Featuring: Dan Abnett, Sarah Andersen, Tiffani Angus, Robert Jackson Bennett, Charles Cumming, Aliette de Bodard, Mark de Jager, Guillermo del Toro, Robert Draper, Jackson Ford, Andrea Hairston, Katie Hill, Patrick Hoffman, Chuck Hogan, Thilde Kold Holdt, S.A. Hunt, Ken Kwapis, C.S. Malerich, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Brian Naslund, Megan E. O’Keefe, Christopher Paolini, Stan Parish, K.J. Parker, C.T. Rwizi, Ethan Sherwood Strauss, Andrea Stewart, Jeremy Szal, Kimberly Unger, Michael Wood
Dan Abnett, SATURNINE (Black Library)
The Traitor Host of Horus Lupercal tightens its iron grip on the Palace of Terra, and one by one the walls and bastions begin to crumple and collapse. Rogal Dorn, Praetorian of Terra, redoubles his efforts to keep the relentless enemy at bay, but his forces are vastly outnumbered and hopelessly outgunned. Dorn simply cannot defend everything. Any chance of survival now requires sacrifice, but what battles dare he lose so that others can be won? Is there one tactical stroke, one crucial combat, that could turn the tide forever and win the war outright?
The Siege of Terra continues. Abnett has been consistently great when writing for the Horus Heresy (his Horus Rising kicked the whole thing off, too). As the story draws near to its conclusion, I’ve been very much looking forward to his contribution to the SoT storyline. I’ll be reading this very soon. Saturnine is out now, published by Black Library in the UK and North America.
Also on CR: Interview with Dan Abnett & Nik Vincent (2011); Reviews of Horus Rising, Prospero Burns, Know No Fear, The Unremembered Empire, The Armour of Contempt, Only in Death, Blood Pact, Salvation’s Reach, The Warmaster, and Anarch
Sarah Andersen, FANGS (Andrews McMeel Publishing)
A love story between a vampire and a werewolf by the creator of the enormously popular Sarah’s Scribbles comics.
Vamp is three hundred years old but in all that time, she has never met her match. This all changes one night in a bar when she meets a charming werewolf. FANGS chronicles the humor, sweetness, and awkwardness of meeting someone perfectly suited to you but also vastly different.
I’ve been familiar with Andersen’s work for some time, via Sarah’s Scribbles. I heard about this via Instagram, I think, before seeing it available for review. I read this very soon after getting it, and it is delightful and highly recommended to all. Fangs is due to be published by Andrews McMeel Publishing in North America (September 1st) and in the UK (October 1st).
Tiffani Angus, THREADING THE LABYRINTH (Unsung Stories)
Toni, the American owner of a failing gallery, is called to England unexpectedly when she inherits a manor house in Hertfordshire from a mysterious lost relative.
What she really needs is something valuable to sell, so she can save her business. But, leaving the New Mexico desert behind, all she finds is a crumbling building, overgrown gardens, and a wealth of historical paperwork that needs cataloguing.
Soon she is immersed in the history of the house, and all the people who tended the grounds over the centuries: the gardens that seem to change in the twilight; the ghost of a fighter plane from World War Two; the figures she sees from the corner of her eye.
This sounds quite interesting and different to many of the books I typically read. Looking forward to giving it a try. Threading the Labyrinth is due to be published by Unsung Stories on July 13th, 2020.
Robert Jackson Bennett, IN THE SHADOWS OF MEN (Subterranean Press)
In the desolate flats of west Texas, two brothers purchase an old motel with the intent of renovating it and making a fortune off the population surge brought about by the fracking boom. Though each man is lured there by the promise of wealth, they are also fleeing something: a history of trauma, of failure, of family abuse, and shame.
But the motel proves to have a history of its own. Once the business of a distant relative of theirs, Corbin Pugh, the brothers begin to discover signs that it might have been more than just a motel back during the wildcatter days of the last oil boom.
As they live and labor in its dusty halls, fighting the crawling feeling that they are not alone here, they begin to wonder: what kind of a man was Corbin Pugh? What happened in the rooms he owned, so many decades ago? And is the motel changing them, warping them to become more ruthlessly ambitious and brutal — or is this what men must become in order to survive on the edge of civilization?
A new novella by one of my favourite authors. Really looking forward to reading this ASAP. In the Shadows of Men is due to be published by Subterranean Press on August 31st, 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; Reviews of City of Stairs and Vigilance
Charles Cumming, BOX 88 (Harper Collins)
An organisation that doesn’t exist.
