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MIND MELD: This Is What We Want To Read In 2016

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

I spent most of December reading everyone’s “Favorite titles of 2015” lists, which was great fun. I found a lot of interesting titles I’d missed, and it’s always neat to see what books of the year everyone has been talking about.  But  now that we’ve turned the page into 2016, I asked our panelists the following question:

Q: What Speculative Fiction titles are you most looking forward to consuming in 2016?
Readers beware: If you still have a balance on any Amazon gift cards you received, this Mind Meld will take care of that!

Rachel Cotterill
Rachel Cotterill is professionally and perpetually indecisive, splitting her time somewhat haphazardly between writing, computing, linguistics, recipe development, and travel. She’s half of the feminist SF book blog Strange Charm and her third novel, Watersmeet, is a romantic and optimistic fantasy published in 2015.

2015 was an amazing year for SFF, in which I discovered a lot of new favourites, and so far 2016 is shaping up to be just as good or better. On the assumption that others will cover the blockbusters, I thought I’d focus on a few titles that are coming out from lesser-known authors and indie publishers.

And as it happens, all the indie books I’m really excited about right now are sequels — which has the added bonus that you can go and read the first book(s) in these respective series right now, while you’re waiting.

So without further ado, and in probable release order (these things tend to be more flexible with small presses), here are my top five picks:

  1. Plastic Smile by S.L. Huang
    The Russell’s Attic series consists of fast-paced techno-thrillers featuring gunslinging mathematical genius Cas Russell. Previous books have seen Cas facing up to global conspiracies and criminal masterminds, so I have high hopes for another high-stakes installment. I’m particularly invested in the secrets of Cas’s personal history, and unless I’ve completely misread the series trajectory, we should start to get some answers soon.(First in series: Zero Sum Game)
  2. Memories of Ash by Intisar Khanani
    Hitomi is a Promise, an untrained magic user whose very existence is therefore forbidden. The first book in this series, Sunbolt, was a pacy adventure novella set in a fantasy world with a middle eastern aesthetic, featuring unusual vampire-like creatures as well as mages and assassins. The second book, Memories of Ash, is expected to be a full length work, due out this year.
    (First in series: Sunbolt)
  3. Bessie Bell and the Goblin King by Charlotte E. English
    This is the third in a series of fantasy romance novels set in Regency England, where the fae kingdom of Aylfenhame sits alongside the mortal realm. These books each comprise a stand alone romance, along with an ongoing series-level plot that’s really just starting to warm up. And I’m really looking forward to seeing the Goblin King get his turn in the spotlight.(First in series: Miss Landon and Aubranael)
  4. The Olive Conspiracy by Shira Glassman
    The Mangoverse books combine mainstream epic fantasy elements (wizards and warriors and dragons, oh my!) with a lush subtropical setting and a Jewish culture. I’ve only just discovered this series about the young lesbian Queen Shulamit, and the fearsome warrior Rivka who stands by her side to guard and guide her — I’m hoping to have time to read the whole series before the fourth book is released later this year.(First in series: The Second Mango)
  5. Survival Rout by Ana Mardoll
    The Earthside series focuses on a small community of “altered”, people who have been kidnapped by faeries and shaped to play parts in the cruel games of the fae courts. Escaping back to the human world, they find themselves unable to remember their former lives, and must team up together for safety. Optimistic fantasy with great characters, set in an inclusive community where people of all ethnicities, orientations, and disabilities are welcomed.(First in series: Poison Kiss)
Fran Wilde
Fran Wilde’s novel Updraft was named one of the very best SFF books of 2015 by iO9.com. Her novella The Jewel and Her Lapidary will be published by Tor.com publishing in May 2016, and Cloudbound, a companion novel to Updraft, will appear in Fall 2016. Fran’s short stories can be found in publications including Asimov’s, Tor.com, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies . Her interview series Cooking the Books – about the intersection between food and fiction – has appeared at Strange Horizons, Tor.com, and on her website, franwilde.wordpress.com. You can find her on twitter @fran_wilde.

