New Books (April-May 2023)


Featuring: Daniel Abraham, Kathryn Cramer Brownell, Em X Liu, Ben Purkert, John Scalzi, Johnny Smith, James Swallow, David Wragg


AbrahamD-K2-BladeOfDreamUSHCDaniel Abraham, BLADE OF DREAM (Orbit)

Kithamar is a center of trade and wealth, an ancient city with a long, bloody history where countless thousands live and their stories endure.

This is Garreth’s.

Garreth Left is heir to one of Kithamar’s most prominent merchant families. The path of his life was paved long before he was born. Learn the family trade, marry to secure wealthy in-laws, and inherit the business when the time is right. But to Garreth, a life chosen for him is no life at all.

In one night, a chance meeting with an enigmatic stranger changes everything. He falls in love with a woman whose name he doesn’t even know, and he will do anything to find her again. His search leads him down corridors and alleys that are best left unexplored, where ancient gods hide in the shadows, and every deal made has a dangerous edge.

The path that Garreth chooses will change the course of not only those he loves, but the entire future of Kithamar’s citizens.

This is the second novel in Abraham’s Kithamar series: a fantasy series set entirely within the walls of a single city; with a story told from the perspectives of inhabitants from all walks of life. It’s an excellent concept, and the author did a really good job of introducing the world in Age of Ash. I’ll admit I wasn’t blown away by the story, which was unusual based on my past experiences with Abraham’s work. Nevertheless, I’m interested to see how the series develops. I’ll be reading this very soon. Blade of Dream is due to be published by Orbit Books in North America and in the UK, on July 18th.

Also on CR: Interview with Daniel Abraham (2012); Reviews of The Dragon’s Path and Age of Ash

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via NetGalley


BrownellKC-247PoliticsUSHCKathryn Cramer Brownell, 24/7 POLITICS (Princeton University Press)

As television began to overtake the political landscape in the 1960s, network broadcast companies, bolstered by powerful lobbying interests, dominated screens across the nation. Yet over the next three decades, the expansion of a different technology, cable, changed all of this. 24/7 Politics tells the story of how the cable industry worked with political leaders to create an entirely new approach to television, one that tethered politics to profits and divided and distracted Americans by feeding their appetite for entertainment — frequently at the expense of fostering responsible citizenship.

In this timely and provocative book, Kathryn Cramer Brownell argues that cable television itself is not to blame for today’s rampant polarization and scandal politics — the intentional restructuring of television as a political institution is. She describes how cable innovations — from C-SPAN coverage of congressional debates in the 1980s to MTV’s foray into presidential politics in the 1990s — took on network broadcasting using market forces, giving rise to a more decentralized media world. Brownell shows how cable became an unstoppable medium for political communication that prioritized cult followings and loyalty to individual brands, fundamentally reshaped party politics, and, in the process, sowed the seeds of democratic upheaval.

24/7 Politics reveals how cable TV created new possibilities for antiestablishment voices and opened a pathway to political prominence for seemingly unlikely figures like Donald Trump by playing to narrow audiences and cultivating division instead of common ground.

Politics and the media has long been one of my primary interests (academic and general), so I jumped at the chance to read it. Brownell is also the author of Showbiz Politics, which I think I’ll also have to check out as soon as I can. 24/7 Politics is due to be published by Princeton University Press in North America and in the UK, on August 15th.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via Edelweiss


LiuEX-DeathIGaveHimEm X Liu, THE DEATH I GAVE HIM (Solaris)

A lyrical, queer sci-fi retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet as a locked-room thriller.

A Twenty-First Century Hamlet.

Hayden Lichfield’s life is ripped apart when he finds his father murdered in their lab, and the camera logs erased. The killer can only have been after one thing: the Sisyphus Formula the two of them developed together, which might one day reverse death itself. Hoping to lure the killer into the open, Hayden steals the research. In the process, he uncovers a recording his father made in the days before his death, and a dying wish: Avenge me…

Hadn’t heard much about this before I received it for review from the publisher. Sounds quite interesting, though. Looking forward to giving it a read. The Death I Gave Him is due to be published by Solaris Books in North America and in the UK, on September 14th.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Instagram, Twitter
Review copy received from publisher


PurkertB-MenCantBeSavedUSHCBen Purkert, THE MEN CAN’T BE SAVED (The Overlook Press)

What do our jobs do to our souls?

Seth is a junior copywriter whose latest tagline just went viral. He’s the agency’s hottest new star, or at least he wants his coworker crush to think so. But while he’s busy drooling over his future corner office, the walls crumble around him.

When his job lets him go, he can’t let go of his job. Thankfully, one former colleague can’t let him go either: Robert “Moon” McCloone, a skeezy on-the-rise exec better suited to a frat house than a boardroom. Seth tries to forget Moon and rediscover his spiritual self; he studies Kabbalah with an Orthodox rabbi by day while popping illegal prescription pills by night. But with each misstep, Seth strays farther from salvation — though he might get there, if he could only get out of his own way.

In his debut novel, Purkert incisively peels back the layers of the male ego, revealing what’s rotten and what might be redeemed. Brimming with wit, irreverence, and soul-searching, The Men Can’t Be Saved is a startlingly original examination of work, sex, addiction, religion, branding, and ourselves.

Sounds interesting, and I wasn’t familiar with the author before I was offered this for review. The title, premise and cover all caught my attention, though, so I look forward to reading it very soon. The Men Can’t Be Saved is due to be published by Overlook Press in North America and in the UK, on August 1st.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Instagram, Twitter
Review copy received from publisher


ScalziJ-StarterVillainUSHCJohn Scalzi, STARTER VILLAIN (Tor)

Inheriting your mysterious uncle’s supervillain business is more complicated than you might imagine.

Sure, there are the things you’d expect. The undersea volcano lairs. The minions. The plots to take over the world. The international networks of rivals who want you dead.

Much harder to get used to… are the the sentient, language-using, computer-savvy cats.

And the fact that in the overall organization, they’re management…

Scalzi always comes up with great ideas. Strangely, though, I still haven’t read many of his books… Really need to rectify that oversight. Hopefully I’ll get to this very soon (followed quickly afterwards by The Kaiju Preservation Society). Starter Villain is due to be published by Tor Books in North America (September 19th) and in the UK (September 21st).

Also on CR: Reviews of Redshirts (and an “artistic” one) and Lock In

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Instagram, Twitter
Review copy received via NetGalley


SwallowJ-DarkHorizonUKJames Swallow, DARK HORIZON (Wellbeck)


A fatal crash on a rain-slick road and a brutal murder in an English village set off a deadly chain of events, leading from stormy skies over the Mediterranean Sea to an explosive confrontation on a remote airstrip in North Africa…

Only a handful of people know the reason why Kate Hood left the military in disgrace; now a contract pilot for a private jet company, she’s looking for a second chance and a better life.

But to keep her secrets, she must take a last-minute assignment to fly a covert cargo out of the country to a non-extradition nation, with no questions asked.

The cargo is a prisoner who may be the key to a violent terrorist conspiracy – but he swears he is an innocent man, wrongly accused of crimes he played no part in.

And as Kate races through the night, on the ground a team of ruthless killers are hunting the people she cares about, threatening their lives to force the pilot to hijack her own aircraft.

But do they plan to liberate the captive – or execute him?

Trapped at the heart of an escalating crisis, Kate and her mysterious passenger must navigate the conflicting agendas of enemies and allies alike, on a flight into danger that neither of them may survive…

The latest thriller from Swallow — I’ve been a fan of the author’s work for quite some time, now. He’s penned some of my favourite Horus Heresy stories, and I also enjoyed his Marc Dane thriller series. Really looking forward to reading this. Dark Horizon is due to be published by Welbeck Publishing on May 25th.

Also on CR: Guest Post on “The NOMAD Soundtrack”; Excerpt from Nomad

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via NetGalley


SmithJ-JumpmanUSHCJohnny Smith, JUMPMAN (Basic Books)

How Michael Jordan’s path to greatness was shaped by race, politics, and the consequences of fame

To become the most revered basketball player in America, it wasn’t enough for Michael Jordan to merely excel on the court. He also had to become something he never intended: a hero.

As Jordan ascended as an NBA champion, his story assured the public that meritocracy and hard work still mattered. Yet building this narrative came at a cost. In Jumpman, sports historian Johnny Smith reveals how Jordan guarded his politics and personal life, allowing him to seem more likable to Americans who wanted to believe that race no longer mattered. In the process of achieving greatness, he remade himself into a paradox: universally known, yet distant and unknowable.

Blending dramatic game action with grand evocations of the social forces sweeping the early nineties, Jumpman reveals how the man and the myth together created the legend that we remember today. 

Another new book on Michael Jordan? Sure, why not: he’s a fascinating athlete and man. Strangely, I have also read very little about Jordan — perhaps because he was so ubiquitous, for so long, that I was drawn to reading about lesser-known (to me, anyway) players. The popularity of The Last Dance also likely had an impact on the resurgence of interest in Jordan’s career, game, and legacy. Really looking forward to reading this, and hope to do so very soon. Jumpman is due to be published by Basic Books in North America and in the UK, on November 7th.

Follow the Author: Website, Twitter
Review copy received via NetGalley


WraggD-TotP1-HuntersDavid Wragg, THE HUNTERS (Harper Voyager)

She’s on the run. They’re out to kill.
But what happens when you catch a hunter?

Ree is a woman with a violent past – a past she thought she’d left behind. After years of wandering, she and her niece Javani have finally built a small life for themselves at the edge of the known world.

But sometimes the past refuses to stay there, and Ree’s is about to catch up with her. This time, there will be blood.

For the land is in turmoil and professional killers have arrived in their town looking for an older woman and child, setting off a desperate chase through deserts, mountains, and mines. Ree will have to discover her former self if she is to keep them both alive.

From a master of modern fantasy comes a new thrilling trilogy, full of intrigue, bloodthirsty stakes – and a heroine who just won’t quit.

The first in a new series — Tales of the Plains — by the acclaimed author of The Black Hawks. Sounds great, and I’m looking forward to getting to it as soon as I can. The Hunters is due to be published by Harper Voyager in the UK and North America, on July 20th.

Also on CR: Interview with David Wragg (2019)

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received from publisher

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