The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Science Fiction

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

I don’t typically read sci-fi but on a recommendation from a fellow team member on the podcast What Should I Read Next, I read “A Long Way to a Dark Angry Planet”. With this title, I believe that I will read anything Becky Chambers’ writes. This novella was WONDERFUL! It was just what I needed this weekend; engaging but comforting. I cried at the end; it was the release I didn’t know I needed. Al of my friends need to read this because, as the dedication says, it’s “for everyone who needs a break”, and after the year we have had, we all need this break.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers, (List Price: 20.99, Tordotcom, 9781250236210, July 2021)

Reviewed by Shannan Malone, The Snail On the Wall in Huntsville, Alabama

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The Past Is Red by Catherynne M. Valente

Tetley Abednego lives on a floating patch of trash (much like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that exists here and now), the only solid ground left on a flooded earth. Tetley’s not alone but she is the only one who knows the simple, vital, and lifesaving truth that Garbagetown is the most wonderful place in the world. The Past Is Red is an electrifying parable for this era of climate change, as bitterly optimistic and cheerfully furious as this dire hour demands. All that, and its hilarious and heroic protagonist is sure to steal that gorgeous garbage patch in your chest you call a heart.

The Past Is Red by Catherynne M. Valente, (List Price: 20.99, Tordotcom, 9781250301130, 2021-07-20)

Reviewed by Megan Bell, Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia

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A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

I love love love this book. It’s like Becky Chambers expanded the conversation between the whale and the petunias in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy but added 100% more robots.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers, (List Price: 20.99, Tordotcom, 9781250236210, June 2021)

Reviewed by Katie Brown, Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, North Carolina

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The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers

Thank you for your patience. We are all in this together.” Becky Chambers’ The Galaxy, and the Ground Within is a delightful ending to her Wayfarer’s series. In it five characters find themselves stuck together at the Five-Hop-One-Stop (a cross between a truck stop and a Bed and Breakfast) when the planet’s satellite system comes crashing down. As they get to know one another the characters must contend with issues of identity, the legacy of colonialism, sexuality, and family, with a few deadly crises along the way. After a year in various levels of lockdown, this book at times felt far too familiar, but with the lightness and comfort only a Becky Chambers novel can bring. I’m sad to see this series end, but it’s nice to be reminded that bureaucracy will lean on unwanted camaraderie no matter where one finds oneself.

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers (List Price: $16.99, Harper Voyager, 9780062936042, 4/20/2021)

Reviewed by Faith Parke-Dodge, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina

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Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

A true continuation of Ishiguro’s question posed by Never Let Me Go: what does it mean to be human? Klara and the Sun uses a different futuristic device more common these days, humanoid companion AIs, in this Brave New World meets Black Mirror-esque narrative. With vague and growing details in the Ishiguro style he perfected in The Buried Giant, your discovery of the ultimate human question arrives in a moment of horror confronting the relationship between Klara (the AI), Josie (the child under this AIs care), and a portraitist with a strange mission. Josie is positioned as a sickly child in a mess of parental control over educational outcomes and the harsh world of the ethical implications when we long to hold on to the people in our lives just a little bit longer than nature allows. In beautiful simplistic prose, we converge on an intimate and fractured family holding on to the hope of a very scary and unknown world, daring to test the bounds of what it means to be human. This understated sci-fi drama will again change the way you view AIs and their place in the human paradigm, all the while falling in love with Klara and her concerted effort to simply comprehend humanity.

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (List Price: $28, Knopf, 9780593318171, 3/2/2021)

Reviewed by Davis Shoulders, union ave books in knoxville, Tennessee

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Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells

If Martha Wells wrote a Murderbot book every week, I would read a Murderbot book every week. Honestly, I’m pretty sure this series is what got me through 2020. Fugitive Telemetry (#6) can be read as a stand-alone or in order. It doesn’t matter. Our solitude-seeking killer robot protagonist is forced to solve the murder of a human on a planet. (He hates planets AND talking to humans! Why won’t everyone leave him alone so he can stream his media in peace?) Anyone who loves noir detective fiction will love this as well as sci fi fans. Just read it!!!

Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells (List Price: $19.99, Tordotcom, 9781250765376, 4/27/2021)

Reviewed by Kelly Justice, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

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The Past Is Red by Catherynne M. Valente

Tetley Abednego lives on a floating patch of trash (much like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that exists here and now), the only solid ground left on a flooded earth. Tetley’s not alone but she is the only one who knows the simple, vital, and lifesaving truth that Garbagetown is the most wonderful place in the world. The Past Is Red is an electrifying parable for this era of climate change, as bitterly optimistic and cheerfully furious as this dire hour demands. All that, and its hilarious and heroic protagonist is sure to steal that gorgeous garbage patch in your chest you call a heart.

The Past Is Red by Catherynne M. Valente (List Price: $20.99, Tordotcom, 9781250301130, 7/20/2021)

Reviewed by Megan Bell, Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia

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The Electric Kingdom by David Arnold

It could be argued that now is not the time to read post-apocalyptic stories of flu-flies and societal breakdowns. But I am hard-pressed to think of a time when The Electric Kingdom is not worth delving into. I loved absolutely everything about this book. With characters and prose that you can’t get enough of (Oh Kit, you had me from the moment we met in the library) this story is a captivating yet poignant reminder that hope and beauty can be found even in the midst of ruin; that the simplicity of survival can teach us more than a life of luxury ever could and most importantly, that we are all connected in ways our minds may only begin to understand. Defying genre, The Electric Kingdom is at once elegantly eerie and tragically comforting.

The Electric Kingdom by David Arnold (List Price: $17.99, Viking Books for Young Readers, 9780593202227, 2/9/2021)

Reviewed by Ashley Bryan, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor

A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

How unsettled do you want to feel? Double it and that’s Remote Control. Okorafore’s prose is stunning as she constructs a world in which the unknown walks among us, delivering the mercy or vengeance of death where she wishes and simply traveling at other times. Sankofa’s search for answers does not come to a neat and tidy end, but isn’t that the true nature of things? Nothing will ever be completely understood.

Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor (List Price: $19.99, Tordotcom, 9781250772800, 1/19/2021)

Reviewed by Faith Parke-Dodge, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina

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Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell

I couldn’t put this book down! (I stayed up until 6 AM to finish it.)I thoroughly enjoyed these two lost souls thrust into an arranged marriage as well as interplanetary politics and intrigue, mixed with an intriguing dose of cultural anthropology (the deft touches of cultural differences amongst the different planets). Crossover appeal for Romance readers, for sure

Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell (List Price: $17.99, Tor Books, 9781250758835, 2/2/2021)

Reviewed by Angela Trigg, The Haunted Bookshop in Mobile, Alabama

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Persephone Station by Stina Leicht

512 heart-pounding pages of action will keep you on the edge of your seat in Persephone Station. Angel, an exiled combat veteran turned small-scale criminal, must gather a rag-tag army together to protect sentient indigenous life-forms from corporate-level encroachment. This book is busy in the best of ways and is easily one of the best space operas of 2021. I cannot recommend it enough.

Persephone Station by Stina Leicht (List Price: $27, Gallery/Saga Press, 9781534414587, 1/5/2021)

Reviewed by Lizy Coale, Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, Florida

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A Complicated Love Story Set in Space by Shaun David Hutchinson

Noa wakes up and he’s in a spacesuit, floating outside a ship. In space. But he has zero idea how he got there. Not only that, but inside the ship are DJ and Jenny and neither of them knows how they got there either. I read this author’s The State of Us and LOVED it, so I knew I’d be up for this one. It’s an entirely different genre, but still has the same humor and heart.

A Complicated Love Story Set in Space by Shaun David Hutchinson (List Price: $19.99, Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 9781534448537, 1/19/2021)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser, Inc. in Roswell, Georgia

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The Expert System’s Champion by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Adrian Tchaikovsky returns to the poisoned world of Cain markings and ancestor wisdom in The Expert System’s Champion. It’s been ten years since Handry became priest of the Order of Cain, and now he faces his biggest challenge yet: a war between oddly-behaving animals and the humans living near them. While investigating, Handry will uncover a much darker secret about how far his human Ancestors went to survive. This is a slow-build novella with a jaw-dropping plot twist.