I think this year’s going to be amazing in terms of really interesting things being done in science fiction, fantasy, and the places in between. Here’s some (though not all) of the fiction I’m looking forward to! (I’m totally going to be mining this Mind Meld for more)

Winter/Spring

  • Megan O’Keefe, Steal the Sky (Angry Robot)
  • Barb Ferrer’s Between Here & Gone (not SF, but she’s also an SF writer, so I’m adding it)
  • Tricia Sullivan’s Occupy Me (Gollancz)
  • Mishell Baker’s Borderline (Saga)
  • V.E. Schwab’s A Gathering of Shadows (Tor)
  • Sofia Samatar’s The Winged Histories (Small Beer)
  • Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightening (Tor) spoiler, I got an early ARC — eeeeee
  • Michael Underwood’s The Absconded Ambassador (novella, Tor.com) Genrenauts Episode 2
  • Jodi Meadows’ The Black Knife (Orphan Queen series)
  • Emily Foster’s The Drowning Eyes (novella, Tor.com) – blurbed this one
  • Mary Robinette Kowal’s Forest of Memory (novella, Tor.com)
  • Martha Wells The Edge of the Worlds (Night Shade)
  • China Mieville’s The Census Taker & The Last Days of New Paris

Summer

  • Genevieve Valentine’s Icon (sequel to Persona, which I loved) (Saga Press)
  • Kat Howard’s Roses & Rot (Saga)
  • Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit (Solaris)
  • Foz Meadow’s An Accident of Stars (Angry Robot)
  • E. Catherine Tobler’s The Kraken Sea (Apex)
  • Jo Walton’s Necessity (Thessaly #3) (Tor)
  • **Obviously more to come here!

Fall

  • Nisi Shawl’s gorgeous looking Everfair (Tor) I mean, just look at it. Plus. NISI.
  • Kate Elliot’s Poisoned Blade (Little, Brown)
  • The Starlit Wood anthology (Saga)
  • N.K. Jemisin’s The Obelisk Gate (Orbit)
  • Frances Hardinge’s The Lie Tree (Macmillan)
  • Tade Thompson Rosewater (Apex)
  • Cloudbound! (SHAMELESS COUGH) (Tor)

**plus all those books I have yet to find out I crave for the fall.

Lisa Taylor
Lisa Taylor likes to read. Mainly fantasy. Sometimes horror or science fiction. You can find her talking about books online. She has been a bit of an online book club addict in the past, and she still organizes the book clubs on the Fantasy Faction forum. You can now also find her sharing her thoughts on books at her blog Tenacious Reader.

There is so much to look forward to in 2016, its hard to pick what to highlight! But I will narrow it down the best I can.

My first couple of picks are honestly based mainly on past experience with the author. I absolutely love Joe Hill’s last couple of books, and feel like I’ve been waiting for the The Fireman for quite a while. It sounds dark and creepy and full of all the things I love about his writing. So looking forward to it. And on the opposite end of the spectrum, there is Children of the Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay. I absolutely love Kay’s prose and style of story telling. This one features and artist and pirates? Yep. I am sold.

Looking at 2016 debut authors, I have to admit Snakewood by Adrian Selby has really caught my interest. It features mercenaries, and they are being hunted. I would imagine there is a depth of possibilities of suspects for this one. Mercenaries, intrigue and magic. I am really looking forward to it!

There are also many continuing series that I’m excited to continue this year. The Thorn of Emberlain by Scott Lynch and Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb probably top the list. Assassin’s Fate is bitter sweet in a way because its the end of the trilogy, but I am sure Hobb will have more for us readers in the future, and I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us! And since the Gentleman Bastard series continues to be one of my favorites, I can’t wait to read the Thorn of Emberlain and find out what happens after the last book!

Paul Weimer
Not really a Prince of Amber, but rather an ex-pat New Yorker that has found himself living in Minnesota for the last 8 years, Paul Weimer has been reading SF and Fantasy for over 30 years and exploring the world of roleplaying games for over 25 years. Almost as long as he has been reading and watching movies, he has enjoyed telling people what he has thought of them. In addition to his reading and gaming interests, he can be found at his own blog, Blog Jvstin Style, Skiffy and Fanty, the Functional Nerds, the SF Signal CommunityTwitterLivejournal and many other places on the Internet. And one day he will write his own “trunk novel”.

Short answer: LOTS.

Long answer:

