In these uncertain times, books are perhaps more important than ever (at least, they are in my opinion). To that end, I am going to try to publish more content on CR than normal (I know — I’ve “closed” it down a number of times, I just can’t stay away). Below is a list of books I’ve bought or received for review (and one I’m pre-approved for but haven’t downloaded because I know I won’t be able to read the format, but wanted to flag anyway because I’m really looking forward to reading it). As you’ll notice, a few of these aren’t out for some time, but I guess publishers have decided to send them out sooner to give people plenty of time to read them.
Featuring: Robert Jackson Bennett, Tom Bissell, Tom Bradby, Mike Brooks, K.A. Doore, Gardner Dozois, Dan Drezner, Lindsay Ellis, Scott Eyman, Marc Freeman, Ryan Gattis, Grady Hendrix, Stark Holborn, Richard Kadrey, Nicole Krauss, Hari Kunzru, Dinah Lenney, Sam J. Miller, Tamsyn Muir, John Niven, Karen Osborne, Alex Pavesi, Ross Payton, Wayne Santos, Elissa R. Sloan, Jonathan Strahan, Peter Swanson, Michael Swanwick, Breanna Teintze, Don Winslow, Chris Wraight
Robert Jackson Bennett, SHOREFALL (Jo Fletcher Books)
The upstart firm Foundryside is struggling to make it. Orso Igancio and his star employee, former thief Sancia Grado, are accomplishing brilliant things with scriving, the magical art of encoding sentience into everyday objects, but it’s not enough. The massive merchant houses of Tevanne won’t tolerate competition, and they’re willing to do anything to crush Foundryside.
But even the merchant houses of Tevanne might have met their match. An immensely powerful and deadly entity has been resurrected in the shadows of Tevanne, one that’s not interested in wealth or trade routes: a hierophant, one of the ancient practitioners of scriving. And he has a great fascination for Foundryside, and its employees – especially Sancia.
Now Sancia and the rest of Foundryside must race to combat this new menace, which means understanding the origins of scriving itself – before the hierophant burns Tevanne to the ground.
This is the second novel in Bennett’s acclaimed new Founders series. I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t read the first novel, Foundryside, yet. Not sure how that fell through the cracks — Bennett is one of my favourite authors, so I really should rectify this oversight post haste. Shorefall is due to be published by Jo Fletcher Books in the UK and Del Rey in North America, on April 21st, 2020.
Also on CR: Interview with Robert Jackson Bennett (2012); Guest Post on “City of Stairs and the Super Tropey Fantasy Checklist”; Excerpt from City of Stairs
Tom Bissell, CREATIVE TYPES (Knopf)
A new collection of stories that range from laugh-out-loud funny to disturbingly dark — unflinching portraits of women and men struggling to bridge the gap between art and life
A young and ingratiating assistant to a movie star makes a blunder that puts his boss and a major studio at grave risk. A couple hires a partner for a threesome to rejuvenate their relationship after the birth of their child. An assistant at a prestigious literary journal reconnects with a middle school frenemy and finds that his carefully constructed world of refinement cannot protect him from his past.
In these and other stories, Tom Bissell vividly renders the complex worlds of characters on the brink of artistic and personal crisis — writers, actors, and other creative types who see things slightly differently from the rest of us. Surreal, poignant, squirmingly awkward — and always just a little bit off — this collection is a brilliant new offering from one of the most versatile and talented writers in America today.
A new collection of short stories from the author of The Disaster Artist, Magic Hours, and Extra Lives (among others). I’ve only read Bissell’s non-fiction and journalism in the past, so I’m intrigued to read his fiction. Creative Types is due to be published by Pantheon on October 13th, 2020, in North America and in the UK.
Follow the Author: Goodreads
Review copy received via NetGalley
Tom Bradby, DOUBLE AGENT (Bantam)
It was supposed to be a quiet family weekend away. But for Senior MI6 officer Kate Henderson, nothing is ever that simple…
Kidnapped in Venice by a Russian defector, Kate knows she’s in trouble. But all is not as it seems. The spy offers her conclusive evidence that the British Prime Minister is a live agent working for Moscow. Kate’s holiday quickly becomes the start of her next mission.
With proof of the PM involved in a sordid scandal and a financial paper trail that undeniably links him to the Russians, the evidence seems bulletproof. But the motives of the defector are anything but clear. And, more worryingly, it seems that there are key people at the heart of the British Establishment who refuse to acknowledge the reality in front of them.
Kate can trust no one, and this mission will push her dangerously close to the edge… but is that the price to pay for the truth?
This is the second novel in Bradby’s Kate Henderson series, following Secret Service. I haven’t had a chance to read the first in the series, but both sound great and I’m eager to get caught up ASAP. Since last summer, I’ve become far more interested in espionage fiction (historical and contemporary), and this series looks perfect. Double Agent is due to be published by Bantam in the UK (May 28th) and Atlantic Monthly Press in North America (November 3rd).
Mike Brooks, ROAD TO REDEMPTION (Black Library)
Zeke of House Cawdor is on a crusade of vengeance. His entire world has been burned down, and he’ll stop at nothing to get those responsible – even it means facing his own troubled past.
From within the hives of Necromunda, where unchecked billions teem and fester, House Cawdor knows the truth – the doom of the universe hangs eternal over their heads. You cannot escape it, and you cannot escape your past.
Floodgrave burns, and with it burns the life Zeke of House Cawdor has built. With his friends dead, their children missing, and the culprits nowhere to be found, Zeke takes up the weapons he swore to leave behind, and starts a path downhive that will see him face the man he used to be. He will stop at nothing, even if that means bringing the horrors of his past back into the light.
