24 new sci-fi and fantasy books to read this November

A new crop of books to read heading into the cold winter months

24 new sci-fi and fantasy books to read this November
Image: Andrew Liptak

We've reached November: time has flown past. As we speed toward the end of the year, we've got another batch of books hitting shelves in the coming weeks: stories about distant space colonies, steampunk airships, tech titans, monsters, art books, and quite a bit more.

As usual: links to Bookshop.org are affiliates, and any purchases you make through them might yield a small commission for Transfer Orbit, which helps pay the bills for this newsletter. You can also support us by signing up as a paid supporter:

Supporters get some additional posts emailed to them, and access to a Slack channel where we've been discussing the latest bits of news that come across the wire, what we've been reading/watching/playing, and quite a bit more. Join us!

Some recent posts that I've sent out:

You can also check out past book lists by clicking on the Book List tag. The past couple of months have been overstuffed with books and I've split the usual monthly list into two installments. Fortunately, there's only a single list this month. Here are the 24 books that caught my eye for November:

Tonight, I Burn by Katharine J. Adams (November 7th)

A young witch named Penny Albright is a member of the Thorn coven, where she patrols the veil between the worlds of Life and Death. Each night, a witch is tasked with crossing the veil by burning at the stake, using their magic to return. On one morning, Penny's fellow witch Ella doesn't return, and she breaks the rules to follow her and find her, discovering more than she expected in either realm.

Kirkus Reviews notes that it juggles a lot, but that "readers will find themselves at the center of a magical rebellion and delight in the power of many kinds of love."

The Future by Naomi Alderman (November 7th)

Naomi Alderman knocked things out of the park with her 2019 novel The Power, where women around the world develop electrical powers and upend the balance of control in the world.

In her next book, a woman named Martha Einkorn escapes from her family's compound in Oregon and ends up finding work for a social media titan who's bent on controlling the entire world. Technology companies are making incredible devices to change the weather or predict the future, and Martha begins to see her father's prophecies coming true.

On the other side of the world, a survivalist named Lai Zhen flees from an assassin in Singapore when her phone begins giving her directions on how to escape, leading her on a trip to investigate the mysterious software that'll eventually lead her to Martha.

Kirkus Reviews gave the book a starred review, saying that it's "a smart, engrossing fable about digital technology and human community."

Foundation: The Art and Making of Seasons 1 & 2 by Mike Avila (November 21st)

I really enjoyed the first season of Apple's Foundation adaptation, especially the design that makes up the world. I'd been wondering if we'd see an art book for it, and as it turns out, one that covers both Season 1 and 2 is out this month. The book includes interviews with showrunner David S. Goyer and several of the show's stars, as well as behind-the-scenes photographs, concept art, and quite a bit more.

Bookshops & Bonedust by Travis Baldree (November 7th)

One of my favorite reads earlier this year was Travis Baldree's novel Legends & Lattes, a delightful fantasy novel about Viv, an orc who was tired of life as a mercenary and who sets up in a small city with ambitious plans to set up a coffee shop. Things get a little complicated, but it's a light, fun novel that shows that not every fantasy needs epic, world-ending stakes to be successful.

Baldree's next book is a prequel: Viv's part of a mercenary company called Rackam's Ravens, and things aren't going she's hoped. After she was wounded in a fight against a necromancer, she decides it's time to take a break in a beach town called Murk, and ends up spending hours in the town's bookstore, which she finds more relaxing than she imagined. When a stranger arrives in town, she finds that adventure isn't too far away either.

Review: Legends & Lattes: A Novel of High Fantasy and Low Stakes by Travis Baldree
Not all fantasy novels need to have epic stakes

The Culture: The Drawings by Iain M. Banks (November 11th)

Announced a couple of years ago, the estate of Iain M. Banks is releasing a handsome book that collects the late author's sketches and illustrations of the world that he's known for: the Culture. The book contains commentary from his friend Ken MacLeod, and it looks like it'll be an essential book for anyone who loves the epic science fiction series.

Orbit’s Culture art book is finally coming out
It’s been a long wait

The Olympian Affair by Jim Butcher (November 7th)

Jim Butcher's next book is the second installment of his Cinder Spires steampunk fantasy series (following 2015's The Aeronaut's Windlass). The Cinder Spires have guarded humanity floating high above the dangerous surface world. Now, a war has arrived between the various factions of the airship fleet, and the Spire Aurora's Armada has unveiled a new weapon that can destroy entire Spires.

