Science Fiction continues to stage its comeback in July as twenty-nine science fiction books hit the shelves, with a number of standalones plus new series starts from Jean Johnson, Rhonda Mason, Scott Sigler, and Loren Rhoads, and series additions from, among others, William C. Dietz (Mutant Files), Weston Ochse (Task Force Ombra), D.J. Molles (The Remaining), Wayne Gladstone (Internet Apocalypse), Chuck Wendig (Heartland Trilogy), and John Sandford and Michele Cook (Singular Menace). Also look for the annual Gardner R. Dozois-edited collection of The Year’s Best Science Fiction.
Fiction Affliction details releases in science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and “genre-benders.” Keep track of them all here. Note: All title summaries are taken and/or summarized from copy provided by the publisher.
Standalone. Our planet is in ruins. Three hundred miles above its scarred surface orbits Outer Earth: a space station with a million souls on board. They are all that remain of the human race. Darnell is the head of the station’s biotech lab. He’s also a man with dark secrets. And he has ambitions for Outer Earth that no one will see coming. Prakesh is a scientist, and he has no idea what his boss Darnell is capable of. He’ll have to move fast if he doesn’t want to end up dead. And then there’s Riley. She’s a tracer, a courier. For her, speed is everything. But with her latest cargo, she’s taken on more than she bargained for. A chilling conspiracy connects them all. The countdown has begun for Outer Earth, and for mankind.
Since the nukecaust, the American dream has been reduced to a daily fight for survival. In the Deathlands, few dare to dream of a better tomorrow. Ryan Cawdor and his companions press on, driven by the need for a future less treacherous than the present. Pulling sec duty aboard a steamboat on the mighty Sippi is a welcome reprieve for Ryan and his friends, until armored warships reduce their vessel to a burning husk. Stranded in a nightmarish, poisonous swamp, fighting off crocodiles and muties, the companions and their crew of allies get to work building rafts. Their escape route is swiftly intercepted, and they learn they’ve sailed into the middle of a conflict between two villes fighting over the iron trade. The companions don’t seem to stand a chance against the fleets of ironclad gunboats. In Deathlands, even the underdog can bite back.
Endgame Enigma: In the future, Russia has built Valentina Tereshkova, a space station a mile in diameter. Its builders claim that the space city is a peaceful Utopian experiment. American intelligence raises the possibility that the space colony is actually a weapon. When scientist Paula Bryce and agent Lew McCain travel to the station to investigate, they become prisoners in the station’s high-tech prison facilities. If they can’t escape, Armageddon is inevitable. Voyage from Yesteryear: Late in our century, Americans sent a colonization spaceship manned by robots to an Earthlike planet. The robot crew used recorded DNA information to bring forth a generation of infants. Generations later, Earth has rebuilt after the war, with authoritarian governments. They’ll show their distant relatives “help.” The robots educated their pupils too well, the colonists are actually serious about all that life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness stuff.
Standalone. It’s the mid-twenty-first century. Terrorist organizations are running rampant, and it has become readily apparent that humanity’s destructive nature is at the heart of the matter. Solomon Chavez, the son of the world’s first trillionaire, announces that he will build an interstellar starship, one that will convey a group of six thousand individuals, all under the age of fifty to a recently discovered planet in the Epsilon Eridani star system. His goal is to build a colony that will ensure the survival of the human race. Solomon Chavez has a secret that he doesn’t dare share with the rest of the world. Great odds must be overcome so that the starship Solomon’s Arrow can fulfill what the human race has dreamed of for millennia. Looming on the horizon are threats nobody could have imagined, ones that may spell the end of all human life and end the universe.
Thallian has been on the lam for the last fifteen years; a wanted war criminal whose entire family has been hunted down and murdered for their role in the galaxy-wide genocide of the Templars. His name is the first on Raena’s list, as he’s the one that enslaved her, made her his assassin, and ultimately put her in a tomb. But Thallian is willing to risk everything, including his army of cloned sons, to capture her. Now it’s a race to see who kills whom first. Alternatively, Gaven has spent the last twenty years trying to forget about Raena, whom he once saved and then lost to the clutches of Thallian. Raena’s adopted sister, Ariel, has been running from the truth: the one about Raena, about her and Gaven, and doesn’t know if she’ll be able to face either of them.
Standalone. Adam’s muscular dystrophy has stolen his mobility, his friends, and in a few short years, it will take his life. Virtual reality games are Adam’s only escape from his wheelchair. In his alternate world, he can defeat anyone. Adam is always the hero. Then an artificial intelligence program, Sigma, hacks into Adam’s game. Created by Adam’s computer-genius father, Sigma has gone rogue, threatening Adam’s life, and world domination. Their one chance to stop Sigma is using technology Adam’s dad developed to digitally preserve the mind of his dying son. Along with a select group of other terminally ill teens, Adam becomes one of the Six who have forfeited their bodies to inhabit weaponized robots. The Six must learn to manipulate their new mechanical forms and work together to train for epic combat, before Sigma destroys humanity.