A spy that can’t be caught.
1989: The fall of the Berlin Wall is imminent and the Cold War will soon be over. But for BOX 88, a top secret spying agency known only to an inner circle of MI6 and CIA operatives, the espionage game is heating up.
Lachlan Kite, recruited straight from an elite boarding school, is sent to France – the frontline of a new secret war. Kite is tasked with gathering intelligence on a mysterious Iranian businessman implicated in the tragic Lockerbie bombing. But what he uncovers is even more deadly…
2020: MI5 hear rumours of BOX 88’s existence and go after Kite – only for Iranian intelligence to get to him first. Taken captive and subjected to torture, Kite is presented with a simple choice: reveal the truth about what happened in France thirty years earlier – or watch his family die.
Past and present merge, as MI5 and BOX 88 are caught up in a race against time to save Kite.
I learned about this novel when Damian Lewis (Billions, Band of Brothers, and many more) Tweeted about the cover reveal. I’ve been a fan of Cumming’s novels since 2009’s Typhoon, and have eagerly anticipated every new novel of his. So, it should be no surprise that I’m really looking forward to reading this one. Charles Cumming’s Box 88 is due to be published by Harper Collins in the UK, on October 1st, 2020. (Not sure about North American publisher/dates, but Cumming’s recent novels have been published by St. Martin’s Press, so… maybe?)
Aliette de Bodard, SEVEN OF INFINITIES (Subterranean Press)
Vân is a scholar from a poor background, eking out a living in the orbitals of the Scattered Pearls Belt as a tutor to a rich family, while hiding the illegal artificial mem-implant she manufactured as a student.
Sunless Woods is a mindship — and not just any mindship, but a notorious thief and a master of disguise. She’s come to the Belt to retire, but is drawn to Vân’s resolute integrity.
When a mysterious corpse is found in the quarters of Vân’s student, Vân and Sunless Woods find themselves following a trail of greed and murder that will lead them from teahouses and ascetic havens to the wreck of a mindship — and to the devastating secrets they’ve kept from each other.
The latest Xuya novella! Sounds fantastic, and I’m very much looking forward to reading it. Seven of Infinities is due to be published by Subterranean Press on October 31st, 2020.
Mark de Jager, INFERNAL (Solaris)
Stratus wakes alone, with no memory of his past. All he knows is his name and that he is not human. Possessing immense strength, powerful sorcery and an insatiable hunger, he sets out across a landscape torn apart by a war, as a dark magic drives the world to the brink of destruction.
Disoriented and pursued relentlessly by enemies, he will have to learn what he truly is, or risk bringing the world into ruin…
First published in 2016 by Del Rey UK, it’s nice to see that de Jager’s novel is going to be re-released. The sequel — Firesky — is also going to be published, in 2021. Infernal is due to be published by Solaris in November 2020, in North America and in the UK.
Also on CR: Interview with Mark de Jager (2016)
Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan, THE HOLLOW ONES (Grand Central)
A horrific crime that defies explanation, a rookie FBI agent in uncharted territory, and an extraordinary hero for the ages: an investigation spirals out of control in this heart-pounding thriller.
Odessa Hardwicke’s life is derailed when she’s forced to turn her gun on her partner, Walt Leppo, a decorated FBI agent who turns suddenly, inexplicably violent while apprehending a rampaging murderer. The shooting, justified by self-defense, shakes the young FBI agent to her core. Devastated, Odessa is placed on desk leave pending a full investigation. But what most troubles Odessa isn’t the tragedy itself — it’s the shadowy presence she thought she saw fleeing the deceased agent’s body after his death.
Questioning her future with the FBI and her sanity, Hardwicke accepts a low-level assignment to clear out the belongings of a retired agent in the New York office. What she finds there will put her on the trail of a mysterious figure named Hugo Blackwood, a man of enormous means who claims to have been alive for centuries, and who is either an unhinged lunatic, or humanity’s best and only defense against unspeakable evil.
The new novel by the authors of The Strain (which was adapted into a TV series and also a comic series). Think this sounds fantastic. Will read it ASAP. The Hollow Ones is due to be published on August 4th, 2020, by Grand Central Publishing (North America) and Del Rey (UK).