A new Necromunda novel from one of Black Library’s best new writers. Cawdor were never my favourite House, but I’m still really looking forward to reading this novel. (Necromunda was my second GW game, but was always my favourite, even though I haven’t played a game in more than two decades.) I’ll be reading this very soon. Road to Redemption is out now, published by Black Library.
Also on CR: Interview with Mike Brooks (2015)
K.A. Doore, CHRONICLES OF GHADID Trilogy (Tor)
A novice assassin is on the hunt for someone killing their own…
Divine justice is written in blood.
Or so Amastan has been taught. As a new assassin in the Basbowen family, he’s already having second thoughts about taking a life. A scarcity of contracts ends up being just what he needs.
Until, unexpectedly, Amastan finds the body of a very important drum chief. Until, impossibly, Basbowen’s finest start showing up dead, with their murderous jaan running wild in the dusty streets of Ghadid. Until, inevitably, Amastan is ordered to solve these murders, before the family gets blamed.
Every life has its price, but when the tables are turned, Amastan must find this perfect assassin or be their next target.
Tor Books kindly sent me all three of these novels for review. It’s a series I’ve wanted to get around to since the first novel was released, but for many reasons didn’t get around to reading back then. Now, I really have no excuse! The first two novels — The Perfect Assassin and The Impossible Contract — are out now, and The Unconquered City is due to be published by Tor Books in North America and in the UK, on August 18th.
Gardner Dozois & Michael Swanwick, CITY UNDER THE STARS (Tor.com)
City Under the Stars completes a journey undertaken by Gardner Dozois and Michael Swanwick 25 years ago, when they published the novella The City of God. Over two decades later, the two realized there was more to the story, and began the work of expanding it. Now, after Gardner Dozois’ tragic passing, the story can be told in full.
God was in his Heaven—which was fifteen miles away, due east.
Far in Earth’s future, in a post-utopian hell-hole, Hanson works ten solid back-breaking hours a day, shoveling endless mountains of coal, within sight of the iridescent wall that separates what’s left of humanity from their gods.
One day, after a tragedy of his own making, Hanson leaves York, not knowing what he will do, or how he will survive in the wilderness without work. He finds himself drawn to the wall, to the elusive promise of God. And when the impossible happens, he steps through, into the city beyond.
The impossible was only the beginning.
Daniel W. Drezner, THE TODDLER IN CHIEF (University of Chicago Press)
“It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room… And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.” — An anonymous senior administrative official in an op-ed published in a New York Times op-ed, September 5, 2018
Every president faces criticism and caricature. Donald Trump, however, is unique in that he is routinely characterized in ways more suitable for a toddler. What’s more, it is not just Democrats, pundits, or protestors who compare the president to a child; Trump’s staffers, subordinates, and allies on Capitol Hill also describe Trump like a small, badly behaved preschooler.
In April 2017, Daniel W. Drezner began curating every example he could find of a Trump ally describing the president like a toddler. So far, he’s collected more than one thousand tweets — a rate of more than one a day. In The Toddler-in-Chief, Drezner draws on these examples to take readers through the different dimensions of Trump’s infantile behavior, from temper tantrums to poor impulse control to the possibility that the President has had too much screen time. How much damage can really be done by a giant man-baby? Quite a lot, Drezner argues, due to the winnowing away of presidential checks and balances over the past fifty years. In these pages, Drezner follows his theme — the specific ways in which sharing some of the traits of a toddler makes a person ill-suited to the presidency — to show the lasting, deleterious impact the Trump administration will have on American foreign policy and democracy.
The “adults in the room” may not be able to rein in Trump’s toddler-like behavior, but, with the 2020 election fast approaching, the American people canthink about whether they want the most powerful office turned into a poorly run political day care facility. Drezner exhorts us to elect a commander-in-chief, not a toddler-in-chief. And along the way, he shows how we must rethink the terrifying powers we have given the presidency.
I’ve been reading Drezner’s work ever since he published the excellent Theories of International Politics and Zombies. After Trump’s election, Drezner gained a substantial following due to his #ToddlerInChief Twitter thread (which is both very funny and utterly depressing, in equal measure). The Toddler in Chief is out now, published by University of Chicago Press in North America and in the UK.
Lindsay Ellis, AXIOM’S ELLIS (St. Martin’s Press)
Truth is a human right.
It’s fall 2007. A well-timed leak has revealed that the US government might have engaged in first contact. Cora Sabino is doing everything she can to avoid the whole mess, since the force driving the controversy is her whistleblower father. Even though Cora hasn’t spoken to him in years, his celebrity has caught the attention of the press, the Internet, the paparazzi, and the government — and with him in hiding, that attention is on her. She neither knows nor cares whether her father’s leaks are a hoax, and wants nothing to do with him — until she learns just how deeply entrenched her family is in the cover-up, and that an extraterrestrial presence has been on Earth for decades.
Realizing the extent to which both she and the public have been lied to, she sets out to gather as much information as she can, and finds that the best way for her to uncover the truth is not as a whistleblower, but as an intermediary. The alien presence has been completely uncommunicative until she convinces one of them that she can act as their interpreter, becoming the first and only human vessel of communication. Their otherworldly connection will change everything she thought she knew about being human — and could unleash a force more sinister than she ever imagined.
Scott Eyman, CARY GRANT: A BRILLIANT DISGUISE (Simon & Schuster)
Film historian and acclaimed New York Times bestselling biographer Scott Eyman has written the definitive biography of Hollywood legend Cary Grant, one of the most accomplished — and beloved — actors of his generation, who remains as popular as ever today.
Born Archibald Leach in 1904, he came to America as a teenaged acrobat to find fame and fortune, but he was always haunted by his past. His father was a feckless alcoholic, and his mother was committed to an asylum when Archie was eleven years old. He believed her to be dead until he was informed she was alive when he was thirty-one years old. Because of this experience Grant would have difficulty forming close attachments throughout his life. He married five times and had numerous affairs.
