Hello, and happy March,
I hope that you're doing well, all things in the world considered: at the beginning of February, I didn't exactly imagine that we'd end the month with a war erupting in Europe, and my heart goes out to the citizens of Ukraine.
I've been sitting back and watching how this plays out. I don't have anything practical or immediately useful to offer, other than to point out that science fiction has grown up and come of age in a nuclear world and for generations, authors have grappled with the implications of a potentially world-ending conflict. Art and storytelling is how we collectively process our trauma, our confusion, and frustration at the state of the world, and in this time of worry and uncertainty, books have been a great comfort. I hope that they are for you as well.
Here's the usual disclaimers: this newsletter is a Bookshop.org affiliate, and if you make a purchase through a link there, I might get a small commission. It's also worth double-checking release dates, because they've been shifting around quite a bit because of supply chain issues.
And, if you find a book that you really like, or if you like this particular type of list, please consider signing up as a supporting member or sharing this newsletter far and wide with your friends and followers.
March brings with it its a new crop of stories to dig into: stories of distant, broken worlds, alternate realities, growing space empires, and quite a bit more. Here are 16 that caught my eye:
First, bit of a self-promotional plug (sorry!): I've got a book coming out from Saga Press later this year, Cosplay: A History. Anyone who preorders it and forwards me their confirmation will get a year's subscription to this newsletter comped! The audiobook edition is currently on sale at Audible for 49% off ($11.34!). The deal ends today, so if you'd like to snag it, it's a good opportunity to do so! (I don't know who's narrating it. Hopefully they'll tell me soonish.)
A couple of years ago, while writing for io9, Joshua Glenn embarked on a project to explore and highlight one of science fiction's earlier ages, which he termed the "Radium Age". It was a part of the genre that had long been overlooked, and through his small press, he went and republished some of those stories, from the likes of authors like Arthur Conan Doyle and Jack London.
Now, MIT Press has brought the Radium Age books back as a series (with a mix of previously-published and newly republished installments), with Glenn serving as Series Editor, which will be published over the course of the next couple of years. The first book out of the gate is his anthology Voices from the Radium Age, a collection of short stories from William Hope Hodgson, Doyle, W.E.B. DuBois, and more.
The other book slated for release this month is J.D. Beresford's 1913 novel A World of Women, a dystopia in which most of Earth's men are wiped out from a plague, while a group of London women set out to rebuild society via a communal, agriculturally-focused outpost.
These two books are the start to a really interesting-looking publishing project. Stay tuned: I'll have a profile of Glenn and the series coming next week.
Arkhangelsk by Elizabeth Bonesteel (March 8th)
I've long felt that Elizabeth Bonesteel's Central Corps novels are one of those criminally-underrated reads, especially if you're a space opera person. She's apparently working on another story in the series, but while we wait, she's releasing a new, standalone book called Arkhangelsk, which looks like it'll scratch that particular itch.
The book is set on a distant, ice-bound city called Novayarkha, which believes that it's the last remnants of humanity. That belief changes when a ship arrives in orbit from Earth, and peace officer Anya Savelova is forced to reexamine her life and that of her world — her eyes are opened to the types of sacrifices that her people have had to make in order to survive, and recognizes that there are some irreconcilable problems in Novayarkha that could break the city apart with the slightest nudge.
Read an excerpt here.
Sweep of Stars by Maurice Broaddus (March 29th)
This is one of my more anticipated reads of the year: Maurice Broaddus kicks off an afrofuturist space opera trilogy called Astra Black, in which refugees from the pan-African diaspora on Earth have formed the Muungano Empire, a collection of habitats that stretch through the solar system from Earth to Saturn's moon Titan. As its leaders work to build a better future for themselves in the depths of space away from Earth, they face some significant challenges as older powers try and thwart those plans.
All the while on the other side of the galaxy, supersoldier lead by a member of the empire accidentally enters an alien war, with consequences that might follow them home.
Library Journal gave the book a starred review, saying that it "takes off with an epic array of characters and plotlines that will enmesh readers in the politics and power struggles set across the stars." Publishers Weekly also gave the book a starred review, noting that Broaddus "draws a direct line in global Black history from the kingdoms of precolonial Africa, through the American civil rights movement and into an imagined future, making this a hugely ambitious and notable work of postcolonial science fiction.
Read an excerpt here.
The Way Spring Arrives and Other Stories, edited by Yu Chen and Regina Kanyu Wang (March 8th)
Science fiction from China has been making its way into English in the last couple of years, with major books like The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu and Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang, and anthologies like Sinopticon by Xueting Christine Ni.
