“Planetfall” (Roc; paperback, $15), by Emma Newman, is an exceptionally engaging novel that explores the complex relationship between mythology and science. In a kind of pilgrimage, a group of people had left Earth to colonize another planet. Ren Ghali, the group’s chief engineer, has now helped ensure the survival of her fellow humans in this foreign world for the past 22 years. But it’s come at an unspeakable cost as she guards the secrets in the City of God, an alien structure with living, plantlike architecture that supposedly houses the colony’s leader (and Ren’s lover). When a young man appears on the edge of the settlement one day, asking for sanctuary, the lies spun by Ren and her co-leader begin to unravel, threatening the unity — and survival — of the colony. Surprising plot turns and richly developed characters make for a vivid, riveting read.
“The Humanity of Monsters” (ChiZine; paperback, $16.99), edited by Michael Matheson, presents a remarkable range of beast and demon tales. The collection showcases works by acclaimed authors such as Neil Gaiman, Maria Dahvana Headley, Sofia Samatar, Kij Johnson and Laird Barron. One standout story, “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love,” by Rachel Swirsky, is a haunting, fantastical exploration of loss, in which the narrator considers how her fiance might have escaped his fate. In “Give Her Honey When You Hear Her Scream,” Headley reimagines the Minotaur myth, as a magician and a witch plot to trap one of the lovers in a grotesque maze. This anthology reminds us that the monster can be love, hate, fear or pain — but in the end, it’s a representative of us.
Christopher Golden’s occult thriller “Dead Ringers” (St. Martin’s, $25.99) takes the myth of the doppelganger to a new level. Tess Devlin is at first nonplussed when she sees a twin version of her ex-husband walking across a Boston street. But then she meets her own double, who tries to attack her. Soon Tess, her best friend and an old acquaintance are being chased or imprisoned by their sinister, otherworldly twins. As if that weren’t terrifying enough, an eyeless old man is hunting them down by smell alone. The characters must figure out the connection between these ghostly doubles and the discovery of six corpses and a mysterious sinkhole. Otherwise, they too may become shadow versions of themselves. Golden’s chilling tale will have you shivering the next time you glance at your reflection. Is it really always you looking back?
Nancy Hightower, who reviews science fiction and fantasy every month for The Washington Post, is the author of “The Acolyte.”