The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Second Annual Collection—edited by Gardner R. Dozois (July 7, St. Martin’s Griffin)
In the new millennium, what secrets lay beyond the far reaches of the universe? What mysteries belie the truths we once held to be self evident? This collection brings together award winning-authors and masters of the field such as Robert Reed, Alastair Reynolds, Damien Broderick, Elizabeth Bear, Paul McAuley and John Barnes. And with an extensive recommended reading guide and a summation of the year in science fiction, this annual compilation has become a must-read anthology for all science fiction fans and readers interested in exploring the genre.
Standalone. Convicted criminal James Griffin-Mars is no one’s hero. In his time, Earth is a toxic, abandoned world and humans have fled into the outer solar system to survive. Those responsible for delaying humanity’s demise believe time travel holds the key. James is a chronman, undertaking missions into Earth’s past to recover resources and treasure without altering the timeline. The laws governing use of time travel are absolute; break any one of them and, one way or another, your life is over. On a final mission that is to secure his retirement, James meets Elise Kim, a scientist from a previous century, who is fated to die during the destruction of an oceanic rig. James brings Elise back to the future with him, saving her life, but turning them both into fugitives. Remaining free means losing themselves in the wild and poisonous wastes of Earth, finding allies, and perhaps discovering what hope may yet remain for humanity’s home world.
Young Adult. The alien-hunting hero is finally ready to take on the biggest threat in the galaxy: The Prayer, the same beast that brutally murdered his parents long ago. But even with his incredible ability to create almost anything, Daniel will have to push his powers beyond the brink in order to bring down a monster that has the powers of a god. This epic showdown of good versus evil brings this series to its finale.
A teenage girl awakens to find herself trapped in a coffin. She has no idea who she is, where she is, or how she got there. Fighting her way free brings little relief, she discovers only a room lined with caskets and a handful of equally mystified survivors. Beyond their room lies a corridor filled with bones and dust, but no answers. She knows only one thing about herself, her name, M. Savage, which was engraved on the foot of her coffin, yet she finds herself in charge. She is not the biggest among them, or the boldest, but for some reason the others trust her. Whatever the truth is, she is determined to find it and confront it. If she has to lead, she will make sure they survive. Maybe there’s a way out, a rational explanation, and a fighting chance against the dangers to come. Or maybe a reality they cannot comprehend lies just beyond the next turn.
Standalone. Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. Then he sees the flying saucer. The alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada, in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders. What he’s seeing is. His skills are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it. It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little, familiar?
Standalone. Reports of a new habitable planet have reached the Twenty Planets of human civilization. When a team of scientists is assembled to investigate this world, exoethnologist Sara Callicot is recruited to keep an eye on an unstable crewmate. Thora was once a member of the elite, but since her prophetic delusions helped mobilize a revolt on Orem, she’s been banished to the farthest reaches of space. The team finds a crystalline planet, laden with dark matter. The planet is home to a blind, sentient species whose members navigate their world with a bizarre vocabulary and extrasensory perceptions. Thora must battle her demons and learn to comprehend the native inhabitants in order to warn her crewmates of an impending danger. Her most difficult task may lie in persuading the crew that some powers lie beyond the boundaries of science.
Young Adult. You don’t belong with us. These are the words that echo through the minds of all immune Americans, those suffering the so-called adverse effects of an experimental vaccine, including perfect recall, body manipulation, telepathy, precognition, levitation, mind-control, and the ability to change one’s appearance at will. When immune individuals begin to disappear, in great numbers, but seemingly at random, fear and tension mount, and unrest begins to brew across the country. Through separate channels, super-powered teenagers Ciere, Daniel, and Devon find themselves on the case; super criminals and government agents working side-by-side. It’s an effort that will ultimately define them all, for better or for worse.
One seat on the intergalactic Sakien Empire’s supreme ruling body, the Council of Seven, remains unfilled, that of the Empress Apparent. The seat is won in a tournament of ritualized combat in the ancient tradition. Now that tournament, the Empress Game, has been called. The females of the empire will stop at nothing to secure political domination for their homeworlds. Kayla Reinumon, a supreme fighter, is called by a stranger to battle it out in the arena. The battle for political power isn’t contained by the tournament’s ring. The empire’s elite gather to forge, strengthen or betray alliances to determine the fate of the empire for a generation. With the empire wracked by a rising nanovirus plague and stretched thin by an ill-advised planet-wide occupation of Ordoch in enemy territory, everything rests on the woman who rises to the top.
Standalone. It’s up to a famous rapper, a biologist, and a rogue soldier to handle humanity’s first contact with an alien ambassador, and prevent mass extinction, in this novel that blends magical realism with high-stakes action. After word gets out on the Internet that aliens have landed in the waters outside of the world’s fifth most populous city, chaos ensues. The military, religious leaders, thieves, and crackpots are trying to control the message on YouTube and on the streets. The earth’s political superpowers are considering a preemptive nuclear launch to eradicate the intruders. All that stands between 17 million anarchic residents and death is an alien ambassador, a biologist, a rapper, a soldier, and a myth that may be the size of a giant spider, or a god revealed. (U.S. Release)
Young Adult. Shay Remby and her gang of renegades have struck a blow to the Singular Corporation. When they rescued Shay’s brother, Odin, from a secret Singular lab, they also liberated a girl. Singular has been experimenting on her, trying to implant a U.S. senator’s memories into her brain, with partial success. Fenfang is now a girl who literally knows too much. Can the knowledge brought by ex-captives Odin and Fenfang help Shay and her friends expose the crimes of this corrupt corporation? Singular has already killed one of Shay’s band to protect their secrets. How many more will die before the truth is exposed?
Young Adult. After the harrowing events of Earthfall, twelve-year-old Sam and his fellow resistance members meet an enigmatic man named Mason who is slowly building an army to fight back against the invaders, the Voidborn. Sam and the others join Mason and his soldiers on a mission to disable Voidborn technology in Tokyo. But Sam soon discovers that Mason has an agenda beyond what he has already admitted: He isn’t content just to destroy the Voidborn’s machines; he plans to destroy the Voidborn once and for all with a plan that will cost the lives of millions of innocent people. But something is coming, something even worse than the Voidborn. Something very old and very evil. Something that might mean the end of them all.
Young Adult. Adam Stone wants freedom and peace. He wants a chance to escape Blackwater, the dust-bowl desert town he grew up in. Most of all, he wants the beautiful Sadie Blood. Alongside Sadie and the dangerous outsider Kane, Adam will ride the Blackwater Trail in a brutal race that will test them all, body and soul. Only the strongest will survive. The prize? A one-way ticket to Sky-Base and unimaginable luxury. And for a chance at this new life, Adam will risk everything.
Young Adult. It’s been a year since the Saranyu flotilla fell from the sky, and life in the Heartland has changed. Gone are the Obligations and the Harvest Home festivals. In their place is a spate of dead towns, the former inhabitants forced into mechanical bodies to serve the Empyrean, and crush the Heartland. When Cael awakens from a Blightborn sleep, miles away from the world he remembers, he sets out across the Heartland to gather his friends for one last mission. As the mechanicals, a war flotilla, and a pack of feral Empyrean girls begin to close in on the Heartland, there isn’t much time to make their next move. But if they can uncover a secret weapon in time, Cael and his friends might just find themselves with the power to save the world, or destroy it, resting in their hands.
Gladstone, the so-called “Internet Messiah,” has not only failed to bring back the Web, but his search has landed him in a New York City psychiatric ward. The economy continues to suffer, further stoking the discontent of frenzied former Internet users still looking for a fix. The government has ramped up its draconian NET Recovery Act, interrogating and detaining anyone deemed a “person of interest.” For Gladstone, finding the Net has taken a backseat to winning over his ex-wife. Even though he follows her to Los Angeles, he still can’t shake the demands of his followers when his former account of the Internet Apocalypse goes “paper viral.” This newfound celebrity makes him a target for desperate online addicts, anarchic members of Anonymous, and shadowy government agents who have their own plans for him.
Standalone. Out of a job and struggling with depression and alcohol abuse after a breakdown, the brilliant quantum physicist Eric Angus is given a second chance after he’s hired by an old friend a research lab. Eric stumbles upon old equipment used for Feynman’s double-slit experiment and decides to re-create the test in order to see the results for himself. Eric probes deeper into Feynman’s theory, with the help of fellow scientists Satish and Mi Chang. After extensive tests. Eric and his team establish a link between conscious observation and an evolutionary trait that is distinctly human: the soul. Mass chaos ensues after they publish the results of their experiment. Questions arise when certain people appear to be “soulless,” and after Satish mysteriously disappears, Eric risks everything to answer them.
This is the sixth and final novel in the series following Special Forces Captain Lee Harden and a group of survivors struggling to survive while rebuilding an America devastated by a bacterium that has turned ninety percent of the population into a ravenous horde. The merciless tide of infected is flooding south and time is running out to stop them. Bolstered by new allies, Captain Lee Harden continues his struggle to establish a safe haven from which the embers of a shattered society can be rekindled.
Their spies were among us for years. They mapped our electrical infrastructure, learned our weaknesses, until finally they flipped the switch and threw us back into the Dark Ages. Only OMBRA and its battalions around the world seem capable of defending Earth from the next wave of attack, terraforming. At what price can we gain our freedom from these yet to be identified aliens? They’re pushing the human race to the edge of extinction if we can’t find a way to change things. What will we humans become to survive this threat. This is a time for heroes. For killers. For Grunts. Benjamin Carter Mason will be asked this question over and over as he dives deep into the nasty heart of an alien transformed Los Angeles. And in the end, he might be the last person on Earth defending not just our lives, but our humanity.
The Fugitive follows Mark James as he tries to track down Sarah Hart, evade the Mogadorians and the FBI, and discover the identity of the mysterious blogger he knows only as GUARD. The Navigator reveals the truth about the crew of the two Loric spaceships who escaped to Earth and shows what happened to the pilots after they arrived and parted ways with the Garde. The Guard tells the story of the hacker who has been aiding the Lorien survivors from the shadows for years. She’s determined to defeat the Mogs, and she just found her secret weapon. You know the truth about the Mogadorians’ invasion of Earth and the Garde who will do anything to defeat them, yet there is still so much to learn. The stories in Rebel Allies will help you get the answers you seek. They will not help you stop the coming war. Only the Garde can save our planet. They are not alone.
Standalone. Our story is set thousands of years after the Terran Exodus, where two powerful, planet-dominating families, the elegant House Jakabitus and the less refined Hahn Empire, have reached a critical point in their generations-long war. Master Hennik, the Hahn ruler’s only son, has been captured, and the disposition of his internment may represent a last and welcome chance for peace. Enter Wollard, the impeccably distinguished and impossibly correct Master of Formalities for House Jakabitus. When he suggests that Master Hennik be taken in as a ward of the House, certain complications arise. Wollard believes utterly and devotedly in adhering to rules and good etiquette. But how does one inform the ruler of a planet that you are claiming his son as your own, and still create enough goodwill to deescalate an intergalactic war?
The year is 2065, almost thirty years since a bioterrorist attack decimated the population. The world has been divided, and new nations have formed. Those mutated from exposure inhabit the red zones, while “norms” live in the green zones. In the nation of Pacifica, Los Angeles detective Cassandra Lee is in charge of investigating a disturbing case, tracking a cop killer dubbed the Bonebreaker. But strange new murders have occurred, falling outside the normal pattern and leaving Lee and her team wondering if the serial killer has become unpredictable, or if he’s no longer acting alone. To make matters worse, Lee’s attention is diverted after she receives a letter from her long-lost mother. Now she must venture into the red zone, a lawless land where might makes right, and where the biggest danger may be her own family.
Standalone. Jack Taylor has always been an adrenaline junkie. As a federal contractor, he does dangerous jobs for the government. Jack has been assigned to test an orbital jump. If it works, the United States government will have a new strategy against enemy countries. Jack and his wife Angela are both workaholics and are on the verge of getting a divorce. The night before his jump, Jack and Angela begin to rekindle their romance. On his jump, he doesn’t burn up like some predicted. He hits the speed of sound and disappears. Jack wakes up in an alternate universe. One where he died during a mission five years earlier and where Angela is still madly in love with him. His boss, Pete, has turned to the dark side, is working against him, and the government is now on his tail. Jack must return to his own world. The only way for him to do that is to perform another orbital jump. This time is more difficult though, no one wants to see him go.
Born into a political family and gifted with psychic abilities, Jacaranda MacKenzie has served as a border-watcher and even spent time as a representative on the United Planets Council. Now she just wants to spend her days in peace and quiet as a translator, but the universe has other plans. Humans have long known that they would encounter more alien species, and while those with precognitive abilities agree a terrible war is coming, they do not agree on who will save humanity, a psychic soldier or a politician. But Jackie is both. After she is pressured into rejoining the Space Force to forestall the impending calamity, Jackie makes an unsettling discovery. Their new enemy, the Salik, seem to be rather familiar with fighting Humans, as if their war against humanity had already begun.
This is a collection of thirty-eight Gregory Benford stories, including some of the best science fiction of the last fifty years, chosen from the more than two hundred he has published to date. We have here a series of snapshots of a moving target, a writer who has been growing and changing for decades, extending his art, and the art of science fiction writing. Benford continues building himself challenging structures to write in with two story series in progress that may emerge as major works. He’s not slowing down. But for the record we now have this book, a permanent chronicle of a major career. Six decades so far.
Suzanne Johnson is the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series, and, as Susannah Sandlin, the Penton Legacy paranormal romance series and The Collectors thriller series. You can find Suzanne on Facebook and on her website.