Robert Draper, TO START A WAR (Penguin Press)
Even now, after more than fifteen years, it is hard to see the invasion of Iraq through the cool, considered gaze of history. For too many people, the damage is still too palpable, and still unfolding. Most of the major players in that decision are still with us, and few of them are not haunted by it, in one way or another. Perhaps it’s that combination, the passage of the years and the still unresolved trauma, that explains why so many protagonists opened up so fully for the first time to Robert Draper.
Draper’s prodigious reporting has yielded scores of consequential new revelations, from the important to the merely absurd. As a whole, the book paints a vivid and indelible picture of a decision-making process that was fatally compromised by a combination of post-9/11 fear and paranoia, rank naïveté, craven groupthink, and a set of actors with idées fixes who gamed the process relentlessly. Everything was believed; nothing was true. The intelligence failure was comprehensive. Draper’s fair-mindedness and deep understanding of the principal actors suffuse his account, as does a storytelling genius that is close to sorcery There are no cheap shots here, which makes the ultimate conclusion all the more damning.
In the spirit of Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August and Marc Bloch’s Strange Defeat, To Start A War will stand as the definitive account of a collective process that arrived at evidence that would prove to be not just dubious but entirely false, driven by imagination rather than a quest for truth–evidence that was then used to justify a verdict that led to hundreds of thousands of deaths and a flood tide of chaos in the Middle East that shows no signs of ebbing.
Robert Draper wrote the first biography of George W. Bush that I read — the very good Dead Certain. Since then, he’s also written When the Tea Party Came to Town, which was also very good. When I saw that his next book tackled the Bush administration’s drive to war in Iraq, I knew I had to read it. (Seems to be a bit of a theme to my non-fiction reading of late, as I’ve recently finished James Mann’s The Great Rift, too.) To Start A War is due to be published by Penguin Press on July 28th, 2020, in North America and in the UK.
Jackson Ford, RANDOM SH*T FLYING THROUGH THE AIR (Orbit)
Teagan Frost — the girl with telekinetic powers and a killer paella recipe — faces a new threat that could wipe out her home forever in the second book of Jackson Ford’s irreverent fantasy series.
Teagan Frost’s life is finally back on track. Her role working for the government as a psychokinetic operative is going well. She might also be on course for convincing her crush, Nic Delacourt, to go out with her. And she’s even managed to craft the perfect paella.
But Teagan is about to face her biggest threat yet. A young boy with the ability to cause earthquakes has come to Los Angeles — home to the San Andreas, one of the most lethal fault lines in the world. If Teagan can’t stop him, the entire city — and the rest of California — will be wiped off the map…
This is the second novel in the recently-optioned-for-TV Frost Files, following The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t With Her Mind. I somehow managed to miss our on reading the first novel when it first came out (so many books, so little time), but I’m eager to get caught up. Random Sh*t Flying Through the Air is due to be published by Orbit Books in North America and in the UK, on July 7th, 2020.
Also on CR: Interview with Jackson Ford (2020)
Andrea Hairston, MASTER OF POISONS (Tor.com)
The world is changing. Poison desert eats good farmland. Once-sweet water turns foul. The wind blows sand and sadness across the Empire. To get caught in a storm is death. To live and do nothing is death. There is magic in the world, but good conjure is hard to find.
Djola, righthand man and spymaster of the lord of the Arkhysian Empire, is desperately trying to save his adopted homeland, even in exile.
Awa, a young woman training to be a powerful griot, tests the limits of her knowledge and comes into her own in a world of sorcery, floating cities, kindly beasts, and uncertain men.
Awash in the rhythms of folklore and storytelling and rich with Hairston’s characteristic lush prose, Master of Poisons is epic fantasy that will bleed your mind with its turns of phrase and leave you aching for the world it burns into being.
I think this is the author’s debut, so I’m not sure what to expect. The synopsis, however, looks very intriguing, so I’m looking forward to giving this a try. Master of Poisons is due to be published by Tor.com in North America and in the UK, on September 8th, 2020.
Katie Hill, SHE WILL RISE (Grand Central)
Former Congresswoman Katie Hill shares her experience with misogyny and double standards in politics to help women topple the longstanding power structures that prevent them from achieving equality.
Powerful women who dare to make mistakes still face swifter and more brutal consequences than men, as the events that precipitated Congressional representative Katie Hill’s resignation, in which she was the victim of revenge porn, clearly demonstrate. But Katie Hill does not want women to be discouraged from taking positions of power — in fact, the rampant misogyny we see is all the more reason for women to lead, to work to change the systems that have kept old, wealthy, white men in power for far too long.
