Here's the May 2021 science fiction and fantasy book list!

A roundup of all the science fiction, fantasy, and horror novels coming out in May 2021 that you should add to your bookshelves.

Here's the May 2021 science fiction and fantasy book list!

It's somehow May, and that means a whole bunch of new releases arriving in bookstores.

I've rounded up 18 new science fiction and fantasy books to check out this month, featuring stories about robots, giant mechs, post-apocalyptic wastelands, epic quests, and quite a bit more.

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Onto this month's new releases:

May 4th

Immunity Index by Sue Burke

I loved Sue Burke's debut novel Semiosis, a mosaic first-contact novel that involved some sentient plants. I haven't had a chance to pick up its sequel, Interference, but Burke now has a new novel, one that's set apart from those two space-set books: Immunity Index.

This one looks like it's going to be an extremely prescient read: Burke follows four characters in this near-future thriller, which features a world-wide pandemic, a national mutiny, and a society in which clones are treated as second-class citizens.

Read an excerpt.  

The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne

John Gwynne kicks off a new epic fantasy trilogy with The Shadow of the Gods. The world of Vigrio has been left a wasteland after a titanic war between deities centuries ago, leaving the remaining humans to fight amongst themselves. Monsters now stalk the woods between the feudal kingdoms, and those desperate for power brave the wilderness to seek out the ancient bones of the fallen gods.

Gwynne follows the story of a woman trying to locate her stolen son, a royal who's been denied battlefield experience, and a mercenary who fights alongside the Bloodsworn. Publishers Weekly notes that Gwynne is a Viking reenactor, and that he uses that experience to use bring the story to life.

Read an excerpt.

Firebreak by Nicole Kornher-Stace

A hundred years from now, the US has been replaced by two major corporations, Stellaxis Innovations and Greenleaf, both of which are fighting one another in an intense civil war over a super city that both claim. One Stellaxis citizen, Mallory, is a video game streamer, and when she accidentally comes in touch with one of the cloned supersoldiers Stellaxis uses to fight its wars, it leads her to try and track down a missing girl who might be part of a conspiracy surrounding the origins of those soldiers.

Publishers Weekly says that "Kornher-Stace leads readers through the cinematic landscape of her imagined future with an expert hand.

Listen to an excerpt.

Make Shift: Dispatches from the Post-Pandemic Future by Gideon Lichfield

I'm a big fan of MIT Press's Twelve Tomorrows volumes, which seem to have morphed from a regular magazine series to a straight-up anthology in recent years. Either way, this series has produced some if the best short fiction that I've read, and I'll be interested to see how this collection of authors tackles imagining our post-pandemic futures. This year's installment features stories from Madeline Ashby, Rich Larson, Ken Liu, Malka Older, and more.

Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon

Rivers Solomon has been tearing up the SF/F scene with books like An Unkindness of Ghosts and The Deep, and returns for their latest: Sorrowland. In it, a woman named Vern flees from a religious cult called the Blessed Acres of Cain, hoping to raise her two unborn children away in the wilderness, away from the modern world. But her former cult members are after her, and backed into a corner, she lashes out, and finds that she's undergoing a strange transformation, one that she’ll have to look deep into her past to understand.

Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying that it's a "deceptively simple story to delve deep into Vern’s struggle to forge her own identity without buckling under the weight of history."

Read an excerpt.

The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng by K.S. Villoso

In this final installment of K.S. Villoso's Chronicles of the Wolf Queen trilogy, we find Queen Talyien returning home after embarking on a dangerous quest that brought her into conflict with a tangled conspiracy to undermine Jin-Sayeng.

There's trouble ahead in the form of a war, a kidnapped son, and her allies in disarray, all while her father's deeply-held secrets are starting to cause further problems. She'll need put aside the problem of her past to know what her next steps will be in order to save herself and her home.

Read an excerpt.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Andy Weir's best known for the survival novel The Martian, and returns for his third novel: Project Hail Mary, another scientific puzzle box that opens with an astronaut, Ryland Grace, waking up from stasis, unable to remember who he is or what he's supposed to be doing. Through a series of flashbacks, Weir unravels the mystery: the Earth's sun is quickly going dark, and it might be because of an alien life form that's taken up residence in our solar system.

As Grace regains his memory and discovers the purpose of his mission, he encounters an alien spaceship on a parallel mission, and the two need to figure out how to save their respective civilizations.

Kirkus Reviews gave the book a starred review, saying that it's "an unforgettable story of survival and the power of friendship." This is one that I've been reading already, and if you liked Weir's other books, there's a lot to like.

Read an excerpt.

May 11th

Black Water Sister by Zen Cho

In Zen Cho's latest novel, we're introduced to Jessamyn Teoh, a young, closeted woman who moves back to her birth nation of Malaysia to move in with her parents, where she left when she was an infant. She soon begins hearing a voice in her head, something she initially thinks is the stress getting to her, but which she eventually realizes is her deceased and estranged grandmother, An Ma.

An Ma was a spirit medium who embodied the Black Water Sister, and that mysterious entity is looking to settle a score with a business magnate that wronged it. Jess is along for the ride, dealing with her grandmother's invasion, and has to fight to regain control of her body and destiny.

Publishers Weekly says that "Cho’s multifaceted characters, like her masterful plot, are never quite what they first appear. Unpredictable twists keep the pages turning while the comic but endearing relationship between Jess and her sassy grandmother provides the story’s heart."

Read an excerpt.

A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark

I enjoyed P. Djèlí Clark’s Ring Shout when I read it last year, and I'm looking forward to his next book, A Master of Djinn. Set in Cairo in 1912, it follows Agent Fatma el-Sha'arawi is the youngest member of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities (which we first met in The Haunting of Tram Car 015). A murder brings her to an unusual case: a brotherhood dedicated to al-Jahiz, who transformed the world by discovering magic, made all the more complicated by the al-Jahiz’s admission that he’s the murderer, trying to bring the world back to some sort of order.

Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying that "the colorful prose and thorough worldbuilding allow readers to truly enter this imagined world."

Read the first two chapters.  

Roger Zelazny by F. Brett Cox

F. Brett Cox is a dear friend and mentor of mine since college: he's adding to the Modern Masters of Science Fiction series put out by the University of TKTK press. This series has produced a number of exciting monographs about a ton of genre authors, and I'm particularly excited to read about Zelazny, an author I really don't know much about.

Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

Suyi Davies Okungbowa published his debut novel David Mogo, Godhunder back in 2019, and has regularly appeared in a bunch of publications like Lightspeed,, Strange Horizons, and others. With Son of the Storm, he kicks off a new epic fantasy trilogy, The Nameless Republic.

The novel is set in the ancient city of Bassa, and follows Danso, a scholar who'd much rather spend his time studying stories (one of which is his mother's origins) of what lies beyond the city's walls — a closely guarded secret by the city's leaders.  When he encounters a warrior from the Nameless Islands, he stumbles on a magical secret that changes everything he knows about his ancestral homeland, and sets off to learn more, potentially upending the empire that he left behind.

Read an excerpt.

We Are Satellites by Sarah Pinsker

Sarah Pinsker earned the Nebula Award for her 2019 book A Song for a New Day, and in her next, she takes us into a future where a technology company has unveiled a new offering: a Pilot, a type of brain implant. Val and Julie's son David asks for one to help with school work, and soon, Julie's getting one for her job. Val and Sophie as part of a growing minority of people who haven't put them into their heads. The family has to contend with being left behind and fracturing between pro-and-anti Pilot usage. This looks like it's a book that's tapping into some very relevant and timely concerns.

Read an excerpt.

May 18th

The Quiet Boy by Ben H. Winters

I've enjoyed Ben H. Winters' book Underground Airlines, and thought his last book Golden State had an interesting premise. His latest looks intriguing: a lawyer named Jay Shenk convinces a family to sue a hospital after their son Wesley was left brain damaged after a routine procedure in 2008. Fast forward a decade, and Shenk is brought on to defend the family's patriarch after he's accused of murdering an expert witness in the 2008 case. Things get complicated when the lawyers are visited by some cultists who believe that Wesley harbors the key to a portal to another world.

Kirkus Reviews says that the book "jumps from decade to decade and all over the map as everyone grows older except Wesley, with a growing trail of bodies and suspects to mark the story’s passage.An entertaining concoction with plenty of twists on the way to a nicely unexpected resolution."

May 25th

The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman

Christopher Buehlman kicks off a new epic fantasy trilogy with The Blacktongue Thief, an aspiring thief named Kinch Na Shannack owes the Takers Guild for his training, and when he sets out to start winnowing down that balance, he robs the wrong person: Galva, a knight who's a veteran of the Goblin wars, who's been searching for her missing queen. The guild tasks him with following the warrior, and he reluctantly joins her on her quest to a ruined city, and discovers some troubling secrets along the way about his masters.

Writing for Grimdark Magazine, Eugene Vassilev hailed the novel as a "bonafide instant classic," and hailed Buehlman's worldbuilding and prose.

Read an excerpt.

Day Zero by C. Robert Cargill

In this standalone prequel to C. Robert Cargill's 2017 novel Sea of Rust, a robot named Pounce — a plush anthropomorphic tiger — discovers that his day has arrived: the day that he'll be discarded when his eight-year-old human Ezra no longer needs him. As he works to figure out his immediate future, a robot uprising is brewing, and soon reaches his home. Pounce will have to figure out whether to join the revolution or help save Ezra in this new, post apocalyptic world.

Kirkus Reviews gave the book a starred review, saying that "Veteran SF fans will spot shades of Isaac Asimov, whose Laws of Robotics appear early on," and that "Slapping a fresh coat of paint on a few age-old science-fiction tropes makes for a delightful read."

The Apocalypse Seven by Gene Doucette

A coder named Touré wakes up to find a world that's radically changed overnight: the streets have become overgrown and wildlife roams the streets, and the weather has gone strange. He soon finds a handful of other eclectic survivors, and as they explore the strange new world around them, all while finding food and shelter to not only survive, but figure out what happened.

Kirkus Reviews notes that "Speculative fiction ranges from straightforward to bewildering, and Doucette covers the whole arc here. It would be a trespass to violate the reveal, after encounters with mutated coyotes, an alien who smells like pee, and a timey-wimey bargain for the fate of the human race, but it’s really fun to read."

How To Mars by David Ebenbach

When six scientists are selected to take part in a one-way trip to Mars with the promise of unlimited research, they undergo a ridiculous screening process and then contend with the prospect that they'll be monitored for the rest of their lives by a public craving the reality show they're unwittingly part of, and the weird directions written up by the billionaire behind the effort. But after a while, their research and existence on the red planet becomes monotonous, and they're going to have to figure out how to survive and deal with one another.

Kirkus Reviews notes that it's a "poignant examination of what it means to be human."

Hard Reboot by Django Wexler

Who doesn't like giant mechs fighting in arena battles? Django Wexler's novella for Tordotcom sees a junior researcher named Kas on a research trip to old Earth, only to get tricked into spending her budget on the outcome of an arena battle. To get her money back, she's forced to rely on her knowledge of ancient technology to salvage a mech and win it all back.

As always, thanks for reading. Let me know what catches your eye, and what's already on your TBR pile.

Regular subscribers: you can expect another post tomorrow about Timothy Zahn's Grand Admiral Thrawn, as well as a regular roundup on Friday.

Have a good rest of the week!