Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of January

Adrian Liang on January 17, 2018
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New series starters from J.D. Horn and Holly Black mix it up with a trilogy finale from Nnedi Okorafor and a 10-years-later addition to Pierce Brown's bestselling Red Rising series.

If you happen to be stuck in bed with a head cold or the flu this month, these books will give you a good reason to linger until you're back in tip-top health.

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The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander - Radium girls, the vast memories of elephants, and a near-future government's attempt to set up a timeless sign to warn people away from radioactive areas swirl together in this novella that contains far more than its short page count seemingly indicates. Bolander's writing will mesmerize you even as she sets up three separate point-of-view story lines that inevitably knit together in an explosive finale. Treat yourself to a truly original premise backed up by exquisite craftsmanship.

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Iron Gold by Pierce Brown - Ten years after Darrow, Mustang, and his Howlers brought down the corrupt Gold empire, all is not well in the solar system. Fighting still rages on some planets, there's infighting among the varied members of the new republican government, and the planets who have been supposedly liberated are still suffering. Told from four different viewpoints, not just Darrow's, this new book adds nuance and complexity to an already complex world, growing in scope and depth without losing the red-hot action and twists that gave the first three novels their hoo-yah bang. (Book 4 of the Red Rising series.)

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The King of Bones and Ashes by J.D. Horn - Horn sticks with his successful witches theme by kicking off a new series that opens with Katrina bearing down on New Orleans, and the city witches banding together to turn away the water. Unsuccessfully. It's only the latest sign that the Chanticleer coven has lost its power. But the death of the coven leader years later stirs up opportunities and unearths long-lost myths, sending a broken family of witches along a path toward healing--or to greater disaster. (Book 1 of the Witches of New Orleans.)

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Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor - Okorafor concludes her richly imaginative trilogy with Binti's return to her village as war begins to bubble again between the Meduse and another faction determined to keep the old rivalry aflame. While Binti successfully learned to navigate interplanetary diplomacy, she'll learn that convincing her own people to embrace peace may be much harder. If you haven't started it already, begin this series with Binti, which won the Hugo and Nebula awards for best novella. (Book 3 of the Binti series.)

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Gnomon by Nick Harkaway - "Ambitiously epic" is how Gnomon fans will describe this new novel from the author of The Gone-Away World and Tigerman. "Bloated" is what its detractors will say. I can't predict how you will react to this totalitarian tech tale within a tale that centers on the memories of now-dead political dissident Diana Hunter. When investigator Mielikki Neith downloads Hunter's memories, she instead plunges into the lives of four very different people living in different time periods. Who is Diana Hunter? we and she want to know. But that investigation challenges us to define who we are as well. A good pick for those who enjoy big ideas and the big books that house them.

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The Cruel Prince by Holly Black - Snatched from the human world by their mother's faerie former husband, Jude and her two sisters have grown into teenagers in the beautiful but deadly faerie court. Jude wants to be a warrior, but she's made enemies among the king's most violent children, chief among them Prince Cardan. Not a misty-eyed fantasy of old but one with a modern edge, The Cruel Prince gives readers of YA political sagas like The Hunger Games, Divergent, and A Court of Thorn and Roses a swarm of plot twists and much to savor. (Book 1 of The Folk of the Air series.)

And don't miss these other best-of-the-month picks that add to excellent ongoing series: Seanan McGuire's Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children series); Marko Kloos' Points of Impact (Frontlines); and The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman (The Invisible Library). See the full list here.


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