15 science fiction and fantasy books to check out this March
Clashes in space, space battles, and dystopian states
Welcome to March.
There are two belated entries that I missed for the February list that I meant to include (I had them marked down as March books, but it turns out I put them in the wrong month): the first is Namina Forna’s The Gilded Ones , a new fantasy about a young woman who undergoes a ritual to become a member of her village, only to have it go wrong, indicating that she’s impure. She’s given a choice: she can accept her fate, or join an army of other women like her.
The other is Nicky Drayden’s Symbiosis, her sequel to 2019’s Escaping Exodus. That one’s set a thousand years from now in which humans live in giant, space-faring creatures called Zenzee. The creatures are endangered, but leader Doka Kaleigh has led his people well, and his success is starting to fray as his rivals close in on his command, especially after they’re forced to take on refugees from another Zenzee.
Here are 15 science fiction and fantasy books to check out this month.
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Machinehood by S.B. Divya
In the year 2095, a bodyguard named Welga Ramirez sees her client killed before her at the hands of a terror group known as The Machinehood. In this future, technical augments, enhancement drugs, and implants are the norm, and the attack is a coordinated strike against the manufacturers who create those enhancements. The attack pulls Welga into a US government operation to try and track down the nature of the pro-AI group as the world succumbs to panic.
Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying that “Divya keeps the pace rapid, and her crack worldbuilding and vivid characters make for a memorable, page-turning adventure, while the thematic inquiries into human and AI labor rights offer plenty to chew on for fans of big idea sci-fi.”
Listen to an excerpt here.
Star Wars: Victory’s Price by Alexander Freed
The final installment of the Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron trilogy sees Yrica Quell's returning to the Imperial remnant’s forces, forcing the remaining members of Alphabet Squadron to figure things out. Meanwhile, Imperial pilot Soran Keize has returned to Shadow Wing as the remains of the Empire continue to undertake Operation Cinder, a genocidal campaign to undermine the New Republic’s victory, and it’s up to the squadron to help save the day.
Read an excerpt here, here, here, and here.
The High-Rise Diver by Julia von Lucadou (translated by Sharmila Cohen)
In this dystopian future (translated from German), Riva Karnovsky is an elite athlete — a “high-rise diver” with millions of fans, renowned for her death-defying stunts jumping off of skyscrapers. When she abruptly breaks her contract and refuses to continue with her training, those invested in her career bring in psychologist Hitomi Yoshida to help nudge her back into performing. Riva’s unaware of Hitomi’s efforts to monitor and manipulations, and he becomes increasingly desperate she goes further out of control.
Kirkus Reviews describes the book as becoming “increasingly horrifying as it becomes clearer that this society’s expectation of excellence leaves no room for emotions, error, or deviance from the behavior that will most please corporations—indeed, there is no room to be human.”
Read an excerpt here.
A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine
Arkady Martine’s A Memory Called Empire was one of my favorite reads of 2019, and it ended up winning the Hugo Award for Best Novel last year. It introduced a world where a galactic empire summons an ambassador from a distant station after her predecessor mysteriously dies.
In this sequel, the Teixcalaanli Empire faces off against a new threat — an alien fleet that nobody can contact or destroy, and a fleet captain sends out Mahit Dzmare and Three Seagrass to try and communicate with the entity, to try and save the empire from destruction.
Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying that “Martine’s aliens are viscerally unsettling and utterly believable, and she deploys them masterfully to underscore themes of colonization, assimilation, and cultural violence. This complex, stunning space opera promises to reshape the genre.”
Read an excerpt here and here.
2034: A Novel of the Next World War by Elliot Ackerman and Admiral James Stavridis
I’m a big fan of military fiction, especially stuff that’s close to the horizon when it comes to predicting the future, like P.W. Singer and August Cole’s Ghost Fleet. This new novel comes from Elliot Ackerman and Admiral James Stavridis, and is set nearly a decade from now, chronicling how a world war between the US and China might occur.
I’ve been reading an advance copy of this, and it’s a chilling read, one that looks at the plausible future when it comes to cybersecurity, military hardware, and geopolitics.
Wired devoted an entire issue to an excerpt of the novel, which includes the first six chapters.
The Bone Maker by Sarah Beth Durst
Standalone fantasy novels are always welcome, given the number of sprawling series that are out there. Sarah Beth Durst’s latest is an epic fantasy where magicians are able to reanimate bones. A quarter of a century ago, a band of heroes took down an evil magician named Eklor, who created a massive bone army. They won, but their victory was hard-fought, and they lost many of their friends.
After the battle, their leader, Kreya, went into a self-imposed exile to try and resurrect her husband, Jentt, who died in the battle. Using human bones is taboo and forbidden, but it’s the only way to bring him back, and she and her former comrades journey back to the battlefield to try and get what she needs. There, they discover a horrifying secret, and must bring her former allies back together to stop evil from rising again.
We Shall Sing a Song into the Deep by Andrew Kelly Stewart
In this debut novella, a young woman named Remy was rescued from land by the cultish crew of a aging nuclear submarine called the Leviathan. They have a singular goal: bring about the Second Coming. When the submarine’s leader — known as a caplain — bestows Remy a vital tool upon his deathbed, the key to the sub’s nuclear payload — she has to keep it safe, even as his successor wants to unleash nuclear armageddon.
But when they bring aboard a new prisoner, he throws doubt on their mission and purpose. Publishers Weekly says that “Stewart skillfully melds the specters of nuclear apocalypse and religious fanaticism with a story of survival, and orchestrates a surprising twist that will reorder readers’ understanding of this world.”
