The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Science Fiction

Spotlight On: African Risen: A New Era of Speculative Fiction


Editors, Africa Risen

Writing and editing is a very cultural thing. Identity plays a huge role in how we process stories, how we tell stories, and how we receive them. It puts us at very different places. It requires a lot of trust and respect….that is also the beauty and the strength of the anthology. This anthology has everything.
― Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki

I know some people have a zero sum idea of the world, everybody’s competition, right? But I have found a lot of times you thrive more when you say, hey., we’re going up against something much bigger ― the white-dominated publishing space ― and if we work together we can make a lot more of a difference.
― Zelda Knight

Working with the magazine in fantasy and science fiction, I’m more aware than ever that I’m also, as an editor, in the world of dream making. I’m making people’s oldest childhood-rooted dreams come true
― Sharee Renée Thomas Interview, SFF Addicts

African Risen: A New Era of Speculative Fiction edited by Sheree Renée Thomas, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, Zelda Knight

What booksellers are saying about African Risen: A New Era of Speculative Fiction

  • An expert array of predominantly science fiction stories, all of which explore Black narratives, with many utilizing African mythology and lore. They are each so unique and groundbreaking in their narratives; you’ll find something for everyone in this collection!
      ― Mallory Sutton, Bards Alley Bookshop in Vienna, VA | Buy from Bards Alley

  • A collection of short stories, in the speculative genre, focusing on the imagination of Africa. I first heard about this book shortly after hearing about Africa is Not a Country (a book that reminds the reader(s) that the many nations make the continent bright and that colonialism isn’t the end-all of Africa. The stories bounce between sci-fi and fantasy and some feel like a perfect blend of both genres. This is a wonderful book to give to someone who is new to speculative fiction or even an oldhead like myself!
      ― Hilton Airall, Carmichaels Bookstore in Louisville, KY | Buy from Carmichaels

About the editors

Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki - photo from authorOghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki is an award-winning speculative fiction writer, editor and publisher from Nigeria. He edited the first ever Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction anthology, the Bridging Worlds anthology and co-edited the Dominion anthology

Zelda Knight - Alton Strupp_Courier JournalZelda Knight is an award-winning author, editor and bookseller. She co-edited the Dominion anthology, and has written numerous short stories and science fiction/romance series and books.

Sheree Renée Thomas - photo from authorSheree Renée Thomas is an award-winning author, editor and poet. Her works include the Dark Matter anthology, Nine Bar Blues, the Marvel novel Black Panther: Panther’s Rage, the story “Timebox Altar(ed)” in Janelle Monáe’s collection The Memory Librarian and Other Stories of Dirty Computer and much more.


Spotlight On: System Collapse by Martha Wells


Martha Wells, photo credit Lisa Blaschke

I got this idea for what was going to be a sad, short story that was basically the plot of All Systems Red, about a SecUnit that basically had to expose the fact that it had hacked itself and was now free in order to save the people it was guarding. It was kind of—I’ve heard them called “attack novels” or “attack ideas” or “attack stories”—this overpowering idea that you want to write it right then. So I was just going to jot down some notes on what the story’s plot was but ended up writing five pages of All Systems Red.
― Martha Wells, Interview, Monster Complex

System Collapse by Martha Wells

What booksellers are saying about System Collapse

  • Nothing makes me remember how amazing science fiction is more than a Murderbot Diaries book. It reinvigorates my love for the genre every single time and makes me yearn for more. This installation just reaffirmed my love for Murderbot. The way they care for their humans and mission, and for doing the right thing- which for someone who is a “construct” and learning how humans and the world can be, is so heart warming and endearing. The story is not as fast paced as some of the others, but the way it builds to it is amazing. System Collapse really felt like a diary entry, but also an adventure. I can’t wait for more adventure with Murderbot, ART, and their crews
      ― Preet Singh, Eagle Eye Bookshop in Decatur, GA | Buy from Eagle Eye Bookshop

  • Murderbot! Another great installment in the adventures of our favorite rogue bot. I also enjoyed that it also wasn’t *just* another adventure–murderbot also wrestles with some very human consequences of trauma. As always, we’re huge fans here at the store and look forward to more!
      ― Angela Trigg from The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, AL | Buy from The Haunted Book Shop

  • There will never be enough Murderbot to make me happy. I could reread these books nonstop and it would never get old. Martha Wells is a genius and if you haven’t been introduced to this series, you do not need to begin with the first to enjoy the majesty that is Murderbot.
      ― Jamie Southern from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC | Buy from Bookmarks

About Martha Wells

Martha Wells has written many novels, including the million-selling New York Times and USA Today-bestselling Murderbot Diaries series, which has won multiple Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and Alex Awards. Other titles include Witch King, City of Bones, The Wizard Hunters, Wheel of the Infinite, the Books of the Raksura series (beginning with The Cloud Roads and ending with The Harbors of the Sun), and the Nebula-nominated The Death of the Necromancer, as well as YA fantasy novels, short stories, and nonfiction.


