For over a decade, Jim Killen has served as the science fiction and fantasy book buyer for Barnes & Noble. Every month on the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog and Tor.com, Jim shares his curated list of the month’s can’t-miss new SF/F releases.
Aurora, by Kim Stanley Robinson (July 7, Orbit—Hardcover)
After a detour into prehistory with last year’s Shaman, future historian Kim Stanley Robinson returns to widescreen space exploration with a full-throated, believably science-y novel that turns one of sci-fi oldest tropes—the generation ship—on its ear. As the deteriorating vessel nears its destination, we follow a cast of compelling, flawed characters trying to stave off a death of a thousand loose screws, as witnessed via one of the most unique narrators we’ve ever encountered: the ship itself, an artificial intelligence still struggling to understand humans even after hundreds of years spent ferrying them across the stars.
Time Salvager, by Wesley Chu (July 7, Tor Books—Hardcover)
This looks to be the breakout novel for Chu, author of the Lives of Tao series—even before publication, the film rights were snapped up by Michael Bay. It’s easy to imagine it making a thrilling movie, seeing as it is such a compelling read: in the future, time travel is the key to humanity’s survival after a disaster drives people off Earth and onto other planets and moons. Traveling back in time to recover necessary resources without altering history too severely, Chronman James Griffin-Mars is stressed to the breaking point, and haunted by the people he has abandoned to the past to die. When he breaks the most fundamental rule of his job by bringing a woman with him into the future, the unintended consequences of his action spur a chain of events that might ultimately save the human race.
Star Wars: Dark Disciple, by Christie Golden (July 7, LucasBooks—Hardcover)
When Disney bought LucasFilm, there was cause for much rejoicing in Star Wars fandom—and no small measure of sorrow, thanks to the untimely cancelation of The Clone Wars, the CG-animated series set between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith responsible for deepening (and, some would argue, redeeming) the prequels in the eyes of fans. Thankfully, we’re getting a peek at what might have been with this novel based on scripts for unproduced episodes. As Count Dooku’s galaxy-wide siege intensifies, the Jedi Council has no choice but to send young Jedi Knight Quinlan Vos and former killer Asajj Ventress on a last-ditch mission to stop the Sith Lord.
The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 32nd Annual Edition, edited by Gardner Dozois (July 7, St. Martin’s Press—Paperback)
What it says on the tin: this 300,000-plus-word collection features the best shortform SF/F of the last year, as assembled by legendary editor Gardner Dozois. How’s this for a roster of talent? Contributors include Nancy Kress, Cory Doctorow, Elizabeth Bear, Ian McDonald, Lauren Beukes, Michael Swanwick, Ken Liu, Alastair Reynolds, and others. For more than three decades, these volumes have been an essential, eagerly awaited annual event.
Corum: The King of the Swords, by Michael Moorcock (July , Titan Books—Paperback)
Titan continues its epic quest to bring the work of fantasy master Moorcock back into print with the third volume of his Eternal Champion series, following The Knight of the Swords and The Queen of the Swords. Corum Jhaelen Irsei is one of the most famous of the Eternal Champions, heroes that exist across all timelines and in all universes. In his struggle to save the multiverse, Corum, the Prince in the Scarlet Robe, has already defeated two-thirds of the Company of Chaos. Only the most deadly of the trio remains, but before his victory is complete, Corum must also avenge himself against the captain of the evil army—the same man who slaughtered his family.
Empress Game, by Rhonda Mason (July 14, Titan Books—Paperback)
The kickoff volume of a new space opera series that folds in elements of fantasy. Formerly princess of a world where the inhabitants are gifted with psychic powers, the deposed Kayla Reinumon now fights every night for survival in gladiatorial combat on a far flung world—until she is invited by the same forces responsible for her plight to compete in a dangerous game whose winner will claim the title of empress of the galaxy-spanning empire. Kayla jumps at the chance to take back what she’s lost—but perhaps she acts too quickly, because it will require all her skill and cunning just to survive, let alone triumph. Political intrigue, nested conspiracies, and betrayal greet her at every turn in this intriguing, accessibly written debut.
