You’ll notice that this month’s installment of sci-fi and fantasy recommendations is a little late. There’s a good reason for that: There are so many great books releasing this month, I wanted to make sure that I had as many on my radar as possible before writing up this list. (Also I was traveling for a while there, but of course, book recommendations come first!)
The news is not good right now. For those of us in the Americas, we’ve got terrible wildfires across our western half, while Irma, Jose, and Katia threaten and/or have devastated the Caribbean, Mexico, and the U.S. mainland. Houston is still recovering from Harvey, while monsoon floods have overwhelmed South India. And that’s not even considering all of the political, social, and economic issues (not to mention missile tests) that face our world right now. Things are incredibly difficult, and books are a small escape, a respite from that world. That’s why I think it’s so important to continue recommending, despite the overwhelming circumstances many of us are facing. So without further ado, here’s what I think you should pick up in September — the list is long, so I’ll be as brief as possible.
Leia, Princess of Alderaan - Claudia Gray and Phasma by Delilah Dawson (September 1)
It’s going to be rare that I don’t put a Star Wars book on this list if one is releasing, and there’s a very simple reason: The franchise is my happy place. I will gleefully devour anything that Lucasfilm throws my way: comics (though I am admittedly very behind on those), books, TV shows, movies. I really enjoyed Gray’s interpretation of Leia in Bloodline, so I was excited to see how she interpreted a young princess. Let me tell you, this novel does not disappoint. Phasma I admittedly haven’t read yet (it’s what I’m planning on doing as soon as I finish these recommendations for you), but judging from what I’ve read, I’m really excited to get to it.
The Brightest Fell - Seanan McGuire (September 5)
If you haven’t heard of Seanan McGuire, you’re missing out on a prolific and talented author who has created a fascinating world with her October Daye series. It’s a faerie-inspired fantasy premise, and The Brightest Fell is the 11th in the series. While it can be a drag to catch up on previous installments, this is a series with a fervent reader base. It’s worth taking the time to see what all the fuss is about.
Sea of Rust - C. Robert Cargill (September 5)
I haven’t had a chance to read this novel yet, but it’s near the top of my list. It features a planet without humanity — we destroyed ourselves through war (and then the robots destroyed us). No, this far-future novel’s main character is a scavenger robot who is haunted by what his people did to the human race. He refuses to be a part of the collective intelligence of his people, instead making his own way as an individual and resisting where he can. It sounds like a creative and unique take on the post-apocalyptic novel, and I’m ready for it.
An Excess Male - Maggie Shen King (September 12)
This dystopian novel takes its inspiration from China’s One Child Policy, which has today created an unbalanced society, with more men than women. The book takes this situation a step further: China creates a law that allows women to marry up to three different men and have one child with each of them. It’s a fascinating look at both sexuality and gender through a near-future dystopian premise. If you’re interested in the machinations of the patriarchy, and how the resulting mentality persists even when it makes zero sense, this book is for you.
Warcross - Marie Lu (September 12)
I’m not going to go too much into depth about Warcross (you’ll see an interview from me with author Marie Lu on Fangrrls soon), but let me say this: Lu is excellent at writing morally gray characters (something I revel in with the seemingly black and white we’re too often surrounded by) and her action scenes are unmatched. Definitely pick this one up — I already can’t wait for the sequel.
Shadowhouse Fall - D.J. Older (September 12)
This YA novel from Twitter powerhouse Daniel Jose Older (follow him at @djolder if you haven’t already) features the main character of Sierra, a teenage Afro-Latinx girl. The first book in the series, Shadowshaper, is an urban fantasy that celebrates young women of color. It’s powerful representation paired with an exciting, fast-paced story, a one-sitting read to be sure. This sequel builds on Sierra’s adventures from the first book and raises the stakes for all the shadowshapers.
After the Flare - Deji Oluktun (September 12)
Did you know that we had one of the biggest solar flares in the last 10 years this week? The news was buried under all the other things happening in the world right now, but it makes Oluktun’s novel all the more prescient. The premise is that the world’s electric grids have been destroyed by a massive solar flare; what was left was taken down by cyber attacks. The only functioning space program left in the world is Nigeria’s, who decide to launch a rescue mission to the ISS. But the team has a lot to contend with — in space, but also on Earth — and it’s unclear whether they’ll be able to even get off the ground.
Jane, Unlimited - Kristin Cashore (September 19)
It's difficult to really describe what Cashore's latest novel is about (and honestly, I'm not going to try too hard: Part of the magic of this book is going in without any idea of what to expect). I had high expectations for Jane, Unlimited, given how much I loved Graceling, Fire, and Bitterblue, and I have to say, Cashore knocked it out of the park. This novel is appealing because it's so different from her others. It starts out so innocuously, with a girl named Jane who's feeling lost because her beloved aunt just died. A friend invites Jane to visit her family's rambling estate ... and the story begins. It's gripping, wondrous, and entirely strange.
Null States - Malka Older (September 19)
“Older,” you might be thinking. “Didn’t you just talk about someone with the last name Older?” Indeed I did; Malka is D.J. Older’s sister, and she’s just as talented a writer as her brother. And they both have books releasing in September, a funny coincidence, and both are sequels. Null States is the second book in The Centenal Cycle, following Infomocracy, which received rave reviews from critics and readers. It's described as a “cyber-punk political thriller,” which is as good a genre as any, because the book is really difficult to describe. It’s a close examination of political systems, the type of science fiction that’s rooted in hard social science. The characters are intriguing, the premise is fascinating (the world is divided into “microdemocracies” instead of nation-states), and the plot is a thrill ride from beginning to end. There are high expectations for this sequel because of just how good Infomocracy was, but I don’t think Older will disappoint here.
Invictus - Ryan Graudin (September 26)
Invictus is a book I’ve been hearing about for a while and had on my desk for pretty much that entire time ... and yet I still haven’t read it. It’s not because it doesn’t sound interesting, but there are just too many great books releasing in September! This novel follows the adventures of Farway Gaius McCarthy, who is basically a time-traveling thief who steals precious objects from the past. During his travels he meets a girl named Eliot who knows more about the flow of history than she should; together they must fix what’s been broken before it’s too late.
Provenance - Ann Leckie (September 26)
Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice series was groundbreaking, and now she’s back with the start of a new series. And oh boy, is it complicated (but good! but COMPLICATED). Ingray is tired of competing with her brother over who will be their mother's heir and hatches a daring plan to triumph once and for all. But things don’t exactly go as planned, and the repercussions resonate across multiple worlds. It’s a story that throws you into a well-developed and intricate world, but don’t worry. The sympathetic characters are easy to become invested in, and they’ll carry readers through this complex and beautiful story.