New & Notable Books, July 2021

Sue Burke, Immunity Index (Tor 5/21) Near-future hard SF novel, a dystopian biothriller about three young women who discover they were illegally genetically engineered, even as the scientist who cloned them tries to find a cure for a deadly new disease and discovers a conspiracy. Though written before COVID-19 struck, this offers an insightfully familiar look at politics and pandemics – with some refreshing differences.


David Ebenbach, How to Mars (Tachyon 5/21) SF novel about six scientists who take a one-way trip to Mars as part of a reality show, then start having trouble as ratings wane and technical and personal problems surface, including an unexpected pregnancy. “Mo­ments are laugh-out-loud funny, but the whole tone is light, despite the uncertainty that hovers over the crew. Until the last 30 pages…. Then Ebenbach reveals how muscular his writing is and how deep his theme has become.” [Adrienne Martini]

Joanne M. Harris, Honeycomb (Saga 5/21) This col­laborative project between writer Harris and artist Charles Vess is an extensively illustrated selection of 100 interlinked fairy tales originally written by Harris on Twitter. “Honeycomb drips with whimsy, mischief, and violent delight. Over the course of this dark, adult fantasy novel/collection (it’s truly a hybrid of the two), Harris offers us an astoundingly wide array of parables and tales that cover themes of power, love, empathy, self-sacrifice, and truth.” [Maya C. James]

Nick Martell, The Two-Faced Queen (Saga 3/21) The death of the king has left The Hollows torn between two heirs, and Princess Serena in desperation turns to the man she wrongly believes killed her father for help dealing with rebellion, betrayal, and a notorious serial killer threaten her rule before it begins. This second volume of the epic Legacy of the Mercenary King series has been getting raves for its grand scope, im­mersive worldbuilding, believable characters, intrigue, and lots of truly surprising twists.

Kate Milford, The Raconteur’s Commonplace Book (Clarion 2/21). Milford returns to the world of Greenglass House for a fifth book in the critically acclaimed middle-grade series, this time in the form of a book mentioned in that series, written by one “Phineas Amalgam” and telling of travelers stuck at an inn, a varied group of compelling characters telling stories to pass the time, and revealing enough to enchant readers young and old. “Intricately writ­ten, gorgeously crafted, and captivating from start to finish…the kind of title that remains in your heart and is certainly one of my favorite reads this year.” [Colleen Mondor]

Brenda Peynado, The Rock Eaters (Penguin 5/21) An author best known in literary circles, Peynado definitely shows fabulist and speculative tendencies in this gathering of 16 provocative stories, a debut collection getting considerable critical acclaim.



Natasha Pulley, The Kingdoms (Bloomsbury US 5/21) A man with amnesia struggles to find out who he is in a 19th-century world where the French de­feated the British at Trafalgar. This genre-bending alternate-history novel “requires investment, and some forgiveness for the indulgences of the genres it blends, but that investment will be richly rewarded. Combining romance, mystery, historical fiction, and alternate history, The Kingdoms is a novel to tumble into, head-first.” [Katharine Coldiron]

Rivers Solomon, Sorrowland (MCD 5/21) An abused, Black, albino, pregnant teen flees a cult and survives with her babies in the wild for four years, but her body starts chang ing in frightening ways, she has haunt­ing visions, and a human fiend leaves animal corpses dressed like babies for her to find, all forcing her to ultimately confront the truth. In the end, this genre-bending gothic thriller/horror novel provides messages of hope and transformation that make it “a must-read masterpiece….” [Paula Guran]

Lavie Tidhar, ed., The Best of World SF: Volume 1, (Ad Astra 4/21). Tidhar, in his ongoing quest to share good genre stories, no matter where they’re from, dis­cusses what “world science fiction” has meant over the years, and presents his own choice of 26 stories from 21 countries, mostly SF and mostly reprint, but with four new and nine in translation – and has fun doing so, and shares that fun with the reader. Authors include Aliette de Bodard, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Chen Quifan, Hannu Rajaniemi, Ekaterina Sedia, Vandana Singh, and Francesco Verso.

Harry Turtledove, The Best of Harry Turtledove (Subterranean 4/21) Turtledove may be best known for his well-researched alternate history, but this hefty collection of 24 stories from 35 years of writing also brings a sense of fun and wonder to the table. “No matter the topic or theme, these sprightly stories retain the old-school SF virtue of ‘ludic ratiocination,’ playful juggling of tropes and novums…. This mammoth compi­lation delivers the joyous goods.” [Paul Di Filippo].

From the July 2021 issue of Locus.

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