  1. Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, Lois McMaster Bujold. Its Lois M Bujold, and a return to a focus on Cordelia, now in the aftermath of her husband’s death. Bujold’s books are comfort books for me. I need a long driving trip so I can take this along as an audiobook.
  2. Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire. I’ve heard tons about this deconstruction of Portal fantasies for months now. I want to see what McGuire does with this concept.
  3. The Edge of Worlds, Martha Wells. People here at SF Signal are quite aware of my love of Wells’ work, and the Raksura continue to be the best expression of her talent. Fascinating characters, deep worldbuilding.
  4. Company Town, Madeline Ashby. Ashby’s science fiction is sharp, futuristic, detailed and thoughtful. Company Town brings her back into her near future zone of augmentation, and artificial persons, and add a layer of a mystery noir plot to the proceedings on a gigantic oil rig in Canadian water. I’m on board!
  5. A Gathering of Shadows, V.E. Schwab. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic was my first introduction to her extensive oeuvre and I was left wondering why I hadn’t read her work sooner. A Gathering of Shadows continues the story of Lila and Kell, would be pirate, and magician who can travel between worlds. Parallel Londons, magic, and more!6. All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders. A book with a lot of buzz, a genre bender of magic, and technology and apocalypses. It sounds like my kind of craziness.
  6. Of Sand and Malice Made, by Bradley P. Beaulieu. Twelve Kings in Sharakhai was a levelling up of the author’s talent from his original and extremely deep and detailed Lays of Anuskaya trilogy. I devoured Ceda’s story in this first volume and am eager to continue her story.
  7. Cloudbound, Fran Wilde. Her debut novel Updraft, a fantasy weird world of bone towers, and flyers, and dark secrets blew me away. I look forward to soaring on the skies of her fantasy world once more.
  8. Children of Earth and Sky, Guy Gavriel Kay. Kay’s fantasy worlds based on historical periods of our own have fascinated and enthralled me, from The Lions of Al-Rassan through River of Stars. This new one looks to be based on Renaissance Venice. I look forward to falling deep into another Kay world and its characters and beautiful language once again.
  9. Ghost Talkers, by Mary Robinette Kowal. With the Glamourist Histories done, Kowal is now turning toward a different magical alternate world – a WW I story with spiritualists that can talk to the dead, as a means of gathering intelligence on the enemy. I’m sold!
  10. X, by Y. I discovered a lot of authors in 2015. I am looking forward to discovering wonderful works by authors I have barely heard of , or not even not heard of at all, yet.

Even so, I haven’t even scratched the surface of 2016. I could have doubled the length of this list without trying. More so, there are certainly books and sequels to books by authors I love whose release have not been scheduled or firmed up yet that I will preorder and read eagerly and happily. The takeaway? I’ve got a lot of reading to do.

Foz Meadows
Foz Meadows is a genderqueer author, blogger, essayist, reviewer and poet. In 2014, she was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer for her blog, Shattersnipe; she is also a contributing writer for The Huffington Post and Black Gate, and a contributing reviewer for Strange Horizons and Tor.com. Her third novel, An Accident of Stars, is due out from Angry Robot in 2016.

This is something of a bigger question than usual for me. Not only are there an enormous number of awesome novels due out in 2016, but thanks to having spent much of the last two years battling depression, I barely read anything in 2015, and so have a backlog of recent titles I’m itching to clear now that – fingers crossed – my brain is starting to get back into gear. (To give you an idea of the impact this has had on me, prior to 2014, the last time I read less than 100 books in a year was 2009, when I read 87. But in 2014, I only managed 62, and in 2015, that went down again to 41.) But rather than list the entire contents of my TBR shelves – which are considerable – here are the four books I’m most excited for right now:

  1. Empire Ascendant, by Kameron Hurley – Given that I loved The Mirror Empire, book 1 in Hurley’s Worldbreaker Saga, I’m frankly astonished that I haven’t yet read the sequel. Carnivorous trees! Multiple worlds! Star magic! Matriarchy! Queer characters! What’s not to love?
  2. Radiance, by Catherynne M. Valente – Technically, this has already been released; just not in the UK, unless you want it as a Kindle edition, which I don’t. Valente’s work is consistently awe-inspiring in its mix of poetry, science, mythology and imagination, and Radiance,which promises to be “a decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery”, looks set to hit all those buttons and then some.
  3. The Obelisk Gate, by N. K. Jemisin – Though the first book in Jemisin’s Broken Earth series, The Fifth Season, broke my heart, it did so in a way that nonetheless left me aching to see what happens next in the story. Jemisin is a superb writer, and at this point, it’s pretty much impossible for me not to just pounce on her latest release like a starving leopard on a prey animal.
  4. The Edge of Worlds: A Novel of the Raksura, by Martha Wells – It’s no secret at this point that my love of Wells’s Raksura books is effectively boundless. It’s why I support her creation of regular Raksura shorts on Patreon, such that the promise of a whole new volume is enough to make my year.
  5. Poisoned Blade, by Kate Elliott – The sequel to last year’s Court of Fives, I am on tenterhooks to read Poisoned Blade! This is such an original, amazing series, I recommend it to everyone. Greco-Egyptian-inspired worldbuilding! Thrilling sports! Royal politics! Intrigue! Feminism! My body is ready.
  6. The House of Shattered Wings, by Aliette de Bodard – Though this is a 2015 release, it’s one my depression prevented me from finishing. Now, though, I’m itching to see what happens. Fallen angels! Paris! Alternate history! What’s not to love?
  7. Sorcerer to the Crown, by Zen Cho – As with Bodard’s book, this is another 2015 novel at the top of my TBR pile. Also like Bodard’s, it’s a diverse alternate history with magic, plus some bonus! Austenesque comedy of manners elements, which sounds absolutely perfect.
  8. The Guns of Empire, by Django Wexler – Though I don’t know much about the fourth volume in Wexler’s Shadow Campaigns series beyond the title, my love of the first three books guarantees this a spot as a must-read. A flintlock military fantasy series with a cast of awesome characters, multiple queer women and some truly engaging politics? Yes please!
  9. Every Heart a Doorway, by Seanan McGuire – Given that I’ve written one myself, it’s no secret that portal fantasies are my weakness – and given McGuire’s exceptional talent for subverting fairytale stories, I can’t wait to see what she does with a novel about what happens to fanatsy’s child heroes after their big adventures end.
  10. All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders – I’ve been looking forward to this novel since I first heard about it; Anders is an awesome essayist, and given that her debut novel promises dark comedy, magic and the apocalypse, I’m all in to see where it goes.
  11. This Census-Taker, by China Mieville – Look, I’ll be honest with you: even having read the blurb for this one, I still have no idea what it’s going to be about. But that’s kind of the joy in picking up a new Mieville – the certain knowledge that he’s going to surprise you, and that, nine times out of ten, it’s going to be worth it.
Rachel Cordasco
Rachel Cordasco has been reading at the dinner table, under the bedcovers, and during classes since she was in elementary school. She got her Ph.D in literary studies just so she could win arguments about the classics and wear patches on her jackets (neither of which has happened). Currently, Rachel is also a regular contributor to Book Riot and writes reviews and bookish commentary for her blog Bookishly Witty. You can find her on facebook at facebook.com/bookishlywitty and her snarky tweets @Rcordas

