Featuring: Ben Aaronovitch, J.S. Barnes, Andy Biersack, Douglas Boin, Sexton Blake, James Brabazon, Susanna Clarke, S.B. Divya, Sharon Doering, Ryan J. Downey, Guy Haley, Jason M. Hough, Jill Lepore, Matthew C. MacWilliams, Imbolo Mbue, Kyle Mills, Natalie Zina Walschots
Ben Aaronovitch, TALES FROM THE FOLLY (JABberwocky)
Each tale features a new introduction from the author, filled with insight and anecdote offering the reader a deeper exploration into this absorbing fictional world. This is a must read for any Rivers of London fan.
Join Peter, Nightingale, Abigail, Agent Reynolds and Tobias Winter for a series of perfectly portioned tales. Discover what’s haunting a lonely motorway service station, who still wanders the shelves of a popular London bookshop, and what exactly happened to the River Lugg…
With an introduction from internationally bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse series, Charlaine Harris.
This collection includes:
The Home Crowd Advantage
The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Granny
King of The Rats
A Rare Book of Cunning Device
A Dedicated Follower of Fashion
Vanessa Sommer’s Other Christmas List
Three Rivers, Two Husbands and a Baby
A collection of short stories set in Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series. I still have most of the series to get caught up on, but I do hope to do so at some point. Tales From the Folly is out now in eBook and UK Audio (published by Gollancz).
J.S. Barnes, DRACULA’S CHILD (Titan)
It has been some years since Jonathan and Mina Harker survived their ordeal in Transylvania and, vanquishing Count Dracula, returned to England to try and live ordinary lives.
But shadows linger long in this world of blood feud and superstition — and, the older their son Quincey gets, the deeper the shadows that lengthen at the heart of the Harkers’ marriage. Jonathan has turned back to drink; Mina finds herself isolated inside the confines of her own family; Quincey himself struggles to live up to a family of such high renown.
And when a gathering of old friends leads to unexpected tragedy, the very particular wounds in the heart of the Harkers’ marriage are about to be exposed…
There is darkness both within the marriage and without — for new evil is arising on the Continent. A naturalist is bringing a new species of bat back to London; two English gentlemen, on their separate tours of the Continent, find a strange quixotic love for each other, and stumble into a calamity far worse than either has imagined; and the vestiges of something forgotten long ago is finally beginning to stir…
Andy Biersack w. Ryan J. Downey, THEY DON’T NEED TO UNDERSTAND (Rare Bird Books)
Before he was the charismatic singer of Black Veil Brides and an accomplished solo artist under the Andy Black moniker, he was Andrew Dennis Biersack, an imaginative and creative kid in Cincinnati, Ohio, struggling with anxiety, fear, loneliness, and the impossible task of fitting in. With his trademark charm, clever wit, and insightful analysis, Biersack tells the story of his childhood and adolescence. The discovery of the artistic passions that would shape his life, and his decision to move to Hollywood after his 18th birthday to make his dreams come true, even when it meant living in his car to make it all a reality. It’s the origin story of one of modern rock’s most exciting young superheroes, from building miniature concerts with KISS action figures in his bedroom to making the RIAA gold-certified single “In the End” and connecting with passionate fans worldwide.
I discovered Black Veil Brides shortly after Set the World on Fire was released. They seemed like a fun band that didn’t take itself too seriously but was also made up of talented musicians. After The Wretched & Divine came out, they became a must-buy band for me. Biersack’s vocals have become stronger with each album (including his two solo albums). When I saw this book was available for review, I jumped at the chance. It was an interesting read, as it’s the first “celebrity” memoir I’ve read by someone quite a bit younger than me. They Don’t Need to Understand is due to be published by Rare Bird Books in North America and in the UK, on December 8th, 2020.
Douglas Boin, ALARIC THE GOTH (W.W. Norton)
Denied citizenship by the Roman Empire, a soldier named Alaric changed history by unleashing a surprise attack on the capital city of an unjust empire.
