Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of October: 6 Top Picks

Adrian Liang on October 22, 2018

October 2018 has been a great month for readers: This month we couldn't bear to limit ourselves (and you) to only 10 books for the overall Best of the Month list, and instead we highlighted 12 wonderful reads. (And even that was a tough call.)

New science fiction and fantasy is also amazing this month. Six of our favorites are below, but brand-new books are also available from Terry Brooks, Lila Bowen, and Grace Draven.

Happy reading!

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A Winter's Promise by Christelle Dabos

This graceful, powerful fantasy novel also won a spot on our overall Best of the Month list, which highlights the very tip-top fiction and nonfiction that hits shelves in October. Adult readers who gravitated toward the intricate world-building of Harry Potter or reveled in the dark trickeries of Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass will find themselves ensnared by A Winter's Promise. While marooned without allies in a magical court that has no use for her aside from her opaque role in a complex political game, Ophelia quietly develops a spine of steel that she must employ time and again to thwart enemies both obvious and veiled. A Winter's Promise is less a coming-of-age story than a coming-into-power story, as Ophelia puts her trust in her own instincts and wits to seize control of the situation as best she can. Perfect for those seeking a new fantasy series to capture their imaginations.

Exit Strategy: The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells

The fourth and final novella in Wells' Murderbot Diaries sends Murderbot back to Dr. Mensah and the team that launched the rogue SecUnit on its path toward discovering its past and guaranteeing its future. Plenty of action and on-the-fly battles keep the book tense while Murderbot's sarcasm adds highlights of humor to this deeply satisfying series finale. By all that's sacred, do not start reading Murderbot's adventures with Exit Strategy; rather start at the beginning with All Systems Red, and hang on tight for the ride.

Zero Sum Game by S. L. Huang

This crisp, near-future technothriller is laced up tight with nonstop pacing and action galore. In fact, it can get pretty bloody, a fact that freelance problem-solver (and kidnapper, and shooter, and thief) Cas Russell is forced to confront when even the good guys are reluctant to side with her against a Big Bad trying to use mind-control to take over the world's major power players. Cas is smart, gritty, and seemingly unperturbed by her lack of knowledge of her past, but readers will be flipping pages madly to figure out exactly what's going on. A rock-solid ending satisfies, even as the door is left open for more Cas Russell adventures and revelations.

An Easy Death by Charlaine Harris

A master at crafting tough-as-nails-because-they-have-to-be female heroes, Harris takes readers out of the loosely connected worlds of her previous book and drops them into an alternate-history Western with Russian wizards. Unexpected? It is, at first, but Harris makes it feel dusty and real and deadly soon enough. Sit back and trust in Harris to deliver a strong-voiced novel that confidently straddles the line between fantasy, mystery, and historical fiction. I'm looking forward to more adventures of Gunnie Rose.

The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi

In book two of Scalzi's newest space saga, the confederation of systems known as the Interdependency is under threat of being isolated from each other as their method of travel and communication is slowly collapsing. Emperox Grayland II has more than enough to do as she tries unconventional methods to hold the systems together, and the ongoing attempts to dethrone her aren't helping. As Scalzi moves between the emperox, her enemies, the mathematicians searching for a solution (or at least more clarity), and the gloriously foul-mouthed merchant Kiva Lagos, more discoveries lead to more questions.

Vengeful by V. E. Schwab

In her sequel to Vicious, Schwab continues Eli and Victor's struggles against each other even as she expands the story to encompass two new powerful women as well as Sydney, Victor's young ally from the previous book. Schwab smartly flips the script, giving more insight into Eli's motivations even as Victor treads a darker path, but it’s the three women who form the heart of the new book. What happens when superpowers are given to emotionally damaged people isn't necessarily pretty—but it’s a heck of a read. Do start with Vicious instead of jumping in here.

See all our picks here for the best science fiction and fantasy of the month, and don't forget to check back next month to discover a whole new list of great reads.

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