16 science fiction and fantasy books to read this November
It’s November, which means that winter is well on its way. It’s a good time to curl up on the couch or a comfy chair and dig into some of the books that you’ve been meaning to read.
I recently interviewed horror author Joe Hill, and he discussed some modern day horrors on social media and technology as it related to his new book, Strange Weather. Even though Halloween is now behind us, fall is a great time to pick up the book. It includes four short novels — Snapshot, Loaded, Aloft, and Rain — each of which delivers a solid, terrifying premise. They’re also all engrossing reads, with vivid characters sucked into terrifying circumstances. I read nearly the entire book on a single train ride, and it made the miles fly by.
There are other good reads coming up this month, too. Here are 16 books hitting bookstore shelves that you should check out.
Valiant Dust by Richard Baker
Author and former US Navy serviceman Richard Baker is kicking off a new military science fiction series with his latest novel, Valiant Dust. In the far future, gunnery officer Sikander Singh North joins the crew of the Aquilan Commonwealth starship CSS Hector, the only Kashmiri crewmember. When the Hector is dispatched to quell a planetary revolution, he’s forced to prove himself to his crewmates, as they deal with troublesome planetary leaders and try to figure out who is arming the rebels behind the insurrection, all while coming under fire.
Places in the Darkness by Chris Brookmyre
A space station called Ciudad de Cielo — The City in the Sky — floats above the Earth as a symbol of humanity’s progress and bold steps into space. Life on board is a different story, however: there’s a dark criminal underworld that’s ignored by officials until a murder takes place. Station police officer Nikki "Fix" Freeman is in charge of the investigation, with by-the-books officer Alice Blake assigned to help. As more bodies pile up, both realize that there’s more than gang violence behind the crime spree.
Steal the Stars by Nat Cassidy
For the last couple of months, Tor Books has been experimenting with storytelling through a new imprint called Tor Labs. Its first production is a podcast story called Steal the Stars, in which a security officer named Dakota “Dak” Prentiss guards an alien spaceship in a top secret facility and hatches a plan to steal it. Tor is now releasing a novelization of the series, written by one of the cast members, Nat Cassidy. This book isn’t a script that’s been polished up as a cash-grab to get reluctant audio listeners to buy the story; it’s a full-on novelization that stands on its own.
The Rule of Luck by Catherine Cerveny
In 2950, humanity has spread throughout the Solar System, with colonies on Venus and Mars. Felicia Sevigny makes her living in this new world by reading tarot cards. Blacklisted from having a child, she goes to some shady figures to try and get around the restrictions, only to get the attention of a crime boss, Alexei Petriv. He wants her to predict his future, and when she does, she finds that there’s trouble ahead that will pit them both against the overbearing TriSystem government. Kirkus Reviews says that the book has a “well-crafted world with a promising heroine.”
Jade City by Fonda Lee
In Fonda Lee’s first installment of a new fantasy trilogy, a group of clans vie for control over their island nation and its supply of jade — the source of power that enhances their magical abilities. For decades, there’s been a delicate peace on the island, but with a new generation of leaders, that peace is beginning to break down, and all-out Godfather-style gang warfare is looming. The Barnes and Noble Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog says says that the book has “a world that will be hard to forget.”
The Sisters of the Crescent Empress by Leena Likitalo
Leena Likitalo published The Five Daughters of the Moon back in July,marking the first installment of a duology inspired by the 1917 Russian revolution. Its followup, The Sisters of the Crescent Empress, hits bookstores this month. With the death of the Crescent Empress, the Crescent Empire has been torn apart by civil war, and the five sisters — Alina, Merile, Sabilia, Elise, and Celestia — have been captured by Gagargi Prataslav and his Great Thinking Machine. As they contend with their exile and make plans to escape their confinement, they stumble upon ghosts and mysteries in their prison. Publisher’s Weekly says that “Likitalo’s emotional and lyrical dark fairy tale will give readers plenty to think about.”
Communications Failure by Joe Zieja
Joe Zieja made his debut last year with the comedic military science fiction novel Mechanical Failure, where an ex-sergeant named R. Wilson Rogers was recalled back to the interstellar navy as it prepared for war. In Communications Failure, Rogers has unwillingly climbed the ladder to become the acting admiral of the 331st Meridan fleet. Now in charge, he has to face off against an enemy fleet that’s moving under suspect intelligence and miscommunications, leading both sides to accidentally start a war. These books have been compared to Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and Publisher’s Weekly says that the book’s highlights include a “droid undergoing an existential crisis, a pilot obsessed with flashy maneuvers, a zookeeper determined to become a spy, and Rogers himself, an engineer who never wanted to be in charge of anyone.”
Dark Deeds by Mike Brooks
Mike Brooks published his debut novel Dark Run last year, following Ichabod Drift’s crew of smugglers and mercenaries of the starship Keiko, where they were hired to bring a mysterious cargo to Earth — no questions asked. Its followup, Dark Sky, brings the crew along on a new mission to the Rassvet System, only to get caught up in a revolution. As Dark Deeds picks up, the crew has failed that last mission, and their client isn’t happy. When Drift’s second-in-command is taken hostage, they’re forced to raise the funds to get her back. Publisher’s Weekly recently gave the book a star rating, saying that the action is fantastic, and that Brooks has assembled a great group of characters.
City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty
S.A. Chakraborty’s debut novel is the first of her Daevabad trilogy, set in Cairo in the 18th century. A young woman named Nahri makes her living with palm readings and other tricks, but is forced to question her beliefs when she accidentally summons a djinn warrior named Dara. He tells her that magic is real and powerful, and that she’s been threatened by an evil djinn. She must make the long and treacherous journey to a mysterious and legendary city known as Daevabad, where she meets fantastic creatures and learns unexpected secrets about her heritage. Kirkus Reviews gave the book a star rating, calling it a “highly impressive and exceptionally promising” novel.
Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson
Oathbringer is the third installment of Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series. After the events of the last book, the ancient enemy of humanity — the Voidbringers — have returned, and the only ones who can save the planet are the recently restored magical order of the Knights Radiant. If you can’t wait for the book, Tor.com is posting the first 32 chapters of the novel online. Sanderson has seven more installments planned, and China-based DMG Entertainment has optioned the series to build a massive film franchise and has been using VR to pitch the project to prospective buyers.
Creatures of Will and Temper by Molly Tanzer
Molly Tanzer’s latest novel is set in a Victorian-era world, inspired in part by The Picture of Dorian Gray. Evadne Gray and her younger sister Dorina travel to London to stay with their uncle, Basil Hallward, who grieves for his deceased lover. Evadne would rather focus on fencing than watch her headstrong sister, but the pair are soon drawn into a secret underworld populated by demons and diabolists. Only Evadne’s skills as a fencer can save them. Publisher’s Weekly says that Tanzer’s “gorgeously portrayed three-dimensional characters and sensual prose propel this smoothly entertaining story to an emotionally affecting end.”
Beyond the Empire by K.B. Wagers
K.B Wager’s Indranan War series comes to an end with Beyond the Empire. Following the assassination of her parentsand sisters, former gunrunner and smuggler Hail Bristolhas returned home to become the Empress of the Indranan Empire, fending off attempts to remove her from the throne. Now, the empire is under attack from all sides, and she’s prepared to defend it with all-out war. Publisher’s Weekly gave the book a star review, saying that it’s a “satisfyingly thunderous end to Hail’s quest for vengeance.”
Artemis by Andy Weir
Andy Weir scored an incredible hit with his debut novel The Martian, which was then turned into a major blockbuster movie. That’s a tall order to top with his second novel, Artemis, a crime thriller set on the moon. The story follows Jazz Bashara, a smuggler on the moon’s only city, Artemis. When she’s hired by a billionaire to commit some sabotage, she finds herself drawn into a bigger plot for the future of the city.
At San Diego Comic-Con, Weir told The Verge that it was pretty scary to follow up The Martian, but said that he hoped people would find it to be a good read.
Winter of Ice and Iron by Rachel Neumeier
In Rachel Neumeier’s new epic fantasy novel, Princess Kehara Raehema is the heir to the throne in the peaceful land of Harivir. To save her people, she reluctantly marries a brutal ruler from a neighboring land, to ensure that her land is safe. Hundreds of miles away, Innisth Eanete, the Wolf Duke of Pohorir, dreams of freeing his own people, and when Kehara arrives, there’s an unexpected opportunity for both to save their worlds. Publisher’s Weekly gave the book a star review, saying that it’s a tense story that “focus[es] on its characters and the implications of its worldbuilding.”
Starfire: Shadow Sun Seven by Spencer Ellsworth
In August, Spencer Ellsworth published Starfire: A Red Peace, a military science fiction novella about a half-breed human star navigator named Jaqi who accidentally acquires an artifact that gets her targeted by the leader of a revolution. In the next installment of the series, Jaqi and her companions Araskar and Z are on the run from everyone. With a bounty on their heads, they have one card to play to earn their freedom: they know where to find a supply of desperately-needed pure oxygen cells. Getting help from some unlikely allies, they get ready to break into a facility on the edge of the Dark Zone.
Mass Effect: Initiation by N.K. Jemisin
Earlier this year, Titan Books announced that it was bringing on an exciting new group of authors to pen tie-in novels for the Mass Effect franchise, including Hugo–winner N.K. Jemisin. Mass Effect: Initiation follows Lieutenant Cora Harper, part of the Asari commando unit Talein’s Daughters. She finds herself out of place on Earth and ends up joining the Andromeda Initiative — a massive colonization project that will bring humanity to the Andromeda Galaxy — as Alec Ryder’s second-in-command. When a piece of essential and dangerous technology goes missing, it’s up to her to recover it. Jemisin is the author of the brilliant Broken Earth trilogy, and I’m excited to see what she does with this world.
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