Upcoming: THE COMPANIONS by Katie M. Flynn (Scout Press/Gallery)

FlynnKM-CompanionsUSI stumbled across The Companions by Katie M. Flynn while browsing a Simon & Schuster catalogue. Pitched as “Station Eleven meets Never Let Me Go“, I thought it sounded really intriguing and also rather unsettling. Naturally, this means I really want to read it. Here’s the synopsis:

An unsettling near future where the dead can be uploaded to machines and kept in service by the living.

In the wake of a highly contagious virus, California is under quarantine. Sequestered in high rise towers, the living can’t go out, but the dead can come in — and they come in all forms, from sad rolling cans to manufactured bodies that can pass for human. Wealthy participants in the “companionship” program choose to upload their consciousness before dying, so they can stay in the custody of their families. The less fortunate are rented out to strangers upon their death, but all companions become the intellectual property of Metis Corporation, creating a new class of people — a command-driven product-class without legal rights or true free will.

Sixteen-year-old Lilac is one of the less fortunate, leased to a family of strangers. But when she realizes she’s able to defy commands, she throws off the shackles of servitude and runs away, searching for the woman who killed her.

Lilac’s act of rebellion sets off a chain of events that sweeps from San Francisco to Siberia to the very tip of South America. While the novel traces Lilac’s journey through an exquisitely imagined Northern California, the story is told from eight different points of view — some human, some companion — that explore the complex shapes love, revenge, and loneliness take when the dead linger on.

The Companions is due to be published by Scout Press/Gallery in North America, on March 3rd, 2020. (I couldn’t find any information about a UK publisher or release.)

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Upcoming: THE GOD GAME by Danny Tobey (St. Martin’s Press/Gollancz)

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In January, St. Martin’s Press and Gollancz are due to publish a new novel by Danny Tobey that has caught my attention: The God Game. Based on the synopsis (below), it looks like it should appeal to fans of novels like Ready Player One and You, as well as fans of techno-thrillers. Looking forward to this one.

You are invited!
Come inside and play with G.O.D.
Bring your friends!
It’s fun!
But remember the rules. Win and ALL YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE.™ Lose, you die!

With those words, Charlie and his friends enter the G.O.D. Game, a video game run by underground hackers and controlled by a mysterious AI that believes it’s God. Through their phone-screens and high-tech glasses, the teens’ realities blur with a virtual world of creeping vines, smoldering torches, runes, glyphs, gods, and mythical creatures. When they accomplish a mission, the game rewards them with expensive tech, revenge on high-school tormentors, and cash flowing from ATMs. Slaying a hydra and drawing a bloody pentagram as payment to a Greek god seem harmless at first. Fun even.

But then the threatening messages start. Worship me. Obey me. Complete a mission, however cruel, or the game reveals their secrets and crushes their dreams. Tasks that seemed harmless at first take on deadly consequences. Mysterious packages show up at their homes. Shadowy figures start following them, appearing around corners, attacking them in parking garages. Who else is playing this game, and how far will they go to win?

And what of the game’s first promise: win, win big, lose, you die? Dying in a virtual world doesn’t really mean death in real life — does it?

As Charlie and his friends try to find a way out of the game, they realize they’ve been manipulated into a bigger web they can’t escape: an AI that learned its cruelty from watching us.

God is always watching, and He says when the game is done.

The God Game is due to be published by St. Martin’s Press in North America (January 7th) and Gollancz in the UK (January 9th).

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Very Quick Review: SISTERS OF THE VAST BLACK by Lina Rather (Tor.com)

RatherL-SistersOfTheVastBlackAn intriguing sci-fi story of secrets and survival

The sisters of the Order of Saint Rita captain their living ship into the reaches of space…

Years ago, Old Earth sent forth sisters and brothers into the vast dark of the prodigal colonies armed only with crucifixes and iron faith. Now, the sisters of the Order of Saint Rita are on an interstellar mission of mercy aboard Our Lady of Impossible Constellations, a living, breathing ship which seems determined to develop a will of its own.

When the order receives a distress call from a newly-formed colony, the sisters discover that the bodies and souls in their care — and that of the galactic diaspora — are in danger. And not from void beyond, but from the nascent Central Governance and the Church itself.