Despite having almost no time to read these days (twins, baby, a million other things), I’m drooling all over myself for these titles coming out in 2016. MAYBE MAYBE I’ll be able to read them (ok, I’ll stay up all night every night to read the last in Cixin Liu’s trilogy- that’s a given), but we’ll see.

  1. Everfair by Nisi Shawl- I admit (ashamedly) that I have only read one Nisi Shawl story so far, but I’m really excited by EVERFAIR. I mean, an “alternate history/historical fantasy/steampunk novel set in the Belgian Congo”???!!! WHERE DO I SIGN UP??? This alternative colonial history reminds me of the stories I’ve been reading in the collection of Southeast Asian steampunk that came out recently (eds. Jayme Goh and Joyce Chng), so I’m really looking forward to this.
  2. The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu – I see the name of acclaimed translator and writer Ken Liu and I don’t care if the book’s about paper clips, I want to read it.
  3. Death’s End by Cixin Liu- OBVIOUSLY.
  4. The Doomed City by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky- I’ve now read a novel and a couple of stories by these famous Russian brothers, and I’m definitely hooked. Their stories are fast-paced and put your brain to work in a fun way. Plus, you guys know about my penchant for speculative fiction in translation, so…
  5. Infomocracy by Malka Older and Company Town by Madeline Ashby- I know absolutely nothing about these two writers or their work, but I’m there for cyberpunk and alternate timelines, so I’m willing to try some new stuff.
Lynn Williams
Travelling, reading and enjoying the odd glass or two of wine!  I have a blog where I mainly review books and occasionally discuss films and other things.  The creatively named Lynnsbooks is my book home (which demonstrates rather brilliantly why I am a reader and not a writer!)  Fantasy is my first love in reading but just to even things out a bit, I also mix it up with a little science fiction, a little horror and a bit of historical fiction.

2015 was an excellent year for book lovers and 2016 looks set to be just as good. The books that I’m most anticipating this year are as follows:

  1. The Wheel of Osheim (No.3 of The Red Queen’s War) by Mark Lawrence – I love this series and the final chapter of Jalan and Snorri’s journey promises to be intense.  I really can’t wait for this.  I think Mark Lawrence is a master at word crafting and with this series he manages to take us roaming far and wide, he gives us two very different lead characters and a stunning and far reaching plot.  He’s one of those authors who has the bigger picture in mind when he writes.  Nothing is wasted and everything eventually comes into play.  This series manages to have an almost old school fantasy feel to it, it’s gritty and dark but at the same time there is humour and moments of hope to prevent the read becoming too bleak.  In No.3 it looks like Jal and Snorri are set to go to hell, using Loki’s key – and, of course, we know how trustworthy Loki is.  Yes, I’ll be there.
  2. In the Labyrinth of Drakes (Memoirs of Lady Trent No.4) by Marie Brennan – I love this series.  I love that Marie Brennan has created such a fantastic character in Lady Trent – a woman who, in spite of the limitations of the period, follows her own heart’s desires, flies in the face of public expectation and basically sets out to live her life her own way without people constantly telling her she can’t because she’s a woman.  This series is a wonderful combination of old style period drama and fantasy in the form of dragons.  Let’s be clear here though, this is a natural history of dragons and Lady Trent is the one bravely travelling the world to try and discover everything about their existence.  In case I’ve made that sound very dry let me be perfectly clear – that isn’t the case.  Lady Trent’s adventures are unusual, usually filled with all kinds of conflict, she travels to all manner of remote places and in the next book we’re about to explore the deserts of Akhia and the Labyrinth of Drakes.  I will definitely be going there.
  3. The Thorn of Emberlain by Scott Lynch, (No.4 of the Gentlemen Bastards) –  This series is so fantastic that I’ll probably run out of gushing type words before the end of the paragraph.  The GBs are thieves.  They’re not ordinary thieves – they’re con-men, actors, sometimes they’re pirates and apparently they’re about to become soldiers. Why do I love this series?  It’s wonderfully creative.  The world building is fantastic.  The characters are easy to like, nay, to love.  I just can’t help falling for these people.  And, when I’m reading these books I’m completely transported and absorbed.  It’s like I’ve fallen into the book and frankly, sometimes, okay all the time, I don’t want to come out!  So, next we’re going to join our favourite bastards as they go to war which, given Locke’s uselessness in terms of fighting, should make this very interesting.  Not to mention, let’s just be honest, we had some revelations in the last book and I, for one, need to find out what the hell is going on!The next book is an author I’ve not yet read.
  4. Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal –  Set during World War I this story involves a Spirit Corps.  A special force of spiritualists who speak to the soldiers who die during battle and help to gather military intelligence. Unfortunately, as with all good war stories, it seems that there is a traitor in their midst and it seems that Ginger Stuyvesant, an American heiress and a medium within the Corps, is about to put herself at great personal risk to find out who.  I really like the sound of this one.  A spiritual corps, and what sounds like a strong leading lady, oh yes, colour me happy.
  5. Morning Star by Pierce Brown (Red Rising series no.3) – I am so looking forward to reading this and seeing how Pierce Brown will end this series.  Red Rising was an excellent start with a totally gripping and something of a white knuckle ride.  We initially met Darrow, a miner from Mars who becomes part of a revolutionary group.  They help to transform him into a ‘Gold’ so that he can integrate the upper echelons.  The golds are the ruling classes, privileged and indifferent to the suffering of the lower classes.  The first book was a gripping and fairly savage game of survival, the second book took us down a different and unexpected route and was almost heart stopping.  The third book is described as ‘harrowing’, I’m actually really excited and almost scared to pick it up!
Amanda Rutter
After training and working as an accountant for over a decade, Amanda Rutter became an editor with Angry Robot, helping to sign books and authors for the Strange Chemistry imprint. Since leaving Angry Robot, she has been a freelance editor, through her own company AR Editorial Solutions, BubbleCow and Wise Ink, and now represents Red Sofa Literary Agency as an associate agent. In her free time, she is a yarn fiend, knitting and crocheting a storm.

After a stellar year for books in 2015, it seems hopeless to believe 2016 could be as good – but then novels start being announced and, before you know it, your TBR is mountain-sized again. I decided to pick two books – the fantasy novel I’m most looking forward to, and the SF.

On the fantasy side, there can only really be one choice for me, and that is Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay. This man’s writing is just beautiful – lyrical and absorbing – and I can’t wait to see him tackle a renaissance themed fantasy.

On the SF side, I can’t look past Kameron Hurley’s The Stars Are Legion. This is a stellar author, always looking to push boundaries and subvert expectations. Having loved her challenging epic fantasy novels (The Mirror Empire, Empire Ascendant), I can’t wait to see what she does within an SF universe.

Robert Davis
Robert Davis is the associate editor at Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, a magazine of fantasy and science fiction, publishing short fiction and genre related columns and reviews. He is most easily found on Twitter: @rdaviswrites.

My most anticipated books of 2016 are a mix of series and stand-alone. In no particular order, and without much description (don’t want to spoil earlier books), here is my list:

