I’m always on the lookout for interesting space-opera stories, so I was surprised when I came across the trailer for an upcoming Syfy Channel series that I hadn’t heard about: Vagrant Queen.
The show, due out in March, follows a woman named Elida, a former child queen of an empire who was driven out by revolutionary forces on her homeworld. After years of working as a scavenger, Elida goes on the run when the people who deposed her try to finish what they started. The show looks like it’ll be a lot of fun — the type of series that is more Killjoys than Game of Thrones. What’s more, the show is based off of a comic book by Magdelene Visaggio, illustrator Jason Smith, which I recently picked up and read. It’s a fun, solid space opera, with plenty of action and a fun set of characters, and I’ll be interested to see how the TV series stacks up alongside it.
Here are 20 science fiction and fantasy novels coming out in stores this month (and here are 19 more you may have missed last month).
The Companions by Katie M. Flynn
In a book that seems more than a little relevant, California has been quarantined as a contagious virus sweeps across the world. It’s a transformative event: people live inside to avoid exposure, and a medical technology company called Metis develops a solution to avoid death, a process in which someone can upload their consciousness into a companion robot. The wealthy can afford to keep their family members with them, but the poor are rented out to strangers — their minds becoming the company’s IP. One girl, 16-year-old Lilac is leased out, but discovers that she can resist her family’s orders and escapes, setting off a chain of events that will forever change the world.
Kirkus Reviews says that the book is “ a suspenseful, introspective debut,” and that it “raises important questions about humanity. If companions have memories and can feel emotions like love, pain, anger, and sadness, are they not human? If not, what makes us human in the first place?”
Otaku by Chris Kluwe
Former NFL punter Chris Kluwe has forged a new career for himself as a writer since his retirement in 2013. In addition to being into games like World of Warcraft, he’s also been writing short science fiction critical analysis.
This month, he releases his first novel, set in a dystopian Miami that’s been overtaken by climate change. Now called Ditchdown, the remains of the city is home to those who can’t escape, including Ashley Akachi. She logs into Infinite Game as her only way to escape, and as Ashura the Terrible, she’s built up a huge following on the internet. While playing, she comes across a deadly conspiracy that brings her virtual world crashing into her real one.
Publishes Weekly notes that the book is “an old-school cyberpunk adventure, [that] brings the thrills of virtual reality combat into the real world while taking aim at the racist and sexist abuses that pervade contemporary gamer culture.”
Read an excerpt.
Beneath the Rising by Premee Mohamad
In her debut novel, Premee Mohamad follows two friends, Nick Prasad and Joanna ‘Johnny’ Chambers, who come from very different parts of society. Johnny is rich and white, while Nick is brown and poor.
When Johnny invents a new type of reactor that could end our dependence on fossil fuels, she accidentally awakens an unspeakable evil bent on enslaving humanity. To save the world, the two must travel around the world to ancient libraries and ruins to stop them from destroying humanity.
Re-Coil by J.T. Nicolas
When Carter Langston is killed whilst on a salvage mission, it’s an inconvenience: he backed up his mind in a new body, located several weeks away on a space station.
But things get serious when someone tries to kill that body, and he begins to realize that someone is after something he found or saw on the derelict spacecraft. Carter has to track down his last remaining crewmember in her body to try and figure out how to survive.
Docile by K.M. Szpara
In K.M. Szpara’s debut, near-future thriller, there is no consent under capitalism. To escape from crushing debt that is passed down from generation to generation, people sell themselves into servitude, using a drug called Docile to erase agency, memories, and pain.
Elisha Wilder’s mother is one such debtor, but after one term, her dose of Docile doesn’t wear off, prompting him to shoulder the burden himself. His contract is purchased by a rich man named Alexander Bishop III, whose family is behind the development of the drug and the Office of Debt Resolution itself. When Elisha refuses to use the drug, Alexander works to brainwash him to turn him into the perfect Docile without the meds, but begins to understand his role in the entire, broken system.
Publishers Weekly says that “this queer dystopia is an arresting, disturbing, and ultimately satisfying challenge.”
