12 Recent Science Fiction and Fantasy Favourites

June 7, 2021 | Myrna

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Explore futuristic dystopias, parallel worlds, magical lands and more with these 11 recently published science fiction and fantasy books. We asked staff from the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation & Fantasy to share their favourite speculative fiction reads from the past year. 

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

This is a bite-sized jewel of a book. Piranesi, though that may not be his name, catalogues the Halls. Peopled by Waves, Statues, bones and one Other person, this is his whole World and he records it diligently in his journals. But changes enter this unchanging realm. Piranesi discovers mysterious writing that contradicts everything he knows to be true. Writing in his own journals. I would recommend this whether or not you liked Clarke's first book Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. It is different in every way and equally fantastic.

– Isabel, Librarian

The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde

The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde

In this absurd near-future satire, we find ourselves in the cozy British village of Much Hemlock, fifty-five years after the mysterious Spontaneous Anthropomorphizing Event created a race of sentient, human-size rabbits. Mrs. Constance Rabbit and her family are bursting with enthusiasm for their new home, next door to Peter Knox, a mild-mannered civil servant with liberal views. Unfortunately, the conflict between human and rabbit culture brings out the ugliest prejudices of the local villagers.

Jasper Fforde has a knack for combining social and political satire with humour. I especially enjoyed the mashup of science fiction, noir thriller and comic romance.

– Annette, Services Specialist

The Witch's Heart by Genevieve Gornichec

The Witch's Heart by Genevieve Gornichec

This magnificent debut novel already has me hoping for more of Gornichec’s writing. In this tale of the lives of the gods and goddesses of Norse mythology, no previous introduction to the legends is necessary to enjoy this epic adventure, but those already acquainted with the legends will find it a delightful re-imagining. We follow the life of Angrboda, a witch who has defied death many a time, and who has a certain gift of foresight – a skill desperately sought after by the Allfather, Odin, in his quest for mystical knowledge. Featuring a whimsical cast of characters, including the trickster Loki, we follow the witch as she plays a cosmic game of hide and seek over several lifetimes.

– Sephora, Senior Department Head

The Low Low Woods by Carmen Maria Machado  Dani and Tamra Bonvillain

The Low, Low Woods by Carmen Maria Machado, Dani and Tamra Bonvillain

Everything Carmen Maria Machado writes is amazing and her first graphic novel is no exception. The Low Low Woods is set in the dying coal town of Shudder-to-Think, Pennsylvania, where monsters lurk in the woods and fire burns eternally under the streets. The two main characters, El and Vee, start investigating their missing memories and end up uncovering the dark history of their town. It's a creepy story with fantastic queer protagonists. I loved every horrifying second of it.

– Isabel, Librarian

Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire

Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire

Somehow, Seanan Maguire has managed yet again to create an immersive and sumptuous experience, featuring exquisite world-building, in a relatively slim volume of under 200 pages. Revisiting the theme of doorways that lead to magical worlds, we are invited to journey with ten year old Regan whose identity and world have become very confusing. As Regan tries to figure things out, the reader is transported alongside the young traveller, into the heart of the lush, picturesque realm of the Hooflands where equine beings of all varieties dwell. This sixth installment in The Wayward Children series can be read confidently as a standalone, but the previous books are highly recommended as they are all beautifully written.

– Sephora, Senior Department Head

Burn by Patrick Ness

Burn by Patrick Ness

Farming is a chancy business in 1957 Washington, and the Dewhurst farm is on the edge of disaster with no farmhands to help. In desperation, Mr. Dewhurst signs a contract with the dragon Kazimir to clear fields quickly for planting. Dewhurst’s daughter Sarah strikes up an unlikely friendship with the mysterious dragon, who has his own questionable reasons for being on the Dewhurst farm.

Ness weaves political intrigue with murder and social commentary in what I found to be a gritty, compelling tale of misfits in a post-World War II United States that never was.

– Kim, Librarian 

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix

Susan Arkshaw’s search for her unknown father brings her to London in 1983, and into abrupt contact with the magical Left-Handed Booksellers of London, who, with their counterparts, the Right-Handed Booksellers, police the boundaries of magic and the mundane world in the United Kingdom.

This is a rousing romp through space, time and bookshops, and Nix crafts a well-thought out system of magic to support his endearing cast of characters in their escapades. I look forward to more exploits in Nix’s magical bookshops.

– Kim, Librarian 

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

Naomi Novik's writing always enchants me, and A Deadly Education is no exception. First in the Scholomance series, it tells the story of Galadriel, or El for short: an irrepressible novice mage fighting her way through her first year in a brutal school of magic that tends to kill its students. El must learn to harness her own dark powers if she has any hope of survival. From the very first sentence, it’s obvious that this is not the usual wizard school story.

– Annette, Services Specialist

The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk

The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk

All of the expected tropes of the Regency period, mingled with an intriguing magic system! Beatrice Clayborn is a powerful sorceress who must choose between duty and advancing her magical skills. The decision to marry comes with the high cost of forfeiting her use of magic, and while most dutiful young ladies are preoccupied with the placement of lace and ruffles, Beatrice is out hunting grimoires and the fellow sorceresses that are the key to unlocking her potential. Polk won the World Fantasy Award for her Witchmark novel in 2018 (also quite enthusiastically recommended), and her latest is another truly satisfying page-turner.

– Sephora, Senior Department Head

The Fourth Island by Sarah Tolmie

The Fourth Island by Sarah Tolmie

In this sombre, yet charming tale, we are transported to the Aran Islands, off the northwest shore of Ireland, where land becomes sea for over one thousand miles before the nearest land mass is encountered. Known to consist of three islands, Tolmie weaves a tale of a hidden fourth island. No one knows how to get there, and only the lost truly find it.

– Sephora, Senior Department Head

Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots

Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots

Some protagonists have super speed or strength, but what about super accounting? Anna is a temp henchperson with a talent for spreadsheets and data analysis. When an encounter with a super "hero" leaves her broke and with a broken leg, Anna gets serious about exposing the true cost of superheroes. I loved how Walschots turned standard superhero tropes upside down. 

– Myrna, Librarian

Universal Love by Alexander Weinstein

Universal Love by Alexander Weinstein

Set in the near future, this collection of short stories explores how new technologies influence love and human connection. It tackles love in all forms, from romance to friendship and family. I found Weinstein's stories especially timely in our current moment of social distancing and increasing virtual lives. The stories are imaginative and often horrifying. Weinstein's plots range from holograms that raise the dead to literal bugs disrupting a virtual reality.

– Myrna, Librarian

 

More reading inspiration from Merril Collection staff: 

Do you have a favourite recent science fiction or fantasy read? Tell us about it in the comments!

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