Here's a pile of new SF/F books to enjoy this July

15 new books to read while you're at the beach/pool/yard/couch, etc.

Here's a pile of new SF/F books to enjoy this July
Image: Andrew Liptak

I hope that you had a safe and exciting fourth of July. (If you're in the US. If you're elsewhere, I hope it was a good Thursday.)

With summer now upon us, we're hitting some prime reading time: I've been steadily working on whittling down my TBR pile. It's been nice to take some time to read in the sun lately, and this month brings out a whole bunch of books that I've been really looking forward to this year.As always, you can find past recommendation lists via the Book List tag.

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Okay, here are 15 new SF/F books to check out in the first half of July. I'll be back in a couple of weeks with another list with even more coming out later this month.

This Great Hemisphere by Mateo Askaripour (July 9th)

In the distant future, the world is divided along strict class lines between the invisibles and Dominant Population. Sweetmint is one of the invisibles, and she's worked hard to build a life after her brother disappeared: She's excelled in school and is now an apprentice to an eccentric, noted inventor. When the authorities arrive and explain that not only is her brother not missing, he's a suspect in the murder of the Northwestern Hemisphere's Chief Executive. As a global manhunt gets underway, Sweetmint sets out to find him before the authorities do in the midst of a heated election for the position.

Publishers Weekly notes that "at it's best, this energetic, speculative deconstruction of colonialism feels like watching an expert put together a 1000-piece jigsaw."

I've long been a fan of Paolo Bacigapuli's novels The Windup Girl and The Water Knife, and over the last couple of years, I've been wondering when he'd be coming out with another adult novel. That book has finally arrived, Navola. It's set in the city state of Navola, which is ruled by a small handful of powerful families, including the di Regulai family, who've built up a world-wide empire as merchant bankers.

Son Davico di Regulai will soon take over the family, its dealings, and treasures, including a fossilized dragon's eye with some particular powers. When he's betrayed, he'll have to take drastic actions in order to survive.

Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, comparing it to Game of Thrones.

Midnight Rooms by Donyae Coles (July 2nd)

In 1840, Orabella Mumthrope discovers a stranger in her uncle's home: Elias Blakersby, who claims to be member of an aristrocratic family and that he's intent on marrying her. She's surprised, as she's an orphan from a mixed race couple, and agrees, hoping to help her uncle come out from under his debts. She's soon brought out to the Blakersby estate, Korringhill Manor, and discovers that it's far from the wealthy household that she expecting. It's rundown and moldering, and that it's home to some deep secrets, including a cationic sister-in-law, locked doors, and a darkness that seems to be infecting her. As the nightmares pile up, she begins to lose her grip on reality.

Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying "Coles’s prose is evocative and strange and pairs brilliantly with the gothic tropes she expertly deploys. This is a fever dream of a novel that readers won’t want to wake up from."

The Spellshop by Sarah Beth Durst (July 9th)

Kiela would rather avoid people, and fortunately, she's been able to avoid them in her role as librarian at the Great Library of Alyssium, where she's worked for years alongside her assistant Caz (a magically sentient spider plant.) There, they've been preserving spellbooks and magic for the city's elite.

Trouble strikes when a revolution erupts and the library burns to the ground, prompting Kiela and Caz to try and save as many books as they can as they flee to her childhood home on a distant island, where she sets up shop in her late parents' cottage, trying to lay low from the revolutionaries. Along the way, she catches the eye of a handsome neighbor and finds that she can put her magical knowledge to work improving the lives her her new neighbors.

Kirkus Reviews says "kindness is king in this soft and breezy low-stakes cottagecore fantasy."

The Bright Sword by Lev Grossman (July 16th)

I've long been a fan of Grossman's The Magicians trilogy for his subversive approach to a handful of the fantasy genre's dominant tropes, and for years, I've been excited to see what he'd do with another big fantasy story: the legend of King Arthur.

The result is The Bright Sword, which I read and finished last month. It's a phenomenal read that's remained on my mind ever since, taking the story of King Arthur and re-examining it in some interesting ways, looking at everything from the various, lesser-known members of the Round Table, the role of power and transitions from antiquity to modernity. I'll have a proper, longer review of this later this month, but in the meantime, it's one not to be missed.

The Eyes Are the Best Part by Monika Kim (June 25th)

In this horror novel, Ji-won finds her life upended when her father engages in an affair and leaves her and her family on their own. Her mother picks up a new boyfriend, George, who's quickly wearing out his welcome with his boorish behavior, and the trauma from all of this has brought out some horrifying dreams: she's walking through bloody rooms full of eyes, and she's beginning to take our her anger and rage on those around her, starting with their eyes.

Writing in Lightspeed Magazine, Ainger Loren Wilson says it's not "a comfort read. It is unsettling, raw, and unapologetic. A sharp read for fans of dark tales about rough family dynamics and so much anger."

Unraveling by Karen Lord (July 9th)

Penguin Random House has been re-releasing Karen Lord's novels with some excellent new covers this year: the next in line is Unraveling, her 2019 novel about a woman who helps witnesses recover memories from traumatic events. When she's seized and brought to a fantastical world by an Undying spirit named Chance, she's presented with an unusual mission: help an Angel track down a rogue Undying spirit who was the mastermind behind the crimes of a horrifying serial killer that she once helped put away in the real world.

