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All Science Fiction Coverage

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Warm, imaginative and often funny, Annalee Newitz’s The Terraformers thoughtfully examines the price and cost of corporate colonialism and humanity’s ever-present need to expand.

In the distant future, Destry, a ranger who works for the Environmental Rescue Team on planet Sask-E, discovers a hidden city. Destry and the rest of her team are tasked with ensuring ecological stability on Sask-E, which is owned by the terraforming corporation Verdance, before Verdance sells plots of the planet’s land to the highest bidders. The ERT thought they were the only inhabitants of Sask-E. But the city Destry discovers is populated by an entire previous generation of terraformers, and she and the ERT consider whether to stand against Verdance and their murky motives. Centuries later, while a planetwide conspiracy threatens everything the ERT has done to turn Sask-E into a hospitable planet, the fallout from Destry’s conflict with Verdance resurfaces.

The Terraformers is an expansive, entertaining book, full of comprehensive world building and exacting detail. Every living thing in the terraformed areas of Sask-E provides data that flows back to the ERT: Messages can be sent through blades of grass or through water. Robotic drones converse with people, and genetically enhanced animals can communicate via text message. Newitz giddily explores the convergence of digital and ecological systems, and their enthusiasm is infectious. The Terraformers is full of parallels to contemporary issues (corporate greed versus environmental sustainability, the intersection of machines and humans), and while Newitz intensely examines these topics, the reader will never feel lectured, bored or disconnected from the characters.

But once The Terraformers concludes, the questions it poses remain. In our race to remake the universe for ourselves, what kinds of stewards will we be?

Entertaining and full of thorny questions about the fate of humanity, Annalee Newitz’s The Terraformers explores a distant, corporation-controlled future.

Leta McCollough Seletzky, author of The Kneeling Man

Leta McCollough Seletzky author photo

Counterpoint | April 4

In the famous photograph of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., one man is kneeling down beside King on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, trying to staunch the blood from the fatal head wound. This kneeling man, Leta McCollough Seletzky’s father, was a member of the activist group the Invaders, but he was also an undercover Memphis police officer reporting on the activities of this group. 

Seletzky is a former litigator turned essayist and a National Endowment for the Arts 2022 Creative Writing Fellow, and in The Kneeling Man: My Father’s Life as a Black Spy Who Witnessed the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., she reveals the story of her father, who went on to work at the CIA, and reflects upon the full weight of these revelations.

Alejandro Varela, author of The People Who Report More Stress

Alejandro Varela author photo

Astra House | April 4

Last year, Alejandro Varela published his first novel, The Town of Babylon, and it became a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction. Varela is following up his hot-out-of-the-gate success with an overlapping story collection centering on the intersecting lives of a group of mostly queer and Latinx New York City residents. The stories explore many of the same themes as Varela’s novel—systemic racism, gentrification and economic injustice—and since his graduate studies were in public health, he brings deep insight to these topics and balances them with crisp humor and a lot of heart.

Emily Tesh, author of Some Desperate Glory

Emily Tesh author photo

Tordotcom | April 11

Emily Tesh won acclaim and a devoted readership with her Greenhollow duology of novellas, the first of which, Silver in the Wood, won a World Fantasy Award. The Greenhollow duology was a romantic take on age-old English folklore, but for her first novel, Tesh switches gears to science fiction and heads into darker moral territory. Set in a future where Earth has been destroyed by aliens, Some Desperate Glory follows Kyr, a young girl growing up in an isolated, militaristic community, where she is being trained to avenge the planet. She soon discovers that the rest of the universe is far more complex than she imagined and that she has a lot further to go to become the hero she wants to be.

Sarah Cypher, author of The Skin and Its Girl

Sarah Cypher author photo

Ballantine | April 25

After two decades as a freelance book editor, Sarah Cypher is making her fiction debut with a novel that draws from her own Lebanese American family’s history, which can be traced back to the incredible Kanaan Olive Soap factory in Nablus, Palestine. On the day of the factory’s (actual) destruction, a Palestinian American girl named Betty is born with bright blue skin in The Skin and Its Girl; as an adult, Betty begins to read the journals kept by the family matriarch, which reveal her aunt’s choice to hide her sexuality during the family’s immigration to the U.S., a discovery that helps Betty follow her own heart.

