A final New Books post for 2020. What a strange, frustrating year it’s been. Hopefully you were able to find some comfort in books, family, and other pastimes. Perhaps some of the below-mentioned books will catch your eye, and give you something to look forward to in the new year.
Featuring: Jeff Blue, Emma Brodie, Mike Brooks, Daryl Gregory, Devin Madson, Suyi Davies Okungbowa, A.E. Osworth, Shelley Parker-Chan, Taylor Jenkins Reid, Matthew Reilly, Edward Rutherford, Adrian Selby, Mike Shackle, Maggie Shipstead, Gavin G. Smith, Adrian Tchaikovsky, K.B. Wagers, Andrew Williams
Jeff Blue, ONE STEP CLOSER: FROM XERO TO #1 (Permuted Press)
The dramatic story of the unlikely partnership that led to “Hybrid Theory,” the biggest-selling debut album of the 21st Century.
From the unique perspective of the executive who discovered them, One Step Closer reveals how Brad Delson’s college internship was a catalyst for a group of young musical visionaries, led by Mike Shinoda, which gave rise to a band that survived countless rejections, exceeded everyone’s expectations but their own, and became the voice of a generation.
This against-all-odds story chronicles the early days of Linkin Park, from their first demo and Whisky a Go Go performance as Xero, through their tireless efforts to perfect their iconic sound and the discovery of Chester Bennington. Jeff Blue was there when no one else believed — first as their publisher, then as their A&R guy. This is his memoir of that incredible journey.
Riveting and inspiring, One Step Closer is a testament to perseverance, as well as a detailed behind-the-scenes account of the building of a dream and what it takes to make it.
I’ve been a fan of Linkin Park since the day Hybrid Theory was released. At the time, I was living in New York, spending most of my time reading music magazines and browsing the shelves of the Times Square Virgin Megastore. Hybrid Theory kept appearing in the various magazines I was reading — full page ads for this debut album. I decided to give it a try, and bought it on day one. I don’t think I’m far off the mark when I say that I have probably listened to at least one Linkin Park song every day since. So, when I saw this book had been announced, I knew I had to read it. It’s pretty good, too: plenty of information about how the music industry worked back then, and some interesting insight into how the band evolved into the juggernaut they became. One Step Closer is out now, published by Permuted Press in North America and in the UK.
Emma Brodie, SONGS IN URSA MAJOR (Knopf)
Raised on an island off Massachusetts by a mother who wrote songs for famous musicians, Jane Quinn is singing in her own band before she’s old enough to even read music. When folk legend Jesse Reid hears about Jane’s performance at the island’s music festival, a star is born — and so is a passionate love affair: they become inseparable when her band joins his on tour.
Wary of being cast as his girlfriend — and haunted by her mother’s shattered ambitions — Jane shields her relationship from the public eye, but Jesse’s star power pulls her into his orbit of fame. Caught up in the thrill of the road and the profound and lustful connection she has with Jesse, Jane is blindsided by the discovery she makes about the dark secret beneath his music. Heartbroken and blackballed by the industry, Jane is now truly on her own: to make the music she loves, and to make peace with her family.
Shot through with the lyrics, the icons, the lore, the adrenaline of the early-70s music scene, Songs in Ursa Major pulses with romantic longing and asks the question so many female artists must face: What are we willing to sacrifice for our dreams?
I first learned of this novel via the UK edition, and have been looking forward to reading it ever since. Its 1970s music scene setting pinged my radar, as I really enjoyed Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Daisy Jones & the Six, and I thought it might appeal in the same way. Songs in Ursa Major is due to be published by Knopf in North America (June 22nd) and Harper Collins in the UK (June 24th)
Mike Brooks, THE BLACK COAST (Solaris)
War Dragons. Fearsome Raiders. A Daemonic Warlord on the Rise.
When the citizens of Black Keep see ships on the horizon, terror takes them because they know who is coming: for generations, the keep has been raided by the fearsome clanspeople of Tjakorsha. Saddling their war dragons, Black Keep’s warriors rush to defend their home only to discover that the clanspeople have not come to pillage at all. Driven from their own land by a daemonic despot who prophesises the end of the world, the raiders come in search of a new home…
Meanwhile the wider continent of Narida is lurching toward war. Black Keep is about to be caught in the crossfire – if only its new mismatched society can survive.