Stigmatized and relegated to the margins of Roman society, the Goths were violent “barbarians” who destroyed “civilization,” at least in the conventional story of Rome’s collapse. But a slight shift of perspective brings their history, and ours, shockingly alive.
Alaric grew up near the river border that separated Gothic territory from Roman. He survived a border policy that separated migrant children from their parents, and he was denied benefits he likely expected from military service. Romans were deeply conflicted over who should enjoy the privileges of citizenship. They wanted to buttress their global power, but were insecure about Roman identity; they depended on foreign goods, but scoffed at and denied foreigners their own voices and humanity. In stark contrast to the rising bigotry, intolerance, and zealotry among Romans during Alaric’s lifetime, the Goths, as practicing Christians, valued religious pluralism and tolerance. The marginalized Goths, marked by history as frightening harbingers of destruction and of the Dark Ages, preserved virtues of the ancient world that we take for granted.
The three nights of riots Alaric and the Goths brought to the capital struck fear into the hearts of the powerful, but the riots were not without cause. Combining vivid storytelling and historical analysis, Douglas Boin reveals the Goths’ complex and fascinating legacy in shaping our world.
I listened to an interview with Boin on Al Franken’s podcast, and I found most of that the author said very interesting, and my interest in his book grew tremendously. So, naturally, because I have zero impulse control when it comes to books, I bought it right away. Alaric the Goth is out now, published by W.W. Norton in North America and in the UK.
SEXTON BLAKE VERSUS THE MASTER CROOKS (Rebellion)
As brilliant as Sherlock Holmes. As daring as James Bond. Sexton Blake, the adventuring detective, is back!
For nearly a century, Sexton Blake was the most written about character in British fiction. He starred in approximately four thousand stories by nearly two hundred authors. A cross between Sherlock Holmes and Indiana Jones, he was a publishing phenomenon, read by young and old alike.This second collection is comprised of three stories from Union Jack featuring characters from the first wave of master crooks; The Case of the Man in Motley by Anthony Skene (1919), Prince Pretence by Lewis Jackson (1921), and The Wonder Man’s Challenge by Edwy Searles Brooks (1921). These classic stories spanning nearly 100 years of publishing serve as the perfect introduction to old and new readers alike.
SEXTON BLAKE’S ALLIES (Rebellion)
This third collection is comprised of three “Golden Age” stories from Union Jack in which Sexton Blake discusses the various reporters, adventurers, Scotland Yard men and private detectives with whom he worked; The Case of the Seventh Key by W.W Sayer (1932), Ghostmobile by Gwyn Evans (1931), and The Mystery of Walla-Walla by G.H.Teed (1913).
Two new collections of classic Sexton Blake stories, introduced and collected by Mark Hodder: … Versus the Master Crooks is due out on October 1st; Allies is due out on December 10th — both published by Rebellion Books.
Review copy received from publisher
James Brabazon, ARKHANGEL (Penguin)
Officially Max McLean doesn’t exist. An off-the-books assassin for the British government, he operates alone.
But when a routine hit goes badly wrong, a cryptic note on a $100 bill prised from his target’s dead fingers suggests there’s more to the mission than meets the eye.
Is someone from Max’s former life trying to send him a message?
From Paris to Jerusalem and on to the frozen wastes of north-west Russia, Max is forced into a desperate race for the truth — with unknown enemies determined to stop him at any cost.
And when the secret coded into the banknote is finally revealed, only one thing is certain: with the fate of the world in his possession, failure is not an option…
I thought Brabazon’s debut novel, The Break Line was superb, so I’ve been eagerly anticipating his follow-up ever since. I’ll be reading this very soon. Arkhangel is published in the UK by Penguin (out now) and in North America by Berkley (February 2nd, 2021, as All Fall Down).
Michael Carroll (ed.), JUDGE FEAR’S BIG DAY OUT AND OTHER STORIES (Abaddon)
A shopping mall where droids sell organs harvested from street trash…
A murderous imaginary friend…
A psychotic composer drafting music from pain…
All in a day’s work for the Lawman of the Future.
Edited by and with an introduction by Dredd veteran Michael Carroll, Judge Fear’s Big Day Out and Other Stories gathers the very best short stories from more than a decade of the Judge Dredd Megazine, including stories by legends Alan Grant, Gordon Rennie and Simon Spurrier, among countless others…
Judge Fear’s Big Day Out and Other Stories is due to be published by Abaddon on November 10th, 2020.
Review copy received from publisher
Susanna Clarke, PIRANESI (Bloomsbury)
Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.
There is one other person in the house — a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.
This novel has, of course, been getting a huge amount of attention, as the new novel from the author of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. It sounds really interesting, and I hope to read it very soon. Piranesi is out now, published by Bloomsbury in North America and in the UK.
Follow the Author: Goodreads
S.B. Divya, MACHINEHOOD (Saga)
Welga Ramirez, executive bodyguard and ex-special forces, is about to retire early when her client is killed in front of her. It’s 2095 and people don’t usually die from violence. Humanity is entirely dependent on pills that not only help them stay alive, but allow them to compete with artificial intelligence in an increasingly competitive gig economy. Daily doses protect against designer diseases, flow enhances focus, zips and buffs enhance physical strength and speed, and juvers speed the healing process.
All that changes when Welga’s client is killed by The Machinehood, a new and mysterious terrorist group that has simultaneously attacked several major pill funders. The Machinehood operatives seem to be part human, part machine, something the world has never seen. They issue an ultimatum: stop all pill production in one week.
Global panic ensues as pill production slows and many become ill. Thousands destroy their bots in fear of a strong AI takeover. But the US government believes the Machinehood is a cover for an old enemy. One that Welga is uniquely qualified to fight.
Welga, determined to take down the Machinehood, is pulled back into intelligence work by the government that betrayed her. But who are the Machinehood and what do they really want?
A thrilling and thought-provoking novel that asks: if we won’t see machines as human, will we instead see humans as machines?
I’ve only read one of Divya’s previous books, Runtime, which I thought quite good. This latest novel is pitched as “Zero Dark Thirty meets The Social Network“, which is a pretty intriguing premise. I’m looking forward to reading this soon. Machinehood is due to be published by Gallery/Saga in North America and in the UK, on March 2nd, 2021.
Sharon Doering, SHE LIES CLOSE (Titan)
SHE IS STILL MISSING
Five-year-old Ava Boone vanished without a trace six months ago. No witnesses, no sightings or arrests. But Grace Wright just moved in next door to the only suspect the case had: quiet, middle-aged Leland Ernest.
Recently divorced, Grace uprooted her two small children to start again and hopes the move will reset her crippling insomnia. With whispered neighborhood gossip and increasingly sleepless nights, Grace develops a fierce obsession with Leland and the safety of her children. Could she really be living next door to a child-kidnapper? A murderer?
With reality and dream blurring more each day, Grace desperately pursues the truth – following Ava’s family, demanding answers from the police – and then a body is discovered…
Also on CR: Guest Post on “What I Ripped Off From My Life and Used in My Books”
Ronen Givony, NOT FOR YOU (Bloomsbury)
There has never been a band like Pearl Jam. The Seattle quintet has recorded eleven studio albums; sold some 85 million records; played over a thousand shows, in fifty countries; and had five different albums reach number one. But Pearl Jam’s story is about much more than music. Through resilience, integrity, and sheer force of will, they transcended several eras, and shaped the way a whole generation thought about music.
Not for You: Pearl Jam and the Present Tense is the first full-length biography of America’s preeminent band, from Ten to Gigaton. A study of their role in history – from Operation Desert Storm to the Dixie Chicks; “Jeremy” to Columbine; Kurt Cobain to Chris Cornell; Ticketmaster to Trump – Not for You explores the band’s origins and evolution over thirty years of American culture. It starts with their founding, and the eruption of grunge, in 1991; continues through their golden age (Vs., Vitalogy, No Code, and Yield); their middle period (Binaural, Riot Act); and the more divisive recent catalog. Along the way, it considers the band’s activism, idealism, and impact, from “W.M.A.” to the Battle of Seattle and Body of War.
