Fantasy and Science Fiction
Ninth House by Leigh BardugoThe offer: a full scholarship to Yale for Galaxy "Alex" Stern, a high school dropout with the rare ability to see ghosts.
The catch: Tasked with monitoring the university's secret societies, Alex soon discovers that the elite institution is often willing to turn a blind eye to their occult transgressions.
Is it for you? This adult fantasy novel by Grisha trilogy author Leigh Bardugo is grittier than her YA books and includes scenes of murder, child abuse, sexual assault, and self-harm.
Gamechanger by L.X. BeckettIn the year 2101: Earth is finally in Bounceback mode, thanks to humanity's collective efforts to reverse the effects of climate change.
Starring: Pro gamer and public defender Cherub "Rubi" Whiting, who must defend her client, accused cyber-terrorist Luciano Pox against an impressive list of charges.
Why you might like it: This "cerebral fusion of science fiction, mystery, and apocalyptic thriller" (Kirkus Reviews) boasts impressively detailed world-buildng.
The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee NewitzWhat it's about: The Daughters of Harriet, a coalition of feminist activists, and the Comstockers, a men's rights group, travel through time, editing history like a Wikipedia page.
Reviewers say: "a matryoshka doll meditation on the pointlessness and necessity of violence...bathed in pop culture references (real and imagined)" (NPR).
For fans of: the LGBTQIA-friendly change wars of Amal El-Mohtar's and Max Gladstone's This is How You Lose the Time War;
A Song for a New Day by Sarah PinskerBefore: Musician Luce Cannon is a star on the rise -- until a disease outbreak and a wave of terrorist attacks prompt the government to ban public gatherings.
After: Rosemary Laws becomes a talent scout for a VR event company, which leads her to Luce, who now organizes underground concerts.
About the author: Nebula-award winning author and indie musician Sarah Pinsker is a member of the band Stalking Horses.
Chilling Effect by Valerie ValdesWhat it's about: Captain Eva Innocente of La Sirena Negra and her crew must take on dangerous secret missions to raise the ransom money to save Eva's sister, Mari, from crime syndicate The Fridge.
Want a taste? "Someone is paying me to take you to another planet, and if I don't deliver, I don't get paid. And if I don't get paid, I lose my ship, so pretty please with sugar on top, get in your cabrón crate already, coño."
For fans of: the appealing characters in Becky Chambers' The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet; the spacefaring capers of Mike Brooks' Keiko novels.
Focus on: Alternative Histories
The Black God's Drums by P. Djèlí ClarkIntroducing: Jacqueline (a.k.a. Creeper), a teenager who lives on the streets of 1884 New Orleans and longs to see the world; and Oya, the orisha (Yoruba storm deity) who lives inside her.
What happens: After learning of a Confederate plot to win the ongoing Civil War with a weapon of mass destruction, Creeper seeks out Ann-Marie St. Augustine, captain of the smuggler airship Midnight Robber.
Why you might like it: With its majority black female cast and numerous LGBTQIA characters, The Black God's Drums is a rarity in Steampunk.
That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. JohnstonThe sun never sets... on the British Empire, which has continued into the present day with a few crucial differences.
Such as? Computers match genetically compatible individuals, which is why Crown Princess Victoria-Margaret heads to Toronto for a summer of incognito freedom before she's assigned a consort. And then she falls for Helena, who's also expected to marry someone else.
Why you might like it: This thought-provoking YA alternate history novel offers an appealing blend of romance and speculative fiction.
The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette KowalThe United States, 1952: After a meteorite strike imperils life on Earth, it should be all hands on deck. But as mathematician Elma York soon discovers, planning humanity's future in space is a privilege largely reserved for white men. Can she help change the culture?
Book buzz: Winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards, The Calculating Stars kicks off the Lady Astronaut series, which continues with The Fated Sky.
For fans of: Martha Ackmann's The Mercury 13, Margot Lee Shetterly's Hidden Figures, and other nonfiction books about the unsung heroines of the space race.
Everfair by Nisi ShawlWhat happens: In 1885, a group of European socialists and African American missionaries establish a safe haven for black people in the Congo. However, the well-meaning benefactors of this multiracial, steam-powered utopia fail to recognize their own blind spots.
Inspired by: King Leopold II of Belgium's real-life reign of terror over the Congo Free State, as well as the American Colonization Society's founding of Liberia.
For fans of: Steven Barnes' Lion's Blood, another Afrocentric alternate history novel that examines colonialism.
Bombs Away: The Hot War by Harry TurtledoveWhat if... the Korean War turned into World War III?
What happens: China's 1950 invasion of the Korean Peninsula leads to the United States dropping atomic bombs on Manchuria, which in turn prompts the USSR, which backs China, to strike U.S. allies.
Why you might like it: alternate history maestro Harry Turtledove explores the road almost taken in this well-researched 1st installment of the Hot War series, which continues with Fallout and Armistice.
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