May 27, 2024


Science It Works

15 best new science fiction & fantasy books to read this summer

Summer is upon us, and whether you’re looking to finally get outside to the beach (please do so responsibly) or if you just want to escape the apocalyptic year that we’ve just endured, there’s no better way to escape than into the pages of a new science fiction or fantasy book.

This summer is brimming with good books arriving in stores in the coming months — stories of strange cults, interstellar adventures, fantastical robots, fantasy wonderlands, and quite a bit more — all perfect portals to briefly escape into a new world.

Here are 16 new novels coming out this summer to add to your to-read list.

Sorrowland book cover

Image: MCD

Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon (May 4)

A young pregnant woman named Vern makes a desperate attempt to flee the Blessed Acres of Cain — the cult that she’s lived in all her life. Retreating deep into a forest, she soon has twins, and spends the next four years raising them away from the outside world.

But there’s something in the forest that still hunts them: A spectral presence that leaves a trail of dead animals in its wake, a message to Vern and her children. When she encounters the creature, it triggers a terrifying transformation in her that forces her to leave her forest home to seek out answers about her past.

Read an excerpt.

Project hail mary book cover

Image: Ballantine Books

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir (May 4)

Andy Weir, best known for his science thriller The Martian, is back with a new one in the form of Project Hail Mary. When a man named Raylan Grace awakens in a stasis pod, he can’t remember who he is or what he’s doing in deep space. The two dead astronauts in his ship aren’t any help, either.

His memory comes back as Weir moves back and forth through the timeline of events, and he soon realizes that he’s possibly humanity’s last hope for survival: something has taken up residence in our solar system and has begun siphoning off the sun’s energy. As Grace begins to recall his past, he remembers that he had once been a prominent scientist with some unorthodox views on what extraterrestrial life might look like, and has been sent off to Tau Ceti to try and find a potential solution to the problem.

Read an excerpt.

A master of djinn book cover

Image: Tor

P. Djèlí Clark takes us back to an alternate, magical 1912 Cairo, where Agent Fatma el-Sha’arawi has just become the youngest women ever to take up work at the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities (shortly after an adventure that plays out in Clark’s novella, The Haunting of Tram Car 015).

Years ago, a prophet named al-Jahiz broke through the realm separating the mundane world with the magical, vanished, and left behind a group of followers who have followed his exploits. The members of that brotherhood have begun turning up dead at the hands of someone claiming to be al-Jahiz, and it’s up to Fatma to figure out who the killer really is, and to keep the killings from spreading into further unrest in the city.

Read an excerpt.

hard reboot book cover

Image: Tor

Hard Reboot by Django Wexler (May 25)

Who doesn’t love giant robots smashing the crap out of one another?

A researcher named Zychtykas “Kas” Three is hoodwinked into spending her research budget while undertaking a fact-finding mission to old Earth. The con artist who steals her monty is Zhi Zero, a robot pilot who competes in a mech-fighting league. To get her money back, Kas is forced to draw on her knowledge of ancient Earth technology to rebuild an old battle robot to help Zhi take on her hated competitor in the next battle.

The Hidden Palace book cover

Image: Harper

Back in 2013, Helene Wecker published her debut novel, The Golem and the Jinni, a fabulous fantasy about two supernatural creatures who find themselves in New York City in 1899: Chava, a golem made by a Rabbi and abandoned in the city, while Ahmad is a jinni from Syria, who was transported in his flash to the city.

In this long-awaited sequel, Wecker returns to New York City and to Chava and Ahmad as they try to blend in amongst their surroundings. Their lives are intertwined with the people they encounter: An heiress who met Ahmad ends up traveling to Syria, where she encounters an exiled jinni, Dima. While in a tenement, a young girl helps her father make a golem, Yossele, one that’ll become her only friend and protector when she ends up in an orphanage. All four will soon find that their fates are intertwined.

The Witness for the Dead book cover

Image: Tor Books

Katherine Addison (the pen name for Sarah Monette) set the fantasy world on fire with her 2014 novel The Goblin Emperor. That book focused on a young, mixed-race (Goblin and Elf) man named Maia, who unexpectedly finds himself named Emperor of the Elflands, and is forced to deal with the complexities of the emperor’s court and problems throughout his realm.

Now, Addison has returned for a standalone sequel, The Witness for the Dead. Emperor Maia is on the search for those behind the assassination of his father and brothers, and turns to a disgraced member of the court, Thara Celehar. Since distancing himself from the Imperial court, he’s led a quiet existence, one that’s now upended by the Emperor’s newfound attention.

Read an excerpt.

Questland book cover

Image: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Questland by Carrie Vaughn (June 22)

Westworld meets epic fantasy in Carrie Vaughn’s next novel, Questland. An eccentric tech billionaire named Harris Lang reaches out to a literature professor named Dr. Addie Cox with a special task: he’d like her to lead a team of mercenaries to his private island in the Pacific ocean, where he’s set up a fantastical resort that allows tourists to experience what it’s like to live in a fantasy world.

The situation is dire: a park employee — and Cox’s ex — has apparently gone rogue and erected a force field around the island, and Lang is desperate to get the place back under control. So, it’s up to Cox and the soldiers to avoid traps and her own troubled past to regain control.

