Here's the July 2021 sci-fi and fantasy book list!

A roundup of all the science fiction, fantasy, and horror novels coming out in July 2021 to add to Mt. Toberead.

Here's the July 2021 sci-fi and fantasy book list!

It's the start of a new month, which means we've got a new crop of books hitting stores over the next couple of weeks that are worth picking up and adding to your TBR pile. And given that we're now into the hot summer months, it's a good time to either retreat to an air-conditioned room, or to a shaded hammock and dive into one or two of them.

There are a couple of books that I wanted to highlight that didn't make it into last month's list. The first is Cavan Scott's Star Wars: The High Republic novel, The Rising Storm, which I somehow got into my head as coming out this month. It picks up the story from Light of the Jedi, and follows the Republic as it works to expand into the Outer Rim, only to face new threats from the marauders known as the Nihil.

The other is a glorious new edition (it came out a couple of weeks ago) of Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass, featuring some beautiful woodcut-style illustrations from Chris Wormell. This has long been one of my favorite books, and while I'm not likely to replace my paperback copies of the trilogy, this oversized edition is very, very pretty.

Seriously, this book is gorgeous:

Here are 20 new science fiction and fantasy books hitting stores this month that you should check out.

As always: If you purchase something through a Bookshop affiliate link might result in a small commission.

July 6th

The 22 Murders of Madison May by Max Barry

A new Max Barry story is always a welcome thing: I've long loved his book Jennifer Government, and his novels Lexicon and Providence have each been highly praised. In this latest, a real estate agent named Madison May meets a client who says that he loves her — in every world — before killing her.

Meanwhile, a journalist named Felicity Staples is tasked with reporting on the crime, and finds more than she bargained for: the killer vanishes after she spots him, but nobody seems to remember anything about Madison. It isn't long before Felicity realizes that she's entered a slightly different reality — one in which another Madison has just been murdered — and she sets off to investigate. It also looks like this one could be made into a TV show.  

Kirkus Reviews called the book "a very clever, unpredictable little murder mystery with some bittersweet tones about the things we do for love."

Read an excerpt.

We Have Always Been Here by Lena Nguyen

In this debut novel from Lena Nguyen, a psychologist named Dr. Grace Park is assigned to an interstellar survey ship called the Deucalion, to monitor its crew while they undertake a mission on a distant ice planet. Once they arrive, things start to go wrong: the crew is trapped on the ship by a radiation storm, and they're starting to act strangely and experience terrifying nightmares. It becomes apparent that there's more to the planet than is to be seen.

Publishers Weekly says that "Nguyen immerses readers in a chilling landscape while effortlessly softening the more sinister moments with wistful, dreamlike flashbacks."

Read an excerpt.

Sidewinders by Robert V.S. Redick

Robert V. S. Redick returns to the world of his 2018 book Master Assassins: The Fire Sacraments for a new, standalone adventure. In that first installment, Kandri and Mektu Hinjuman were mistaken for assassins, and became immersed in a horrific war.

In this new adventure, Redick picks up the story of the two brothers as they flee across the Ravenous Lands after they killed the son of a prophet, who's now in hot pursuit. Along the way, they have to be wary of their fellow travelers. The stakes are high: Kandri carries with him the cure to a disease that's plagued the world for centuries. Their destination is the city of Kasralys on the other side of the desert, where they might find safety, but trouble is brewing on its borders.

Grimdark Magazine called the book "a beautiful fever-dream of a novel that is bound to impress."

Read an excerpt.

The Empire's Ruin by Brian Staveley

Brian Staveley's Chronicles of the Unhewen Throne series (The Emperor's Blades, The Providence of Fire, The Last Mortal Bonds, and Skullsworn) have been some of my favorite recent epic fantasy novels, and I've been excited for a return to the world.

That comes in the form of The Empire's Ruin, which is set a couple of years after the upheaval that took place in the first trilogy: the Annurian Empire's Kettral forces have been severely depleted, while the kenta gates, which allowed the Emperor to travel from place to place across their territory, are no longer functioning.

It's up to a military expedition to visit a hostile continent to try and find more of the giant birds for the Kettral to use, while a former monk might hold the key to restarting the gate system. They're also running out of time: an ancient threat has begun to emerge from its long slumber.

I've been reading this one in the last couple of weeks, and it's a a helluva lot of fun to return to the world. Read an excerpt.

July 13th

Appleseed by Matt Bell

In his latest novel, Matt Bell splits his time between the 1800s, 50, and 1000 years in the future. In the former timeline, a pair of brothers have begun setting up a series of apple orchards that they hope will form the foundation of a greater community. In the nearish future, a man named John contends with his role in creating a company that controls the world's food supply, and in the far future, an ice age has covered North America, and a lone individual sets out to find the last remnants of human civilization.

