The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of August

Best science fiction and fantasy of AugustWith the solar eclipse yesterday, the Hugo Awards announced last week, and the Game of Thrones season finale airing on August 27, August is proving to be stuffed with goodness for sci-fi and fantasy fans.

And...August brings great new books, too! Read on for our top five picks, and click here to see all our selections for the best science fiction and fantasy books of the month.


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The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin - If you've ever had that feeling of utter satisfaction at completing a glorious book  mixed with grief that it's ended--and you enjoyed that feeling--then do read Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy. Now complete with the publication of book three, The Stone Sky, this series throws a lot at you: strange magics, split communities, fierce rivalries, and a recurring sense that history too often repeats itself even when we know better. The first two books in the series won Hugo Awards for best novel, and while awards can be hard to predict, The Stone Sky will certainly be in the running to give Jemisin a Hugo hat trick.

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Secondborn by Amy A. Bartol - As someone who is firstborn, I definitely see and acknowledge the benefits of that position. In Bartol's YA sci-fi novel, secondborns join the military between the ages of ten and eighteen and are immediately stripped of their family name and all kinds of rights (including reproduction). Only if the firstborn of your house dies--or if you can win the Hunger Games-like annual battle that pits secondborns against each other--will you escape a short, tough life. Our heroine Roselle St. Sismode, the secondborn in her family that's highly placed in the government, becomes a chess piece among various factions who dislike her mother and don't trust her firstborn brother. But Roselle is playing her own game with a bigger goal in mind. Yes, there are parts that are predictable, and Roselle herself could use more substance, but it's a gripping story nonetheless and a good match for readers who like Sarah J. Maas's Court of Thorns and Roses books and Kendare Blake's Three Dark Crowns.

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Battlefront II: Inferno Squad (Star Wars) by Christie Golden - Give Lucasfilm and their authors credit: Even after they've crafted some of the most notorious villains in pop culture, they aren't afraid to plunk you into the bad guys' shoes to show you that we're all human (or aliens with real feelings) underneath the armor and swishy cloaks. That's not to say that Inferno Squad, centered on an elite Imperial fighting force that infiltrates the extremists once led by Saw Gerrera, glorifies being bad. Heroism and doing the right thing is still important in this novel; it's simply that the "right" thing is often a matter of perspective. This novel is a setup to the upcoming Battlefront II video game, but it stands strong on its own as another nuanced, satisfying story set during troubled times and Death Stars.

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The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley - Who knew that the British Empire's need for quinine in order to solidify its hold on India could be so fascinating? Pulley sends her broken protagonist, Merrick, into unmapped parts of Peru on a mission to smuggle out quinine trees. During his expedition, Merrick is brought by his native guide, Raphael, to a community in which statues move, magic is practiced, and secrets simmer beneath the surface. You'll have to have patience with this lovely novel, as character and atmosphere wins out over action, but it's an immersive, strange story that will linger in your imagination for a long while.

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The Punch Escrow by Tal M. Klein - [Start rant:] I usually cannot stand it when an author liberally poppyseeds a book with footnotes meant to explain things to the reader. I can figure stuff out on my own, thank-you-very-much, or perhaps its not worth figuring out anyway if it's unimportant enough to be relegated to small type at the bottom of the page. [End rant.] But Klein does it less annoyingly than most... and all that doesn't matter anyway once you get past the first bits and learn exactly why Joel Byram being teleported--and accidentally duplicated--is a Very Bad Thing. Fun and zippy, this is a good read for those who like a bold dose of hard science to give weight to an otherwise effervescent book. And if you finish The Punch Escrow and want more teleportation adventures, try Peter Clines' The Fold.


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