Lord Albion of Spire Albion has been working to find a way to prevent all-out war, and at a trade summit at Spire Olympia, he dispatches Captain Francis Madison Grimm and the crew of the AMS Predator to help bolster their forces. Adventures ensue.

Publisher's Weekly says "Butcher tops everything off with a dash of romance and plenty of steampunk airship combat. Fans will find this is worth the wait."

The Lost Cause by Cory Doctorow (November 14th)

Cory Doctorow's latest takes a look at the near-future consequences of climate change. Set in the 2050s, humanity has begun making some progress when it comes to blunting the effects of a changing world. But while there's progress and climate change is widely accepted, there are those who are deep in denial, believing that it's still a hoax and that they're being scammed.

When Brooks Palazzo is orphaned, he goes to live with his deeply conservative and abusive grandfather in California, and when he graduates from high school, discovers that his grandfather's friends are behind an act of sabotage at his school, and recognizes a movement in which these holdouts are willing to die for what they believe.

Library Journal gave the book a starred review, saying "it’s surprisingly hopeful as it delivers a well-told story with plenty of dramatic tension that still manages to convey the message that dealing with entrenched politics is a marathon race, the surest way to lose is to stop running."

Uncanny Vows by Laura Anne Gilman (November 28th)

Last year, Laura Anne Gilman released Uncanny Times, a novel set in 1913 and which the modern, technological age awakened some uncanny things from the shadows, prompting Aaron and Rosemary Harker to investigate the death of a relative and discovering that the world isn't what it seems.

The two Huntsmen have been sidelined from their duties after their last report, and they're not sure if they're being tested or punished. When they're sent to the Boston area to investigate some strange activity, they assume they're being tested, because this case involves some wealthy individuals who support the Huntsmen in exchange for extra protection. Test or no, it's a job they can't screw up, and as they investigate, they find that the situation is more complicated and dangerous than they thought.

Publishers Weekly says "Gilman lets the suspense simmer, drawing readers in little by little until they can’t help but keep turning the pages."

Hellweg's Keep by Justin Holley (November 14th)

In the depths of space, 37 miners vanish in a titanium mine known as Hellwg's Keep, which is located on a distant moon orbiting the planet Terra. The FBI dispatches agent Kendra Omen to investigate the disappearance, and when she arrives, strange things begin happening: there are suicides, shadows within shadows, and Kendra begins to think that she's hearing her daughter's voice in the hallways.

As she investigates, she finds evidence of occult practices at play, and to find the miners and untangle the situation, she'll have to go into the mineshafts and tunnels that make up Hellweg's Keep.

Thursday by Jake Kerr (November 1st)

I've really enjoyed Jake Kerr's short stories over the years, like "The Old Equations" and "Mission. Suit. Self." from my anthology War Stories: New Military Science Fiction.

He's republished one of his novels, Thursday. In the near future, society has escaped from its dismal, broken surroundings and immersed themselves in a virtual reality world. Within the VR world is Sunday, a terrorist leader who leads a group called Order of Days and who is determined to destroy the VR world and bring people back into the real one.

On her trail is an FBI agent named Gabby Kane, who encounters another operative named Saturday, and in the process of trying to capture them, is injured and unable to enter the VR world. To keep her career on track, she agrees to try and infiltrate the Order of Days to assassinate Sunday.

Chaos Terminal by Mur Lafferty (November 7th)

Mur Lafferty follows up her novel Station Eternity with a new adventure for Mallory Viridian. In that novel, she found herself escaping to a sentient space station to try and avoid the murders that she's constantly asked to investigate, only to find herself involved in another whodunit involving a serial killer while she's trying to relax.

With that case out of the way, a law enforcement officer who she knew on Earth has followed her to Station Eternity, along with Mallory's best friend from high school. And like clockwork, someone is murdered on the ride up. This case promises to be even more complicated, with a killer, an alien threat and the station's AI going wonky, all potentially leading to an intergalactic headache.

Library Journal gave the book a starred review, saying that it's "just as complex and engaging as its predecessor. Lafferty’s skill with dialogue and emotional arcs make the story equally character- and action-driven."