The Expert System’s Champion by Adrian Tchaikovsky (List Price: $15.99, Tordotcom, 9781250766397, 1/26/2021)

Reviewed by Lizy Coale, Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, Florida

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Into the Real by Z Brewer

Into the Real deserves its own genre of gender queer science fiction. Main character Quinn’s life gets split into thirds after a run-in with the always present Coe in their post apocalyptic town. From leader of the resistance to a patient at a conversion therapy camp, Quinn finds themself in different situations but still with the same town, people, and questions. With each different life, they must decide what’s more important–living true to themself or blending in. With a revealing truth at the end, Quinn realizes what really happened to her hometown.

Into the Real by Z Brewer (List Price: $17.99, Quill Tree Books, 9780062691385, October, 2020)

Reviewed by Nannette Matthews, Story on the Square in McDonough, Georgia

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Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor

A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor
Tordotcom, January

Remote Control is a slow-paced meditation–think The Hobbit meets The Prey of Gods–about a young girl who calls down the supernatural and must come to terms with those consequences. Eye-catching prose weaves with vivid scenes make this a novella a must-read for Afrofuturism shelves. All hail Nnedi Okorafor, queen of the short form.

Lizy Coale, Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, FL

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Outlawed by Anna North

A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

Outlawed by Anna North
Bloomsbury Publishing, January

Anna North has taken the traditional Western and flipped it on its head with a feminist twist for a very refreshing and timely novel about self worth. Taking place in an alternate past, Ada marries at 17, but after a year of trying, can’t conceive a child. She is kicked out by her husband’s family and accused of witchcraft by the town she grew up in, forcing her to flee. She ends up with an atypical group of outlaws by way of a convent and begins to learn to survive on the outside of traditional society. Intimate and exciting, this is a very fun book!

– Carl Kranz, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, VA

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Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

This is the perfect book to curl up with a blanket and a warm drink! Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s beautiful story and setting is the epitome of cozy. Each character feels so real, with universal problems surrounding love, family, and growing older. The magic of time travel, and the magic of getting to say what they really feel, makes this a soul-satisfying story. The desire to make things right with our loved ones is a universal impulse. Everything about Before the Coffee Gets Cold is fun and true.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi (List price: $19.99, Hanover Square Press, 9781335430991, November 2020).

Reviewed by Karyn Cumming, Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA

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The City We Became by N. K. Jemison

The newest from three-time Hugo Award winner N. K. Jemisin is an epic tribute to New York City that runs on pure adrenaline with a Lovecraftian back story and a hip hop backbeat. Five New Yorkers, some born to the city and others only recently arrived, find themselves the sudden manifestations of the soul of the Big Apple and the only ones standing between the city and its total destruction at the tendrils and tentacles of an eldritch city-eating horror. A big departure from The Broken Earth trilogy, but with its powerful political commentary, The City We Became is sure to please Jemisin fans, all while embracing superhero and horror fans.

The City We Became by N. K. Jemison (List price: $28.00, Orbit), recommended by Underground Books, Carrollton, GA.

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After Squidnight by Jonathan E. Fenske

A Fall 2020 Read This Next! Title

I can’t get over this weird and wonderful rhyming squid story. I love it for its nod to 1950s sci-fi creatures and its multi-seasonal appeal to booksellers. Summer? It’s got a beach! Halloween? Definitely! But it also works year-round. It’s a little creepy but not scary and LOL funny, but also full of heart. Jonathan Fenske’s rhythmic text will be a crowd-pleasing read-aloud, while his pared down palette sets the stage for seaside hijinks. The message to young creators is that art cannot be suppressed. It’s sneaky and subversive! Inky and inevitable! Artists, like these surreptitious squid, make their mark on the world long after they have slipped quietly into the deep, leaving the observer to wonder what happened–and when, if they’re lucky–it might happen again…

After Squidnight by Jonathan E. Fenske (List price: $12.99, Penguin Workshop), recommended by Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, NC.

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Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland

I can’t stop thinking about this fearless, genre-bending, and romantic debut novel. It’s a story that begins with grief while Sia attempts to heal her heart post-trauma, but then she’s assigned a school project with tall, shy Noah and some of her carefully constructed barriers start to fall away. Then the UFO sightings begin. Featuring a diverse cast, meddling ghost Abuela, aliens and so many gorgeous sentences, Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything is beautiful, important, and addictive. I can’t wait to read what Raquel Vasquez Gilliland writes next.

Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland (List price: $18.99, Simon Pulse), recommended by Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL.

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