A big part of this newsletter is talking about books: what I've been reading, what's coming out, and what I'm looking forward to. With 2023 kicked to the curb, I'm left with an enormous pile of books that I didn't get around to reading, and while I'm hoping to take a good chunk out of that this year, the publishing engine doesn't stop, and we have a new crop of books slated to come out this year.
It's always fun to look at what's coming up, and 2024 has a number of books that I'm particularly eager to read from some favorite authors, as well as some others from authors that I'm excited to meet for the first time.
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Okay, here are the 20 books that I'm looking forward to the most this coming year.
Scorpio by Marko Kloos (January 1st)
I'm a big fan of Marko Kloos's Frontlines series, an excellent military science fiction story that followed a soldier named Andrew Greyson as he joins the military to escape poverty and ends up embroiled in an interstellar war after Earth encounters a malevolent alien civilization. Kloos brought the series to an end with Centers of Gravity, but he's not done with the world: Scorpio is the first installment of a new series, Frontlines: Evolution, which will feature a new cast of characters.
This book is set on a distant colony, eight years after it was invaded by the Lankies. The remaining survivors have escaped to an underground shelter and have been cut off from humanity. One of those survivors is Alex Archer and her dog Ash, who's helped them fend off threats. That relative safety comes to an end when a salvage operation goes wrong and the Lankies begin to close in on the remaining survivors, with Alex trying to find any reason to hang onto hope to survive another day.
The Tusks of Extinction by Ray Nayler (January 16th)
One of my favorite books from 2022 was Ray Nayler's The Mountain in the Sea, a mind-blowing book about the nature of intelligence and capitalism. His next novel is a slim novella from Tordotcom: The Tusks of Extinction. It looks like he'll be playing with some similar themes: scientists have resurrected woolly mammoths from extinction, and now they have to figure out how to integrate them back into the ecosystem.
Their hope lies in Dr. Damira Khismatullina, a slain elephant expert whose digital consciousness has been downloaded into a mammoth. It'll be her job to help guide the new generation of animals to avoid poachers while they work to regain their numbers.
Womb City by Tlotlo Tsamaase (January 23rd)
I'd not come across Motswana's Tlotlo Tsamaase before, but the cover for xer debut novel Womb City is simply arresting. The plot sounds amazing as well: a new-future dystopian tale about a woman named Nelah whose life is upended after an accident and works to hide a body, only to have that secret come back from the grave to haunt her.
Her victim's ghost is apparently exacting revenge by going after the people close to her, set against the backdrop of a society ruled by a surveillance state and dealing with themes about bodily autonomy, cybernetics, and power.
The Warm Hands of Ghosts by Katherine Arden (February 13th)
One of my very favorite people in the world is Katherine Arden. She's a fellow Vermont author, and I really enjoyed her novel The Bear and the Nightingale. Her next is something a little different: a story about the First World War and a nurse who learns that her brother had been killed, but that there's more to the story, and as we learn more about her brother's story, we delve into some supernatural and spiritual elements that get to the heart of the horrors that warfare brings.
I've read parts of some earlier drafts and enjoyed what I was reading: I'm eager to see how the book shakes out, and to see where Arden takes us.
The Tainted Cup by Robert Jackson Bennett (February 6th)
One of my favorite stories that I've picked up over the last couple of years is Robert Jackson Bennett's Founders trilogy (Foundryside, Shorefall, and Locklands – I still need to get through that last one), which were breathtaking in their scale and approach to the genre. I'm looking forward to what he's moving onto after that: The Tainted Cup, in which an imperial officer is apparently murdered at the edge of the Empire's boundaries, where strange things are known to happen.
Investigating the murder is an eccentric detective named Ana Dolabra and her assistant, Dinios Kol. Ana is renowned for her abilities, and Dinios has been magically augmented to assist her, and as the two set about working to solve the case, he's amazed and shocked at how his new superior operates. I've loved Bennett's worldbuilding and characters, and I'll be really interested to see what he does with this story.
The Book of Doors by Gareth Brown (February 13th)
I'm a sucker for a good multiverse and hidden world story, and this one sounds like it'll be a very cool read. Cassie Andrews is enjoying her work at a bookshop in New York City when one of her favorite customers dies in the store. She discovers that the last book he was reading was something different: The Book of Doors. It's filled with mysterious drawings and shows her that doors can be portals to anywhere else, and it's a powerful, much-sought-after tome.
With the book in her possession, she's now the target of a whole community of people who want it for themselves. She's approached by a mysterious librarian named Drummond Fox who looks over such books, and she has to decide whether or not to trust him to keep the book safe and free with those with darker motives.
Jumpnauts by Hao Jingfang, translated by Ken Liu (March 12th)
A couple of years ago, I picked up Hao Jingfang's intriguing book about the colonization of Mars, Vagabonds, enjoyed it. It's a trippy interrogation of how different cultures get along – or don't. Jingfang is back with a new novel this year called Jumpnauts.