Despite a remarkable degree of success, Grant remained deeply conflicted about his past, his present, his basic identity, and even the public that worshipped him in movies such as Gunga Din, Notorious, and North by Northwest.
Drawing on Grant’s own papers, extensive archival research, and interviews with family and friends, this is the definitive portrait of a movie immortal.
I grew up watching Cary Grant’s movies: he was a favourite of my dad’s (who planted all the seeds that grew into my current movie-nerd state). Seeing this book available for review made me realize how long it’s been since I last saw one of his movies. I think I’ll have to revisit some of them very soon. Cary Grant: A Brilliant Disguise is due to be published by Simon & Schuster in North America and in the UK, in October 2020.
Marc Freeman, MODERN FAMILY (St. Martin’s Press)
An oral history, with the full participation of cast and crew, of one of the most popular sitcoms in television history.
Since premiering in 2009, the groundbreaking television sitcom Modern Family has garnered tens of millions of devoted fans, earning 75 Emmy nominations and 22 Emmy Awards, including five in a row for Outstanding Comedy Series (one of only two sitcoms to ever achieve that feat). Professors have written about it. Psychologists have lectured on it. Leading publications, such as The New York Times and Washington Post, have explained their love for it. With funny, heartfelt and relatable stories about family, Modern Family has gained a worldwide following of hundreds of millions of viewers in countries as diverse as England, Israel, The Netherlands, Germany, and South Africa.
As much as people love the show, few know the stories behind it. How did a kernel of an idea by Emmy-winning writers Steve Levitan and Chris Lloyd morph into a television juggernaut? Where did they find the cast? How did they come up with story ideas and film favorite episodes? What went on behind the scenes? Up until now, there have been individual stories and interviews about the show, but nothing comprehensive that captures the complete story of the series.
Marc Freeman’s Modern Family: The Untold Oral History of One of Television’s Groundbreaking Sitcoms is the only major book ever written that explores this show as told by those who created it. More than seventy people, including the entire cast, crew, and creators, detail the full history of this iconic sitcom. The cast recalls their memories of the trials and tribulations of casting. They share their impressions from the first table read through the last light turning out. Writers, directors, and performers walk readers through storylines, production and favorite episodes. Guest stars such as Elizabeth Banks, Josh Gad, Adam Devine, Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane recall their appearances on the show while others recount their experiences working with Kevin Hart, Barbara Streisand, Ed Norton and more. Readers get to go behind the scenes and experience the show like never before, including personal photos. They’ll also discover the never-told fallout and divorce of the two showrunners, making the show two separate series blended into one. Even people unfamiliar with the show will gain deep insight into what it takes to put a series on television.
Typically, oral histories come out as retrospectives, based entirely on recall. This one will have the benefit of having the ending occur in real-time. From script development to final season (the 11th season will be the show’s last) readers will get a glimpse of the cast’s relationships with each other and the emotions attached to saying goodbye to the best and longest-running workplace many of them expect to ever experience. Much like the series itself, this book shares a story of family, of conflict and collaboration, that went into this timeless, groundbreaking series.
It seems that there are a lot of books being written about TV series recently. With the excellent oral history of The Office recently published, a number of books about Friends, and a couple of others, it’s a good time for fans of the shows and also behind-the-scenes books. People like me. I think I found the show around season three, and have been watching ever since. It’s… not maintained the level of quality that it had for the first few seasons, but I’m going to get caught up before reading this. Modern Family is due to be published by St. Martin’s Press in North America and in the UK, on May 5th.
Ryan Gattis, THE SYSTEM (Picador)
The System can save you, or it can break you…
On the sixth of December 1993, a drug dealer called Scrappy is shot and left for dead on her mother’s lawn in South Central Los Angeles. A heroin addict witnesses the shooting, and seizes the moment to steal Scrappy’s drugs, as well as the handgun that was dropped at the scene. When he’s busted, he names local gang members Wizard and Dreamer as the shooters.
There’s only one problem: one of them is guilty; the other, innocent. None of that matters, though, when the gun turns up again – miles from where the shooting happened – and both are arrested. Innocent or not, the gang tells them both to keep their mouths shut and take their charges.
With these two off the streets, Little, the unlikeliest of new gang members, is given a very serious job: discover how the gun got moved, who moved it, and why. Because it had to be a frame-up and the cops had to be involved. Didn’t they?
Played out in the streets, precincts, jails, and courtrooms of Los Angeles, The System is a breakneck journey through every phase of the American criminal justice system. It is the story of a crime – from the moments before shots are fired, to the verdict and its violent aftershocks – told through the vivid chorus of those involved: the guilty, the innocent, the victim, the families who love them, and those simply doing their jobs. After all, justice is a matter of perspective.
I still haven’t got around to reading Gattis’s acclaimed All Involved. Given my fondness for Los Angeles-based fiction, I really don’t know why… Regardless, I was pre-approved for this on NetGalley, and I thought it sounded excellent. The System is due to be published by Picador in the UK (July 9th), and MCD in North America (July 28th).
Grady Hendrix, THE SOUTHERN BOOK CLUB’S GUIDE TO SLAYING VAMPIRES (Quirk)
Steel Magnolias meets Dracula in this ’90s-set horror novel about a women’s book club that must do battle with a mysterious newcomer to their small Southern town, perfect for murderinos and fans of Stephen King.
Patricia Campbell’s life has never felt smaller. Her husband is a workaholic, her teenage kids have their own lives, her senile mother-in-law needs constant care, and she’s always a step behind on her endless to-do list. The only thing keeping her sane is her book club, a close-knit group of Charleston women united by their love of true crime. At these meetings they’re as likely to talk about the Manson family as they are about their own families.