Ancillary Justice 10th Anniversary Edition by Ann Leckie (November 28th)

Ann Leckie's novel Ancillary Justice was a huge novel when it came out in 2013: it was a book that explored gender, colonialism, and consciousness in some interesting ways, following a starship's artificial intelligence after it's abruptly ripped from its body and stuck in a single ancillary – a corpse soldier that carries out the Radch Empire's will across the galaxy.

With the novel's 10th anniversary upon us, Orbit is releasing a new special edition of the book, which features some neat bells and whistles, along with a new introduction from Leckie.

Orbit is releasing slick new editions of Ancillary Justice and The Expanse
Orbit is releasing new, special editions of Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice and James S.A. Corey’s Caliban’s War and Abbadon’s Gate

William Ledbetter is a friend of mine from a number of years ago: we were both at the Launch Pad Writer's Workshop together! He's collected a number of his short stories together into a collection called The Long Fall Up, which includes stories about artificial intelligence, the future of robotics, and life on Mars.

Refractions by M.V. Melcer (November 16th)

Humanity's first extra-solar colony on Bethesda was a thriving home to hundreds of adults and children, only for all of its communications to Earth going silent. Earth mounts a rescue operation, with Nethalie Hart joining as a way to escape from the pain of her sister's death. However, while the mission is enroute, she's awoken from cryosleep too early, and discovers that the mission is in danger.

She's thrust into command of the ship, and has to contend with a crew of strangers, their secrets, and a mysterious message scrawled on the walls: someone is trying to stop the mission and revealing whatever secrets Bethesda holds.

The Art of the Creator: Designs of Futures Past by James Mottram (November 14th)

One of the films that I enjoyed a great deal earlier this year was Gareth Edwards' The Creator, a science fiction film about a military operative tasked with hunting down a target that will help the US in its misguided war against artificial intelligence.

What's most striking about this film is how beautiful it is: the world is incredibly rich, with lots of robots and epic landscapes. To that end, we've got an art book that collects the concept art, commentaries from the actors, crew and designers, and quite a bit more.

Like Thunder By Nnedi Okorafor (November 28th)

Earlier this fall, Nnedi Okorafor re-released her novel Shadow Speaker, the first installment in her The Desert Magician's duology. Set in a post-apocalyptic world in 2074 where warfare has brought about a cataclysmic change across the planet, it's about Ejii Ugabe, who embarks on a journey of discovery across a changed landscape as she begins to manifest some strange powers.

In this new installment, we're reunited with Dikéogu Obidimkpa in Niger, West Africa in 2077. He's another person who has developed powers – he can bring about rain with his thoughts, and he had accompanied his friend Ejii Ubaid on her journey, and had since parted ways.

Dikéogu's powers have grown, and as violence against the Changed builds across the continent, he awakens to find most of his memories from the last year missing, and sets out to try and untangle what has transpired. He reunites with Ejii to figure out what happened as they fight to survive in a world that doesn't want them.

Kirkus Reviews says that "Okorafor pulls no punches here, openly drawing connections between the public's mistreatment and distrust of the Changed Ones to genocidal campaigns around the world."

Warrior of the Wind by Suyi Davies Okungbowa (November 21st)

Suyi Davies Okungbowa follows up his novel Son of the Storm with Warrior of the Wind, set in world inspired by the pre-colonial empires of West Africa.

Lilong and Danso have escaped from Bassa, and have ended up way from the Empire and its agents in a distant colony, but time isn't on their side: they have bounties on their heads and every newcomer represents a potential threat. Lilong is hoping to return an ibor heirloom, the Diwi, to her home to keep it safe, but the journey back will be dangerous for both of them.

Kirkus Reviews gave the book a starred review, saying "Slow-paced yet expansive, the book follows individual people to paint a much larger picture of empires as they rise and fall."

The Digital Aesthete: Human Musings on the Intersection of Art and AI edited by Alex Shvartsman (November 14th)

The modern spate of artificial intelligence platforms like ChatGPT and Midjourney have caused no shortage of angst and problems within the storytelling world. Alex Shvartsman's new anthology, The Digital Aesthete: Human Musings on the Intersection of Art and AI seeks to explore the intersection between AI and the creative process, bringing together a number of authors to imagine some possible futures, including Ken Liu, Ray Nayler, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Tina Connolly, and many others from around the world.