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, author of Chain-Gang All-Stars

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah author photo

Pantheon | May 2

It’s pretty incredible when a short story collection becomes an instant New York Times bestseller, and doubly so when it’s a debut, as in the case of Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s devastating and nightmarish Friday Black (2018). With his highly anticipated first novel, Adjei-Brenyah continues in the realm of brutal, dystopian surrealism with one of the most audacious premises of the year: Reality television meets America’s for-profit prison system in this story of two female gladiators, Loretta Thurwar and Hamara “Hurricane Staxxx” Stacker, who fight for their freedom from a private prison reality entertainment system.

Jamie Loftus, author of Raw Dog

Jamie Loftus author photo

Forge | May 23

Jamie Loftus is best known as a comedian, TV writer and podcaster, including co-hosting “The Bechdel Cast” with screenwriter Caitlin Durante on the HowStuffWorks network. Loftus’ debut book, Raw Dog: The Naked Truth About Hot Dogs, is part memoir and part social critique that recounts her cross-country road trip in the summer of 2021 to investigate that backyard barbecue staple, the illustrious hot dog. Along the way, Loftus delves into all the ways hot dogs embody issues of class and culture in the United States, illuminating the complex history of this quintessential American food with her signature mix of intellect and unhinged humor.

Photo of Seletzky by Gretchen Adams. Photo of Varela by Allison Michael Orenstein. Photo of Tesh by Nicola Sanders Photography. Photo of Adjei-Brenyah by Alex M. Philip. Photo of Loftus by Andrew Max Levy.

These up-and-coming authors are going places, and we will be hot on their heels.
Behind the Book by

The main character of Some Desperate Glory, Emily Tesh’s debut novel, is a vicious, ambitious teenage girl brought up in an isolated community of humans intent on avenging the destruction of Earth. Kyr is anything but “likable”—and, according to Tesh, that’s the point.

A few years ago, I had an idea for a novella. I thought of it as something squarely in my comfort zone: a cute little queer romance between two very different people, one of them Large and the other Chatty. (If you have read my Greenhollow Duology, cute queer romance novellas about Large Gruff Type x Chatty Weirdo is about as precisely my style as it is possible for a story to be.) The fun part of this one would be the setting—in space!—and actually, perhaps there could be a cute alien involved? And I’d just been rewatching “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” which contains one of my favorite villain-to-awkward-teammate arcs of all time, so could I maybe do a Zuko thing?

I wrote one scene: the protagonist reenacting the death of the Earth, racing against time to save a doomed world, sacrificing their own life and still failing. It’s still the opening scene of the book, almost unchanged from that rapid first draft. But after I got 500 words into my cute little romance, I thought: This isn’t cute. This isn’t little. And this would be better if it were about the Zuko-esque character’s awful sister.

“Girls don’t get to be shitheads. And if they are, they don’t get any sympathy.”

I’d spent years mostly writing stories with male protagonists. But I changed all the pronouns in my opening scene, and suddenly I had a monstrous, cruel, ambitious, abused, horrendously angry beast of a character: Kyr. She began as an echo of Azula, a major antagonist in “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” who unlike her brother, Zuko, never gets a redemption arc or a second chance.

Kyr is awful. She really, truly sucks. I found that being subtle about it didn’t work; we have expectations about teenage girl characters, words like “relatable” and “likable.” Male characters are allowed to be complex, difficult, morally gray, even outright shitheads and still get sympathetic antihero arcs. But female characters aren’t supposed to behave that way. Girls don’t get to be shitheads. And if they are, they don’t get any sympathy.

I didn’t want anyone to mistake Kyr for “relatable” and “likable.” If you want to write a villain redemption arc, you have to start with a villain.

Read our review of ‘Some Desperate Glory’ by Emily Tesh.

Kyr is the villain. The monster girl, the unlovable and unworthy. I remember writing an early scene in which she mercilessly bullies a small child in a glowing triumph of self-righteous arseholery and thinking, is this clear enough? Will they even let me do this? Do I have to tone her down? I was a long way outside my creative comfort zone. But you can feel it, as a writer, when the thematic underpinnings are locking into place: justice or vengeance, heroism or self-destruction, the past or the future. Kyr proves in that original opening scene that she can do what every lovable teen protagonist has to do sooner or later: sacrifice herself to save the world. I had to spend the whole book turning her inside out, remaking her, undoing her, until she finally found a way to do the opposite: sacrifice her cruel and narrow and hateful world in order to save herself.

