Featuring: Judy Blume, Nick Brown, Jack Campbell, Lincoln Child, Ernest Cline, Nathan Garrison, Mat Johnson, Stephen King, Jessica Knoll, Douglas Lain, Mark Lawrence, Aidan Levy, Jason Matthews, Naomi Novik, Matthew Palmer, Ron Perlman, Alexandra Petri, Loren Rhoads, Christopher Robinson, Neal Stephenson, Corey Taylor
In 1987, Miri Ammerman returns to her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, to attend a commemoration of the worst year of her life. Thirty-five years earlier, when Miri was fifteen, and in love for the first time, a succession of airplanes fell from the sky, leaving a community reeling. Against this backdrop of actual events that Blume experienced in the early 1950s, when airline travel was new and exciting and everyone dreamed of going somewhere, she paints a vivid portrait of a particular time and place — Nat King Cole singing “Unforgettable,” Elizabeth Taylor haircuts, young (and not-so-young) love, explosive friendships, A-bomb hysteria, rumors of Communist threat. And a young journalist who makes his name reporting tragedy. Through it all, one generation reminds another that life goes on.
In the Unlikely Event is vintage Judy Blume, with all the hallmarks of Judy Blume’s unparalleled storytelling, and full of memorable characters who cope with loss, remember the good times and, finally, wonder at the joy that keeps them going.
It’s getting a lot of attention, and I’ve never read anything by Blume before. So I’m curious. Published in North America by Knopf.
Cassius Cobulo, agent of Imperial Rome, returns in his most incredible adventure yet.
Still recovering from his previous assignment in Arabia, imperial agent Cassius Corbulo has been spending most of his time and money on women and wine. Unfortunately for him, word of his achievements has reached the emperor Aurelian’s deputy and he is sent north, tasked with smashing a counterfeiting gang.
Cassius tracks the criminals to the city of Berytus, where his investigations are hampered by civil unrest and uncooperative officials, not to mention the personal problems of his servant Simo and bodyguard Indavara. Despite this — and intense pressure from his superiors — the young officer eventually closes in on the gang.
But his enemies will do anything to protect their profits, and Cassius and Indavara soon find themselves fighting not only for the emperor, but for their very survival.
I’ve never read anything by Brown — nor, for that matter, anything related to Ancient Rome in a long time. This could be an interesting place to reenter the sub-genre. That being said, this is not the first novel in Brown’s Agent of Rome series, so I’m not sure if it’s a good place to start. The Emperor’s Silver is published on June 4th, 2015.
Review copy received from publisher
Two Syndicate World star systems have fallen prey to a mysterious fleet of warships — a fleet controlled entirely by artificial intelligence — that is now targeting Alliance space. The warships are no mystery to Geary. They were developed by his government to ensure security, but malfunctioned. If the Syndics learn the truth, the war with the Alliance will resume with a vengeance.
As the government attempts to conceal the existence of the A.I. warships—and its role in their creation — Geary pursues them, treading a fine line between mutiny and obedience. But it soon becomes clear that his fleet is no match for the firepower of the machine-piloted armada.
With the help of the Dancer species of aliens, Geary has tracked the A.I. ships to their secret base in the supposedly mythical Unity Alternate star system where his fleet, the last hope of the Alliance’s future, will end the conflict at any cost.
This is the fifth book in Campbell’s Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier series — itself a sub-series to the Lost Fleet. I really need to try this one out — I know a lot of people who like it, and it seems to sell like hotcakes in the UK.
Review copy received from publisher
Jeremy Logan is an “enigmalogist” — an investigator who specializes in analyzing phenomena that have no obvious explanation. In this newest novel Logan finds himself on the storied coastline of Newport, Rhode Island, where he has been retained by Lux, one of the oldest and most respected think tanks in America. Just days earlier, a series of frightening events took place in the sprawling seaside mansion that houses the organization. One of its most distinguished doctors began acting erratically — violently attacking an assistant in the mansion’s opulent library and, moments later, killing himself in a truly shocking fashion. Terrified by the incident and the bizarre evidence left behind, the group hires Logan to investigate — discreetly — what drove this erudite man to madness.
His work leads him to an unexpected find. In a long-dormant wing of the estate, Logan uncovers an ingeniously hidden secret room, concealed and apparently untouched for decades. The room is a time capsule, filled with eerie and obscure scientific equipment that points to a top secret project long thought destroyed, known only as “Project S.” Ultimately, the truth of what Project S was … and what has happened in that room … will put Logan in the path of a completely unexpected danger.