Literary headwinds
Alex Shvartsman of Future Science Fiction on why he’s putting the magazine on hiatus and the challenges SF magazines face

Exorcism by Han Song, translated by Michael Berry (November 28th)

Earlier this year, Michael Berry translated Han Song's novel Hospital into English, in which a man named Yang Wei arrives in C City for work, only to be hospitalized and embedded in a bureaucratic mess from which he has trouble escaping.

In this followup, Yang Wei finds that he's aged decades overnight and is a patient in a massive hospital ship hovering over a blood-red sea, with doctors nowhere to be found – only medical robots. Along with a small group of fellow patients, they set out to explore the ship and figure out its mysteries to find a way to escape.

The King-Killing Queen by Shawn Speakman (November 7th)

Shawn Speakman kicks off a new fantasy trilogy with The King-Killing Queen. High King Alafair Goode was mortally wounded in his quest to save the world from Mordreadth the Great Darkness, and was saved by a witch who used magic to revive him and fulfill his destiny. That comes with a cost however: his offspring will be immortal, but for only as long as he lives before he dies a natural death.

Decades later, an apprentice to the Master Historian, Sylvie Raventress is enaged in research, and makes a striking discovery: she isn't an orphan but is one of Alafair's heirs, and when he dies, she and others will be mortal.

Those siblings aren't thrilled that Sylvie's named heir, and as the fighting over the throne begins, she finds allies in a Fae guide, a former knight, and a light-weaver to help her bring the kingdom back together.

We Are the Crisis by Cadwell Turnbull (November 7th)

Cadwell Turnbull is one of my favorite authors: I commissioned a short story from him while I was at The Verge, his debut novel The Lesson was excellent, and his last book, No Gods, No Monsters was outstanding. His next is a sequel to that last one: set in a world where fantastical creatures live on the periphery of society, hidden from the mundane world.

Three years after the Monster Massacre and after monsters have begun to come out of hiding, some of the members of Rebecca's old wolf pack have begun to go missing, while an anti-monster group called the Black Hand has begun to organize across the country, with clashes growing between them and pro-monster groups. This looks like an enormously relevant book.

Kirkus Reviews gave the book a starred review, saying "Turnbull packs a lot of plot and character development in a fairly compact set of pages, using his story to explore complex issues of prejudice, intersectionality, and personal identity, as well as the scars left by the darker parts of one’s past."

A City on Mars: Can We Settle Space, Should We Settle Space, and Have We Really Thought This Through? by Kelly and Zach Weinersmith (November 2nd)

Settling Mars has long been a dream of space enthusiasts and science fiction fans. While there are real efforts to develop the hardware and infrastructure to begin sending people to the red planet, it's going to be a formidable challenge.

In their new book, Kelly and Zach Weinersmith (Authors of Soonish) take a look at all of the different elements that go into setting up a space colony: how do you build a farm where life doesn't exist? How do you raise kids, or set up a form of governance?

Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying "The cheeky tone is loads of fun, and Zach’s humorous illustrations of, for instance, contraptions proposed to facilitate zero-gravity sex, entertain. It adds up to a boisterous takedown of techno-utopianism."

System Collapse by Martha Wells (November 14th)

Martha Wells is back with a new Murderbot novel! Need we say more?

In this new adventure, (set after Network Effect), the Barish-Estranza has dispatched a rescue ship to a planet in need of help, along with some SecUnits. Murderbot is suspicious: corporations aren't usually in the business of being altruistic, and finds itself involved. But it's dealing with some of its own problems: it isn't operating within its normal operational parameters. ART, its crew, and their human friends from Preservation are going to have to work out what's going on with Murderbot while also helping the colonists from the company and its forces.

Writing for Locus Magazine, Liz Bourke says "despite its action-adventure bones, System Col­lapse is a more low-key, introspective novel than many of the Murderbot stories have been so far."

Martha Wells Interview: Writing Murderbot
Martha Wells on her blockbuster series Murderbot: finding common ground with anxiety-driven killer robots, television, and second chances.

Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros (November 7th)

Rebecca Yarros's debut novel Fourth Wing has been a massive hit, about a young woman named Violet Sorrengail who had planned on becoming a scholar and who instead ended up in a war college where she learned to ride dragons into battle in a brutal war. (Amazon is working on a TV series based on the book)

In this sequel, everyone expected Violet to perish during her first year at the Basgiath War College, but she's survived the Threshing that was designed to weed out the weakest of the class. Now, her training is beginning in earnest, and the next phase of her training is going to take everything she has to survive into the next year.