Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for September 2020

Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month
It’s that time of the month again, time for “Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month”.

So what is “Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month”? It’s a round-up of speculative fiction by indie and small press authors (as well as the occasional Big 5 book) newly published this month, though some August books I missed the last time around snuck in as well. The books are arranged in alphabetical order by author. So far, most links only go to Amazon.com, though I may add other retailers for future editions.

Once again, we have new releases covering the whole broad spectrum of speculative fiction. This month, we have urban fantasy, epic fantasy, Asian fantasy, fairytales, sword and sorcery, paranormal mysteries, paranormal romance, fantasy romance, science fiction romance, science fantasy, space opera, military science fiction, young adult science fiction, young adult fantasy, weird western, horror, non-fiction, literary criticism, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, sirens, monsters, necromancers, barbarian kings, star kingdoms, space mages, space marines, space pirates, xenoarchaeologists, haunted drive-ins, crime-busting witches and much more.

Don’t forget that Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month is also crossposted to the Speculative Fiction Showcase, a group blog run by Jessica Rydill and myself, which features new release spotlights, guest posts, interviews and link round-ups regarding all things speculative fiction several times per week.

As always, I know the authors at least vaguely, but I haven’t read all of the books, so Caveat emptor.

And now on to the books without further ado:

The Jonbar Point by Brian AldissThe Jonbar Point: Essays from SF Horizons by Brian Aldiss:

The Jonbar Point collects, for the first time, two major essays on science fiction which Brian Aldiss published in the two issues of his and Harry Harrison’s critical journal SF Horizons. Christopher Priest contributes a new introduction.

“Judgement at Jonbar” (1964) is a lengthy analysis on several levels of Jack Williamson’s pulp-era classic The Legion of Time, which gave SF the term “jonbar point” – where alternative timelines diverge. This essay is described in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction as “one of the most penetrating studies yet written about a pulp-sf novel”.

“British Science Fiction Now: Studies of Three Writers” (1965) examines the work of the contemporary authors Lan Wright, Donald Malcolm and J.G. Ballard – treating the first two somewhat cruelly (though very entertainingly) and the third with measured admiration. This, based on his early work to 1965, was the first substantial critical study of the later very famous J.G. Ballard.

Brian Aldiss himself, one of the most distinguished SF authors of the twentieth century, should need no introduction. The Jonbar Point: Essays from SF Horizons is published by permission of The Estate of Brian Aldiss.

King's Justice by Richard Blakemore and Cora BuhlertKing’s Justice by Richard Blakemore and Cora Buhlert:

In the year of the forked serpent, Kurval came from beyond the sea, slew King Orkol and became King of Azakoria.

But Kurval’s reign is not an easy one. The people of Azakoria despise him as an uncouth barbarian, the nobles plot against him and assassination attempts are a frequent occurrence.

One day, a hooded assassin tries to stab Kurval during an audience. Kurval is shocked, when the assassin is revealed to be a young woman, Nelaira, daughter of a minor noble. But why would a girl of nineteen throw away her life on a futile assassination attempt?

As Kurval investigates Nelaira’s motives, he finds that he does not want to hang her. But he is king now and a king has to do his duty. Or does he?

This is a romantic novelette of 9000 words or approx. 30 print pages in the Kurval sword and sorcery series, but may be read as a standalone. Includes an introduction and afterword.

Fortune's Fool by Jeff BoydFortune’s Fool by Jeff Boyd:

He digs through the past to unearth his future. But will rocketing into the expanse blast him into deadly trouble?

Xenoarchaeologist Mark Fortune just needs one big find to be set for life. Roaming the post-apocalyptic galaxy in search of riches, the pragmatic loner believes he’s finally made the breakthrough of his career when he activates an ancient portal. But when he’s catapulted onto an unknown planet, he’s followed by a revenge-driven skybiker out for his blood.

