Five speculative fiction books about empires coming out in May

Just like in human history itself, the concept of empire has always played an important part in speculative fiction. It’s a recurring theme in both science fiction (Asimov’s Galactic EmpireDuneStar WarsBujold’s Barrayaran Empire, etc.) and fantasy (Lawrence’s Broken Empire trilogy, Sanderson’s Mistborn series, Final Fantasy, etc.). Here are five speculative fiction books about empires coming out this month, across various genres: alternate history, science fiction, and fantasy.

1. Eagle and Empire by Alan Smale – May 16

speculative fiction books about empiresEagle and Empire is the final book in the Clash of Eagles trilogy, an alternate history in which the Roman Empire invades North America. In this book, the Mongol Horde threatens to shatter the fragile truce between the Romans and the Native American League. Interestingly, Clash of Eagles is also the title of a previous alternate history novel by another author, Leo Rutman.

2. The Empire’s Ghost by Isabelle Steiger – May 16

speculative fiction books about empiresIn The Empire’s Ghost, a dictator is seeking to rebuild the once-mighty empire of Elesthene. Only an alliance of commoners and nobles from kingdoms scattered across the continent can hope to stop him. The author’s debut, this fantasy novel received a favorable review from Publishers Weekly, though apparently much of the book is a setup for the sequel.

3. The Caledonian Gambit by Dan Moren – May 23

speculative fiction books about empiresIn The Caledonian Gambit, the galaxy’s two biggest powers, the Illyrican Empire and the Commonwealth, are embroiled in a cold war. Commonwealth spy Simon Kovalic and Caledonian refugee Eli Brody must work together in an audacious attempt to bring peace to the galaxy. Here’s a blog post by the author about the long road to publication for this book, a reminder not to give up!

4. Free Space by Sean Danker – Available now

speculative fiction books about empiresIn Free Space, the sequel to Admiral, the Admiral has brokered peace between the Evagardian Empire and the Commonwealth (this seems to be turning into a theme of its own; apparently empires and Commonwealths just do not get along) but then gets kidnapped. However, he has a secret weapon at his disposal — a female super-soldier from the Empire.

5. Vanguard by Jack Campbell – May 16

speculative fiction books about empiresThe author of the Lost Fleet series begins a new military science fiction series with Vanguard. The Alliance, an intergalactic band of colonists, is fighting for survival after pirates from another world threaten the colonies. Two growing interstellar empires are heading into inescapable conflict. Campbell uses his own experience as a naval officer to heighten the military realism of his books.

Which books coming out this month are you excited about?

News from Jeff Deck: Look for my story, “Making the Transition,” in the new anthology Murder Ink 2: Sixteen More Tales of New England Newsroom Crime. It’s a peek into the world of my upcoming urban fantasy series, The Shadow Over Portsmouth; I’ll be releasing the first book in the series this summer, City of Ports. Also coming up: I’ll be reading during “Wyrd: A Horror Reading Event” on Thursday, June 8 in Salem, Mass., along with several other authors including the Stoker-winning Tom Deady.

Five speculative fiction books about summer

Summer is a natural setting for, say, a romance novel: summer flings, unexpected love blooming in a little beach town, etc. It can be harder to track down sci-fi, fantasy, and horror books set during the summertime. Fortunately, I’m here to help. Here are five speculative fiction books that you can read during these waning days of summer. Or, save them until it’s cold again and you desperately need a shot of fictional sunshine.

1. Little, Big, by John Crowley

speculative fiction books about summerThis one bears explanation, especially since it’s at the beginning of the list. “But Jeff,” you say, “doesn’t this novel span not just all four seasons, but multiple generations?” Yes. It does. But read Little, Big and just try to tell me it doesn’t make you think of long, hazy, dreaming days in the summer countryside, throughout pretty much the whole book. The book is about a sensation most of all: a mood-place where reality and magic meet, where fairies don’t seem like such a crazy idea after all.

2. A Shadow in Summerby Daniel Abraham

This is the first bookspeculative fiction books about summer in Abraham’s medieval Asia-inspired fantasy series The Long Price Quartet, with subsequent books also named for the seasons (though, note that winter comes before autumn!). (Also note that Abraham is one half of “James S.A. Corey,” author of the sci-fi series The Expanse, which I’ve praised earlier). Ideas can be made into real creatures in the summer cities of the south. Jo Walton recommended A Shadow in Summer and its follow-ups highly.

3. Dandelion Wine, by Ray Bradbury

speculative fiction books about summerBradbury drew on his own childhood to create this paean to summer, much of which started off as individually published short stories before being drawn together into this book. The book has only light speculative touches, mostly to add dimensions that represent the touch of magic that summer has when you’re a kid. Interestingly, Bradbury published a sequel, Farewell Summeralmost fifty years later — that takes place during “Indian Summer,” in October. So, you know, one last hurrah for summer.

4. Summerland, by Michael Chabon

speculative fiction books about summerA rare YA offering from Chabon, Summerland is the story of fairies and other magical creatures who are obsessed with baseball. A kid who sucks at the sport must journey on a blimp into a land of adventure and American mythology, etc. The author reins in his ordinarily baroque language somewhat for the kids, but still manages to slip in the occasional vocabulary-enhancing description. I have a signed copy of this book and you cannot have it. And here’s a bonus (non-speculative) summer novel by Chabon: The Mysteries of Pittsburghthe story of one young man’s sexual awakening in about the least mysterious city there is. Featuring motorcycles!

5. Summer of Night, by Dan Simmons

speculative fiction books about summerSo, think Dandelion Wine — a magical boyhood summer in Illinois — except with the awakening of an ancient evil added in. And really, shouldn’t that be added to every story? Simmons is probably best known for off-the-wall genre-melding (genre-busting?) books like Hyperionbut Summer of Night will scratch your classical horror itch, per the consensus. That’s what summer’s really for.

Honorable mentions

The Summer Job by Adam Cesare, a horror tale that sounds pretty fucked up (hat tip to this Lit Reactor article by Cameron Pierce, which also reminded me of the existence of Summer of Night); and pretty much anything by Guy Gavriel Kay, whose dreamily described settings will put you in a summer frame of mind, particularly in books like A Song for Arbonne

Tell me what I’m missing from this list! It’s all dudes with no female writers, for one thing. I know I must be missing a bunch of great speculative fiction set in the summertime.