11 sci-fi and fantasy books to check out this April

A belated list of books to check out this month

11 sci-fi and fantasy books to check out this April
Image: Andrew Liptak

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Okay, here are 11 new SF/F books that you should check out for the rest of the month:

Mal Goes to War by Edward Ashton (April 9th)

I was a big fan of Edward Ashton's novel Mickey7, a story about a member of a terraforming mission who's an expendable–he's the guy who gets sent out on the super dangerous missions, because he can be brought back to life. I still need to read the followup, Antimatter Blues, but in the meantime, Ashton is taking a break from that world in his next, Mal Goes to War.

Mal is an AI who's not a huge fan of the war between various factions of humanity: the technologically-driven Federals on one side, and the anti-technologist Humanists on the other. He spends his time rooting around the battleground between them, looking for things to salvage, and finds himself trapped when the Humanists cut off his access to infospace. Now stuck in the body of a cyborg mercenary and tasked with protecting a modded girl, he has to figure out how to survive and save his unexpected ward.

Library Journal gave the book a starred review, saying "Mal’s voice has all of Murderbot’s snark, along with its uncomfortable regard for humans. His escapades with the misfit gang that gathers around his charge compel the reader through his adventures even as the costs of the war grow higher."

Review: Mickey7 by Edward Ashton
The baggage that lingers under the surface

The Familiar by Leigh Bardugo (April 9th)

A servant named Luzia Cotado toils away for a family in Madrid, using what little magic she knows to get through her day. When the family discovers her talents, they press her into service to try and improve the family's standing. Her magic work brings her to the attention of Antonio Pérez, a disgraced secretary to Spain's king, and he plans to use Luzia to improve his fortunes in the royal court. And Luzia isn't helpless: she works to seize upon the opportunity to succeed, even if the increased attention might bring her Jewish heritage before Spain's inquisitors.

Writing for The Washington Post, Charlie Jane Anders says "This is a story about the suffering that results when the majority imposes its religion on everyone else, using coercive authority to control the identities of all. That, alone, makes “The Familiar” an essential read."

Ghost Stations by S.A. Barnes (April 9th)

Psychologist Dr. Ophelia Bray has spent her career trying to study a contagious condition known as Eckhart-Reiser syndrome, which affects people who have been in space for too long. She's assigned to an expedition that recently saw a death amongst their numbers, and hopes to prevent an outbreak. But the crew is hiding something, and while they go off exploring an abandoned planet, it's up to Ophelia to figure out if it's an outbreak or something worse.

Ryan Howse reviewed the book for Grimdark Magazine, and says that it's "an excellent science fiction horror novel, with great characterization, a setting that veers into the uncanny, and a steadily mounting sense of tension. It’s all the more impactful due to Barnes’ use of the unreliable narrator."

Wicked Problems by Max Gladstone (April 9th)

I've really enjoyed Max Gladstone's Craft Sequence novels (Three Parts DeadTwo Serpents RiseFull Fathom Five, Last First SnowFour Roads Crossand Ruin of Angels) which put a cool spin on magic. He recently returned to the world for a new trilogy called The Craft Wars, which he kicked off last year with Dead Country.

In this second installment, a new threat has entered the world, and with an apocalypse is approaching, only a girl and a god will be able to stop it from happening, and are willing to remake the world to save it.

Library Journal says "Gladstone’s second “The Craft Wars” book increases the action and devastation, bringing together familiar characters from across the world of the Craft as the battle for survival continues."

Catchpenny by Charlie Huston (April 9th)

Sidney Catchpenny was once a well-known thief in LA. He's a sly, a person with the ability to move through mirrors, and he's always targeted unique items–things that have accumulated magical abilities over the years. He's been out of the game for years after a bout of depression, but when a friend finds him needing help for an important client, he takes the opportunity, only to discover that the job is far more complicated than he thought.

Publishers Weekly says "Huston weaves in story lines about a dangerous video game, a death cult, and the fate of Sid’s long-dead wife, underscoring the antihero’s oft-repeated assertion that “everything is connected.” The resulting caper is fast, fun, and memorable."

The Book That Broke the World by Mark Lawrence (April 9th)

In last year's The Book That Wouldn't Burn, Mark Lawrence introduced us to Evar, who was trapped for ages in an ancient library, and who's trying to unravel its mysteries, and who encounters Livira, who arrives and gets entangled in his quest. He's now back with a sequel, The Book That Broke the World, which continues their story. Evar has been forced to flee by a mysterious enemy, and Livira has become trapped in a ghost world and has to recover a book she wrote in order to escape.

Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying "Lawrence makes the intertwining stories fascinating and propulsive, with enough scattered clues and shocking twists to keep the pages flying. This will keep readers up long past their bedtime."

Lake of Souls: The Collected Short Fiction by Ann Leckie (April 2nd)

Ann Leckie is best known for her novels Ancillary Justice and Translation State (I have a longer interview/piece that I need to finish writing about both), and has just released her first collection of short fiction. It includes a brand new novelette, "Lake of Souls," as well as other stories from her Imperial Radch series, The Raven's Tower, and more.

Writing for Locus Magazine, Gary K. Wolfe says "Throughout, there’s a sense of a restless imagination at work, and of a writer exploring her options, often in ways that will surprise the admirers of her more famous novels, and often in ways that will reassure them they were right in the first place."

A View from the Stars: Stories and Essays by Cixin Liu (April 2nd)

Coming right on the heels of a big adaptation of his novel The Three-Body Problem, Chinese SF writer Cixin Liu has a new collection of his short fiction and essays, which provide insight into his own story and history with the genre.

Kirkus Reviews says that it "offers up a palatable blend of speculative science fiction and insightful articles on the genre’s past and future," and that it's "A must-read for SF fans and writers alike."

Star Wars: The Living Force by John Jackson Miller (April 9th)

2024 marks the 25th anniversary of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace's release, and to accompany that milestone, John Jackson Miller has penned a new novel set in the year before the film takes place.

For generations, the Jedi Order has brought peace and justice throughout the galaxy, and it's members have been contending with its changing role in recent years. When a Jedi outpost on the planet Kwenn is scheduled for decommissioning, Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn argues that the Jedi Council has become more isolated, prompting its members to travel to the planet.

Their arrival brings about mixed feelings amongst the planet's inhabitants. The sector has been plagued with piracy and the council members become targets as the pirate groups unite to ensure that they have a foothold in the system–even if that means civilians in the line of fire.

The Last Man by Mary Shelley (April 9th)

Mary Shelley is best known for Frankenstein, but it's not the only work of speculative fiction that she's penned. In 1826, she released The Last Man, a post-apocalyptic novel about a plague in the 21st century and how it nearly brings down humanity. Penguin Classics has just released a new edition, featuring a foreword by writer Rebecca Solnit.

Someone You Can Build a Nest In by John Wiswell (April 2nd)

A shapeshifter named Shesheshen was driven from her home in a ruined mansion by a group of monster hunters, and in her escape, fell off a cliff and was seriously injured. When she's found and nursed back to healthy by a woman named Homily (who mistakes her for human), Shesheshen realizes that she'd make a good host for her eggs. But as she spends more time with her, she realizes that she likes Homily and has to make some changes if she wants to find happiness.

Kirkus Reviews says that it's "a wonderfully weird horror romance that requires an acquired taste and a strong stomach."

That's it for now: I've got another list that I'm hoping to get written up for the second half of the month, and another, longer thing about adaptations that I'm hammering into shape.