January 2015 Must Reads in Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror

It’s almost 2015! Here are the  books that I’m especially looking forward to in SFF for January! What are you looking forward to?


thegalaxygameThe Galaxy Game by Karen Lord (Del Rey-Jan. 6th)

Synopsis (all synopsis are from B&N or Amazon)-On the verge of adulthood, Rafi attends the Lyceum, a school for the psionically gifted. Rafi possesses mental abilities that might benefit people . . . or control them. Some wish to help Rafi wield his powers responsibly; others see him as a threat to be contained. Rafi’s only freedom at the Lyceum is Wallrunning: a game of speed and agility played on vast vertical surfaces riddled with variable gravity fields.

Serendipity and Ntenman are also students at the Lyceum, but unlike Rafi they come from communities where such abilities are valued. Serendipity finds the Lyceum as much a prison as a school, and she yearns for a meaningful life beyond its gates. Ntenman, with his quick tongue, quicker mind, and a willingness to bend if not break the rules, has no problem fitting in. But he too has his reasons for wanting to escape.

Now the three friends are about to experience a moment of violent change as seething tensions between rival star-faring civilizations come to a head. For Serendipity, it will challenge her ideas of community and self. For Ntenman, it will open new opportunities and new dangers. And for Rafi, given a chance to train with some of the best Wallrunners in the galaxy, it will lead to the discovery that there is more to Wallrunning than he ever suspected . . . and more to himself than he ever dreamed.


evensongEvensong by John Love (Night Shade Books -Jan. 6th)
Synopsis-A near-future thriller where those who protect humanity are not always completely human.
The future is a dangerous place. Keeping the world stable and peaceful when competing corporate interests and nation-states battle for power, wealth, and prestige has only gotten harder over the years. But that’s the United Nations’ job. So the UN has changed along with the rest of the world. When the UN’s “soft” diplomacy fails, it has harder options. Quiet, scalpel-like options: The Dead—biologically enhanced secret operatives created by the UN to solve the problems no one else can.

Anwar Abbas is one of The Dead. When the Controller-General of the UN asks him to perform a simple bodyguard mission, he’s insulted and resentful: mere bodyguard work is a waste of his unique abilities. But he takes the job, because to refuse it would be unthinkable.

Anwar is asked to protect Olivia del Sarto, the host of an important upcoming UN conference. Olivia is head of the world’s fastest-growing church, but in her rise to power she has made enemies: shadowy enemies with apparently limitless resources.

Anwar is one of the deadliest people on earth, but her enemies have something which kills people like him. And they’ve sent it for her. It’s out there, unstoppable and untraceable, getting closer as the conference approaches.

As he and Olivia ignite a torrid affair, Anwar must uncover the conspiracy that threatens to destroy her, the UN, and even The Dead.


 

halfresHalf-Resurrection Blues by Daniel José Older (Roc-Jan. 6th)
Synopsis-Because I’m an inbetweener—and the only one anyone knows of at that—the dead turn to me when something is askew between them and the living. Usually, it’s something mundane like a suicide gone wrong or someone revived that shouldn’ta been.”

Carlos Delacruz is one of the New York Council of the Dead’s most unusual agents—an inbetweener, partially resurrected from a death he barely recalls suffering, after a life that’s missing from his memory. He thinks he is one of a kind—until he encounters other entities walking the fine line between life and death.

One inbetweener is a sorcerer. He’s summoned a horde of implike ngks capable of eliminating spirits, and they’re spreading through the city like a plague. They’ve already taken out some of NYCOD’s finest, leaving Carlos desperate to stop their master before he opens up the entrada to the Underworld—which would destroy the balance between the living and the dead.

But in uncovering this man’s identity, Carlos confronts the truth of his own life—and death.…

Here’s why you’ll want to get your hands on this fantastic urban fantasy.


infectedInfected by Sophie Littlefield (Delacorte-Jan. 6th)
Synopsis-The race-against-the-clock feel of TV’s popular show 24 meets the action-packed romance of the film Run Lola Run. This high-concept teen thriller sends readers on the race of their lives.