More than the first critical study, Not for You is a tribute to a famously obsessive fan base, in the spirit of Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch. It’s an old-fashioned – if, at times, ambivalent – appreciation; a reflection on pleasure, fandom, and guilt; and an essay on the nature of adolescence, nostalgia, and adulthood. Partly social history, partly autobiography, and entirely outspoken, discursive, and droll, Not for You is the first full-length treatment of Pearl Jam’s odyssey and importance in the culture, from the ’90s to the present.
A new book about Pearl Jam, a band I’ve liked since their debut album. (Although, like many, I still think Ten is their best album and one they haven’t managed to top.) Looking forward to reading this. Not For You is due to be published by Bloomsbury in North America and in the UK, on October 1st (eBook) and 15th (print).
Follow the Author: Goodreads
Review copy pre-approved on NetGalley
Guy Haley, FLESH AND STEEL (Black Library)
Born into riches, Probator Symeon Noctis attempts to atone for his past sins by championing the powerless of Nearsteel district. But the sprawling city of Varangantua is uncaring of its masses, and when a bisected corpse is discovered in the neutral zone between Nearsteel and the Adeptus Mechanicus enclave of Steelmound, Noctis finds himself cast into his most dangerous case yet.
Partnering with the tech-priest Rho-1 Lux of the Collegiate Extremis, Noctis is drawn into a murky world of tech-heresy, illegal servitors and exploitation that could end his career, or his life.
A new Warhammer Crime novel, also set in the mega-city Varangantua. Haley is, in my humble opinion, one of Black Library’s most consistently excellent authors at the moment, and I’ve very much enjoyed pretty much everything of his that I’ve read (especially his contributions to the Horus Heresy series). Really looking forward to reading this one. Flesh and Steel is out now, published by Black Library in North America and in the UK.
Jason M. Hough, INSTINCT (Skybound)
Welcome to Silvertown. Population: 602 (for now).
Officer Mary Whittaker has yet to be fully welcomed by the residents of this tiny, quirky mountain town which seems to be home to more conspiracy theories than any other place in America. But with the chief of police on leave, she is left alone to confront a series of abnormal incidents — strange even by Silvertown standards.
A teenager dies tragically after eating obviously poisonous mushrooms from his lawn.
A hiker found dead on a trail, smiling serenely after being mauled by a bear.
A normally doting mother leaving her toddler twins behind without noticing.
Other residents seem to have lost all sense of self-preservation as they walk out in front of Mary’s moving cruiser or sit placidly in the middle of a sharp bend in a mountain road. It’s almost as if the townsfolk are losing their survival instincts, one by one.
As she digs deeper into her investigation and uncovers a larger conspiracy lurking below the surface of Silvertown, Officer Whittaker finds herself on the brink of falling prey to whatever has possessed the town and she must distinguish the truth from paranoia-fueled lies before she ends up losing her own instincts… and her life.
Thought this sounded rather interesting. Instinct is due to be published by Skybound Books in North America (April 6th, 2021) — at the time of writing, I couldn’t find any details about a UK publisher.
Stina Leicht, PERSEPHONE STATION (Saga)
Persephone Station, a seemingly backwater planet that has largely been ignored by the United Republic of Worlds becomes the focus for the Serrao-Orlov Corporation as the planet has a few secrets the corporation tenaciously wants to exploit.
Rosie—owner of Monk’s Bar, in the corporate town of West Brynner, caters to wannabe criminals and rich Earther tourists, of a sort, at the front bar. However, exactly two types of people drank at Monk’s back bar: members of a rather exclusive criminal class and those who sought to employ them.
Angel—ex-marine and head of a semi-organized band of beneficent criminals, wayward assassins, and washed up mercenaries with a penchant for doing the honorable thing is asked to perform a job for Rosie. What this job reveals will effect Persephone and put Angel and her squad up against an army. Despite the odds, they are rearing for a fight with the Serrao-Orlov Corporation. For Angel, she knows that once honor is lost, there is no regaining it. That doesn’t mean she can’t damned well try.