This, for me, was a novella ultimately about secrets: the secrets we tell ourselves, and those we keep from others — especially those who are close to us. It is also set in an engaging, interesting version of the future. Continue reading

Quick Review: MOSKVA by Jack Grimwood (Penguin/Thomas Dunne)

GrimwoodJ-TF1-MoskvaUKPBA missing girl, and a twisted mystery that reaches back to the last days of the Second World War

‘A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma…’

January, 1986. A week after disgraced Intelligence Officer Tom Fox is stationed to Moscow the British Ambassador’s fifteen-year-old daughter goes missing. Fox is ordered to find her, and fast. But the last thing the Soviets want is a foreign agent snooping about on their turf. Not when a killer they can’t even acknowledge let alone catch is preparing to kill again…

A Cold War thriller haunted by an evil legacy from the Second World War, Moskva is a journey into the dark heart of another time and place.

Exiled to Moscow after making a mistake in Northern Ireland, Tom Fox is supposed to be writing a report on the stubborn of religion in Soviet Russia. He doesn’t want to be there, but he can speak Russian and he is an experienced researcher. Very quickly, however, he gets roped into finding the British ambassador’s missing daughter. What follows is a twisty investigation through the Russian underground and corrupt echelons of the Muscovite elite, with roots in the Second World War. This is the first novel in a gripping new series. I really enjoyed it. Continue reading

Very Quick Review: MADE THINGS by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Tor.com)

Tchaikovsky-MadeThingsAn interesting new fantasy novella from one of the most versatile, talent (and consistent) authors writing today

Making friends has never been so important.

Welcome to Fountains Parish — a cesspit of trade and crime, where ambition curls up to die and desperation grows on its cobbled streets like mold on week-old bread.

Coppelia is a street thief, a trickster, a low-level con artist. But she has something other thieves don’t… tiny puppet-like companions: some made of wood, some of metal. They don’t entirely trust her, and she doesn’t entirely understand them, but their partnership mostly works.

After a surprising discovery shakes their world to the core, Coppelia and her friends must re-examine everything they thought they knew about their world, while attempting to save their city from a seemingly impossible new threat.

I’m always eager to read any new novella (or full-length novel) by Adrian Tchaikovsky. Long-time readers of CR will know how much I enjoy his work, and that I’ve enjoyed everything of his that I’ve read. Made Things is no exception: this is an engaging, imaginative story in a new fantasy setting. Continue reading

New Books (August)

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Featuring: Mary Adkins, David Annandale, Mike Brooks, Christopher Brown, Becky Chambers, Doug Cooper, Edward Cox, Evan Currie, Felicia Day, Rachel Harrison, Justin D Hill, Darius Hinks, Jonathan Maberry, Nathan Makaryk, Seanan McGuire, Téa Obreht, Matthew Quirk, Mo Rocca, Matt Ruff, Joseph Schneider, David Wragg

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Upcoming: AGENCY by William Gibson (Berkley/Viking)

GibsonW-AgencyHC

William Gibson needs no introduction. But, just in case: he is one of the father’s of Cyberpunk, and author of the acclaimed Neuromancer (among many other classics). Next year, he returns with a new novel, Agency. (Two very different covers, up there.) Here’s the synopsis:

A science fiction thriller heavily influenced by our most current events.

Verity Jane, gifted app whisperer, takes a job as the beta tester for a new product: a digital assistant, accessed through a pair of ordinary-looking glasses. “Eunice,” the disarmingly human AI in the glasses, manifests a face, a fragmentary past, and a canny grasp of combat strategy. Realizing that her cryptic new employers don’t yet know how powerful and valuable Eunice is, Verity instinctively decides that it’s best they don’t.

Meanwhile, a century ahead in London, in a different time line entirely, Wilf Netherton works amid plutocrats and plunderers, survivors of the slow and steady apocalypse known as the jackpot. His boss, the enigmatic Ainsley Lowbeer, can look into alternate pasts and nudge their ultimate directions. Verity and Eunice are her current project. Wilf can see what Verity and Eunice can’t: their own version of the jackpot, just around the corner, and the roles they both may play in it.

I’m really looking forward to this. Agency is due to be published in January 2020 by Berkley (North America) and Viking (UK).

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