Read an excerpt.
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The Blue-Spangled Blue by David Bowles
David Bowles kicks off a space opera series, The Path with his latest, The Blue-Spangled Blue. Set in the far future, the former corporate world of Jitsu was once humanity’s center in the stars, but it’s been left isolated for nearly a century, where it’s been governed by a theocratic government.
Now reopening to the rest of human space, a teacher named Brando D’Angelo arrives on the planet, where he’s drawn to the teachings of an architect, Tenshi Koroma, who seeks to bring about a new religious movement on the world, one that will have a profound effect on his identity and the future of the humanity.
Firefly: Life Signs by James Lovegrove
The fifth and latest installment in the growing Firefly spinoff series is set in the months after Inara leaves Serenity, and the crew of the ship soon learns why she’s abruptly left: she has an incurable form of cancer, and despite the odds, the crew tracks down someone who can help: Expert Esau Weng, who might be able to treat the Companion. But there’s a wrinkle: Weng is imprisoned on the planet Atata, a frozen prison planet, which the crew will have to infiltrate to save their friend.
Skyward Inn by Aliya Whiteley
When humanity encountered the alien Qita, it went to war, which came to a quick end when we invaded their homeworld. Back on Earth, a small part of England broke away — the Western Protectorate — opting to live in a pre-industrial existence, away from the complicated world that exists around them. In the Western Protectorate is the Skyward Inn, run by two veterans from the Qita War, Jem (a human), and Isley (a Qitan). When an alien visitor arrives, it sets off a chain reaction that threatens to overturn their peaceful existence and everything they knew about the conflict.
Publishers Weekly says that “Literary sci-fi readers with a taste for family drama will enjoy this molasses-slow, deeply weird story of missed chances, invasion, and assimilation.”
Read an excerpt.
Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner
John Brunner’s classic New Wave science fiction novel Stand on Zanzibar gets a re-release as part of Tor’s Essentials Edition series. Set in a futuristic world in which Brunner explores the ramifications of the future through an innovative series of vignettes, worldbuilding, chapters and more.
Read an excerpt.
The Fall of Koli by M.R. Carey
M.R. Carey brings his Rampart trilogy to a close with The Fall of Koli, set in a distant, post-apocalyptic future. Earth has been reformed by climate change and war, with humanity huddling in sheltered villages surrounded by new and dangerous trees. When Koli Woodsmith discovered an ancient device, he was exiled by his village, and embarked to find a long-lost city, London.
In this final installment, he and his allies had been seeking out the source of a signal that’s been guiding them: a ship called the Sword of Albion, trying to find a way to combat the natural world around them. But they discover that the ship has deadly secrets from the distant past, and have to contend with its ramifications for their future.
Listen to an excerpt.
The Two-Faced Queen by Nick Martell
In Nick Martell’s debut novel, Michael Kingsman’s father murdered the king’s nine-year-old son, forcing his family into exile, and him into a life of petty crime. While striking back at royals was cathartic, he jumped at the chance to return to the royal court when an opportunity opened up by a political rival, in which he discovered some deadly secrets that could change his world.
In this sequel, the king is dead, and a power struggle looms in The Hollows. His daughter and heir is about to ascend to the throne, and while she believes that Michael killed her father, she’s forced to enter into an arrangement with him: help her stave off a growing rebellion, and she’ll believe his claims that he wasn’t involved.
Kirkus Reviews hails the series and gave the book a starred review, calling it “a masterclass in grand-scale storytelling. The future of epic fantasy is here—and this saga is it.”
Requiem Moon by C.T. Rwizi
C.T. Rwizi follows up from last year’s Scarlet Odyssey with a new sequel, Requiem Moon, set in a fantastical Africa where a young man, Salo, discovers that he has magical powers — powers usually wielded by women — and embarks on a quest.
In this followup, Salo’s queen has accepted his status as a mythic, despite the taboo, and dispatches him to the Red Temple for a pilgrimage. He’s stopped by a magical barrier, and is forced to help Princess Isa, the leader of the Saire clan, to steal an artifact from the temple to help unite her people. Publishers Weekly calls it “Wakanda meets Warhammer 40,000.”
A Broken Darkness by Premee Mohamed
In Beneath The Rising, Nick Prasad’s best friend and inventor Joanna ‘Johnny’ Chambers develops a new type of energy source that promises to bring the world clean energy. In doing so, she accidentally unleashes an ancient, Lovecraftian evil that threatens all of humanity, setting the two on a path to try and save the world.
A year and a half later, Nick has joined a secret organization, the Ssarati Society, and his work trying to protect humanity has put him in the awkward position of trying to save Earth from Johnny — especially after her latest experiment opens up new portals that once again threaten the planet.
Read an excerpt here.
As always, thank you for reading! I’m always excited to hear what you are reading, so let me know in the comments what you’ve got on your TBR pile, and what titles on this list catch your eye.
Subscribers should expect another post later this week about the Syfy channel’s series Defiance, and there’ll be another regular roundup at the end of the week.
Have a good one!
I was really deeply unsatisfied with the second Alphabet Squadron book. Yrica's return to the Imperials just felt so... stupid, IMO and I was ready to give up on the series. I'll probably muscle through the third book just to see what happens, at least.
This month I'm re-reading Meg Cabot's Mediator series in anticipation of the upcoming Netflix film!