One evening after book club, Patricia is viciously attacked by an elderly neighbor, bringing the neighbor’s handsome nephew, James Harris, into her life. James is well traveled and well read, and he makes Patricia feel things she hasn’t felt in years. But when children on the other side of town go missing, their deaths written off by local police, Patricia has reason to believe James Harris is more of a Bundy than a Brad Pitt. The real problem? James is a monster of a different kind—and Patricia has already invited him in.
Little by little, James will insinuate himself into Patricia’s life and try to take everything she took for granted — including the book club — but she won’t surrender without a fight in this blood-soaked tale of neighborly kindness gone wrong.
Each of Hendrix’s books sounds interesting and distinct from pretty much everything else that’s being published today. Really looking forward to reading this soon. The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires is out now, published by Quirk Books in North America and in the UK.
Also on CR: Guest Post on “Childhood Inspirations”
Stark Holborn, TRIGGERNOMETRY
“I hereby arrest the fugitive “Mad” Malago Browne for murder, arson, robbery and acts of pernicious arithmetic against the Capitol States. Also the fugitive Pierre “Polecat” de Fermat, for sundry of the same.”
In the Western States, it doesn’t pay to count your blessings.
Professor Malago Browne, once the most notorious mathematician in the west, has been trying to leave her outlaw past behind and lead a quiet life. But all of that changes when her former partner – the deadly and capricious Pierre de Fermat – shows up with a proposition of a lifetime.
One last job, one last ride: a heist big enough to escape the tyranny of the Capitol forever.
With a misfit crew of renegade topologists and rebel statisticians, Browne and Fermat prepare to take on the Capitol in the crime of the century. Little do they know the odds are stacked against them…
This is an intriguing-sounding new novella from the author of the fantastic Nunslinger. I read this very soon after receiving it: entertaining, excellently-written and an intriguing and very well-executed premise. Definitely recommended. Triggernometry is out now.
Also on CR: Interview with Stark Holborn (2020)
Richard Kadrey, BALLISTIC KISS (Voyager)
As the battle between warring angels continues, James Stark is focused on seemingly simpler matters now that he’s resurfaced on earth: an invasion of ghosts. L.A.’s Little Cairo neighborhood has suddenly been overrun by violent spirits, and Thomas Abbott knows if anyone can figure out why they’ve appeared — and how to get rid of them — it’s Stark.
Armed with the Room of Thirteen Doors, Stark quickly learns that the answer may reach back to the 1970s and the unsolved murder of small-time actor, Chris Stein. As he begins to dig into the cold case, another area of Stark’s life takes an unexpected turn when he becomes entangled with Janet, a woman he saved during the High Plains Drifter zombie attack.
Janet’s brush with the living dead hasn’t quenched her thirst for danger. She’s an adrenaline junkie and a member of The Zero Lodge — a club that promises “there’s zero chance you’ll get out alive.” The Lodge attracts thrill seekers who flock to perilous events such as night walks through the LA Zoo — with its deadliest animals uncaged. Joining the lodge to be with Janet, Stark makes a pair of crucial discoveries that could decide the fate of LA and Heaven itself.
To prevent the Little Cairo haunting from consuming the city, Stark must piece together the connections between the Lodge and a missing angel last seen in a Hollywood porn palace. But while he may dispatch the ghosts, Stark knows that without his help, the bloody war in Heaven could rage forever.
The penultimate Sandman Slim novel! Which is pretty crazy: I was an intern at Voyager when they were first released in the UK, and have been a fan ever since. Superb author, very highly recommended. Ballistic Kiss is due to be published by Voyager in North America and in the UK, on August 25th, 2020.
Nicole Krauss, TO BE A MAN (Harper)
In one of her strongest works of fiction yet, Nicole Krauss plunges fearlessly into the struggle to understand what it is to be a man and what it is to be a woman, and the arising tensions that have existed from the very beginning of time. Set in our contemporary moment, and moving across the globe from Switzerland, Japan, and New York City to Tel Aviv, Los Angeles, and South America, the stories in To Be a Man feature male characters as fathers, lovers, friends, children, seducers, and even a lost husband who may never have been a husband at all.
The way these stories mirror one other and resonate is beautiful, with a balance so finely tuned that the book almost feels like a novel. Echoes ring through stages of life: aging parents and new-born babies; young women’s coming of age and the newfound, somewhat bewildering sexual power that accompanies it; generational gaps and unexpected deliveries of strange new leases on life; mystery and wonder at a life lived or a future waiting to unfold. To Be a Man illuminates with a fierce, unwavering light the forces driving human existence: sex, power, violence, passion, self-discovery, growing older. Profound, poignant, and brilliant, Krauss’s stories are at once startling and deeply moving, but always revealing of all-too-human weakness and strength.
A new collection from the author of The History of Love, Great House, and others. Looking forward to reading these stories. To Be a Man is due to be published by Harper in North America (November 3rd) and Bloomsbury in the UK (November 12th).
Hari Kunzru, RED PILL (Knopf)
After receiving a prestigious writing fellowship in Germany, the narrator of Red Pill arrives in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee and struggles to accomplish anything at all. Instead of working on the book he has proposed to write, he takes long walks and binge-watches Blue Lives — a violent cop show that becomes weirdly compelling in its bleak, Darwinian view of life — and soon begins to wonder if his writing has any value at all.
Wannsee is a place full of ghosts: Across the lake, the narrator can see the villa where the Nazis planned the Final Solution, and in his walks he passes the grave of the Romantic writer Heinrich von Kleist, who killed himself after deciding that “no happiness was possible here on earth.” When some friends drag him to a party where he meets Anton, the creator of Blue Lives, the narrator begins to believe that the two of them are involved in a cosmic battle, and that Anton is “red-pilling” his viewers — turning them toward an ugly, alt-rightish worldview — ultimately forcing the narrator to wonder if he is losing his mind.
