14 sci-fi & fantasy reads to pack for the beach

There’s nothing quite like listening to the waves, shielding your eyes from the sun, and imagining yourself to be on a distant planet or in a far-flung kingdom. Here are our summer picks for sci-fi and fantasy fans.


deadjeff

Dead Astronauts by Jeff VanderMeer

Under the watchful eye of The Company, three characters – Grayson, Morse and Chen – shapeshifters, amorphous, part human, part extensions of the landscape, make their way through forces that would consume them. A blue fox, a giant fish and language stretched to the limit. Jeff VanderMeer’s Dead Astronauts presents a City with no name of its own where, in the shadow of the all-powerful Company, lives human and otherwise converge in terrifying and miraculous ways. At stake: the fate of the future, the fate of Earth – all the Earths.


leopardmarlon

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

Tracker is known far and wide for his skills as a hunter – and he always works alone. But when he is engaged to find a child who disappeared three years ago, he must break his own rules, joining a group of eight very different mercenaries working together to find the boy. Following the lost boy’s scent from one ancient city to another, into dense forests and across deep rivers, Tracker starts to wonder: Who is telling the truth and who is lying? Drawing from vivid African history and mythology, Marlon James weaves a saga of breathtaking adventure and powerful intrigue.


starlesserin

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a strange book hidden in the library stacks. As he turns the pages, he reads something strange – a story from his own childhood. The book leads Zachary to a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Together with Mirabel, a fierce protector of the place, and Dorian, a man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly-soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose – in both the mysterious book and in his own life.


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Starsight by Brandon Sanderson

Spensa has always dreamed of becoming a pilot like her father. She made it to the sky, but the truths she learned about her father were crushing. The rumours of his cowardice are true – he deserted his flight during battle against the Krell, turned against his team and attacked them. Spensa is sure there’s more to the story. When she made it outside the protective shell of her planet, she learned that everything she’d been taught is a lie. But Spensa also learned a few things about herself – and she’ll travel to the end of the galaxy to save humankind if she needs to.


childrentomi

Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi

After battling the impossible, Zelie and Amari have finally succeeded in bringing magic back to the land of Orisha. But the ritual was more powerful than they imagined. Now, Zelie struggles to unite the maji in an Orisha where the enemy is just as strong and magical as they are. When Amari’s mother forms an army of royals with newly awakened powers, Zelie fights to secure Amari’s right to the throne and protect the new maji from the monarchy’s wrath. But with civil war looming on the horizon, Zelie finds herself at a breaking point: she must find a way to bring the kingdom together or watch as Orisha tears itself apart.


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Angel Mage by Garth Nix

The icon-maker and angel-summoner Liliath, long-believed dead, has woken from her century-long sleep to pick up the threads of a plan that has already destroyed one kingdom and may yet destroy another. To succeed, Liliath must bring together Agnez the musketeer; Simeon the doctor; Dorotea the mage; and Henri, one of the Cardinal’s clerks, and take them into utmost danger… Set in an alternate seventeenth century where angels can be summoned (and controlled) by those with a talent for magic, Angel Mage is an action-packed story of angels, heroes, gunpowder and high magic.


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Fall, or Dodge in Hell by Neal Stephenson

When middle-aged games developer Dodge is pronounced brain dead after a medical procedure gone wrong, his family and friends are surprised by his health directives: his remains are to be given to Ephrata Life Sciences and Health. Dodge’s brain will be scanned, its data structures uploaded to and stored in the cloud. The development of Bitworld – a digital afterlife peopled by simulations – unfolds as Fall, or Dodge in Hell progresses. Fantastical avatar life in Bitworld and the real, but post-truth, world of ‘meatspace’ are paralleled in this fast-paced thriller that is the very definition of visionary near-future adventure.


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Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Galaxy ‘Alex’ Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends and dead-end jobs. By age twenty, she is the sole survivor of an unsolved multiple homicide. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered the chance to attend Yale on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her? Still searching for answers, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies, well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than she ever imagined.


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The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier

Liobhan and her brother are talented singers and musicians, with burning ambitions to join the elite warrior band on Swan Island. While competing for places in this band, they are asked to go undercover as travelling minstrels. Their mission is to find and retrieve a precious harp crucial to the stability of their kingdom. Faced with plotting courtiers, secretive druids, an insightful storyteller and a boorish Crown Prince, Liobhan realises an Otherworld power may be meddling in the affairs of the realm. When ambition clashes with conscience, Liobhan must make a bold decision – and the consequences may break her heart.


wandererschuck

Wanderers by Chuck Wendig

Shana wakes up one morning to discover her little sister in the grip of a strange sleepwalking malady – heading with inexorable determination to a destination that only she knows. But Shana and are sister are not alone. Soon they are joined by a flock of sleepwalkers from across America, on the same mysterious journey. They will discover an America convulsed with terror and violence, where this apocalyptic epidemic proves less dangerous than the fear of it. As society collapses – and an ultra-violent militia threatens to exterminate them – the fate of the sleepwalkers depends on unraveling the mystery behind the epidemic.


wailmaria

The Wailing Woman by Maria Lewis

As a banshee, Sadie Burke is the bottom of the ladder when it comes to the supernatural hierarchy. Yet when a figure from her childhood unexpectedly arrives, she finds it harder than ever to toe the line. Texas Contos is the son of their greatest oppressor. He’s also someone she’s inexplicably drawn to, and as they grow closer, Sadie begins to question what banshees have been told for centuries about their gifts. But the truth comes at a cost. With Sadie and Tex forced to run for their lives, their journey leads them to new friends, old enemies, and finally to her true voice – one that could shatter the supernatural world forever.


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Exhalation by Ted Chiang

This much-anticipated second collection of stories is signature Ted Chiang, full of revelatory ideas and deeply sympathetic characters. In ‘The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,’ a time portal forces a fabric seller in ancient Baghdad to grapple with past mistakes and second chances. In ‘Exhalation,’ an alien scientist makes a shocking discovery with ramifications for all of reality. And in ‘The Lifecycle of Software Objects,’ a woman cares for an AI over twenty years, elevating a digital pet into a true living being. Chiang wrestles with the oldest questions on earth – What is the nature of the universe? What does it mean to be human? – and ones that no one else has even imagined.


cruelstars

The Cruel Stars by John Birmingham

Centuries after their defeat, the enemy has returned with an overwhelming attack on the fringes of human space. On the brink of annihilation, humankind’s only hope are five flawed, reluctant heroes: Commander Lucinda Hardy, of the Royal Armadalen Navy’s only surviving warship; Booker3, a soldier of Earth on Death Row for treason; Alessia, a young royal of the Montanblanc Corporation in exile; Sephina L'trel, the leader of an outlaw band; and retired Admiral Frazer McLennan, the infamous hero of the first war with the Sturm. They must band together to prevail against a relentless enemy and near-impossible odds. For if they fail, the future itself is doomed.


truequeen

The True Queen by Zen Cho

The island of Janda Baik has long been home to witches. And Muna and her sister Satki wake on its shores under a curse – which has stolen away their memories. Their only hope of salvation lies in Britain, where the Sorceress Royal runs a controversial academy for female magicians. But the pair travel via the Fairy Queen’s realm, where Sakti simply disappears. To save her sister, Muna must learn to navigate Regency London’s high society, trick the English into believing she’s a magical prodigy, and avoid becoming embroiled in a plot involving the Fairy Queen’s contentious succession. She must also find Sakti, break their curse and somehow stay out of trouble…

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The Starless Sea

The Starless Sea

Erin Morgenstern

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