Earth’s in trouble, and if the daily news doesn’t convince you, check out this month’s twenty science fiction titles. Look for new titles from, among others, Eric Flint (The Ring of Fire), Michael Cobley (Humanity’s Fire), Marcus Sakey (Brilliance Saga), Jay Allan (Far Stars Trilogy)—and an anthology imagining all kinds of close encounters of the worst kind in Worst Contact.
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.
When the diplomatic embassy from the United States of Europe was freed from the Tower of London during the Baltic War, most of its members returned to the continent. Some remained behind in Britain: Oliver Cromwell and a few companions, including the sharpshooter Julie Sims, her Scot husband Alex Mackay, and Cromwell’s Irish-American watchdog Darryl McCarthy. The chief minister, Richard Boyle, brings over from Ireland a crew of cutthroats to track down and capture the escapees. The hunt passes into Scotland, where the conflict between Cromwell and his companions and their would-be captors becomes embroiled in Scotland’s politics. The time Darryl McCarthy spends fighting alongside Cromwell forces him against his will to admire and respect the man. It’s a Gordian knot until Julie Sims brings out her rifle. A safe distance isn’t what you think it is. Not after the American angel of death spreads her wings.
Young Adult. Sixteen-year-old Randy Knox has the usual problems of a teenage boy. Randy also has other demands on his time, as a sergeant in the N.H. National Guard fighting the invading Creepers. On his twelfth birthday, he enlisted in the Army to carry on the fight. Endless war is all he knows. The current President of the United States has announced that scattered remnants of the Air Force have destroyed the Creeper’s Orbital Base, ensuring victory over the alien invaders. Randy is assigned a new mission: to escort a secret representative from the Governor of New Hampshire to the nation’s capital, to meet with the President. A fellow teen soldier, Serena Coulson and her mute younger brother Buddy, are assigned to join Randy. Randy tries to protect his charges from rampaging Creepers and criminal humans. Randy learns that all of his skills in combating aliens may not be enough to survive the dark conspiracies of his fellow humans.
The Lightship H.M.S. IMPULSE is gone, sacrificed while defeating First Empire ships the fragile new galactic alliance had hoped it would never see again. For Peter Cochrane, serving as third officer aboard his world’s flagship, H.M.S STARBOUND is a dream that’s finally come true. Tasked with investigating a mysterious space station in a newly re-discovered star system, Peter and STARBOUND face a terrible attack. The wounds of that battle may heal with time, but the war is far from over as the First Empire returns, aided by new traitors from within the Union itself.
In the near future, a fluke of quantum mechanics renders Nat Morgan utterly forgettable. No one can remember he exists for more than a minute after he’s gone. It’s a useful ability for his career as a CIA agent, even if he has to keep reminding his boss that he exists. Nat’s attempt to steal a quantum chip prototype is thwarted when a former FSB agent, Yelena Semyonova, attempts to steal the same technology for the Russion mob. Along with a brilliant Iranian physicist who wants to defect, Nat and Yelena must work together to stop a ruthless billionaire from finishing a quantum supercomputer that will literally control the fate of the world.
Worst Contact—edited by Hank Davis (January 5, Baen)
Anthology. Ever since H.G. Wells wrote The War of the Worlds, science fiction writers have speculated on what the first contact might be like. From attacking invaders to wise and benevolent visitors who are ready to solve all our problems for us, from horror stories to hilarious satire, with all the stops in between, including plenty of tales in which the aliens are the ones who wish they’d stayed at home and never come across Earth and its inhabitants. With stories by such science fiction masters as Poul Anderson, David Drake, William Tenn, Sarah A. Hoyt, Tony Daniel, and more, this is a collection filled with chills, thrills, and laughter, all reporting on what happens when First Contact turns into Worst Contact.
It was named Bringer of Battles, three hundred worlds orbiting a single artificial star, three hundred battlefields where different species vie for mastery and triumph. It is a cage where war is a game, brutal, savage and sudden. In this arena, all must bend the knee to the Lords of Permutation and the ancient sentient weapons with which they have merged. Or suffer indescribable agonies. Trapped in this draconian crucible of death, Brannan Pyke, captain and smuggler, must fight his way to freedom. Because in the Bringer of Battles, the game of war is played to the death and beyond.
