Upcoming: SWEEP OF STARS by Maurice Broaddus (Tor.com)

BroaddusM-SweepOfStarsNext year, Tor Books are due to publish the first book in Maurice Broaddus‘s new Astra Black trilogy: a sci-fi epic that explores the struggles of  members of the interstellar Muungano empire — a far-reaching coalition of city-states that stretches from O.E. (original earth) to Titan — as it faces an escalating series of threats. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read of Broaddus’s previous work, and I’m rather looking forward to giving this a try. Here’s the synopsis:

“The beauty in blackness is its ability to transform. Like energy we are neither created nor destroyed, though many try.” — West African Proverb

The Muungano empire strived and struggled to form a utopia when they split away from old earth. Freeing themselves from the endless wars and oppression of their home planet in order to shape their own futures and create a far-reaching coalition of city-states that stretched from Earth and Mars to Titan.

With the wisdom of their ancestors, the leadership of their elders, the power and vision of their scientists and warriors they charted a course to a better future. But the old powers could not allow them to thrive and have now set in motion new plots to destroy all that they’ve built.

In the fire to come they will face down their greatest struggle yet.

Amachi Adisa and other young leaders will contend with each other for the power to galvanize their people and chart the next course for the empire.

Fela Buhari and her elite unit will take the fight to regions not seen by human eyes, but no training will be enough to bring them all home.

Stacia Chikeke, captain of the starship Cypher, will face down enemies across the stars, and within her own vessel, as she searches for the answers that could save them all.

The only way is forward.

Maurice Broaddus’s Sweep of Stars is due to be published by Tor Books in North America and in the UK, on March 29th, 2022.

Also on CR: Interview with Maurice Broaddus (2017); Guest Post on “Worldbuilding Pimp My Airship

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Upcoming: OGRES by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Solaris)

TchaikovskyA-OgresA new book from Adrian Tchaikovsky is always great news. Next year, Solaris are due to publish the author’s fifth novella with them, Ogres. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed each of the author’s shorter books (he’s published a few with Tor.com, too), and this one looks equally intriguing. Here’s the synopsis:

Ogres are bigger than you.

Ogres are stronger than you.

Ogres rule the world.

It’s always idyllic in the village until the landlord comes to call.

Because the landlord is an Ogre. And Ogres rule the world, with their size and strength and appetites. It’s always been that way. It’s the natural order of the world. And they only eat people sometimes.

But when the headman’s son, Torquell, dares lift his hand against the landlord’s son, he sets himself on a path to learn the terrible truth about the Ogres, and about the dark sciences that ensured their rule.

Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Ogres is due to be published by Solaris Books on March 17th, 2022.

Also on CR: Interview with Adrian Tchaikovsky (2012); Guest Posts on “Nine Books, Six Years, One Stenwold Maker”, “The Art of Gunsmithing — Writing Guns of the Dawn, “Looking for God in Melnibone Places: Fantasy and Religion”, and “Eye of the Spider”; Excerpt from Guns of the Dawn; Reviews of Empire of Black & Gold, Guns of the Dawn, Children of RuinSpiderlight, Ironclads, Made Things, One Day All This Will Be Yours, and Shards of Earth

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Upcoming: LAST EXIT by Max Gladstone (Tor)

GladstoneM-LastExitUSI can’t remember when or where I first heard about Max Gladstone‘s upcoming new novel, Last Exit (probably from a catalogue), but after the cover was revealed my interest was well and truly piqued — I know we’re not supposed to judge a book by it’s cover, but just look at it. Described as “American Gods meets The Dark Tower in Last Exit,” I think this is going to be a good one. Here’s the synopsis:

Ten years ago, Zelda led a band of merry adventurers whose knacks let them travel to alternate realities and battle the black rot that threatened to unmake each world. Zelda was the warrior; Ish could locate people anywhere; Ramon always knew what path to take; Sarah could turn catastrophe aside. Keeping them all connected: Sal, Zelda’s lover and the group’s heart.