For the sake of survival, Mark and the motorhead form an uneasy alliance until they can escape the strange and unforgiving world. But the only path back home pits them against a ruthless warlord in a flying space fortress armed with pre-holocaust tech and a horde of killer robots…

Can Mark tear down a dictator before his newest discovery is otherworldly death?

Fortune’s Fool is the first book in the edgy Fortune Chronicles science fiction adventure series. If you like throwback futurism, gritty action, and expansive worlds, then you’ll love Jeff Boyd’s interstellar doorway.

Layers of Force by Lindsay BurokerLayers of Force by Lindsay Buroker:

The exciting conclusion to the Star Kingdom series!

Even though Professor Casmir Dabrowski has been fighting for months to help the kingdom and humanity as a whole, few people in positions of power have appreciated his unorthodox methods. Now he’s a captive of the king and being taken back to his home world without his friends or the crushers he relies upon to protect him. The king believes Casmir is responsible for the prince’s death and plans to have him publicly executed.

But bigger troubles are brewing for the Star Kingdom, and Casmir may once again be needed to find a creative solution to save his people—and reshape the entire future of the Twelve Systems.

First, he’s got to escape and survive. No easy feat for a man stripped of his allies and marked as a rebel and a traitor.

Order now to find out what happens in this final installment of the series.

Acceptable Losses by Rachel FordAcceptable Losses by Rachel Ford:

Victory is reserved for those who are willing to pay its price.

The Union is engaged in a bitter war on multiple fronts. Old enmities are resurfacing daily, threatening further cracks in the already fragile planetary alliance. But there are some who are willing to pay the price, whatever it is, to keep the Union intact.

When the Black Flag is ambushed en route to a rendezvous, privateers Katherine Ellis and Captain Magdalene Landon find themselves fighting a losing battle against a superior force. And when they need them most, the Union is nowhere to be found.

But there’s more afoot than overtaxed lines and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. To the admiralty, a handful of privateers is a small price to pay for victory.

As Katherine and Magdalene discover that their plight might not be a product of happenstance after all, they determine to live long enough to get answers. Because losing the Black Flag might be acceptable to the brass, but they’re not willing to die as pawns.

Sanctuary by Chris FoxSanctuary by Chris Fox:

Join Us, or Die and Join Anyway

I hate necromancers. They’re sneaky, and underhanded, and…damned effective. My father’s ghost is going to be reshaped into an assassin sent to kill my mother unless I dance for Necrotis, an unliving goddess and ruler of the Maker’s Wrath.

A storm rages across the void, with winds upwards of two thousand kilometers a second in some places, the Catalyst known as Sanctuary. The Unseen Fleets lurk somewhere within, and emerge to harvest miners working the asteroids and moons flung out of the storm. Necrotis wants me to fly inside, find a city that predates the Great Cycle, and find a way inside when no one ever has before.

No pressure, right?

If I didn’t need enough incentive here’s some more. My mother promised the Confederate Pantheon that I’d fly into the storm to find answers while they marshal their forces for war. No one asked me, or my crew. I wish I could give them the middle finger, and take the Remora and run, but if I do?

Well… I have a feeling the whole galaxy is going to burn. I need to save my father. I need to find out what’s hiding in that storm, and then turn it on the people trying to use me. I’ll get answers all right, but not the ones they want.

Dryker's Folly by Chris FoxDryker’s Folly by Chris Fox:

Before the Void Wraith. Before the Eradication.

Captain Dryker is a washed up vet mining on the fringes of the Kupier belt. He loads rocks into the Folly’s railgun, and fires them back to his corporate overlords on Earth. Boring, just the way he likes it. Until one day it isn’t.

An alien signal bursts from Pluto, which as it turns out is neither a planet, nor a planetoid body. It is an ancient defense satellite that has activated because it detected the return of the Vuka Spectra. The Void Wraith.

Dryker is the closest ship on the scene, but not the only one vying for the prize. Hostile aliens have somehow emerged from our sun using something called a Helios Gate. The savage Tigris have come not just for the satellite, but to conquer Earth.

Dryker’s only hope is finding something, anything, within the installation to counter the alien’s superior technology and save mankind.

