Quick Review: STRANGERS ON THE PRAIA by Paul French (Blacksmith Books)

FrenchP-StrangersOnThePraiaAn interesting and well-written history of the Wartime immigrant experience in Macau

Based on true stories and new research, Paul French weaves together the stories of those Jewish refugees who moved on from wartime Shanghai to seek a possible route to freedom via the Portuguese colony of Macao – “the Casablanca of the Orient”.

The delicately balanced neutral enclave became their wartime home, amid Nazi and Japanese spies, escaped Allied prisoners from Hong Kong, and displaced Chinese.

Strangers on the Praia relates the story of one young woman’s struggle for freedom that would ultimately prove an act of brave resistance.

It should come as no surprise to long-time CR readers that I’m a fan of Paul French’s work. He has carved out a niche for himself as one of the best historians of inter-war China and, in particular, Shanghai. In Strangers on the Praia, he takes a slightly different tack, and gives readers a short, engaging look at the life of refugees in wartime Macao. Well-written, informative, and an excellent read. Continue reading

Quick Review: AVENGING SON by Guy Haley (Black Library)

HaleyG-DoW1-AvengingSonGo back to the start of the Indomitus Campaign…

As the Indomitus Crusade spreads out across the galaxy, one battlefleet must face a dread Slaughter Host of Chaos. Their success or failure may define the very future of the crusade – and the Imperium.

A great darkness has befallen the galaxy, and the armies of Chaos are rampant. To survive, humanity must retaliate and take back what they have lost. By the will of the reborn primarch, Roboute Guilliman, is the Indomitus Crusade launched – a military undertaking that eclipses all others in known history. From the Throneworld of Terra does the Avenging Son hurl his fleets, their mission the very salvation of mankind.

As vessels in their thousands burn through the cold void, the attention of Fleetmistress VanLeskus turns to the Machorta Sound – a region under attack by a dreaded Slaughter Host of the Dark Gods. The success of the Indomitus Crusade will be determined by this conflict, and the desperate mission of Battlegroup Saint Aster, led by Space Marine Lieutenant Messinius. Even then it is but a prelude to the forthcoming bloodshed.

Avenging Son is the first novel in a new nine-part series, which tells the story of Roboute Guilliman’s Indomitus Crusade. I was surprised when this series was announced, set as it is prior to Haley’s Dark Imperium novels. Originally pitched as the start of the “new” WH40k meta-story, and set during the Indomitus Crusade, the Dark Imperium novels dropped readers into the action some decades into the Crusade. So, the fact that Black Library commissioned this series, before the Dark Imperium trilogy was completed, was interesting: perhaps they thought they needed to go back, fill in a bunch of details in order to better-situated fans of the franchise? No idea. Regardless, it’s a strong start to a series, and I enjoyed it. Continue reading

Upcoming: HELL OF A BOOK by Jason Mott (Dutton/Trapeze)

MottJ-HellOfABookUSHell of a Book, the upcoming novel by Jason Mott, has been getting some pretty good pre-publication buzz online recently (UK review copies must have just gone out). I haven’t read anything else by Mott, but this sounds really interesting. Pitched as “both incredibly funny and heartfelt”, it’s a novel that “goes to the heart of racism, police violence, and the hidden costs exacted upon Black Americans, and America as a whole.” Really looking forward to reading this. Here’s the synopsis:

In Hell of a Book, an African-American author sets out on a cross-country book tour to promote his bestselling novel. That storyline drives the novel and is the scaffolding of something much larger and urgent: since the novel also tells the story of Soot, a young Black boy living in a rural town in the recent past, and The Kid, a possibly imaginary child who appears to the author on his tour.

MottJ-HellOfABookUKThroughout, these characters’ stories build and build and as they converge, they astonish. For while this heartbreaking and magical book entertains and is at once about family, love of parents and children, art, and money, there always is the tragic story of a police shooting playing over and over on the news.

Who has been killed? Who is The Kid? Will the author finish his book tour, and what kind of world will he leave behind? Unforgettably powerful, an electrifying high-wire act, ideal for book clubs and the book Mott says he has been writing in his head for ten years, Hell of a Book in its final twists truly becomes its title.