Cyber Shogun Revolution by Peter Tieryas
Peter Tieryas returns to his alternate world in which Nazi Germany won World War II and took over the United States. Following his novels United States of Japan and Mecha Samurai Empire, he follows mecha designer and pilot Reiko Morikawa, who’s been recruited to a secret organization to oust a corrupt Nazi-aligned governor in Seattle. Meanwhile, a member of the United States of Japan’s Secret Police, Bishop Wakana, has been tracking down a Nazi scientist and an arms smuggling ring, only to realize that the an assassin targeting the governor might be after the USJ itself. Together, Bishop and Reiko chase after the assassin to try and stop her, while the USJ comes to terms with its alliance with Nazi Germany.
Publishers Weekly says that while the book is a standalone, it’ll help to read its predecessors, and that “series fans will be entertained.”
Read an excerpt.
A Pale Light in the Black by K.B. Wagers
Indranan War series author K.B. Wagers kicks off a new military science fiction series, NeoG, with A Pale Light in the Dark, following a Near-Earth Orbital Guard unit, Interceptor Team: Zuma’s Ghost. The team, working to compete in the annual Boarding Games, faces an unexpected personnel change that brings in a new Lieutenant to their numbers.
Maxine Carmichael has worked to escape the influence of her powerful family, and when she’s assigned to Jupiter Station, she has to win over her new command’s trust. When a routine mission turns dangerous, Zuma’s Ghost discover that someone has been trying to take them out to preserve a secret that could shake up the entire solar system.
Publishers Weekly praises the book’s interpersonal relationships, and says that “this effortlessly entertaining novel is sure to have readers coming back for the next installment.”
Sixteenth Watch by Myke Cole
Former Coast Guard Lieutenant Myke Cole, known for his fantasy novels like Control Point and The Armored Saint, brings his experiences to science fiction with the story of Jane Oliver, a Coast Guard captain on the verge of retirement.
When Jane’s husband is killed in a skirmish between American and Chinese forces on the Moon, she finds herself in the midst of a major political struggle between the two countries, becoming the only person who can stop the first war on the moon. Review site Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist says that “as political as it is action-packed, Sixteenth Watch is another compelling and entertaining read.”
Read the first two chapters here.
That We May Live: Speculative Chinese Fiction, translated by Jeremy Tiang & Natascha Bruce
Two Lines Press assembles a slim volume of translated Chinese science fiction stories, ranging from stories about a woman who discovers her home village has become obsessed with a mysterious fermented drink, an autonomous city that provides giant mushrooms for its citizens to life in, and more.
Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying that “By turns cryptic and revealing, phantasmagorical and straightforward, these tales balance reality and fantasy on the edge of a knife,” and that it’s a “provocative sampler of Chinese fiction [that] is both challenging and rewarding.”
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker by Rae Carson
Remember The Rise of Skywalker?
The final installment of the Skywalker Saga hit theaters back in December, but Rae Carson’s novelization of the story hits stores this month. Like the other novelizations for the franchise’s installments, this book is branded an “expanded edition”, with some extra scenes that didn’t make it into the film’s final cut, which will hopefully provide some more context to what we saw on screen.
Read an excerpt.
The Fortress by S.A. Jones
In this dystopian novel, originally published two years ago in Australia, Jonathon Bridge is a high-powered lawyer who’s presided over a toxic workplace rife with sexual abuse and harassment. When his wife finds out about his behavior, she says that she’ll remain married to him on one condition: he spends a year as a supplicant in The Fortress, an autonomous city-state run and inhabited by women. He’s to adhere to their rules: no asking questions, angry outbursts, and to turn down any offers of sex.
Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review and says that “Jones’s radical, detailed vision of what extremes it might take to unlearn misogyny is rendered with insight, immediacy, and painful honesty. This gut-punch of a story is sure to start conversations.”
The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
Linus Baker, a caseworker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, just had a challenging case land on his desk: are six magical children about to end the world? Meanwhile, orphanage master Arthur Parnassus wants to keep the children safe, no matter what the cost.
Kirkus Reviews says that “Klune (The Art of Breathing, 2019, etc.) has a knack for creating endearing characters, and readers will grow to love Arthur and the orphans alongside Linus. Linus himself is a lovable protagonist despite his prickliness, and Klune aptly handles his evolving feelings and morals.”
Read an excerpt.
Liquid Crystal Nightingale by Eeleen Lee
Pleo Tanza has endured plenty of tragedy in her life, and is determined to get off of her colony’s planet for good. But the only people who can get away are those with plenty of money — or luck. When she’s framed for the murder of a fellow student, she goes on the run, setting off a chain of events that could upend her home coony forever.
