This is a crazy month for science fiction and fantasy books. There’s a new Robert J. Sawyer mind-bender, and Catherynne M. Valente’s last fairyland book. Plus alternate histories, fairytales, magical realism, and tons more. These are all the most unmissable science fiction books in March.
As you'd expect with sci-fi, there’s not a lot of sequels and series books in here—unless it’s a particularly long-awaited installment and/or either the first or last book in a series.
You may be familiar with the beloved anime series about the war between two galactic empires—but you probably haven’t read the books it was based on. In this novel by the Japanese science fiction giant, the general Reinhard von Lohengramm seeks to overthrow the old order and become a dictator, but only the Free Planets Alliance, led by Yang Wen-li, stands in his way. Cue galaxy-sized battles and schemes.
Daniel Abraham is one half of James S.A. Corey, the author of the Expanse book series. But in his spare time, this prolific author also writes the Dagger and the Coin epic fantasy books, and here’s the fifth and final volume. Can three people who are surrounded by hostile armies on all sides bring a lasting peace using a complicated financial scheme? It’ll be fun to watch them try.
Sarah has her whole life ahead of her—until she gets a case of food poisoning in the food court and dies. Soon she’s trapped in the mall with a group of other newly dead teens, forced to work together to stop Sarah’s stepmother killing her father. But the last thing Sarah expected to find after death was... love? lKirkus calls it “quirky” and “romantic.”
And here’s another finale, this time to an epic fantasy trilogy. Long Fist is leading the Urghul army to the remains of the Annurian empire—but the Annurian general Ran il Tornja has a plan to destroy Long Fist, who’s the living embodiment of the god of pain, along with the courtesan who embodies the goddess of pleasure. If il Tornja suceeds, he can wipe out most of the human race. Kirkus gives it a starred review, and Fantasy Faction says, “make room on your ‘all time favorites’ shelf.”
We loved de Abaitua’s Red Men, and now he’s back with a book that Barnes & Noble says might be the year’s most mind-boggling science fiction novel. Once again, de Abaitua is dealing with weirdly monstrous artificial intelligences—this time, an event called the Seizure has given rise to super-A.I.s, which have exiled themselves to an orbit around the sun out of horror at the devastation they’ve caused. Except that some A.I.s decide to monitor a boy named Theo from birth to death. And Theo’s a nervous wreck.
A human ship hits the fairy queen when she’s out at sea, and her baby daughter (her heir) perishes in the polluted water. So the fairies launch a war against humanity, embedding fairie changelings in human society, including the “black diamonds,” who are basically fairie eco-terrorists. The Washington Post calls this “a modern fairytale that mixes the thrum of legend with potent questions about the environment,” adding that “there are lovely subtle touches in this novel.”
In the dystopian future, San Angeles stretches from San Diego to San Francisco, and motorcycle courier Kris Ballard handles materials too sensitive to send via regular email or whatever.
Until she makes a delivery to an office with a fresh corpse, and she’s marked for death. Kirkus says it’s flawed but has “intriguing possibilities.”
The author of the acclaimed A Stranger in Olondria is back with another book, set in the same world. Tav is a teenage girl from Olondria’s most exalted bloodline, who runs away to become a swordmaiden in the army—but then she realizes that the war is just a distraction to allow her family to seize power in the neighboring kingdom. Kirkus praises the incredible depth of the world-building and calls this book, “A lyrical immersion into a finely wrought world.”
This hard science fiction writer is back with another epic—this time, a huge generational story that starts with a legendary science fiction author, Nathan Arkwright, deciding that he wants to help create the future he wrote about. The story goes from the 1930s to the far future. Our own Andrew Liptak says, “Arkwright is a great read, and one that wears its love for genre fiction proudly.”
Here’s the first book in a brand new space opera series! Woo! Treiko Zajec is a retired starship captain who finds an intriguing connection with Elena Shaw, the chief engineer on a government starship—but the two of them stumble on a scheme to foment unrest in the galaxy. Publishers Weekly says, “The headlong action will attract readers, but they’ll find themselves paying more attention to the characters’ convincing and satisfying emotional relationships.”
This book almost needs no introduction—Ken Liu’s award-winning short stories were legendary, even before he wrote the acclaimed The Grace of Kings. [Full disclosure: We share an agent.] The title story in this book was the first to win the Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Awards, and we actually published the whole thing at io9, for your reading pleasure. These are stories that make you think and feel, including “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species,” “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary” and “Mono No Aware.”
A new sword-and-sorcery debut—a young orphan named Amarta can see the future, a gift which enables her and her younger sister to survive on their own in a hostile world. But when she gives a stranger the answers he seeks about the future, she gets dragged into a deadly dynastic succession struggle. Publishers Weekly says this book’s characters are too slow on the uptake, but praises the “charming” side characters who are so much fun, they “threaten to steal the show.”