Jason Mott’s Hell of a Book is due to be published by Dutton in North America and Trapeze in the UK, on August 10th, 2021.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Upcoming: THE 22 MURDERS OF MADISON MAY by Max Barry (G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Hodder)

BarryM-22MurdersOfMadisonMayUSThis summer, readers will get a new novel from Max Barry. The first of Barry’s novels that I read was Lexicon, back in 2013. I really enjoyed it, and set about reading anything else of his I could find (I’d also recommend Jennifer Government). Last year’s Providence was also pretty good. Each of his novels has been interesting and imaginative, so I’m always keen to try his latest book. His new book, The 22 Murders of Madison May sounds pretty interesting:

A mind-bending speculative psychological suspense about a serial killer pursuing his victim across time and space, and the woman who is determined to stop him, even if it upends her own reality.

“I love you. In every world.”

Young real estate agent Madison May is shocked when a client at an open house says these words to her. The man, a stranger, seems to know far too much about her, and professes his love — shortly before he murders her.

Felicity Staples hates reporting on murders. As a journalist for a midsize New York City paper, she knows she must take on the assignment to research Madison May’s shocking murder, but the crime seems random and the suspect is in the wind. That is, until Felicity spots the killer on the subway, right before he vanishes.

Soon, Felicity senses her entire universe has shifted. No one remembers Madison May, or Felicity’s encounter with the mysterious man. And her cat is missing. Felicity realizes that in her pursuit of Madison’s killer, she followed him into a different dimension—one where everything about her existence is slightly altered. At first, she is determined to return to the reality she knows, but when Madison May — in this world, a struggling actress — is murdered again, Felicity decides she must find the killer—and learns that she is not the only one hunting him.

Traveling through different realities, Felicity uncovers the opportunity — and danger — of living more than one life.

Max Barry’s The 22 Murders of Madison May is due to be published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons in North America (July 6th) and Hodder in the UK (July 8th).

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Books on Film: WITHOUT REMORSE by Tom Clancy

WithoutRemorse2021-PosterTom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, a CIA analyst-turned-action-hero-turned-president has had a storied fictional career. The star of 12+ novels (and a secondary character in many more), he has also been the subject of a number of movie adaptations. He was first portrayed on film by Alec Baldwin, in 1990’s The Hunt for Red October — a movie that gave us Sean Connery’s portrayal of Marko Ramius, the only Soviet submarine captain to ever have a thick Scottish accent. In 2018, the character got his first TV adaptation, with Amazon Prime’s Jack Ryan (two seasons are available now, with a third apparently slated for this year). A major supporting character in Clancy’s novels and the movie adaptations is John Kelly/Clark: a former Navy SEAL and Vietnam veteran, he is a black ops specialist frequently called in to help out Ryan, to do the unsavoury things in the dark that Ryan can’t or won’t do.

On screen, the character first appeared in 1994’s Clear and Present Danger — in which Ryan (Harrison Ford) gets tangled up in the drug war — and was portrayed by the ever-excellent Willem Dafoe. In The Sum of All Fears (2002), he was portrayed by Liev Schreiber — a quieter version of the character, perhaps, but no less capable. He was more “spy” than Dafoe’s action-man-in-the-jungle version. He was more Schreiber, really.

This year, we’re getting an adaptation of Clancy’s novel that put Clark front-and-centre: Without Remorse (1993). This time, the character will be portrayed by Michael B. Jordan (one of the best young actors today). Continue reading

New Books (January-February)

NewBooks-20210216

Featuring: Mary Adkins, Jonathan Ames, David Annandale, David W. Brown, Michael Carroll, Becky Chambers, Andy Clark, Dan Frey, Betina González, Andrew J. Graff, Marlowe Granados, John Gwynne, Paul Herron, T.L. Huchu, Gregg Hurwitz, Elizabeth Knox, Oliver K. Langmead, Peter Mendelsund, Annalee Newitz, Gareth L. Powell, Tim Seeley, Laurel Sills, Jen Silverman, Matt Smith, Tasha Suri, Aidan Truhen

Continue reading

Upcoming: AMONG THIEVES by M. J. Kuhn (Gallery/Saga Press)

KuhnMJ-AmongThievesUSAmong Thieves, M. J. Kuhn‘s debut novel, is pitched as “a high-stakes heist novel set in a gritty world of magic and malice”. It’s not clear if it’s the first in a planned series or a stand-alone, but it looks pretty interesting (I do love a good heist story). Here’s the synopsis:

In just over a year’s time, Ryia Cautella has already earned herself a reputation as the quickest, deadliest blade in the dockside city of Carrowwick — not to mention the sharpest tongue. But Ryia Cautella is not her real name.

For the past six years, a deadly secret has kept her in hiding, running from town to town, doing whatever it takes to stay one step ahead of the formidable Guildmaster — the sovereign ruler of the five kingdoms of Thamorr. No matter how far or fast she travels, his servants never fail to track her down… but even the most powerful men can be defeated.