This is Brooks’s debut fantasy novel. Know for his action-packed Keiko sci-fi series, and also his excellent work for Black Library, I’m looking forward to reading this new series. The Black Coast is due to be published by Solaris in North America and Orbit in the UK.
Also on CR: Interview with Mike Brooks (2015)
Daryl Gregory, THE ALBUM OF DR. MOREAU (Tor.com)
It’s 2001, and the WyldBoyZ are the world’s hottest boy band, and definitely the world’s only genetically engineered human-animal hybrid vocal group. When their producer, Dr. M, is found murdered in his hotel room, the “boyz” become the prime suspects. Was it Bobby the ocelot (“the cute one”), Matt the megabat (“the funny one”), Tim the Pangolin (“the shy one”), Devin the bonobo (“the romantic one”), or Tusk the elephant (“the smart one”)?
Las Vegas Detective Luce Delgado has only twenty-four hours to solve a case that goes all the way back to the secret science barge where the WyldBoyZ’ journey first began — a place they used to call home.
A new novella from the author of Afterparty and Spoonbenders, to name but two examples. Big fan of Gregory’s work, so I’ve been very much looking forward to this one ever since it was announced. I started reading it earlier this week, and should have a review up very soon (it’s excellent, FYI). The Album of Dr. Moreau is due to be published by Tor.com on May 18th, 2021, in North America and in the UK.
Also on CR: Interview with Daryl Gregory (2017)
Devin Madson, WE LIE WITH DEAD (Orbit)
War rages as one empire falls and another rises in its place…
There is no calm after the storm.
In Kisia’s conquered north, former empress Miko Ts’ai is more determined than ever to save her empire. Yet, as her hunt for allies grows increasingly desperate, she may learn too late that power lies not in names but in people.
Dishiva e’Jaroven is fiercely loyal to the new Levanti emperor. Only he can lead them, but his next choice will challenge everything she wants to believe about her people’s future.
Abandoned by his Second Swords, Rah e’Torin must learn to survive without a herd. But honor dictates he bring his warriors home-a path that could be his salvation or lead to his destruction.
And sold to the Witchdoctor, Cassandra Marius’ desperate search for a cure ties her fate inextricably to Empress Hana and her true nature could condemn them both.
This is the second novel in the author’s Reborn Empire, following We Ride the Storm. I haven’t had a chance, yet, to read the first novel, but I’m eager to do so. We Lie With Dead is due to be published by Orbit Books in North America and in the UK, on 2021.
Also on CR: Interview with Devin Madson (2020)
Suyi Davies Okungbowa, SON OF THE STORM (Orbit)
A sweeping tale of violent conquest and forbidden magic set in a world inspired by the pre-colonial empires of West Africa.
In the thriving city of Bassa, Danso is a clever but disillusioned scholar who longs for a life beyond the rigid family and political obligations expected of the city’s elite. A way out presents itself when Lilong, a skin-changing warrior, shows up wounded in his barn. She comes from the Nameless Islands- which, according to Bassa lore, don’t exist- and neither should the mythical magic of ibor she wields.
Now swept into a conspiracy far beyond his understanding, Danso and Lilong will set out on a journey that reveals histories violently suppressed and magic only found in lore.
The first novel in the Nameless Republic trilogy, it sounds pretty interesting. Looking forward to reading this. (It’s not out for a while, so I’ll hold off for a bit on a review.) Son of the Storm is due to be published by Orbit Books in North America and in the UK, on May 11th, 2021.
Also on CR: Interview with Suyi Davies Okungbowa (2019)
A.E. Osworth, WE ARE WATCHING ELIZA BRIGHT (Grand Central Publishing)
Eliza Bright was living the dream as an elite video game coder at Fancy Dog Games when her private life suddenly became public. But is Eliza Bright a brilliant, self-taught coder bravely calling out the toxic masculinity and chauvinism that pervades her workplace and industry? Or, is Eliza Bright a woman who needs to be destroyed to protect “the sanctity of gaming culture”? It depends on who you ask…
When Eliza reports an incident of workplace harassment that is quickly dismissed, she’s forced to take her frustrations to a journalist who blasts her story across the Internet. She’s fired and doxxed, and becomes a rallying figure for women across America. But she’s also enraged the beast that is male gamers on 4Chan and Reddit, whose collective, unreliable voice narrates our story. Soon Eliza is in the cross-hairs of the gaming community, threatened and stalked as they monitor her every move online and across New York City.