There's a new anthology hitting stores from Yu Chen and Regina Kanyu Wang, The Way Spring Arrives and Other Stories, which has a specific focus on female and nonbinary authors from China, which strikes me as an excellent focus for a book that should bring some interesting perspectives to readers. I only recognize one author in the TOC, Xia Jia, but the rest are new to me, which should make this a nice introduction to some new authors.
Library Journal calls the book "an important anthology showcasing compelling voices and perspectives in science fiction and fantasy."
Until the Last of Me by Sylvain Neuvel (March 29th)
Sylvain Neuvel continues his Take them To The Stars trilogy with Until the Last of Me. It's a sequel to last year's A History of What Comes Next, about a woman named Mia who's mysterious family is intertwined with that of humanity's history of science and space travel, working towards a goal of bringing humanity to space. Set in 1945, her mission was to get German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun out of Europe and to the United States before the Russians do — and before other mysterious adversary stops them and humanity.
In this latest adventure, the story jumps to 1968, and humanity is about to embark into space for the first time. An alien Tracker has killed Mia's mother, trying to protect an ancient artifact that they hid from the aliens long ago. Soon, an artifact is discovered in China that has links to their family, and Mia and her daughter are going to have to stand and fight against the Trackers to safe humanity's future.
Read an excerpt.
Stars and Bones by Gareth L. Powell (March 1st)
I enjoyed Gareth Powell's Embers of War when I picked it up a while back, and he's got a new science fiction novel out this month that looks like it' about to kick off a new series: Stars and Bones.
75 years in the future, humanity has abandoned Earth to travel the stars in a fleet of arkships, each with their own unique society. On one of the ships, a woman named Eryn King joins a search party to track down her sister, who went missing when she responded to an alien distress call. But the effort only brings back further danger to the remains of humanity, and Eryn sets out to track down a recluse who might have the only solution to humanity's survival.
Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying that "Powell balances plot, action, and character development perfectly," and that the series should appeal nicely to fans of The Expanse.
The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi (March 15th)
I've been reading this book off and on for the last couple of months: not because it's easy to put down, but because I've been trying to savor it. If you've enjoyed any of Scalzi's books, this'll be immediately familiar to you: plucky characters, lots of snarky dialogue, and a lightning-fast, gripping plot. (It reminds me quite a bit of his book Fuzzy Nation, which I got wrapped into that I missed a bus stop at an airport — twice.)
The series kicks off midway through the COVID-19 pandemic, in which Jamie Gray is stuck in a dead-end job when they run across an old acquaintance from college, Tom. Tom's picked up a secretive job and has found himself short-handed, Jamie immediately accepts, and is transported to an alternate dimension in which Kaiju roam the world. Their job is to study and protect the giant beasts, and to protect them from others whose motives aren't so altruistic.
A Thousand Steps Into Night by Traci Chee (March 1st)
In the magical world of Awara, Miuko has resigned herself to a mundane existence as an inn-keeper's daughter. That existence is shattered when she's cursed and begins to transform into a demon, prompting her to try and find a cure so that she can return to her quiet life. She's joined by a magpie spirit and a demon prince, and is forced to avoid demon hunters and negotiate with gods before she can return home.
Kirkus Reviews gave the book a starred review, saying that "Miuko comes across other women in dire situations, requiring her to question the cultural norms of what it means to be a female in an oppressive patriarchal society," and that it's "a dark fantasy with welcome moments of levity, this story will charm fans of Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away."
Read an excerpt here.
The Quarter Storm by Veronica G. Henry (March 1st)
The first book in a duology from Veronica G. Henry, The Quarter Storm follows Haitian-American Vodou priestess Mambo Reina Dumond, who runs a healing practice out of her home in New Orleans. When a ritual killing takes place in the city, Reina's ex-boyfriend is the detective on the case, and he's determined to tie the crime to the city's community of Vodou practitioners.
In response, she sets off to try and find the killer herself, and as she does so, she finds that a plot that's much darker than she ever imagined, and ends up going up against a magical killer who'll push her to her limits.
Publishers Weekly says that "this hits the sweet spot of eschewing overdone tropes while retaining the familiar elements that draw fans to the genre."
Kundo Wakes Up by Saad Z. Hossain (March 15th)
I picked up Saad Z. Hossain's novella The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday a couple of years ago and was struck by his interesting blend of mythology and modern technology a he followed a reawakened Djinn in a high-tech city.
