Featuring: Lauren Beukes, M.R. Carey, Michael Connelly, Lee Goldberg, Rachel Howzell Hall, Amanda Harlowe, Jennifer Hofmann, Claire Holroyde, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Melissa Korn, Joe R. Lansdale, Owen Laukkanen, Michael Laurence, Jennifer Levitz, Cassidy Lucas, Chuck Palahniuk, Daniel Polansky, Natasha Pulley, Elizabeth Shackelford, Curtis Sittenfeld, Lavie Tidhar, Robert Webb, Django Wexler
Lauren Beukes, AFTERLAND (Mulholland)
A shocking story of how far a mother will go to protect her son from a hostile world transformed by the absence of men.
Most of the men are dead. Three years after the pandemic known as The Manfall, governments still hold and life continues — but a world run by women isn’t always a better place.
Twelve-year-old Miles is one of the last boys alive, and his mother, Cole, will protect him at all costs. On the run after a horrific act of violence-and pursued by Cole’s own ruthless sister, Billie — all Cole wants is to raise her kid somewhere he won’t be preyed on as a reproductive resource or a sex object or a stand-in son. Someplace like home.
To get there, Cole and Miles must journey across a changed America in disguise as mother and daughter. From a military base in Seattle to a luxury bunker, from an anarchist commune in Salt Lake City to a roaming cult that’s all too ready to see Miles as the answer to their prayers, the two race to stay ahead at every step… even as Billie and her sinister crew draw closer.
A sharply feminist, high-stakes thriller from award-winning author Lauren Beukes, Afterland brilliantly blends psychological suspense, American noir, and science fiction into an adventure all its own — and perfect for our times.
I’ve been a fan of Beukes’s work ever since I read The Shining Girls. This novel was announced quite some time ago (originally titled Motherland), and I’ve been eagerly awaiting it ever since. I read it pretty much as soon as I got it, and I rather enjoyed it. The subject matter is a little close to reality (pandemic, etc.) which made for an interesting and at times more unsettling read. If you’re a fan of the author, then I would certainly recommend it. If you’re a little pandemic’d-out, though, you may want to wait until life is a little more normal. Afterlife is due to be published by Mulholland Books in North America (July 28th) and Michael Joseph in the UK (May 15th).
M.R. Carey, THE TRIALS OF KOLI (Orbit)
The earth wants to swallow us whole…
Koli never planned to set foot outside his small village. He knew that beyond its walls lay a fearsome landscape filled with choker trees, vicious beasts and Shunned men. But when he was exiled, he had no choice but to journey out into this strange world where every moment is a fight for survival.
And it’s not just Koli’s life that is threatened. Whole villages just like his are dying out.
But Koli heard a story, once. A story about lost London, and the mysterious tech of the Old Times that may still be there. If he can find it, there may still be a way for him to change his own fate – by saving the lives of those who are left.
This is the second novel in M.R. Carey’s Rampart Trilogy, following The Book of Koli. I haven’t had the chance to read the first in the trilogy, yet, but I was pre-approved for this on NetGalley, so wanted to give it a mention. Carey’s The Girl With All the Gifts remains on my favourite novels of the past ten years, so Carey will always be a must-read for me. (Even if, as now, I’m a little slow about getting around to reading his latest.) The Trials of Koli is due to be published by Orbit Books in North America and in the UK, on September 15th, 2020.
Michael Connelly, FAIR WARNING (Little, Brown)
Jack McEvoy, the journalist who never backs down, tracks a serial killer who has been operating completely under the radar — until now.
Veteran reporter Jack McEvoy has taken down killers before, but when a woman he had a one-night stand with is murdered in a particularly brutal way, McEvoy realizes he might be facing a criminal mind unlike any he’s ever encountered.
Jack investigates — against the warnings of the police and his own editor — and makes a shocking discovery that connects the crime to other mysterious deaths across the country. Undetected by law enforcement, a vicious killer has been hunting women, using genetic data to select and stalk his targets.