In this book, to be published on the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment (which gave women the right to vote), Katie Hill looks back on the progress we’ve made and outlines her battle plan for our future. She details how we can overcome the obstacles holding women back from achieving equal representation in positions of power to create the change we want for the next century. What challenges do women face in the modern era, and what battles will we need to fight in the years to come? Katie Hill is ready to equip readers for the front lines of leadership in all arenas, to guide women in becoming the warriors we need to shape this country for the better.
I can’t remember the first time I heard Hill’s name, but I do believe it was before the scandal that saw her unfairly forced out of office. I’ve found her interviews since then to be really interesting and informative, so I’m looking forward to reading She Will Rise. The book is due to be published by Grand Central on August 11th, in North America and in the UK.
Patrick Hoffman, CLEAN HANDS (Atlantic)
Corporate lawyer Elizabeth Carlyle is under a lot of pressure. Her prestigious New York law firm is working on their most high-stakes case in company history, defending a prominent bank that’s been accused of fraud. When Elizabeth gets the news that one of her junior associates has lost his phone — and the secret documents that were on it — she needs help. Badly.
Enter ex-CIA officer Valencia Walker, a high-priced fixer who gets called in when rich corporations, people and governments need their problems solved discretely. But things get complicated when the missing phone is retrieved: somebody has already copied the documents, and now they’re blackmailing the firm. The situation gets murkier still when stories about the documents start appearing in the press and a tragic suicide appears staged, hinting that darker forces may be churning below the surface. With billions of dollars on the line, Elizabeth and Valencia must maneuver and outmaneuver whomever is behind this, and, most importantly, keep their hands clean.
This is a world of private security, private diplomacy, and private justice. A sharply drawn cast of characters — dirty lawyers, black-market traders, Russian criminals, and extra-judicial actors, all take part in this breakneck tour through New York.
I heard great things about this (and Hoffman’s other work) in the run-up to publication of Clean Hands. I’ll hopefully read this very soon. Clean Hands is published by Atlantic Books in North America (out now) and Grove Press in the UK (August 6th).
Thilde Kold Holdt, NORTHERN WRATH (Solaris)
A dead man, walking between the worlds, foresees the end of the gods.
A survivor searching for a weapon releases a demon from fiery Muspelheim.
A village is slaughtered by Christians, and revenge must be taken.
The bonds between the gods and Midgard are weakening. It is up to Hilda, Ragnar, their tribesmen Einer and Finn, the chief’s wife Siv and Tyra, her adopted daughter, to fight to save the old ways from dying out, and to save their gods in the process.
The first novel in the Hanged God trilogy. Hadn’t heard of this until very recently, following some of the publisher’s Tweets and then the offer of a review copy. Sounds pretty cool, though, as I love most things related to Norse mythology. Northern Wrath is due to be published by Solaris in October 2020, in North America and in the UK.
S.A. Hunt, THE HELLION (Tor Books)
A punk YouTuber on a mission to hunt down the supernatural, one vid at a time
Robin Martine has destroyed witches all across the country, but since her confrontation with the demon Andras, Robin has had to deal with her toughest adversary yet: herself. While coming to grips with new abilities, she and her boyfriend Kenway make their way to the deserts of rural Texas, where new opportunities await.
Something lurks in this isolated town of Keystone Hills: a dangerous gang ruled by a husband who wields an iron fist over his wife and daughter. Robin vows to protect these Latina women from harm, but may be underestimating how powerful Santiago Valenzuela is… and how his shapeshifting powers may pose a threat to everyone Robin holds dear.
The third novel in Hunt’s Malus Domestic series — I have yet to read the first two, but the series is rapidly ascending my TBR mountain (they seem to have been released in a pretty rapid-fire fashion, but I think it might just be that my sense of time has been warped by the pandemic). Sounds great, and I really hope to get to it very soon. The Hellion is due to be published by Tor Books on September 15th in North America and in the UK.
Also on CR: Interview with S. A. Hunt (2020)
Ken Kwapis, BUT WHAT I REALLY WANT TO DO IS DIRECT (St. Martin’s Griffin)
For over three decades, director Ken Kwapis has charted a career full of exceptional movies and television, from seminal shows like The Office to beloved films like He’s Just Not That Into You.
