Fiction Affliction: Diagnosing January Releases in Science Fiction

Fiction Affliction is a monthly column written by Royal Street author Suzanne Johnson that examines upcoming releases by genre or sub-genre. Check back every day this week for coverage of January releases in fantasy, young adult paranormal, and urban fantasy. Today’s column examines SCIENCE FICTION.

The Symptoms: Star light, star bright. First star I see…no, wait, that’s Earth. Because science fiction takes to the skies in January, except for one misguided couple on a honeymoon cruise to trouble.

The Diagnosis: Seven new science fiction books hit the shelves in January: five space operas (with and without alien vampires), and two  Earthbound tales that prove things aren’t any better after returning home from space duty.

The Cure: Don your armor and get ready for battles of epic proportions with entire planets and civilizations at stake. Unless you’re in the hills of Kentucky, where an actual stake might do you some good.

Halo: Cryptum, by Greg Bear (Jan. 4, Tor)

In book one of the Forerunner Saga, Bornstellar is a young rebellious Manipular—untried, yet destined to become part of the adult Forerunner society. he comes from a family of Builders, the Forerunners’ highest and most politically powerful race. Bornstellar is marked to become a great Builder just like his father. But this Manipular has other plans. He is obsessed with lost treasures of the past. His reckless passion to seek out the marvelous artifacts left behind by the Precursors—long-vanished superbeings of unknowable power and intent—forces his father’s hand. Bornstellar is sent to live among the Miners, where he must come to terms with where his duty truly lies.

You can read an exclusive excerpt of Chapter One here on

March in Country, by E.E. Knight (Jan. 4, Roc)

Knight returns to the Vampire Earth series, and the race is on to claim the area between the Ohio River and Tennessee. What’s left of the resistance is hiding out in the tangle of central Kentucky hills, leaving the powerful, well-organized alien Kurian vampires the opportunity to fill the void. Major David Valentine knows there’s only one way for them to find help before the Kurians settle in: a desperate dash by hijacked rail, followed by a harrowing river journey. Valentine unites friends old and new in the effort, but the Kurian Order won’t easily yield the blood-soaked Kentucky soil.

The Agent Gambit, by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller (Jan. 4, Baen)

Two space adventure novels in the Liaden Universe series in one edition, featuring once-brilliant scout Val Con yos’Phelium. Val Con was “recruited” by the shadowy Liaden Department of Interior and brainwashed into an Agent of Change—a ruthless covert operative who kills without remorse. He has been playing a deep game, far from the orderly life of clan and kin. Fleeing his latest mission, he saves the life of ex-mercenary Miri Robertson, a Terran on the run from interplanetary assassins. Thrown together by circumstances, Val Con and Miri struggle to elude their enemies and stay alive without killing each other—or surrendering to the unexpected passion that flares between them.

Citadel, by John Ringo (Jan. 4, Baen)

Second in the Troy Rising series. Between the Solar Array Pumped Laser and Troy, the two trillion-ton, nickel-iron battle station created by eccentric billionaire Tyler Vernon, Earth has managed to recapture the Sol system from Horvath conquerors and begin entering the galactic millieu. But when the Rangora Empire rapidly crushes humanity’s only ally it becomes clear the war is just beginning. At the heart of nickel iron and starlight are the people, Marines, Navy and civilians, who make Troy a living, breathing, engine of war. Survivors of apocalypse, they know the cost of failure. If this Troy falls, no one will be left to write the epic. Citadel continues the saga begun in Live Free or Die, following the paths of several characters during the first years of The Spiral Arm Wars.

Cobra Guardian, by Timothy Zahn (Jan. 4, Baen)

When the colony worlds Adirondack and Silvern fell to the Troft forces almost without a struggle, Earth made a desperate decision. Outnumbered and on the defensive, it decided to attack the aliens not from space, but on the ground—with forces the Trofts did not suspect. Thus were created the Cobras, a guerilla force whose weapons were surgically implanted, invisible to the unsuspecting eye, yet undeniably deadly. And the Moreau family were the most famous of the Cobra warriors. Now, years have passed and not everyone thinks the Cobras are worth the cost of maintaining their existing built-in weaponry. That may prove a grave miscalculation, because a Troft faction has decided to invade the planets in force, using a new strategy even the Cobra warriors may not be able to defeat.

Farlander, by Col Buchanan (Jan. 18, Tor)

The Heart of the World is a land in strife. For fifty years the Holy Empire of Mann, an empire and religion born from a nihilistic urban cult, has been conquering nation after nation. Their leader ruthlessly maintains control through her diplomats, priests trained as subtle predators. Ash is a member of an elite group of assassins, the Roshun, who offer protection through the threat of vendetta. Forced by his ailing health to take on an apprentice, he chooses Nico, a young man living in the besieged city of Bar-Khos. When the Holy Matriarch’s son deliberately murders a woman under the protection of the Roshun, Ash and his young apprentice set out to seek retribution.

Home Fires, by Gene Wolfe (Jan. 18, Tor)

Gene Wolfe takes us to a future North America at once familiar and strange. A young man and woman, Skip and Chelle, fall in love in college and marry, but she is enlisted in the military and must serve a tour of duty. But the military is fighting a war with aliens in distant solar systems, and her months in the service will be years in relative time on Earth. Chelle returns to recuperate from severe injuries, still a young woman but not necessarily the same person—while Skip is in his forties and a wealthy businessman. They go on a (long-delayed) honeymoon, which rapidly becomes a complex series of challenges, not the least of which are spies, aliens, and battles with pirates who capture the ship for ransom.

Urban fantasy author Suzanne Johnson is a bonafide book geek. Her new urban fantasy series, scheduled to begin with the release of Royal Street in April 2012 by Tor Books, is set in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina. Find Suzanne on Twitter.


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