Uncovering the murkiest corners of the dark web, Jack races to find and protect the last source who can lead him to his quarry. But the killer has already chosen his next target, and he’s ready to strike.
The latest novel in the Bosch Universe — starring Jack McAvoy, the journalist at the centre of The Poet and The Scarecrow (who also pops up, on occasion, in the Bosch and Mickey Haller novels). Connelly’s a must-read for me (easily in my top five favourite authors), so I’ve been eagerly awaiting this ever since it was announced. I’ll be reading this very soon. Fair Warning is out now, published by Little, Brown in North America and Orion in the UK.
Also on CR: Many Connelly Reviews
Lee Goldberg, BONE CANYON (Thomas & Mercer)
A cold case heats up, revealing a deadly conspiracy…
A catastrophic wildfire scorches the Santa Monica Mountains, exposing the charred remains of a woman who disappeared years ago. The investigation is assigned to Eve Ronin, the youngest homicide detective in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, a position that forces her to prove herself again and again. This time, though, she has much more to prove.
Bones don’t lie, and these have a horrific story to tell. Eve tirelessly digs into the past, unearthing dark secrets that reveal nothing about the case is as it seems. With almost no one she can trust, her relentless pursuit of justice for the forgotten dead could put Eve’s own life in peril.
I enjoyed Lee Goldberg’s first Eve Ronin novel, Lost Hills. Looking forward to reading this follow-up soon. (As many know, I’m a sucker for an LA-based crime novel.) Bone Canyon is due to be published by Thomas & Mercer on January 5th, 2021.
Rachel Howzell Hall, AND NOW SHE’S GONE (Forge)
Isabel Lincoln is gone.
But is she missing?
It’s up to Grayson Sykes to find her. Although she is reluctant to track down a woman who may not want to be found, Gray’s search for Isabel Lincoln becomes more complicated and dangerous with every new revelation about the woman’s secrets and the truth she’s hidden from her friends and family.
Featuring two complicated women in a dangerous cat and mouse game, Rachel Howzell Hall’s And Now She’s Gone explores the nature of secrets — and how violence and fear can lead you to abandon everything in order to survive.
The new novel from Hall, the author of the acclaimed Elouise Norton series (which is rapidly climbing my TBR pile), and also They All Fall Down. Really looking forward to reading this one. And Now She’s Gone is due to be published by Forge on September 22nd, in North America and in the UK.
Amanda Harlowe, CONSENSUAL HEX (Grand Central)
When Lee, a first year at Smith, is raped under eerie circumstances during orientation week by an Amherst frat boy, she’s quickly disillusioned by her lack of recourse. As her trauma boils within her, Lee is selected for an exclusive seminar on Gender, Power, and Witchcraft, where she meets Luna (an alluring Brooklyn hipster), Gabi (who has a laundry list of phobias), and Charlotte (a waifish, chill international student). Granted a charter for a coven and suddenly in possession of real magic, the four girls are tasked by their aloof Professor with covertly retrieving a grimoire that an Amherst fraternity has gotten their hands on. But when the witches realize the frat brothers are using magic to commit and cover up sexual assault all over Northampton, their exploits escalate into vigilante justice. As Lee’s thirst for revenge on her rapist grows, things spiral out of control, pitting witch against witch as they must wrestle with how far one is willing to go to heal.
CONSENSUAL HEX is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive portrait of a young woman coming of age, uncovering the ways in which love and obsession and looking to fit in can go hand in hand. Lee, an outstanding, magical anti-heroine, refuses to be pigeonholed as a model victim or a horrific example. Instead, her caustic voice demands our attention, clawing out from every page, equally vicious and vulnerable as she lures us, then dares us, to transgress. Dark, biting, and archly camp, CONSENSUAL HEX announces Harlowe as a significant talent.
I spotted this a while ago in a catalogue, and I’ve been eagerly anticipating it ever since. It’s pitched as “The Craft for the #MeToo era… shot through with sharp humor and dark magic for readers of Ninth House and The Power” which is a pretty enticing description. I’ll be reading this very soon. Consensual Hex is due to be published by Grand Central Publishing in North America (October 6th) and Atlantic Books in the UK (October 8th in eBook; February 4th in print).
Jennifer Hofmann, THE STANDARDIZATION OF DEMORALIZATION PROCEDURES (Little, Brown)
An audacious debut that combines spycraft, betrayals, and reversals to show that sometimes it’s the secret that destroys you
On November 9, 1989, Bernd Zeiger, a Stasi officer in the twilight of his career, is deteriorating from a mysterious illness. Alarmed by the disappearance of Lara, a young waitress at his regular café with whom he is obsessed, he chases a series of clues throughout Berlin. The details of Lara’s vanishing trigger flashbacks to his entanglement with Johannes Held, a physicist who, twenty-five years earlier, infiltrated an American research institute dedicated to weaponizing the paranormal
Now, on the day the Berlin Wall falls and Zeiger’s mind begins to crumble, his past transgressions have come back to haunt him. Who is the real Lara, what happened to her, and what is her connection to these events? As the surveiller becomes the surveilled, all will be revealed, with shocking conse-quences. Set in the final, turbulent days of the Cold War, The Standardization of Demoralization Procedures blends the high-wire espionage of John le Carré with the brilliant absurdist humor of Milan Kundera to evoke the dehumanizing forces that turned neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend. Jennifer Hofmann’s debut is an affecting, layered investigation of conscience and country.
I spotted this a little while ago in a catalogue, and have been looking forward to reading it ever since. (This is the theme for this latest New Books post — almost all of them are novels I’ve been eagerly awaiting for some time.) I’ll hopefully read this very soon. The Standardization of Demoralization Procedures is due to be published on August 11th by Little, Brown (North America) and Riverrun (UK).
Follow the Author: Goodreads
Review copy received via Edelweiss
Claire Holroyde, THE EFFORT (Grand Central)
When dark comet UD3 was spotted near Jupiter’s orbit, its existence was largely ignored. But to individuals who knew better — scientists like Benjamin Schwartz, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies — the threat this eight-kilometer comet posed to the survival of the human race was unthinkable. The 150-million-year reign of the dinosaurs ended when an asteroid impact generated more than a billion times the energy of an atomic bomb.
What would happen to Earth’s seven billion inhabitants if a similar event were allowed to occur?
Ben and his indomitable girlfriend Amy Kowalski fly to South America to assemble an international counteraction team, whose notable recruits include Love Mwangi, a UN interpreter and nomad scholar, and Zhen Liu, an extraordinary engineer from China’s national space agency. At the same time, on board a polar icebreaker life continues under the looming shadow of comet UD3. Jack Campbell, a photographer for National Geographic, works to capture the beauty of the Arctic before it is gone forever. Gustavo Wayãpi, a Nobel Laureate poet from Brazil, struggles to accept the recent murder of his beloved twin brother. And Maya Gutiérrez, an impassioned marine biologist is — quite unexpectedly — falling in love for the first time.
Together, these men and women must fight to survive in an unknown future with no rules and nothing to be taken for granted. They have two choices: neutralize the greatest threat the world has ever seen (preferably before mass hysteria hits or world leaders declare World War III) or come to terms with the annihilation of humanity itself.
Their mission is codenamed The Effort.
Another novel I spotted in a catalogue and have been keeping my eyes open for. Sounds really interesting, pitched as “For readers of Station Eleven and Good Morning, Midnight“. Looking forward to reading it, but I’ll hold off on a review until closer to its release date. The Effort is due to be published by Grand Central Publishing on January 12th, 2021.
Alaya Dawn Johnson, TROUBLE THE SAINTS (Tor)
A timely and unsettling novel, set against the darkly glamorous backdrop of New York City, where an assassin falls in love and tries to change her fate at the dawn of World War II.
Amid the whir of city life, a young woman from Harlem is drawn into the glittering underworld of Manhattan, where she’s hired to use her knives to strike fear among its most dangerous denizens.
Ten years later, Phyllis LeBlanc has given up everything — not just her own past, and Dev, the man she loved, but even her own dreams.
Still, the ghosts from her past are always by her side — and history has appeared on her doorstep to threaten the people she keeps in her heart. And so Phyllis will have to make a harrowing choice, before it’s too late — is there ever enough blood in the world to wash clean generations of injustice?
Trouble the Saints is a dazzling, daring novel — a magical love story, a compelling exposure of racial fault lines — and an altogether brilliant and deeply American saga.
I spotted this a while ago in a catalogue, and I’ve been eagerly anticipating it ever since. I was pre-approved on NetGalley, and am really looking forward to giving it a try. Trouble the Saints is due to be published by Tor Books on July 21st, 2020 in North America and in the UK.
Caitlín R. Kiernan, THE TINDALOS ASSET (Tor.com)
A rundown apartment in Koreatown. A Los Angeles winter. A strung out, worn out, wrecked and used government agent is scraped up off the pavement, cleaned up, and reluctantly sent out into battle one last time.
Ellison Nicodemo has seen and done terrible things. She thought her only remaining quest was for oblivion. Then the Signalman comes calling. He wants to learn if she can stop the latest apocalypse. Ellison, once a unique and valuable asset, can barely remember why she ever fought the good fight.
Still, you don’t say no to the Signalman, and the time has come to face her fears and the nightmare forces that almost destroyed her. Only Ellison can unleash the hound of Tindalos…
This is the third novella in Kiernan’s Tinfoil Dossier series. For some reason, I’ve let this fall by the wayside, but each of the books has looked really interesting. I’ll hopefully read all three very soon. The Tindalos Asset is due to be published by Tor.com in North America and in the UK, on October 13th, 2020.
Melissa Korn & Jennifer Levitz, UNACCEPTABLE (Portfolio)
An explosive true crime story of fraud, corruption, greed, celebrity, and justice in the cheating scandal that shattered the myth of meritocracy.
The largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice broke on March 12, 2019, sending shock waves through American schools and families. In Unacceptable, veteran Wall Street Journal reporters Melissa Korn and Jennifer Levitz trace the wiretapped calls, covert payments, and blatant deceit that brought the feds to Beverly Hills mansions and Upper East Side apartments, their residents all linked by one man: college whisperer and ultimate hustler Rick Singer.
The shocking tale at the heart of Unacceptable is how, over decades, the charismatic Singer easily exploited a system rigged against regular people. Exploring the status obsession that seduced entitled parents in search of an edge, Korn and Levitz detail a scheme that eventually entangled more than fifty conspirators — a catalog of wealth and privilege that included CEOs, lawyers, real-estate developers, financiers, and famous actresses, mingling in jail cells and courtrooms.
Detailing Singer’s steady rise and dramatic fall, woven with stories of key players in the case, Unacceptable exposes the ugly underbelly of elite college admissions as a game with no rule book — paid-off proctors and storied college coaches turning a blind eye, helicopter parents and coddled teens spinning lies — opening loopholes and side doors into America’s most exclusive institutions.
This is one of two books I’m aware of that examine the college cheating scandal(s) — the other is Nicole LaPorte’s Guilty Admissions. I’m really interested in reading both, so I’m happy to have this one already. Unacceptable is due to be published by Portfolio in North America and in the UK, on July 21st, 2020.
Joe R. Lansdale, MORE BETTER DEALS (Mulholland)
A no-nonsense car salesman faces a tempting decision, a dangerous deal, and an alluring affair in this hard-boiled novel set in 1960s Texas.
Ed Edwards is in the used car business, a business built on adjusted odometers, extra-fine print, and the belief that “buyers better beware.” Burdened by an aging, alcoholic mother constantly on his case to do something worthier of his lighter skin tone and dreaming of a brighter future for himself and his plucky little sister, Ed is ready to get out of the game.
When Dave, his lazy, grease-stained boss at the eponymous dealership Smiling Dave’s sends him to repossess a Cadillac, Ed finally gets the chance to escape his miserable life.
The Cadillac in question was purchased by Frank Craig and his beautiful wife Nancy, owners of a local drive-in and pet cemetery. Fed up with her deadbeat husband and with unfulfilled desires of her own, Nancy suggests to Ed — in the throes of their salacious affair — that they kill Frank and claim his insurance policy. It is a tantalizing offer: the girl, the car, and not one, but two businesses. Ed could finally say goodbye to Smiling Dave’s, and maybe even send his sister to college. But does he have what it takes to see the plan through?
A stand-alone novel by the best-selling author of the Hap & Leonard series. Strangely, I haven’t read any of Lansdale’s novels, yet. As this is a stand-alone, I think it’s a perfect place to start. (I have also bought the first couple in the aforementioned series.) More Better Deals is due to be published by Mulholland Books in North America and in the UK, on July 21st, 2020.
Owen Laukkanen, LONE JACK TRAIL (Mulholland)
Could ex-con Mason Burke be a killer? When an athlete’s body is found in Deception Cove, Marine veteran Jess Winslow begins to wonder if her friend is capable of murder.
A body washes up on the shore near Deception Cove. It belongs to “Bad” Brock Boyd, a disgraced former professional athlete from Makah County who recently finished a prison sentence for dogfighting. Marine veteran Jess Winslow, now a trainee deputy in Deception Cove, is assigned to help investigate the suspicious death. But when it comes out that her friend, ex-convict Mason Burke, had a run-in with the victim on the day of his death, she’s forced to question whether everything she thinks she knows about Burke is wrong.
As prime suspect in the case, Burke is forced to go on the run. Jess is torn between the man she could love and the facts of the case, which seem to point squarely at him.
This is the second novel in the Jess Winslow/Neah Bay series, following Deception Cove. I’ve enjoyed all of Laukkanen’s novels that I’ve read so far, and I’m very much looking forward to reading this one. Lone Jack Trail is due to be published by Mulholland Books in North America and in the UK, on August 11th, 2020.
Michael Laurence, THE ANNIHILATION PROTOCOL (St. Martin’s Press)
For centuries, a mysterious syndicate known as the Thirteen has staged a silent coup, infiltrating governments and manipulating the course of world events. It’s more powerful than any nation, deadlier than any army. The time has come for it to emerge from the shadows and claim the entire world as its own. And only FBI Special Agent James Mason and his longtime friends stand in its way.
After narrowly preventing a global pandemic, Mason and his team discover an even deadlier threat has already been set into motion. An unknown adversary has produced enough of a lethal nerve gas to wipe every major city off the face of the world, and their only clue to finding it lies in a cryptic message written in the blood of a man found entombed behind a concrete wall. It isn’t until another victim appears — right in the heart of Central Park — that Mason realizes the murders are personal in nature, and figuring out the connection between them is the key to averting catastrophe.
Eight million lives hang in the balance and their only chance of surviving lies in the hands of Mason, his old friends, and a new partner he’s not entirely sure he can trust. Can his team track down a sinister agent codenamed Scarecrow before toxic gas fills the streets of New York City, or will the true power pulling the strings from behind the scenes — the Thirteen — succeed in enacting its genocidal agenda?
This is the sequel to Laurence’s debut, The Extinction Agenda, which I have (woefully) not managed to read yet. It sounds right up my street, though, as a big fan of authors like James Rollins and Matthew Reilly. Now that I have a bit of extra time, I think I’ll do my best to binge-read the two novels together in the very near future. The Annihilation Protocol is due to be published by St. Martin’s Press in North America and in the UK, on August 25th, 2020.