The First Confessor, by Terry Goodkind (July 21, Tor Books—Hardcover)
In this prequel to Goodkind’s long-running Sword of Truth series, a heroine rises from the ashes of her former life. Magda Searus is the wife of a powerful leader, protected by her husband’s status and his gifts. But when he unexpectedly commits suicide, she refuses to give up on finding out why—and learns, on her journey, the true nature of the darkness overtaking her people.
Half a War, by Joe Abercrombie (July 28, Del Rey—Hardcover)
The final volume of Abercrombie’s crossover Shattered Sea trilogy is perfect for fantasy diehards or young adults looking for a bloody good epic adventure with teen appeal. A defeated princess struggles to reclaim her birthright, her skill with words her only remaining weapon. A crippled former slave turned trusted king’s advisor tries to hold together a tenuous peace in the face of a looming threat from newly allied enemies. With the future in flux, only one thing is clear— a war is coming, a war so great, it may bring an end to everything in the kingdom of the Shattered Sea.
Killing Pretty, by Richard Kadrey (July 28, Harper Voyager—Hardcover)
The seventh volume in the hard-rocking Sandman Slim urban fantasy series makes a great starting point for new readers after Slim’s actions in The Getaway God turned his world upside down—killing all the gods will do that. Now, he must solve the murder of the one immortal even he doesn’t want to meet face-to-face: Death itself (himself?). If your tastes trend to noir grit and L.A. cool, Slim is your man.
Neverwhere: Author’s Preferred Text, by Neil Gaiman (July 28, William Morrow—Hardcover)
In the mid-’90s, Neil Gaiman wrote the script for a BBC television series about a secret magical world beneath the London we know, but time and budgetary constraints kept it from being all that he imagined. He later turned it into a novel, itself a victim of editorial compromise over the years. As its 20th anniversary approaches, Neverwhere is returning to hardcover in this new edition featuring the author’s preferred text, complete with previously deleted scenes.
The Dangerous Type, by Lauren Rhoads (July 7, Night Shade Books—Paperback)
Enslaved, trained as a brutal killer, betrayed, abandoned, entombed in cryogenic sleep: you can see why Raena might have a chip on her shoulder. In the grimdark universe of Rhoads’ propulsive, action-heavy debut, the universe’s deadliest assassin sets off on a mission of vengeance into a galaxy wracked by genocidal warfare. Her target, the despotic warlord Thallian, is on the run for war crimes but determined to reclaim what he believes is his by right. The stage is set for a revenge tale constructed from a web of complex, strained relationships made messier by two decades of forced slumber.
Thor, Vol. 2: Who Holds the Hammer, by Jason Aaron and (illustrator) (July , Marvel Comics—Hardcover)
The second volume of the reimagined series featuring a female Thor finally reveals the identity of the woman who has taken up the mantle of the God(dess) of Thunder. Meanwhile, the All-Father and All-Mother continue to butt heads over what to do about the new power in Asgard, and the Dark Elf Malekith finds a dangerous ally. This Thor has been outselling her male counterpart as of late, and it’s no mystery why: this is one of Marvel’s strongest pre-Secret Wars books.
Gotham Academy, Vol. 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy (The New 52), by Becky Cloonan, Brendan Fletcher, and Karl Kerschel (June 23, D.C. Comics—Paperback)
Gotham City trains a new generation of heroes in this off-beat Batman spinoff. Set at über-prestigious Gotham Academy, it features the adventurous Olive Silverlock, her best friend “Maps” Mizoguchi, and a whole crew of friends and frenemies as they navigate the tricky prep-school social scene while investigating secret societies, super-villains, and ghosts that roam the halls. The long, weird history of Gotham is a backdrop, but this story of mystery that stalks the halls of a private school has as much in common with Harry Potter as with traditional Batman tales.
Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: Black Vortex (July 7, Marvel Comics—Hardcover)
This weighty tome collects over 300 story pages (assembled from across a dozen titles) of the last big Marvel crossover before the start of the game-changing Secret Wars. If Peter Quill (aka Starlord) has any hope of stealing the mysterious, lethal Black Vortex artifact from the nefarious Mister Knife and his minions, he’s going to need all the help he can get—from an assist by the rest of the Guardians of the Galaxy to backup from an “extraordinary” team of allies from Earth.
This post was published simultaneously on the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.