It's set in a near future where the world has aligned into two dominant factions: the Pacific League of Nations and the Atlantic Division of Nations, bringing about a new Cold War. Neither side are prepared when a new party arrives on Earth: an alien civilization that's been trying to make contact with humanity, prompting a trio of PLN scientists to try and unravel the mystery before their ADN counterparts do, hoping to avert an even greater crisis.
Those Beyond the Wall by Micaiah Johnson (March 12th)
One of my absolute favorite books of 2020 was Micaiah Johnson's debut, The Space Between Worlds, a thrilling novel about a traveler named Cara who's enlisted by a mysterious tech company called the Eldridge Institute to study alternate worlds. It was an outstanding read about the consolidation of power and the inequality that comes with it.
In this new book, Johnson returns to the world, where the leader of Ashtown has had to rule with an iron fist to fend off their wealthier neighbors of Wiley City. He has one person he can trust: an enforcer named Scales. She's helped keep a sort of peace that's broken when she sees a woman destroyed in front of her, seemingly without anyone responsible. Scales is tasked with finding out what's behind the death, and as she does so, she discovers a deeper mystery that brings out some secrets that want to stay buried.
Wicked Problems by Max Gladstone (April 9th)
Max Gladstone's Craft sequence have been some of my favorite recent urban fantasy reads. The first batch of books (Three Parts Dead, Two Serpents Rise, Full Fathom Five, Last First Snow, Four Roads Cross, and Ruin of Angels) but a cool spin on magic, and he recently returned to the world for a new trilogy The Craft Wars, which he kicked off last year with Dead Country.
Wicked Problems is the next installment of that sequence, in which a new threat has entered the world, and with an apocalypse is approaching, only a girl and a god will be able to stop it from happening, and are willing to remake the world to save it.
It's been a while since I've read the books, but I'm thinking it'll likely be a good time to re-read them before digging into this new installment.
The Wings Upon Her Back by Samantha Mills (April 23rd)
Last year, Samantha Mills scored a number of awards for her story for Uncanny Magazine, "Rabbit Test." This year, she's publishing her debut novel, The Wings Upon Her Back, in which humanity has been trying to figure out why five slumbering gods below the city of Radezhda turned their backs on humanity, sparking war between sects.
A teenager named Zenya ran away from her home to join a warrior sect that augments their soldiers with mechanical wings, and begins learning their ways to protect her city. Years later, she becomes tired of warfare and the rulers whose will she upholds. When she's cast out, she has to rethink everything that brought her to that place in order to survive.
Fight Me! by Austin Grossman (May 23rd)
I distinctly remember when I picked up Austin Grossman's novel Soon I'll Be Invincible years ago: a cynical, eye-opening take on the superhero genre years before we got the realistic trappings of the MCU or shows like Amazon's The Boys. Grossman is returning to the world with a new story, about an English professor named Dr. Rick Towers, who's been living under that assumed identity for years.
Decades ago, he was brought to a secret government facility with a trio of other teenagers, who were then trained to use their new powers to try and protect the world. Decades after being forced him out from that life, Towers is forced to figure reunite with his former teammates to try and uncover the details of a mysterious disappearance, navigating their own agendas and motives while they do so.
Stories Are Weapons: Psychological Warfare and the American Mind by Annalee Newitz (June 4th)
I've long been a big fan of Annalee Newitz's writing – first at io9 (where I worked for a time), then with their novels Autonomous, The Future of Another Timeline, and The Terraformers, as well as their nonfiction books Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction and Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age.
Their next is a nonfiction book that looks very intriguing: a deep dive into how storytelling can be used in psychological warfare and how disinformation and propaganda is used in a variety of ways. They take a look at how people have used information as a weapon over the centuries, going all the way back to the Revolutionary War and up to the modern day election cycle and how everything from newspapers to social media plays a role. This looks like it'll be a fascinating, essential book for 2024.
Moonbound by Robin Sloan (June 11th)
One of the more intriguing novels that I've read in recent years was Robin Sloan's Sourdough, a funny take on the tech industry and finding one's tribe. His next looks just as intriguing. 11,000 years in the future, a boy named Ariel lives in a small village that's ruled by a wizard, and is called to adventure to find treasure and maybe slay a dragon. Before that happens though, he encounters a piece of technology containing an artificial intelligence from a long-lost civilization that's designed to keep track of history and provide some context for the entirety of humanity's existence. From the sounds of it, this'll be a story about stories and storytelling, and I'm eager to see how this turns out.
Horror Movie by Paul Tremblay (June 11th)
Paul Tremblay has written some of my favorite horror novels. In books like A Head Full of Ghosts, Disappearance at Devil's Rock, The Cabin at the End of the World, and Survivor Song, he plays a deft hand at genre tropes, often with a light touch – you don't always know if there's something supernatural at work, or if people are just awful.