The prequel to the Void Wraith Saga. Learn how it all began…

Reach of the Colossus by Nicole GrotepasReach of the Colossus by Nicole Grotepas:

If the old power was bad, this new one? Absolute evil.

Holly Drake and her crew can hardly guess what the new shadow forces will do. Trying to stay a step ahead of them hardly seems like the answer. But what choice do they have? Bargaining for information from the corrupt underworld, facing down new foes, and pulling side-heists to fund their larger goals is chaotic at best. But, well, it’s the least they can do.

 

Legend of the Black Rose by A.W. HartLegend of the Black Rose by A.W. Hart:

A GRITTY, VIOLENT ADVENTURE FOLLOWING ONE WOMAN’S SEARCH FOR VENGEANCE.

Catalina Cristiana Rivera’s aristocratic life is shattered by a heinous raid on her father’s prominent West Texas rancho.

But at the convent in Santo Tomas redemption and the violent secrets of her past confront Lina with an even more dire challenge. A challenge that gives rise to the legend…and dark vengeance of the Black Rose.

With her razor-sharp urumi whip-sword and the help of a deputy U.S. Marshal, Lina’s alter ego carves a new legacy in the annals of Western adventure.

With high adventure, fast action, and an underlying sense of comradery and duty, The Black Rose joins a pantheon of masked heroes blazing her way across the early 20th century desert landscape.

Ghostly Camping by Lily Harper HartGhostly Camping by Lily Harper Hart:

Harper Harlow’s romantic life is perfect, her wedding is in the works, and now she’s decided to enhance her business standing by attending a haunted campground opening. If she enjoys herself, publicly endorses it and the owner, then she’ll open up a brave new world.

Unfortunately for Harper, old ghosts die hard and a fresh murder taints what is supposed to be a quiet weekend.

Harper’s happy foursome – her fiancé Jared Monroe, her best friend Zander Pritchett, and his fiancé Shawn Donovan are all along for the ride – turns into a nightmare when the group must pretend to solve a fake murder while actively hunting clues regarding a real murder. On top of that, Harper and Zander don’t have as much fun “roughing it” as they thought they would … well, despite the s’mores.

Four urbanites go into the woods. Will any of them come out alive? It’s going to take everyone working together to solve an old mystery and ease the fresh hell that has emerged.

Get ready for adventure, because it’s going to be one heckuva trip, and there’s a big wedding right around the corner for those who survive.

Interrupting Starlight by Kyndra HatchInterrupting Starlight by Kyndra Hatch:

The human composed a song in his heart, a pull he couldn’t ignore, a draw that demanded further exploration—

When he answered a distress call, L’Den hadn’t expected to find one of the Invaders waiting for him. The tug he feels on his soul is even more surprising, drawing him closer to the woman, in spite of her humanity. Both his second-in-command and A’rch, his companion mogha, seem fine with leaving her behind and letting the desert deal with the problem, but he’s not so sure.

Tessa has spent the last two years hoping for a way off the harsh desert planet where her research vessel crashed, watching her friends die one-by-one, and befriending a strange creature of the sand. But when a rescue ship does arrive, she realizes she might have been better off lost. The Korthans, savage aliens bent on the destruction of humankind, aren’t happy to find her. And yet, despite her fear, she can’t deny the pull she feels towards one of them.

Korthans only have one chance to find a true mate, but chasing after the human could risk the safety of the colony he’s sworn to protect. Even though the call of a mating bond demands a higher loyalty, L’Den never expected to have to choose.

Windstorm by A.L. HawkeWindstorm by A.L. Hawke:

Believe in witches, for sometimes you need magic to ward off the evil in darkness.

It was my junior year at Hawthorne University when Mira dealt me a reversed Lovers card. That meant trouble in paradise. I thought nothing of it until Alondra introduced me to a new witch from outside our coven—Enora. Enora’s precisely the sort of witch you’d call wicked. Even worse, she used to be in love with my boyfriend.

