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The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of October: Our Top 6 Picks



Best of the Month-SFFA nurse who roams postapocalypse San Francisco, a young woman who seizes leadership of her clan on an adrift spaceship, and an immortal who makes one destiny-changing (and hilarious) decision are among our picks for the best SF and fantasy books of the month.

For the full list of our picks—including two collections of Ursula K. Le Guin's novellas and short stories, the latest books from Ken Liu and Wesley Chu, and Hayley Stone's sequel to her excellent Machinationsclick here.

 

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The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison - The title alone is a strong hint that The Book of the Unnamed Midwife isn't your typical postapocalyptic tale. This Philip K. Dick award-winner places the reader in San Francisco shortly after a disease has wiped out most of humanity in a few days but has taken the biggest bite out of the female population. The few women left are little more than sex slaves, traded for goods and raped daily. Brutal and chilling, this book evokes every woman's fear of being vulnerable--only to turn the situation on its head as the protagonist makes it her mission to help the remaining women whom she encounters by giving them birth control so they no longer risk death by unwanted childbirth. Elison paints a world so empty of long-term hope and driven by short-term desperation that you'll be haunted by it even when not flipping the pages, yet the barest glimmer of light on the future's horizon will keep you moving forward to the satisfying conclusion.
 

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A Night Without Stars by Peter F. Hamilton - Hamilton's latest addition to his centuries-spanning Commonwealth series picks up the plot on the planet Bienvenido, where humans and Fallers still battle for dominion. Both large-scale battles and hand-to-hand combat scenes keep the action high, while Hamilton doesn't neglect the hard SF aspects his readers love. Although reading the whole Commonwealth series isn't required, I do recommend that you pick up The Abyss beyond Dreams before leaping into this book.
 

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The Ferryman Institute by Colin Gigl - Ushering souls to the afterlife isn't all fun and games, even if the job does get you the benefit of immortality. Charlie Dawson, who is the best ferryman at the secretive Ferryman Institute (one of several corporations that handle this aspect of life and death), has requested termination of his ferryman contract 6,049 times to no avail. But when he goes on an assignment to help a suicidal girl pass over, he gets a message from the top: Be a ferryman or save the girl. And that one action sends Charlie, Alice, and the institute on a path no one expected. Darkly funny and perfect for readers who have felt adrift in their own lives, Gigl's debut novel spins between hilarious, hazardous, and heartfelt.
 

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Way Down Dark by J.P. Smythe - Chan has never known life off the massive spaceship Australia, traveling in search of a new home after escaping the ruins of a doomed Earth. As a delicate peace between three rival factions on the ship gives way to all-out war, Chan scrapes and claws to save as many as she can from the lethal grasp of The Lows, a band of savage raiders. Packed with brutal action and a few truly surprising twists, Way Down Dark kicks off a new trilogy that promises to carve a niche all its own in YA dystopian fiction. (Review by Matt Fyffe)
 

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Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo - Bardugo's previous book, Six of Crows, was one of my favorite books of last year. The plot was dark, twisty, and devious. The characters are scared and breathtakingly bold as they take on the job to steal back an important person who was kidnapped. In this conclusion the gritty duology, the stakes are even higher as the six characters plan out the ultimate con so that they can finally wrest control over their own destinies. You'll barely stop to eat and definitely won't stop to sleep as you plunge deeper and deeper into the mazelike plot. Reading Six of Crows first is a must--and you'll be glad you did, because then you'll have read two books to wholeheartedly recommend to fellow fantasy and YA fantasy fans.
 

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Crosstalk by Connie Willis - When Briddey Flannigan's boyfriend, Trent, suggests they get empathy implants before becoming engaged, she's more worried about how her extended and extensively exhausting family will react than about potential side-effects. When Briddey awakens from her operation linked to her tech-whiz coworker C.B. rather than Trent, things start to get complicated. Willis clearly has some concerns about over-communication, but the story truly thrives on the screwball antics of Briddey and C.B. trying to hide their mental link. As Briddey careens nonstop from one disaster to another, the revelations pile up as well, bringing the dirty side of oversharing to light and perhaps making you rethink your own stance on how much is too much when it comes to communication.
 

 

 

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