Until their final, failed mission, when Sal was lost. When they all fell apart.

Ten years on, Ish, Ramon, and Sarah are happy and successful. Zelda is alone, always traveling, destroying rot throughout the US.

When it boils through the crack in the Liberty Bell, the rot gives Zelda proof that Sal is alive, trapped somewhere in the alts.

Zelda’s getting the band back together ― plus Sal’s young cousin June, who has a knack none of them have ever seen before.

As relationships rekindle, the friends begin to believe they can find Sal and heal all the worlds. It’s not going to be easy, but they’ve faced worse before.

But things have changed, out there in the alts. And in everyone’s hearts.

Fresh from winning the Hugo and Nebula Awards, Max Gladstone weaves elements of American myth ― the muscle car, the open road, the white-hatted cowboy ― into a deeply emotional tale where his characters must find their own truths if they are to survive.

Max Gladstone’s Last Exit is due to be published by Tor Books in North America and in the UK, on February 22nd, 2022.

Also on CR: Interview with Max Gladstone & Amal El-Mohtar (2019)

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Very Quick Review: THE LAST ENFORCER by Charles Oakley, w. Frank Isola (Gallery)

OakleyC-LastEnforcerAn interesting, albeit limited memoir

A memoir from Charles Oakley — one of the toughest and most loyal players in NBA history — featuring unfiltered stories about the journey that basketball has taken him on and his relationships with Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Phil Jackson, Pat Riley, James Dolan, Donald Trump, George Floyd, and so many others.

If you ask a New York Knicks fan about Charles Oakley, you better prepare to hear the love and a favorite story or two. But his individual stats weren’t remarkable, and while he helped power the Knicks to ten consecutive playoffs, he never won a championship. So why does he hold such a special place in the minds, hearts, and memories of NBA players and fans?

Because over the course of nineteen years in the league, Oakley was at the center of more unbelievable encounters than Forrest Gump, and nearly as many fights as Mike Tyson. He was the friend you wish you had, and the enemy you wish you’d never made. If any opposing player was crazy enough to start a fight with him, or God forbid one of his teammates, Oakley would end it.

“I can’t remember every rebound I grabbed but I do have a story — the true story — of just about every punch and slap on my resume,” he says.

In The Last Enforcer, Oakley shares one incredible story after the next — all in his signature, unfiltered style — about his life in the paint and beyond, fighting for rebounds and respect. You’ll look back on the era of the 1990s NBA, when tough guys with rugged attitudes, unflinching loyalty, and hard-nosed work ethics were just as important as three-point sharpshooters. You’ll feel like you were on the court, in the room, can’t believe what you just saw, and need to tell everyone you know about it.

I was looking forward to reading this memoir. Like many people, Michael Jordan’s prime years with the Chicago Bulls was my introduction to basketball. Oakley was one of Jordan’s earlier teammates, and is one of his closest friends, but was traded away to the Knicks just before the Bulls embarked on their epic six-championships run. This is his story, complete with honest, blunt appraisals of his teammates, the League (now and then), and more. It’s got plenty of interesting insights and illuminating stories. But in many ways, it also comes across as rather one-note. Continue reading

New Books (July-August)

NewBooks-20210828

Featuring: Joe Abercrombie, Shane Anderson, Carmelo Anthony, RJ Barker, Nicholas Bowling, Michael Carroll, Charles Cumming, Scott Eyman, John Higgins, Richard Kadrey, Anita Kopacz, Devin Madson, William McIlvanney, Premee Mohamed, Scotto Moore, Abir Mukherjee, Ian Rankin, Joe Mungo Reed, James Rollins, John Sandford, Dan Shaughnessy, Defne Suman, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Tade Thompson, Lavie Tidhar, Steve Van Zandt, Matthew Ward, D. Watkins

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Annotated Excerpt: GIGANTIC by Ashley Stokes (Unsung Stories)

StokesA-GiganticHi. Many thanks for asking me to annotate a section of Gigantic. It’s certainly been intriguing and stimulating to revisit what has been probably the most torturous editorial experience I’ve had with any story, long or short. I chose a passage to edit based on how fun and funny I hoped it is, but just by spending some time with it, I realise how much the story, text, structure, tone and voice had changed from the first draft and how honing this story had been like fighting Proteus or the Hydra. The main character, Kevin Stubbs, has had many heads and forms.