It looks as though it's an ambitious, sprawling novel about climate change and the fate of humanity, and Kirkus Reviews says that "Bell cleverly combines the novel’s plot threads in the book's late stages, and despite the elliptical structure, his central message hits home: The world as we know it is past saving if we need a monopolist to save it."

Read an excerpt.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

I'm a big fan of Becky Chambers' Wayfarers novels, and while I'm sad to see that series come to a close, I'm looking forward to her next world: a planet where robots gained sentience and up and left civilization, and hundreds of years later, begin to return when a monk comes across a robot in a forest.

New Scientist says that it's "a joyful experience and, as with all of Chambers’s books, I was left with a warm, fuzzy feeling inside."

Read an excerpt.

Related: "Space belongs to you": Becky Chambers on optimistic sci-fi and ending her Wayfarers series

Strange Beasts of China by Yan Ge

A Chinese cryptozoologist sets off for Yong’an City, where all manner of fantastical creatures live alongside humans. They live in harmony, and along with an assistant, the cryptozoologist begins to document the city's inhabitants, listening to their stories and getting drawn into a mystery that gets to the heart of her identity.

Publishers Weekly says that "the overall effect of Yan’s storytelling is dreamy and hypnotic, sometimes opaque but always captivating."

Read an excerpt.

Secrets of the Force: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Wars by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman

Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman have written a bunch of essential oral histories of shows like Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and now, they turn their attention to George Lucas's Star Wars. These books are always pretty interesting, and they tend to provide a nice overview of the franchises in question. While there's no shortage of books about the history of Star Wars, this latest one goes all the way up to Lucasfilm's television efforts, and it should provide a good overview of the franchise, some insights into the sequel trilogy, and how the world is evolving for the future.

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix

There's a longstanding trope in horror movies: the last woman standing at the end of a horror movie, traumatized by their recent attack and victimization. In his latest novel, Grady Hendrix picks up what happens to those characters after the credits roll, upending those tropes from your favorite slasher films. Lynette Tarkington survived the Silent Night Slayings of 1988, and has been meeting with six fellow survivors in a therapy group.

When one of their number goes missing, she and her companions realize that someone's looking to interrupt their lives once again, and take matters into their own hands to save themselves. Unsurprisingly, the book has already been optioned for a series.

Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying that "the result is a wonderfully suspenseful and darkly comedic novel that cleverly subverts popular culture."

The Fallen by Ada Hoffmann

A couple of years ago, Ada Hoffmann published The Outside, a space opera set in the distant future in which a scientist developed a new type propulsion system, and ended up attracting the attention of some God-like AIs when she destroyed her space station.

Now she's back with a sequel, The Fallen, set on the planet Jai, which has been experiencing some unexpected changes: its surface and inhabitants have been altered, and the AI gods have quarantined the planet to keep whatever's happening from spreading. They're assisted by Tiv Hunt, who has been helping the planet's survivors. Those survivors want to resist the Gods, and call on Tiv's girlfriend, Yasira to lead them, prompting the two to go on the run from their former overlords.

Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying that "This eerie, beautiful vision of collective action draws equally from Warhammer 40,000, cosmic horror, and the work of Becky Chambers to create a unique, nuanced must-read."

Flash Fire by TJ Klune

After a bit of effort (as told in T.J. Klune's 2020 book The Extraordinaries), Nick Bell has landed the perfect boyfriend: a superhero named Pyro Storm. Things are going pretty well for the pair, until a new group of superpowered heroes arrive in town, prompting the two to figure out who is a hero and who is a villain. Along the way, there are some long-buried issues about Nick's family that could unravel everything.

Kirkus Reviews says that "Spending more time with these characters is an absolute delight; the love they share and readily profess for each other, both platonic and romantic, is beautiful to witness."

Read en excerpt.

Sword Stone Table by Swapna Krishna and Jenn Northington

The stories of King Arthur and his knights have been told and retold countless times, and for good reason: they're exciting and inspiring. This new anthology from Swapna Krishna and Jenn Northington reimagines a bunch of the stories in a global, multicultural fashion, pulling those stories into the modern world in some cool and unexpected ways. The anthology includes some really good names on the table of contents: Maria Dahvana Headly, Ken Liu, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Anthony Rapp, Nisi Shawl, and more.

Arley Sorg at Lightspeed Magazine heaped praise on the anthology, saying that "This book goes beyond “hella cool”: it leaves “hella cool” in the dust!"

