Best science fiction and fantasy of October

Adrian Liang on October 19, 2020

Best science fiction and fantasy of October

Appropriately, a number of the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of the Month for October have a sharp edge of horror.

And, thrillingly, several of the Amazon Editors’ top picks in SF and fantasy were also selected in the overall Best Books of the Month list, which highlights our favorite new reads across all categories.

That’s a longwinded way of saying, “Hey, readers: October is a fantastic month for SF and fantasy!” We’ve highlighted a few of the best ones below, so make room on your schedule and grab a great book.

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Inspired by the pre-Columbian Americas, Roanhorse (Trail of Lightning) sets three protagonists on a collision course—a spiritual leader struggling to connect with the disillusioned people, a blind man with otherworldly powers and who is destined for greatness, and a ship captain whose skill upon the waves will make or break the future. Roanhorse’s fantasy gives a new mythology an intimate and familiar feel, even as she propels the reader to flip madly through the pages to find out what happens next.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab

There’s something about Schwab’s newest novel that reminds me of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. The scope, I think, and the way it convinces you that a heck of a lot more is happening behind the scenes than you ever dreamed of. Amazon editorial director Sarah Gelman has been a big champion of this book, and she says, “In the 1700s, Addie LaRue makes a deal with the devil—she will live forever, although her immortality comes with the curse of being forgotten by everyone. Addie moves through time and across continents; she learns to survive and even leave her mark on the world. Then one day she meets a man in a bookstore who remembers her name, and suddenly everything changes. This deeply satisfying and cinematic novel rivals contemporary classic The Time Traveler’s Wife in concept and scope.” Readers of Schwab’s Shades of Magic series will be wowed again by how Schwab makes the fantastical seem real, while newcomers will likely deem her their new favorite author by the final pages of this book.

Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark

Set in the American South in the 1920s, Clark’s short, tight novel imagines that monsters called the Ku Kluxes masquerade as Klansmen but are truly beasts with curved ivory claws. Monster hunters Maryse, Chef, and Sadie bring down the Ku Kluxes as they find them, but there’s a greater horror about to hit their world that threatens to destroy all they hold dear. The most memorable—and long lived—horror novels build otherworldly terrors upon real-life issues, and Clark does this masterfully in Ring Shout.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Matt Haig won over readers with How to Stop Time and Reasons to Stay Alive, and he’s doing it again with The Midnight Library. The Midnight Library holds books filled with the stories of lives—both lives that were lived and lives that could have been. Says Amazon senior editor Vannessa Cronin, “When the death of her cat proves the final straw, Nora decides to check out on life, and finds herself at the Midnight Library. But each book at this library tells the story of a life she could have had. Part It’s a Wonderful Life, part Oona Out of Order, this charming, funny, inventive novel is about regret, the choices we make, and taking the bitter with the sweet.” A hug in book form.

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

Those who wondered why parents continued to send their magical kids to Hogwarts will really wonder about the parents in A Deadly Education. Every single day at the magical high school called the Scholomance, El has to fight for her life, whether she’s walking to class, getting lunch in the cafeteria, or browsing the library. (Though no one really “browses.” That’s a fast way to get yourself dead.) But being tough is how she’s going to stand out when it comes to making alliances during the final years of school, so having her life saved multiple times by Orion doesn’t make El grateful—it makes her mad. Naomi Novik (Uprooted) is clearly having a great deal of fun with El, this horrible school, and the even scarier world outside, even as she thoughtfully tackles trauma, privilege, loneliness, and true friendship.

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

Harrow’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January was among my favorite fantasy adventure reads of 2019. In The Once and Future Witches, women’s suffrage and underground witchcraft spin together into an electrifying tale of three magical sisters living in the town of New Salem in 1893, fighting for equality and safety in a world that has denied them both those things. Harrow’s sophomore novel proves she’s a writer to watch—and one who is willing to shake up the typical fantasy motifs even as she leans into cherished fairy tales and myths. This imaginative and deeply satisfying reckoning will add new readers to Harrow’s swiftly growing pool of fans.

The Loop by Jeremy Robert Johnson

Readers looking for a mix of crazy-pants and horror will find a lot to like in The Loop. A few deaths and disappearances around a small Oregon town have caught the attention of conspiracy theorist and podcaster Nightwatchman, yet no one else seems to be overly concerned. But when a high schooler tries to gouge out a bully’s eye and then starts beating a teacher bloody with a textbook, fellow student Lucy has a sense that something is really wrong. And she’s right. Between fight scenes, car chases, and more, Johnson also spotlights the everyday horrors of classism, sexism, and racism through the eyes of Lucy, who dealt with all that crap every day even before the townsfolk got turned into killer zombies-like things.

While fantasy readers will find much to love in October, those who prefer SF should check out our article on the Best science fiction and fantasy of September, which features more SF.

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