His next takes a shot at cursed horror films: a team of filmmakers set out in 1993 to make a low-budget horror film that was ultimately never released, save for a handful of scenes. Despite that, it became a cult classic, and decades later, a studio wants to remake it. But the only surviving cast member has reservations, remembering the troubled production and strange events that took place while the cameras were rolling. This sounds like it'll be an intriguing take on not only the genre, but on the nature of Hollywood itself.
Navola by Paolo Bacigalupi (July 9th)
One of the first authors that I've gravitated to when I started reading and reviewing science fiction was Paolo Bacigalupi, author of The Windup Girl, The Water Knife, and a number of grim short stories. I've appreciated his focus on climate change and economics, and I'd been wondering what he had been up to lately, although I have been hearing through the grapevine that he had been working on a fantasy novel.
That book is Navola, set in a city state that's ruled by a group of powerful families who've built an empire across the world. The heir to one family, Davico di Regulai, is being groomed to take over the family business, aided by a powerful family relic, a fossilized dragon's eye. The transition will test him to the limits, especially as plenty of other families are playing their own long games.
The Bright Sword by Lev Grossman (July 16th)
It's a banner year for the Grossman family: Lev Grossman's long-awaited novel that reimagines Arthurian legend is coming out this year. I wrote about this book way back in 2016, and I know he's been tinkering with it ever since. I'm a big fan of Grossman's take on magic and fantasy in his Magicians trilogy, and I'm eager to see what he does with the story of King Arthur and his knights with this book.
In this novel, Grossman follows a young knight named Collum, who arrives at Camelot to try and find a place at Arthur's Round Table, only to discover that the legendary king has died without an heir, and with only a few knights still sitting at the table. Those who remain are the oddballs of the group, and with the King's passing, Britain is poised to enter a new, strange era as old factions are beginning to turn against one another, and supernatural creatures creep back into the world. It's up to Collum and his new companions to try and figure out how to restore Camelot and England from ruin.
The Seventh Veil of Salome by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (July 16th)
Silvia Moreno-Garcia has written a number of inventive, genre-bending novels over the years ranging from thrillers (Velvet Was the Night), horror (Mexican Gothic and Silver Nitrate – still need to read that one) and science fiction (The Daughter of Doctor Moreau).
Her next is a historical novel set in Hollywood's golden era: about an unknown Mexican actress named Vera Larios who's case in a career-breaking role of Salome in a historical drama. Her rise is watched with envy by another actress, Nancy Hartley, who's trying to pull her career out of a stall. This sounds like it'll be a gripping character drama.
Crypt of the Moon Spider by Nathan Ballingrud (August 27th)
I'm a big fan of Nathan Ballingrud's short fiction (His collection North American Lake Monsters is superb), and he recently released his debut novel The Strange, which is still on my to-read list. His next book looks very interesting: a spider once lived in a cave and its silk provided its worshippers with some incredible powers.
Fast forward to 1923, and a woman named Veronica Brinkley has arrived on the Moon to stay at a treatment facility called the Barrowfield Home for Treatment of the Melancholy. Its doctor's methods are unconventional: brain surgery and spiders, but it's been successful in treating those afflicted with various conditions. But lurking under the surface, there are some problems that have begun to crop up, and Veronica might be one of the reasons.
The Mercy of the Gods by James S.A. Corey (August 6th)
If you've read this newsletter (or followed me for any amount of time), you'll know that I'm a big fan of James S.A. Corey's The Expanse series. That story came to an end a while back, and I've been excited to see what they'll do next ever since. This year, they're kicking off a new space opera trilogy, The Captive Wars, which begins with The Mercy of Gods.
This story is set in a very far future in which the Carryx a hive that has taken over vast parts of the galaxy over the centuries, and now faces a new enemy that could destroy them. The human population of Anjiin might be the key to their survival. One of the humans is Dafyd Alkhor, a scientist's assistant who watches as the Carryx decimate his home and carries off him and his neighbors with them. Those humans find themselves in the midst of an incomprehensible war, and are forced to compete with other species in order to survive – the price of failure is extinction.
The Secret History of Empty Lots: Field Notes from an American Edgeland by Christopher Brown (October 15th)
One of my favorite newsletters is Field Notes from Christopher Brown – author of Tropic of Kansas, Rule of Capture, and Failed State – in which he looks at the relationship between our modern civilization and the natural world. His next book isn't speculative fiction: it's an extension of his nature writing, which he described as a "work of narrative nonfiction about urban nature and how to find the path to a greener, rewilded future."
I always come away from his newsletters with some new insight about the world, and have been paying more attention to the sorts of "edgelands" that he's talking about: the boundaries between humanity and the natural world. I'm looking forward to seeing what I learn from this one.
These anticipated lists are, of course, somewhat speculative and relies a lot on the authors that I'm already largely familiar with. I'm always excited to see new books from the authors I like, but what's equally exciting is knowing that there'll be books coming that I'm coming to blind. I might just pick one up, or something will grab me unexpectedly at some point. I'm excited to see what goes on the pile this year.
What catches your eye on this list, and what are you most excited to add to your TBR pile for the coming year?