With the whole of human history altered, Denny Younger may be the last rewinder in existence, and the last person on earth with a chaser unit capable of time travel. While caring for his ailing sister, Denny must discover a way to recharge his device before he’s left with no defense against a past that wants him dead. Before long, Denny notices a mysterious stranger following him, keeping tabs on Denny, his family, and his friends. Is Denny just paranoid? Or maybe he isn’t alone in this new reality after all. When his chaser is stolen and his girlfriend is kidnapped, Denny risks everything to get both of them back. Launched into a high-stakes chase that spans continents and millennia, Denny’s responsibility to save our future isn’t over yet. It will take all of his cunning to stop a threat capable of steering the fate of the human race into disaster.
All around us lurks a dangerous alien race. The Nafikh inhabit human bodies while visiting Earth, and an underground system designed to disguise and protect them from being discovered. The circumstances of these brutal visits require the sacrifice of servs. Servs are aliens, created by the Nafikh to attend to their every need. Physically indistinguishable from humans, their very livelihood regulated by the Source, a powerful force of energy inside each of them. Lucy is a serv who arrived a baby, and adopted by humans. For years she has been walking a tightrope, balancing between the horrors of her serv existence and the ordinary human life she longs to maintain. When the body of a serv child turns up and Lucy is implicated in the death, the worlds she’s tried so hard to keep separate collide. Hounded by the police, targeted in the dog-eat-dog world of servs, she’ll find herself fighting to protect her family and the life she’s made for herself.
For thirty years humanity struggled to cope with the brilliants, the 1 percent of people born with remarkable gifts. For thirty years we tried to avoid a devastating civil war. We failed. The White House is a smoking ruin. Madison Square Garden is an internment camp. In Wyoming, an armed militia of thousands marches toward a final, apocalyptic battle. Nick Cooper has spent his life fighting for his children and his country. Now, as the world staggers on the edge of ruin, he must risk everything he loves to face his oldest enemy, a brilliant terrorist so driven by his ideals that he will sacrifice humanity’s future to achieve them.
Concentr8—William Sutcliffe (January 19, Bloomsbury USA Childrens)
Young Adult. In a not-so-distant future London, riots have become the norm. But when the government suddenly stops distributing Concentr8, a behavioral modification “miracle” drug akin to Ritalin, the city’s residents rise up fiercer than they ever have before. Amidst the chaos, five teens pick a man seemingly at random and chain him up as a hostage in a warehouse. Blaze is their leader, and Troy has always been his quiet sidekick, the only person he has ever trusted. But even Troy didn’t see this coming, and as their story unfolds over six tense days, one thing is clear, none of them will ever be the same again. (U.S. Release)
Now a celebrated war hero, Captain Kat Falcone is back at the helm of HMS Lightning, and up against near-impossible odds. After an ill-timed outburst almost ends her career, Kat is handed command of a deep-strike mission into enemy space. The objective is to gather intelligence and distract the hostile Theocracy while the Commonwealth prepares its counteroffensive. The chances for success are slim, and for survival even slimmer. Armed with a fleet of outdated starships, a few loyal officers, and a skeleton crew of refugees, Kat knows the Royal Navy expects her to fail. Failure almost certainly means death, or worse, as the Theocracy does not treat prisoners kindly. Pitted against the defenses of her old nemesis Admiral Junayd, there is no room for error. With a spy hidden aboard her ship, Kat will need more than her wits to survive.
The Far Stars stands on the edge of a precipice. The forces of Governor Vos have surged forth, conquering worlds and imposing the emperor’s brutal rule over millions. Only one thing stands in the way of total victory: Marshal Augustin Lucerne’s newly created confederation. Vos has a simple plan: assassinate the marshal and manipulate his generals to fight over his legacy. Another threat lurks, Arkarin Blackhawk. The smuggler and mercenary has been the marshal’s ally, working in the shadows and unraveling Vos’s plans. Blackhawk’s past is a dark and dangerous one, and if he is put at the helm of the confederation armies, the brutal imperial general he once was may rise again. If Blackhawk survives, and can come to grips with the horror within him, he just might be able to save the Far Stars from the iron hand of the empire.
Novella; Digital. Fleeing the city of New York on the TransContinental atmospheric transport vehicle, Dran Florrian is traveling with Palimpsest, the ultimate proof of a lifetime of scientific theorizing. When a rogue organization attempts to steal the device, however, Dran takes drastic action. But his invention threatens to destroy the very fabric of this and all other possible universes, unless Dran, or someone very much like him, can shut down the machine and reverse the process.