Picture of Emily Tesh by Nicola Sanders Photography.

In Emily Tesh’s ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’-inspired debut, Some Desperate Glory, a teenage girl realizes her community is a militaristic cult.
Review by

People love an underdog story: A hero or scrappy gang of misfits prevailing against nearly insurmountable odds. But in Some Desperate Glory, author Emily Tesh takes this trope in a dark direction, illustrating how single-minded zealotry can spiral into overt fascism.

Some Desperate Glory follows Kyr, a girl born into an extremist human sect living on the fringes of known space. In Tesh’s universe, humanity accomplished interstellar travel and encountered the majoda, an alien confederacy ruled by an interdimensional, reality-warping artificial intelligence known as the Wisdom. Earth tore through the majoda’s military, and in response, the Wisdom had the majoda deploy a weapon that destroyed the planet. Completely broken and scattered, most of the remaining humans submitted to majoda rule.

But the people who live on Gaea Station, where Kyr was born, have dubbed themselves the saviors of humanity. Children and adults alike hone their bodies and minds in order to become the avenging angels of their destroyed planet. Joy and relaxation are luxuries, as the admirals ruling Gaea Station demand their people give everything to keep the cause alive. In their mid-teens, people are assigned to permanent roles, which can be anything from combat service, to maintenance to keep the station afloat, to bearing sons in the Nursery to keep the community supplied with soldiers. It’s as abhorrent as it is absolute, but Kyr thinks this system is righteous, a necessity of the ongoing war against the majoda.

Emily Tesh’s new protagonist is anything but likable—and that’s the point.

Tesh describes Gaea Station in impressively revolting detail without losing focus on Kyr’s growth as a character. A talented and devoted warrior, Kyr finds herself at odds with her cultural programming when she is assigned to the Nursery. And after her brother leaves the station under mysterious circumstances, she defies her orders and takes off after him, a quest that thrusts her into the wider universe. She meets an alien for the first time and starts a grueling journey to peel back years of programming. As she learns more about the rest of the universe, Kyr realizes she must confront the sinister underbelly of the shiny, nationalistic Gaea Station, which is beginning to look more and more like a cult.

While heavily invested in Kyr’s personal struggle to find meaning and purpose, Some Desperate Glory is also rife with rich settings and history. The majoda are fascinatingly inhuman, composed of refreshingly distinct alien species. (Don’t worry, there aren’t any “They’re basically humans but their skin is blue” races in this story.) Tesh takes readers on a wild tour through her universe, defying any expectations they may have based on the setting and characters in surprising and unique ways.

An examination of the dangers of unchecked nationalism, Some Desperate Glory will resonate with readers looking for messy morality and antihero redemption arcs.

Rife with rich settings and refreshingly distinct alien species, Some Desperate Glory will resonate with readers looking for messy morality and antihero redemption arcs.
Review by

Space opera fans, rejoice! Megan E. O’Keefe’s The Blighted Stars delivers futuristic technology, a power-hungry ruling class, a bit of mystery, a sprinkle of the macabre and a compelling, complicated relationship between its two leads.

In the distant future, the Mercator family maintains a tight control over humanity’s life among the stars. The Mercators mine “cradle worlds,” planets that are lush and unspoiled, for resources, but the side effect is a fungal bloom that eventually kills the planet.

Idealistic, passionate Naira Sharp is a member of the Conservators, a resistance group that tries to save these cradle worlds through sabotage and guerilla warfare. Tarquin Mercator is the heir to his family’s empire, but he’s a scientist at heart, and he wonders where the planet-killing fungus comes from. Their worlds collide when Naira poses as Tarquin’s bodyguard in order to infiltrate and destroy the Mercators from within. But when their ship crashes onto the newest cradle world, Naira and Tarquin are faced with the supposedly impossible: The planet has already been devoured by the fungus. Together with the other survivors of the crash, they must work together to survive and uncover the truth.

