soon working with a handsome royal guard who forces her to question everything she knows about love, loyalty, and her own humanity. With appearances by Cinder and the rest of the Rampion crew, this is a must-have for fans of the bestselling series.
Binti: Home—Nnedi Okorafor (January 31, Tor.com Publishing)
It’s been a year since Binti and Okwu enrolled at Oomza University. A year since Binti was declared a hero for uniting two warring planets. A year since she found friendship in the unlikeliest of places. And now she must return home to her people, with her friend Okwu by her side, to face her family and face her elders. But Okwu will be the first of his race to set foot on Earth in over a hundred years, and the first ever to come in peace. After generations of conflict can human and Meduse ever learn to truly live in harmony?