Even more SF/F books to check out this October

16 new adventures to read

Even more SF/F books to check out this October
Image: Andrew Liptak 

Before we get started, I wanted to share word of a pair of events for Cosplay: A History that I've got coming up that you might be interested in attending: that are coming up:

Tuesday, October 24th, 7:00PM, St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, St. Johnsbury, VT

This'll be an in-person event at the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. I'll be talking about the history of cosplay and costuming, and I'll be bringing along some costumes and props for folks to check out alongside the presentation. RSVP here.

Wednesday, December 6th, 12:00PM, Vermont Historical Society, Virtual

This event will be a virtual one: it's part of the Vermont Historical Society's Virtual Speaker Series, and I'll be talking about the history of cosplay and costuming in Vermont. (It loosely ties in with our exhibit "A Stitch in Time" and "Fancy Goods"). It's free, but registration is required. You can register to attend here, and you can RSVP on Facebook here.

With that out of the way: we're halfway through October. This month has been absolutely packed with new genre books, enough to warrant a couple of lists. Here's the roundup for the first half of the month:

23 new sci-fi and fantasy books to check out October 2023
More for your TBR pile!

If you're new to Transfer Orbit, this is a regular feature that I put out: it's a roundup of the books that catch my eye that are coming out. Links to Bookshop.org are affiliates, and if you make a purchase through them, this newsletter might get a small commission. That's one way to help support Transfer Orbit: it helps pay the bills to host it on Ghost, and for some of the tools that I use, like Otter.ai for interview transcriptions.

You can also support the site by signing up as a paid subscriber. You'll get some additional posts and missives as I put them together, such as a look at The Expanse in light of the recent attacks in Israel, some thoughts on minimalist book covers, and a look at two books from 1985 and how they portrayed the Cold War. You also get access to a Slack channel where we're constantly chatting about books, movies, recent events, and quite a bit more. (If you're an existing subscriber and don't have access, lemme know, I'm happy to get you set up.)

Alrighty: here are 16 new SF/F books hitting stores over the rest of October that you should check out:

The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2023 edited by John Joseph Adams and R. F. Kuang (October 17th)

We're approaching the season of the year where we're starting to see roundups of the best science fiction and fantasy of the past year hitting stores. One of the annual anthologies that always hits the spot is John Joseph Adams' Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy series. Each year, Adams brings in a co-editor to help, and this year's guest editor is R.F. Kuang.

The table of contents includes a bunch of stories from authors that I've really enjoyed, including Nathan Ballingrud, Isabel Cañas, Theodora Goss, Alix E. Harrow, S. L. Huang, Stephen Graham Jones, Samantha Mills, Malka Older, Sofia Samatar, and more.

Under the Smokestrewn Sky by A. Deborah Baker (October 17th)

Seanan McGuire, under the pen name A. Deborah Baker brings her The Up-and-Under series to a close with Under the Smokestrewn Sky (it was preceded by Over the Woodward Wall, Along the Saltwise Sea, and Into the Windwracked Wilds). It picks up the story of Avery and Zib as they journey towards the Impossible City as they look for their way home. It's a dangerous journey and they might not make out alive.

Spielberg: The First Ten Years by Laurent Bouzereau (October 24th)

There are few directors as influential and as well known as Steven Spielberg: this new book from Laurent Bouzereau explores the first decade of his career and the film that defined it: JawsClose Encounters of the Third KindRaiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, and others. The book provides some new perspectives on Spielberg's work and influence in the film industry.

A Stranger in the Citadel by Tobias Buckell (October 17th)

Lilith is the youngest royal of Ninetha and her life has been defined by training for her family's duties protecting the Cornucopia, a magical source that provides unlimited bounty. It's also a place where books are forbidden, so when an outcast librarian named Ishmael arrives, he's immediately sentenced to death.

Lilith is curious about the stranger, and is able to stay his execution, and as she grows closer to him, accidentally reveals her family's closely guarded secret, leading to a violent revolution.