O’Keefe is a master world builder, and The Blighted Stars has one of the most fascinating sci-fi concepts of the year. In her universe, people can load their consciousnesses into new bodies. Get killed out in the far reaches of space? No problem, your neural map can be beamed back to civilization and placed into a new 3D-printed body right away. (Though sometimes neural maps don’t load properly, resulting in grotesque and zombielike monsters.) Before beginning her mission, Naira uploads her consciousness into a printed body of Tarquin’s bodyguard without anyone on the doomed ship knowing. O’Keefe finds multiple ways to have fun with this plot device, and the payoffs of Naira’s secret identity are well earned.

The Blighted Stars would be a terrific starting point for anyone interested in dipping a toe into the space opera subgenre. O’Keefe largely restricts herself to Naira’s and Tarquin’s points of view, which brings an immediacy and focus to the story that is echoed by the relative simplicity of the plot. The complex and engrossing relationship between Tarquin and Naira holds everything together; the fresh world building and interstellar intrigue wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying if not for the believable relationship at the book’s core.

If future entries in O’Keefe’s Devoured Worlds saga are as exciting as this book, sci-fi fans will be thanking their lucky stars for years to come.

Megan E. O’Keefe’s The Blighted Stars has one of the most fascinating sci-fi premises of the year: People upload their consciousnesses into 3D-printed bodies.
Review by

Nick Harkaway fuses a broody noir mystery with a cyberpunk dystopia in Titanium Noir. Set in a fictional American city tucked away in the mountains, Titanium Noir follows Cal Sounder, a detective who helps the police with only the most unique of cases: those that involve Titans, people who have attained the closest thing to immortality that capitalism can provide. After taking a drug named T7, a human is “reset” to adolescence, then, rapidly and painfully, they sprint back through puberty, resulting in a rejuvenated body. Since they start their second puberty as a fully grown adult, they become much larger, their bones denser and their muscles thicker, hence the name Titan.

Titans are almost exclusively ultrarich or highly influential, their physical stature often merely a reflection of their broader social power. Stefan Tonfamecasca, the creator of T7 and controller of its distribution, is now impossibly huge as a four-dose Titan. Cal is Stefan’s liaison with law enforcement, sparing the police from dealing with the ruling rich of the city while also keeping Titan problems from escalating out of control. But Cal’s latest case is especially challenging: A Titan has, somehow, been murdered.

Harkaway colors each character and vignette with just enough detail to keep things interesting, while assembling the setting and unraveling the mystery in a steady stream of information. Cal’s sardonic and witty internal monologue helps keep the reader from losing track of important details, with Cal himself acting as a necessary anchor as Harkaway introduces new characters and reveals new plot points on nearly every page. 

Titanium Noir’s fast pace drives home just how much Cal is floundering, a very small fish in a very large pond, doing his absolute best. There are several well-choreographed, graphic but not gratuitously bloody fights and several tense negotiations with very powerful figures, each leaving Cal increasingly feeling like the odds are stacked against him. Yet, he relentlessly pursues the truth, flirts with rebellion and even performs some mild blackmail on the way. (What is a little extortion between friends, anyway?)

With its likable narrator, explosive action, noir-style rumination and just the right amount of twists, Titanium Noir is an entertaining sci-fi mystery that never overstays its welcome.

With its likable narrator and explosive action, Titanium Noir is an entertaining sci-fi mystery that blends a broody noir whodunit with a cyberpunk dystopia.
Review by

Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch series is suffused with the kind of philosophical explorations typical of high-concept speculative fiction, including the nature of conflict, the desire for community and what it means to be human. But these books have also posed another question, one left tantalizingly unanswered: What are the Presger? The terrifying, technologically advanced but rarely seen aliens hover on the edges of the series, their former habit of ripping into spaceships and people alike held at bay by a long-standing treaty with humanity.

In Translation State, Leckie’s latest standalone installment in the Radch universe, three characters approach the question of the Presger from different angles. Enae is a human diplomat tasked with finding out what happened to a missing Presger emissary. Reet is an engineer who discovers he may be the scion of the long-lost leaders of an oppressed people. And Qven is a juvenile Presger Translator, one of the strange creatures that the Presger bioengineered to communicate with species they consider to be Significant, or worthy of a diplomatic relationship. Looming over it all is the approaching renegotiation of the treaty that keeps humanity safe from the Presger.