Hearts of Oak by Eddie Robson
Four residents of a city, Iona, Steve, Saori, and Victor go about their lives in a predictable routine, until a stranger, Alyssa, shows up. The woman asks to meet with Iona, and throws all of their lives into chaos, unmasking buried memories about their lives, making them realize that their home isn’t what they think it is.
Kirkus Reviews says that the book is “strange, charming, unpredictable, and full of unusual images, this is an off-the-wall delight.”
88 Names by Matt Ruff
In his first novel since 2016’s Lovecraft Country, Matt Ruff takes aim at the world of online RPGs. John Chu is someone who hires himself out as a “Sherpa”, equipping and leading gusts around a massive online world called Call to Wizardry.
When he picks up a new, anonymous client, it seems like the type of assignment that will make his career. But as he learns more about the man they’re escorting around, he begins to think that their anonymous patron is really North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, who has other things in mind than VR entertainment.
Publishers Weekly says that “Ruff remains on a winning streak with this seamless genre hybrid.”
The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
N.K. Jemisin has become one of my absolute favorite authors in recent years. Her last series, The Broken Earth trilogy, is a brilliant work of fantasy fiction, and each installment earned her the Hugo Award for Best Novel. Her next, The City We Became, kicks off a new trilogy, and was based on her fantastic 2016 short story “The City Born Great.” In this book, the cities of the world manifest as individuals once they grow large enough, and after a century, New York City is about to come to life. As it’s about to undergo its “birth,” it comes under attack from an otherworldly enemy, personified by the Woman in White, and selects individuals to act as its avatars to protect itself, one for each borough.
Kirkus Reviews gives the book a starred review, saying that it’s “fierce, poetic, uncompromising,” and that “Although the story is a fantasy, many aspects of the plot draw on contemporary incidents. In the real world, white people don’t need a nudge from an eldritch abomination to call down a violent police reaction on people of color innocently conducting their daily lives, and just as in the book, third parties are fraudulently transferring property deeds from African American homeowners in Brooklyn, and gentrification forces out the people who made the neighborhood attractive in the first place.”
The Last Human by Zack Jordan
In Zack Jordan’s debut novel, Sarya is an orphan in a hostile galaxy, and after humanity was wiped out for being too destructive, she might be last one left. She spends her time trying to hide her identity in Watertown Station, and when she and her home are attacked by a bounty hunter, she goes on the run in a stolen spaceship, aided only by a space suit, an android, and a super-smart critter. On the lam, she discovers a much bigger game at play, one in which she’s playing a tiny but vital part.
Kirkus Reviews says that “the sheer scope of the story is noteworthy, from the various intelligence tiers, which include groupminds and sentient planets, to the colossal settings.”
The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo
In a fantasy world inspired by Imperial China, a member of a royal court recounts her story to a cleric, Chih. Years ago, Empress In-yo was sent south in a politically-arranged marriage, where she meets Rabbit, a handmaiden who had been sold into servitude, and the two become friends, and have to navigate the intricacies of the court as the years pass.
Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying that it’s “equal parts love and rage, [and that] this masterfully told story is sure to impress.”
Providence by Max Barry
Max Barry has earned acclaim for books like Jennifer Government, Lexicon, and Machine Man. In his latest, he explores the ramifications of first contact with an alien civilization. A research ship is abruptly attacked by unknown, six-limbed aliens dubbed the “salamanders.” Earth declares war on the aliens, and launches a small fleet of AI-assisted ships to track down and destroy them. The crew of four aboard the Providence have to contend with their mission as they lose contact with Earth and face an increasingly deadly enemy.
Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying that “fans of Robert Heinlein open to more nuanced characterizations will be delighted.”
Read an excerpt.
Anthropocene Rag by Alex Irvine
In the near future, the United States has been transformed by a semi-intelligent nanotech called the Boom. One AI, Prospector Ed, teams up with six humans after being selected by the Boom to travel to Monument City for a strange purpose. As they traverse the country, they encounter strange landscapes and artificial intelligences (in the form of Henry Ford, Paul Bunyan, and others) trying to figure out their origins by recreating various cultural mythologies.
Publishers Weekly says that the book is “wondrous, playful, but still weighty science fiction odyssey will appeal to Irvine’s fans and serve as an excellent introduction to his work.”
Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy.