Featuring: Charles Arthur, Anna Bailey, Mike Brooks, S. A. Cosby, Kate Elliott, Mirin Fader, Dan Fante, Alex Finlay, John Fletcher, Jeffrey Frank, Mike Gayle, J.T. Greenhouse, Ha Jin, Chris Hadfield, Cameron Johnston, Ward Larsen, Ben Mezrich, Alex Michaelides, Claire North, J.P. Oakes, K.J. Parker, Vince Passaro, Anna Pitoniak, Nita Prose, Catherine Steadman, Matt Sullivan, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Lavie Tidhar
Charles Arthur, SOCIAL WARMING (Oneworld Publications)
Nobody meant for this to happen.
Facebook didn’t mean to facilitate a genocide.
Twitter didn’t want to be used to harass women.
YouTube never planned to radicalise young men.
But with billions of users, these platforms need only tweak their algorithms to generate more ‘engagement’. In so doing, they bring unrest to previously settled communities and erode our relationships.
Social warming has happened gradually — as a by-product of our preposterously convenient digital existence. But the gradual deterioration of our attitudes and behaviour on- and offline — this vicious cycle of anger and outrage — is real. And it can be corrected. Here’s how.
I am fascinated by social media, and have been ever since I read The Accidental Billionaires. Like so very, very many people, I am also a frequent user of social media (Twitter and Instagram being my preferred). I am, however, also highly critical of social media, and the ways it has warped political discourse, not to mention the ways in which it can skew reality and the way we interact with people and the world (this despite very much welcoming the online book community). Looking forward to reading this. Social Warming is out now, published by Oneworld Publications in the UK.
Anna Bailey, WHERE THE TRUTH LIES (Simon & Schuster)
When a teenaged girl disappears from an insular small town, all of the community’s most devastating secrets come to light…
The town of Whistling Ridge guards its secrets.
When seventeen-year-old Abigail goes missing, her best friend Emma, compelled by the guilt of leaving her alone at a party in the woods, sets out to discover the truth about what happened. The police initially believe Abi ran away, but Emma doesn’t believe that her friend would leave without her, and when officers find disturbing evidence in the nearby woods, the festering secrets and longstanding resentment of both Abigail’s family and the people of Whistling Ridge, Colorado begin to surface with devastating consequences.
Among those secrets: Abi’s older brother Noah’s passionate, dangerous love for the handsome Rat, a recently arrived Romanian immigrant who has recently made his home in the trailer park in town; her younger brother Jude’s feeling that he knows information he should tell the police, if only he could put it into words; Abi’s father’s mercurial, unpredictable rages and her mother’s silence. Then there is the rest of Whistling Ridge, where a charismatic preacher advocates for God’s love in language that mirrors violence, under the sway of the powerful businessman who rules the town, insular and wary of outsiders.
But Abi had secrets, too, and the closer Emma grows to unraveling the past, the farther she feels from her friend. And in a tinder box of small-town rage, and all it will take is just one spark — the truth of what really happened that night — to change their community forever.
The publisher reached out and offered me a review copy of this, and I think it sounds quite interesting. Looking forward to reading it as soon as I can. Where the Truth Lies is due to be published in North America by Simon & Schuster (August 3rd); it also also out now in the UK, published by Doubleday, as Tall Bones.
Mike Brooks, THE SPLINTER KING (Solaris)
Darel, dragon knight and the new leader of Black Keep, must travel to the palace of the God-King to beg for the lives of his people. But in the capital of Narida, Marin and his warrior husband will be drawn into a palace coup, and Princess Tila will resort to murder to keep her hold on power.
In the far reaches of the kingdom an heir in exile is hunted by assassins, rumours of a rival God-King abound, and daemonic forces from across the seas draw ever nearer…
This is the second novel in Brooks’s acclaimed God-King Chronicles, following The Black Coast. Looking forward to reading them both soon. The Splinter King is due to be published by Solaris in North America (September 7th) and Orbit in the UK (July 13th).
Also on CR: Interview with Mike Brooks (2015)
S. A. Cosby, RAZORBLADE TEARS (Flatiron)
A Black father. A white father. Two murdered sons. A quest for vengeance.
Ike Randolph has been out of jail for fifteen years, with not so much as a speeding ticket in all that time. But a Black man with cops at the door knows to be afraid.
The last thing he expects to hear is that his son Isiah has been murdered, along with Isiah’s white husband, Derek. Ike had never fully accepted his son but is devastated by his loss.
Derek’s father Buddy Lee was almost as ashamed of Derek for being gay as Derek was ashamed of his father’s criminal record. Buddy Lee still has contacts in the underworld, though, and he wants to know who killed his boy.
Ike and Buddy Lee, two ex-cons with little else in common other than a criminal past and a love for their dead sons, band together in their desperate desire for revenge. In their quest to do better for their sons in death than they did in life, hardened men Ike and Buddy Lee will confront their own prejudices about their sons and each other, as they rain down vengeance upon those who hurt their boys.
Provocative and fast-paced, S. A. Cosby’s Razorblade Tears is a story of bloody retribution, heartfelt change — and maybe even redemption.
The second novel from the author of the superb Blacktop Wasteland. Easily one of my most-anticipated novels, I started reading it pretty much as soon as I got it. Razorblade Tears is out now, published by Flatiron Books (North America) and Headline (UK).
Also on CR: Review of Blacktop Wasteland
Kate Elliott, SERVANT MAGE (Tor)
A lowly fire mage finds herself entangled in an empire-spanning conspiracy on her way to discovering her true power.