In some ways, Translation State reads like a witty, action-packed retelling of “The Measure of a Man,” a classic “Star Trek: The Next Generation” episode that debates whether the android Data is legally a person or a machine. The question here is not whether the characters think of themselves as Significant, but whether the Presger will think they are. Although the explicit stakes are legal, the terms of the debate are closer to theology than anything else. The Presger are essentially gods, with their treaty of nonviolence toward Significant species a particularly abstruse gospel. It brings to mind the Tarthenal from Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen series, who prayed to gods only to ask them to stay far away. Every party must make decisions regarding the Significance of other species based on not only what serves their own interests but also what will prevent the Presger from tearing everything apart. 

Despite the existential nature of its conflict, Translation State still has an essential optimism. Every character’s motivations are understandable, even if they are not sympathetic, as each person is genuinely trying their best under challenging and potentially lethal circumstances.

Translation State also has an absolute whirlwind of a plot. An aristocratic family’s fortune vanishes at a funeral in the first chapter, and later, Qven vivisects and devours multitudes of their fellow juveniles in what is, apparently, a normal part of Presger Translator development. (This book is not for the squeamish.) As ever, under all the excitement and plot machinations, Leckie uses contact among different species and cultures to discuss complicated constructs such as gender. For example, Qven’s initial confusion over how gender works mirrors the Radchaai inability to distinguish between genders in Leckie’s original Radch trilogy. 

However, if you are the kind of reader who wants all their questions answered, beware: I still don’t really know what the Presger are.

Translation State, Ann Leckie’s latest Imperial Radch novel, is an ever-fascinating whirlwind with tantalizing clues about some of the series’ biggest mysteries.

All the Seas of the World  by Guy Gavriel Kay

Kay tells small stories of hope and resilience in an expansive fantasy world modeled on the Renaissance era.

All the Seas of the World by Guy Gavriel Kay

Babel by R.F. Kuang

Set in an alternate Victorian Britain, R.F. Kuang’s standalone historical fantasy is an unforgiving examination of the cost of power.

Babel jacket

The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean

Dean’s deliciously dark debut is a haunting story that’s part fairy tale and part nightmare.

The Book Eaters jacket

Juniper & Thorn by Ava Reid

Inspired by Eastern European history and folklore, this fantasy novel is a tender love story as well as a chilling tale of escape from abuse.

Juniper & Thorn by Ava Reid jacket

Leech by Hiron Ennes

Dark and horrifying, Leech is perfect for readers who wish that Wuthering Heights had been more like Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation.

Leech by Hiron Ennes jacket

The Maker of Swans  by Paraic O’Donnell

If you like beautiful things, read The Maker of Swans, an enthralling dance over the line between literary fiction and magical fantasy.

The Maker of Swans jacket

Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher

This dark fantasy starring a possessed chicken and a feminist avenger represents the burgeoning “hopepunk” ethos at its finest.

Nettle & Bone jacket

A Restless Truth by Freya Marske

Marske’s second historical fantasy is a stunning, sensual love story wrapped in an exciting murder mystery.

A Restless Truth jacket

Sign Here by Claudia Lux

Sign Here is both a hilarious reimagining of Hell as a corporate nightmare and a painfully realistic exploration of morality in the modern world.

Book jacket image for Sign Here by Claudia Lux

Thistlefoot by GennaRose Nethercott

Inspired by traditional tales of Baba Yaga, Nethercott’s Thistlefoot is a weird and wonderful triumph.

Book jacket image for Thistlefoot by GennaRose Nethercott

Discover more of BookPage’s Best Books of 2022.

There is probably no better way to sum up 2022 than to say it was a year dominated by both horror and hopepunk—sometimes even in the same book.
Review by

Tennal Halkana is a problem. He’s a problem for his family because he prefers drinking in gambling dens to fulfilling the demands of being part of one of the most prominent political families on the planet Orshan. He’s a problem when it comes to relationships, flitting from one affair to another in rapid succession. But most of all, he’s a problem for society: Tennal is a reader, a person with telepathic abilities that were genetically engineered by the Orshan Fedstate. When Tennal breaks one too many rules, his aunt conscripts him into the army and orders him to sync, or completely merge his mind, with an architect, a person who can mentally control other people.