Cassidy Lucas, SANTA MONICA (Harper Perennial)
Dark secrets brought to life after the mysterious death of a handsome and charismatic trainer to the elite women in Santa Monica…
On the western edge of Los Angeles is the gorgeous beachside city of Santa Monica, where the sun-kissed, wealthy residents seem to inhabit real-life California dreams. When movie-star-handsome heartthrob fitness coach Zack Doheny, is found dead on the floor of his gym, the tragedy shocks the elite community, especially those who’d spent many hours each week exercising with the charismatic trainer.
As the narrative flashes back to the months leading up to Zack’s death, it quickly becomes clear that things in this coastal paradise are not as glittering as they seem. Lettie – Zack’s secret half-sister and an undocumented housekeeper for the toned, entitled women of Santa Monica – holds her brother responsible for a horrific family accident, and desperately needs his money to prevent her deportation. Regina, type-A exercise addict and entrepreneur, will do anything to get out of debt and to claim Zack for herself. And Mel – a New York City transplant who finds herself forty pounds heavier and far more cynical than the lithe women of Santa Monica – discovers an electric attraction to Zack that threatens to disrupt his bond with Regina and upend Mel’s own marriage. As these residents of Santa Monica begin to crack under the stress of their secrets, one question hangs above it all: what really happened to Zack Doheny?
Thought this sounded really interesting: it’s pitched as “in the vein of Liane Moriarty and Tom Perrotta”. So, I’m very much looking forward to reading it. Santa Monica is due to be published by Harper Perennial on October 6th, 2020, in North America and in the UK.
Graham McNeill, SONS OF THE SELENAR (Black Library)
The Shattered Legion crew of the Sisypheum, broken and at the end of their endurance, find themselves divided; torn between following their resurrected captain on a suicidal mission or obeying orders to return to Terra and rejoin their Legion brothers.
Following a series of garbled messages intercepted by the Kryptos, the divided warriors descend to the shattered surface of Luna. Here, their bonds of loyalty, duty, as well as their devotion to one another will be tested as ancient horrors of the earliest days of gene manipulation are unleashed, and a long buried secret is revealed.
A secret that will have farreaching consequences for the future course of the galaxy, no matter who eventually claims Terra.
The highly anticipated first novella in the Siege of Terra series. This is one of the Black Library books that was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s great that it’s finally available. I’ll be reading this pretty soon. Sons of the Selenar is out now, published by Black Library in North America and in the UK.
Chuck Palahniuk, THE INVENTION OF SOUND (Grand Central)
A father’s decades-long search for a missing daughter.
A young woman about to perfect the darkest art.
The most dangerous secret Hollywood has ever kept.
Gates Foster lost his daughter, Lucy, seventeen years ago. He’s never stopped searching. Suddenly, a shocking new development provides Foster with his first major lead in over a decade, and he may finally be on the verge of discovering the awful truth.
Meanwhile, Mitzi Ives has carved out a space among the Foley artists creating the immersive sounds giving Hollywood films their authenticity. Using the same secret techniques as her father before her, she’s become an industry-leading expert in the sound of violence and horror, creating screams so bone-chilling, they may as well be real.
Soon Foster and Mitzi find themselves on a collision course that threatens to expose the violence hidden beneath Hollywood’s glamorous façade.
The new novel from the author of Fight Club (and many others). Thought this sounded really interesting, so I’ll be reading it very soon. The Invention of Sound is due to be published in North America by Grand Central Publishing (September 8th) and Corsair in the UK (September 3rd).
Daniel Polansky, THE SEVENTH PERFECTION (Tor.com)
When a woman with perfect memory sets out to solve a riddle, the threads she tugs on could bring a whole city crashing down. The God-King who made her is at risk, and his other servants will do anything to stop her.
To become the God-King’s Amanuensis, Manet had to master all seven perfections, developing her body and mind to the peak of human performance. She remembers everything that has happened to her, in absolute clarity, a gift that will surely drive her mad. But before she goes, Manet must unravel a secret which threatens not only the carefully prepared myths of the God-King’s ascent, but her own identity and the nature of truth itself.
I’ve been eagerly awaiting this ever since it was announced. I’m a big fan of Polansky’s past work — novellas and novels — so this was always going to be a must-read. I read it pretty much as soon as I got it, and I’ve already posted a review. The Seventh Perfection is due to be published by Tor.com in North America and in the UK, on September 22nd, 2020. Definitely recommend it to all.
Natasha Pulley, THE BEDLAM STACKS (Bloomsbury)
In 1859, ex–East India Company smuggler Merrick Tremayne is trapped at home in Cornwall with an injury that almost cost him his leg. When the India Office recruits him for an expedition to fetch quinine — essential for the treatment of malaria — from deep within Peru, he knows it’s a terrible idea; nearly every able-bodied expeditionary who’s made the attempt has died, and he can barely walk. But Merrick is eager to escape the strange events plaguing his family’s crumbling estate, so he sets off, against his better judgment, for the edge of the Amazon.
There he meets Raphael, a priest around whom the villagers spin unsettling stories of impossible disappearances, cursed woods, and living stone. Merrick must separate truth from fairy tale, and gradually he realizes that Raphael is the key to a legacy left by generations of Tremayne explorers before him, one which will prove more valuable than quinine, and far more dangerous.
Alyssa pointed this novel out to me — with family in Peru, it piqued my interest. The author’s latest novel, The Lost Future of Pepperharrow, also sounds interesting as it’s set in Japan. Looking forward to reading this (and Pulley’s other novels). The Bedlam Stacks is out now, published by Bloomsbury Books in North America and in the UK.
Elizabeth Shackelford, THE DISSENT CHANNEL (Public Affairs)
A young diplomat’s account of her assignment in South Sudan, a firsthand example of US foreign policy that has failed in its diplomacy and accountability around the world.
In 2017, Elizabeth Shackelford wrote a pointed resignation letter to her then boss, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. She had watched as the State Department was gutted, and now she urged him to stem the bleeding by showing leadership and commitment to his diplomats and the country. If he couldn’t do that, she said, “I humbly recommend that you follow me out the door.”
With that, she sat down to write her story and share an urgent message.
In The Dissent Channel, former diplomat Elizabeth Shackelford shows that this is not a new problem. Her experience in 2013 during the precarious rise and devastating fall of the world’s newest country, South Sudan, exposes a foreign policy driven more by inertia than principles, to suit short-term political needs over long-term strategies.
Through her story, Shackelford makes policy and politics come alive. And in navigating both American bureaucracy and the fraught history and present of South Sudan, she conveys an urgent message about the devolving state of US foreign policy.
Thought this sounded interesting, and looks like it offers a slightly different approach to contemporary politics than many of the regurgitate-the-awfulness-of-Trump tomes that are dropping every other month. The Dissent Channel is out now, published by Public Affairs in North America and in the UK.
Curtis Sittenfeld, RODHAM (Random House)
In 1971, Hillary Rodham is a young woman full of promise: Life magazine has covered her Wellesley commencement speech, she’s attending Yale Law School, and she’s on the forefront of student activism and the women’s rights movement. And then she meets Bill Clinton. A handsome, charismatic southerner and fellow law student, Bill is already planning his political career. In each other, the two find a profound intellectual, emotional, and physical connection that neither has previously experienced.
In the real world, Hillary followed Bill back to Arkansas, and he proposed several times; although she said no more than once, as we all know, she eventually accepted and became Hillary Clinton.