A solo-novel from Child, I’ve still not managed to read any of his work with Douglas Preston (though I’ve picked up the first books in two of their series). I thought this was a stand-alone, though, but apparently it’s the third in Child’s Jeremy Logan series. Oh well. I’ll see what I can do about finding those first two. The Forgotten Room is out now, published by Doubleday.
Am I the only one who thinks “enigmalogist” needs another syllable? For some reason, I feel it should be “enigma-ologist” or “enigmalologist”, which sounds kind of amusing. Just me? Ok…
Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.
But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.
And then he sees the flying saucer.
Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada — in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.
No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills — as well as those of millions of gamers across the world — are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.
It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little… familiar?
At once gleefully embracing and brilliantly subverting science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline could, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before — one whose every page is infused with the pop-culture savvy that has helped make Ready Player One a phenomenon.
I have been waiting for this novel ever since I finished Ready Player One. Now I have it. When it arrived, I was rather like…
I’ve finished it, now. And my thoughts are… mixed. Very mixed. On the whole, this was disappointing.
Review copy received from publisher
The Empire is Shrouded, not only by the barrier that covers the land, but by the lies and oppression of the mierothi regime. Magic is the privilege of the elite, and the people of this shadowed country have forgotten what it means to hope under their rule.
But there are some who would resist, with plans put into motion millennia before. For returned to the Empire is a valynkar, servant of the god of light, and with him come the strength and cunning that could tip the scales to end the Emperor’s reign. He has gathered a group of heroes ready to ignite the flame of rebellion and fight against the dark power that has ruled for nearly two thousand years. A power that has champions of its own.
Nathan Garrison’s Veiled Empire throws a mythical land into chaos, with races long thought forgotten, and magics only just discovered. Steel and sorcery clash as brave souls vie for freedom and control in this astonishing debut novel.
Sounded like it could be interesting.
“In the ghetto there is a mansion, and it is my father’s house.”
Warren Duffy has returned to America for all the worst reasons: His marriage to a beautiful Welsh woman has come apart; his comics shop in Cardiff has failed; and his Irish American father has died, bequeathing to Warren his last possession, a roofless, half-renovated mansion in the heart of black Philadelphia. On his first night in his new home, Warren spies two figures outside in the grass. When he screws up the nerve to confront them, they disappear. The next day he encounters ghosts of a different kind: In the face of a teenage girl he meets at a comics convention he sees the mingled features of his white father and his black mother, both now dead. The girl, Tal, is his daughter, and she’s been raised to think she’s white.
Spinning from these revelations, Warren sets off to remake his life with a reluctant daughter he’s never known, in a haunted house with a history he knows too well. In their search for a new life, he and Tal struggle with ghosts, fall in with a utopian mixed-race cult, and ignite a riot on Loving Day, the unsung holiday for interracial lovers.
A frequently hilarious, surprisingly moving story about blacks and whites, fathers and daughters, the living and the dead, Loving Day celebrates the wonders of opposites bound in love.
Another impulse pick-up (I think I need more to do during the day — I spend too much time browsing for books…). It sounds like it could be interesting. Certainly different from my usual read. Published by Spiegel & Grau, and out now.
“Wake up, genius.” So begins King’s instantly riveting story about a vengeful reader. The genius is John Rothstein, an iconic author who created a famous character, Jimmy Gold, but who hasn’t published a book for decades. Morris Bellamy is livid, not just because Rothstein has stopped providing books, but because the nonconformist Jimmy Gold has sold out for a career in advertising. Morris kills Rothstein and empties his safe of cash, yes, but the real treasure is a trove of notebooks containing at least one more Gold novel.
Morris hides the money and the notebooks, and then he is locked away for another crime. Decades later, a boy named Pete Saubers finds the treasure, and now it is Pete and his family that Bill Hodges, Holly Gibney, and Jerome Robinson must rescue from the ever-more deranged and vengeful Morris when he’s released from prison after thirty-five years.
HER PERFECT LIFE IS A PERFECT LIE.
As a teenager at the prestigious Bradley School, Ani FaNelli endured a shocking, public humiliation that left her desperate to reinvent herself. Now, with a glamorous job, expensive wardrobe, and handsome blue blood fiancé, she’s this close to living the perfect life she’s worked so hard to achieve.