Publishers Weekly says "The message about the importance of literacy could not be more timely, and Buckell’s sure-handed plotting keep the pages flying."

The Reformatory by Tananarive Due (October 31st)

Set in Florida in the summer of 1950, Tananarive Due follows a 12 year old boy named Robert Stephens Jr. after he's sent to a reformatory school. It's punishment for getting into a fight to protect his sister Gloria, and it's only the start of his troubles.

Robbie has the ability to see ghosts, and when he arrives at the Gracetown School for Boys, he begins to see that the place harbors some darker secrets – ghosts of children who've gone missing, and other horrors that lurk on the grounds. Meanwhile, Gloria is working with the local chapter of the NAACP to do everything she can to get her brother freed from his prison.

Kirkus Reviews gave the book a starred review, saying "Due brings her own gifts in the supernatural-fantasy genre as well as elements of her own family history to this vividly realized page-turner, which is at once an ingenious ghost story, a white-knuckle adventure, and an illuminating if infuriating look back at a shameful period in American jurisprudence that, somehow, doesn’t seem so far away."

Starling House by Alix E. Harrow (October 3rd)

Any time Alix E. Harrow comes out with a new book, it shoots to the top of my to-read list. Her novel The Ten Thousand Doors of January remains one of my absolute favorite novels, and I really enjoyed her Sleeping Beauty multiverse story A Spindle Splintered and The Once and Future Witches.

This new tale looks to be just as intriguing: an orphan named Opal is making her way through a rough life, and is trying to build a better one for her younger brother Jasper. They're stuck in a dismal town in Kentucky called Eden, known for a reclusive author named E. Starling, who vanished a century ago. She left behind a mansion, and when Opal – obsessed with Starling's book The Underland – gets a chance to visit the place, she can't resist a visit. Once she arrives however, there are some secret and dark forces that make themselves known, and she'll find something worth fighting for in her life.

Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying "Harrow’s prose cuts straight to the heart as she melds a story of family legacy and historical oppression with a stirring call to speak the truth."

Listen to an interview with Harrow from NPR here.

An Inheritance of Magic by Benedict Jacka (October 10th)

Magic exists in the modern world, and a man named Stephen Oakwood exists right on the edge between the line that divides the two. He's has skills and talent, but not the money that he needs to take advantage of them.

When he meets a member of a wealthy house, he's noticed by some bad people, he begins to see the power structures that make up the magical world. Major houses and corporations have used magic to increase their own power and wealth, and they're not willing to share.

Publishers Weekly says "Jacka provides immense detail about the ins and outs of drucraft, which will please fans of hard magic systems."

The Privilege of the Happy Ending: Small, Medium, and Large Stories by Kij Johnson (October 24th)

One of the fantasy novellas that I've been meaning to read for ages has been Kij Johnson's The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, which came out from Tordotcom back in 2016. I've never quite managed to get to it, but I have a new chance now: it's one of 14 stories in her new collection, The Privilege of the Happy Ending.

Kirkus Reviews gave the book a starred review, saying "Johnson plays expansively with form, style, and subject matter," and "throughout, she addresses the reader directly about perception, mortality, and storytelling." 

A Handheld History by Lost in Cult (October 17th)

The first video game console I owned was a Nintendo Gameboy that I got in the mid-1990s. I can't imagine how many hours I've spent playing on that device and the games it came with. A new book from Lost in Cult takes a look at the role that handheld devices like the Gameboy and its counterparts played in the history of gaming. I've been flipping through this book, and it's proving to be a fascinating read.

Generation Ship by Michael Mammay (October 17th)

Generation Ships are a long-used SF trope, and for good reason: they're the perfect setting for thought experiments about society and technology, and I'm always intrigued when a new one comes out in stores. Michael Mammay's latest is set in 2108 when the colonial ship Voyager is sent to a distant planet called Promissa. 250 years later and it's reaching its destination, but it and its 18,000 passengers face some significant problems.

Those passengers are growing restless with the stringent rules that had been put in place by the mission's original planners, and various factions aboard the ship have their own issues. Meanwhile, the ship's advance probes have gone silent, and what little information they have received raises more questions than answers.