The Sky On Fire by Jenn Lyons (July 9th)

Jenn Lyons launches a new standalone fantasy about a woman named Anahrod, who was booted from her training as a dragonrider and into a wild jungle known as The Deep. Since then, she's wanted to avoid people, prefering the company of her titan drake. After she's saved from being captured by a local warlord, she's reluctant to rejoin the civilized world. But her past is catching up to her, and she's enticed into joining a party to take part in a heist on a dragon's horde.

Kirkus Reviews gave the book a starred review, saying the book "grabs a bunch of now-classic fantasy tropes and gives them a good shake; meanwhile, the heist story sticks fairly close to its classic tropes—clever ruses, last-minute setbacks, inevitable betrayals, and so on—but injects enjoyable suspense."

Allies and Enemies: Endgame by Amy Murphy ( July 1st)

Fellow Vermont author Amy Murphy brings her Allies and Enemies military SF series to a close with its sixth installment, Endgame. Soldiers Sela Tyron and Jon Veradin have gone rogue and are stranded far from civilization, where they have to figure out how to survive by teaming up with a fellow human survivor, Essie Hoffs, and her Sceeloid companion Deke.

At the same time, Erelah Veradin works to rescue her daughter from her prison onboard a sentient starship called Vo, and in doing so, she's pulled into a power struggle between the Ironvale and Spitdawn Guilds.

Icehenge by Kim Stanley Robinson (June 11th)

Kim Stanley Robinson has produced some of the more insightful and thought-provoking science fiction novels about humanity's future on Earth in the last couple of decades, like Aurora, New York 2140, and Ministry for the Future. Tor Books recently reissued his novel Icehenge (published in 1984), which someone on my Facebook page noted was playing with ideas that he'd later use in his novels Red Mars and 2312.

Set in the distant future, explorers discover a series of giant blocks of ice on Pluto, laid out like Stonehenge, and across three different time periods, Robinson explores the story of an engineer on Mars caught up in a revolution, an archeologist 300 years later who discovers the engineer's notebook, and the archeologist's great-grandson, who's visiting the Icehenge monument.

This sounds like a really fascinating read, and I'm tossing it onto the to-read list.

All This and More by Peng Sheperd (July 9th)

I loved Peng Shepherd's last novel The Cartographers when I picked it up a couple of years ago: a fast, exciting book about the power of maps and places. Her next looks just as exciting: Marsh is hitting a mid-life crisis. Her marriage has blown up, her daughter is becoming distant, and she's struggling to advance in her career. When she's selected to join a global reality series All This and More, she has the chance to revise her past and present, and resets herself to everything she wanted.

But soon, she begins to realize that the show's promises might be too good to be true, and there might be more to everything than she thought. Fittingly, Shepherd takes a cue from the Choose Your Own Adventure books and readers can play with Marsh's story in a whole bunch of variations.

Publishers Weekly says "Shepherd playfully mines nostalgia for Choose Your Own Adventure series. Whichever path readers take, they’ll find a tantalizing and well-knit story. Reality TV fans especially ought to take note. "

Mapping reality
Peng Shepherd’s novel The Cartographers is a brilliant work of fantasy

The Night Ends with Fire by K.X. Song (July 2nd)

K.X. Song draws inspiration from the legend of Mulan for her latest novel, The Night Ends With Fire. Meilin's father is addicted to opium and had planned to sell her for her dowery. When she discovers that her would-be husband is a violent man, she decides to enlist in the Imperial army in her father's place, where she grows close to Sky, a prince who's also serving in the ranks.

Library Journal says that "Song’s poetic prose brings together cardinal spirits, a flawed protagonist, and a plot inspired by the legend of Mulan."

Bury Your Gays by Chuck Tingle (July 9th)

Chuck Tingle's latest novel explores the common Hollywood trope, "bury your gays," where gay characters are often killed off or made expendable. In it, we follow Misha, a writer who's been working for years to break through in the film industry.

When he's told by studio executives to kill off his show's gay characters, "for the algorithm," he refuses, and that decision has put him in the crosshairs of some nasty individuals, including some monsters from his past working on horror movies.

Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying "Tingle’s vivid, visceral storytelling combines with prescient insight into the corporate dynamics that rule mainstream media. The result is smart, subtle, and a bloody good time."

Pink Slime by Fernanda Trías, trans. by Heather Cleary (July 2nd)

A coastal city is ravaged by a toxic algae bloom that's choking the air and killing anyone who dares to enter the water. Those who remain in the city have to contend with shortages of power and food, and a secretive corporation has begun producing Meatrite, a gross pink slime that turns out to be the only food anyone can afford to eat. The story's unnamed narrator is trying to hold onto her few remaining connections to her past: her mother, ex-husband, and a boy in her care, and she's forced to deal with the realization that nothing is going to improve.

Kirkus Reviews awarded the book a starred review, saying "This is a stunningly dark novel, but a beautiful one; Trías’ prose and Cleary’s translation perfectly capture what it feels like to live in an epidemic ... This is a knockout of a story."

The Icarus Changling by Timothy Zahn (July 2nd)

Timothy Zahn's The Icarus Hunt has long been a favorite book of mine, and in the last couple of years, he's returned to the world for three new sequels, The Icarus Job (which I've been picking away at in recent months), The Icarus Twin, and now, The Icarus Changling.

This new series has been following agent Gregory Roarke, who works for the Icarus Group. He's been exploring worlds trying to find new ways to break the Patth's stranglehold on interstellar travel, and in this latest adventure, he's off to a backwater world called Alainn to locate a potential teleportation portal that might be located there. The Patth are also on the hunt, and the two of them have to find it before they do, all while avoiding getting mixed up in a murder that occurs while they're on-planet.