He is among the most respected directors in show business, but getting there wasn’t easy. He struggled just like everyone else. With each triumph came the occasional faceplant. Using his background and inside knowledge, But What I Really Want To Do is Direct tackles Hollywood myths through Ken’s highly entertaining experiences. It’s a rollercoaster ride fueled by brawls with the top brass, clashes over budgets, and the passion that makes it all worthwhile.
This humorous and refreshingly personal memoir is filled with inspiring instruction, behind-the-scenes hilarity, and unabashed joy. It’s a celebration of the director’s craft, and what it takes to succeed in show business on your own terms.
Always on the look-out for new movie/Hollywood biographies, and this one caught my attention a little while ago. Really looking forward to reading this, and will do so very soon. But What I Really Want to Do is Direct is due to be published by St. Martin’s Griffin in North America and in the UK, on October 6th, 2020.
Jonathan Lethem, THE ARREST (Ecco)
An utterly original postapocalyptic yarn about two siblings, the man that came between them, and a nuclear-powered super car.
The Arrest isn’t post-apocalypse. It isn’t a dystopia. It isn’t a utopia. It’s just what happens when much of what we take for granted — cars, guns, computers, and airplanes, for starters — quits working…
Before the Arrest, Sandy Duplessis had a reasonably good life as a screenwriter in L.A. An old college friend and writing partner, the charismatic and malicious Peter Todbaum, had become one of the most powerful men in Hollywood. That didn’t hurt.
Now, post-Arrest, nothing is what it was. Sandy, who calls himself Journeyman, has landed in rural Maine. There he assists the butcher and delivers the food grown by his sister, Maddy, at her organic farm. But then Todbaum shows up in an extraordinary vehicle: a retrofitted tunnel-digger powered by a nuclear reactor. Todbaum has spent the Arrest smashing his way across a fragmented and phantasmagorical United States, trailing enmities all the way. Plopping back into the siblings’ life with his usual odious panache, his motives are entirely unclear. Can it be that Todbaum wants to produce one more extravaganza? Whatever he’s up to, it may fall to Journeyman to stop him.
Written with unrepentant joy and shot through with just the right amount of contemporary dread, The Arrest is speculative fiction at its absolute finest.
Latest novel by the author of Motherless Brooklyn (recently adapted by Edward Norton), The Fortress of Solitude, The Feral Detective and many more. This sounds quite interesting, too, so I’ll be reading it very soon. The Arrest is due to be published by Ecco in North America (November 11th) and Atlantic Books in the UK (November 12th).
C.S. Malerich, THE FACTORY WITCHES OF LOWELL (Tor.com)
A riveting historical fantasy about witches going on strike in the historical mill-town of Lowell, Massachusetts.
Faced with abominable working conditions, unsympathetic owners, and hard-hearted managers, the mill girls of Lowell have had enough. They’re going on strike, and they have a secret weapon on their side: a little witchcraft to ensure that no one leaves the picket line.
For the young women of Lowell, Massachusetts, freedom means fair wages for fair work, decent room and board, and a chance to escape the cotton mills before lint stops up their lungs. When the Boston owners decide to raise the workers’ rent, the girls go on strike. Their ringleader is Judith Whittier, a newcomer to Lowell but not to class warfare. Judith has already seen one strike fold and she doesn’t intend to see it again. Fortunately Hannah, her best friend in the boardinghouse — and maybe first love? — has a gift for the dying art of witchcraft.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia, MEXICAN GOTHIC (Jo Fletcher Books)
A mesmerising feminist re-imagining of Gothic fantasy, in which a young socialite discovers the haunting secrets of a beautiful old mansion in 1950s Mexico.
He is trying to poison me. You must come for me, Noemí. You have to save me.
When glamorous socialite Noemí Taboada receives a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin begging to be rescued from a mysterious doom, it’s clear something is desperately amiss. Catalina has always had a flair for the dramatic, but her claims that her husband is poisoning her and her visions of restless ghosts seem remarkable, even for her.
Noemí’s chic gowns and perfect lipstick are more suited to cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing, but she immediately heads to High Place, a remote mansion in the Mexican countryside, determined to discover what is so affecting her cousin.
Tough and smart, she possesses an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.
Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.
And Noemí, mesmerised by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to leave this enigmatic house behind…
One of my most-anticipated novels of the year, it appeared almost immediately on the New York Times bestseller list. I’ve been reading Moreno-Garcia’s novels since Signal to Noise, and enjoyed everything I’ve read so far. (I’ve fallen a little behind, but that’s now the norm for me with any/all favourite authors.) This new novel has been getting a lot of pre-publication buzz, too, so hopefully now many others will finally take notice, too. Mexican Gothic is out now, published in the UK by Jo Fletcher Books and in North America by Del Rey.
Brian Naslund, SORCERY OF A QUEEN (Tor Books)
They called her the Witch Queen…
Driven from her kingdom, the would-be queen now seeks haven in the land of her mother, but Ashlyn will not stop until justice has been done. Determined to unlock the secret of powers long thought impossible, Ashlyn bends her will and intelligence to mastering the one thing people always accused her of, sorcery.
Meanwhile, having learned the truth of his mutation, Bershad is a man on borrowed time. Never knowing when his healing powers will drive him to a self-destruction, he is determined to see Ashlyn restored to her throne and the creatures they both love safe.
This is the second novel in Naslund’s Dragons of Terra series, following Blood of an Exile. (A novel I have, but have been slow about getting to — it’s a strange time, and I’m a bit swamped, but I am looking forward to reading this.) Sorcery of a Queen is due to be published by Tor Books in North America and in the UK, on August 4th.
Megan E. O’Keefe, CHAOS VECTOR (Orbit)
Dazzling space battles, intergalactic politics, and rogue AI collide…
Sanda and Tomas are fleeing for their lives after letting the most dangerous smartship in the universe run free. Now, unsure of who to trust, Sanda knows only one thing for certain — to be able to save herself from becoming a pawn of greater powers, she needs to discover the secret of the coordinates hidden in her skull.
But getting to those coordinates is a problem she can’t solve alone. They exist beyond a dead gate — a Casimir gate that opened up into a dead-end system without resources worth colonizing, and was sealed off. To get through the dead gate, she needs the help of the enemy Nazca. But some Nazca are only interested in the chip in her head — and they’ll crack her open to get to it.
Really looking forward to reading this series. The first novel, which I read most of already, was very enjoyable so I’m looking forward to getting caught up. (So many books, so little time…!) The sequel to Velocity Weapon, Chaos Vector is due to be published by Orbit Books in North America and in the UK, on July 28th, 2020.
Christopher Paolini, TO SLEEP IN A SEA OF STARS (Tor)
Kira Navárez dreamed of life on new worlds.
Now she’s awakened a nightmare.
During a routine survey mission on an uncolonized planet, Kira finds an alien relic. At first she’s delighted, but elation turns to terror when the ancient dust around her begins to move.
As war erupts among the stars, Kira is launched into a galaxy-spanning odyssey of discovery and transformation. First contact isn’t at all what she imagined, and events push her to the very limits of what it means to be human.
While Kira faces her own horrors, Earth and its colonies stand upon the brink of annihilation. Now, Kira might be humanity’s greatest and final hope…
The new novel from the best-selling author of Eragon. I’ve actually never read anything by Paolini. This one is getting so much pre-publication buzz that I am certainly intrigued. I’ll give this a try soon. To Sleep in a Sea of Stars is due to be published by Tor Books on September 15th, in North America and in the UK.
Stan Parish, LOVE AND THEFT (Faber)
What price would you put on a second chance?
When Alex Cassidy and Diane Alison meet by chance at a party in Princeton, New Jersey, there are instant sparks. Both are single parents living in wealthy suburbia, independent, highly competent and seemingly settled in their lives. She runs a successful catering business. He’s part of a crew that robs banks, casinos and jewellery stores around the world. Neither realises initially that their lives have overlapped before, or that their shared history and burgeoning relationship will come to threaten everything they love. As Alex prepares for one final, daunting job, he discovers that he’s not the only one with secrets — and that both of them are playing for the highest stakes imaginable.
I vaguely remember spotting this in a catalogue a while back, and thought it sounded interesting. Looking forward to reading it — love me a good heist story. Love and Theft is due to be published by Faber in the UK and Doubleday in North America, on July 21st, 2020.
K.J. Parker, HOW TO RULE AN EMPIRE AND GET AWAY WITH IT (Orbit)
This is the history of how the City was saved, by Notker the professional liar, written down because eventually the truth always seeps through.
The City may be under siege, but everyone still has to make a living. Take Notker, the acclaimed playwright, actor, and impresario. Nobody works harder, even when he’s not working. Thankfully, it turns out that people enjoy the theater just as much when there are big rocks falling out of the sky.
But Notker is a man of many talents, and all the world is, apparently, a stage. It seems that the empire needs him — or someone who looks a lot like him — for a role that will call for the performance of a lifetime. At least it will guarantee fame, fortune, and immortality. If it doesn’t kill him first.
This is the second novel in Parker’s Siege series, and the follow-up to Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City, which is rapidly climbing my TBR mountain. I’m a big fan of Parker’s shorter fiction (short stories and novellas), but haven’t had much experience reading his full-length novels. I should really rectify this ASAP. How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It is due to be published by Orbit Books in North America and in the UK, on August 18th, 2020.
C.T. Rwizi, SCARLET ODYSSEY (47 North)
Magic is women’s work; war is men’s. But in the coming battle, none of that will matter.
Men do not become mystics. They become warriors. But eighteen-year-old Salo has never been good at conforming to his tribe’s expectations. For as long as he can remember, he has loved books and magic in a culture where such things are considered unmanly. Despite it being sacrilege, Salo has worked on a magical device in secret that will awaken his latent magical powers. And when his village is attacked by a cruel enchantress, Salo knows that it is time to take action.
Salo’s queen is surprisingly accepting of his desire to be a mystic, but she will not allow him to stay in the tribe. Instead, she sends Salo on a quest. The quest will take him thousands of miles north to the Jungle City, the political heart of the continent. There he must gather information on a growing threat to his tribe.
On the way to the city, he is joined by three fellow outcasts: a shunned female warrior, a mysterious nomad, and a deadly assassin. But they’re being hunted by the same enchantress who attacked Salo’s village. She may hold the key to Salo’s awakening — and his redemption.
I learned of this novel when the author’s agent Tweeted about it, and I thought it sounded interesting and different from a lot of the fantasy fare that I usual read (which might mean I enjoy it — I’ve been struggling with the genre, of late). The first in a new series, Scarlet Odyssey is out now, published by 47 North.
Ethan Sherwood Strauss, THE VICTORY MACHINE (Public Affairs)
How money, guts, and greed built the Warriors dynasty — and then took it apart
The Golden State Warriors dominated the NBA for the better part of a decade. Since the arrival of owner Joe Lacob, they won more championships and sold more merchandise than any other franchise in the sport. And in 2019, they opened the doors on a lavish new stadium.
Yet all this success contained some of the seeds of decline. Ethan Sherwood Strauss’s clear-eyed exposé reveals the team’s culture, its financial ambitions and struggles, and the price that its players and managers have paid for all their winning. From Lacob’s unlikely acquisition of the team to Kevin Durant’s controversial departure, Strauss shows how the smallest moments can define success or failure for years.
And, looking ahead, Strauss ponders whether this organization can rebuild after its abrupt fall from the top, and how a relentless business wears down its players and executives. The Victory Machine is a defining book on the modern NBA: it not only rewrites the story of the Warriors, but shows how the Darwinian business of pro basketball really works.
I’ve always been an enthusiastic player of basketball, but it wasn’t until I moved to Toronto that I was able to watch NBA games (on the TV and at the Raptor’s stadium). I started reading this on the same day I finished watching The Last Dance (the superb Michael Jordan documentary). Strauss writes in a very accessible style, and is pretty even-handed about the NBA, Warriors and its stars — it’s clear he’s a fan of the sport and team, but he’s also not blind to all of the BS, posturing, and insecurities of the personalities involved. I like to add a few more books about the NBA to my TBR, and I’ll probably start with Roland Lazenby’s biographies of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, and two more Warriors biographies, by Marcus Thompson, about Steph Curry and Kevin Durrant. Later this year, Nick Nurse is due to published a memoir, and a biography of Steve Kerr is on the way in February 2021. The Victory Machine is out now, published by Public Affairs in North America and in the UK.
Andrea Stewart, THE BONE SHARD DAUGHTER (Orbit)
In an empire controlled by bone shard magic, Lin, the former heir to the emperor, will fight to reclaim her magic and her place on the throne.
The emperor’s reign has lasted for decades, his mastery of bone shard magic powering the animal-like constructs that maintain law and order. But now his rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire’s many islands.
