Upcoming: HEROES by Stephen Fry (Penguin)

FryS-HeroesUKHCMythology was a big part of my childhood: Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Norse… I loved it all. I remember we had a particular hardcover book of mythology, heavily illustrated that covered the first three. I read that book over and over again, poring over the details and adventures of the heroes, villains and gods. I loved it, and is most likely the root of my interest in fantasy fiction. (I cannot for the life of me remember what the book was called, though, nor who published it. I’ve been trying to remember for years, but the details escape me completely.)*

I am also a big fan of Stephen Fry‘s work — his comedy, films and also his memoirs (strangely, I haven’t read any of his novels, yet). I bought his critically-acclaimed Mythos a little while ago. Like so many of the books I buy, I have yet to get around to reading it — but it is rapidly climbing my TBR mountain. Penguin recently announced Fry’s upcoming, companion book, Heroes, which I think it also sounds great. (I think the cover was officially unveiled today.) Here’s the synopsis:

There are Heroes — and then there are Greek Heroes.

Few mere mortals have ever embarked on such bold and heart-stirring adventures, overcome myriad monstrous perils, or outwitted scheming vengeful gods, quite as stylishly and triumphantly as Greek heroes.

In this companion to his bestselling Mythos, Stephen Fry brilliantly retells these dramatic, funny, tragic and timeless tales. Join Jason aboard the Argo as he quests for the Golden Fleece. See Atalanta — who was raised by bears — outrun any man before being tricked with golden apples. Witness wily Oedipus solve the riddle of the Sphinx and discover how Bellerophon captures the winged horse Pegasus to help him slay the monster Chimera.

Filled with white-knuckle chases and battles, impossible puzzles and riddles, acts of base cowardice and real bravery, not to mention murders and selfless sacrifices, Heroes is the story of what we mortals are truly capable of — at our worst and our very best.

Really looking forward to reading this. Heroes is due to be published by Penguin in the UK, on November 1st, 2018.

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* If you think you might know which book I’m referring to, feel free to leave suggestions in the comments. I really want to find this book!

 

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Quick Review: THE MAN BETWEEN by Charles Cumming (Harper Collins)

CummingC-ManBetweenUKA spy novelist finds himself recruited into the world of espionage…

He risked it all to become a spy. Now he must pay the price.

One simple task for British Intelligence takes him into a world of danger.

Successful novelist Kit Carradine has grown restless. So when British Intelligence invites him to enter the secret world of espionage, he willingly takes a leap into the unknown.

But the glamour of being a spy is soon tainted by fear and betrayal, as Carradine finds himself in Morocco on the trail of Lara Bartok a mysterious fugitive with links to international terrorism.

Bartok is a leading figure in Resurrection, a violent revolutionary movement whose brutal attacks on prominent right-wing politicians have spread hatred and violence throughout the West.

As the coils of a ruthless plot tighten around him, Carradine finds himself drawn to Lara. Caught between competing intelligence services who want her dead, he soon faces an awful choice: to abandon Lara to her fate or to risk everything trying to save her.

Charles Cumming is one of my favourite thriller authors. It’s becoming almost cliché to compare him to le Carré, but he remains the best comparator. Cumming writes intelligent, engaging and interesting espionage thrillers. In his latest novel — The Man Between in the UK, and The Moroccan Girl in North America — he takes a premise that is very interesting and possibly something many thriller authors think/fantasize about frequently: what if an author of the genre was recruited by a secret service to aid them in an investigation? I really enjoyed this novel. Continue reading

Quick Review: A Pair of Emperor’s Children Novels by Josh Reynolds (Black Library)

A pair of novels that look at the Emperor’s Children Legion at two very different times in their history

Josh Reynolds, who must be Black Library’s hardest working author, recently wrote two novels about the Emperor’s Children Legion: one is part of the Horus Heresy: Primarchs series, and the other set during the ‘current’ WH40k era. Together, they offer a nice look at how far the Legion fell.