System Collapse by Martha Wells

If you already love Murderbot, you’ll continue to love it. This newest installation still has the wonderful mix of snark, action, and Murderbot struggling with being a construct of free will. This book in particular, Murderbot is processing the trauma and learning to deal with its own extreme emotional responses. My only criticism of the book is that I wish I would have reread Network Effect before I read this one, because this book takes places immediately after and heavily leans on events that happened in that book. Overall, though, I loved it!

System Collapse by Martha Wells, (List Price: $21.99, Tordotcom, 9781250826978, November 2023)

Reviewed by Kelly McLeod, The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, Alabama

Starter Villain by John Scalzi

John Scalzi, you never cease to delight! This time, Scalzi lets us into the secret world of villains. Charlie’s not doing well. It doesn’t seem to be getting much better when his estranged uncle dies and wants him to preside over his wake. But when he comes home, he discovers that’s just the beginning. Soon, he’s deep into the underground world of supervillains, sentient, computer-using cats and dolphins who want to strike. This tongue-in-cheek fish out of water scifi story will keep you laughing!

Starter Villain by John Scalzi, (List Price: $28.99, Tor Books, 9780765389220, September 2023)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

The Free People’s Village by Sim Kern

In an alternate 2020, in which Al Gore once won the presidency and Democrats have held court for 20 years…we still live in an economically and racially unjust, imperialist, carceral state (now with more greenwashing!), and teacher and punk band guitarist Maddie Ryan finds herself and her community forever changed when she stands against the building of a new hyperway through the Black 8th Ward she’s inadvertently helped gentrify and gets swept up in a revolution. Achingly real, bitterly funny, and deeply moving, The Free People’s Village is a commentary, both compassionate and cutting, on the woke white activist’s journey and, above all, a full-throated ode to resistance and the found family that fuels it.

The Free People’s Village by Sim Kern, (List Price: $26.99, Levine Querido, 9781646142668, September 2023)

Reviewed by Megan Bell, Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia

Spotlight on: The Deep Sky by Yume Kitasei


Yume Kitasei , photo credit Sylvie Rosokoff

“For me, there’s always been self-doubt inherent to growing up “in between.” There’s also a dissonance between feeling one thing and often being perceived as another. When I write, I think that introspection and uncertainty often leak into my characters, no matter the situation. And I can never help poking that tender spot where the protagonist realizes the world may not view her the way she views herself.” ― Yume Kitasei, Interview SmokeLong Quarterly

The Deep Sky
 by Yume Kitasei

What booksellers are saying about The Deep Sky

  • On a mission to colonize a distant planet, funded by a billionaire who trained them from adolescence, a lethal explosion rocks not only their spaceship but the crew’s faith in each other. This promising debut is part space thriller, part character study of a Japanese-American girl struggling with belonging and self-worth. There are some pacing issues, but I loved the world-building across timelines and would have followed this crew indefinitely!
      ― Megan Bell from Underground Books in Carrollton, GA | Buy from Underground Books

  • A crew of 80 women on spaceship from Earth to Planet X have their skills and loyalty tested after a bomb on the ship knocks them off course. Vibes of Lord of the Flies, The Matrix, and 2001 a Space Odyssey kept me guessing throughout this sci-fi whodunit..
      ― Darinda Sharp from Pearl’s Books in Fayetteville, AR | Buy from Pearl’s Books

  • This is a sci-fi novel for everyone! It successfully mashes up the sci-fi genre with a locked-room mystery — after a disaster on board a ship carrying a crew of women to a new planet, it becomes clear that someone on board must have been responsible. I loved that the person who fits in the least with the crew, Asuka, is the person who ends up working on solving the mystery. Although most of the story takes place on board the ship, there are some flashbacks to Asuka’s time training on Earth, which brings up issues relating to climate change and international politics. An interesting, fun, and thought-provoking read.
      ― Kate Storhoff from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC | Buy from Bookmarks

About Yume Kitasei

Yume Kitasei is a writer of speculative fiction. She is half-Japanese and half-American and grew up in a space between two cultures—the same space where her stories reside. She lives in Brooklyn with two cats, Boondoggle and Filibuster. Her stories have appeared in publications including New England Review, Catapult, SmokeLong Quarterly, and Baltimore Review, and her short story was spotlighted in the 2022 Best Small Fictions anthology by Sonder Press. The Deep Sky is her first novel.