As the violent power of an angry male collective descends upon everyone in Eliza’s life, it becomes increasingly difficult to know who to trust, even when she’s eventually taken in and protected by an under-the-radar Collective known as the Sixsterhood. The violence moves from cyberspace to the real world, as a vicious male super-fan known only as The Inspectre is determined to exact his revenge on behalf of men everywhere. We watch alongside the Sixsterhood and subreddit incels as this dramatic cat-and-mouse game plays out to reach its violent and inevitable conclusion.
This is an extraordinary, unputdownable novel that explores the dark recesses of the Internet and male rage, and the fragile line between the online world and real life. It’s a thrilling story of female resilience and survival, packed with a powerful feminist message.
Shelley Parker-Chan, SHE WHO BECAME THE SUN (Tor Books)
To possess the Mandate of Heaven, the female monk Zhu will do anything
“I refuse to be nothing…”
In a famine-stricken village on a dusty yellow plain, two children are given two fates. A boy, greatness. A girl, nothingness…
In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected.
When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother’s identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, propelled by her burning desire to survive, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes, no matter how callous, to stay hidden from her fate.
After her sanctuary is destroyed for supporting the rebellion against Mongol rule, Zhu takes the chance to claim another future altogether: her brother’s abandoned greatness.
The first novel in the Radiant Emperor series, it has been described as “Mulan meets The Song of Achilles“, this looks really interesting. I’ll hopefully be reading it soon, but will hold off until closer to release for the review. She Who Became the Sun is due to be published by Tor Books in North America (July 20th) and Mantle in the UK (July 22nd).
Taylor Jenkins Reid, MALIBU RISING (Hutchinson)
A lifetime holding it together.
One party will bring it crashing down.
Malibu: August, 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together, the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over — especially as the offspring of the legendary singer, Mick Riva.
The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the center of attention, and who has also just been very publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Oh, and maybe Hud — because it is long past time to confess something to the brother from whom he’s been inseparable since birth.
Jay, on the other hand, is counting the minutes until nightfall, when the girl he can’t stop thinking about promised she’ll be there.
And Kit has a couple secrets of her own-including a guest she invited without consulting anyone.
By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family’s generations will all come bubbling to the surface.
Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them… and what they will leave behind.
One of my most-anticipated novels of 2021. I read Daisy Jones & the Six and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo last year, and loved them both. I’ve been itching to get my hands on this one ever since it was announced. I’ll be reading this very soon. Malibu Rising is due to be published by Hutchinson in the UK (May 27th) and Ballantine Books in North America (May 25th).
Also on CR: Review of Daisy Jones & the Six
Matthew Reilly, THE TWO LOST MOUNTAINS (Orion)
AN INCREDIBLE VICTORY AT A TERRIBLE PRICE
Against all the odds, Jack West Jr found the Three Secret Cities – but at a heartbreaking cost.
TO THE MOUNTAINS AND THE FALL
Still reeling from his loss, Jack must now get to one of the five iron mountains – two of which have never been found – and perform a mysterious feat known only as ‘The Fall’.
A NEW PLAYER ARRIVES
Amid all this, Jack will discover that a new player has entered the race, a general so feared by the four legendary kingdoms they had him locked away in their deepest dungeon.
Only now this general has escaped and he has a horrifying plan of his own…
The highly-anticipated sixth novel in Reilly’s Jack West series. I’ve been following the series since 2006, when Seven Deadly Wonders was released in paperback, and I’ve eagerly anticipated each new instalment ever since. I read this pretty soon after getting it, and enjoyed it (full review in January). The Two Lost Mountains is due to be published by Orion Books in the UK, on January 21st, 2021 (not sure about North American publisher at the moment). The novel is out now in Australia, published by Macmillan.
Edward Rutherfurd, CHINA (Doubleday)
The story begins in 1839, at the dawn of the First Opium War, and follows Chinese history through Mao’s Cultural Revolution and up to the present day. Rutherfurd chronicles the rising and falling fortunes of members of Chinese, British, and American families, as they negotiate the tides of history. Along the way, in his signature style, Rutherfurd provides a deeply researched portrait of Chinese history and society, its ancient traditions and great upheavals, and China’s emergence as a rising global power. As always, we are treated to romance and adventure, heroines and scoundrels, grinding struggle and incredible fortunes.
China: The Novel brings to life the rich terrain of this vast and constantly evolving country. From Shanghai to Nanking to the Great Wall, Rutherfurd chronicles the turbulent rise and fall of empires as the colonial West meets the opulent and complex East in a dramatic struggle between cultures and people.
I’ve only read one of Rutherfurd’s previous epic novels: New York. When I learned that he was going to tackle the history of China in novel form, I was intrigued and eager to give it a try. It’s quite long, so it’ll take a while to read, but that’s ok because it’s not out for some time. China is due to be published by Doubleday in North America (May 11th) and Hodder & Stoughton in the UK (May 13th).
Adrian Selby, BROTHER RED (Orbit)
The story of a soldier torn between loyalty to her family and her quest to preserve a kingdom’s future.
She was their hope, their martyr, their brother…
Driwna Marghoster, a soldier for the powerful merchant guild known as The Post, is defending her trade caravan from a vicious bandit attack when she discovers a dead body hidden in one of her wagons.
Born of the elusive Oskoro people, the body is a rare and priceless find, the center of a tragic tale and the key to a larger mystery.
But as Driwna investigates who the body was meant for, she finds herself on a trail of deceit and corruption… a trail that will lead her to an evil more powerful than she can possibly imagine.
A new stand-alone fantasy novel from the author of Snakewood and The Winter Road. I’ve had a mixed experience with Selby’s works in the past. He’s very good at creating different characters and imbuing them with their own distinctive voice. However, I’ve struggled to really get sucked into any of his novels. This one sounds pretty interesting and quite different from his other two novels. So, maybe this one will work for me. Brother Red is due to be published by Orbit Books in North America and in the UK, on January 26th, 2021.
Mike Shackle, A FOOL’S HOPE (Gollancz)
Jia’s revolutionaries dig in their heels as they learn that wars aren’t won in a day.
War takes everything.
From Tinnstra, it took her family and thrust her into a conflict she wanted only to avoid. Now her queen’s sole protector, she must give all she has left to keep Zorique safe.
It has taken just as much from Jia’s revolutionaries. Dren and Jax – battered, tortured, once enemies themselves – must hold strong against their bruised invaders, the Egril.
For the Egril intend to wipe Jia from the map. They may have lost a battle, but they are coming back.
If Tinnstra and her allies hope to survive, Jia’s heroes will need to be ready when they do.
This is my most-anticipated fantasy novel of the year. Shackle’s debut, We Are The Dead is one of the best fantasy debuts I’ve read in over a decade. So, I pre-ordered this pretty much as soon as I could. I’ve been saving it for after I finished my work for the year, so I’ll be starting this in the next couple of days. A Fool’s Hope is out now, published by Gollancz in the UK and in Canada.
Maggie Shipstead, THE GREAT CIRCLE (Knopf)
Spanning Prohibition-era Montana, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, New Zealand, wartime London, and modern-day Los Angeles… the unforgettable story of a daredevil female aviator determined to chart her own course in life, at any cost.
After being rescued as infants from a sinking ocean liner in 1914, Marian and Jamie Graves are raised by their dissolute uncle in Missoula, Montana. There — after encountering a pair of barnstorming pilots passing through town in beat-up biplanes — Marian commences her lifelong love affair with flight. At fourteen she drops out of school and finds an unexpected and dangerous patron in a wealthy bootlegger who provides a plane and subsidizes her lessons, an arrangement that will haunt her for the rest of her life, even as it allows her to fulfill her destiny: circumnavigating the globe by flying over the North and South Poles.
A century later, Hadley Baxter is cast to play Marian in a film that centers on Marian’s disappearance in Antarctica. Vibrant, canny, disgusted with the claustrophobia of Hollywood, Hadley is eager to redefine herself after a romantic film franchise has imprisoned her in the grip of cult celebrity. Her immersion into the character of Marian unfolds, thrillingly, alongside Marian’s own story, as the two women’s fates — and their hunger for self-determination in vastly different geographies and times — collide.
Thought this looked really interesting, and I’ve been keen to read it ever since I first read the synopsis in a publisher’s catalogue. The Great Circle is due to be published by Knopf in North America (May 4th) and Doubleday in the UK (May 6th).
Gavin G. Smith, SPEC OPS Z (Abaddon)
When Vadim Scorlenski and his elite Spetznaz squad are sent to New York at the height of the Cold War, they’re told it’s a ‘training exercise.’ They discover, too late, that the ‘practice’ chemical weapon they’re carrying is all too real. They go to their deaths…
…and awaken to a city overwhelmed by the walking dead, even now spreading across the globe. Somehow holding onto their identities amid the mindless monsters, Scorlenski and his squad of zombie commandos set out to return to Russia.
Someone’s going to pay.
A handsome new re-issue of a high-octane military-SF, as Russian Spetsnaz commandos are turned into zombies in ’80s New York.
A new edition of Smith’s Cold War horror novel. I missed it when it was first released, so I’m looking forward to giving it a try. Spec Ops Z is due to be published by Abaddon in North America and in the UK, on February 2nd.
Adrian Tchaikovsky, ONE DAY ALL THIS WILL BE YOURS (Solaris)
Welcome to the end of time. It’s a perfect day.
Nobody remembers how the Causality War started. Really, there’s no-one to remember, and nothing for them to remember if there were; that’s sort of the point. We were time warriors, and we broke time.
I was the one who ended it. Ended the fighting, tidied up the damage as much as I could.
Then I came here, to the end of it all, and gave myself a mission: to never let it happen again.
A new novella from Tchaikovsky, one of the busiest authors in SFF. Also, one of my favourites, so always a great day to receive a new book of his. I read this very soon after receiving it, and thought it was fantastic (review link below). One Day All This Will Be Yours is due to be published by Solaris on March 2nd, 2021, in North America and in the UK.
Also on CR: Interview with Adrian Tchaikovsky (2012); Guest Posts on “Nine Books, Six Years, One Stenwold Maker”, “The Art of Gunsmithing: Writing Guns of the Dawn”, “Looking for God in Melnibone Places: Fantasy and Religion”, and “Eye of the Spider”; Excerpt from Guns of the Dawn; Reviews of Empire of Black and Gold, Guns of the Dawn, Spiderlight, Ironclads, Children of Ruin, The Doors of Eden and One Day All This Will Be Yours
K. B. Wagers, OUT PAST THE STARS (Orbit)
Gunrunner empress Hail Bristol must navigate alien politics and deadly plots to prevent an interspecies war…
When Hail finally confronts the Farian gods, she makes a stunning discovery. There are no gods — only the Hiervet, an alien race with devastating powers who once spread war throughout the galaxy long before humanity’s ancestors crawled out of the sludge of Earth’s oceans.
But this knowledge carries with it dire news: the Hiervet have returned, eager to take revenge on those of their kind who escaped. And they don’t care who gets caught in the middle of the battle — Shen, Farian, or Indranan.
Once again, the fate of the galaxy is on the line and Hail will have to make one final gamble to leverage chaos into peace.
The third and concluding novel in Wagers’s Farian War trilogy. Looking forward to reading this. Out Past the Stars is due to be published by Orbit Books in North America and in the UK, on February 23rd, 2021.
Also on CR: Interview with K. B. Wagers (2016)
Andrew Williams, WITCHFINDER (Hodder & Stoughton)
London 1963. The Beatles, Carnaby Street, mini skirts. But the new mood hasn’t reached the drab and fearful corridors of MI5 and MI6. Many agents joined the secret service to fight the Nazis. Now they are locked in a Cold War against the Russians.
And some of them are traitors.
The service has been shaken to its core by the high-profile defections of Cambridge-educated spies Burgess, MacLean and now Philby. Appalled at such flagrant breaches of British security, the Americans are demanding a rigorous review.
Harry Vaughan is brought back from Vienna to be part of it. The Chief asks him to join two investigators — Arthur Martin and Peter Wright — who are determined to clean out the stables, and the first target of their suspicions is the Deputy Director General of MI5, Graham Mitchell.
Harry slips back into a relationship with an old flame, Elsa, and joins the hunt – somewhat reluctantly. He is sceptical of the case against Mitchell and wary of the messianic fervour of the two spycatchers. But the further the investigation goes — and the deeper his commitment to Elsa becomes — the greater the sense of paranoia and distrust that spreads through the ‘wilderness of mirrors’ that is the secret service.
The only certainty is that no one is above suspicion.
It’s that time of year again: the semester when I spend an awful lot of time grading papers and other assignments about the Cold War. Typically, I end up buying at least one new Cold War-set novel whenever I’m working on this course. This year, that novel is Witchfinder, which also happened to be a Kindle deal this month. I’m looking forward to reading it ASAP. Witchfinder is out now, published by Hodder & Stoughton in the UK (I couldn’t find any North American publisher information, at the time of writing).