They choose their laws to secure their power.
Fellion is a Lamplighter, able to provide illumination through magic. A group of rebel Monarchists free her from indentured servitude and take her on a journey to rescue trapped compatriots from an underground complex of mines.
Along the way they get caught up in a conspiracy to kill the latest royal child and wipe out the Monarchist movement for good.
But Fellion has more than just her Lamplighting skills up her sleeve…
Always keen to read something new from Kate Elliott. I’ve fallen a bit behind, it’s true, but I do love the way she writes and the characters she creates. Servant Mage is due to be published by Tor.com in North America and in the UK, on January 18th, 2022.
Also on CR: Interview with Kate Elliott (2011)
Andi Ewington, Rhianna Pratchett, Alex de Campi (ed.) & Calum Alexander Watt (illustrations), CAMPAIGNS & COMPANIONS: THE COMPLETE ROLE-PLAYING GUIDE FOR PETS (Solaris)
What if your pets could play D&D? And what if they were kind of jerks about it?
If there are two things all geeks love, it’s roleplaying games, and their pets. So why not fuse the two? It’s time to grab your dice, dust off that character sheet, and let your cat or dog (or guinea pig, or iguana, or budgie) accompany you on an epic adventure!
It’ll be great!
… unless your pets are jerks.
This sounds like a lot of fun. I started reading this as soon as I got it. Campaigns & Companions is due to be published by Solaris Books in North America (September 14th) and in the UK (September 16th).
Follow the Author (Ewington): Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Follow the Author (Pratchett): Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Follow the Editor (de Campi): Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Follow the Illustrator (Watt): Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received from publisher
Mirin Fader, GIANNIS (Hachette)
Discover the story of one of the most transcendent players in NBA history – from his early life living in poverty in Greece to his inspiring rise to super-stardom in America.
As the face of the NBA’s new world order, Giannis Antetokounmpo has overcome unfathomable obstacles to become a symbol of hope for people all over the world, the personification of the American Dream. But his backstory remains largely untold, and Fader unearths new information about the childhood that shaped “The Greek Freak” — from sleeping side by side with his brothers to selling trinkets on the side of the street with his family to the racism he experienced in Greece. Antetokounmpo grew up in an era when Golden Dawn, Greek’s far-right, anti-immigrant party, patrolled his neighborhood, and his status as an illegal immigrant largely prevented him from playing for Greek’s top clubs, making his rise to the NBA all the more improbable. Fader tells a deeply-human story of how an unknown, skinny, Black-Greek teen, who played in the country’s lowest pro division and was seen as a draft gamble, transformed his body and his game into MVP material.
Antetokounmpo’s story has been framed as a feel-good narrative in which the globe has embraced him, watching him grow up and lead the underdog Bucks to the best record in the NBA in 2020. Giannis reveals a more nuanced story: how hesitant Antetokounmpo was, and still is, to spend money; how lonely and isolated he felt, adjusting to America and the NBA early in his career; the way he changed after his father recently died of a heart attack; the complexity of grappling with his Black and Greek identities; how private he is, so hard on himself and his shortcomings, a drive that fuels him every day; and the deep-rooted responsibility he feels to be a nurturing role model for his younger brothers. Fader illustrates a more vulnerable star than people know, a person who has evolved triumphantly into all of his roles: as father, brother, son, teammate, and global icon. Giannis gives readers a front-row seat as Antetokounmpo strives for an elusive championship with the Bucks, quelling speculation about potentially leaving Milwaukee after signing a five-year supermax contract extension worth $228 million. Now, he contends with his next big hurdle: proving that committing to a small-market franchise can bring Milwaukee back to glory.
I’ve been looking forward to reading this ever since it was announced. Very happy to receive a review copy, and I’ll be reading it very soon. My only concern is when to read it: I finished Can’t Knock the Hustle (see below) around the time they were knocked out of the playoffs. As I type this, the Bucks will shortly start the finals against the Phoenix Suns. While I like both teams, I am perhaps leaning just a little bit more towards the Bucks as my pick to win. So… is it bad luck to have a book about you published during the finals? Giannis is due to be published by Hachette Books in North America and in the UK, on August 10th.
Dan Fante, SHORT DOG: CAB DRIVER STORIES FROM THE L.A. STREETS (Black Sparrow Press)
In the freewheeling, debaucherous tradition of Charles Bukowski, a taxi driver’s stories from the streets of lowlife Los Angeles — with an introduction by Willy Vlautin.
Dan Fante lived the stories he wrote. His voice has the immediacy of a stranger on the next barstool, of a friend who lives on the edge. As he writes in Short Dog (the title is street slang for a half-pint of alcohol):
I had been back working a cabbie gig as a result of my need for money. And insanity.
Hack driver is the only occupation I know about with no boss, and because I have always performed poorly at supervised employment, I returned to the taxi business. The upside, now that I was working again, was that my own boozing was under control and I was on beer only, except for my days off.
Fante was the son of famed novelist and screenwriter John Fante, but as the Los Angeles Times wrote, the younger Fante “… allows us a glimpse of the Southern California demimonde that surely escaped his father’s attention.”
These outsider stories are raw, vivid, and brutally honest. But even when the stories are fueled by anger and disgust, they are punctuated by unexpectedly funny and dark-humored vignettes. Short Dog is for readers ready for a cab ride on the wild side.
This was originally published as Corksucker in 2005 (the name was changed in 2006, judging by the editions listed on Goodreads). I hadn’t read anything by Dan Fante before getting this DRC — nor his father, John Fante, author of Ask the Dust — but I did already have a couple of his novels. I’ve dipped into this collection already, and I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read so far. If you’re looking for a short, sharp, and focused short story collection, this could suit your needs rather well. Short Dog is due to be published by Black Sparrow Press in North America and in the UK, on July 6th, 2021.
Follow the Author: Goodreads
Review copy received via Edelweiss
Alex Finlay, THE LAST JUSTICE (Aries/Head of Zeus)
Why did he survive?
An assassin guns down the justices as they are hearing a case in the U.S. Supreme Court. Solicitor General Jefferson McKenna, the government’s top lawyer, is appointed to the multi agency commission investigating the murders. As Congress draws battle lines over who will replace the slain justices, the commission follows clue after clue, each one pointing to an unlikely suspect: McKenna himself.
In a desperate bid to prove his innocence, McKenna must track down a disgraced law clerk with ties to hidden Saudi assets. But his search just reveals even more corruption and the people with answers keep turning up dead.
Now, McKenna will discover just how much danger he’s in, and how far his enemy will go to conceal the truth…
This is one of three novels by Finlay that were originally published under the name Anthony Franze (actually his real name) — the others are The Advocate’s Daughter and The Outsider (I already had both of these, but now I have an extra excuse to read them ASAP). Head of Zeus has re-issue them as Alex Finlay novels. It feels like it’s been quite some time since I last read a novel set in DC and around politics, so maybe this is a great time to get reaquainted with the setting and (sub-)genre? The Last Justice is out now, published by Head of Zeus’s Aries imprint in the UK.
John Fletcher, WUHAN (Head of Zeus)
A multi-stranded historical epic set in China in 1937, when Wuhan stood alone against a whirlwind of war and violence.
1937. China is at war.
Soldiers of the Empire of Japan sweep through the country, killing and displacing the millions who stand in their way. As vast swathes of the country fall to the invaders, Wuhan, an industrial city in the centre of China, is appointed wartime capital. While the rest of the world looks the other way, the citizens of Wuhan stand alone against a whirlwind of violence – transforming militarily, educationally, medically and culturally.
Their heroic efforts halted the Japanese.
Weaving together a multitude of narratives, Wuhan is a historical fiction epic that pulls no punches: the heart-in-mouth tale of a peasant family forced onto a thousand-mile refugee death-march; the story of Lao She – China’s greatest writer – leaving his family in a war zone to assist with the propaganda effort in Wuhan; the hellish battlefields of the Sino-Japanese war; the approaching global conflict seen through a host of colourful characters – from Chiang Kai-Shek, China’s nationalist leader, to Peter Fleming, a British journalist based in Wuhan and the prototype for his younger brother Ian Fleming’s James Bond.
Really looking forward to reading this. In a strange twist, I’m currently reading Paul French’s Destination Peking (which is very good), and Peter Fleming gets a mention in that, too. Wuhan is due to be published by Head of Zeus in North America and in the UK, on July 22nd.
Follow the Author: Goodreads
Review copy received via NetGalley
Jeffrey Frank, THE TRIALS OF HARRY S. TRUMAN (Simon & Schuster)
The first full account of the Truman presidency in nearly thirty years, recounting how so ordinary a man met the extraordinary challenge of leading America through the pivotal years of the mid-20th century.
The nearly eight years of Harry Truman’s presidency — among the most turbulent in American history — were marked by victory in the wars against Germany and Japan; the first use of an atomic weapon; the beginning of the Cold War; creation of the NATO alliance; the founding of the United Nations; the Marshall Plan to rebuild the wreckage of postwar Europe; the Red Scare; and the fateful decision to commit troops to fight in Korea.
Historians have tended to portray Truman as stolid and decisive, with a homespun manner, but the man who emerges in The Trials of Harry S. Truman is complex and surprising. He believed that the point of public service was to improve the lives of one’s fellow citizens, and was disturbed by the brutal treatment of African Americans. Yet while he supported stronger civil rights laws, he never quite relinquished the deep-rooted outlook of someone with Confederate ancestry reared in rural Missouri. He was often carried along by the rush of events and guided by men who succeeded in refining his black-and-white view of the postwar world. And while he prided himself on his Midwestern rationality, he could act out of emotion, as when, in the aftermath of World War II, moved by the plight of refugees, he pushed to recognize the new state of Israel.
The Truman who emerges in these pages is a man with generous impulses, loyal to friends and family, and blessed with keen political instincts, but insecure, quick to anger, and prone to hasty decisions. Archival discoveries, and research that led from Missouri to Washington, Berlin and Korea, have contributed to an indelible, and deeply human, portrait of an ordinary man suddenly forced to shoulder extraordinary responsibilities, who never lost a schoolboy’s romantic love for his country, and its Constitution.
This DRC became available at a rather fortuitous time for me: I’m gearing up to help out with another Cold War course, and was looking for a new book about Truman (and the Truman Doctrine), but couldn’t settle on a book to read. While this one is a broader look at his presidency, I thought it might be nice to start with — I also have Frank’s Ike & Dick (which I’ve been rather slow to read, for some reason). Looking forward to reading it. The Trials of Harry S. Truman is due to be published by Simon & Schuster in North America and in the UK, on March 1st, 2022.
Mike Gayle, ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE (Grand Central)
In weekly phone calls to his daughter in Australia, widower Hubert Birdpaints a picture of the perfect retirement, packed with fun, friendship, and fulfillment. But it’s a lie. In reality, Hubert’s days are all the same, dragging on without him seeing a single soul.
Until he receives some good news — good news that in one way turns out to be the worst news ever, news that will force him out again, into a world he has long since turned his back on. The news that his daughter is coming for a visit.
Now Hubert faces a seemingly impossible task: to make his real life resemble his fake life before the truth comes out.
Along the way Hubert stumbles across a second chance at love, renews a cherished friendship, and finds himself roped into an audacious community scheme that seeks to end loneliness once and for all… Life is certainly beginning to happen to Hubert Bird. But with the origin of his earlier isolation always lurking in the shadows, will he ever get to live the life he’s pretended to have for so long?
The latest novel from Gayle. I first read one of his books back sometime in 2001-2 (his debut, My Legendary Girlfriend), and he’s been an author I’ve semi-followed ever since. Because I travelled a lot for a few years, I kept missing new novels. But, this latest has been getting some good press and buzz, so I decided it was about time to return to his work. Really looking forward to reading it ASAP. All the Lonely People is due to be published by Grand Central Publishing in North America (July 13th); it’s is out now in the UK, published by Hodder.
J.T. Greathouse, THE HAND OF THE SUN KING (JABberwocky/Gollancz)
My name is Wen Alder. My name is Foolish Cur.
All my life, I have been torn between two legacies: that of my father, whose roots trace back to the right hand of the Emperor. That of my mother’s family, who reject the oppressive Empire and embrace the resistance.
I can choose between them — between protecting my family, or protecting my people — or I can search out a better path… a magical path, filled with secrets, unbound by empire or resistance, which could shake my world to its very foundation.
But my search for freedom will entangle me in a war between the gods themselves…
This is the first novel in a debut fantasy series, The Pact & Pattern, and it’s already been getting some great pre-publication buzz. Really looking forward to reading it. The Hand of the Sun King is due to be published by JABberwocky in North America and Gollancz in the UK, on August 5th, 2021.
Ha Jin, A SONG EVERLASTING (Pantheon/Knopf)
A timely novel that follows a famous Chinese singer severed from his country, as he works to find his way in the United States
At the end of a U.S. tour with his state-supported choir, popular singer Yao Tian takes a private gig in New York to pick up some extra cash for his daughter’s tuition fund, but the consequences of his choice spiral out of control. On his return to China, Tian is informed that the sponsors of the event were supporters of Taiwan’s secession, and that he must deliver a formal self-criticism. When he is asked to forfeit his passport to his employer, Tian impulsively decides instead to return to New York to protest the government’s threat to his artistic integrity.
With the help of his old friend Yabin, Tian’s career begins to flourish in the United States. But he is soon placed on a Chinese government blacklist and thwarted by the state at every turn, and it becomes increasingly clear that he may never return to China unless he denounces the freedoms that have made his new life possible. Tian nevertheless insists on his identity as a performer, refusing to give up his art. Moving, important, and strikingly relevant to our times, A Song Everlasting is a story of hope in the face of hardship from one of our most celebrated authors.
Thought this sounded really interesting. It’ll be my first book by Ha Jin, too, so looking forward to reading it. A Song Everlasting is due to be published by Pantheon/Knopf in North America and in the UK, on July 27th, 2021.
Chris Hadfield, THE APOLLO MURDERS (Mulholland)
As Russian and American crews sprint for a secret bounty hidden away on the lunar surface, old rivalries blossom and the political stakes are stretched to breaking point back on Earth. Houston flight controller Kazimieras ‘Kaz’ Zemeckis must do all he can to keep the NASA crew together, while staying one step ahead of his Soviet rivals. But not everyone on board Apollo 18 is quite who they appear to be.
Full of the fascinating technical detail that fans of The Martian loved, and reminiscent of the thrilling claustrophobia, twists and tension of The Hunt for Red October, The Apollo Murders puts you right there in the moment. Experience the fierce G-forces of launch, the frozen loneliness of Space and the fear of holding on to the outside of a spacecraft orbiting the Earth at 17,000 miles per hour, as told by a former Commander of the International Space Station who has done all of those things in real life.
Strap in and count down for the ride of a lifetime.
The debut thriller from astronaut Chris Hadfield (author of An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth). Really looking forward to giving this a try. The Apollo Murders is due to be published by Mulholland Books in North America and Quercus in the UK, on October 12th, 2021.
Cameron Johnston, THE MALEFICENT SEVEN (Angry Robot)
When you are all out of heroes, all that’s left are the villains.
Black Herran was a dread demonologist, and the most ruthless general in all Essoran. She assembled the six most fearsome warriors to captain her armies: a necromancer, a vampire lord, a demigod, an orcish warleader, a pirate queen, and a twisted alchemist. Together they brought the whole continent to its knees… Until the day she abandoned her army, on the eve of total victory.
40 years later, she must bring her former captains back together for one final stand, in the small town of Tarnbrooke – the last bastion against a fanatical new enemy tearing through the land, intent on finishing the job Black Herran started years before.
Seven bloodthirsty monsters. One town. Their last hope.
I’ve been looking forward to this for quite a while. The premise put me in mind of Ari Marmell’s The Conqueror’s Shadow (which I really enjoyed). I’ll be reading this very soon, hopefully. The Maleficent Seven is due to be published by Angry Robot Books in North America and in the UK, on August 10th, 2021.
Also on CR: Interview with Cameron Johnston (2019)
Ward Larsen, ASSASSIN’S DAWN (Forge Books)
In this prequel novella from Ward Larsen, Assassin’s Dawn, we go where it all began… the origin of the perfect assassin!
Recruited out of university, Slaton has excelled in training, and is proving highly effective in the operational world. The motivation behind his success is clear to those who know the truth: three years earlier, the two people he held dearest fell victim to a terror attack. The killer responsible, Ramzi Tayeb, has proved maddeningly elusive.
Then a chance: a Mossad operation in Central Europe aims to steal information from Ramzi’s brother, a terrorist financier who could lead to the shadowed extremist. Slaton takes the lead, but a mission to hack the man’s laptop goes horribly wrong, and soon the police are investigating a murder.
Slaton is withdrawing his team to safety when new information arises. Ramzi himself may soon appear — a rare moment of vulnerability. And so a new mission is born, one that is run not by Mossad, but by the most lethal operative it has ever created — an assassin destined to become a legend.
I’ve wanted to try Larsen’s David Slaton series for some time, but just never got around to it. Then, I saw that this prequel novella was on the way, and I thought there was no better time to finally dive in. Hope to read this very soon. Assassin’s Dawn is due to be published by Forge Books in North America and in the UK, on August 2nd, 2021.
Ben Mezrich, THE ANTISOCIAL NETWORK (Grand Central)
The definitive take on the wildest story of the year — the David-vs.-Goliath GameStop short squeeze, a tale of fortunes won and lost overnight that may end up changing Wall Street forever.
Bestselling author Ben Mezrich offers a gripping, beat-by-beat account of how a loosely affiliate group of private investors and internet trolls on a subreddit called WallStreetBets took down one of the biggest hedge funds on Wall Street, firing the first shot in a revolution that threatens to upend the establishment.
It’s the story of financial titans like Gabe Plotkin of hedge fund Melvin Capital, one of the most respected and staid funds on the Street, billionaires like Elon Musk, Steve Cohen, Mark Cuban, Robinhood co-CEOs Vlad Tenev and Baiju Bhatt, and Ken Griffin of Citadel Securities. Over the course of four incredible days, each in their own way must reckon with a formidable force they barely understand, let alone saw coming: everyday men and women on WallStreetBets like nurse Kim Campbell, college student Jeremy Poe, and the enigmatic Keith “RoaringKitty” Gill, whose unfiltered livestream videos captivated a new generation of stock market enthusiasts.
The unlikely focus of the battle: GameStop, a flailing brick-and-mortar dinosaur catering to teenagers and outsiders that had somehow held on as the world rapidly moved online. At first, WallStreetBets was a joke — a meme-filled, freewheeling place to share shoot-the-moon investment tips, laugh about big losses, and post diamond hand emojis. Until some members noticed an opportunity in GameStop — and rode a rocket ship to tens of millions of dollars in earnings overnight.
In thrilling, pulse-pounding prose, THE ANTISOCIAL NETWORK offers a fascinating, never-before-seen glimpse at the outsize personalities, dizzying swings, corporate drama, and underestimated American heroes and heroines who captivated the nation during one of the most volatile weeks in financial history. It’s the amazing story of what just happened — and where we go from here.
I first came across Mezrich’s work with The Accidental Billionaires, his engaging account of the founding of Facebook and its initial success (also the basis for David Fincher’s movie The Social Network). In his latest book, he takes a look at the GameStop trading frenzy and its impact on Wall Street. Really looking forward to reading this soon. The Antisocial Network is due to be published by Grand Central Publishing in North America (September 7th) and Harper Collins in the UK (September 16th).
Alex Michaelides, THE MAIDENS (Celadon Books)
Edward Fosca is a murderer. Of this Mariana is certain. But Fosca is untouchable. A handsome and charismatic Greek tragedy professor at Cambridge University, Fosca is adored by staff and students alike — particularly by the members of a secret society of female students known as The Maidens.
Mariana Andros is a brilliant but troubled group therapist who becomes fixated on The Maidens when one member, a friend of Mariana’s niece Zoe, is found murdered in Cambridge.
Mariana, who was once herself a student at the university, quickly suspects that behind the idyllic beauty of the spires and turrets, and beneath the ancient traditions, lies something sinister. And she becomes convinced that, despite his alibi, Edward Fosca is guilty of the murder. But why would the professor target one of his students? And why does he keep returning to the rites of Persephone, the maiden, and her journey to the underworld?
When another body is found, Mariana’s obsession with proving Fosca’s guilt spirals out of control, threatening to destroy her credibility as well as her closest relationships. But Mariana is determined to stop this killer, even if it costs her everything — including her own life.
I haven’t read Michaelides’s debut, The Silent Patient, but when I saw the details for The Maidens in a catalogue, I popped it on my most-anticipated list. (I do love a good campus murder mystery.) I’ll be reading this very soon. The Maidens is out now, published by Celadon Books in North America and Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
T. J. Newman, FALLING (Avid Reader Press)
You just boarded a flight to New York.
There are one hundred and forty-three other passengers onboard.
What you don’t know is that thirty minutes before the flight your pilot’s family was kidnapped.
For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die.
The only way the family will survive is if the pilot follows his orders and crashes the plane.
Enjoy the flight.
Well, this novel has been getting a lot of pre-publication buzz, so it was inevitable that I’d want to check it out. Really looking forward to reading it ASAP. Falling is out now, published by Avid Read Press in North America and Simon & Schuster in the UK.
Xueting Christine Ni (ed.), SINOPTICON: A CELEBRATION OF CHINESE SCIENCE FICTION (Solaris)
This celebration of Chinese Science Fiction thirteen stories — all translated for the first time into English — represents a unique exploration of the nation’s speculative fiction from the late 20th Century onwards, curated and translated by critically acclaimed writer and essayist Xueting Christine Ni.
From the renowned Jiang Bo’s ‘Starship: Library’ to Regina Kanyu Wang’s ‘The Tide of Moon City’, and Anna Wu’s ‘Meisje met de Parel’, this is a collection for all fans of great fiction.
Award winners, bestsellers, screenwriters, playwrights, philosophers, university lecturers and computer programmers, these thirteen writers represent the breadth of Chinese SF, from new to old: Gu Shi, Han Song, Hao Jingfang, Nian Yu, Wang Jinkang, Zhao Haihong, Tang Fei, Ma Boyong, Anna Wu, A Que, Bao Shu, Regina Kanyu Wang and Jiang Bo.
I’ve been really looking forward to this new collection of Chinese short stories ever since Solaris announced it. Hope to read it very soon — not sure if it’ll be a read-through, or if I’ll be reading stories between longer books. Sinopticon is due to be published by Solaris Books in North America and in the UK, on November 11th.
Claire North, NOTES FROM THE BURNING AGE (Orbit)
A story exploring humankind’s ability to change the paths we seem fated to follow—even after the world has burned.
Once, we lived through the Burning Age — the time when we cared so little for the world that it went up in flames. It was a punishment. But it was also a gift, and centuries of peace followed.
Once, Ven was a holy man, studying texts from the ashes of the past, sorting secrets from heresies. But when he gets caught up in the political scheming of the Brotherhood, he finds himself in the middle of a war, fueled by old knowledge and forbidden ambition.
There was a time when the world burned. Now, some want to set the fire again…
The latest novel from one of the most interesting and imaginative writers currently working. Looking forward to reading it. Notes From the Burning Age is due to be published by Orbit Books in North America and in the UK, on July 20th, 2021.
J.P. Oakes, CITY OF IRON AND DUST (Titan)
The Iron City is a prison, a maze, an industrial blight. It is the result of a war that saw the goblins grind the fae beneath their collective boot heels. And tonight, it is also a city that churns with life.
Tonight, a young fae is trying to make his fortune one drug deal at a time; a goblin princess is searching for a path between her own dreams and others’ expectations; her bodyguard is deciding who to kill first; an artist is hunting for his own voice; an old soldier is starting a new revolution; a young rebel is finding fresh ways to fight; and an old goblin is dreaming of reclaiming her power over them all.
Tonight, all their stories are twisting together, wrapped up around a single bag of Dust — the only drug that can still fuel fae magic — and its fate and theirs will change the Iron City forever.
Thought this sounded interesting. I tend to be a bit wary of novels featuring/focusing on the fae, but this one seems to have an unusual-enough premise to catch my attention. City of Iron and Dust is due to be published by Titan Books in North America and in the UK, on July 6th.
K.J. Parker, THE INSIDE MAN (Tor.com)
An anonymous representative of the Devil, once a high-ranking Duke of Hell and now a committed underachiever, has spent the last forever of an eternity leading a perfectly tedious existence distracting monks from their liturgical devotions. It’s interminable, but he prefers it that way, now that he’s been officially designated by Downstairs as “fragile.” No, he won’t elaborate.
All that changes when he finds himself ensnared, along with a sadistic exorcist, in a labyrinthine plot to subvert the very nature of Good and Evil. In such a circumstance, sympathy for the Devil is practically inevitable.
This is the sequel to Parker’s excellent Prosper’s Demon. I’ve been eagerly anticipating it ever since it was announced. (In case you’re either new to CR, or have managed to miss it, I am a big fan of Parker’s novellas and short fiction — he’s easily one of the best writing today.) I started reading it the day after my pre-order arrived, and very much enjoyed it. It didn’t grab me as immediately as some of Parker’s other recent novellas, but it still has all of the hallmarks of what makes him so good at this: it’s intelligent, witty, sly, and slightly twisted. Definitely recommended for all fans of Parker’s (shorter) work. The Inside Man is out now, published by Tor.com in North America and in the UK.
Vince Passaro, CRAZY SORROW (Simon & Schuster)
A lyrical novel, spanning four decades in New York City, about a couple torn apart and the lengths to which they will go to be reunited.
Vince Passaro’s first novel, 2002’s Violence, Nudity, Adult Content, was a provocative book that explored the darkest human emotions and the traumas of mental illness, sexual assault, and murder. Now, nearly twenty years later, Passaro is back with his follow-up, Crazy Sorrow, a novel that is equally explosive and more grand in scope.
The story opens in the shadow of the new World Trade Center, on July 4, 1976, when students George and Anna meet on the weed- and wine-fueled night of the nation’s Bicentennial celebration. George, haunted by his upbringing, instantly falls for the sensual, magnetic Anna. Soon, they couple up, dropping acid, swapping music, exploring the city and each other. Yet their romance is short-lived, and they go their own ways.
Passaro chronicles the next four decades, following George and Anna through their various relationships, their sex lives both youthful and mature, their failed marriages, and the travails of parenthood and their careers. Yet as the years go by one thing remains constant: the former lovers wonder what happened to each other. Finally, miraculously, they reconnect as the new century is beginning, only to discover that history itself will have a say in whether they can stay together.
Crazy Sorrow is an ambitious examination of the forces that draw people together and drive them apart — yet it also expands beyond the points of view of its characters to capture the movement of time and to reveal a living, breathing New York that is both constantly changing and always familiar. Crazy Sorrow stands as Passaro’s powerful love letter to his characters and to the city that has shaped them.
Thought this sounded interesting, and I was pre-approved on Edelweiss. Haven’t read any of the author’s other books, but looking forward to reading this (hopefully) soon. Crazy Sorrow is due to be published by Simon & Schuster in North America and in the UK, on September 14th, 2021.
Anna Pitoniak, OUR AMERICAN FRIEND (Simon & Schuster)
A MYSTERIOUS FIRST LADY.
THE INTREPID JOURNALIST WRITING HER BIOGRAPHY.
AND THE SECRET THAT COULD DESTROY THEM BOTH.
Tired of covering the grating dysfunction of Washington and the increasingly outrageous antics of President Henry Caine, White House correspondent Sofie Morse quits her job and plans to leave politics behind. But when she gets a call from the office of First Lady Lara Caine asking Sofie to come in for a private meeting, she’s intrigued. Sofie, like the rest of the world, knows little about Lara — only that Lara was born in Soviet Russia, raised in Paris, and worked as a model before moving to America and marrying the notoriously brash future president.
When Lara asks Sofie to write her official biography, and to finally fill in the gaps of her history, Sofie’s curiosity gets the better of her. She begins to spend more and more time in the White House, slowly developing a bond with Lara, who, to Sofie’s surprise, is entirely candid about her mysterious past. The First Lady doesn’t hesitate to speak about her beloved father’s work as an undercover KGB officer in Paris — and how he wasn’t the only person in her family working undercover during the Cold War.
As her story unfolds, Sofie can’t help but wonder why Lara Caine is rehashing such sensitive information. Why to her? And why now?
Spanning from the 1970s to the present day, traveling from Moscow and Paris to DC and New York, Anna Pitoniak’s novel is a gripping page-turner about power and complicity and how, sometimes, the fate of the world is in the hands of the people you’d never expect.
I really enjoyed Pitoniak’s first two novels — The Futures and Necessary People — and I’ve been looking forward to this new political thriller ever since I spotted it in a catalogue. I started reading this very soon after I got it, and very much enjoyed it — not only is Pitoniak a good writer, but the novel also offers an interesting glimpse at a life misunderstood, but also one that cannot help but be influenced by our impressions of Melania Trump (Lara Caine is not a facsimile of Trump’s wife, but there are some easy comparisons readers can make with the former occupants of the White House). I’ll hold off on the review until closer to release. Our American Friend is due to be published by Simon & Schuster in North America and in the UK, on February 15th, 2022.
Nita Prose, THE MAID (Harper Collins)
I am your maid. I know so much about you. But what do you know about me?
Molly the Maid is all alone in the world. A nobody. She’s used to being invisible in her job at the Regency Grand Hotel, plumping pillows and wiping away the grime, dust and secrets of the guests who pass through. She’s just a maid – why should anyone take notice?
But Molly is thrown into the spotlight when she discovers an infamous guest, Mr Black, very dead in his bed. This isn’t a mess that can be easily cleaned up. And so Molly becomes embroiled in a hunt for the truth, learning who to trust as she navigates the secret underbelly of the Regency Grand Hotel.
Escapist, charming, and introducing a truly original heroine, The Maid is a story about how everyone deserves to be seen, and how the truth isn’t always black and white – it’s often found in the dirtier, grey areas in between…
This isn’t out for quite some time, but I thought it looked interesting. Hope to read it soon (but will hold off on the review until closer to release). The Maid is due to be published by Harper Collins in the UK (January 22nd) and Ballantine Books in North America (January 4th).
Catherine Steadman, THE DISAPPEARING ACT (Ballantine)
A British actress discovers the dark side of Hollywood when she is the only witness to the sudden disappearance of a woman she meets at an audition…
Once a year, actors from across the globe descend on the smog and sunshine of Los Angeles for pilot season. Every cable network and studio looking to fill the rosters of their new shows enticing a fresh batch of young hopefuls, anxious, desperate and willing to do whatever it takes to make it. Careers will be made, dreams will be realized, stars will be born. And some will be snuffed out.
British star Mia Eliot has landed leading roles in costume dramas in her native country, but now it’s time for Hollywood to take her to the next level. Mia flies across the Atlantic to join the hoard of talent scrambling for their big breaks. She’s a fish out of water in the ruthlessly competitive and faceless world of back-to-back auditioning. Then one day she meets Emily, another actress from out of town and a kindred spirit. Emily is friendly and genuine and reassuringly doesn’t seem to be taking any of it too seriously. She stands out in a conveyor-belt world of fellow auditionees. But a simple favor turns dark when Emily disappears and Mia realizes she was the last person to see her, and the woman who knocks on Mia’s door the following day claiming to be her new friend isn’t the woman Mia remembers at all.
All Mia has to go on is the memory of a girl she met only once… and the suffocating feeling that something terrible has happened. Worse still, the police don’t believe her when she claims the real Emily has gone missing. So Mia is forced to risk the role of a lifetime to try to uncover the truth about Emily, a gamble that will force her to question her own sanity as the truth goes beyond anything she could ever have imagined.
Actress and author Catherine Steadman has written a gripping thriller set in a world close to home that asks the question: In a city where dreams really do come true, how far would you go to make the unreal real?
A new thriller set in LA/Hollywood, and one I’ve been looking forward to for some time. I started reading it pretty soon after it was released, and I’m happy to report that I very much enjoyed it: well-paced, twisty, very good characters (and an extremely well-written protagonist, despite some questionable decisions/choices). I picked up the authors other two books before I’d even finished this one. The Disappearing Act is out now, published by Ballantine Books in North America and Simon & Schuster in the UK.
Matt Sullivan, CAN’T KNOCK THE HUSTLE (Der Street Books)
An award-winning journalist’s behind-the-scenes account from the epicenter of sports, social justice, and coronavirus, Can’t Knock the Hustle is a lasting chronicle of the historic 2019-2020 NBA season, by way of the notorious Brooklyn Nets and basketball’s renaissance as a cultural force beyond the game.
The Nets were already the most intriguing startup in the NBA: a team of influencers, entrepreneurs and activists, starring the controversial Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. But this dynasty-in-the-making got disrupted by the unforeseen. One tweet launched an international scandal, pitting the team’s Chinese owner and the league’s commissioner against its players and LeBron James. The sudden death of Kobe Bryant, after making his final public appearance in Brooklyn, sent shockwaves through a turbulent season.
Then came the unimaginable. A global pandemic and a new civil-rights movement put basketball’s trend-setting status to the ultimate test, as business and culture followed the lead of the NBA and its empowered stars. No team intersected with the extremes of 2020 quite like the Brooklyn Nets, and Matt Sullivan had a courtside view.
Can’t Knock the Hustle crosses from on the court, where underdogs confront A-listers like Jay-Z and James Harden, to off the court, as players march through the streets of Brooklyn, provoke Donald Trump at the White House, and boycott the NBA’s bubble experiment in Disney World.
Hundreds of interviews — with Hall-of-Famers, All-Stars, executives, coaches and power-brokers across the world — provide a backdrop of the NBA’s impact on social media, race, politics, health, fashion, fame and fandom, for a portrait of a time when sports brought us back together again, like never before.
I’ve been looking forward to this book since it was announced. Kevin Durant’s move to the Nets was seen as a bit of a seismic move for the NBA, one that only increased in potential magnitude when Kyrie Irving joined him, to be followed during the current season by James Harden and Blake Griffin. It was perhaps inevitable, given the team’s ongoing injury woes, that they would eventually get knocked out — after a hard-fought series against Giannis’s Bucks, which featured a number of heroic performances from KD — it is a shame that it happened just as this book was about to come out. I read this pretty much as soon as I got it, and you can check out my review here. (Short version: Very highly recommended.) Can’t Knock the Hustle is out now, published by Dey Street Books in North America.
Adrian Tchaikovsky, SHARDS OF EARTH (Orbit)
The war is over. Its heroes forgotten. Until one chance discovery…
Idris has neither aged nor slept since they remade him in the war. And one of humanity’s heroes now scrapes by on a freelance salvage vessel, to avoid the attention of greater powers.
After earth was destroyed, mankind created a fighting elite to save their species, enhanced humans such as Idris. In the silence of space they could communicate, mind-to-mind, with the enemy. Then their alien aggressors, the Architects, simply disappeared — and Idris and his kind became obsolete.
Now, fifty years later, Idris and his crew have discovered something strange abandoned in space. It’s clearly the work of the Architects — but are they returning? And if so, why? Hunted by gangsters, cults and governments, Idris and his crew race across the galaxy hunting for answers. For they now possess something of incalculable value, that many would kill to obtain.
The first novel in a new sci-fi/space opera series from one of my favourite authors! Easily one of my most-anticipated books of the year. Shards of Earth is due to be published by Orbit Books in North America (August); it is out now in the UK, published by Tor Books.
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 & Gold, Guns of the Dawn, Children of Ruin, Spiderlight, Ironclads, Made Things, and One Day All This Will Be Yours
Lavie Tidhar, THE BIG BLIND (PS Publishing/JABberwocky)
The daughter of a legendary card player with skills of her own, Claire doesn’t want to go into the family business. She’s heard the call, and she desperately wants to become a nun. But when her convent comes under financial threat, Claire must leave what she loves to save what she loves — and enter an international poker tournament.
This new novella from Tidhar has been getting a lot of great reviews, and I decided to give it a try. Like everything of Tidhar’s, it’s different from pretty much everything else available — as well as different to his own other books. The Big Blind is out now, published by PS Publishing in hardcover, and by JABberwocky in North America and in the UK (eBook).
Lavie Tidhar, THE ESCAPEMENT (Tachyon Publications)
Into the Escapement rides the Stranger, a lone gunman on a quest to rescue his son in a strange parallel reality. But it is easy to lose one’s way on an endlessly shifting, unpredictable landscape. Especially in a place full of bizarre mirror-images of beloved things: lawless heroes, giants made of stone, subjugated clowns, symbol storms, and an endless war between gods and more shadowy forces.
As the Stranger has learned, the Escapement is a dreamscape of deep mysteries, unlikely allies, and unwinnable battles. Yet the flower the he seeks still lies beyond the Mountains of Darkness. Time is running out as The Stranger journeys deeper into the secret heart of an unimaginable world.
This has been described by the publisher as unlike anything they’ve read before, and it’s been my experience that Tidhar is able to bounce from genre to genre with an ease that is truly intimidating. It does, however, mean that each of his novels is an interesting and engaging surprise. I’m really looking forward to reading this. The Escapement is due to be published by Tachyon Publications in North America and in the UK, in September.