Few moments are as magical as finding a new author whose work weaves into your thoughts and dreams long after you've finished reading his or her book.
To help you achieve this experience, seven science fiction and fantasy authors—some award-winning veterans and some newcomers themselves—tell us which new books by up-and-coming writers have captured their imaginations.
Read on for recommendations by Terry Brooks, Elizabeth Bonesteel, Seanan McGuire, Greg Bear, Michael J. Sullivan, K.B. Wagers, and Genevieve Cogman.
MICHAEL J. SULLIVAN
Sci-fi and fantasy readers should rejoice as new voices are providing plenty to get excited about: Dawn of Wonder by Jonathan Renshaw, The Devourers by Indra Das, All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, Free the Darkness by Kel Kade, The Shadow of What Was Lost by James Islington, Path of Flames by Phil Tucker, Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee, and The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis. If I have to shine a spotlight on just one, it would be The Last One by Alexandra Oliva. It’s an incredibly compelling premise: During the filming of a survivor reality show, a pandemic decimates the population. We follow our protagonist as she wanders through a wasteland she perceives as staged production settings, knowing what she doesn’t—that there is no safety net, and the dangers she faces are real and deadly. I found a lot to like in this debut novel that showed many techniques usually demonstrated by seasoned writers. If this is how Alexandra starts her career, I’m expecting a bright future for her and many good reads to look forward to.
Michael J. Sullivan's newest series-starter is Age of Myth (June 2016).
One of the books that I’m most looking forward to in 2017 is Gilded Cage by Vic James. I was lucky enough to get an ARC [advance reading copy] of this novel, and I strongly recommend it. The author gently but deftly shows a nightmarish alternate world where the magical rule, and where the non-magical have no rights: “slavedays” are an automatic and accepted part of normal life, to the extent that people even try to plan their careers and education around them. For everyone who’s daydreamed about being magical in an alternate world… this is what happens when you’re one of the ones who hasn’t drawn the lucky card. Releases in the UK on January 26, 2017, and in the US on February 14, 2017.
Genevieve Cogman's most recent Invisible Library novel is The Burning Page (January 2017).
One of the pleasures of fine fantasy is the immersive worldbuilding. In The Weaver, Emmi Itäranta drops the reader into another world with such skill that even as you recognize its strangeness, it feels completely familiar. Against the fantastic backdrop, the story is compellingly human: a woman who has rebelled quietly throughout her life finds herself pulled further and further into a situation where quiet rebellion is no longer enough. This is an evocative and personal tale of resistance and survival, and exactly the sort of story that needs telling right now. Itäranta has been (rightly) compared to LeGuin, but her talent with character and gorgeous, effortless prose is very much her own. This is one to read more than once.
In November, Elizabeth Bonesteel released her second Central Corps novel, Remnants of Trust.
Nisi Shawl’s novel, Everfair, is rooted in a darker history—Verne meets Joseph Conrad—and puts us into the hideous mix of the Congo at the turn of the century, with very different mood and conclusions, but just as much clever invention, plus a lot of famous people making timely appearances.
These two books do the genre proud, and deserve to be read back to back.
Greg Bear recently concluded his War Dogs trilogy with Take Back the Sky (December 2016).
From demon cupcakes to an ending that more than satisfies, Sara Kuhn's Heroine Complex is a delightful symphony that hits all the rights notes in the urban fantasy/superhero genre. Her cast of characters are a much needed breath of air: complex, dynamic personalities without the usual tropes. She made me want to read urban fantasy again, something that hasn't piqued my interest for a while. I am really looking forward to more of Kuhn's hilarious one-liners and fantastic attention to detail as the series continues.
After the Crown (December 2016) is the second book in K.B. Wager's Indranan War science fiction series.
If you don’t read anything else in fantasy for the coming year, read The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. This is the author’s first book, but you wouldn’t know it from the exquisite prose or the complex, engaging story. A folk tale which suggests various Russian myths and legends, it remains nevertheless a unique work. I was reminded of another recent story of folklorish influence, Naomi Novik’s Uprooted. I think you will find Katherine Arden’s book stands up to the comparison. This is a delightful, joyous and bittersweet read that you will not soon forget.
Terry Brooks launches the four-book conclusion to his famous Shannara series with The Black Elfstone (June 2017).
I read a lot of books. My to-be-read pile weighs as much as any three adult humans, and I'm usually reading three to four of those books at any given time, in self-defense. So hitting a book that actually causes me to narrow my focus and devote all my attention to it is, well, stunning. And that word applies to Winter Tide, by Ruthanna Emrys, with uncomfortable aptness. She's published short fiction, and is currently hosting a vast Mythos re-read over at Tor.com, but this is her first novel.
The Cthulhu Mythos is the work of diverse hands: without August Derleth, without Clark Ashton Smith, it would be a very different, and in many ways less rich, creation. I honestly feel like the name Ruthanna Emrys is going to be added to that list by scholars writing about the whole tangled cosmology. She writes with a bright, fierce, beautiful love for her subject material, turning gods and monsters on their ears, and giving us a new way to enter a world that was at times as exclusionary as it was compelling. I am still a little bit stunned. She's so good. She's going to go so far.
Seanan McGuire is the author of the October Daye, InCryptid, Wayward Children, and Velveteen series. Her next InCryptid book is Magic for Nothing (March 2017).
You might also like:
- The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of January: Our Top 5 Picks
- Best of 2016: Science Fiction and Fantasy
Sign up for the Amazon Book Review: Best books of the month * author interviews * the reading life * and more