I just wanted a normal year. But as our leader fought illness, I fought with my friends trying to hold the Hawthorne coven together. I felt abandoned. And my loneliness dropped me into trances where I wandered the dark forest alone. These altered states were created by my magic, but I learned that they were spurred on by something far more sinister.

Where did this evil come from? The wicked witch? The old devil? I had to find out because it threatened the people I love.

Burning Roses by S.L. HuangBurning Roses by S.L. Huang:

Rosa, also known as Red Riding Hood, is done with wolves and woods.

Hou Yi the Archer is tired, and knows she’s past her prime.

They would both rather just be retired, but that’s not what the world has ready for them.

When deadly sunbirds begin to ravage the countryside, threatening everything they’ve both grown to love, the two must join forces. Now blessed and burdened with the hindsight of middle age, they begin a quest that’s a reckoning of sacrifices made and mistakes mourned, of choices and family and the quest for immortality.

Guardians of the Sky Realms by Gerry HuntmanGuardian of the Sky Realms by Gerry Huntman:

Maree Webster?an “almost-emo” from the western suburbs of Sydney?hates school, has few friends, and is obsessed with angels and fallen angel stories. Life is boring until she decides to steal a famous painting from a small art gallery that has been haunting her dreams: swirling reds, greys and oranges of barely discernible winged figures. There, she meets a stranger who claims to know her and stumbles into a world where cities float in the sky, and daemons roam the barren, magma-spewing crags of the land far below. And all is not well?Maree is turning into something she loves but at the same time, fears. Most fearful of all is the prospect of losing her identity?what makes her Maree, and more importantly, what makes her human. Guardian of the Sky Realms takes the reader on a journey through exotic fantasy lands, as well as across the globe, from Sydney to Paris, from the Himalayas to Manhattan. At its heart, it is a novel about transformation.

Assassins of Brush and Blade by J.C. KangAssassins of Brush and Blade by J.C. Kang:

When a shipment of magic Dragon Art commissioned by the Emperor goes missing, it’s up to the Black Lotus Clan to track it down and punish the thieves.

Assassins of Brush and Blade originally appeared in the Complete Tales of the Floating World. It can be read as a prequel to Thorn of the Night Blossoms.

 

 

Dark World: Oblivion by A.R. KingstonDark World: Oblivion by A.R. Kingston

You can run, but you can never escape from who you are.

Alex thought moving to East Ashland was going to give them a clean start, be a palace where they can be accepted for who they are, but she was wrong. Upon moving back to his sleepy hometown of Fall Harbor, Jay’s past catches up to him, and he becomes the gossip of the entire town. At the same time, unexplainable headaches begin to plague Alex and she exhibits powers far beyond those of a pure-blood mage in their world. And, if things were not bad enough, an extremist group lurks in the dim alleyways at night, waiting for their chance to strike. With everything accumulating into a perfect storm, can Jay and Alex survive, or will there be no place left for them to run?

The Cipher by Kathe KojaThe Cipher by Kathe Koja:

Winner of the Bram Stoker Award and Locus Awards, finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award, and named one of io9.com’s “Top 10 Debut Science Fiction Novels That Took the World By Storm.” With a new afterword by Maryse Meijer, author of Heartbreaker and Rag. “Black. Pure black and the sense of pulsation, especially when you look at it too closely, the sense of something not living but alive.” When a strange hole materializes in a storage room, would-be poet Nicholas and his feral lover Nakota allow their curiosity to lead them into the depths of terror. “Wouldn’t it be wild to go down there?” says Nakota. Nicholas says, “We’re not.” But no one is in control, and their experiments lead to obsession, violence, and a very final transformation for everyone who gets too close to the Funhole.

Midnight Horror Show by Ben LathropMidnight Horror Show by Ben Lathrop:

It’s end of October 1985 and the crumbling river town of Dubois, Iowa is shocked by the gruesome murder of one of the pillars of the community. Detective David Carlson has no motive, no evidence, and only one lead: the macabre local legend of “Boris Orlof,” a late night horror movie host who burned to death during a stage performance at the drive-in on Halloween night twenty years ago and the teenage loner obsessed with keeping his memory alive.

