Upfront, I have to admit that there’s not a whole lot of science fiction on this shortlist of best books of September. But don’t worry, SF fans—I already have several science fiction books earning spots on my best-of-the-month list for October. And for the readers whose taste runs more to fantasy or speculative fiction, this list below has a lot for you to love. (Those who like their SF or fantasy covers in a color other than black will also enjoy the list, if only for aesthetic reasons.)
Ninth City Burning by J. Patrick Black – A little bit of patience is required at the beginning of Black’s debut science fiction novel. There are several fully-painted characters (most in their teens) to be introduced to, and their patches of the world are so different from one another’s that there were times when I wondered if they were on the same planet or living in the same time period. But the plot lines finally intertwine and then grow vastly more complicated as the threat to the planet is revealed to our heroes, and all pitch in to train for battle against the alien invaders, who have mysteriously begun to change their combat tactics. Immersive and entertaining, this standalone novel gives you a lot to chew on.
The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst – Worldbuilding is the strong core of this first book in the Queens of Renthia series. The power struggle between humans and the malicious spirits is quelled only by the will of the queen, and the danger to humanity is so strong that dozens of heirs are trained to replace the queen should she die.
The Queen of Blood centers on Daleina, a young woman whose entire village was slaughtered by malicious spirits when she was a child, and whose ability to control the spirits seems much less than her fellow heirs-in-training. As Deleina grows in strength once she’s out of the academy and training among the villages, she learns of treachery at the very heart of the court. The pace of this coming-of-age epic can sometime plod, but the land and its tensions is so mesmerizing that you’ll be pulled right through to the ferocious finale.
The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp – A completely unputdownable tome that’s as laugh-out-loud funny as it is terrifying,
The Last Days of Jack Sparks modernizes the classic exorcism tale with omnipresent social media and heaps of millennial existentialism. Arnopp keeps the pages turning with a great voice, plenty of trope inversions, and some nice big, hooks right from the opening pages.
(Review written by Matt Fyffe)
The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman – This marvelously fun steampunk-esque novel is the high-action sequel to
The Invisible Library, which also made our best-of-the-month list earlier this year. After her assistant, Kai, is kidnapped by the Fae, the ever-resourceful Librarian Irene has to use all her spycraft and smarts (and her butt-kicking skills) to rescue him, even if it means risking starting a war between the Fae and the dragons…or exile from the Library forever. Best to start with
The Invisible Library before launching into
The Masked City, and the good news is that you only have to wait until January 2017 for the next book,
The Burning Page.
Curioddity by Paul Jenkins – Jenkins deftly places the reader in Wil Morgan’s world, a place initially dominated by the mundane nature of everyday life but, by the end, brimming with wonder and delight gained through the power of imagination and “un-looking.” The story is buoyed by an entertaining supporting cast and leaves the reader eager for more adventures with Wil, his road rage-ful girlfriend, Lucy, and his smart (aleck) phone assistant, SARA.
(Review written by Matt Fyffe)
The month’s full best-of list includes the final book in Cixin Liu’s Three-Body Trilogy, Death’s End; Alan Moore’s epic (and either utterly pretentious or utterly brilliant—though the writing is gorgeous whichever decision you make) novel Jerusalem; and a thoroughly modern and brightly voiced retelling of a Russian folktale, Vassa in the Night. You can see the full list here.
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- Announcing the National Book Awards’ Longlists for Fiction and Nonfiction
- 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books to Read in a Lifetime
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