Midnight, Water City by Chris Mckinney

Hawai‘ian author Chris McKinney kicks off a trilogy with Midnight, Water City, set in the year 2142. 40 years earlier, Earth was nearly struck by a massive asteroid, and was saved through the efforts of a scientist named Akira Kimura. In the years since, she's become a global celebrity, and now feels that she's no longer safe. She hires her former head of security for help, and he arrives at her home to find that she's been killed, prompting him to track down her murderer.

Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying that "The path toward the truth behind the murder is satisfyingly complex, yielding a logical, if gut-wrenching, solution," and compares it to Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?.

Read an excerpt.

Bubble by Jordan Morris and Sarah Morgan

A couple of years ago while I was reviewing / surfacing podcasts for The Verge, I came across a fun series called Bubble, a short project about a bunch of hipsters living in this high-tech city where they worked as monster hunters on this alien world. Jordan Morris and Sarah Morgan have adapted the podcast into a graphic novel, and I've been paging through it in the last couple of months — it's a nicely-done adaptation, and it's a nice return to the world and story.

July 20th

Assassin's Orbit by John Appel

The planet Ileri is poised to join the Commonwealth, only to have the planetary vote derailed when a member of the government is assassinated. A pair of private investigators are called in to help the police find the culprit, and discover that there's a greater threat lurking in the shadows.

Publishers Weekly notes that "thanks to the galaxy populated largely by peoples of African and Asian descent and point-of-view characters who are are mostly middle-aged or older women of color, Appel offers a unique entry point to the space opera plot."

Read an excerpt.

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

A brother and sister grow up in an impoverished village in a 1345 China under Mongol rule. The boy, Zhu Chongba, has been prophesied for greatness, but his sister has never been given a name. When their village is attacked and their parents killed, Zhu dies of despair, prompting his sister to take on her brother's name and find a way to survive, no matter what it takes.

Publishers Weekly says that Shelley Parker-Chan's "nuanced exploration of gender identity and striking meditation on bodily autonomy set this fantasy apart."

Read an excerpt.

The Past Is Red by Catherynne M. Valente

Catherynne M. Valente sets her latest work in the distant future: Earth has been covered with an endless ocean, with humanity clinging to a handful of tiny floating islands. Tetley Abednego is one of the inhabitants of one such island, Garbagetown, and always sees the best in her bleak existence, even if her neighbors long for better days. When she meets a new friend, she finds an unexpected secret about her home.

Publishers Weekly says that "this volume will appeal to fans of Valente’s characteristic vivid prose and anyone wanting a sketch of what might remain after the climate apocalypse."

Read an excerpt.

The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig

Chuck Wendig's latest novel takes readers to a house in rural Pennsylvania, where a boy named Nathan endured an abusive father, a girl named Maddie saw something that she shouldn't have, and where something stalked the miners of the local coal mine deep underground.

Nathan and Maddie have since grown up and married, and have returned home with their son, Oliver. While there, Oliver meets a strange boy, and the dark horrors that touched his parents appears to be coming back, threatening the family once again. Kirkus Reviews says that it's a "grade-A, weirdly comforting, and familiar stew of domestic drama, slasher horror, and primeval evil."

Read an excerpt.

July 27th

Star Wars The High Republic: Out of the Shadows by Justina Ireland

I really enjoyed Justina Ireland's Middle Grade High Republic novel, A Test of Courage, and now, she's back with a YA installment of the series, Out of the Shadows, which follows Sylvestri Yarrow, who's working to keep her family's freight-hauling company going amidst the challenges that the Nihil have brought on the industry. When she heads off to Coruscant to test her luck there, she finds herself in the midst of a fight between two prominent families, which draws in a couple of Jedi Knights.  

Read an excerpt.

Hold Fast Through the Fire by K.B. Wagers

K.B. Wagers continues their NeoG military SF series with Hold Fast Through the Fire, a sequel to A Pale Light in the Black, about an officer of the Near-Earth Orbital Guard, Maxine Carmichael, who takes part in the annual Boarding Games while figuring out how to lead her new team amidst the challenges of deep space.

Now, the crew of Zuma’s Ghost won the competition again, and they're dealing with some personnel changes as a new commander steps in to lead them, along with Spacer Chae Ho-ki, someone with a secret that could threaten them all while they deal with a threat to some colonies and associated trade routes.

Kirkus Reviews gave the book a starred review, saying that "although the storyline is powered by an impressively intricate plot that features mystery, intrigue, and nonstop action, it’s the deeply developed characters and the dynamic relationships among them that fuel this narrative."

Looking for more new books? You can check out prior book lists here.

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As always, thanks for reading. Let me know what you've been reading, what catches your eye on this list, and so forth.