The body count is rising and the darkness that hangs over the town grows by the hour. Time is running out as Carlson desperately chases shadows into a nightmare world of living horrors.

On Halloween the drive-in re-opens at midnight for a show no one will ever forget.

Proudly brought to you by Crystal Lake Publishing—Tales from The Darkest Depths.

Cut to the Crone by Amanda M. LeeCut to the Crone by Amanda M. Lee:

Scout Randall needs answers on a past she can’t remember … and when an associate introduces her to an individual who claims to have known her family way back when, she believes those answers might finally be accessible. That falls by the wayside, though, when a tanned vampire lands in her backyard in the middle of the night … and he has a magical teenager in tow.

Sami Winters is all mouth and determination … and she’s looking for her parents. Scout wants to help, but handling a teenager like Sami isn’t as easy as it looks on the surface. By the time her wayward parents catch up with her – including a mother who is rumored to be the most powerful mage in the world – Scout finds herself knee-deep in a new adventure.

It seems female shifters in the area are going missing and rogue vampires from areas unknown are on the prowl. Sami Winters is a hybrid, part-wolf and part-mage, and she’s a coveted ally in what’s being described as a coming war. Scout has no choice but to join with the newcomers to figure out what’s going on.

Vampires and werewolves working together is unheard of, right? Maybe not. If the signs are right, it seems a new enemy is brewing, and Scout is going to need help taking down an entire army of paranormal foes.

At the end of the day, she just wants to know who she is and where she came from. The answers might be closer than she ever imagined.

Salvation by Caryn LixSalvation by Caryn Lix:

When Kenzie and her friends find themselves trapped on a strange planet, they must risk everything to save themselves and Earth in this thrilling final book in the addictive Sanctuary trilogy!

Fall down seven times, get up eight.

These are the words Kenzie has always lived by. The problem is, she’s fallen down too many times to count.

Kenzie and her friends have already escaped two vicious alien attacks—not to mention the corporate bounty hunters sent to capture them. They’re haunted by the friends they’ve lost and the hard choices they’ve had to make in this war they never asked for.

And now, thanks to superpowers she received from the very aliens she’s fighting, Kenzie has stranded everyone on a strange planet with no way off. She just wanted a safe place from the monstrous creatures terrorizing her world, but this new planet has dangers of its own, and Kenzie will have to uncover its secrets if she has any hope of ever making it home again.

Sacrifice is nothing new for Kenzie. She’ll do anything—anything—to destroy the aliens that killed both of her parents. But how can Kenzie save Earth if she can’t even save the people she loves?

My Song's Curse by Poppy MinnixMy Song’s Curse by Poppy Minnix:

Ultimate control has its downside, especially when it comes to romance. But will it be enough to keep them together?

As a siren Lula Aglaope can bend anyone to her will with the smallest whisper, but she’d give up her power for one meaningful, honest conversation.

She wants a normal life, like the open, true connections the humans seem to pull off with such little effort.

When she meets Alexiares, God of Warding off Wars, all thoughts of normalcy fly out the window. The beautiful demigod cannot be controlled! He’s frustrating, irresistible…and utterly off-limits.

Alex has watched Olympus slowly fall apart. The old gods continue their archaic control of the Universe, denying the progress of humans and other deities. But Alex has plans to repair the damage, and Lula is a major player.

She just doesn’t know it yet.

Falling for her is the worst idea. And just when things move in the right direction, danger arises that no one expects, plunging the sirens into the deadly Olympian spotlight.

With Lula’s sisters missing, and a pile of broken laws surrounding them, will Alex and Lula change the Universe for the better or destroy it?

Rip Tide by Michael NewtonRip Tide by Michael Newton:

GIDEON THORN IS BACK IN ANOTHER DARK AND MYSTERIOUS HARROWING ADVENTURE!