But in Curtis Sittenfeld’s powerfully imagined tour-de-force of fiction, Hillary takes a different road. Feeling doubt about the prospective marriage, she endures their devastating breakup and leaves Arkansas. Over the next four decades, she blazes her own trail—one that unfolds in public as well as in private, that involves crossing paths again (and again) with Bill Clinton, that raises questions about the tradeoffs all of us must make in building a life.
Brilliantly weaving a riveting fictional tale into actual historical events, Curtis Sittenfeld delivers an uncannily astute and witty story for our times. In exploring the loneliness, moral ambivalence, and iron determination that characterize the quest for political power, as well as both the exhilaration and painful compromises demanded of female ambition in a world still run mostly by men, Rodham is a singular and unforgettable novel.
I haven’t read much of Sittenfeld’s previous work, but this sounds really intriguing. I also haven’t read much alternative history, so I’m looking forward to giving this a try. Rodham is out now, published by Random House in North America and Doubleday in the UK.
Lavie Tidhar, NEW ATLANTIS (JABberwocky)
When a mysterious message arrives from vanished New Atlantis, a restless Mai undertakes the perilous journey to its drowned isles. But the journey is long and hard: through the Blasted Plains and the ancient cities of Tyr and Suf, through shipwreck and wilderness.
For this is a world where ants develop inexplicable weapons, where a lonely robot lives surrounded by cats in the ruins of old Paris, and where floating coral islands host sleeping sentience. Mai’s journey takes her by land, sea and air to the islands of New Atlantis, and to the nightmare prison buried underneath old London.
On her way she will find heartbreak and love – and a new life, awakening.
This novella was originally published in Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine (May/June 2019 issue), but is now available solo — with a fantastic cover that matches the author’s Tachyon editions (the artist is Sarah Anne Langton). I’m a big fan of Tidhar’s work, so I’m very much looking forward to reading this. New Atlantis is out now, available as an eBook from most retailers.
Robert Webb, COME AGAIN (Canongate)
You can’t fall in love for the first time twice.
Kate’s husband Luke – the man she loved from the moment she met him twenty-eight years ago – died suddenly. Since then she has pushed away her friends, lost her job and everything is starting to fall apart.
One day, she wakes up in the wrong room and in the wrong body. She is eighteen again but remembers everything. This is her college room in 1992. This is the first day of Freshers’ Week. And this was the day she first met Luke.
But he is not the man that she lost: he’s still a boy – the annoying nineteen-year-old English student she first met. Kate knows how he died and that he’s already ill. If they can fall in love again she might just be able to save him. She’s going to try to do everything exactly the same…
I’m a big fan of Webb’s comedy, and I also enjoyed his memoir, How Not to Be a Boy. I missed the announcement of this novel, somehow, but once it was out I decided to pick it up and give it a try. Looking forward to reading it. Come Again is published by Canongate in the UK (out now), and Back Bay Books in North America (July 14th).
Django Wexler, ASHES OF THE SUN (Orbit)
Long ago, a magical war destroyed an empire, and a new one was built in its ashes. But still the old grudges simmer, and two siblings will fight on opposite sides to save their world…
Gyre hasn’t seen his beloved sister since their parents sold her to the mysterious Twilight Order. Now, twelve years after her disappearance, Gyre’s sole focus is revenge, and he’s willing to risk anything and anyone to claim enough power to destroy the Order.
Chasing rumors of a fabled city protecting a powerful artifact, Gyre comes face-to-face with his lost sister. But she isn’t who she once was. Trained to be a warrior, Maya wields magic for the Twilight Order’s cause. Standing on opposite sides of a looming civil war, the two siblings will learn that not even the ties of blood will keep them from splitting the world in two.
The start of a new series by the author of the Shadow Campaign series. Sounds interesting, and I hope to get to it very soon. Ashes of the Sun is due to be published on July 21st, 2020, by Orbit Books in North America and Head of Zeus in the UK.