  1. Steeplejack by A.J. Hartley is a YA second-world fantasy, the setting based on South Africa, where high-climbing Ang Sutonga investigates the theft of a priceless artifact. Rooftop chases, political intrigue, and family drama puts it high on my list.
  2. The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin is book two in the Broken Earth trilogy, following the much lauded, excellent amazing awesome Fifth SeasonCan’t wait to find out what’s to come in this imaginative, heartrending epic.
  3. Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal takes place during WWI, only with the Spirit Corps who receive information from fallen soldiers to assist in the war effort. Now the Germans are targeting the Ghost Talkers, and Ginger Stuyvesant has to figure out how to stop them, with help from both the living and the dead.
  4. Four Roads Cross by Max Gladstone is a Craft Sequence book, where creditors attempt a hostel takeover of the fire god’s church. Did I mention I love the Craft Sequence? Magic and finance, where wealth is drawn from souls. Max is such a unique voice that I’m always excited to see what comes next.
  5. Doors of Stone by Patrick Rothfuss is the third book in the Kingkiller Chronicle series. I don’t know if it’s actually coming out in 2016, but if it is, I want to read it. If it isn’t, I’ll put it on my 2017 list and no harm done.
Sally Ember
Sally Ember, Ed.D., is a sci-fi/romance author of The Spanners Series and the host of *CHANGES* conversations between authors, is a blogger, a published nonfiction author /editor, and often, a nonprofit manager. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, where she meditates, swims, reads, sings, plays piano, watches too much TV and writes.

Hear by Robin Epstein

Expelled from high school months shy of graduation—her acceptance to Columbia revoked due to vigilante justice gone awry — Kassandra Black is sent to work in her great-uncle Brian’s lab at Henley University. She’s helping with his HEAR (Henley Engineering Anomalies Research) program, and hopefully getting him to put in a good word for her to attend Henley instead. She’s got to go somewhere, after all. But as she gets to know the other HEAR students, it becomes clear that she overlooked the “Anomalies” part of their acronym — these kids are here to help Brian run experiments that gauge ESP capacity. They’ve each been selected and recruited, including, to her astonishment, Kass herself. But ESP? She doesn’t buy any of it. And even if it were real, she definitely isn’t psychic.

Yet with each new test, she finds herself more frightened. Kass really can communicate telepathically; she can even glimpse the future. When one of her fellow HEAR students is murdered, Kass must try to forget everything she knows about herself and her family and learn to trust those who share her remarkable gift.

I like the premises, I like strong female protagonists, I like characters dealing with/having psychic skills, I like This American Life (a Chicago-based, NPR radio show that this author also writes for), and I like YA spec fic a lot. So, I’m probably going to like this.

Quantum Night by Robert J. Sawyer

With such compelling and provocative novels as Red Planet Blues, FlashForward and The WWW Trilogy, Robert J. Sawyer has proven himself to be “a writer of boundless confidence and bold scientific extrapolation” (New York Times). Now, the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author explores the thin line between good and evil that every human being is capable of crossing . . .

Experimental psychologist Jim Marchuk has developed a flawless technique for identifying the previously undetected psychopaths lurking everywhere in society. But while being cross-examined about his breakthrough in court, Jim is shocked to discover that he has lost his memories of six months of his life from twenty years previously—a dark time during which he himself committed heinous acts.

Jim is reunited with Kayla Huron, his forgotten girlfriend from his lost period and now a quantum physicist who has made a stunning discovery about the nature of human consciousness. As a rising tide of violence and hate sweeps across the globe, the psychologist and the physicist combine forces in a race against time to see if they can do the impossible—change human nature—before the entire world descends into darkness.

I LOVED Sawyer’s WWW Trilogy (Wake, Watch, Wonder) and the TV series made from his book, FlashForward, so I’m very much looking forward to this latest addition to his excellent books.

Late in the Day: Poems 2010-2014 by the legendary Ursula K. Le Guin
Not exactly a story, I know, but I know that, after reading all of Le Guin’s stories, novellas, novels, essays and transcripts of her public talks over the years, I’d probably enjoy these a lot. Plus, there are two “bonus” essays in this collection.

Late in the Day, Ursula K. Le Guin’s new collection of poems (2010–2014) seeks meaning in an ever-connected world. In part evocative of Neruda’s Odes to Common Things and Mary Oliver’s poetic guides to the natural world, Le Guin’s latest give voice to objects that may not speak a human language but communicate with us nevertheless through and about the seasonal rhythms of the earth, the minute and the vast, the ordinary and the mythological. As Le Guin herself states:

“science explicates, poetry implicates.” Accordingly, this immersive, tender collection implicates us (in the best sense) in a subjectivity of everyday objects and occurrences. Deceptively simple in form, the poems stand as an invitation both to dive deep and to step outside of ourselves and our common narratives. The poems are bookended with two short essays, “Deep in Admiration” and “Some Thoughts on Form, Free Form, Free Verse.”

Another legend, Grace Paley, raved about this collection. I’m excited.

