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Blackfish City

Sam J. Miller (Ecco)

Miller’s ambitious and driven first novel for adults is a smashing story of everyday life on a floating city after a climate apocalypse. While tackling class, technology, politics, and more, Miller never loses sight of the human beings at the heart of his story, producing a deeply empathic and lovely work of science fiction.

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The Calculating Stars

Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)

This gripping novel and its companion volume, The Fated Sky, depict an alternate 1952 rocked by a meteorite strike that will make Earth uninhabitable. When plans are made to colonize space, a down-to-earth mathematician fights her way to becoming the first “lady astronaut.” Kowal pays generous, sincere homage to the hardworking women of NASA’s early days while telling a deeply moving story of courage in the face of disaster.

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The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror

Daniel Mallory Ortberg (Henry Holt)

With incomparable flair and Frankensteinian glee, Ortberg ruthlessly eviscerates and reanimates fairy tales and children’s literature. The horror here is not gore but creeping unease; the violence is not physically brutal (for the most part) but comes in the form of gaslighting by one’s supposed family and friends. Ortberg brings all his insight as a humorist, advice columnist, and social commentator to this collection of deeply unnerving stories.

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The Sisters of the Winter Wood

Rena Rossner (Redhook)

Rossner’s extremely impressive debut mixes the history of anti-Semitic pogroms in Eastern Europe with mystical folklore. Sisters Liba and Laya were raised Jewish, but their heritage is far stranger: Liba (who narrates in prose) can turn into a bear, and Laya (who thinks in poetry) into a swan. Their gripping journeys of self-discovery are grounded in the ordinary, but Rossner’s polished writing conveys a true sense of the unearthly.

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Temper

Nicky Drayden (Harper Voyager)

Twin brothers possessed by demons must contend with societal constraints and their own tempestuous natures in an alternate South Africa where science battles religion, and virtues and vices become literal. Gritty, witty, and endlessly surprising, Drayden’s tale of magic and mayhem rips apart urban fantasy conventions and reassembles them with panache.

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Unholy Land

Lavie Tidhar (Tachyon)

In this head-spinning tale, a novelist is displaced between parallel universes—one like ours and another where Jews have founded an Israel-like nation on the Ugandan border—and also begins to think he’s a character in one of his detective stories. Tidhar has a gift for the details that make the setting feel entirely real even as reality itself is called into question.

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Witchmark

C.L. Polk (Tor.com)

Polk debuts with a deeply felt story of an England-like nation grappling with the consequences of a WWI-like war. A healer mage on the run falls in love with an angel trying to understand why English souls have stopped arriving in the afterlife, and both are caught in political machinations around the use of magic. The vivid setting and carefully orchestrated plot mark Polk as a writer to watch.

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