Lieutenant Surit Yeni, the architect ordered to link his mind to Tennal, is everything Tennal is not. The child of a notorious traitor, Surit ensures that his every move is thoughtful, controlled and—above all else—principled. Thanks to that last quality, Surit refuses to sync with the unwilling Tennal. The two men fake the bond instead, all while looking for a way to get Tennal out of the army and to the safety of the wider galaxy.

Ocean’s Echo is a slow burn that eventually blazes into a supernova, a novel constrained in its location but massive in its ambition. Its opening scene in a gambling den is exciting, but that action-packed sequence is paltry compared to what’s to come. Set in the same universe as author Everina Maxwell’s debut, Winter’s Orbit, this standalone novel layers intrigue atop intrigue, ratcheting up the stakes one excruciating notch at a time. Maxwell uses her space station settings as pressure cookers, creating close-proximity environments that force her main couple to change and bond with each other. Tennal’s sharp edges bring Surit’s stoicism into relief, while Surit’s rule-abiding nature clashes with Tennal’s chaotic inability to tell the truth. All the while, the pair is wrapped in a world built with care by Maxwell, a writer with a keen eye for detail and nuanced social interactions. Rather than getting lost in the weeds of the mechanics of faster-than-light travel or how exactly readers and architects were made, Maxwell zeroes in on the small moments of soldiers’ daily lives, from tokens that communicate fellow officers’ genders or the politics of getting a second slice of cake from the mess hall vending machine. 

This isn’t to say that there isn’t a massive amount of world building to absorb: Between various branches of the military, syncing, readers and architects, the wealth of vocabulary and protocol to wade through can be overwhelming at first. The learning curve will be less steep for readers who loved Maxwell’s first foray into this universe, but rest assured that this is still a standalone novel that reads like one. Perfect for lovers of science fiction served medium-hard, Ocean’s Echo is the optimal blend of emotional maelstrom and suspenseful military drama.

Ocean’s Echo is the optimal blend of emotional love story and suspenseful military sci-fi.

Station Eternity, Mur Lafferty’s intergalactic whodunit, is a thrilling ride starring interesting characters from the farthest reaches of the universe.

There are many aliens on Space Station Eternity but only three humans. The sentient station granted sanctuary to social outcast (by choice and for good reason) Mallory Viridian and the insufferable Adrian Casserly-Berry, an ambassador from Earth. Mallory left Earth without a second glance because no matter where she goes, someone she knows dies. It’s like she’s the heroine of a cozy mystery series, except she has to deal with real-life consequences like always being a suspect and worrying that the people around her aren’t long for this world. The third human on the station is stowaway Xan Morgan, a handsome former soldier with a mysterious past, and Mallory is terrified he”ll fall prey to her curse. When it’s announced that a new shuttle full of humans will dock on Eternity, she knows they”ll soon be in danger as well. And sure enough, as soon as more humans arrive, both they and the station’s alien inhabitants start dying.

With its focus on the diverse races of aliens who call the space station home, Station Eternity is more creative than many stories with a similar setting, and its human characters are far more humble. They are hitching a most likely temporary ride on the station and therefore can never forget that they need to respect the aliens’ ways. Lafferty describes various alien beings with dry wit, gusto and imagination, from the rocklike Gneiss to a hivemind of sentient wasps who constantly ask inappropriate personal questions. Even though the story is told from Mallory’s perspective, Lafferty’s universe contains multitudes.

Beyond the book’s sci-fi trappings, Lafferty also crafts a solid mystery, with perfectly timed reveals and clues, and her quick banter and endearing characters shine all the way to the finale. Mallory, her comrades and her foes all have flaws, and many of them are survivors of violent or abusive situations. The near-future world of Station Eternity is not a rosy utopia, and there is much discourse among the characters on the difficulties of being femme, or queer, or trans, or a person of color. It makes Mallory’s quest to protect Eternity—an island of hope, coexistence and cooperation in a vast, alien-eat-alien universe—all the more imperative.

This space station-set mystery stands out thanks to its endearing characters, both human and alien.
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Horror takes many forms: from the terror of losing control of one’s mind to another entity, to the fear of things that move around unseen in the night, to the inescapable certainty that one day we all must meet our ends. Each of these stories features a different kind of horror, making for a perfect sampler platter for anyone wanting to dip their toes in the murky depths of dread. 


