Otherworldly: Heart-Hammering Science Fiction and Fantasy Thrillers

That aside, “84K” is absorbing and timely; a book to wrestle and argue with, but first and foremost, to read.

Nicola Griffith’s SO LUCKY (MCD X FSG Originals, paper, $15) is a compact, brutal story of losing power and creating community, fast-paced as a punch in the face. Mara Tagarelli, director of the Georgia AIDS Partnership, is used to fighting her way to victory on others’ behalf — but shortly after separating from her wife of 14 years, she loses her job and learns she has multiple sclerosis. Finding few resources available to people with M.S., Mara sets out to create them. But as she navigates the disease’s effect on her life, job and relationships, she grows aware of a shadowy, grinning thing stalking her peripheral vision — and becomes certain that a string of murders and home invasions is targeting the community she’s building.

“So Lucky” is beautifully written, with a flexible, efficient precision that embodies the protagonist’s voice and character. Like “84K,” it draws attention to people on society’s margins and the behavior of those who think ignoring misfortune will prevent it from happening to them. But unlike “84K,” where the prevailing tone is helplessness and cautionary horror, “So Lucky” is a shot of angry adrenaline.

It’s also welcome and wonderful to see a book that shows queer women dealing with the aftermath of divorce and the tangled difficulties of turning deep friendship into long-distance romance. And Mara is frequently terrible, which I appreciated more than I can easily say. I’m hungry for depictions of women who make bad decisions and wrestle with the consequences, who shed prejudice and learn compassion, who are more than aspirational figureheads.

I loved the protagonist of Rebecca Roanhorse’s TRAIL OF LIGHTNING (Saga, paper, $16.99) for similar reasons. Maggie Hoskie inhabits a world only a few years in our future, where energy wars have culminated in a cataclysmic flooding called the Big Water, and the Navajo reservation has saved itself with supernatural help, sprouting enormous walls of white shell, turquoise, abalone and jet around its borders. Within them, the reservation has become the nation of Dinétah — but while the worst of the apocalypse has been kept out, Dinétah has its own problems. The Big Water has ushered in the Sixth World, and with it, all the spirits and monsters that used to inhabit people’s dreams.

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