Kunzru’s novels always sound interesting, but for some reason I’ve never got around to reading one. I have no idea why, given that I’ve bought most of his recent ones… Kindle Syndrome (can’t see it on a shelf, so forget about it). This one caught my eye not only because of the title and links to contemporary politics, but because it’s based in Berlin — I visited a friend there last year, which was my first time in the city (despite living in Germany for seven-ish years, between 1989-1996). Anyway, this looks really interesting and I’m going to read it very soon. Red Pill is due to be published by Knopf in North America (September 1st) and Scribner in the UK (September 3rd).
Dinah Lenney, COFFEE (Bloomsbury)
Object Lessons is a series of short, beautifully designed books about the hidden lives of ordinary things.
Coffee — it’s the thing that gets us through, and over, and around. The thing — the beverage, the break, the ritual — we choose to slow ourselves down or speed ourselves up. The excuse to pause; the reason to meet; the charge we who drink it allow ourselves in lieu of something stronger or scarier. Coffee goes to lifestyle, and character, and sensibility: where do we buy it, how do we brew it, how strong can we take it, how often, how hot, how cold? How does coffee remind us, stir us, comfort us?
But Coffee is about more than coffee: it’s a personal history and a promise to self; in her confrontation with the hours (with time — big picture, little picture), Dinah Lenney faces head-on the challenges of growing older and carrying on.
I’ve seen a few of the books in Bloomsbury’s Object Lessons series, and they all look rather interesting. This one, however, is about one of my favourite things in the world: coffee. Coffee is out now, published by Bloomsbury in North America and in the UK. (As an aside, I really love the cover design for this series of books.)
Sam J. Miller, THE BLADE BETWEEN (Ecco)
A frightening and uncanny ghost story about a rapidly changing city in upstate New York and the mysterious forces that threaten it.
Ronan Szepessy promised himself he’d never return to Hudson. The sleepy upstate town was no place for a restless gay photographer. But his father is ill and New York City’s distractions have become too much for him. He hopes that a quick visit will help him recharge.
Ronan reconnects with two friends from high school: Dom, his first love, and Dom’s wife, Attalah. The three former misfits mourn what their town has become — overrun by gentrifiers and corporate interests. With friends and neighbors getting evicted en masse and a mayoral election coming up, Ronan and Attalah craft a plan to rattle the newcomers and expose their true motives. But in doing so, they unleash something far more mysterious and uncontainable.
Hudson has a rich, proud history and, it turns out, the real-state developers aren’t the only forces threatening its well-being: the spirits undergirding this once-thriving industrial town are enraged. Ronan’s hijinks have overlapped with a bubbling up of hate and violence among friends and neighbors, and everything is spiraling out of control. Ronan must summon the very best of himself to shed his own demons and save the city he once loathed.
The new novel from the author of Blackfish City. I haven’t had a chance to read the previous novel, but I spotted this and thought it sounded really interesting. It’s not out for some time, but I might read it soon anyway. The Blade Between is due to be published by Ecco in North America and in the UK, on December 1st, 2020.
Tamsyn Muir, HARROW THE NINTH (Tor.com)
She answered the Emperor’s call.
She arrived with her arts, her wits, and her only friend.
In victory, her world has turned to ash.
After rocking the cosmos with her deathly debut, Tamsyn Muir continues the story of the penumbral Ninth House in Harrow the Ninth, a mind-twisting puzzle box of mystery, murder, magic, and mayhem. Nothing is as it seems in the halls of the Emperor, and the fate of the galaxy rests on one woman’s shoulders.
Harrowhark Nonagesimus, last necromancer of the Ninth House, has been drafted by her Emperor to fight an unwinnable war. Side-by-side with a detested rival, Harrow must perfect her skills and become an angel of undeath — but her health is failing, her sword makes her nauseous, and even her mind is threatening to betray her.
Sealed in the gothic gloom of the Emperor’s Mithraeum with three unfriendly teachers, hunted by the mad ghost of a murdered planet, Harrow must confront two unwelcome questions: is somebody trying to kill her? And if they succeeded, would the universe be better off?
The follow-up to the very well-received Gideon the Ninth (which I still have to read). Looking forward to reading the two books very soon. Harrow the Ninth is due to be published by Tor.com in North America and in the UK, on August 4th, 2020.
John Niven, THE F*CK-IT LIST (William Heinemann)
You’re terminally ill.
Who do you kill?
Set in a near-future America, an America that has borne two terms of a Trump Presidency and is now in the first term of Donald’s daughter as president, Frank Brill, a retired small-town newspaper editor, lives in a world where the populist policies Trump is currently so keen to pursue have been a reality for some years and are getting even more extreme – an erosion of abortion rights, less and less gun control, xenophobic immigration policies.
Frank, a good man, has just been given a terminal diagnosis. Rather than compile a bucket list of all the things he’s ever wanted to do in his life, he instead has at the ready his ‘fuck-it list’. Because Frank has had to endure more than his fair share of personal misfortune. And he has the names of those who are to blame for all of the tragedies that have befallen him.
But eventually, as he becomes more accustomed to dishing out cold revenge and the stakes get higher and higher, and with a rogue county sheriff on his tail, there only remains one name left at the bottom of his fuck-it list.
I’ve been a fan of Niven’s for some time — I think my first of his novels was Straight White Male. This one sounds great, too, and I’ll be reading it very soon. The F*ck-It List is out now, published by William Heinemann in the UK and North America.
Also on CR: Review of Straight White Male
Karen Osborne, ARCHITECTS OF MEMORY (Tor Books)
Millions died after the first contact. An alien weapon holds the key to redemption — or annihilation.