In the far reaches of the North, in a chateau abutting a frozen forest and a forbidding mine, a doctor has died. For the powerful Interprovincial Medical Institute, the worrying thing is not the doctor’s death; the Institute’s bodies die all the time. An ancient parasitic life form, the Institute takes over promising young minds and guides them into the field of medicine; all of the unsuspecting human race’s doctors are being controlled by the Institute. What is worrying is that the Institute isn’t sure how the body stationed in the chateau died. To find out exactly what happened, the Institute sends a new body to investigate the chateau and its denizens. That doctor soon discovers another parasite that could upend life as they know it, threatening both the Institute’s supremacy and the humans it seeks to protect.

Hiron Ennes’ debut novel, Leech, is a chilling study in the the loss of bodily autonomy, the terrors of a frigid winter wood and the undeniable creepiness of ancient homes that have long since fallen into disrepair. Set thousands of years after an apocalypse, Leech is decidedly a gothic novel, complete with seemingly cursed family homes, the dark consequences of human progress and unknown dangers lurking in every crevice and icy forest. Tantalizing references to the monsters of humanity’s past, chiefly destructive airships and killer biological agents, feel almost mythic as they fill readers’ imaginations with possible explanations for what exactly went wrong. Full of trepidation and mystery, Leech is perfect for readers who wished that Wuthering Heights had been just a little more like Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation

Hiron Ennes reveals the terrifying scientific theory that keeps them up at night.


Young adult author Ainslie Hogarth’s first novel for adults, Motherthing, opens in the waiting room of an intensive care unit, and it doesn’t get less stressful from there. Ralph and Abby Lamb have moved in with Ralph’s mother, Laura, to help care for her. Plagued by her rocky relationship with her own mother, Abby had hoped to kindle a better relationship with her mother-in-law but was instead met with distrust and cold condescension for being the woman who ‘took” Laura’s son from her. After Laura dies by suicide at the beginning of Motherthing, Abby thinks that her and Ralph’s obligation is over; they will sell the house and move away, free to start the perfect family that they deserve. But when Laura’s spirit begins to haunt the couple, driving Ralph into a pit of depression and tormenting Abby night after night, it is clear that Abby will have to dig deep if she is going to wrest the life of her dreams from the nightmare that her home life has become. 

Deeply dark and often funny, Motherthing explores the contours of what it means to be in a relationship with a mother (or mother-in-law) figure and the porous boundaries among grief, anger and the supernatural. Motherthing can be a difficult book to read on an emotional level, given Abby’s frustratingly optimistic “I can fix him/it/this” attitude, but its scares and surprises are well worth the discomfort it causes—as well as the sleepless nights it will engender. 


The eponymous island of Lute by Jennifer Thorne stands apart from the modern world. Even as war lingers on their doorstep and climate change and water shortages ravage the lands around them, the islanders are sheltered and seemingly immune to the turmoil. In exchange for these blessings, the island extracts a tithe: Every seven midsummers, exactly seven of the people of Lute die on what is referred to as “The Day.” Nina Treadway, a transplant to Lute and lady of the island by virtue of her marriage to Lord Hugh Treadway, doesn’t believe in the fairy tale, chalking it up to the superstitions of a quaint and isolated island. But as The Day dawns and brings a series of waking nightmares, Nina must accept her duties as the Lady of Lute in order to preserve the stability of the island she has come to love.

Part idyllic fantasy and part Final Destination, Lute asks a question that harks back to works like Ursula K. Le Guin’s ‘the Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”: What is the price of prosperity? While Lute’s citizens have willingly agreed to that price, it is steep and horrific. The novel’s pages are dotted with gore and loss, sure to pull on the heartstrings—and occasionally the stomachs—of even the most stoic of readers. However, despite the bloodshed and tension, Lute is a story of the creation of a haven away from the pressures of the modern world. More cynical readers might balk at the story’s hopeful tone and occasionally predictable plot turns. However, for those looking for a thriller replete with both terror and fantasy, Lute delivers in spades.

Led by Hiron Ennes' chilling debut novel, Leech, these thoughtful, well-crafted frights will scare you on multiple levels.

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The Inheritance Games wraps a mystery in an enigma and throws in four hot brothers for fun. The Hawthorne family, furious at their disinheritance, bring a Knives Out energy to this story, which is full of as many twists, turns and narrative trap doors as Hawthorne’s sprawling estate itself.

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