Lin is the emperor’s daughter and spends her days trapped in a palace of locked doors and dark secrets. When her father refuses to recognise her as heir to the throne, she vows to prove her worth by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.
Yet such power carries a great cost, and when the revolution reaches the gates of the palace, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her birthright – and save her people.
The first novel in a much-buzzed-about new fantasy series (The Drowning Empire). I’m looking forward to giving this a try. Hope to read it very soon. (May hold off on a review until closer to its release, though.) The Bone Shard Daughter is due to be published by Orbit Books in North America and in the UK, on September 10th.
Jeremy Szal, STORMBLOOD (Gollancz)
Vakov Fukasawa used to be a Reaper: a bio-enhanced soldier fighting for the Harmony, against a brutal invading empire. He’s still fighting now, on a different battlefield: taking on stormtech. To make him a perfect soldier, Harmony injected him with the DNA of an extinct alien race, altering his body chemistry and leaving him permanently addicted to adrenaline and aggression. But although they meant to create soldiers, at the same time Harmony created a new drug market that has millions hopelessly addicted to their own body chemistry.
Vakov may have walked away from Harmony, but they still know where to find him, and his former Reaper colleagues are being murdered by someone, or something – and Vakov is appalled to learn his estranged brother is involved. Suddenly it’s an investigation he can’t turn down… but the closer he comes to the truth, the more addicted to stormtech he becomes.
And it’s possible the war isn’t over, after all…
The first novel in a new sci-fi series, and one of my most-anticipated debuts of the year. Really looking forward to reading this. Stormblood is out now, published by Gollancz in the UK.
Also on CR: Interview with Jeremy Szal (2020)
Kimberly Unger, NUCLEATION (Tachyon)
We are live, we are live, we are live…
Helen Vectorovich holds the unique distinction of failing at first contact — and she did it in both virtual reality and outer space.
Only the most elite teams of operators and navigators get to pilot in remote space-mining operations. And no one was better than Helen and her navigator. Together they secured a multibillion contract for establishing an interstellar gate to a distant star. But during a routine mission, what should have been an easy success turned deadly.
Helen, grounded in a desk job, has overeager junior pilots jockeying to take her place, jealous corporate rivals, and nasty rumors blaming her for the botched mission. Meanwhile, Helen’s new discovery in space — the Scale — seems to be… evolving.
When someone — or something — wants to terminate her project, Helen must race to find out why before it is far too late.
This sounds like an interesting new sci-fi novel. Not sure if it’s planned as part of a new series or a stand-alone, but looking forward to reading it soon. Nucleation is due to be published Tachyon Publications in November 2020.
Michael Wood, THE STORY OF CHINA (St. Martin’s Press)
A single volume history of China, offering a look into the past of the global superpower and its significance today.
Michael Wood has travelled the length and breadth of China, the world’s oldest civilization and longest lasting state, to tell a thrilling story of intense drama, fabulous creativity, and deep humanity that stretches back thousands of years.
After a century and a half of foreign invasion, civil war, and revolution, China has once again returned to center stage as a global superpower and the world’s second largest economy. But how did it become so dominant? Wood argues that in order to comprehend the great significance of China today, we must begin with its history.
The Story of China takes a fresh look at the Middle Kingdom in the light of the recent massive changes inside the country. Taking into account exciting new archeological discoveries, the book begins with China’s prehistory—the early dynasties, the origins of the Chinese state, and the roots of Chinese culture in the age of Confucius. Wood looks at particular periods and themes that are now being reevaluated by historians, such as the renaissance of the Song with its brilliant scientific discoveries. He paints a vibrant picture of the Qing Empire in the 18th century, just before the European impact, a time when China’s rich and diverse culture was at its height. Then, Wood explores the encounter with the West, the Opium Wars, the clashes with the British, and the extraordinarily rich debates in the late 19th century that pushed China along the path to modernity.
Finally, he provides a clear up-to-date account of post-1949 China, including revelations about the 1989 crisis based on newly leaked inside documents, and fresh insights into the new order of President Xi Jinping. All woven together with landscape history and the author’s own travel journals, The Story of China is the indispensable book about the most intriguing and powerful country on the world stage today.
I’m always on the look-out for new books about China and Chinese history. I haven’t read any of Wood’s previous books, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen some of his BBC documentaries, way back in the day. Looking forward to reading this. The Story of China is due to be published in North America by by St. Martin’s Press (October) and Simon & Schuster in the UK (September 3rd).
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