13 science fiction and fantasy books to pick up this January
A new year, a new stack for your TBR pile
2021 — a new year. Hopefully, you had a good weekend to test out these strange four numbers, and hopefully, they’ll be a little less chaotic than 2020 was. One thing’s for sure: there’ll always be books.
In case you missed it, here’s my recent list of the books that I’m broadly looking forward to in 2021, from January to November. That’s sort of the high-level view of the year, and this monthly roundup will focus on a more localized batch of titles hitting bookshelves.
I’m also going to try and focus these down a little — they’ve tended to run a little longer if I don’t rein myself in. So, here are 13 upcoming SF/F books hitting stores this month that you should check out.
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Star Wars: A Test of Courage by Justina Ireland
Lucasfilm is kicking off a new Star Wars multimedia series set hundreds of years before the events of the Skywalker Saga, and one of the first titles out of the gate is by author Justina Ireland, A Test of Courage. This one’s aimed at the middle grade audience, and will follow 16-year-old new Jedi Knight Vernestra Rwoh, who’s tasked with minding an inventor named Avon Starros while they head off to the dedication of a new station called Starlight Becon. There’s an attack, and they’re forced to land on a moon, where they’ll need to call on all their skills to survive.
Read an excerpt and an interview.
Persephone Station by Stina Leicht, January 5th
Set on Persephone Station, a planet out on the edges of space, this debut novel follows Rosie, a bartender/crime boss who is content to serve the outposts’s denizens at Monk’s Bar. They hire Angel de la Reza, former marine to help protect the planet as a Serrao-Orlov Corporation exec attempts a planetary takeover. Along with a team of mercenaries, they discover that there’s a deeper secret in the planet, which throws a wrinkle in their plans.
Read an excerpt.
After the Rain by Nnedi Okorafor, John Jennings, and David Brame
Abram ComicArts is launching a new line of graphic novels called Megascope, which’ll focus on speculative fiction and nonfiction from people of color. Its debut is a story from Nnedi Okorafor, an adaptation of her short story “On the Road”. A Nigerian-American woman visits her grandmother in Nigeria, who opens a door to find a young boy with a grievous head wound. His touch burns like fire, and she’s soon pulled into a supernatural world.
Star Wars: Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule
This month’s other big Star Wars release, also set in the High Republic franchise. Unlike Ireland’s book, this one’s aimed at adults, and seems to be the story designed to kick everything off: a huge disaster that devastates a planet. I’m reading it now, and it’s a decent read thus far.
The Effort by Claire Holroyde
When astronomers discover a comet coming toward Earth, they realize that it’s going to take drastic efforts to save humanity from a cataclysmic impact. In this debut novel, Claire Holroyde follows several characters in light of the situation: Dr. Ben Schwartz and his girlfriend Amy Kowalski, who join an international team to try and find solutions to deflect the asteroid, while a photographer in the Arctic and a woman in New York City contend with a society in panic.
Read some excerpts.
We Lie with Death by Devin Madson
In Devin Madson’s sequel to her novel We Ride the Storm, former Empress Miko Ts'ai works to try and save her empire from invasion, while the new Levanti emperor, Gideon e’Torin faces off against other rivals. Meanwhile, Levanti loyalist Captain Dishiva e'Jaroven finds herself caught within the power struggle, while a soldier, Rah e'Torin, fights to survive and return home.
Publishers Weekly says that the book “moves at breakneck speed, with frequent point of view changes propelling the plot forward. Far from just an in-between book, this immersive, action-packed fantasy is sure to please.”
The Unraveling by Benjamin Rosenbaum
In the distant future, advanced technologies mean that people throughout the galaxy have more than one body, privacy is a thing of the past, and families grow up in a rigid social structure. In this environment, Young Fift is a staid, and who works to maintain their position within their culture. That’s made more difficult because of a friendship that they maintain with Shria, a bioengineer. They begin to rebel against the cultural rules that hold them in place, and the two are forced to make some difficult choices: staying the course, or true to their feelings for one another.
Kindred, Fledgling, Collected Stories by Octavia Butler
Library of America issues its first collection of work from Octavia Butler, edited by Nisi Shawl and Gerry Canavan. This collection will include Butler’s novels Kindred and Fledgling, as well as a number of short stories and essays. (You can read up on some background to the volume here.)
The Forever Sea by Joshua Phillip Johnson
In this debut from Joshua Phillip Johnson, Kindred Greyreach is the hearthfire keeper aboard a ship known as The Errant, which sails on the world’s endless grass seas. Her world changes when the ship’s captain (and her grandmother) jumps overboard, leaving behind a note that says that she’s trying to find something, and Kindred must get the crew to go along with her as she seeks out a long-lost pirate base called Once-City. Publishers Weekly says that “with a good balance of grit and tenderness, this entertaining story makes a nice addition to the growing hopepunk subgenre.”
Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire
Seanan McGuire continues her Wayward Children series with Across the Green Fields, following Regan, a young girl who finds a mysterious portal. It asks her if she’s sure that she wants to go through, and when she does, she finds a world full of magical creatures called The Hooflands. It seems like a perfect world, one where humans are expected to be heroes, but Regan isn’t sure if she can live up to that.
Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying that “series devotees will not want to miss this standalone addition, and anyone who appreciates off-the-beaten-path adventures will be swept away.”
Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor
I’ve been a huge fan of Nnedi Okorafor’s books like Binti and Lagoon, and her next novella looks like it’ll be really exciting: a young girl comes across an alien artifact, which gives her the ability to kill with a touch. Tragedy ensues, and she goes off on a quest to try and figure out the source of her strange power through a near-future Ghana.
We Could Be Heroes by Mike Chen
When a man named Jamie wakes up in an apartment, he has no memory of who he is or how he got there — and that he has a special ability. He can read and erase the memories of others. Meanwhile, a woman named Zoe has abilities of her own: super speed and strength, something that comes in handy as a gig worker. When the two meet, they realize that their pasts might be intertwined.
The Expert System’s Champion by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Adrian Tchaikovsky has a sequel to his 2018 novella The Expert System’s Brother, in which a man named Handry’s live is altered when he has an accident, physically separating him from his village. This new novella takes place a decade later, after years of wandering around the world. He’s collected a small group of friends and allies in the other outcasts from the world, but they soon encounter new problems, ones that will put their knowledge and skills to the test.
That’s all for this week — I’ve flooded your inbox quite a bit recently. As always, let me know what you’re excited/interested/jazzed about adding to your TBR pile, and if you’ve found this list to be useful, consider signing up as a paid subscriber.