Carina’s senior year is spiraling downward. Fast. Both her mother and her uncle, the only two family members she’s ever known, are dead. Their deaths were accidents, unfortunate results of the highly confidential research they performed for a national security organization. Or so she’s been told.

She’s not buying it.

After finding a unique code hidden beneath the stone in a ring her mother left to her, Carina goes straight to the only family she has left: her boyfriend, Tanner.

The people Carina loved kept dangerous secrets. Secrets that make her question the life she’s been living up to now. Her life is on the line, but more importantly, so is Tanner’s. And if she fails? He dies.


murderMurder by Sarah Pinborough (Jo Fletcher Books- Jan. 6th)
Synopsis-In this gripping sequel to the acclaimed Mayhem, author Sarah Pinborough continues the adventures of troubled Victorian forensics expert Dr. Thomas Bond. Haunted by the nerve-shattering events he endured during the Jack the Ripper and Thames Torso Killer investigations, Dr. Bond is trying to reestablish the normal routines of daily life. Aiding in his recovery is the growing possibility that his long-held affections for the recently widowed Juliana Harrington might finally be reciprocated. He begins to allow himself to dream of one day forming a family with her and her young boy.

Soon, however, a new suitor arrives in London, challenging the doctor’s claims on Juliana’s happiness. Worse, it seems the evil creature that Dr. Bond had wrestled with during the Ripper and Torso Killer investigations is back and stronger than ever. As the corpses of murdered children begin to turn up in the Thames, the police surgeon finds himself once again in a life-and-death struggle with an uncanny, inexorable foe.


theguardThe Guard by Peter Terrin (MacLehose-Jan. 6th)
Synopsis-In the near future, Harry and Michel live in the basement of a luxury apartment block, guarding the inhabitants. No one goes outside. The world might be at war, it might even have been plunged into nuclear winter.

No one knows.

But one weekend, all of the residents leave the block, one by one. All but the man on floor 29. Harry and Michel stick to their posts. All they know, all they can hope for, is that if they are vigilant, the “Organization” will reward them with a promotion to an elite cadre of security officers. But what if there were no one left to guard?

Playing on our darkest fears, The Guard is a tautly observed novel by a writer of striking and stylish originality.

Winner of the European Union Literature Prize, Peter Terrin’s The Guard is a haunting novel of perceived oppression by the an omnipresent, but unknown, authority.

Playing on our darkest fears, The Guard is a tautly observed novel by a writer of striking and stylish originality.


kingofthecracksmenKing of the Cracksmen by Dennis O’Flaherty (Night Shade Books-Jan. 20th)

Synopsis-How far will the luck of the Irish stretch?
The year is 1877. Automatons and steam-powered dirigible gunships have transformed the United States in the aftermath of the Civil War. All of the country’s land west of the Mississippi was sold to Russia nearly fifty years earlier, and “Little Russia,” as it’s now called, is ruled by the son of Tsar Alexander II. Lincoln is still president, having never been assassinated, but he’s not been seen for six months, and rumors are flying about his disappearance. The country is being run as a police state by his former secretary of war Edwin Stanton, a power-hungry criminal who rules with an iron fist.

Liam McCool is an outlaw, known among other crooks as “King of the Cracksmen.” But his glory days as a safecracker and the head of a powerful New York gang end when he’s caught red-handed. Threatened with prison unless he informs on his own brethren fighting a guerilla war against Stanton’s tyranny, McCool’s been biding his time, trying to keeping the heat off him long enough to escape to San Francisco with his sweetheart Maggie. But when she turns up murdered, McCool discovers a trail of breadcrumbs that look to lead all the way up to the top of Stanton’s criminal organization. Joining forces with world-famed lady reporter Becky Fox, he plunges deep into the underground war, racing to find Maggie’s killer and stop Stanton once and for all.

