20 sci-fi and fantasy books we can’t wait to dive into this summer
The other summer blockbuster season is upon us. Some of the year’s biggest science fiction and fantasy books are hitting shelves over the next four months, including new titles from Ken Liu, Holly Black, and Ruthanna Emrys. Plus, widely celebrated genre-straddling writers like Akil Kumarasamy, Megan Giddings, and Georgi Gospodinov are back with new head-scratchers alongside a fresh crop of debut authors.
Whether you’re looking for a quick fix to devour in a single weekend or an epic tome to pore over for months, here are the 20 best science fiction and fantasy books coming your way in May, June, July, and August 2022.
Elektra by Jennifer Saint (May 3)
Fans of Madeline Miller’s Circe and Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad will be drawn to this reimagining of The Iliad that zooms in on Helen of Troy’s niece, Elektra. It’s another gripping historical fantasy in the vein of Saint’s debut novel, Ariadne, but this time she expands the focus to include two additional women: Elektra’s mother, Clytemnestra, and her father Agamemnon’s mistress, Cassandra.
Not many former Wall Street Journal technology reporters have written a science fiction novel, but Vauhini Vara has done just that with this stunning, nuanced book about memory, capitalism, and climate change. It’s the story of a South Indian child who grows up to become the most powerful man in the world — first as the CEO of a tech company, then as the leader of an international corporatocracy — and gives his daughter access to his memories in a desperate attempt to save the planet.
The co-author of The Spiderwick Chronicles is back with her first novel for adults, a dark fantasy set in a world that could be our own if it weren’t for “shadow magic” and the “gloamists” who study it. When a 28-year-old thief named Charlie Hall finds a dead man whose shadow has been torn to shreds, she goes on an adventure to look for a missing magical text — the titular Book of Night.
Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov, translated by Angela Rodel (May 10)
This Ballardian novel, Gospodinov’s third translation from Bulgarian to English, is about a Swiss health clinic for Alzheimer’s patients where each floor is designed to re-create a different decade from the 20th century. Things start getting wild when entire countries decide to start “living” in a particular decade from the past. (France, of course, picks the ’80s.)
This contemporary spin on The Turn of the Screw is about a newly sober nanny, Mallory Quinn, who takes a job caring for a 5-year-old boy. The kid seems sweet at first (don’t they always?), until he draws a picture of a man dragging the body of a woman through the woods. As his drawings become more and more lifelike, Mallory wonders if he’s channeling something supernatural — something that could help solve a cold case.
Loulie al-Nazari, a criminal magic smuggler with the enviable alias of “Midnight Merchant,” teams up with her jinn guardian, a prince, and a thief in this fast-paced fantasy adventure inspired by multiple stories from One Thousand and One Nights. Fans of S.A. Chakraborty’s Daevabad trilogy will enjoy al-Nazari’s race to find an ancient artifact with the power to annihilate every jinn in the world.
Traumatized women begin growing thick, dark hair along their spines in this debut novel from Sally Oliver. Marianne, grieving over the death of her sister, joins other afflicted women at an experimental treatment center in the Welsh wilderness, where her past and present begin to overlap — and where her mind begins to fall apart.
A grim historical fantasy set in Victorian London and Meiji-period Tokyo, Ordinary Monsters is about a British detective tasked with keeping two supernaturally powered children safe from a man made of smoke. At nearly 700 pages, it’s a door-stopper with a labyrinthine story and a large cast of characters.
In the near future, the metaverse is moderated by Reality Controllers like Joey, who oversees the livestreams of South Asian celebrities. When she hires an assistant named Rudra, the estranged scion of a wealthy Delhi family, they discover a corporate conspiracy that shatters everything they think they know.
Ken Liu returns with the fourth and final book in his Dandelion Dynasty series, best known for establishing the “silkpunk” genre with 2015’s The Grace of Kings. This time, Pékyu Takval and Princess Théra must navigate two wars to settle the fate of the Seven Islands of Dara.
Knives Out meets The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in this locked-room mystery set in the near future, where the human translator for an alien diplomat gets caught up in a murder investigation. Eddie Robson’s written for British sitcoms and Doctor Who spinoffs, so some dry humor is to be expected.
Kingfisher’s retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” is a great way to refamiliarize yourself with the story before Mike Flanagan’s upcoming Netflix adaptation of the original text. This version involves mushrooms, “possessed wildlife,” and a bunch of ghosts that may not actually be ghosts.
Emrys’ first novel since the Innsmouth Legacy series is a first-contact story driven by climate change. In the late 21st century, when aliens land in the Chesapeake Bay and offer humanity an escape from what they perceive to be a doomed Earth, our species must decide whether to leave home or stick it out.
The Sleepless by Victor Manibo (August 2)
What if you never needed to sleep again? Sounds great, but it doesn’t pan out so well in Manibo’s debut novel. A “sleepless” journalist named Jamie Vega gets ensnared in a murder investigation, and the worst part is, he can’t remember anything from the night of the crime. After setting off on his own investigation, he discovers the truth behind sleeplessness, and well, it can’t be good.
The title isn’t a metaphor; this novel is about people who eat books. They call themselves The Family, they live on the Yorkshire Moors, and they punish children by making them eat dictionaries. Turns out, they actually subsist on the stories contained within the books, which becomes a problem when one of them gets a taste for the best story vessel of all — the human brain.
40 by Alan Heathcock (August 2)
A civil war between the U.S. government and a faction of revolutionary fundamentalists is the setting of Heathcock’s bold and weird novel about faith, family, and the future. When a young soldier named Mazzy Goodwin awakes in a crater to find wings sprouting from her back, she’s not sure if it’s a miracle or a biological experiment, but it gives her the opportunity to become a wartime leader and find her missing sister.
Face by Joma West (August 2)
Skin color is a choice in Joma West’s debut novel, courtesy of some Gattaca-level genetic technology that allows everyone (who can afford it) to design their own “perfect” faces. At the same time, all skin-to-skin contact is considered obscene, and one wealthy family’s quest for happiness turns into a nightmare worthy of a Black Mirror episode.
The brilliant author of Lakewood imagines a dystopia where witches are real — a fact that the authoritarian State uses to criminalize women’s singlehood after the age of 30, and to put Black women on trial for the slightest suspicions. When Josephine Thomas goes on a quest to honor her mother’s last wish, she discovers a community living under very different rules.
The First Binding is a South Asian-inspired epic fantasy that’s been compared to Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind, and for good reason: it’s an 800-page series-starter told in the first person by a legendary, sharp-tongued warrior who wields magic. The stunning cover art doesn’t hurt, either!
This genre-defying novel from the author of the 2018 short-story collection Half Gods is about an AI trainer in the near future, Ada, who in her spare time translates a Tamil manuscript written by a group of female medical students in the 1990s. The story alternates between Ada’s encounters with future technology and the medical students’ attempts to suffer as much as possible in order to understand their patients.