ReynoldsJ-HHP-FulgrimFULGRIM: THE PALATINE PHOENIX

Seeking a new challenge and a mighty triumph, Fulgrim – prideful primarch of the Emperor’s Children – sets out to conquer a world with just seven warriors by his side…

Lord of Chemos and bearer of the Palatine Aquila, Fulgrim, primarch of the Emperor’s Children, is determined to take his rightful place in the Great Crusade, whatever the cost. A swordsman without equal, the Phoenician has long studied the art of war and grows impatient to put his skills, and those of his loyal followers, to a true test. Now, accompanied by only seven of his finest warriors, he seeks to bring a rebellious world into compliance, by any means necessary. But Fulgrim soon learns that no victory comes without cost, and the greater the triumph, the greater the price one must pay…

In Fulgrim, the eponymous Primarch attempts to prove himself to his father and brothers, after he feels his reputation and stature threatened by his more-accomplished brothers. It is a story of arrogance, certainly, but also one that shows us how skilled Fulgrim actually is — long before his descent into Chaos and ultimate apotheosis. An interesting novel. Continue reading

Quick Review: LEADERSHIP by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Simon & Schuster)

GoodwinDK-LeadershipUSAn excellent examination of four presidents, their development into leaders, and how they overcame the challenges they faced

Are leaders born or made? Where does ambition come from? How does adversity affect the growth of leadership? Does the leader make the times or do the times make the leader?

In Leadership, Goodwin draws upon the four presidents she has studied most closely — Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson (in civil rights) — to show how they recognized leadership qualities within themselves and were recognized as leaders by others. By looking back to their first entries into public life, we encounter them at a time when their paths were filled with confusion, fear, and hope.

Leadership tells the story of how they all collided with dramatic reversals that disrupted their lives and threatened to shatter forever their ambitions. Nonetheless, they all emerged fitted to confront the contours and dilemmas of their times.

No common pattern describes the trajectory of leadership. Although set apart in background, abilities, and temperament, these men shared a fierce ambition and a deep-seated resilience that enabled them to surmount uncommon hardships. At their best, all four were guided by a sense of moral purpose. At moments of great challenge, they were able to summon their talents to enlarge the opportunities and lives of others.

This seminal work provides an accessible and essential road map for aspiring and established leaders in every field. In today’s polarized world, these stories of authentic leadership in times of apprehension and fracture take on a singular urgency.

Doris Kearns Goodwin is one of the best presidential historians working today. Best known for her superb, exhaustive biography of Abraham Lincoln’s Cabinet and presidency, Team of Rivals, Goodwin has also written substantial biographies of Lyndon B. Johnson (who she worked for), Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. In Leadership, she examines how Lincoln, Johnson, FDR and TR developed into the leadership roles they inhabited. It is an excellent distillation of her previous scholarship with that specific question in mind. Engaging, rigorous, and illuminating, this is an excellent history. Continue reading

Quick Review: EXIT STRATEGY by Martha Wells (Tor.com)

WellsM-MB4-ExitStrategyAn antisocial AI learning to care, in the fourth Murderbot Diaries novella

Murderbot wasn’t programmed to care. So, its decision to help the only human who ever showed it respect must be a system glitch, right?

Having traveled the width of the galaxy to unearth details of its own murderous transgressions, as well as those of the GrayCris Corporation, Murderbot is heading home to help Dr. Mensah — its former owner (protector? friend?) — submit evidence that could prevent GrayCris from destroying more colonists in its never-ending quest for profit.

But who’s going to believe a SecUnit gone rogue?

And what will become of it when it’s caught?

I blitzed through the first three novellas in this series. The main character is endearing and amusing, and the story is engaging and often thought-provoking. Exit Strategy, the final novella in the series, is another excellent addition to the series. Fans of the first three will, no doubt, love this one as well. Continue reading

Guest Post: “The Final Chapter of the Bowers Files” by Steven James

JamesS-BF11-EveryWickedManUSIt was 2005 and I was a frustrated wannabe novelist.

