Rumors of leaves already changing colors on the way up north may be unwelcome, but autumn’s coming, whether you like it or not. If saccharine coffee additives, cider treats, and bundles of sweaters are not your thing, though, there are other ways to get in on fall comfort.
You could, for example, get wrapped up in these five exciting, unmissable speculative titles. They traverse worlds, universes, and times, providing all of the thrills that you’ll need to get through this period of enforced cozying up and quieting down.
They Will Drown in Their Mothers’ Tears by Johannes Anyuru (Translator Saskia Vogel)
In the middle of an attack on a Swedish bookstore, the girl with the gun senses that something is wrong. Her foreboding boils over. She remembers this attack in its entirety, but as a hazy news story on a television screen that she watched as a child, swinging with a friend, still full of hope. And she remembers what comes after: citizens (especially Muslim citizens) who are deemed disloyal face restrictions, then internment at the Rabbit Yard, from where no one escapes unscathed.
What if the girl can stop this future from coming to be?
Anyuru’s startling speculative novel is not about this terrorist act: it’s about the pretenses that human beings rest their bigotry upon. The targeted author is murdered, or he is not; bombs explode or are diffused; for a future in which those who are different have already been deemed the enemy, it doesn’t seem to matter. Prejudice is painted as a harbinger of an inevitably cruel and bloody end.
This sounds dark, but: They Will Drown in Their Mothers’ Tears is, I assure you, one of the most phenomenal novels you’ll read in this or any year. Its politics are important, but Anyuru’s searing dissection of human beings is far more moving. Do not miss this book.
The Silver Wind by Nina Allan
On the night that a talented clockmaker’s apprentice, Owen, is given the job of building a tourbillon for a wealthy but loathsome client, he is also warned that the very same watch will be used to ply time itself—to jump between planes of existence and mold England’s future into a vision held by a very few. Consciously, he’s not sure what he’ll decide; subconsciously, the alluring power of that possibility has already made its impact. He walks home through a world that changes around him, its particulars rearranged to suit others.
The story cycles of The Silver Wind probe the many existences of the multiverse, as well as the worlds that are changed by Owen’s device. Soldiers drift in and out of time-—or push captured denizens through portals. Beyond the center of these machinations is Martin, a man whose family’s destiny seems to be tied in with Owen’s—and who Owen recognizes, wherever in the when they meet.
Allan’s novel is a multiverse delight and a time travel aficionado’s dream.
Meet Me in the Future by Kameron Hurley
In Hurley’s short stories, the future is a strange and magical place.
Here, in wars among the stars, brave soldiers can break rank for the greater good. Here, the ship that propels you between planets may become so close a friend that real human-machine bonds are possible. Here, traveling to distant planets may compel you toward a different kind of travel, too: internal, introspective, and transformative.
Hurley’s stories are a revelation; they’ve garnered high praise from every reviewer who’s encountered them. Sidle up to her scintillating perspectives and allow your mind to bounce unhindered among the stars.
The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz
This novel from io9 founder Annalee Newitz begins with some fist-raising alternate world premises: that time travel is a given and that women rule (duh) and deserve to live in safety across all periods. Tess and her band of badasses know that time travel is a risk, but they’re still compelled to time jump in the hopes of making existence a bit more equal. Unfortunately for them: other time travels are as invested in preventing equality as they are in securing it. Multiple levels of high-minded inquiry wind throughout this incredible speculative work.
War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi
The most futuristic novel in this collection is a young adult title, War Girls. It begins with what know now: that if we don’t make some major changes to combat climate change, like, yesterday, we’re facing an uncomfortable future.
In Onyebuchi’s novel, we’re already there: much of the planet is uninhabitable, not just because of melting ice caps, rising tides, and unstable weather, but because our other worst inclination—toward war—led to destructive nuclear explosions. Many of the humans that do remain live off planet. In Nigeria, two sisters eke out another form of survival. Knowing that they deserve better than the world they inherited and dreaming of a future they can enjoy in peace, they make a drastic decision in the name of their tomorrows.