Arca by Jesse Lonergan Van Jensen

The Arca is spaceship filled with the last remaining survivors of the human race as they head off in search of a habitable planet in this fun, new post apocalyptic graphic novel. The elite run the show and reap the rewards, while the young people toil as servants, hoping to one day become elite themselves. Naturally, all is not as it seems, as the mystery behind this oppressive social structure starts to unravel. I blazed through this fun, ground level sci-fi story and loved it. The perspective and the art lend a much more enjoyable indie tone to what would normally come off as a big, dumb Hollywood style space epic. Recommended!

Arca by Jesse Lonergan Van Jensen, (List Price: 16.99, IDW Publishing, 9781684059980, July 2023)

Reviewed by Seth Tucker, Carmichael’s Bookstore in Louisville, Kentucky

Stars, Hide Your Fires by Jessica Best

Best’s debut novel brings the action and the intrigue and I am hooked! Cass is barely getting by, running cons on her dusty planet while taking care of her ailing father. But when she finds out about the ball being held to announce the emperor’s heir, she knows it’s her chance to score big and maybe get them off planet to somewhere healthier for her father. But things don’t go as planned when she finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation…as the prime suspect.

Stars, Hide Your Fires by Jessica Best, (List Price: 18.99, Quirk Books, 9781683693512, July 2023)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

The Surviving Sky by Kritika H. Rao

It is a slow burn in the beginning because the surroundings and terms are unfamiliar and confusing. However, even though it remains confusing, it is a gripping story different from anything I have read. The characters are difficult but interesting. It is wonderful to think of a flying city but sad to think of a world in violent turmoil that doesn’t allow them to land. It has a surprising ending that is ‘eyebrow raising.’

The Surviving Sky by Kritika H. Rao, (List Price: 16.95, Titan Books, 9781803361246, June 2023)

Reviewed by Robin, A Novel Escape in Franklin, North Carolina

Some Desperate Glory by Emily Tesh

An exhilarating, edge-of-your-seat ride, a tender and triumphantly queer journey, and a groundbreaking masterwork of science fiction about fascism, deradicalization, war and peace…Some Desperate Glory is destined for not only the highest heights of Best Of lists and award nominations (or there is no justice in this reality or any other!), but fierce love from fans and frenzied recommendations from readers like this one.

Some Desperate Glory by Emily Tesh, (List Price: $28.99, Tordotcom, 9781250834980, April 2023)

Reviewed by Megan Bell, Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia

The Thick and the Lean by Chana Porter

The Thick and The Lean by Chana Porter is part sci-fi, part speculative fiction, part cookbook, and part love story. At its core, it’s a simultaneous celebration of life’s pleasures – including food, sex, community, nature, and reading – and a critique of the things that plague our modern world – namely corporate greed, classism, and the shame we’ve been taught to feel for who we are and what we desire. The story itself is captivating, the characters are wonderful, and the world-building is incredible. Beyond being a great book, The Thick and The Lean also feels important. It asks big questions like what makes a person worthy or good? And where do our societal values come from? Why do we deny ourselves things like food, ambition, and love? And what happens when we embrace our nature, our history, and begin living in a way that’s not only true to ourselves but also better for our world as a whole?

The Thick and The Lean is a small revolution all by itself. It’s a sort of handbook for subtle and not-so-subtle civil dissent, one act at a time, one person at a time. It encourages you to focus on the real important things in life rather than the superficial ones we’ve been taught. The Thick and The Lean was eye-opening in the most refreshing way. It will make you stop and think about body politics, self-esteem, and your body image (not just in terms of weight, but race and fashion as well). While reading, you will start consider your own hunger – for food, for success, for happiness, love, community, equity and equality. And you’ll finish the book knowing that hunger is the most lethal weapon you have in fighting for a better world. Your shame might even melt into pride.

The Thick and The Lean does deal with a lot of heavy topics, but don’t let that deter you. It’s chock full of hope and beauty too. In a world where reality is quite bitter, it’s a story of human kindness, found and chosen family, and the power of a good book. The Thick and The Lean is a buffet of delicious characters, a story meant to be savored and explored. In a word, it’s umami. Don’t deny yourself the pleasure of devouring this book!

The Thick and the Lean by Chana Porter, (List Price: 28.99, Gallery, Saga Press, 9781668000199, April 2023)

Reviewed by Emily Lessig, The Violet Fox Bookshop in Virginia Beach, Virginia

The Strange by Nathan Ballingrud

A March 2023 Read This Next! Title

The Wild West meets Mars in this science fiction page-turner! 14-year-old Annabelle Crisp is one of a group of settlers from Earth who’ve formed a colony called New Galveston. The tough, lawless residents are presumably abandoned on Mars, as nobody has heard from Earth in years. The Silence, as they call it, has cut off supplies, news from Earth and, sadly for Annabelle, her mother. Then Silas Bundt and his gang show up to her father’s diner and steal the cylinder with her mother’s voice- her last remaining object of remembrance. Annabell is a feisty protagonist who is on a quest of revenge, travelling across Mars to reclaim the cylinder. She is accompanied by a sketchy group of partners, and an Engine named Watson. Dangers abound in the form of War Engines, ghosts and other settlers who have been taken over by “The Strange.” I enjoyed this page-turner in a genre that I only occasionally read!