I’ve been really looking forward to this ever since it was announced. Pitched as “space opera for fans of The Mandalorian and Cowboy Bebop” and a “high-stakes adventure”, I’ll be reading this very soon. Persephone Station is due to be published by Gallery/Saga on January 5th, 2021, in North America and in the UK.
Also on CR: Interview with Stina Leicht (2012)
Jill Lepore, IF THEN (W. W. Norton)
The Simulmatics Corporation, launched during the Cold War, mined data, targeted voters, manipulated consumers, destabilized politics, and disordered knowledge — decades before Facebook, Google, and Cambridge Analytica. Jill Lepore, best-selling author of These Truths, came across the company’s papers in MIT’s archives and set out to tell this forgotten history, the long-lost backstory to the methods, and the arrogance, of Silicon Valley.
Founded in 1959 by some of the nation’s leading social scientists — “the best and the brightest, fatally brilliant, Icaruses with wings of feathers and wax, flying to the sun” — Simulmatics proposed to predict and manipulate the future by way of the computer simulation of human behavior. In summers, with their wives and children in tow, the company’s scientists met on the beach in Long Island under a geodesic, honeycombed dome, where they built a “People Machine” that aimed to model everything from buying a dishwasher to counterinsurgency to casting a vote. Deploying their “People Machine” from New York, Washington, Cambridge, and even Saigon, Simulmatics’ clients included the John F. Kennedy presidential campaign, the New York Times, the Department of Defense, and dozens of major manufacturers: Simulmatics had a hand in everything from political races to the Vietnam War to the Johnson administration’s ill-fated attempt to predict race riots. The company’s collapse was almost as rapid as its ascent, a collapse that involved failed marriages, a suspicious death, and bankruptcy. Exposed for false claims, and even accused of war crimes, it closed its doors in 1970 and all but vanished. Until Lepore came across the records of its remains.
The scientists of Simulmatics believed they had invented “the A-bomb of the social sciences.” They did not predict that it would take decades to detonate, like a long-buried grenade. But, in the early years of the twenty-first century, that bomb did detonate, creating a world in which corporations collect data and model behavior and target messages about the most ordinary of decisions, leaving people all over the world, long before the global pandemic, crushed by feelings of helplessness. This history has a past; If Then is its cautionary tale.
Lepore is one of my favourite historians/non-fiction writers. Whether a new book or a new piece for the New Yorker (or other venues), it’s always a must-read for me. If Then is out now, published by W. W. Norton in North America, and John Murray in the UK.
Matthew C. MacWilliams, ON FASCISM (St. Martin’s Press)
An expert on American authoritarianism offers a searing rebuke of the exceptional narrative that dominates our understanding of US history. In 12 lessons, Matthew C. MacWilliams’ On Fascism exposes the divisive rhetoric, strongman tactics, violent othering, and authoritarian attitudes that course through American history and compete with our egalitarian, democratic aspirations. Trumpism isn’t new, but rooted in our refusal to come to terms with this historical reality.
The United States of Lyncherdom, as Mark Twain labeled America. Lincoln versus Douglas. The Chinese Exclusion Act. The Trail of Tears. The internment of Japanese-Americans. The Palmer Raids. McCarthyism. The Surveillance State. At turning points throughout history, as we aspired toward great things, we also witnessed the authoritarian impulse drive policy and win public support. Only by confronting and reconciling this past, can America move forward into a future rooted in the motto of our Republic since 1782: e pluribus unum (out of many, one).
But this book isn’t simply an indictment. It is also a celebration of our spirit, perseverance, and commitment to the values at the heart of the American project. Along the way, we learn about many American heroes – like Ida B. Wells, who dedicated her life to documenting the horrors of lynching throughout the nation, or the young Jewish-American who took a beating for protesting a Nazi rally in New York City in 1939. Men and women who embodied the soaring, revolutionary proclamations set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution.
On Fascism is both an honest reckoning and a call for reconciliation. Denial and division will not save the Republic, but coming to terms with our history might.