Ryia’s path now leads directly into the heart of the Guildmaster’s stronghold, and against every instinct she has, it’s not a path she can walk alone. Forced to team up with a crew of assorted miscreants, smugglers, and thieves, Ryia must plan her next moves very carefully. If she succeeds, her freedom is won once and for all… but unfortunately for Ryia, her new allies are nearly as selfish as she is, and they all have plans of their own.

Among Thieves is due to be published by Gallery/Saga Press in North America and in the UK, on September 7th, 2021.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via NetGalley

Upcoming: THE PARIAH by Anthony Ryan (Orbit)

RyanA-CoS1-PariahAnthony Ryan has a new novel out this year! The Pariah is the first in a new fantasy series, the Covenant of Steel. In addition to that moody cover (which I rather like), the novel’s premise promises an action-packed fantasy of revenge, intrigue, and more:

Born into the troubled kingdom of Albermaine, Alwyn Scribe is raised as an outlaw. Quick of wit and deft with a blade, Alwyn is content with the freedom of the woods and the comradeship of his fellow thieves. But an act of betrayal sets him on a new path – one of blood and vengeance, which eventually leads him to a soldier’s life in the king’s army.

Fighting under the command of Lady Evadine Courlain, a noblewoman beset by visions of a demonic apocalypse, Alwyn must survive war and the deadly intrigues of the nobility if he hopes to claim his vengeance. But as dark forces, both human and arcane, gather to oppose Evadine’s rise, Alwyn faces a choice: can he be a warrior, or will he always be an outlaw?

The Pariah is due to be published by Orbit Books in North America and in the UK, on August 24th, 2021.

Also on CR: Guest Post on “Inspiration for Fantasy Authors”

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Upcoming: THE HOOD by Lavie Tidhar (Head of Zeus)

Tidhar-TheHoodUKHCI already wrote about Lavie Tidhar‘s upcoming The Escapement, earlier today, but it turns out he has two novels out in October 2021! The other is The Hood, the second novel in the author’s Anti-Matter of Britain Quartet. The Hood is a “viscerally entertaining, ominously subversive and poetically profane remixing” of the Robin Hood myth in a similar style to By Force Alone — the author’s superb retelling/remix of the King Arthur myth. Check out the synopsis:

God bless you, England, on this glorious Year of Our Lord, 1145.

Don’t cross the Templars. Everybody knows that. But Will Scarlet, back from the crusades, hopped up on khat and cider, did. Stabbed thrice in the belly but somehow still alive, he’s heading home to Nottingham.

And things are not right in Nottingham.

It’s the wood, you see. Sherwood. Ice-age ancient, impenetrable, hiding a dark and secret heart. As the ancient sages say, If you go into the woods today, you may not come out tomorrow, and the person who comes out may not be you…

The Hood is Lavie Tidhar’s narcotic remix of an ancient English myth, a tale knotted from legends lost to time, shredded and restitched for each passing century. A tale for today.

The Hood is due to be published by Head of Zeus in the UK, on October 7th, 2021. (At the time of writing, I couldn’t find any information about a North American release.)

Also on CR: Reviews of The Violent Century and By Force Alone

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Upcoming: THE BROKEN GOD by Gareth Hanrahan (Orbit)

HanrahanG-BIL3-BrokenGodsThis year, Orbit are due to publish the third book in Gareth Hanrahan‘s Black Iron Legacy fantasy series. I’ve fallen a little behind on this series, and have only read the first book, The Gutter Prayer (which I did enjoy: the characters and world-building are excellent). So, I really must get caught up before The Broken God arrives in May. For those who are caught up, here’s the synopsis:

Enter a city of dragons and darkness…

The Godswar has come to Guerdon, dividing the city between three occupying powers. A fragile armistice holds back the gods, but other dangerous forces seek to exert their influence. Spar Idgeson, once heir to the brotherhood of thieves has been transformed into the living stone of the new city. But his powers are failing and the criminal dragons of the Ghierdana are circling.

Meanwhile, far across the sea, Carillon Thay—once a thief, a saint, a god killer; now alone and powerless—seeks the mysterious land of Khebesh, desperate to find a cure for Spar. But what hope does she have when even the gods seek vengeance against her?

The Broken God is due to be published by Orbit Books in North America and in the UK, on May 18th, 2021.

Also on CR: Interview with Gareth Hanrahan (2019); Review of The Gutter Prayer

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter