Featuring: John Appel, Rosecrans Baldwin, C.F. Barrington, E.J. Beaton, Jessica Anya Blau, Tom Bradby, Christopher Buehlman, A.A. Dhand, Carolyn Ferrell, Jackson Ford, Alexander Freed, Ben Golliver, Sam Hill, Graham Hurley, Kim Bo-Young, M.J. Kuhn, Derek Künsken, Corry L. Lee, David Liss, Marjorie Liu, Richard Marx, G. R. Matthews, Benjamin Percy, Chris Power, Robert V.S. Redick, Jason Schreier, A. J. Smith, David Swinson, Catherynne M. Valente, Martha Wells, Django Wexler
John Appel, ASSASSIN’S ORBIT (Solaris)
Murder forces the unlikeliest of allies.
On the eve of the planet Ileri’s historic vote to join the Commonwealth, the assassination of a government minister threatens to shatter everything. Private investigator Noo Okereke and spy Meiko Ogawa join forces with police chief Toiwa to investigate — and discover clues that point disturbingly toward a threat humanity thought they had escaped.
A threat that could destroy Ileri and spark an interplanetary war… unless the disparate team can work together to solve the mystery.
This one has a rather intriguing pitch: “Golden Girls meets The Expanse with a side of Babylon Five.” Sounds kind of interesting. Will read this soon. Assassin’s Orbit is due to be published by Solaris in North America (July 20th) and in the UK (July 22nd).
Rosecrans Baldwin, EVERYTHING NOW (MCD)
A provocative, exhilaratingly new understanding of the United States’ most confounding metropolis — not just a great city, but a full-blown modern city-state
America is obsessed with Los Angeles. And America has been thinking about Los Angeles all wrong, for decades, on repeat. Los Angeles is not just the place where the American dream hits the Pacific. (It has its own dreams.) Not just the vanishing point of America’s western drive. (It has its own compass.) Functionally, aesthetically, mythologically, even technologically, an independent territory, defined less by distinct borders than by an aura of autonomy and a sense of unfurling destiny — this is the city-state of Los Angeles.
Deeply reported and researched, provocatively argued, and eloquently written, Rosecrans Baldwin’sEverything Now approaches the metropolis from unexpected angles, nimbly interleaving his own voice with a chorus of others, from canonical L.A. literature to everyday citizens. Here, Octavia E. Butler and Joan Didion are in conversation with activists and astronauts, vampires and veterans. Baldwin records the stories of countless Angelenos, discovering people both upended and reborn: by disasters natural and economic, following gospels of wealth or self-help or personal destiny. The result is a story of a kaleidoscopic, vibrant nation unto itself — vastly more than its many, many parts.
Baldwin’s concept of the city-state allows us, finally, to grasp a place — Los Angeles — whose idiosyncrasies both magnify those of America, and are so fully its own. Here, space and time don’t quite work the same as they do elsewhere, and contradictions are as stark as southern California’s natural environment. Perhaps no better place exists to watch the United States’s past, and its possible futures, play themselves out.
Welcome to Los Angeles, the Great American City-State.
Spotted this a while ago (and have already mentioned it on CR in the past), so very happy to have a review copy of this. Will read very soon. Everything Now is due to be published by MCD in North America and in the UK, on June 15th, 2021.
C. F. Barrington, THE WOLF MILE (Head of Zeus)
A forbidden contest. An international game.
Bankrolled by the world’s wealthy elite and followed by thousands online, two teams of warriors vie for dominance… and the streets of Edinburgh run with blood.
Into this secret struggle steps Tyler Maitland, seeking his lost sister, and Lana Cameron, grieving her dead child. When they are accosted by figures in black hoodies and each handed a silver amulet, they recognise the Triple Horn of Odin – the talisman of the Valhalla Horde.
They are being recruited into the great game known as The Pantheon. And one day they will change everything.
Now they must risk their lives and join the ranks of seven ancient warrior teams which inhabit this illicit world. Their journey will be more wondrous and horrifying than anything they could have dreamed, taking each of them to the depths of their souls … and testing them to breaking point as they search for loved ones and for the meaning in their lives.
Let the Season begin.
This is Barrington’s debut novel, and the first in the Pantheon series. I’m getting some Matthew Reilly vibes from the synopsis, so rather looking forward to reading it. The Wolf Mile is due to be published by Head of Zeus in North America (September 5th) and in the UK (May 6th).
E. J. Beaton, THE COUNCILLOR (DAW)
This Machiavellian fantasy follows a scholar’s quest to choose the next ruler of her nation amidst lies, conspiracy, and assassination
When the death of Iron Queen Sarelin Brey fractures the realm of Elira, Lysande Prior, the palace scholar and the queen’s closest friend, is appointed Councillor. Publically, Lysande must choose the next monarch from amongst the city-rulers vying for the throne. Privately, she seeks to discover which ruler murdered the queen, suspecting the use of magic.
Resourceful, analytical, and quiet, Lysande appears to embody the motto she was raised with: everything in its place. Yet while she hides her drug addiction from her new associates, she cannot hide her growing interest in power. She becomes locked in a game of strategy with the city-rulers – especially the erudite prince Luca Fontaine, who seems to shift between ally and rival.
Further from home, an old enemy is stirring: the magic-wielding White Queen is on the move again, and her alliance with a traitor among the royal milieu poses a danger not just to the peace of the realm, but to the survival of everything that Lysande cares about.
In a world where the low-born keep their heads down, Lysande must learn to fight an enemy who wears many guises… even as she wages her own battle between ambition and restraint.
I noticed this book a short while before it was published, as it was getting some good buzz online. It’s described as a “Machiavellian fantasy”, which sounds pretty interesting. The Councillor is out now, published by DAW Books in North America and in the UK.
Jessica Anya Blau, MARY JANE (Custom House)
In 1970s Baltimore, fourteen-year-old Mary Jane loves cooking with her mother, singing in her church choir, and enjoying her family’s subscription to the Broadway Showtunes of the Month record club. Shy, quiet, and bookish, she’s glad when she lands a summer job as a nanny for the daughter of a local doctor. A respectable job, Mary Jane’s mother says. In a respectable house.
The house may look respectable on the outside, but inside it’s a literal and figurative mess: clutter on every surface, Impeachment: Now More Than Ever bumper stickers on the doors, cereal and takeout for dinner. And even more troublesome (were Mary Jane’s mother to know, which she does not): the doctor is a psychiatrist who has cleared his summer for one important job—helping a famous rock star dry out. A week after Mary Jane starts, the rock star and his movie star wife move in.
Over the course of the summer, Mary Jane introduces her new household to crisply ironed clothes and a family dinner schedule, and has a front-row seat to a liberal world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll (not to mention group therapy). Caught between the lifestyle she’s always known and the future she’s only just realized is possible, Mary Jane will arrive at September with a new idea about what she wants out of life, and what kind of person she’s going to be.
I’m a sucker for music-related fiction, and this has been described as “Almost Famous meets Daisy Jones and the Six” (great movie, great novel), so I’ve been eagerly anticipating this one since it was announced — I started it very soon after getting it, and very much enjoyed it. I hadn’t read anything else by Blau before, but I did pick up The Unexpected Spy, which Blau co-authored. Mary Jane is due to be published by Custom House in Canada, the US, and in the UK, on May 11th.
Tom Bradby, TRIPLE CROSS (Bantam)
Attempting to rebuild her shattered life in the South of France, former MI6 operative Kate Henderson receives an unexpected and most unwelcome visit from an old adversary: the UK Prime Minister. He has an extraordinary story to tell — and he needs her help.
A Russian agent has come forward with news that the PM has been the victim of the greatest misinformation play in the history of MI6. It’s run out of a special KGB unit that exists for one purpose alone: to process the intelligence from ‘Agent Dante’, a mole right at the heart of MI6 in London.
Against her better judgement, Kate is forced back into the fray in a top-secret, deeply flawed and dangerous investigation. But now she’s damaged goods. Her one-time allies no longer trust her. And neither do her enemies.
With the stakes this high, can the truth ever come out? Or is the cost of uncovering it a price that no one, least of all Kate, can afford to pay?
This is the third novel in Bradby’s acclaimed Kate Henderson series. Really looking forward to getting them all read (I’ve fallen behind, again). Triple Cross is due to be published by Bantam Press in the UK, on May 13th. (The first two novels are published in North America by Atlantic Monthly Press, so they might be publishing this one, too.)
Christopher Buehlman, THE BLACKTONGUE THIEF (Tor Books)
Set in a world of goblin wars, stag-sized battle ravens, and assassins who kill with deadly tattoos, Christopher Buehlman’s The Blacktongue Thief begins a ‘dazzling’ (Robin Hobb) fantasy adventure unlike any other.
Kinch Na Shannack owes the Takers Guild a small fortune for his education as a thief, which includes (but is not limited to) lock-picking, knife-fighting, wall-scaling, fall-breaking, lie-weaving, trap-making, plus a few small magics. His debt has driven him to lie in wait by the old forest road, planning to rob the next traveler that crosses his path.
But today, Kinch Na Shannack has picked the wrong mark.
Galva is a knight, a survivor of the brutal goblin wars, and handmaiden of the goddess of death. She is searching for her queen, missing since a distant northern city fell to giants.
Unsuccessful in his robbery and lucky to escape with his life, Kinch now finds his fate entangled with Galva’s. Common enemies and uncommon dangers force thief and knight on an epic journey where goblins hunger for human flesh, krakens hunt in dark waters, and honor is a luxury few can afford.
This is the first novel in Buehlman’s Blacktongue series, and his first fantasy novel. It’s getting a lot of positive pre-publication buzz, and I’m looking forward to reading it. The Blacktongue Thief is due to be published by Tor Books in North America (May 25th) and Gollancz in the UK (May 27th).
Also on CR: Review of The Lesser Dead
A.A. Dhand, THE BLOOD DIVIDE (Bantam Press)
The last thing Jack Baxi expected when a detective rang his doorbell in the middle of the night was that he’d be tortured and left for dead, with a young woman he’s never met before.
Now, running for their lives, Jack and Aisha frantically try to discover why the detective was so convinced they both have information on a missing person. Jack is a Sikh corner shopkeeper with a criminal record. Aisha is a Muslim medical student from a wealthy family. What could possibly connect them?
Their desperate hunt for answers will take them on a perilous journey, from the sprawling underground markets and dangerous red-light district of Delhi all the way to the most militarized zone in India.
But little do they know, a dangerous organisation is watching their every move – and they’ll do whatever it takes to stop Jack and Aisha learning the truth…
This is Dhand’s first novel outside of his acclaimed D.I. Harry Virdee series. I thought it looked really interesting, and hope to get to it soon. The Blood Divide is due to be published by Bantam Press in the UK, on June 24th.
Carolyn Ferrell, DEAR MISS METROPOLITAN (Henry Holt)
Fern seeks refuge from her mother’s pill-popping and boyfriends via Soul Train; Gwin finds salvation in the music of Prince much to her congregation’s dismay and Jesenia, miles ahead of her classmates at her gifted and talented high school, is a brainy and precocious enigma. None of this matters to Boss Man, the monster who abducts them and holds them captive in a dilapidated house in Queens.
On the night they are finally rescued, throngs line the block gawking and claiming ignorance. Among them is lifetime resident Miss Metropolitan, advice columnist for the local weekly, but how could anyone who fancies herself a “newspaperwoman” have missed a horror story unfolding right across the street? And why is it that only two of the three girls — now women — were found? The mystery haunts the two remaining “victim girls” who are subjected to the further trauma of becoming symbols as they continuously adapt to their present and their unrelenting past.
Hadn’t heard of it before the published sent me a DRC, but it looks really good. Hope to get to it soon. Dear Miss Metropolitan is due to be published by Henry Holt in North America and in the UK, on July 6th, 2021.
Jackson Ford, EYE OF THE SHIT STORM (Orbit)
Teagan Frost might be getting better at moving sh*t with her mind — but her job working as a telekinetic government operative only ever seems to get harder. That’s not even talking about her car-crash of a love life…
And things are about to get even tougher. No sooner has Teagan chased off one psychotic kid hell-bent on trashing the whole West Coast, but now she has to contend with another supernatural being who can harness devastating electrical power. And if Teagan can’t stop him, the whole of Los Angeles will be facing the sh*tstorm of the century…
This is the third novel in Ford’s well-received Frost Files series (a series I have allowed to remain unread for far too long.) Really looking forward to binge-reading these. Eye of the Shit Storm is due to be published by Orbit Books in North America and in the UK, on April 29th, 2021.
Also on CR: Interview with Jackson Ford (2020)
Alexander Freed, VICTORY’S PRICE (Del Rey)
The aces of the New Republic have one final chance to defeat the darkness of Shadow Wing…
In the wake of Yrica Quell’s shocking decision — and one of the fiercest battles of their lives — the remnants of Alphabet Squadron seek answers and closure across a galaxy whose old war scars are threatening to reopen.
Soran Keize has returned to the tip of Shadow Wing’s spear. Operation Cinder, the terrifying protocol of planetary extermination that began in the twilight of the Imperial era, burns throughout the galaxy. Shadow Wing is no longer wounded prey fleeing the hunters of the New Republic. With its leader, its strength has returned, and its Star Destroyers and TIE squadrons lurk in the darkness between stars, carrying out the fallen Emperor’s final edict of destruction — as well as another, stranger mission, one Keize has championed not for the dying Empire, but for its loyal soldiers.
Alphabet Squadron’s ships are as ramshackle and damaged as their spirits, but they’ve always had one another. Now, as they face the might of Keize’s reborn juggernaut, they aren’t sure they even have that. How do you catch a shadow? How do you kill it? And when you’re finally victorious, who pays the price?
This is the third and final novel in Freed’s Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron trilogy. I haven’t had the chance to read the first two novels, but I’ve heard good things. Victory’s Price is published by Del Rey in North America and in the UK.
Ben Golliver, BUBBLEBALL (Abrams Press)
A captivating account of the NBA’s strangest season ever, from shutdown to championship, from a prominent national basketball writer living inside the bubble
When NBA player Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 in March 2020, the league shut down immediately, bringing a shocking, sudden pause to the season. As the pandemic raged, it looked as if it might be the first year in league history with no champion. But four months later, after meticulous planning, twenty-two teams resumed play in a “bubble” at Disney World — a restricted, single-site locale cut off from the outside world.
Due to health concerns, the league invited only a handful of reporters, who were required to sacrifice medical privacy, live in a hotel room for more than three months, and submit to daily coronavirus testing in hopes of keeping the bubble from bursting. In exchange for the constant monitoring and restricted movement, they were allowed into a basketball fan’s dream, with a courtside seat at dozens of games in nearly empty arenas.
Ben Golliver, the national NBA writer for the The Washington Post, was one of those allowed access. Bubbleball is his account of the season and life inside, telling the story of how basketball bounced back from its shutdown, how players staged headline-grabbing social justice protests, and how Lakers star LeBron James chased his fourth ring in unconventional and unforgettable circumstances. Based on months of reporting in the exclusive, confined environment, this is an entertaining record of an extraordinary season.
Wasn’t aware that this book was on the way until I spotted it available for request on NetGalley. Definitely caught my attention, and I started reading it the day I got it. The NBA’s “bubble” experience, from the outside, appears to have been an incredible success (not a single COVID-19 infection, if I recall correctly), so I was looking forward to reading about how they pulled it off. I started it the day I got it, and have already posted my review. Bubbleball is due to be published by Abrams Press in North America and in the UK, on June 10th, 2021. (An interesting complementary, albeit much shorter, read is Jared Dudley & Carvell Wallace’s Inside the NBA Bubble.)
Sam Hill, BUZZ MONKEY and BUZZ RIFF (Orion)
Top Kiernan has been doing all right. He owns Polymath, a thriving research firm that he runs from his home, a 1930s-era schoolhouse in Georgia. He’s got a bedroom in a basketball court, a drawer full of flannel shirts, and a splendid collection of spinning tops. He’s also got a side-gig as a free-lance operative for a mercenary group, which sends him on periodic and often perilous errands to Latin America. Top can’t live without the buzz, the adrenalin rush of being permanently on the edge – and he doesn’t have very long to wait.
When Top’s long-time friend Dee Lane disappears suddenly, leaving $1.5 million hidden somewhere in Georgia, everyone thinks Top’s got the stash. He finds himself the target of ambitious DEA men, a drug lord, an ex-IRA assassin, and a few others who want to get their hands on the money and will kill Top to do so. He knows it’s going to take more than adrenalin to survive the manoeuvres of all the players in the dangerous game that this compelling, deftly plotted debut thriller brings to a stunning and explosive finish.
The above synopsis is for Buzz Monkey, the first of Hill’s novels featuring Top Kiernan. I spotted them on NetGalley, but hadn’t heard anything about the novels before. So, because I was pre-approved, I thought I’d give them a try — I’m always on the look-out for new crime/mystery series, and I was interested further because they’re set in Georgia (a state that doesn’t get a whole lot of love in fiction, it seems). Here’s the synopsis for Buzz Riff:
Top Keirnan has got problems. The research firm he’s been running out of his 30s-era schoolhouse in Athens, Georgia, is beginning to founder, thanks to his former office manager (and ex-lover), who has stolen half his clients and set up shop on her own. And Top is no longer banking big bucks as an operative for Shaw’s Mercantile Marine since they’ve decided his addiction to the adrenaline buzz is more of a risk than an asset. Things are looking tough for Top, when he gets a call.
American Civil War General ‘Stonewall’ Jackson was shot by his own men while on night patrol. His aide-de-camp reached into the General’s saddlebags to find something to press against the wound and pulled out a new flag, the Stars and Bars. Stonewall died, but the Bloody Red Rag, as the flag became known, went on to become the most valuable relic of the war. Now it’s been stolen and Top is asked to find it.
Normally Top wouldn’t touch a job like this: the money’s too small, and he’s not excited about his arrogant, bigoted client, Professor Jay Pope-Scott. Problem is, Top badly needs those twenty thousand dollars. So he’s soon taking on fanatical collectors, ultra-right-wing religious paramilitaries, a biker gang, Fourth Federal Bank and his former lover to save the school and recover the flag.
Follow the Author: Goodreads
Review copy received via NetGalley
Stark Holborn, ADVANCED TRIGGERNOMETRY (Rattleback Books)
That gold you stole will burn a hole in your heart…
Having pulled off the heist of the century, Professor Malago Browne and Pierre de Fermat are determined to hang up their protractors for good. But when you’re the most notorious mathematician in the west, peace doesn’t come easy…
And when three women approach Browne with a proposition, she can’t help but listen. Terrorised by a corrupt sheriff and his posse, the town need to hire the quickest and deadliest fighters they can: in other words, mathmos.
Together with six unlikely allies, Browne once again finds herself facing incalculable odds in a battle for the town, its people, and the fate of every mathematician in the Western States.
And seven isn’t always a lucky number…
I really enjoyed Holborn’s Triggernometry, so I was very happy to learn that there was a sequel on the way. I’ll read this very soon. Advanced Triggernometry is due out on April 8th in North America and in the UK.
Also on CR: Interview with Stark Holborn (2020)
Graham Hurley, LAST FLIGHT TO STALINGRAD (Head of Zeus)
For four years, the men in field grey have helped themselves to country after country across Western Europe.
For Werner Nehmann, a journalist at the Promi – the Ministry of Propaganda – this dizzying series of victories has felt like a party without end. But now the Reich’s attention has turned towards the East, and as winter sets in, the mood is turning.
Werner’s boss, Joseph Goebbels, can sense it. A small man with a powerful voice and coal-black eyes, Goebbels has a deep understanding of the dark arts of manipulation. His words, his newsreels, have shaken Germany awake, propelling it towards its greater destiny and he won’t let – he can’t let – morale falter now. But the Minister of Propaganda is uneasy and in his discomfort has pulled Werner into his close confidence.
And here, amid the power struggle between the Nazi Chieftains, Werner will make his mistake and begin his descent into the hell of Stalingrad…
This is the fifth novel in Hurley’s Spoils of War/War Within series — the other novels appear to be stand-alone, but each touches upon a different topic related to World War 2. I’ll read this one first, and then go back to read the others. Last Flight to Stalingrad is out now, published by Head of Zeus in North America and in the UK.
Kim Bo-Young, I’M WAITING FOR YOU (Voyager)
A stunning collection of short fiction by one of South Korea’s most treasured writers, available in English for the first time.
In the title story, an engaged couple working in distant corners of the galaxy plan to arrive on Earth simultaneously and walk down the aisle together. But small incidents wreak havoc on their vast journeys, pushing the date of their wedding far into the future. As centuries pass on Earth and the land and climate change, one thing is constant: the desire of the lovers to be together.
Through two pairs of interlinked stories stories, Kim explores the driving forces of humanity – love, hope, creation, destruction, and the very meaning of existence.
I’ve spotted this a few times in catalogues, and I thought it sounded interesting. I’m also always on the look out for new authors to check out, so I thought I’d give this a try. I’m Waiting for You is due to be published by Harper Voyager in the UK (April 15th) and in North America (April 6th).
Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via NetGalley
M. J. Kuhn, AMONG THIEVES (Gallery/Saga)
In just over a year’s time, Ryia Cautella has already earned herself a reputation as the quickest, deadliest blade in the dockside city of Carrowwick—not to mention the sharpest tongue. But Ryia Cautella is not her real name.
For the past six years, a deadly secret has kept her in hiding, running from town to town, doing whatever it takes to stay one step ahead of the formidable Guildmaster—the sovereign ruler of the five kingdoms of Thamorr. No matter how far or fast she travels, his servants never fail to track her down… but even the most powerful men can be defeated.
Ryia’s path now leads directly into the heart of the Guildmaster’s stronghold, and against every instinct she has, it’s not a path she can walk alone. Forced to team up with a crew of assorted miscreants, smugglers, and thieves, Ryia must plan her next moves very carefully. If she succeeds, her freedom is won once and for all… but unfortunately for Ryia, her new allies are nearly as selfish as she is, and they all have plans of their own.
M. J. Kuhn’s debut novel is “a high-stakes heist novel set in a gritty world of magic and malice”. Not sure if it’s the first in a planned series, or a stand-alone, but it looks interesting (I do love a good heist story). Looking forward to giving it a try. Among Thieves is due to be published by Gallery/Saga Press in North America and in the UK, on September 7th, 2021.
Derek Künsken, THE HOUSE OF STYX (Solaris)
Life can exist anywhere. And anywhere there is life, there is home. In the swirling clouds of Venus, the families of la colonie live on floating plant-like trawlers, salvaging what they can in the fierce acid rain and crackling storms. Outside is dangerous, but humankind’s hold on the planet is fragile and they spend most of their days simply surviving.
But Venus carries its own secrets, too. In the depths, there is a wind that shouldn’t exist. And the House of Styx wants to harness it.
The House of Styx is the first novel in a prequel series (Venus Ascendant) to Künsken’s acclaimed Quantum Evolution series, and is set 250 years before The Quantum Magician — a perfect way to either try the series, or find out how it all began. The House of Styx is due to be published by Solaris in North America and in the UK, on April 13th, 2021.
Corry L. Lee, THE STORM’S BETRAYAL (Solaris)
Lies. Magic. Treason.
The great Stormhawk — Bourshkanya’s paranoid, fascist leader — is seemingly unkillable, but for the rebellion to succeed, he must die.
Celka Prochazka uses magic in ways no one believed possible. She could be the perfect resistance assassin — if she can avoid being discovered as a traitor.
Gerrit Kladivo, the Stormhawk’s son, is determined to end his father’s tyrannical rule. But to get Celka close enough to his father, he must first prove unflinching loyalty to the regime.
Filip Cizek swore his life to protect Gerrit and the regime. But with Gerrit’s actions twisting him into a stranger, Filip must decide how deep his loyalty runs.
Together, they will attempt the impossible — but the cost may be everything they hold dear.
The second novel in Lee’s Bourshkanya Trilogy — the first is Weave the Lightning. I’ve been rather slow about getting to the first book, but both of them sound great, so I hope to read them ASAP. The Storm’s Betrayal is due to be published by Solaris in North America and in the UK, on April 27th, 2021.
Also on CR: Interview with Corry L. Lee (2020)
David Liss, THE PECULIARITIES (Tachyon)
All of his life, Thomas Thresher has been free of obligation and responsibility, but that is over now. He is a twenty-three-year-old man whose best days are behind him. Thomas’s older brother Walter has trapped him in a tedious clerical job at the family bank in London, and Thomas is expected to wed a wealthy young woman in whom he has no interest.
But Thomas has more serious problems than those of a disaffected young man. There are irregularities at the bank he cannot explain. His childhood friend has mysteriously turned up dead. Worse, a verdant skin malady has infected him: leaves have begun sprouting on his skin. Thomas must conclude that it is due to the long-rumored Peculiarities. London’s famous grey fog has been concealing a rash of unnatural afflictions — and worse, the murderous Elegants.
As Thomas grows leafier, the conspiracies surrounding him become more apparent. He cannot determine whom to trust: his own family; his banking co-workers and superiors; the beautiful widow of his companion; the woman he is to marry. Or perhaps a lycanthropic medium; the members of a secret occult society… or even Aleister Crowley.
The latest historical mystery from the author of The Conspiracy of Paper, The Coffee Trader, and also a run on the Black Panther comic. Looking forward to giving this a try. The Peculiarities is due to be published by Tachyon Publications in North America and in the UK, in September 2021.
Marjorie Liu, THE TANGLEROOT PALACE (Tachyon)
In Marjorie Liu’s long-awaited debut collection of dark, lush, and spellbinding short fiction, you will find unexpected detours, dangerous magic, and even more dangerous women.
Briar, bodyguard for a body-stealing sorceress, discovers her love for Rose, whose true soul emerges only once a week. An apprentice witch seeks her freedom through betrayal, the bones of the innocent, and a meticulously plotted spell. In a world powered by crystal skulls, a warrior returns to save China from invasion by her jealous ex. A princess runs away from an arranged marriage, finding family in a strange troupe of traveling actors at the border of the kingdom’s deep, dark woods.
Concluding with a gorgeous full-length novella, Marjorie Liu’s first short fiction collection is an unflinching sojourn into her thorny tales of love, revenge, and new beginnings.
This could serve as an excellent introduction to Liu’s writing. I’ve not read as much of the author’s work as I would like, so I’m looking forward to diving into this collection soon. The Tangleroot Palace is due to be published by Tachyon Publications in North America and in the UK, on June 15th, 2021.
Richard Marx, STORIES TO TELL (Simon & Schuster)
Legendary musician Richard Marx offers an enlightening, entertaining look at his life and career.
Richard Marx is one of the most accomplished singer-songwriters in the history of popular music. His self-titled 1987 album went triple platinum and made him the first male solo artist (and second solo artist overall after Whitney Houston) to have four singles from their debut crack the top three on the Billboard Hot 100. His follow-up, 1989’s Repeat Offender, was an even bigger smash, going quadruple platinum and landing two singles at number one. He has written fourteen number one songs in total, shared a Song of the Year Grammy with Luther Vandross, and collaborated with a variety of artists including NSYNC, Josh Groban, Natalie Cole, and Keith Urban. Lately, he’s also become a Twitter celebrity thanks to his outspokenness on social issues and his ability to out-troll his trolls.
In Stories to Tell, Marx uses this same engaging, straight-talking style to look back on his life and career. He writes of how Kenny Rogers changed a single line of a song he’d written for him then asked for a 50% cut — which inspired Marx to write one of his biggest hits. He tells the uncanny story of how he wound up curled up on the couch of Olivia Newton-John, his childhood crush, watching Xanadu. He shares the tribulations of working with the all-female hair metal band Vixen and appearing in their video. Yet amid these entertaining celebrity encounters, Marx offers a more sobering assessment of the music business as he’s experienced it over four decades — the challenges of navigating greedy executives and gruelling tour schedules, and the rewards of connecting with thousands of fans at sold-out shows that make all the drama worthwhile. He also provides an illuminating look at his songwriting process and talks honestly about how his personal life has inspired his work, including finding love with wife Daisy Fuentes and the mystery illness that recently struck him — and that doctors haven’t been able to solve.
Stories to Tell is a remarkably candid, wildly entertaining memoir about the art and business of music.
“Why do I recognize that name?” When I first saw this on Edelweiss, I couldn’t place how I knew Marx’s name. Even the synopsis of the book didn’t help me place him. So, to Google I did go — and that’s when I was reminded of “Right Here Waiting”. I don’t have much history with Marx’s music, or at least not as active history with his music as I do for many other musicians whose biographies I’ve read. As I am wont to do, though, I went and bought one of Marx’s greatest hits collections to listen to while reading this. I’m looking forward to reading this. Stories to Tell is due to be published by Simon & Schuster in North America and in the UK, on July 6th, 2021.
G. R. Matthews, SEVEN DEATHS OF AN EMPIRE (Solaris)
The Emperor is dead. Long live the Empire.
General Bordan has a lifetime of duty and sacrifice behind him in the service of the Empire. But with rebellion brewing in the countryside, and assassins, thieves and politicians vying for power in the city, it is all Bordan can do to protect the heir to the throne.
Apprentice Magician Kyron is assigned to the late Emperor’s honour guard escorting his body on the long road back to the capital. Mistrusted and feared by his own people, even a magician’s power may fail when enemies emerge from the forests, for whoever is in control of the Emperor’s body, controls the succession.
Seven lives and seven deaths to seal the fate of the Empire.
This is the first novel in a new grimdark fantasy series. Rather looking forward to trying it. Seven Deaths of an Empire is due to be published by Solaris in North America and in the UK, on June 22nd, 2021.
Benjamin Percy, THE NINTH METAL (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
IT BEGAN WITH A COMET…
At first, people gazed in wonder at the radiant tear in the sky. A year later, the celestial marvel became a planetary crisis when Earth spun through the comet’s debris field and the sky rained fire.
The town of Northfall, Minnesota will never be the same. Meteors cratered hardwood forests and annihilated homes, and among the wreckage a new metal was discovered. This “omnimetal” has properties that make it world-changing as an energy source… and a weapon.
John Frontier — the troubled scion of an iron-ore dynasty in Northfall — returns for his sister’s wedding to find his family embroiled in a cutthroat war to control mineral rights and mining operations. His father rightly suspects foreign leaders and competing corporations of sabotage, but the greatest threat to his legacy might be the US government. Physicist Victoria Lennon was recruited by the Department of Defense to research omnimetal, but she finds herself trapped in a laboratory of nightmares. And across town, a rookie cop is investigating a murder that puts her own life in the crosshairs. She will have to compromise her moral code to bring justice to this now lawless community.
In this gut-punch of a novel, the first in his Comet Cycle, Ben Percy lays bare how a modern-day goldrush has turned the middle of nowhere into the center of everything, and how one family — the Frontiers — hopes to control it all.
I’ve been a big fan of Percy’s writing since Red Moon (2013). Since then, I’ve tried to read all of his new books, and I’ve not been disappointed. The Ninth Metal is the first in a new trilogy, The Comet Cycle, which will be published over twelve months (June 2021-June 2022). Really looking forward to diving into this, and will do so soon. The Ninth Metal is due to be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in North America (June 1st) and Hodder in the UK (June 10th).
Chris Power, A LONELY MAN (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Two British men, both writers, meet by chance in Berlin. Robert is trying and failing to finish his next book while balancing his responsibilities as a husband and father. Patrick, a recent arrival in the city, is secretive about his past, but eventually reveals that he has been ghostwriting the autobiography of a Russian oligarch. The oligarch has turned up dead, and Patrick claims to be a hunted man himself.
Although Robert doubts the truth of Patrick’s story, it fascinates him, and he thinks it might hold the key to his own foundering novel. Working to gain the other man’s trust, Robert draws out the details of Patrick’s past while ensnaring himself ever more tightly in what might be either a fantasist’s creation or a lethal international plot.
Through an elegant existential game of cat and mouse, Chris Power’s A Lonely Man depicts an attempt to create art at the cost of empathy. Robert must decide what is his for the taking — and whether some stories are too dangerous to tell.
Thought this sounded interesting, so requested it on a whim. It’s the author’s debut novel, following 2018’s Mothers story collection (which also sounds good, so I picked that up as well). A Lonely Man is due to be published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in North America (May 4th) and Faber & Faber in the UK (April 1st).
Robert V. S. Redick, SIDEWINDERS (Talos)
Two brothers flee an army of fanatics across a vast and magical desert…
The worst of rivals, the closest of friends, the two most wanted men in a war-torn world: Kandri and Mektu Hinjuman have cheated death so often it’s begun to feel like a way of life. But nothing has prepared them for the danger and enchantment of the Ravenous Lands. This sprawling, lethal desert is the brothers’ last hope, for they have killed the favorite son of Her Radiance the Prophet, and her death-priests and magical servants are hunting them day and night.
But there are dangers even within their caravan. Some of their fellow travelers worship the Prophet in secret. Others, including Mektu, have become obsessed with a bejeweled dagger that seems to afflict its owners with madness or death.
At stake is far more than the lives of two runaway soldiers. Kandri is carrying an encoded cure for the World Plague, a disease that has raged for centuries — while far from the desert, certain criminals have learned just how lucrative a plague can be. Are they using the Prophet, or being used by her? Who, in this game of shadows, can Kandri trust?
He knows one thing, however: they must reach Kasralys, great and beautiful fortress-city of the east. Only there can the precious cure be deciphered. Only there can Kandri seek word of the lover who vanished one night without a trace.
But Kasralys, never conquered in 3,000 years, is about to face its greatest siege in history.
Sidewinders is the long-awaited second novel in the Fire Sacraments series, sequel to the acclaimed Master Assassins. Looking forward to reading this. Sidewinders is due to be published by Talos Press in North America and in the UK, on May 4th, 2021.
Jason Schreier, PRESS RESET (Grand Central)
The next definitive, behind-the-scenes account of the video game industry: how some of the past decade’s most renowned studios fell apart — and the stories, both triumphant and tragic, of what happened next.
Jason Schreier’s groundbreaking reporting has earned him a place among the preeminent investigative journalists covering the world of video games. In his eagerly anticipated, deeply researched new book, Schreier trains his investigative eye on the volatility of the video game industry and the resilience of the people who work in it.
The business of videogames is both a prestige industry and an opaque one. Based on dozens of first-hand interviews that cover the development of landmark games — Bioshock Infinite, Epic Mickey, Dead Space, and more — on to the shocking closures of the studios that made them, Press Reset tells the stories of how real people are affected by game studio shutdowns, and how they recover, move on, or escape the industry entirely.
Schreier’s insider interviews cover hostile takeovers, abusive bosses, corporate drama, bounced checks, and that one time the Boston Red Sox’s Curt Schilling decided he was going to lead a game studio that would take out World of Warcraft. Along the way, he asks pressing questions about why, when the video game industry is more successful than ever, it’s become so hard to make a stable living making video games — and whether the business of making games can change before it’s too late.
This is Schreier’s second book about the video game industry, following Blood, Sweat, & Pixels (which I also have, and will hopefully read either just before or just after this one). Press Reset is due to be published by Grand Central Publishing in North America and in the UK, on May 11th, 2021.
A. J. Smith, THE SWORD FALLS (Head of Zeus)
A MAN OF THE DAWN CLAW WILL BE THE ALWAYS KING.
It will ever be so. They will always rule… but they will not always lead.
Prince Oliver Dawn Claw, heir to the Kingdom of the Four Claws, is thrust into a world he doesn’t understand as he waits for his father to die. Away from home, with few allies – and too many enemies – he faces a new and otherworldly threat from beneath the sea. Alliances break and masks fall, as the Dark Brethren reveal their true master.
Meanwhile, Adeline Brand – called the Alpha Wolf – refuses to wait, and becomes the edge of the sword that swings back at the Dreaming God. Assembling allies and crushing resistance, she enters a fight she doesn’t know if she can win, as the sea begins to rise.
This is the second novel in Smith’s Form and Void series, and I’m really keen to read it (I also have the first novel, The Glass Breaks, but have been terrible slow about getting around to it). The Sword Falls is out now, published by Head of Zeus in North America and in the UK.
Also on CR: Excerpt from The Sword Falls
David Swinson, CITY ON THE EDGE (Mulholland)
An American teen living abroad discovers the truth about himself and his family…
1972, Beirut, Lebanon. Young American Matthew lives with his father, a rising foreign service attache, and mother, in an exclusive community of ex-patriots. It is the summer Matthew becomes a teenager, falls in love, nearly dies, and watches his family, and the city, fall apart.
It is in this world of Western schemers and local merchants, of hoodlums and politicians, that Matthew begins to solve the mystery of who his father really is, and what role he is really playing in the upheaval that is shaking the city loose of its old, civilized and way and ushering in a new and frightening radicalism.
This is the story of a boy and a family, besieged. Intimate in scope and wrenching in its vision of lost innocence, City on the Edge is a mystery and spy story from the past, and a coming of age story for our time.
The new novel from the author of the Frank Marr series, which are some of my favourite crime novels (if you haven’t read them, I strongly urge you to do so!). This appears to be a stand alone, and I’ll be reading it very soon. City on the Edge is due to be published by Mulholland Books in North America and in the UK, on May 25th.
Catherynne M. Valente, THE PAST IS RED (Tor.com)
The enchanting, dark, funny, angry story of a girl who made two terrible mistakes: she told the truth and she dared to love the world.
The future is blue. Endless blue… except for a few small places that float across the hot, drowned world left behind by long-gone fossil fuel-guzzlers. One of those patches is a magical place called Garbagetown.
Tetley Abednego is the most beloved girl in Garbagetown, but she’s the only one who knows it. She’s the only one who knows a lot of things: that Garbagetown is the most wonderful place in the world, that it’s full of hope, that you can love someone and 66% hate them all at the same time.
But Earth is a terrible mess, hope is a fragile thing, and a lot of people are very angry with her. Then Tetley discovers a new friend, a terrible secret, and more to her world than she ever expected.
The cover for this caught my attention, and the synopsis further piqued my interest. I’ve dipped in already, and it’s well-written and also quite fun. Looking forward to finishing it ASAP. The Past is Red is due to be published by Tor.com in North America and in the UK, on July 20th, 2021.
Martha Wells, FUGITIVE TELEMETRY (Tor.com)
The security droid with a heart (though it wouldn’t admit it!) is back in Fugitive Telemetry!
Having captured the hearts of readers across the globe (Annalee Newitz says it’s “one of the most humane portraits of a nonhuman I’ve ever read”) Murderbot has also established Martha Wells as one of the great SF writers of today.
No, I didn’t kill the dead human. If I had, I wouldn’t dump the body in the station mall.
When Murderbot discovers a dead body on Preservation Station, it knows it is going to have to assist station security to determine who the body is (was), how they were killed (that should be relatively straightforward, at least), and why (because apparently that matters to a lot of people—who knew?)
Yes, the unthinkable is about to happen: Murderbot must voluntarily speak to humans!
The sixth book in the fantastic Murderbot Diaries series! Each book has been excellent, and I really can’t recommend it enough. I’ll be reading this very soon. Fugitive Telemetry is due to be published by Tor.com in North America and in the UK, on April 27th, 2021.
Django Wexler, HARD REBOOT (Tor.com)
Giant mech arena battles and intergalactic diplomacy. When did academia get to be so complicated?
Kas is a junior researcher on a fact-finding mission to old Earth. But when a con-artist tricks her into wagering a large sum of money belonging to her university on the outcome of a manned robot arena battle she becomes drawn into the seedy underworld of old Earth politics and state-sponsored battle-droid prizefights.
Is it time to get back to the books, yet?
Every new Wexler novel is something to be cheered, and this novella looks particularly intriguing and fun (robots and academia!). I’ll be reading this very soon. Hard Reboot is due to be published by Tor.com in North America and in the UK, on May 25th, 2021.