King of the Cracksmen is an explosive, action-packed look at a Victorian empire that never was, part To Catch a Thief, part Little Big Man, steampunk as you’ve never seen it before.


gideonGideon by Alex Gordon (Harper Voyager -Jan. 6th)
Synopsis-When Lauren’s father dies, she makes a shocking discovery. The man she knew as John Reardon was once a completely different person, with a different name. Now she’s determined to find out who he really was, even though her only clues are an old photograph and the name of a town: Gideon.

But someone—or something—doesn’t want her to discover the truth. A strange man is stalking her, appearing everywhere she turns, and those who try to help her end up dead. Neither a shadowy enemy nor her own fear will prevent her from solving the mystery of her father—and unlocking the secrets of her own life.

Making her way to Gideon, Lauren finds herself more confused than ever. Nothing in this small midwestern town is what it seems, including time itself. Residents start going missing, and Lauren is threatened by almost everyone she encounters. Two hundred years ago, a witch was burned at the stake, but in Gideon the past feels all too chillingly present. . . .

Here’s why Gideon is a Must Read


thedeepThe Deep by Nick Cutter (Gallery-Jan. 13th)

Synopsis-A strange plague called the ’Gets is decimating humanity on a global scale. It causes people to forget—small things at first, like where they left their keys…then the not-so-small things like how to drive, or the letters of the alphabet. Then their bodies forget how to function involuntarily…and there is no cure. But now, far below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, deep in the Marianas Trench, an heretofore unknown substance hailed as “ambrosia” has been discovered—a universal healer, from initial reports. It may just be the key to a universal cure. In order to study this phenomenon, a special research lab, the Trieste, has been built eight miles under the sea’s surface. But now the station is incommunicado, and it’s up to a brave few to descend through the lightless fathoms in hopes of unraveling the mysteries lurking at those crushing depths…and perhaps to encounter an evil blacker than anything one could possibly imagine.

Part horror, part psychological nightmare, The Deep is a novel that fans of Stephen King and Clive Barker won’t want to miss—especially if you’re afraid of the dark.

Here’s why you should check out The Deep.


thejustcityThe Just City by Jo Walton  (Tor -Jan. 13th)
Synopsis-Here in the Just City you will become your best selves. You will learn and grow and strive to be excellent.”

Created as an experiment by the time-traveling goddess Pallas Athene, the Just City is a planned community, populated by over ten thousand children and a few hundred adult teachers from all eras of history, along with some handy robots from the far human future—all set down together on a Mediterranean island in the distant past.

The student Simmea, born an Egyptian farmer’s daughter sometime between 500 and 1000 A.D, is a brilliant child, eager for knowledge, ready to strive to be her best self. The teacher Maia was once Ethel, a young Victorian lady of much learning and few prospects, who prayed to Pallas Athene in an unguarded moment during a trip to Rome—and, in an instant, found herself in the Just City with grey-eyed Athene standing unmistakably before her.

Meanwhile, Apollo—stunned by the realization that there are things mortals understand better than he does—has arranged to live a human life, and has come to the City as one of the children. He knows his true identity, and conceals it from his peers. For this lifetime, he is prone to all the troubles of being human.

Then, a few years in, Sokrates arrives—the same Sokrates recorded by Plato himself—to ask all the troublesome questions you would expect. What happens next is a tale only the brilliant Jo Walton could tell.


owlandcircusOwl and the Japanese Circus by Kristi Charish (Gallery -Jan. 13th)
Synopsis-Ex-archaeology grad student turned international antiquities thief, Alix—better known now as Owl—has one rule. No supernatural jobs. Ever. Until she crosses paths with Mr. Kurosawa, a red dragon who owns and runs the Japanese Circus Casino in Las Vegas. He insists Owl retrieve an artifact stolen three thousand years ago, and makes her an offer she can’t refuse: he’ll get rid of a pack of vampires that want her dead. A dragon is about the only entity on the planet that can deliver on Owl’s vampire problem – and let’s face it, dragons are known to eat the odd thief.