Gigantic has taken ten years since conception to find a publisher. It started life in 2011 as an idle notebook jotting: what if there were a bigfoot mythology akin to that you find in backswood America in my hometown of Sutton, Surrey?  I rejected this as daft but went back to it when The Sun reported a bigfoot sighting in Tunbridge Wells. Originally titled The North Surrey Gigantopithecus, it was a short story told largely in footnotes like my A Short Story about a Short Film and forthcoming Fade to Black. Subsequently, it became a more conventionally-structured novella, then a novel, a longer novel and a shorter novel as stuffing was ripped out. This was a process of sifting and hacking, abandoning and resurrecting well beyond the usual three-step Discovery-Meditation-Polishing process of writing a novel. Continue reading

Quick Review: SHARDS OF EARTH by Adrian Tchaikovksy (Orbit/Tor UK)

TchaikovskyA-FA1-ShardsOfEarthUSHCAn excellent start to a new space opera series

The war is over. Its heroes forgotten. Until one chance discovery…

Idris has neither aged nor slept since they remade him in the war. And one of humanity’s heroes now scrapes by on a freelance salvage vessel, to avoid the attention of greater powers.

After earth was destroyed, mankind created a fighting elite to save their species, enhanced humans such as Idris. In the silence of space they could communicate, mind-to-mind, with the enemy. Then their alien aggressors, the Architects, simply disappeared — and Idris and his kind became obsolete.

Now, fifty years later, Idris and his crew have discovered something strange abandoned in space. It’s clearly the work of the Architects — but are they returning? And if so, why? Hunted by gangsters, cults and governments, Idris and his crew race across the galaxy hunting for answers. For they now possess something of incalculable value, that many would kill to obtain.

Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Time is one of my favourite science fiction novel of the past decade or so (probably true for many others — it justifiably won the Arthur C. Clarke Award). Shards of Earth is the first novel in a new science fiction series from the author, and it’s quite the opening salvo: expansive, action-packed, and populated by varied and engaging characters. I very much enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: WHERE TOMORROWS AREN’T PROMISED by Carmelo Anthony & D. Watkins (Gallery)

AnthonyC-WhereTomorrowsArentPromisedUSHCAn interesting memoir about family, struggle, and basketball

A raw and inspirational memoir about growing up in the housing projects of Red Hook and Baltimore — a brutal world Where Tomorrows Aren’t Promised.

For a long time, Carmelo Anthony’s world wasn’t any larger than the view of the hoopers and hustlers he watched from the side window of his family’s first-floor project apartment in Red Hook, Brooklyn. He couldn’t dream any bigger than emulating his older brothers and cousin, much less going on to become a basketball champion on the world stage.

He faced palpable dangers growing up in the housing projects in Red Hook and West Baltimore’s Murphy Homes (a.k.a. Murder Homes, subject of HBO’s The Wire). He navigated an education system that ignored, exploited, or ostracized him. He suffered the untimely deaths of his closely held loved ones. He struggled to survive physically and emotionally. But with the strength of family and the guidance of key mentors on the streets and on the court, he pushed past lethal odds to endure and thrive.

By the time Carmelo found himself at the NBA Draft at Madison Square Garden in 2003 preparing to embark on his legendary career, he wondered: How did a kid who’d had so many hopes, dreams, and expectations beaten out of him by a world of violence, poverty, and racism make it here at all?

Carmelo’s story is one of perseverance and determination; of dribbling past players bigger and tougher than him, while also weaving around vial caps and needles strewn across the court; where dealers and junkies lined one side of the asphalt and kids playing jacks and Double Dutch lined the other; where rims had no nets, and you better not call a foul — a place Where Tomorrows Aren’t Promised.