Imbolo Mbue, HOW BEAUTIFUL WE WERE (Random House)
We should have known the end was near. So begins Imbolo Mbue’s powerful second novel, How Beautiful We Were.
Set in the fictional African village of Kosawa, it tells of a people living in fear amid environmental degradation wrought by an American oil company. Pipeline spills have rendered farmlands infertile. Children are dying from drinking toxic water. Promises of cleanup and financial reparations to the villagers are made — and ignored. The country’s government, led by a brazen dictator, exists to serve its own interests. Left with few choices, the people of Kosawa decide to fight back. Their struggle will last for decades and come at a steep price.
Told from the perspective of a generation of children and the family of a girl named Thula who grows up to become a revolutionary, How Beautiful We Were is a masterful exploration of what happens when the reckless drive for profit, coupled with the ghost of colonialism, comes up against one community’s determination to hold on to its ancestral land and a young woman’s willingness to sacrifice everything for the sake of her people’s freedom.
Imbolo Mbue’s debut, Behold the Dreamers, was one of my favourite reads of 2016, so I was very interested in reading the author’s next novel. How Beautiful We Were is due to be published in North America by Random House (March 9th, 2021) and Canongate in the UK (March 11th).
Kyle Mills, TOTAL POWER (Atria)
A race against the clock when ISIS takes out the entire US power grid and throws the country into chaos.
When Mitch Rapp captures ISIS’s top technology expert, he reveals that he was on his way to meet a man who claims to have the ability to bring down America’s power grid. Rapp is determined to eliminate this shadowy figure, but the CIA’s trap fails.
The Agency is still trying to determine what went wrong when ISIS operatives help this cyber terrorist do what he said he could — plunge the country into darkness. With no concept of how this unprecedented act was accomplished, the task of getting the power back on could take months. Perhaps even years.
Rapp and his team embark on a desperate search for the only people who know how to repair the damage — the ones responsible. But his operating environment is like nothing he’s experienced before. Computers and communication networks are down, fuel can no longer be pumped from gas stations, water and sanitation systems are on the brink of collapse, and the supply of food is running out.
Can Rapp get the lights back on before America descends irretrievably into chaos?
I think James Patterson’s Alex Cross is the only crime/thriller series that I’ve been reading longer than Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp series (I’m not sure if I started John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport series before or after Flynn’s). Following Flynn’s passing, Mills (another favourite author of mine) has done a superb job of continuing the series and making it his own. Each new book is a must-read for me. Total Power is out now published by Atria/Emily Bestler (North America) and Simon & Schuster (UK).
Natalie Zina Walschots, HENCH (William Morrow)
A young woman discovers the greatest superpower—for good or ill—is a properly executed spreadsheet.
Anna does boring things for terrible people because even criminals need office help and she needs a job. Working for a monster lurking beneath the surface of the world isn’t glamorous. But is it really worse than working for an oil conglomerate or an insurance company? In this economy?
As a temp, she’s just a cog in the machine. But when she finally gets a promising assignment, everything goes very wrong, and an encounter with the so-called “hero” leaves her badly injured. And, to her horror, compared to the other bodies strewn about, she’s the lucky one.
So, of course, then she gets laid off.
With no money and no mobility, with only her anger and internet research acumen, she discovers her suffering at the hands of a hero is far from unique. When people start listening to the story that her data tells, she realizes she might not be as powerless as she thinks.
Because the key to everything is data: knowing how to collate it, how to manipulate it, and how to weaponize it. By tallying up the human cost these caped forces of nature wreak upon the world, she discovers that the line between good and evil is mostly marketing. And with social media and viral videos, she can control that appearance.
It’s not too long before she’s employed once more, this time by one of the worst villains on earth. As she becomes an increasingly valuable lieutenant, she might just save the world.
A sharp, witty, modern debut, Hench explores the individual cost of justice through a fascinating mix of Millennial office politics, heroism measured through data science, body horror, and a profound misunderstanding of quantum mechanics.
This has been described as “The Boys meets My Year of Rest and Relaxation“, which is a pretty intriguing premise. Looking forward to reading this very soon. Hench is published by William Morrow in North America and in the UK.