I’d been wanting to write a thriller for years, but every time I started one, I found that my story wasn’t as fresh and original as I needed it to be. I was about ready to give up.

Then one day, while researching investigative techniques, I stumbled across an article about geospatial investigation, a little known, cutting-edge way of analyzing the timing, location, and progression of serial crimes that the FBI was starting to use.

It was unique, different, and perfect for my story. Everything began to click and FBI Special Agent Patrick Bowers was born.

The Pawn released in 2007 and my life would never be the same again.

Since each book takes me around a year to research and write, chronicling Patrick’s adventures and cases has been a labor of love for more than a decade.

And now, with the release of the eleventh and final book, Every Wicked Man, the long-running series is coming to an end and it’s come time to say goodbye to my old friend. Continue reading

Upcoming: CHILDREN OF TIME and CHILDREN OF RUIN by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Orbit/Tor)

Tchaikovsky-CoT1-ChildrenOfTimeUSWait, what? Didn’t Adrian Tchaikovsky‘s Children of Time come out back in 2015? Why yes, yes it did… in the UK, published by Tor Books. This December, though, Orbit Books are due to publish a North American edition! Great news for sci-fi fans who maybe haven’t had the chance to read this spectacular novel! I read it a couple of years ago and, inexplicably, never reviewed it… (I am convinced that I did write a review, however, which means I managed to lose the review.) It was one of my favourite novels of the year, and I was hooked from very early on. Tchaikovsky’s prose is superb, and his world-building was exceptional, brilliantly realized on the page, and both fascinating and original. It is no surprise to me that it won the Arthur C. Clarke Award. Here’s the synopsis, in case you haven’t clocked it yet:

The epic story of humanity’s battle for survival on a terraformed planet.

Who will inherit this new Earth?

The last remnants of the human race left a dying Earth, desperate to find a new home among the stars. Following in the footsteps of their ancestors, they discover the greatest treasure of the past age – a world terraformed and prepared for human life.

But all is not right in this new Eden. In the long years since the planet was abandoned, the work of its architects has borne disastrous fruit. The planet is not waiting for them, pristine and unoccupied. New masters have turned it from a refuge into mankind’s worst nightmare.

Now two civilizations are on a collision course, both testing the boundaries of what they will do to survive. As the fate of humanity hangs in the balance, who are the true heirs of this new Earth?

Also on the way is Children of Ruin, the eagerly-anticipated sequel! Due to be published by Orbit in North America (May 2019) and Tor in the UK (May 2019), there’s no cover just yet, but here’s the synopsis:

Long ago, Earth’s terraforming program sent ships out to build new homes for humanity among the stars and made an unexpected discovery: a planet with life. But the scientists were unaware that the alien ecosystem was more developed than the primitive life forms originally discovered.

Now, thousands of years later, the Portiids and their humans have sent an exploration vessel following fragmentary radio signals. They discover a system in crisis, warring factions trying to recover from an apocalyptic catastrophe arising from what the early terraformers awoke all those years before.

One of my favourite authors of SFF, Tchaikovsky has so many other excellent books to read while you wait for Children of Ruin. His backlist includes: the excellent Shadows of the Apt 10-novel fantasy epic (Tor UK); the Echoes of the Fall fantasy trilogy (Tor UK); the superb stand-alone novels Guns of the Dawn (Tor UK), Spiderlight (Tor.com), and Dogs of War (Head of Zeus); the novella Ironclads (Solaris) and The Expert System’s Brother (Tor.com); and the first novel in the After the War series, Redemption’s Blade (Solaris).

Also on CR: Interview with Adrian Tchaikovsky (2012); Guest Posts on “Nine Books, Six Years, One Stenwold Maker”, “The Art of Gunsmithing”, “Looking for God in Melnibone Places” and “Eye of the Spider”; Excerpt from Guns of the Dawn; Reviews of Empire in Black & Gold, Guns of the Dawn, Spiderlight, and Ironclads

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