In Kundo Wakes Up, he takes us back to that world, as an artificial intelligence named Karma goes silent, leaving the city of Chittagong to decline, while a has-been artist named Kundo goes out to look for his missing wife, only to discover that there's other people who've disappeared, too. Along with some unexpected companions, he discovers a doorway to a Djinn world, which proves to be a tantalizing temptation for them.
Publishers Weekly says that "Hossain blends futuristic technology and Arabic mythology in this rabbit hole of a mystery, lacing the goings-on with references to popular video games."
Last Exit by Max Gladstone (March 8th)
Max Gladstone's Craft sequence is one of those modern-day essential reads, and I'm eager to dig into this new adventure from him. In it, a woman named Zelda and her friends were multiverse-hopping adventurers, fighting against a rot that seemed to be spreading between realities. On their last mission a decade ago, Zelda's partner Sal was left behind, and the group broke up and drifted apart.
Now, Sal's cousin June has tracked down Zelda, who's been trying to stomp out the Rot on her own, and she convinces her to try bring the group back together to track down Sal and maybe finish off the threat forever.
Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying that "there’s a wonderful diversity of characters and relationships, with deep insight on how the characters’ differing traumas and marginalizations influence what they want out of the alternate worlds. The result blends fantasy, horror, and science fiction to produce a stunning, insightful novel that wants a better world just as much as its protagonists do."
Read an excerpt.
The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd (March 15th)
When I polled some friends earlier this year on what books they were most looking forward to this spring, one of the ones that came up a bunch of times was Peng Shepherd's The Cartographers. I've heard nothing but good things about her debut novel The Book of M, and this one sounds just as interesting.
A young woman named Nell Young has spent her entire life studying maps along with her father. But they had a breakup when she became interested in what appeared to be a cheap highway map, and when he threw her out of the field. Now, he's been killed, and when she checks out his office, she discovers that same map, and is thrust into a compelling mystery. The map appears to be the last of its kind, and someone has been going out of their way to destroy any copy that's ever existed — and those who carry it.
Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying that "Shepherd’s convincing blend of magic from old maps with the modern online world both delights and thrills."
Read an excerpt here.
All the Horses of Iceland by Sarah Tolmie (March 1st)
In this historical fantasy, Sarah Tolmie explores the mythology of the island's breed of horse, following a horse trader named Eyvind and his companion David and their adventures through Asia to look for horses to bring back home. Along the way, they encounter fantastical ghosts and magic before returning home, bringing some of that magic home with them.
Publishers Weekly says that "Tolmie weaves a saga of whimsy and magic against a lavish historical backdrop. Historical fantasy fans are sure to root for this reluctant hero and his fabulous beasts."
All the White Spaces by Ally Wilkes (March 29th)
After the First World War, a man named Jonathan Morgan hides on a ship bound for the Antarctic, hoping to find an adventure that'll accept him and his true self for who he really is. Leading the expedition is James Randall, a hero of Jonathan's. When disaster strikes the ship, they find themselves sheltering on land that doesn't appear on any maps, and without hope of rescue.
If the threat of freezing to death or running out of supplies wasn't enough, it seems that something strange has begun stalking them in the middle of the Antarctic night, something that preys on their deepest desires and deepest fears.
Read an excerpt.
And some others
Blood, Sweat & Chrome: The Wild and True Story of Mad Max: Fury Road by Kyle Buchanan (February 22nd)
Looking back at the last decade of genre films, it's clear that Mad Max: Fury Road is one of those rare films that'll stand the test of time. It's a glorious, brutal, and beautiful movie, and a new book from New York Times journalist Kyle Buchanan documents the extremely difficult production that the film went through. There's been a couple of excerpts that have made headlines: stars Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron apparently had a grim rivalry throughout the production, and it looks like a riveting read.
Secret Identity by Alex Segura (March 15th)
Set in 1975, Alex Secura follows the story of Carmen Valdez, an assistant at comics publisher Triumph Comics, who yearns to become a comic writer in her own right. When she's called in to help develop a new character, The Lethal Lynch, the company's first female hero, she's bothered by her colleague's strange behavior, and to keep her assistance secret.
When said colleague turns up dead and all of his work turned in without her name, she has to figure out what happened to him, and how to prove that she helped him in the first place.
Kirkus Reviews gave the book a starred review, saying that "Segura’s book works on so many levels, it’s almost hard to keep track—as a love letter to comic books, it’s as powerful as anything since Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000). And as a thriller, it’s smart, perfectly paced, and wonderfully atmospheric—Segura captures the intense, grimy milieu of 1970s New York with aplomb."