I didn’t know that much about Carmelo Anthony before reading Where Tomorrows Aren’t Promised. As someone who follows the NBA, I’d of course heard his name and that he was a star. In January 2020, shortly before the pandemic rolled in, he snatched victory away from the Toronto Raptors in the last live game I saw. (It was a superb, albeit frustrating, shot.) So, when I had the opportunity to read his new memoir, I jumped at the chance. And I’m glad I did — this wasn’t the memoir I was expecting, but it it is an excellent glimpse into the mind and early life of a basketball All-Star. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE AFGHANISTAN PAPERS by Craig Whitlock (Simon & Schuster)

WhitlockC-AfghanistanPapersA timely, illuminating, necessary, but strangely limited book

The groundbreaking investigative story of how three successive presidents and their military commanders deceived the public year after year about the longest war in American history…

Unlike the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 had near-unanimous public support. At first, the goals were straightforward and clear: to defeat al-Qaeda and prevent a repeat of 9/11. Yet soon after the United States and its allies removed the Taliban from power, the mission veered off course and US officials lost sight of their original objectives.

Distracted by the war in Iraq, the US military became mired in an unwinnable guerrilla conflict in a country it did not understand. But no president wanted to admit failure, especially in a war that began as a just cause. Instead, the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations sent more and more troops to Afghanistan and repeatedly said they were making progress, even though they knew there was no realistic prospect for an outright victory.

Just as the Pentagon Papers changed the public’s understanding of Vietnam, The Afghanistan Papers contains startling revelation after revelation from people who played a direct role in the war, from leaders in the White House and the Pentagon to soldiers and aid workers on the front lines. In unvarnished language, they admit that the US government’s strategies were a mess, that the nation-building project was a colossal failure, and that drugs and corruption gained a stranglehold over their allies in the Afghan government. All told, the account is based on interviews with more than 1,000 people who knew that the US government was presenting a distorted, and sometimes entirely fabricated, version of the facts on the ground.

Documents unearthed by The Washington Post reveal that President Bush didn’t know the name of his Afghanistan war commander — and didn’t want to make time to meet with him. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld admitted he had “no visibility into who the bad guys are.” His successor, Robert Gates, said: “We didn’t know jack shit about al-Qaeda.”

The Afghanistan Papers is a shocking account that will supercharge a long overdue reckoning over what went wrong and forever change the way the conflict is remembered.

This must be one of the best-timed books of the year. With President Biden’s recent announcement that the American presence and responsibilities in Afghanistan are over, Whitlock’s book has understandably generated a lot of interest and attention (far more, it seems, than the articles it’s based on received). In the days since the withdrawal, it seems as though every article has quoted Whitlock’s book (well, the introduction, mostly). I decided it was time that I got around to it, too, after leaving it languishing on my TBR for a couple months. It is an interesting and quick read, with plenty of illuminating and damning discoveries. It was also somewhat limited, however. Continue reading

Excerpt: THE HAND OF THE SUN KING by J.T. Greathouse (Gollancz/JABberwocky)

GreathouseJT-P&P1-HandOfTheSunKingToday, we have an excerpt from The Hand of the Sun KingJ. T. Greathouse‘s debut fantasy novel, and the first in the Pact & Pattern series. Pitched as perfect for fans of Robin Hobb, Brandon Sanderson and R. F. Kuang, it’s certainly caught my attention. Here’s the official synopsis for the novel:

My name is Wen Alder. My name is Foolish Cur.

All my life, I have been torn between two legacies: that of my father, whose roots trace back to the right hand of the Emperor. That of my mother’s family, who reject the oppressive Empire and embrace the resistance.

I can choose between them – between protecting my family, or protecting my people – or I can search out a better path… a magical path, filled with secrets, unbound by empire or resistance, which could shake my world to its very foundation.

But my search for freedom will entangle me in a war between the gods themselves…

And now, on with the excerpt…!

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