An unidentified monster wrecks a paddle steam on the Mississippi River, killing all but one crewman. Newspaper reports of the incident and others draw Thorn to Natchez to confront the beast. Gideon Thorn investigates while negotiating the pitfalls of race and politics in post-Reconstruction-era Mississippi.

Thorn seeks to verify, identify and eliminate the aquatic predator, while thinking about Dinah Pilcher’s recovery. Meanwhile, Natchez natives struggle within the Mississippi’s rigid white supremacist “closed society,” ex-slaves are seeking equality, while racist whites refuse to acknowledge losing the Civil War.

Ghost Nemesis by Andy PeloquinGhost Nemesis by Andy Peloquin:

Never go scope-to-scope with a Silverguard sniper.

Nolan’s enemies had learned that lesson the hard way, and he had the kill count to prove it.

But when his old Warbeast Teammates drag him into a surgical strike on a former soldier-turned-gunrunner, he’ll find the true limits of his skills tested when facing off against a sharpshooter a match for his cunning, ruthlessness, and elite martial training.

Life and death hangs in a split-second decision, the tiniest twitch of a trigger finger.

If Nolan fails to be faster, better, and smarter, he might find himself locked in a battle he won’t walk away from.

I Want the Stars by Tom PurdomI Want the Stars by Tom Purdom:

THEY WANTED THE STARS…

Eight hundred years from now, Earth is a paradise. Humanity has faced its greatest challenges…and won. Every wish is fulfilled. Every need is met. But is that enough? Jenorden wants more, wandering the galaxy with his friends as he seeks the answer. He knows his life is missing something. But what? And when aliens from another galaxy appear, offering to answer any question and reveal any secret, are their motives sinister…or sincere?

On the Loop by J.D. RobinsonOn the Loop by J.D. Robinson:

How can 30 crew members just vanish into thin air?

One last month in paradise before an 8,000-year journey. That’s what the Company had promised before whisking Alina Andra and her entire crew of 500 to tropical Tilulipu, where it had built a luxurious resort just for the occasion.

Only the rooms of the entire executive team now stand empty, and Alina’s crewmates turn to her to make sense of their predicament. So why have a handful of her more dubious colleagues decided that the mass disappearance is part of an outlandish plot? And why have they named Alina as a co-conspirator?

Now thrust into a less glamorous spotlight, Alina heads a search for the truth. But while the answer she discovers may explain the missing crew members, it may also put Earth’s first crewed extrasolar mission in jeopardy.

Slow Pint Glass by Bob ShawSlow Pint Glass by Bob Shaw:

Slow Pint Glass is a huge collection of Bob Shaw’s other fan and fan-adjacent writing not already included in The Enchanted Duplicator (1954 with Walt Willis; much reprinted; TAFF ebook May 2015), The Serious Scientific Talks (TAFF ebook November 2019) and The Full Glass Bushel (TAFF ebook June 2020).

Cover art by Jim Barker, a July 2020 reworking of his memorial piece for Bob Shaw first published in Tyne Capsule (March 2015; TAFF ebook September 2019).

The collection, compiled by Rob Jackson and David Langford, contains 167,000 words of fine fanwriting – more than The Serious Scientific Talks and The Full Glass Bushel put together – ranging from the early 1950s to the 1990s. First published as an Ansible Editions ebook for the TAFF site on 30 August 2020.

Colony X by William TurnageColony X by William Turnage:

The ambush came out of nowhere.
Our fleet was decimated.
We were flung deep into uncharted space on the far side of the nebula.
Then the signal came—a mysterious distress call from an unknown planet.

I’m Space Marine Corporal Jeremiah Helgerson and my job is simple. Find the source of the distress call and save whoever is still alive. Get in, get out. Easy work for a space marine. But no matter how well trained you are, missions never go as planned, and this one was a disaster from the start.

Now we’re stranded, and they’re hunting us.
Those nightmares.
Ferocious, unstoppable.
And so very hungry.

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