Publishers Weekly says "Equally entertaining and intelligent, this nuanced tale is sure to please sci-fi fans."

All Souls Lost by Dan Moren (October 17th)

I enjoyed Dan Moren's novel The Bayern Agenda when I read it a couple of years ago, and I've been meaning to read some of the followups: I love a good space opera geopolitical drama. His latest is something a little different, however: an urban fantasy following a Spiritual Consultant named Mike Lucifer, who's been trying to escape from his past for the last couple of years. When a woman comes to his door asking for help with her boyfriend (who's been possessed by a demon), he takes on the case, if anything, for the paycheck.

As soon as he does, the case grows complicated: the boyfriend is actually dead, and the tech company that employed him is looking more and more suspect. As he digs into the details, he starts to realize that there's something operating behind the scenes that's trying to get to him.

Yumi and the Nightmare Painter: A Cosmere Novel by Brandon Sanderson (October 3rd)

The latest novel in Brandon Sanderson's "Year of Sanderson" project is now out in a trade edition (he'd turned to Kickstarter to fund a massive project that saw a whole bunch of new books from him in special editions), and it's a new installment from his Cosmere universe.

It takes a village
The wild success of Brandon Sanderson’s Kickstarter holds lessons for building a resilient fan community

In this story, two very different people come together. One is Yumi, who's endured a life of strict obedience, through which she's able to summon spirits to help society out. She's tired of that life, and just wants to exist for even a single day as a normal person. Meanwhile, Painter is a vigilante who dreams of being a hero, stalking the streets at night, but which has left him with nothing but heartbreak and isolation. When the two come together, they both have the change to correct the problems in their lives – and maybe right some of the wrongs in their respective worlds.

Kakistocracy by Alex Shvartsman (October 17th)

Alex Shvartsman returns to his Conradverse Chronicles (following The Middling Affliction) with a new adventure for Conrad Brent. Brent is a Middling magician operating in Brooklyn with an enforcement group called The Watch, but who doesn't have the skills of a full magician. In his last adventure, he and his allies thwarted a plot by a company looking to create a magical chemical weapon that could upend the magical world.

He's regained his position in The Watch, and he's looking to avoid taking any undue risks when his boss goes missing, and a new administration in City Hall that's looking to stamp out all magical users in New York City. To help save the city, Conrad has to mediate a conflict between a pair of ancient enemy factions, solve a mystery of a warded house, and deal with some interdimensional fae assassins.

Communications Breakdown: SF Stories about the Future of Connection edited by Jonathan Strahan (October 31st)

I've long been a fan of MIT Press's Twelve Tomorrows series: the stories in these anthologies have often been excellent, thought-provoking windows into the near future. This year's theme is all about how we communicate with one another, and features stories by Elizabeth Bear, S.B. Divya, Cory Doctorow, Chris Gilliard, Lavanya Lakshminarayan, Ken Macleod, Tim Maughan, Ian McDonald, Anil Menon, Premee Mohamed, and Shiv Ramdas.

The Wolfe at the Door by Gene Wolfe (October 31st)

Gene Wolfe is regarded as one of the masters of the genre, and when he died in 2019, he left behind a rich literary legacy. A new collection looks to honor that legacy with some new short stories, poems, and essays that blends genre and form together.

Library Journal says "This collection picks up where 2009’s The Best of Gene Wolfe left off and will be appreciated most by readers and scholars of the author’s work."

Jewel Box: Stories by E. Lily Yu (October 24th)

E. Lily Yu brings together a new collection of her short fiction. These 22 stories cover everything from far-flung futures to retold fairy tales – stories about a wasp's nest that turns out to be a map, birdwatchers in Louisiana, a judge confronting a god, and more.

Kirkus Reviews raved about the book in its starred review, saying "Best of all, her sentences shine with unexpected images and turns of phrase ... While a title like “Jewel Box,” especially without a titular story attached, could seem aspirational, Yu’s book lives up to it: Each story here is a gem."