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In Calabria

Peter S. Beagle (Tachyon)

In this brief, magnificent story, in which a unicorn gives birth in a hollow on the scraggly farm of a misanthropic Calabrian poet, legendary fantasy author Beagle displays his unmatched facility with the nuances of language and the juxtaposition of the timeless and fantastical with the modern and mundane. Each word is precisely chosen and placed for vivid effect, the story soaked with unabashed emotion and strewn with Technicolor set pieces.

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A Closed and Common Orbit

Becky Chambers (Harper Voyager)

Chambers’s second novel is a polished, subtle work of near-future science fiction. Lovelace is an AI trying to learn how to live in a body; her friend Pepper’s cheerful, no-nonsense attitude stems from a deeply traumatic childhood as an enslaved clone. The surface story of interstellar adventure is accompanied by deep explorations of sentience, emotion, and the necessity of self-determination.

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The Witch Who Came in from the Cold

Lindsay Smith et al. (Saga)

This creative compilation of 13 novella-length episodes hauls readers into an alternate Cold War–era Prague where two factions of magic users are trying to control unwitting humans, known as Hosts, who channel elemental magic. The writing team includes several of the genre’s rising stars, who enhance the catchiness of the serial format with gripping writing and shocking double-crosses.

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The Bedlam Stacks

Natasha Pulley (Bloomsbury)

Pulley’s Victorian-era sophomore effort is almost literally breathtaking, set high in the Peruvian mountains where air and facts are thin. Merrick Tremayne is hoping to steal quinine tree cuttings that will save India’s British colonizers from malaria; he’s surprised to meet a young priest who may somehow have known his grandfather. Eloquent prose and compassionate portrayals of the myriad relationships among men elevate this extraordinary work.

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The Stone Sky

N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)

Jemisin concludes her tour de force Broken Earth trilogy with a work of consummate craftsmanship. In a world rocked by cataclysms, two powerful wielders of earth magic and ancient technology face off. Aging, grieving Essun wants to save the planet; her traumatized young daughter, Nassun, wants to destroy it. Jemisin pushes speculative fiction to a new level, challenging readers to acknowledge—and fix—the broken parts of our own societies.

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An Unkindness of Ghosts

Rivers Solomon (Akashic)

This striking debut novel, set aboard a generation ship where white supremacists enslave black laborers, combines sharp allegory with poetic metaphor. Aster Grey, a literal-minded medic, hopes to undermine the ruling Sovereignty with the help of notes left by her mother, but decoding them is an almost impossible challenge. Solomon addresses numerous daunting topics with incision and insight in this stunning achievement.

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Noumenon

Marina J. Lostetter (Harper Voyager)

In Lostetter’s sweeping debut, a convoy of clones sets out from Earth to examine an unusual star whose light may have been altered by intelligent aliens. Over the centuries, different iterations of the clone lines grapple with questions of identity, sovereignty, and the value of their mission. Lostetter evokes an almost old-fashioned sense of wonder that will move the hearts and excite the minds of science fiction readers.

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