Nick Mamatas
Nick Mamatas is a novelist, short story writer, and anthologist. His recent books include the noir Love Is the Law (Dark Horse) and the zombie novel The Last Weekend (PS Publishing). His ninety short stories have appeared in anthologies including Shades of Blue & Gray: Ghosts of the Civil War (Steve Berman, ed.), In Heaven Everything Is Fine: Fiction Inspired by David Lynch (Cameron Pierce, ed.), and The Best American Mystery Stories 2013 (Lisa Scottoline, ed.). His own anthologies include The Future Is Japanese (w/ Masumi Washington, Haikasoru), which was a Locus Award nominee and included the Hugo Award-winner “Mono No Aware” by Ken Liu,  the Bram Stoker Award-winning Haunted Legends (w/ Ellen Datlow, Tor), the non-fiction anthology The Battle Royale Slam Book and Phantasm Japan,  published by Haikasoru.

I suppose I am going to cheat a bit and start with something I’ve already read, but which I am eager to see others read. Over at my day job we just finished with the translation of Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Volume 1: Dawn by Yoshiki Tanaka, the first book in a sprawling space opera series about military tactics and Machiavellian politics between galactic rivals. Thanks to the manga and anime based on the book, there’s a large English-speaking fan base for the story, but the novel delves very deeply into the political aspects of the story, and I’m excited to see what people will make of it. Look for it in early March.

I’m also eager to read Lavie Tidhar’s A Man Lies Dreaming, which was published a couple of years ago, but which is only arriving in the US thanks to the fine offices of Melville House in early 2016. I guess I am too lazy to buy imported books these days. It’s an intriguing sounding novel about the Holocaust and . . . pulp fiction.

Erica Satifka’s debut novel Stay Crazy from Apex Publications is another I’m excited about. I’ve been a huge fan of Satifka’s work since the day I read a story of hers in the slush pile of Clarkesworld Magazine and acquired it. That was her pro debut, and I cannot wait to see how her peculiar type of “slacker SF” works in a novel-length work. This one is about a paranoid schizophrenic employee of a big-box superstore who might be the key to an alien invasion and a super plague. Should be hilarious.

You didn’t explicitly ask about films, but High-Rise, the JG Ballard adaptation starring Tom Hiddleston, should be exciting and terrifying and contain many very nice waistcoats, at least in the first act. High-Rise is my Star Wars: The Force Awakens, excitement-level wise.

Delilah S. Dawson
Delilah S. Dawson is the writer of the Blud series, Servants of the Storm, the HIT series, Wake of Vultures (as Lila Bowen), Star Wars: The Perfect Weapon, and a variety of short stories and comics. She’s also a geek, an artist, and an adventure junky. Visit her at her website and follow her on twitter @DelilahSDawson

Full disclosure: In between deadlines and a weird book malaise that left a trail of DNFs all over my office, I had trouble really finding books I connected with this year. I’m getting back in my groove now, and even though I’m late to the party, I can’t wait to read the rest of Brian McClellan’s Powder Mage series. I’d also like to get into James S.A. Corey’s Expanse series so that I can keep up with the chatter about the amazing new TV show– and because Ty and Daniel are great guys.

As for new books, I’m excited about City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett– although I wish it was Sigrud’s book. I just want Robert to read the entire book to me in Sigrud’s voice, really. I can’t wait to read the debut of Charlie Jane Anders, All the Birds in the Sky. And one of my favorite authors has two books out this year – A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab and This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab. Victoria has invited me to sign with her at Malaprop’s in Ashevile, NC on March 5, so you can bet I’ll be getting signed copies. Yes, I already read a galley of A Gathering of Shadows, but the covers are so beautiful that I’ll definitely need a hardcover. And I’m not sure if it’s technically considered spec fic, but Deanna Raybourn is one of my all-time favorite authors, and I can’t wait to read her next Veronica Speedwell novel, A Perilous Undertaking.

Now, back to revising Conspiracy of Ravens, the next book in my Shadow series, out this October. I, uh, can’t wait until it’s finished so that we can all read it?

Sunil Patel
Sunil Patel is a Bay Area fiction writer and playwright who has written about everything from ghostly cows to talking beer. His plays have been performed at San Francisco Theater Pub and San Francisco Olympians Festival, and his fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Fireside Magazine, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, Flash Fiction Online, The Book Smugglers, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, and Asimov’s Science Fiction, among others. Plus, he reviews books for Lightspeed and he is Assistant Editor of Mothership Zeta. His favorite things to consume include nachos, milkshakes, and narrative. Find out more at ghostwritingcow.com, where you can watch his plays, or follow him @ghostwritingcow. His Twitter has been described as “engaging”, “exclamatory”, and “crispy, crunchy, peanut buttery.”

2015 was an incredible year for SFF, and it’s clear I will never catch up on all of the “classics” because people keep writing awesome new books. I am daunted by the number of exciting books coming out this year, and I’ve already read some of them!