Terminally ill salvage pilot Ash Jackson lost everything in the war with the alien Vai, but she’ll be damned if she loses her future. Her plan: to buy, beg, or lie her way out of corporate indenture and find a cure. When her crew salvages a genocidal weapon from a ravaged starship above a dead colony, Ash uncovers a conspiracy of corporate intrigue and betrayal that threatens to turn her into a living weapon.
I spotted this a while ago in a Macmillan catalogue, and I’ve been looking forward to giving it a try ever since. Sounds really interesting. Architects of Memory, the first in the author’s Memory War series, is due to be published by Tor Books in North America and in the UK, on August 25th, 2020.
Alex Pavesi, THE EIGHTH DETECTIVE (Henry Holt)
A young editor travels to a remote village in the Mediterranean in the hopes of convincing a reclusive writer to republish his collection of detective stories, only to realize that there are greater mysteries beyond the pages of books.
There are rules for murder mysteries. There must be a victim. A suspect. A detective. The rest is just shuffling the sequence. Expanding the permutations. Grant McAllister, a professor of mathematics, once sat down and worked them all out – calculating the different orders and possibilities of a mystery into seven perfect detective stories he quietly published. But that was thirty years ago. Now Grant lives in seclusion on a remote Mediterranean island, counting the rest of his days.
Until Julia Hart, a sharp, ambitious editor knocks on his door. Julia wishes to republish his book, and together they must revisit those old stories: an author hiding from his past, and an editor, keen to understand it.
But there are things in the stories that don’t add up. Inconsistencies left by Grant that a sharp-eyed editor begins to suspect are more than mistakes. They may be clues, and Julia finds herself with a mystery of her own to solve.
Alex Pavesi’s The Eighth Detective is a cerebral, inventive novel with a modern twist, where nothing is what it seems, and proof that the best mysteries break all the rules.
This sounds really interesting. Strangely, it’s also stuck in my mind because of the number eight: Peter Swanson’s excellent new novel, Eight Perfect Murders entered my consciousness at the same time, and so they are forever more linked… Maybe it’s a cosmic thing. Who knows. Regardless, I started reading this pretty soon after getting it, and should finish it today. I’m enjoying it, too. The Eighth Detective is due to be published by Henry Holt in North America (August 4th) and Michael Joseph in the UK (August 20th, as Eight Detectives).
Ross Payton, ZOMBIES OF THE WORLD (Andrews McMeel Publishing)
Zombies have plagued humanity’s nightmares for centuries, but fortunately, the scientific community has created this detailed and completely serious guide to the undead. Only Zombies of the World tackles this issue and many more, so you might want to read up before a zombie tackles you!
Zombies menace humanity, yet we barely understand them. There are books that show you how to kill the undead, but this is the first field guide to explain the importance of zombies to us. Zombies of the World reveals the undead to be a valuable part of our ecosystem and the key to new discoveries in medicine and technology.
Zombies of the World uses captivating illustrations to document how evolution has led to a wide variety of species. Few outside the scientific community even realize that creatures like the Egyptian Mummy (Mortifera mumia aegyptus) are actually zombies. Some species are even harmless to humans. The Dancing Zombie (Mortifera immortalis choreographicus) only seeks to thrill humans with elaborate dance routines. Discover how our history has been affected by the undead and what we can learn from “scientific” research. The answer might surprise you!
Wayne Santos, THE CHIMERA CODE (Solaris)
Neuromancer for a non-binary age: an action-packed techno-thriller with a side of magical realism.
Everything’s for hire – even magic.
If you need something done, they’re the best: a tough, resourceful mage, a lab-created genderless hacker and a cyborg with a big gun.
But when they’re hired by a virtual construct to destroy the other copies of himself, and the down payment is a new magical skill, Cloke knows this job is going to be a league harder than anything they’ve ever done.
This sounds like it could be quite interesting. Haven’t read much cyberpunk-type sci-fi, but I am certainly interested in reading more. The Chimera Code is due to be published by Solaris in November 2020.
Elissa R. Sloan, THE UNRAVELING OF CASSIDY HOLMES (William Morrow)
Cassidy Holmes isn’t just a celebrity.
She is “Sassy Gloss,” the fourth member of the hottest pop group America has ever seen. Hotter than Britney dancing with a snake, hotter than Christina getting dirrty, Gloss was the pop act that everyone idolized. Fans couldn’t get enough of them, their music, and the drama that followed them like moths to a flame — until the group’s sudden implosion in 2002. And at the center of it all was Sassy Cassy, the Texan with a signature smirk that had everyone falling for her.
But now she’s dead. Suicide.
The world is reeling from this unexpected news, but no one is more shocked than the three remaining Glossies. Fifteen years ago, Rose, Merry, and Yumi had been the closest to Cassidy, and this loss is hitting them hard. Before the group split, they each had a special bond with Cassidy — truths they told, secrets they shared. But after years apart, each of them is wondering: what could they have done?
Told in multiple perspectives — including Cassidy herself — and different timelines, this is a behind-the-scenes look into the rise and fall of a pop icon, and a penetrating examination of the dark side of celebrity and the industry that profits from it.
A debut novel that “probes the dark side of fame after a former pop star ends her own life.” No doubt this will appeal to fans of Daisy Jones & the Six (one of my favourites from last year), Molly Bit (also pretty good), and other novels in this sub-genre. I read this pretty soon after getting it, and very much enjoyed it. The Unraveling of Cassidy Jones is due to be published by William Morrow in North America and in the UK, on September 1st, 2020.
