Best New Science Fiction & Fantasy
- •"The Fireman," Joe Hill (Morrow, $28.99)A splendid, fast-paced apocalyptic tale: In the near future, people become infected with Dragonscale, a strange, contagious spore that creates arabesque designs on the body before the victim bursts into flames. After treating hundreds of the afflicted, school nurse Harper Grayson makes two discoveries: not everyone self-incinerates, and some people find an almost spiritual, liminal state called the Bright, where the flames are controlled by singing and joy.
- •"The People in the Castle," by Joan Aiken (Small Beer, $24)Joan Aiken (1924-2004) wrote more than 100 books, from gothic fantasy to literary fairy tales. This collection is a lovely introduction to those who don’t know her work and a beautiful tribute for those who are already fans. Whimsical stories with a slightly dark undertone will remind readers of adventures in Narnia or “James and the Giant Peach.” Ghosts abound in many of the stories, but they are neither bitter nor seeking revenge.
- •"Hystopia," by David Means (FSG, $26)In an alternate universe, John F. Kennedy has survived multiple assassination attempts, and the Vietnam War has dragged on for years, leaving thousands of traumatized veterans. Detroit and parts of Flint have been destroyed by riot fires. A special safe zone is established for soldiers whose traumatic memories have been erased by a government organization called the Psych Corps.