Millie Baker loses her legs in a failed suicide attempt, and then she’s recruited to the mysterious Arcadia Project—which turns out to be about dealing with fairies. Soon, she’s dealing with the case of a missing fey, which threatens to incite a war between humans and fairies. To make matters more surreal, all of this is transpiring in Hollywood. Tor.com calls this book “thrilling and glamorous,” plus “dark and creeping and smart as a whip.”
We’ve been blown away lately by some of the fresh, diverse takes on Western novels that have come out—but here’s one that sounds wild in a whole new way. A mash-up of classic Western tropes with 1001 Nights, this novel features a 16-year-old girl gunslinger named Amani Al’Hiza who sneaks out disguised as a boy and enters a sharpshooter competition at the local saloon, the Dusty Mouth. But soon she’s encountering all manner of terrifying fantasy creatures. The Guardian says there’s “a freshness in the way Hamilton weaves together familiar fantasy tropes in Rebel of the Sands that strongly appeals.”
This band of mercenaries used to be legendary killers, who spread fear wherever they went. But now their careers are over and they’re scattered to the four winds—and someone is hunting them down and killing them, one by one. Just when they thought they were out... Selby has come up with an interesting version of magic, that’s entirely based on plants, as he explains here.
Valente’s fairyland books became a crowdfunding sensation, and then set the publishing world on fire. And now she’s concluding the series with a story in which September must compete against all the former Queens of Fairyland, even the dead ones, to find the heart of fairyland. Along the way, she faces octopus assassins and combat wombats. Michael Berry, writing in the Portland Press Herald, says that the whimsy may be too much for some people, but “those tuned to the author’s idiosyncratic wavelength will be happy with how she brings the series to its conclusion.”
In 14th century Ireland, a power struggle unfolds, involving fairies and half-angel Nephilim, and an assassin from the Vatican is determined to cover up the truth about what’s going on. Tompkins mixes real-life historical figures with Irish mythology about the Sidhe, and the result is a heady brew. Publishers Weekly says, “Tompkins combines deft characterization with treachery, battle, magic, and hints of Dan Brown.” But Kirkus says it’s “slow going,” and the Chicago Review of Books calls it “lukewarm.”
I love the concept behind this book—it sucks to be a fairytale princess. You’re cursed to fall into a dreamless sleep on your 18th birthday. Mostly, this means a long nap until your true love wakes you up with a kiss—but poor Elena was given a sleeping curse with no escape clause, meaning nothing can wake her once she hits eighteen. That doesn’t stop a clueless prince from trying to activate her curse early, so he can be the one to wake her up. Can her undead godfather and her magic mirror therapist help her?
Here’s another end to a series—the Ascendant Kingdoms saga ends with this book, in which Blaine McFadden has to save the kingdom of Donderath from magical threats One Last Time.
But this time, there’s an unstoppable dark mage and some terrifying immortals trying to ruin everybody’s day.
Here’s a quasi-sequel to Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, in which Japan won World War II—and now, it’s the 1980s, and there are giant mechs! And a subversive video game is taking hold. Read our interview with Tieryas here. (Also, Tieryas is going to be reading from this book on Saturday at my San Francisco literary night, Writers With Drinks.)
In this followup to Fallon’s Hythrun Chronicles, a princess is on a quest for a stolen lyre that contains the essence of the god of music. But meanwhile, can she avoid being forced to marry a barbarian warlord, while her evil brother takes the throne and wreaks havoc?
The Examiner says Fallon “has a knack for epic fantasy storytelling.”
Oyeyemi won praise and renown for her earlier book, Boy, Snow, Bird. And now she’s got her first short story collection, containing odd fairytales that all share a theme of keys. There’s a living puppet named Rowan, a baby with the key to a garden around its neck, a dystopian weight-loss clinic, and more. The Miami Herald says, “For faithful readers, being granted access to these inventive and ambitious stories is a bit like receiving a gift, one full of strange and private wonders.” Entertainment Weekly praises the “mastery” in her writing. And the Chicago Tribune says, “Rarely is it such a pleasure to read an author so intent on pleasing only herself.”
It’s been way, way too long since Robert J. Sawyer unleashed one of his thought-provoking high-concept books on us. And this time, he’s asking deep questions about the nature of consciousness. Publishers Weekly gives Quantum Night a starred review, and says “it balances esoteric speculation with action and character.” James Marchuk realizes he can’t remember huge chunks of his past—and discovers that he was part of an experiment that turned him from passive bystander to psychopath. He’s since gained a conscience—but the majority of the human race are mindless zombies, controlled by a handful of psychopaths who are in danger of destroying the world.
This story originally appeared on io9.