Also on CR: Review of The Unraveling of Cassidy Jones
Jonathan Strahan (ed.), THE BOOK OF DRAGONS (Voyager)
Modern masters of fantasy and science fiction put their unique spin on the greatest of mythical beasts — the dragon — in never-before-seen works written exclusively for this fantasy anthology compiled by award-winning editor Jonathan Strahan and with art by Rovina Cai!
Here there be dragons…
From China to Europe, Africa to North America, dragons have long captured our imagination in myth and legend. Whether they are rampaging beasts awaiting a brave hero to slay or benevolent sages who have much to teach humanity, dragons are intrinsically connected to stories of creation, adventure, and struggle beloved for generations.
Bringing together nearly thirty stories and poems from some of the greatest science fiction and fantasy writers working today — Garth Nix, Scott Lynch, R.F. Kuang, Ann Leckie & Rachel Swirsky, Daniel Abraham, Peter S. Beagle, Beth Cato, Zen Cho, C. S. E Cooney, Aliette de Bodard, Kate Elliott, Theodora Goss, Ellen Klages, Ken Liu, Patricia A McKillip, K. J. Parker, Kelly Robson, Michael Swanwick, Jo Walton, Elle Katharine White, Jane Yolen, Kelly Barnhill, Brooke Bolander, Sarah Gailey, and J. Y. Yang — and illustrated by award-nominated artist Rovina Cai with black-and-white line drawings specific to each entry throughout, this extraordinary collection vividly breathes fire and life into one of our most captivating and feared magical creatures as never before and is sure to become a treasured keepsake for fans of fantasy, science fiction, and fairy tales.
That table of contents makes this look like a great, must-read collection. I’ll probably start dipping into the stories included in between longer novels. The Book of Dragons is due to be published by Voyager in North America (July 7th) and in the UK (June 25th).
Peter Swanson, EIGHT PERFECT MURDERS (William Morrow)
A chilling tale of psychological suspense and an homage to the thriller genre tailor-made for fans: the story of a bookseller who finds himself at the center of an FBI investigation because a very clever killer has started using his list of fiction’s most ingenious murders.
Years ago, bookseller and mystery aficionado Malcolm Kershaw compiled a list of the genre’s most unsolvable murders, those that are almost impossible to crack — which he titled “Eight Perfect Murders” — chosen from among the best of the best including Agatha Christie’s A. B. C. Murders, Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train, Ira Levin’s Death Trap, A. A. Milne’s Red House Mystery, Anthony Berkeley Cox’s Malice Aforethought, James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity, John D. Macdonald’s The Drowner, and Donna Tartt’s A Secret History.
But no one is more surprised than Mal, now the owner of the Old Devils Bookstore in Boston, when an FBI agent comes knocking on his door one snowy day in February. She’s looking for information about a series of unsolved murders that look eerily similar to the killings on Mal’s old list. And the FBI agent isn’t the only one interested in this bookseller who spends almost every night at home reading. The killer is out there, watching his every move — a diabolical threat who knows way too much about Mal’s personal history, especially the secrets he’s never told anyone, even his recently deceased wife.
To protect himself, Mal begins looking into possible suspects… and sees a killer in everyone around him. But Mal doesn’t count on the investigation leaving a trail of death in its wake. Suddenly, a series of shocking twists leaves more victims dead — and the noose around Mal’s neck grows so tight he might never escape.
A superb author, and a superb premise. I started reading this pretty much as soon as I got it. Eight Perfect Murders is out now, published in North America by William Morrow and in the UK by Faber (as Rules for Perfect Murders — it’s also on sale at the time of writing, only 99p).
Breanna Teintze, LADY OF SHADOWS (Jo Fletcher Books)
Death is simple. Dreams are dangerous. Life is… unexpected.
Outlaw wizard Corcoran Gray expected death to be final, but life, and his loved ones, had other plans. A year after being resurrected and flung into a new body, he’s still trying to come to terms with his situation – and his self – when the all-powerful Mages’ Guild demands his help to stop a deadly plague.
He’s inclined to refuse the organisation that still wants him dead, until his partner Brix starts showing symptoms – to save her, Gray will do anything, even if it means working with his greatest enemies.
But it quickly becomes clear that this is no normal plague. The situation is more complicated, and more lethal, than anyone has realised. Ancient dangers are stirring, and thousands of lives are at stake…
This is the follow-up to Lord of Secrets, and second book in the Empty Gods series. The series sounds interesting, and I hope to give it a try at some point. Lady of Shadows is out now, published by Jo Fletcher Books.
Don Winslow, BROKEN (William Morrow)
In six intense short novels connected by the themes of crime, corruption, vengeance, justice, loss, betrayal, guilt and redemption, Broken is #1 international bestseller Don Winslow at his nerve-shattering, heart-stopping, heartbreaking best. InBroken, he creates a world of high-level thieves and low-life crooks, obsessed cops struggling with life on and off the job, private detectives, dope dealers, bounty hunters and fugitives, the lost souls driving without headlights through the dark night on the American criminal highway.
With his trademark blend of insight, humanity, humor, action and the highest level of literary craftsmanship, Winslow delivers a collection of tales that will become classics of crime fiction.
I’ve been looking forward to this ever since it was announced, and started it very soon after receiving it — it is, as I expected, marvellous. I’ll get a review up this coming week, but the TL;DR version is: superb, varied, gripping, and brilliant. I very much enjoyed the author’s latest stand-alone before this, The Force, and really must get around to reading the Cartel series (all of which, of course, I have already bought). Broken is out now, published by William Morrow in North America and Harper Collins in the UK.
Also on CR: Review of The Force
Chris Wraight, VALDOR: BIRTH OF THE IMPERIUM (Black Library)
Constantin Valdor is the chief of the Emperor’s Custodian Guard and among the closest of His companions. As the wars of Unity come to their end, he faces his greatest challenge, as dark deeds are required to pave mankind’s road to the stars.