But Ani has a secret.
There’s something else buried in her past that still haunts her, something private and painful that threatens to bubble to the surface and destroy everything.
With a singular voice and twists you won’t see coming, Luckiest Girl Alive explores the unbearable pressure that so many women feel to “have it all” and introduces a heroine whose sharp edges and cutthroat ambition have been protecting a scandalous truth, and a heart that’s bigger than it first appears.
The question remains: will breaking her silence destroy all that she has worked for—or, will it at long last, set Ani free?
This is getting a fair bit of attention at the moment, so I picked it up on a whim. Looks like it could be interesting. Published by Simon & Schuster, Luckiest Girl Alive is out now.
In the Shadow of the Towers compiles nearly twenty works of speculative fiction responding to and inspired by the events of 9/11, from writers seeking to confront, rebuild, and carry on, even in the face of overwhelming emotion.
Writer and editor Douglas Lain presents a thought-provoking anthology featuring a variety of award-winning and best-selling authors, from Jeff VanderMeer (Annihilation) and Cory Doctorow (Little Brother) to Susan Palwick (Flying in Place) and James Morrow (Towing Jehovah). Touching on themes as wide-ranging as politics, morality, and even heartfelt nostalgia, today’s speculative fiction writers prove that the rubric of the fantastic offers an incomparable view into how we respond to tragedy.
Each contributor, in his or her own way, contemplates the same question:
How can we continue dreaming in the shadow of the towers?
This sounded like it could be interesting. Published by Night Shade Books on September 1st, 2015 (though it doesn’t appear to have a page on the publisher’s website, yet.)
Review copy received via Edelweiss
After harrowing adventure and near-death, Prince Jalan Kendeth and the Viking Snorri ver Snagason find themselves in possession of Loki’s Key, an artefact capable of opening any door, and sought by the most dangerous beings in the Broken Empire — including The Dead King.
Jal wants only to return home to his wine, women, and song, but Snorri has his own purpose for the key: to find the very door into death, throw it wide, and bring his family back into the land of the living.
And as Snorri prepares for his quest to find death’s door, Jal’s grandmother, the Red Queen continues to manipulate kings and pawns towards an endgame of her own design…
How did a Jewish boy from Long Island, an adolescent doo-wop singer, rise to the status of Godfather of Punk Rock? This book digs deep to answer that question. Born in Brooklyn, Lou Reed was the son of an accountant and a former beauty queen, but he took the road less traveled, trading literary promise for an entry-level job as a budget-label songwriter and founding the Velvet Underground under the aegis of Andy Warhol, before embarking on a solo career that spawned “Walk on the Wild Side” and dozens of critically lauded albums. The cult of personality surrounding his transformation from downtown agent provocateur to Phantom of Rock and finally to patron saint of the avant-garde was legendary, but there was more to his artistic evolution than his prickly public persona. The lives of many American rock stars have had no second act, but Reed’s life did. Drawing from original interviews with many of his artistic collaborators, friends, and romantic partners, as well as from archival material, concert footage, and unreleased bootlegs of live performances, Dirty Blvd. exposes the man behind the myth, the notoriously uncompromising rock poet who wrote “Heroin,” “Sweet Jane,” and “Street Hassle” — songs that transcended their genre and established Lou Reed as one of the most influential and enigmatic American artists of the past half-century.
Aidan is actually a friend, so I was quite pleased when I spotted this on Edelweiss. I’ve not read it yet, but I’m eager to do so. Dirty Blvd. is due to be published by Chicago Review Press in October 2015.
Review copy received via Edelweiss
Captain Dominika Egorova of the Russian Intelligence Service (SVR) has returned from the West to Moscow. She despises the men she serves, the oligarchs, and crooks, and thugs of Putin’s Russia. What no one knows is that Dominika is working for the CIA as Washington’s most sensitive penetration of SVR and the Kremlin.
As she expertly dodges exposure, Dominika deals with a murderously psychotic boss; survives an Iranian assassination attempt; escapes a counterintelligence ambush; rescues an arrested agent and exfiltrates him out of Russia; and has a chilling midnight conversation in her nightgown with President Putin. Complicating these risks is the fact that Dominika is in love with her CIA handler, Nate Nash, and their lust is as dangerous as committing espionage in Moscow. And when a mole in the SVR finds Dominika’s name on a restricted list of sources, it is a virtual death sentence…
Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.
Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.
The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows – everyone knows – that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.
But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.
I still haven’t read the Temeraire series. I like dragons. I just… haven’t got around to it, yet. This has been praised far and wide, so I really should read it ASAP.
Review copy received from publisher
Sam Trainor’s career of overseas work coupled with a penchant for being outspoken has left him on the outside of the competitive Washington establishment. Formerly the top South Asia expert in the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Trainor has moved to the private sector, working as an analyst for the consulting firm Argus Systems.
But Sam soon discovers that for all their similarities, the government and their hired contractors have vastly different motives. As he struggles to adjust to a more corporate, profit-driven version of the work that had been his life, he stumbles across an intelligence anomaly — the transcript of a phone conversation about the fastest ways to upend the delicate political balance keeping India and Pakistan from all-out war. Yet Sam knows that conversation can’t have occurred — because he is having an affair with one of the alleged participants.
As he digs into the source of this misinformation, he realizes that more is at stake than just bad intel. Someone is deliberately twisting the intelligence to stoke the simmering conflict between India and Pakistan, nuclear-armed rivals that have already fought multiple wars. And Sam’s new employer could be up to its neck in it.
This is Palmer’s second novel, following The American Mission (which I also have). I feel like I keep saying I need to read more thrillers: they used to be my primary genre, but then I drifted away. To be fair, I haven’t been reading much fiction of any stripe, recently. Palmer seems to be pretty well regarded, though, so I’m going to try this and his previous novel ASAP. Secrets of State is published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, and is out now.
Ron Perlman was a kid who had a myriad of self-image issues, yet he triumphed in an industry that trades on image and self-confidence. He landed a leading role in Quest for Fire. He won a Golden Globe for Beauty and the Beast. And he played the title role in two Hellboy movies, becoming along the way an icon among sci-fi and comic book fans worldwide.
Although his name may be unknown to some, most people know Ron Perlman’s face, despite the fact that for nearly half his career he’s been disguised under feature-altering foam-rubber prosthetics. On his offbeat path to success, Ron has amassed nearly 200 stage, TV, voiceover, and major motion picture credits, including roles in Drive, Pacific Rim, and a six-year gig as the badass biker boss Clay Morrow in Sons of Anarchy.
In Easy Street (the Hard Way), Ron shares his life story, starting with his up-by-your-bootstraps background in New York’s Washington Heights. His father, a Swing Era drummer, gave up his dream in order to feed his sons while his mother worked as a municipal clerk. Ron’s hard-earned road to Easy Street included bouts of abject poverty, heartbreaking familial episodes, and a long, often uncomfortable struggle for self-acceptance.
He sheds light on his life as a working actor and also offers behind-the-scenes insight into the working styles of internationally famous directors, including Jean-Jacques Annaud, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy and Academy Award-winning Pan’s Labyrinth). He provides his own peek into Hollywood, up close and personal, where he has encountered the likes of Marlon Brando, Sean Connery, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., and others. Plus, he turns his eye on the trajectory of American culture — the good and the bad — as observed by a man who started out in a mom-and-pop world where the arts were disseminated by individuals rather than corporations.
Loved Hellboy and Sons of Anarchy, not to mention everything else I’ve seen Perlman in. I didn’t realize he’d written this, so when I saw it I picked it up rather on impulse. The book is published by De Capo Press, and is out now.
Most twentysomethings spend a lot of time avoiding awkwardness.
Not Alexandra Petri.
Afraid of rejection? Alexandra Petri has auditioned for America’s Next Top Model. Afraid of looking like an idiot? Alexandra Petri lost Jeopardy! by answering “Who is that dude?” on national TV. Afraid of bad jokes? Alexandra Petri won an international pun championship.
Petri has been a debutante, reenacted the Civil War, and fended off suitors at a Star Wars convention while wearing a Jabba the Hutt suit. One time, she let some cult members she met on the street baptize her, just to be polite. She’s a connoisseur of the kind of awkwardness that most people spend whole lifetimes trying to avoid. If John Hodgman and Amy Sedaris had a baby… they would never let Petri babysit it.
But Petri is here to tell you: Everything you fear is not so bad. Trust her. She’s tried it. And in the course of her misadventures, she’s learned that there are worse things out there than awkwardness — and that interesting things start to happen when you stop caring what people think.