Of course, I could fill this entire column with just sequels. Doesn’t anyone write standalones anymore? Doesn’t. Anyone. Write. Standalones. Anymore. At the top of my list is the follow-up to The Fifth Season, my favorite book of 2015. For the first time, N.K. Jemisin is writing a series that deliberately tells one story over the course of several books, and the final word of The Fifth Season has me needing The Obelisk Gate immediately. I am also extremely hyped for Genevieve Valentine’s Icon, the sequel to another of my favorite books of 2015, Persona — I need more near-future diplomacy political thriller with swift-as-hell, sly-ass prose in my life. This year is also bringing us V.E. Schwab’s A Gathering of Shadows, Delilah S. Dawson’s Strike, Wesley Chu’s Time Siege, Fran Wilde’s Cloudbound, and…and…a whole lot of other sequels; I promise, if you loved a book last year, there is probably a sequel to it coming out this year. (Ken Liu’s The Grace of Kings, Aliette de Bodard’s The House of Shattered Wings, and Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown all have upcoming sequels, just no release dates!)

I dedicate this paragraph to Seanan McGuire, not only because she is a friend but also because she has like five thousand books coming out this year, as usual. A new InCryptid book, a new Toby Daye book, probably three other books I don’t know about, but the ones I am most excited for are her Tor.com novella Every Heart a Doorway, which tells the story of what happens to children after a portal fantasy, and (as Mira Grant) Feedback, which tells the story of Feed from the POV of the Democratic campaign. She has assured us that Feedback is not the first book in a mirror Newsflesh trilogy, which means . . . a lot of people are gonna get eaten by zombies.

But let’s talk about the new hotness! So many debuts to look forward to! Roshani Chokshi’s The Star-Touched Queen is the Hades and Persephone myth retold with Indian mythology. Peter Tieryas’s United States of Japan is “a gripping alternate history where the Japanese Empire rules over America with huge robots.” Sarah Kuhn’s Heroine Complex is about Asian-American superheroines and features demonic cupcakes. Tara Sim’s Timekeeper is “full of clocks and magic and mythology (and kissing)” but not just any clocks, time-manipulating clocks, and not just any kissing, boys kissing. Mishell Baker’s Borderline is about. . . actually, I’ve avoided learning what it’s about because I know I’m going to read it, especially after Seanan McGuire’s passionate recommendation of it as the sort of urban fantasy we’ve been asking for, with true intersectional diversity when it comes to race, gender, sexuality, physical and mental ability, and so on.

It’s not all sequels and debuts, though! Mary Robinette Kowal is starting a new series with Ghost Talkers, in which WWI soldiers, uh, talk to ghosts. Laura Lam’s False Hearts is described as “Orphan Black meets Inception” and you can just stop there and put it in my hands. Corinne Duyvis’s On the Edge of Gone sounds awesome: an autistic Dutch-Surinamese girl tries to get on a generation ship before a comet destroys Earth. And then there’s Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Certain Dark Things, which is about “a garbage-picking homeless teen in Mexico City who falls for a vampire and gets caught up in a huge mess involving warring families of narcovampires, who are technically all banned from the city.” (Many thanks to Duyvis and Moreno-Garcia for writing standalones!)

Finally, it’s time for me to cheat and tell you what books you should definitely be excited for this year because I have read them. Charlie Jane Anders’s All the Birds in the Sky is already a contender for my favorite book of 2016; its whimsical mix of science fiction and fantasy makes it stand out in the crowd. Heidi Heilig’s The Girl from Everywhere is the nautical time travel adventure set in 19th century Hawaii you never knew you wanted. Megan O’Keefe’s Steal the Sky is a fun, imaginative fantasy with gas-based magic and airships. And Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Blades returns to the world of City of Stairs (my favorite book of 2014) and explores the horrors of war societally, personally, and . . . divinely.

It’s going to be another great year for SFF books, people! Just . . . just quit your jobs so you can spend all day reading.


About Andrea Johnson (99 Articles)
Andrea Johnson also blogs over at https://littleredreviewer.wordpress.com/ where she reviews science fiction and fantasy novels and talks about other nerdy stuff. She's also an interviewer at Apex Magazine. Her apartment looks like a library exploded, and that is how it should be.

3 Comments on MIND MELD: This Is What We Want To Read In 2016

  1. >Insert George R. R. Martin Joke….<

  2. So honored to be a part of this and read so many great recommendations! I hope to read many of these soon.

    Best to you all,

    Sally Ember

  3. I’m looking forward to the 26th when All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders comes out on Audible. It was reviewed in the new SF book review column in the NY Times by N. K, Jemison. It’s about a boy who builds his own AI, a personal fantasy of mine.

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