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17 best new science fiction and fantasy books to read in October – Polygon

Fall is upon us, which means that it’s a good time to cozy up on the couch with a good book and a warm beverage of choice.

One of my recent books was one that came out earlier this year: The Bird King, by G. Willow Wilson. The novel follows a concubine named Fatima, who resides in the royal court of Grenada, just as Spain is consolidating itself under the Inquisition. Her friend Hassan has a secret: he can shape reality through his work as a map-maker, he can change landscapes or create doors with a quick sketch. His talents attract the attention of the inquisitors, who have come to Grenada to negotiate the kingdom’s surrender, and force Fatima and Hassan into a desperate escape, aided by a djinn and other unexpected allies as they try and find safety.

The novel is beautifully written, and it’s a powerful story about freedom and one’s ability to write one’s own destiny. So while not new, the book shouldn’t go overlooked.

Here are 17 new science fiction and fantasy novels to check out this month (and 13 more if you missed last month).


Oct. 1

the cover of Future Tense Fiction, bright, vibrant shapes surround the title, in shades of pink, red, mint, orange, and yellow. the whole design is vaguely retro-futureUnnamed Press

Future Tense Fiction: Stories of Tomorrow edited by Kirsten Berg, Torie Bosch, Joey Eschrich, Edd Finn, Andres Martinez, and Juliet Ulman

Over the last couple of years, some of the best short science fiction has emerged from a joint project between Slate, New America, and Arizona University. The Future Tense brings together some of the best science fiction authors writing right now, and this book collects a number of those stories in one volume. Authors here include the likes of Charlie Jane Anders, Paolo Bacigalupi, Madeline Ashby, Hannu Rajaniemi, Annalee Newitz, Nnedi Okorafor, and more. This is an essential book for those wanting cutting-edge fiction about our near future. Kirkus Reviews gave the book a starred review, saying that it’s full of “Provocative, challenging stories that project the tech innovations of today onto the moral framework of tomorrow.”


the cover for The Walking Dead: Typhon, the title is in red text over a sepia tinged landscape reminiscent of chinese watercolor paintings. among the sloping mountains, there are outpost establishments of the apocalypseSimon & Schuster

The Walking Dead: Typhoon by Wesley Chu

There have been a handful of novels based on The Walking Dead, and the latest comes from Wesley Chu. The Walking Dead: Typhoon takes place in China, where the government believes there are upwards of a billion zombies (called jiangshi) roaming the country. Survivors have built up protected settlements, and the leader of one, Secretary Guo, of the Beacon of Light settlement, has ordered that they round up as many survivors as possible for a last stand. When Zhu discovers people still living in his home village while searching for food, he’s conflicted: stay and fight with his friends in the settlement, or flee with the survivors who have evaded the jiangshi thus far. Read an excerpt.


the cover for The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl; the large font is on a magenta background, with floral lined patterns. in the bottom left corner is the outline of a girl with long blonde wavy hairSimon & Schuster

The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl by Theodora Goss

With her first two Athena Club novels (The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter and European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman), Theodora Goss provided a subversive and exciting take on some of horror’s best-known figures. In her first novel, she introduced us to Mary Jekyll, who brings together a number of fantastical characters as she’s searching for answers to the question about her father’s death. There’s Catherine “Cat” Moreau, a former puma, transformed into a human through a series of experiments; Beatrice Rappaccini, a poisonous woman; Justine Frankenstein, the reanimated wife for Frankenstein’s original monster, and Diana Hyde, Mary’s feisty younger sister.

In her latest adventure, the Athena Club contends with the kidnapping of their friend Alice and employer Sherlock Holmes. As they search for their missing companions, they discover that their kidnapping is part of a larger plot to threaten Queen Victoria.


the cover for The Library of the Unwritten; it appears to be a page to a book, but the middle part is ripped open, a hand peeking through. the title is printed in this dark gap, along with the words “Join the library, raise hell”Penguin Random House

The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith

Hell has a special place for unfinished books: the Unwritten Wing. Claire, the librarian overseeing the wing, is there to keep the shelves organized and the books in good shape, but also to keep an eye on them. The unfinished books that she’s tasked with overseeing will sometimes manifest their characters in an effort to finish themselves. When one hero escapes to look for his author, it’s up to Claire to track him down, along with her assistant Brevity and a demon named Leto. Their mission goes wrong when they’re confronted by an angel, who believes that what they really have is the Devil’s bible, one that could have huge implications in the war between Heaven and Hell.

You can read an excerpt of The Library of the Unwritten on Tor.com.


the cover for Dune: Deluxe Edition; a silhouetted figure in a cloak stands against a turquoise moon which stains an orange background; the figure has glowing turquoise eyes that match the moon, though no other discernible facial featuresAce Books

Dune: Deluxe Edition by Frank Herbert

Frank Herbert’s Dune is one of the best-known classics of the genre, and with a new film adaptation on its way, his publisher is releasing a “deluxe edition” of the novel. This edition is a handsome one and comes with some new artwork and a new introduction from Herbert’s son Brian, who has carried on his father’s legacy with a new series of novels set in the same world. (Another volume to look into is The Folio Society’s edition of the novel, which is also quite nice.)


the cover for Full Throttle; a beige background, with a large Prussian blue truck Harper Collins

Full Throttle by Joe Hill

With books like NOS4A2, The Fireman, and Strange Weather, and comics like Locke & Key, Joe Hill has established himself as a master horror author. Now, he’s releasing a new collection of his shorter stories, Full Throttle. It contains stories that take on fairy tales, librarians who bring books to the dead, and others. The book also contains a couple of short stories co-authored with his father, Stephen King, like “Throttle”, and “In The Tall Grass,” an adaptation of which will soon hit Netflix.

Read an excerpt.


the cover for Dooku: Jedi Lost; the text dramatically slashes diagonally across the cover; the bottom half has count dooku wielding a blue lightsaber, the top half has Asajj Ventress brandishing a red onePenguin Random House

Dooku: Jedi Lost by Canavan Scott

Earlier this year, Random House released an original Star Wars audio drama called Dooku: Jedi Lost, about the fallen Jedi Master who orchestrated the Clone Wars and his life before he fell. Now, the publisher has released the story in book form — the audio drama’s shooting script, for those who want to pick up the story, but who aren’t a huge fan of audiobooks.


Oct. 3

the cover for The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth; it is all in red, with a train rushing past the hagia sophia in istanbulPenguin Random House

The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman

Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is a classic of fantasy literature, and for years, he worked on a successor project, The Book of Dust. That novel turned into a trilogy, the first volume of which, La Belle Sauvage hit stores in 2017. This second installment, The Secret Commonwealth, is set after the events of the first trilogy. Lyra Silvertongue is now a student at St. Sophia’s College, and her daemon Pantalaimon witnesses a brutal murder, plunging the pair into a new adventure, one that sends them to a city haunted by daemons and which might hold the secret to Dust, an elemental particle that imparts consciousness to life across the universe.


Oct. 8

the cover for The Princess Beard; the text is in fancy font against a purple sky, over a green sea. a ship is in the distance, a female centaur silhouetted in the foreground. a cream border surrounds the whole coverPenguin Random House

The Princess Beard by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne

The latest irreverent fantasy comedy from Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne follows Kill the Farm Boy and No Country for Old Gnomes. The Princess Beard finds a princess awaken after a long slumber in a magical tower, and decide that she’d rather join a pirate crew to go off on adventures. Publishers Weekly says that “as they sail the crimson tides of the Myn Seas (populated by tampooners) and brave the dangers of all-night eateries, they challenge gender roles in fantasy and skewer social trends, attacking targets as varied as Harry Potter and gym culture with a dizzying array of bad jokes and puns.” Here’s an excerpt.


cover for Warrior of the Altaii; a crimson cover with the black head of a wild cat; the text is large and goldTor Books

Warrior of the Altaii by Robert Jordan

Robert Jordan is best known for his Wheel of Time epic fantasy series, but before he wrote that, he wrote another novel, which his publisher had never gotten around to publishing in the 1980s: Warrior of Altaii. The book is now coming to print, and is about a warrior, Wulfgar, who must protect his people against warlords and magicians in a changing world. When Elspeth, a visitor from another world arrives, she might hold the answers for their survival, but Wulfgar must first know the right questions to ask.


cover for Supernova; a planet surrounded by rectangular futuristic looking spaceshipsTor Books

Supernova Era by Cixin Liu, translated by Joel Martinsen

Chinese author Cixin Liu is best known for his Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy (The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest, and Death’s End). In his latest, a star located eight light years away explodes. The supernova bombards Earth with deadly radiation that kills off everyone over the age of 13. Governments around the world institute programs designed to keep civilization going, training children to fulfill vital jobs. The novel follows a group of children in China as they work to oversee their local area, and have to deal with the ambitions of their international neighbors, and the younger generation that’s growing up right behind them. Publishers Weekly says that “plausible but surprising twists make this a memorable what-if tale.”

You can read the first and second chapters.


Oct. 15

the cover for Escaping Exodus: a fantastical looking woman in a lush green and purple background; she is draped in a white cloakHarper Voyager

Escaping Exodus by Nicky Drayden

Humanity has expanded deep into space in Nicky Drayden’s latest novel, Escaping Exodus. With the stars too far away, people have build habitats in giant creatures. One young woman, Seske Kaleigh, is preparing to take up the role of clan leader, and discovers that their home might not be as safe as they’d hoped. She has to contend with the responsibilities of shouldering the burden of leadership for her people, while also being challenged by her ambitious and cunning sister. Kirkus Reviews says that it’s “a straightforwardly written sci-fi tale with top-notch worldbuilding and sharp characterization.” Here’s an excerpt.


the cover for salvaged; a woman’s head is suspended in spacePenguin Random House

Salvaged by Madeleine Roux

Rosalyn Devar is running away from her family, her job, and her life, and takes a job as a salvager. After a major mistake, she’s given one last opportunity to redeem herself: help clean up the Brigantine, a dead research ship. The only problem is that the crew has been infected by a fungus that reanimates their bodies, and they’re trying to convince Rosalyn to join them. Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying that it’s an “entertaining, deeply disturbing, and clever story hits all the right notes for those who like a little horror with their SF.” Read an excerpt.


cover for The Rosewater Redemption; the white text takes up most of it, with an intricate zig-zag blue and purple patternOrbit Books

The Rosewater Redemption by Tade Thompson

Tade Thompson brings his epic science fiction trilogy to a close with The Rosewater Redemption. The first installment from 2015 was set in the middle of the 21st century as a government agent encounters a strange city on the edge of an alien dome in Nigeria known as Wormwood. Wormwood has been expanding its influence, and the city worked to declare independence in The Rosewater Insurrection. In this final installment, the city is fighting to keep its independence: debts are mounting, the aliens are threatening genocide, and Karro might be the city’s last hope for peace.

Kirkus Reviews gave the book a starred review and says that it’s “a fitting end to this trilogy, which, in even its trippiest moments, maintains a plausibility that others in this subgenre often lack.”


Oct. 22

cover for Interference; a black, starry sky, below are green plantsTor Books

Interference by Sue Burke

Last year, Sue Burke released her debut novel, Semiosis, and it quickly became one of my favorites of 2018. Set in the distant future, it followed generations of colonists who landed on a planet called Pax, which was inhabited by intelligent plant-life. IIt was an excellent take on first contact scenarios and the nature of intelligence, and in her latest, Burke continues the story of Pax and its new inhabitants as a new intelligent, apex species makes its presence known. Read an excerpt.


the cover for The Queens of Animation; a black and white photo of a woman at an animator’s desk, it is all against a yellow backgroundLittle Brown & Co.

The Queens of Animation: The Untold Story of the Women Who Transformed the World of Disney and Made Cinematic History by Nathalia Holt

The histories of the film industry, and particularly that of Walt Disney, focus heavily on the male creators, artists, and visionaries who produced some of the best-known stories that entertain us to this day. Nathalia Holt’s new book adds to that story, focusing on an influential group of women who shaped the animation industry throughout Walt Disney’s history, and the challenges that they faced along the way. Publishers Weekly says that “Holt’s thorough and enchanting account will be a must-read for Disney enthusiasts and champions of women’s artistic contributions.”


Oct. 29

cover for the name of all things; a black background with a bronze horse’s head in the middleTor Books

The Name of All Things by Jenn Lyons

Earlier this year, Jenn Lyons released her first epic fantasy novel, The Ruin of Kings, the first of her Chorus of Dragons series. The next installment is The Name of All Things, told through alternating accounts by a woman named Janel Theranon and Qown to Kihrin, a thief from the slums who was claimed as a missing prince (and who happens to be a reincarnated god.) They tell the story their efforts to save the city of Atrine from a massive dragon, and that the events might be part of the story of Kihrin’s past. Kirkus Reviews says that the book is a “top-notch adventure fantasy written for a 21st-century audience — highly recommended.” Here’s an excerpt.