Young Adult. Every night it was the same: dreaming of those Less Thans shackled in the bunker beneath the tennis court. It was why we had to get back to Camp Liberty. Why we had to free those Less Thans. Book, Hope, and Cat cannot live with themselves, they cannot settle into a new free life knowing the rest of their fellow Less Thans and Sisters are still imprisoned. The teens must retrace their steps to save the others, destroy the compound, and thwart the evil plans of the Republic. With new enemies lurking, deranged Crazies and ominous Skull People among them, the group must put their fate in the hands of unexpected allies, including the woman with the long black hair and Miranda, the daughter of the Skull People’s Chief Justice, who is drawn to Book. The teens they must ask themselves what they’re willing to do to free their friends, for the path back is filled with even more danger as motives are questioned and relationships tested.
Young Adult. The Ward is in trouble, its streets filled with seawater after a devastating flood and its impoverished inhabitants suffering from a deadly disease called the Blight. Ren has discovered a cure, miraculous spring water, administering it to her sick sister, Aven. When Aven is kidnapped by Governor Voss, the malevolent dictator of the United Metro Isles (UMI), Ren must go on a dangerous mission to save her sister, again. The mysterious healing water is the only source of freshwater throughout the entire UMI. An ancient order, the Tètai, has been guarding the magical water for hundreds of years. They will kill to protect it. With the Ward in desperate need of freshwater and wracked by disease, and deadly enemies at every turn, the sisters face a dangerous journey, marred by secrets and horrifying truths, to save their friends and neighbors.
Noah, an orphan from Earth’s last days, is now nearly a man and a leader to the young enclave of Earthborn who reside on Sora. When the tranquility of their settlement is shattered by an assassination attempt, Noah turns to his younger brother Erik, Lucas and Asha’s only child by blood, for aid. Their journey takes them to the remnants of a dead planet, an outlaw-infested space station, and back to Sora, whose inhabitants are bracing for a showdown with the Xalans. They find themselves facing a new evil: the omnipotent Archon, who is controlling the whole of the Xalan horde, and his bloodthirsty lieutenant, the Black Corsair, who has a taste for brutality. The Archon, so-called God of the Shadows, has unearthed knowledge that could wipe both Sorans and humans from existence. The descendants of the Earthborn must uncover the true nature of the Archon and the Xalans before he burns everything they know and love to ashes.
Henry Denton doesn’t know why the aliens chose to abduct him when he was thirteen, and he doesn’t know why they continue to steal him from his bed and take him aboard their ship. He doesn’t know why the world is going to end or why the aliens have offered him the opportunity to avert the impending disaster by pressing a big red button. They’ve only given him 144 days to make up his mind. Since the suicide of his boyfriend, Jesse, Henry has been adrift. He’s become estranged from his best friend, started hooking up with his sworn enemy. As far as Henry is concerned, a world without Jesse is a world he isn’t sure is worth saving. Until he meets Diego Vega, an artist with a secret past who forces Henry to question his beliefs, his place in the universe, and whether any of it really matters. Before Henry can save the world, he’s got to figure out how to save himself, and the aliens haven’t given him a button for that.
Young Adult. Adam has killed again. It had to be done, part of him knows that, but murder changes a person. It can certainly change a teenager who’s already grown up too quickly, too harshly, in the wake of the catastrophic global blackout five months ago. In the name of safety and survival, Adam and his neighbors have turned their middle American suburban neighborhood into a fortress, defending against countless enemies. But what’s lurking in the dark is a greater danger than ever before: somebody who wants to destroy the neighborhood and Adam at any cost. Soon, the hunted will have to become the hunter, and Adam hates himself for what he will have to do. Because sometimes even the dark is not cover enough for things that would never happen in the light.
Digital. Phoenix is one of the most populated cities in America, but not for long. With a mysterious sickness spreading through the streets, two things are becoming very clear: there’s no cure, and it doesn’t necessarily kill you. Instead, the so-called “Infecteds” have become a living plague, killing and eating everyone they come into contact with. Chaos is spreading, and no one is safe. No one, that is, except for a group of psychos. Somehow unaffected by the disease, and with promises of clemency for their monstrous pasts, a group of seven is sent downtown to hopefully find the cause of the disease, and therefore a cure. But when the asylum is the size of a city, it no longer matters who is running things. Not when everyone is running for their lives.
Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn’t expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during high school. The development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one’s peers and families. Now they’re both adults, living in San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who’s working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention into the changing global climate. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world’s every-growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them is determined to bring them together, to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.