Owl retraces the steps of Mr. Kurosawa’s ancient thief from Japan to Bali with the help of her best friend, Nadya, and an attractive mercenary. As it turns out though, finding the scroll is the least of her worries. When she figures out one of Mr. Kurosawa’s trusted advisors is orchestrating a plan to use a weapon powerful enough to wipe out a city, things go to hell in a hand basket fast…and Owl has to pick sides.


therabbitbacklitsocietyThe Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen  (Knopf -Dec. 2nd)
Synopsis-Only nine people have ever been chosen by renowned children’s author Laura White to join the Rabbit Back Literature Society, an elite group of writers in the small town of Rabbit Back. Now a tenth member has been selected: a young literature teacher named Ella.

Soon Ella discovers that the Society is not what it seems. What is its mysterious ritual known as “The Game”? What explains the strange disappearance that occurs at Laura White’s winter party? Why are the words inside books starting to rearrange themselves? Was there once another tenth member, before her? Slowly, as Ella explores the Society and its history, disturbing secrets that had been buried for years start to come to light. . . .

In Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen’s chilling, darkly funny novel, The Rabbit Back Literature Society, praised as “Twin Peaks meets the Brothers Grimm” (The Telegraph), the uncanny brushes up against the everyday in the most beguiling and unexpected of ways.


theyellowwoodThe Yellow Wood by Melanie Tem  (ChiZine-Jan. 20th)
Synopsis-Alexander waits in his yellow-gray house in a yellow wood for his namesake daughter, the one who “of all my children … has always stirred me most, with love, with rage and fear, with envy and disappointment.” He has summoned her. She is his prodigal child, and she is his scion, and it’s time.

Alexandra left as soon as she turned eighteen, the only way she could keep from being swallowed up by her father, her only chance of having a life of her own. Alexandra grew up with her father’s voice in her head, his will on her in one form or another. Now, though she vowed she never would, she is going back. Because his voice came into her head, ordering her home.

The longer Alexandra stays with her father in her childhood home, the stronger her suspicions that his control over her is more insidious than she knew. Her siblings are all oddly under his control, exactly what he made them, and she discovers evidence of what he has planned for her.

“She fled to live her own life,” Alexander observes. “As if there ever were such a thing.”


fairestFairest by Marissa Meyer (Feiwel and Friends -Jan. 27th)
Synopsis-Mirror, mirror on the wall,

Who is the fairest of them all?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now.


geminicellGemini Cell by Myke Cole (Ace -Jan. 27th)
Synopsis-US Navy SEAL Jim Schweitzer is a consummate professional, a fierce warrior, and a hard man to kill. But when he sees something he was never meant to see on a covert mission gone bad, he finds himself—and his family—in the crosshairs. Nothing means more to Jim than protecting his loved ones, but when the enemy brings the battle to his front door, he is overwhelmed and taken down.

That should be the end of the story. But Jim is raised from the dead by a sorcerer and recruited by a top secret unit dabbling in the occult, known only as the Gemini Cell. With powers he doesn’t understand, Jim is called back to duty—as the ultimate warrior. As he wrestles with a literal inner demon, Jim realizes his new superiors are determined to use him for their own ends and keep him in the dark—especially about the fates of his wife and son….


pacificfirePacific Fire by Gregory van Eekhout (Tor -Jan. 27th)
Synopsis-I’m Sam. I’m just this guy.

Okay, yeah, I’m a golem created from the substance of his own magic by the late Hierarch of Southern California. With a lot of work, I might be able to wield magic myself. I kind of doubt it, though. Not like Daniel Blackland can.

Daniel’s the reason the Hierarch’s gone and I’m still alive. He’s also the reason I’ve lived my entire life on the run. Ten years of never, ever going back to Los Angeles. Daniel’s determined to protect me. To teach me.

But it gets old. I’ve got nobody but Daniel. I’ll never do anything normal. Like attend school. Or date a girl.

