Best science fiction and fantasy of August

Adrian Liang on August 09, 2019
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As we plunge into the last full month of the summer, we’re breaking out new books to read while sprawled on benches in the park or on towels by the town pool.

A debut fantasy with (dragon) teeth, a recently awakened djinn ready to stun the world with his awesomeness, and a crew of young astronauts readying to blast to a new Earth are among the best new SF and fantasy of August.

Looking for more? Check out the full list of editors’ top picks of the month.


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Cry Pilot by Joel Dane

There’s a quote from C.J. Cherryh on the cover of Cry Pilot that says, “I picked it up, I started reading. I kept reading.” This might sound like faint praise indeed, but I had a similar and quite lovely experience with this SF novel. Despite a tall stack of other books staring at me accusingly, I kept reading this book until I reached the final page. Choices—and many secrets—in Maseo Kaytu’s past means he can’t join the military like most folk, so the only way to get in is to become a “cry pilot”—a human (often a criminal) strapped into an AI-based weapon that can only work with a person inside it. Pitted against the worst enemies, the cry pilots almost never survive, but Kaytu does, joining a group of soldiers training against a new adversary so horrifying that their commanders refuse to name it. Lots of action paired with a fascinating new take on an Earth repairing its broken ecology while fighting off “aliens” made Cry Pilot one of my top reads of the month.

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The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday by Saad Z. Hossain

Four thousand years after he was sealed in a sarcophagus, djinn Melek Ahmar, also known as the Lord of Mars, the Red King, the Lord of Tuesday, and many other honorifics, awakens to a modern world of wonders. In the nearby city of Katmandu, an AI called Karma judges people daily on their actions and rewards them accordingly, but even the “zeroes” get shelter, food, and entertainment. Melek Ahmar’s presence in Katmandu spreads excitement and chaos in the well-mannered even as a secret from the founding of Karma slowly comes to light. A delightful, fast-paced satire about the human (and djinn) condition.


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Blood of an Exile (Dragons of Terra) by Brian Naslund

In Naslund’s debut fantasy, dragonslayers have short careers, and it’s not a career anyone chooses on purpose. Traitors, criminals, and the like are sentenced to be dragonslayers, to never spend the night in a real bed, and to never come within a day’s ride of the capital. But “Flawless” Bershad has killed more than 60 dragons, making himself a legend despite his king’s most fervent wish that he suffer a grisly death. And when the king finally summons Bershad back to the capital, and back into the presence of Bershad’s royal former fiancée, Bershad is pretty sure he’d rather be out killing dragons instead. Humor threads in and out of Blood of an Exile, while Naslund’s world-building in his series-starter is marvelously sharp.


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Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh

When a mission to Terra-Two is announced, two sets of astronauts will go: The older, experienced ones, and the teenagers who can survive highly accelerated teaching and training. Separated into the “real” crew and the backup crew, 14 teenagers are put through the wringer in anticipation of a long and claustrophobic space flight to a planet no one has ever visited before. More atmospheric than, say, Ender’s Game, this is a good pick for those who like to sink into the characters they are reading about.


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Shrouded Loyalties by Reese Hogan

War often spawns new technology, but there are numerous aspects of “shrouding” that make naval officer Mila Blackwood extremely nervous even as she prepares her crew for another dive in their shrouded submarine. After something attacks them while they’re in the nether space of shrouding, and Blackwood and another survivor are forced to leave the submarine by their own leadership, Blackwood begins to suspect that the navy is hiding more secrets than she ever suspected. This SF novel mixes science fiction with The Hunt for Red October and garnishes it with the spywork of John Le Carre.


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