The Strange by Nathan Ballingrud, (List Price: $27.99, Gallery, Saga Press, 9781534449954, March 2023)

Reviewed by Lisa Uotinen, Book No Further in Roanoke, Virginia

Spotlight on: Cursed Bunny: Stories by Bora Chung


I think urban legends, myths and folktales constantly tell us that what you know is not all, and you shouldn’t be arrogant enough to think that what your five senses can sense is all there is to feel and perceive and think.” ―Bora Chung, Interview, The Korea Herald


Cursed Bunny: Stories by Bora Chung

What booksellers are saying about Cursed Bunny: Stories

  • Cursed Bunny is a fantastically weird and thought-provoking collection of horror, sci-fi, and fantasy stories that had me ruminating long after I had finished them. Bora Chung takes the bases of human nature (and a lot of the worst ones) and puts them on display like an open wound for the reader. Along with covering individual issues like greed, despair, or love… the stories also tackle societal issues regarding feminism and poverty as well. This book is perfect for horror fans that also enjoy literary fiction.
      ―Stuart McCommon from Novel in Memphis, TN | Buy from Novel.

  • A fantastic, Korean story collection that includes nightmarish tales you won’t be able to put down. Bora Chung is bringing a new depth of not only gore and terror to traditional horror but also something more provocative as well. Tales that range from heads emerging from toilets, body horror that you’ll remember for days, and even some more sci-fi elements as well, this story collection is not for the faint of heart. An unforgettable book that’ll keep you thinking for days.
      ―Grace Sullivan from Fountain Books in Richmond, VA | Buy from Fountain Bookstore

  • Delightfully gruesome, disarmingly weird, and incredibly sharp; Bora Chung’s debut collection Cursed Bunny is an incredibly memorable trip into the mind of an amazing new voice. From a head growing out of a toilet wanting to be free, a snared fox that bleeds gold, or the titular cursed bunny; each of Chung’s amazing stories reads like a dark fable that would give the Grimm brothers a run for their money. With themes of gender, greed, and technology, Cursed Bunny is a must read for those who take their humor black and their ideas big. So very good!
      ―Caleb Masters from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC | Buy from Bookmarks

About Bora Chung

Bora Chung has written three novels and three collections of short stories. She has an MA in Russian and East European area studies from Yale University and a PhD in Slavic literature from Indiana University. She has taught Russian language and literature and science fiction studies at Yonsei University and translates modern literary works from Russian and Polish into Korean.

Anton Hur was born in Stockholm, Sweden. He won a PEN Translates award for Kang Kyeong-ae’s The Underground Village and his translation of Sang Young Park’s Love in the Big City was longlisted for the Booker International Prize in 2022. He lives in Seoul.


Ocean’s Echo by Everina Maxwell

Tennal is a neuromodified ‘reader’ who can read emotions and minds. He’s also a spoiled, rich playboy who’s now been conscripted into the military, forced to sync with neuromodified architect Surit who can control others. But when Surit finds out that Tennal is not there of his own free will, he refuses to execute the illegal sync, and the two determine to fake it until Tennal can manage an escape. Through action-packed missions involving possible traitors, political intrigue, and family secrets uncovered by them both, Tennal and Surit forge a bond that brings them closer to each other than either has been to anyone else — but can it transcend Surit’s principles and Tennal’s desire for freedom? I loved watching both Tennal and Surit’s character growth within Maxwell’s wonderful world building, and the slow burn romance was amazing.

Ocean’s Echo by Everina Maxwell (List Price: $27.99, Tor Books, 9781250758866, November 2022)

Reviewed by Melissa Oates, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

Leech by Hiron Ennes

The narrator of this scalpel-sharp and intoxicatingly gross debut is a parasite who is about to meet its match in the battle for control over the human heart, mind, and body. Fans of gothic lit, haunted mansions in ill repair, and biological or medical horror, eat your optic nerve—I mean, your heart—out! I generally don’t consider myself a fan of the above actually, but the incredibly unique narrator, the excellent and atmospheric world-building, and the both chillingly creepy and chillingly cold setting really hooked me. Highly recommended for fans of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic and T. Kingfisher’s What Moves the Dead!

Leech by Hiron Ennes, (List Price: $27.99, Tordotcom, 9781250811189, September 2022)

Reviewed by Megan Bell, Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia

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