Now it’s worse. Because things are happening back in LA. Very bad people are building a Pacific firedrake, a kind of ultimate weapon of mass magical destruction. Daniel seemed to think only he could stop them. Now Daniel’s been hurt. I managed to get us to the place run by the Emmas. (Many of them. All named Emma. It’s a long story.) They seem to be healing him, but he isn’t going anyplace soon.

Do I even have a reason for existing, if it isn’t to prevent this firedrake from happening? I’m good at escaping from things. Now I’ve escaped from Daniel and the Emmas, and I’m on my way to LA.

This may be the worst idea I ever had.


morteMorte by Robert Repino (Soho-Jan. 20th)
Synopsis-The “war with no name” has begun, with human extinction as its goal. The instigator of this war is the Colony, a race of intelligent ants who, for thousands of years, have been silently building an army that would forever eradicate the destructive, oppressive humans. Under the Colony’s watchful eye, this utopia will be free of the humans’ penchant for violence, exploitation and religious superstition. The final step in the Colony’s war effort is transforming the surface animals into high-functioning two-legged beings who rise up to kill their masters.

Former housecat turned war hero, Mort(e) is famous for taking on the most dangerous missions and fighting the dreaded human bio-weapon EMSAH. But the true motivation behind his recklessness is his ongoing search for a pre-transformation friend—a dog named Sheba. When he receives a mysterious message from the dwindling human resistance claiming Sheba is alive, he begins a journey that will take him from the remaining human strongholds to the heart of the Colony, where he will discover the source of EMSAH and the ultimate fate of all of earth’s creatures.


insideasilverboxInside a Silver Box by Walter Mosley (Tor-Jan. 27th)
Synopsis-Walter Mosley’s talent knows no bounds. Inside a Silver Box continues to explore the cosmic questions entertainingly discussed in his Crosstown to Oblivion. From life’s meaning to the nature of good and evil, Mosley takes readers on a speculative journey beyond reality.

In Inside a Silver Box, two people brought together by a horrific act are united in a common cause by the powers of the Silver Box. The two join to protect humanity from destruction by an alien race, the Laz, hell-bent on regaining control over the Silver Box, the most destructive and powerful tool in the universe. The Silver Box will stop at nothing to prevent its former master from returning to being, even if it means finishing the earth itself.


atlantaburnsAtlanta Burns by Chuck Wendig (Skyscape-Jan. 27th)
Synopsis-You don’t mess with Atlanta Burns.

Everyone knows that. And that’s kinda how she likes it—until the day Atlanta is drawn into a battle against two groups of bullies and saves a pair of new, unexpected friends. But actions have consequences, and when another teen turns up dead—by an apparent suicide—Atlanta knows foul play is involved. And worse: she knows it’s her fault. You go poking rattlesnakes, maybe you get bit.

Afraid of stirring up the snakes further by investigating, Atlanta turns her focus to the killing of a neighborhood dog. All paths lead to a rural dogfighting ring, and once more Atlanta finds herself face-to-face with bullies of the worst sort. Atlanta cannot abide letting bad men do awful things to those who don’t deserve it. So she sets out to unleash her own brand of teenage justice.

Will Atlanta triumph? Or is fighting back just asking for a face full of bad news?

Note: Atlanta Burns was previously releases as two volumes (Shotgun Gravy and Bait Dog), but Skyscape picked it up, gave it a fantastic new cover, and now it will get the audience that it most definitely deserves!

4 Comments:

  1. Pacific Fire… droooooool! Evensong, The Deep, and Owl and the Japanese Circus look awesome too!

  2. Whoo boy! Added The Guard and The Deep to my Amazon wishlist. Wish I had seen this post yesterday before I preordered a bunch of 2015 releases!

  3. Jo Walton and Karen Lord top my list with Cole and Wendig coming up behind. January could be a full reading month.

    • Oh, oops, yeah…Atlanta Burns. I didn’t include that because it’s actually a re-release of a self pub that he did a while back, but ya know what? I’m glad you reminded me, because it really should go on the list 😀

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