Even when the world is in more turmoil than usual (or maybe it just seems like that way?) you can always count on the arrival of a cavalcade of fabulous books in the first month of fall, and this September proves no exception! I’ve found titles that might help you escape from reality for a bit, and some books that might give you the strength to dive back into the complications of real life.
Read on for: a classic fantasy heist! A short story collection from an icon of SF! The first book in a new series that starts a conversation between old lore and modern justice! (deep breath) A cyber-neo-noir-sf-baseball-murder-mystery! Doughnuts that have power to save lives! (???) And, somehow, more!
Among Thieves by M.J. Kuhn
(Gallery / Saga Press, September 7)
Who wants a fantasy heist? M.J. Kuhn’s debut gives us magic, gritty port towns, a ragtag team of thieves who all ache to double-cross each other, AND a protagonist with a mysterious past.
Ryia Cautella has spent six years on the run. She dodges from place to place, barely keeping ahead of the Guildmaster of Thamorr, and holding tight to the secret that forced her into hiding. But she’s coming up on a year in the city of Carrowick, working near the docks. People have learned to stay clear of her blade and her wit, but it’s probably time to move on…except. She has a chance at getting her freedom back, not to mention the name she left behind her six years ago. All she has to do is steal the Guildmaster’s quill, with all of its magic—and to manage that, all she has to do is trust a team of the least trustworthy people she’s ever known.
No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull
(Blackstone, September 7)
The first book in Cadwell Turnbull’s new Convergence Saga weaves a story of systemic injustice into ancient myth and horror.
Laina’s already been estranged from her brother Lincoln for a while when she learns that he’s been killed by police. When she receives a video of the incident, she’s astonished to see that it shows him transforming from some sort of beast—a wolf?—into the brother she thought she knew. But when she shares the video, both to seek truth for herself, and to publicize her brother’s murder, someone pulls the full clip.
Who edited it? And why? In the wake of the shooting and video, a secret population is revealed: people who are shape shifters, magic users, blood-drinkers—they’ve lived in hiding for so long, but now some are finally ready to step into the light. And that, of course, brings terrible danger, since those who see them as monsters will do anything to destroy them, and all record of their lives. Turnbull loops the stories of these magical people around the injustices we’re all familiar with, stories of Black men threatened by police, women who have to make terrible compromises to gain a foothold in the world, and queer people shunned by their families, to launch a new fantasy series that can speak to our world.
The Truth and Other Stories by Stanislaw Lem, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
(MIT Press, September 14)
The Truth and Other Stories collects twelve of Stanislaw Lem’s works, nine of which have never been translated into English. The stories were all translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, and the edition includes a foreword from Kim Stanley Robinson.
The stories are collected in chronological order, and span from 1956 to 1993, and, like all of Lem’s works, take wild leaps and spin thought experiments into moving fiction. One story is told by a god jotting down the details of multiverse-creation. Other stories feature a computer that can predict the future…but only by 137 seconds, and an old-fashioned hunt…in which the hunters are chasing a robot. In the title story, a possibly-mad scientist wants to explain that the sun is, in fact, sentient.
The Body Scout by Lincoln Michel
(Orbit, September 21)
I am very excited to type the following words: Lincoln Michel’s new novel is a near-future neo-noir sports murder mystery. Because why do one thing when you can do all the things?
In a near-future that’s alarmingly similar to our present, people use genetic modification to cope with climate collapse and repeated pandemics. Kobo, a sports scout, keeps thel oan sharks at bay by scouting athletes who use gene-editing to stay competitive—but his own upgrades are woefully out of date, and he’s in danger of irreparable obsolescence.
And that’s all before his best friend, a baseball player named J.J. Zunz, is murdered.
Quicker than you can say “classic gumshoe” Kobo has thrown himself in over his head, into an investigation that is far more likely to end in his death than in justice. But what else can he do to honor his friend, in a world that considers values like loyalty and friendship worthless?
The Escapement by Lavie Tidhar
(Tachyon, September 21)
In 2012, Lavie Tidhar was awarded the World Fantasy Award for Osama, his pulp noir alt history about terrorism, and in 2017 he won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel for Central Station, a neo-cyberpunk, near-future linked short-story-collection-cum-novel. Having broken every other subgenre, Tidhar returns with The Escapement, a reality-bending Western quest story!
A mysterious lone gunmen called The Stranger hunts his quarry across a fantasy landscape. But before you get too comfortable with your archetypes: The Stranger’s quest is not to face off with another gunman, or to seek an material prize—he’s looking for his lost son. And the fantasy landscape is not simply a surreal Old West pastiche—it’s “the Escapement”, and endlessly fractured network of mirror realities, each with its own dangers and rules, that The Stranger will have to navigate before his time runs out and his child is lost forever.
The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward
(Tor Nightfire, September 28)
Shirley Jackson Award-winner Catriona Ward invites us to visit the house at the end of the street. You know, the one at the edge of the woods? With the boarded-up windows?
Once you venture in the door you’ll find a lonely man who does his best to pretend that his memory has some deep, dark holes; a girl who isn’t allowed to leave the house, for very good reasons, and a cat who’s a big fan of the Bible, and reads from it every day. They’ve lived quietly together for a while now, but the new next-door neighbor might just force them to confront their past…and whatever’s buried out in the woods.
Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki
(Tor Books, September 28)
Sometimes you get a book that embraces the basic fact that fiction—especially speculative fiction—can be ANYTHING. One such book is Ryka Aoki’s Light from Uncommon Stars, which takes a deal with the devil as its starting point and just gets more inventive from there.
Shizuka Satomi, who apparently took Charlie Daniels much more seriously than she should have, made a pact with Old Scratch to dodge her own damnation. Within a set period of time, she has to offer up seven souls, from seven violinists. Seven good violinists.
So far, she’s managed six, and time’s getting tight when she comes across a young trans runaway named Katrina Nguyen. Katrina’s talent seems like Shizuka’s ticket out of Hell, but then, stopping into an unassuming doughnut shop, she meets Lan Tran—starship captain (retired), refugee (from space), mom (of four). Just what Shizuka doesn’t need now is love, or second thoughts, or (Devil forbid!) a conscience. But Lan might be giving her hope for a different kind of future, both for her…and for Katrina.