The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Science Fiction

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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