The Empire’s Ruin book cover

Image: Tor

Brian Staveley kicks off a new fantasy trilogy set in the world of his Chronicles of the Unhewen Throne trilogy (The Emperor’s Blades, The Providence of Fire, and The Last Mortal Bond) in which three siblings were forced to contend with the untimely death of their father, the Emperor of Annur, and the ancient foe that threatened to topple the Empire.

While that threat had been solved, the Annurian Empire is still crumbling: its forces were decimated in the last conflict and from internal strife, while the Kenta Gates, used by the Emperor to traverse the realm, are inoperable. It’s up to a team of Ketteral soldiers to travel to the edge of the empire to find the nesting grounds of the giant birds they fly atop of, while a former Monk might hold the key to reactivating the gates. They’re pressed for time: an ancient enemy is reawakening and could change their world forever.

Read an excerpt.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built book cover

Image: Tordotcom

Becky Chambers is best known for her Wayfarers space opera series (The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, A Closed and Common Orbit, Record of a Spaceborn Few, and The Galaxy and the Ground Between), and her latest is a new solarpunk novella called A Psalm for the Wild-Built.

Centuries ago, robots in a world called Panga gained sentience, and wanting to exist away from human design and intentions, retreated into the wilderness, where they haven’t been seen since. An aimless tea monk named Dex is surprised when they encounter a robot called Mosscap after they leave the city for the countryside. Mosscap poses a question, and can’t return to its fellow robots until it gets the answer to a question: “what do humans need?”

Bubble book cover

Image: First Second

Bubble by Jordan Morris (July 13)

Back in 2018, comedian and TV writer Jordan Morris had an idea for a series about a hip, futuristic city after thinking about the challenges of living in a place like Brooklyn or Portland — the high rents, roommates, and so forth — and decided to put a but of a science fictional spin on it. The result was a podcast called Bubble, and it followed a young woman named Morgan, who was born in the Brush (hostile, natural world outside of the city), and who makes a living hunting monsters to break in thanks to an app called Huntr.

The series was a lot of fun, and now Morris has gone and adapted the podcast as a graphic novel, along with fellow writer Sarah Morgan and artist Tony Cliff.

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan cover

Image: Tor Books

In her debut fantasy novel, Shelley Parker-Chan takes us to China in 1345. The country is ruled by the Mongols, and under those harsh conditions in the Central Plains, a boy named Zhu Chongba has been preordained for greatness, while his unnamed sister is shunted off to the side.

But when their father is killed by bandits and Zhu dies of despair, she takes up his identity to forge her own path and fulfill her brother’s lost abandoned potential. She first joins a monastery and then an army rebelling against their Mongol conquerors, which will take her face to face with their leader.

The All-Consuming World by Cassandra Khaw cover

Image: Erewhon

In the distant future, Maya and a group of fellow cybernetic thieves are recovering from a mission that went disastrously wrong on the planet Dimmuborgir, and which resulted in the loss of one of their friends.

They’ve reunited to figure out what went wrong, and to rescue their missing comrade, and they’re up against some steep odds: an advanced artificial intelligence with motives of its own — keeping humans from controlling the universe — a fleet of sentient warships, not to mention their own divisions and trauma.

My Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones cover

Image: Saga Press

A half-Indian teenager named Jade Daniels endures her abusive parents and the small town that rejected her, preferring to escape into the comforting world of slasher flicks. But soon, someone goes on a murder spree targeting the wealthy inhabitants of a new community in her hometown of Proofrock, her mind jumps immediately to the tropes of those horror films, and she recognizes a bloody pattern.

Dismissed by the town’s authorities, she discovers that she’s living out the story of her beloved genre, and as she works to figure out who’s behind the killings, she discovers a darker history behind her home and identity, all while Stephen Graham Jones provides readers with an intense homage to the classic horror films of yore.

You Sexy Thing by Cat Rambo cover

Image: Tor Books

A former Admiral in the Grand Military of the Hive Mind, Niko Larson, has retired to the edge of the galaxy to TwiceFar station — a place that’s quiet and removed from the happenings of the galaxy, and along with former members of her unit, set up a restaurant called The Last Chance.

But their past is catching up to their idyllic existence at the edge of the universe: Some old enemies track them down to exact revenge, they’re forced to flee on a sentient starship (which believes its being stolen) in order to survive to open The Last Chance to customers once again.

No Gods, No Monsters

Image: Blackstone Publishing

Shortly after a young woman named Laina learns that her brother is killed after he was stopped by a Boston police officer, she discovers that what first appeared to be another act of police brutality is really something stranger. Creatures from folklore and mythologies exist, and her brother was actually a werewolf.

Across a web of storylines, we follow a series of characters ranging from a college professor looking for a missing friend — only to discover a secret society —, a werewolf who’s trying to protect her pack from the public, and more. The book makes for excellent commentary on the state of society, as Cadwell Turnbull follows the implications as those supernatural creatures and beings make their existence known to the rest of the world.

Summer Sons book cover

Image: Tordotcom

Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo (Sept. 28)

In Lee Mandelo’s debut gothic novel, two friends, Andrew and Eddie are inseparable. But when Eddie leaves to attend graduate school in Nashville, Andrew promises to accompany him, only to get the devastating news that his friend died — apparently by his own hand.

Now alone amongst strangers, and convinced that something else is at play, Andrew works to figure out the nature of Eddie’s death, and as he does so, has to confront his own past and something paranormal lurking in the shadows.