I picked this up after reading Alyssa Rosenberg’s review for it. Sounded like it might be good. Published by New American Library, and out now.
Former assassin Raena Zacari thinks she’s left the past behind. The Imperial torturer who trained her is dead; the human empire is disbanded; and she is finally free.
But Raena is troubled by a series of nightmares that always seem to end with her shooting an ex-lover in the head. She needs to get her mind clear because there’s a flaw in the most commonly used starship drive — and the band of media-obsessed pirates she’s fallen in with is right at the heart of the controversy.
With humanity scattered across the galaxy, she’s going to have to rely on the alien crew members of the Veracity to help her put the pieces together. It doesn’t help that the Templars — wiped out in a genetic plague while Raena was imprisoned — have left booby-trapped biotechnology scattered across the galaxy.
Kill by Numbers mixes military science fiction with sweeping space opera that features aliens, androids, drug dealers, journalists, and free-running media hackers.
Coming rather sooner than expected on the heels of The Dangerous Type, this is the second in the newly-renamed In the Wake of the Templars series. It’s due out on August 11th, 2015, published by Night Shade. I’ll have to get my skates on and review the novels back-to-back, if I can.
Review copy received via Edelweiss
In a superb, rare literary collaboration, two major new talents join their voices to tell the story of a generation at a crossroads, and a friendship that stretches over continents and crises — from the liberal arena of Boston academia to the military occupation of Iraq — in this ambitious and electrifying debut novel.
On a summer night, in the arty enclave of Capitol Hill, Seattle, best friends Mickey Montauk and Halifax Corderoy throw one last blowout party before their lives part ways. At twenty-three, they had planned to move together to Boston for graduate school, but global events have intervened: Montauk has just learned that his National Guard unit will deploy to Baghdad at the end of the summer. In the confusion of this altered future, Corderoy is faced with a moral dilemma: his girlfriend Mani has just been evicted and he must decide whether or not to abandon her when she needs him most. He turns to Montauk for help. His decision that night, and its harrowing outcome, sets in motion a year that will transform all three of them.
Months later, Corderoy and Montauk grapple with their new identities as each deals with his own muted disappointment. In Boston, Corderoy finds himself unable to play the game of intellectual one-upmanship with the ease and grace of his new roommate Tricia, a Harvard graduate student and budding human rights activist. Half a world away, in Baghdad, Montauk struggles to lead his platoon safely through an increasingly violent and irrational war. As their lives move further away from their shared dream, Corderoy and Montauk keep in touch with one another by editing a Wikipedia article about themselves: smart and funny updates that morph and deepen throughout the year, culminating in a document that is both devastatingly tragic and profoundly poetic.
This caught my attention when I was browsing. So I picked it up. It’s out now, published by Scribner.
A grand story of annihilation and survival spanning five thousand years.
What would happen if the world were ending?
A catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space.
But the complexities and unpredictability of human nature coupled with unforeseen challenges and dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, until only a handful of survivors remain . . .
Five thousand years later, their progeny — seven distinct races now three billion strong—embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown … to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth.
I’ve only read two of Stephenson’s novels, and I’ve tried a couple of others. I have mixed feelings. This one sounds pretty epic, though, so I thought I’d give it a try. Not entirely sure when I’ll read it, though… Maybe this wasn’t a good idea… Seveneves is published in Canada by Harper Collins and it’s out now.
In the tradition of the late great George Carlin, New York Times bestselling author and lead singer of Slipknot and Stone Sour Corey Taylor sounds off in hilarious fashion about the many vagaries of modern life that piss him off.
Whether it’s people’s rude behavior in restaurants and malls, the many indignities of air travel, eye-searingly terrible fashion choices, dangerously clueless drivers, and — most of all — the sorry state of much modern music, Taylor’s humor and insight cover civil society’s seeming decline — sparing no one along the way, least of all himself.
Holding nothing back and delivered in Taylor’s inimitable voice, You’re Making Me Hate You is a cathartic critique of the strange world in which we find ourselves.
As part of my continuing interest in music memoirs, I spotted this on Edelweiss — it’s never really been clear to me if Taylor’s books are memoir-ish, but I thought I’d give it a try. I think I might pick up his previous two, as well: Seven Deadly Sins and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Heaven. You’re Making Me Hate You is published by De Capo Press on July 7th.
Review copy received via Edelweiss