Virtual reality that masks a dead world, mediums speaking with WWI soldiers, N. K. Jemisin’s latest entry in her Broken Earth series, and a strange walk in the woods are all among the best science fiction and fantasy books of August.
The list of all ten books we selected for the best of the month can be found here, including new novels from Faith Hunter and China Miéville.
Here are six titles of particular note:
Machinations by Hayley Stone – Imagine Sarah Connor leads the rebellion against the machines after Judgment Day, she and her band of ragtag warriors are making their last stand in Alaska, and then she’s killed…and comes back from the dead as a clone. Now substitute "Rhona Long" for "Sarah Connor" you have an idea of what this riveting postapocalyptic novel is about. As much a meditation on leadership and self as it is a gun-rattling action SF novel,
Machinations satisfies on multiple levels.
The Dragon Lords by Jon Hollins – A glorious chucklefest that pokes fun at some of our most cherished epic fantasy tropes, including the dangerous dragon, the hard-hearted mercenary, and the noble farmer. If you need a palate cleanser between serious fantasy novels or are just looking good-spirited fun,
The Dragon Lords is the book for you.
Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal – In Kowal’s alternate history, World War I British soldiers are trained to take note of their surroundings upon their deaths and, in their ghostly form, report their news back to the mediums in the Spirit Corps so that Britain can change its tactics accordingly. When the top-secret Spirit Corps is in danger of being revealed to the other side by a traitor in the know, medium and American heiress Ginger Stuyvesant must investigate even those at the highest levels. Part ghost story, part war story, and part mystery,
Ghost Talkers breaks a new path in the heavily-trod alternate history field.
The Hike by Drew Magary – This fantastical novel has gotten a lot of love from SF readers here. When a father of three goes on a hike in the woods, the journey twists and turns through hilarity and horror as Ben tries to find his way home. Videogames and fairy tales bend reality into a trippy, bizarre tale perfect for those with a skewed sense of humor and a leaning toward instrospection.
The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin – Jemisin follows
The Fifth Season—a finalist for both the Nebula Awards and Hugo Awards—with this sequel in which the characters must learn to better harness their powers to stop the destruction of the world. Readers who love world-building that mixes SF and fantasy should jump into this complex, fascinating series, but do start with
The Fifth Season.
Zen 12 by Kerri Hawkins – Garrett (also known as Zen 12) is a Guardian of the new virtual reality that everyone on Earth submerses themselves in after nuclear disaster made much of the planet unlivable—and also not worth living in unless you can overlay the Old West, Star Trek, or an Amish-style filter over your everyday life. Only Garrett remembers the world before virtual reality, and only she knows enough about the intersection between humanity and technology to hunt down a killer that cannot be identified by the grid. A haunting glimpse at what our future could be (even minus the apocalypse),
Zen 12 sometimes leans too heavily into explaining why things are the way they are and shies away from delving into why Garrett is the way she is, but its ending is startling and satisfying.
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