Constantin Valdor. It is a name that brings forth images of heroism, honour and peerless duty. For it is he who commands the will of the Legio Custodes that most esteemed and dedicated cadre of elite warriors. He is the Emperor’s sword, His shield, His banner and he knows no equal. Clad in shining auramite, his fist clenched around the haft of his Guardian Spear, he is the bulwark against all enemies of the throne, within or without.
Nearing the end of the wars of Unity, Valdor’s courage and purpose is put to the test as never before. The petty warlords and tyrants of Old Earth have been all but vanquished, and the Emperor’s armies are triumphant. What now for the nascent Imperium and what fate its forgotten soldiers, its Thunder Warriors and armies of Unity? A new force is rising, one which shall eclipse all others and open the way to the stars. But change on Terra is seldom bloodless and for progress to be ensured darker deeds are necessary.
Wraight seems to have carved out a niche for himself: Terra. With his Vaults of Terra and Watchers of the Throne series, he has turned a lot of his attention to events on humanity’s homeworld. In Birth of the Imperium, he turns back the clock to the beginning of the Emperor’s reign. Looking forward to reading this. Birth of the Imperium is out now, published by Black Library.
Various, ANATHEMAS (Black Library)
Unexplained deaths terrify the crew of a tank. A strange instrument beguiles its audience. A man fears for his sanity within a plague-riddled hive. This grim collection of unspeakable cosmic horrors and arcane menaces unveils the subtle darkness that lurks within the souls of mankind and the sinister forces tormenting them.
A bitter sacrifice haunts the forest of a backwater planet; in a plague-riddled hive, a man faces a harrowing choice; an instrument of singular beauty beguiles a failing musician…
There is darkness within the beleaguered souls of those who suffer the worlds of Warhammer. Whether it’s the arcane menaces of the Mortal Realms, or the cosmic nightmares of the 41st Millennium, none are immune to the evil that preys upon the desperate, exploits the cruel and seduces the unfulfilled.
The third in the series of Warhammer Horror anthologies, Anathemas includes more razor-sharp tales of terror and insanity from the imaginings of David Annandale, C L Werner, Jake Ozga, Lora Gray and many more.
A Threnody for Kolchev by Darius Hinks
Vox Daemonicus by James Forster
The Thing in the Woods by Paul Kearney
Hab Fever Lockdown by Justin D Hill
Voices in the Glass by Richard Strachan
Skin Man by Tim Waggoner
These Hands, These Wings by Lora Gray
A Deep and Steady Tread by David Annandale
Mud and Mist by John Goodrich
Suffer the Vision by Jake Ozga
The Funeral by Darius Hinks
The Shadow Crown by C L Werner
Runner by Alan Bao
Miracles by Nicholas Wolf
A new collection of Warhammer Horror short fiction. I’ve really enjoyed these collections — the others available so far are The Wicked & the Damned, Maledictions and Invocations — and I’m looking forward to reading these. Anathemas is out now, published by Black Library.
Various, INFERNO! VOLUME 5 (Black Library)
Inferno! Volume 5 showcases some of the best new fiction from across Warhammer’s many universes: from the unending darkness of the war-torn 41st Millennium, to the gang-infested Underhive of Necromunda, through to the tumultuous lands of the Chaos-ravaged Mortal Realms.
Watchers of Battle by Ben Counter
No Quarter by Rob J Hayes
Mournclaw by Ben Galley
The Last Knight: Part One by Gavin G Smith
River of Death by Anna Stephens
Respite’s End by Marc Collins
No Matter the Cost by Michael R Fletcher
Curse of the Lucky by Gary Kloster
Best Death Wins by Sean Grigsby
Trail of Ash by Graeme Lyon
Castle of the Exile by Gareth Hanrahan
At the Sign of the Brazen Claw: Part Five – The Hounds of Nagash by Guy Haley
Another great-looking collection of new Black Library fiction. This re-launch of the Inferno! series has been great so far, and I’ve discovered a few new authors I’ll be keeping track of in the future. I’ve read the first couple of stories in this collection, and enjoyed them. Inferno! Volume 5 is out now, published by Black Library.
Various, OATHS AND CONQUESTS (Black Library)
The Mortal Realms are burning. The hope brought by Sigmar’s storm is now nothing more than a dwindling light against the darkness of Chaos, as mighty warlords rise to prominence and teeming hordes of ratmen and greenskins threaten to topple civilisation altogether. Stormcast and mortal alike take up arms in defence of the bastions of Order, united in their hatred of Chaos. But every warrior killed in battle strengthens the legions of Nagash, which march relentlessly in their crusade against the living. This Age of Sigmar anthology includes thirteen tales concerning the oaths of the righteous, and the conquests of the damned.
The Fist of an Angry God by William King
The Garden of Mortal Delights by Robert Rath
Shriekstone by Evan Dicken
The Serpent’s Bargain by Jamie Crisalli
A Tithe of Bone by Michael R Fletcher
Beneath the Rust by Graeme Lyon
The Unlamented Archpustulent of Clan Morbidus by David Guymer
The Siege of Greenspire by Anna Stephens
Ghosts of Khaphtar by Miles A Drake
Bossgrot by Eric Gregory
Ashes of Grimnir by Michael J Hollows
Blessed Oblivion by Dale Lucas
Blood of the Flayer by Richard Strachan
Another new anthology? Yes. I’m a sucker for a good Black Library anthology — it’s where my Black Library reading started, before there was even a Black Library label on the books! This is a new anthology of just Age of Sigmar fiction, and I bought it mainly because it has William King’s first AoS story — the creator of Gotrek & Felix, I’ve been reading his work for decades. Also looking forward to trying the other stories within. Oaths & Conquests is out now, published by Black Library.