Interview with NICHOLAS BOWLING

BowlingN-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Nicholas Bowling?

Nicholas Bowling is a 35-year-old man who writes books and plays music and sometimes teaches Latin. He is quite tall and his eyesight is very poor. He’s got two children’s novels out with Chicken House, and another one coming from Titan that is categorically not for children.

Titan Books are about to publish your new novel, Alpha Omega. It sounds really interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

It’s a mixture of a few things: part sci-fi, part horror, part satire. Part email chain. It’s about a school in the near future where the kids start getting suddenly, inexplicably, violently ill. In the background is the garish, surreal world of Alpha Omega, an online VR role-playing game that no one – teacher or student – ever wants to leave; the discovery of trepanned skull on the school playing fields, which may or may not be cursed; and a privatized, corporatized academy seeking to micromanage every aspect of the kids’ lives. All told, it’s scary and sad and funny and quite odd. Hopefully it’ll make you think a bit, and laugh a bit. Some people have likened it to Black Mirror, which is a lovely thing, but I think it’s a bit wonkier and weirder than that. It’s not a series – just a one-shot. Continue reading

Very Quick Review: THE SILENCE by Don DeLillo (Scribner)

DeLilloD-SilenceUSA very short novel, with little time to develop

Don DeLillo completed this novel just weeks before the advent of Covid-19. The Silence is the story of a different catastrophic event. Its resonances offer a mysterious solace.

It is Super Bowl Sunday in the year 2022. Five people, dinner, an apartment on the east side of Manhattan. The retired physics professor and her husband and her former student waiting for the couple who will join them from what becomes a dramatic flight from Paris. The conversation ranges from a survey telescope in North-central Chile to a favorite brand of bourbon to Einstein’s 1912 Manuscript on the Special Theory of Relativity.

Then something happens and the digital connections that have transformed our lives are severed.

What follows is a dazzling and profoundly moving conversation about what makes us human. Never has the art of fiction been such an immediate guide to our navigation of a bewildering world. Never have DeLillo’s prescience, imagination, and language been more illuminating and essential.

I’ve not read much of DeLillo’s fiction. I was intrigued by The Silence, however, because of the premise. This was a very quick read, and while interesting I think the synopsis oversells it quite dramatically. Continue reading

Upcoming: PERSEPHONE STATION by Stina Leicht (Saga Press)

LeichtS-PersephoneStationUSOn January 5th, 2021, Saga Press are due to publish the latest novel by Stina Leicht. Pitched as a space opera “for fans of The Mandalorian and Cowboy Bebop“, Persephone Station sounds like it’ll be great fun. Check out the synopsis:

Persephone Station, a seemingly backwater planet that has largely been ignored by the United Republic of Worlds becomes the focus for the Serrao-Orlov Corporation as the planet has a few secrets the corporation tenaciously wants to exploit.

Rosie—owner of Monk’s Bar, in the corporate town of West Brynner, caters to wannabe criminals and rich Earther tourists, of a sort, at the front bar. However, exactly two types of people drank at Monk’s back bar: members of a rather exclusive criminal class and those who sought to employ them.

Angel—ex-marine and head of a semi-organized band of beneficent criminals, wayward assassins, and washed up mercenaries with a penchant for doing the honorable thing is asked to perform a job for Rosie. What this job reveals will effect Persephone and put Angel and her squad up against an army. Despite the odds, they are rearing for a fight with the Serrao-Orlov Corporation. For Angel, she knows that once honor is lost, there is no regaining it. That doesn’t mean she can’t damned well try.

Stina Leicht’s Persephone Station is due to be published by Saga Press on January 5th, 2021, in North America (at the time of writing, I’m not sure about a UK release). If you can’t wait that long, I’d recommend you also check out the author’s Malorum Gates duology — Cold Iron and Blackthorne — published by Saga Press in North America and in the UK.

Also on CR: Interview with Stina Leicht (2012)

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

New Books (June-July)

NewBooks-20200718

Featuring: Dan Abnett, Sarah Andersen, Tiffani Angus, Robert Jackson Bennett, Charles Cumming, Aliette de Bodard, Mark de Jager, Guillermo del Toro, Robert Draper, Jackson Ford, Andrea Hairston, Katie Hill, Patrick Hoffman, Chuck Hogan, Thilde Kold Holdt, S.A. Hunt, Ken Kwapis, C.S. Malerich, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Brian Naslund, Megan E. O’Keefe, Christopher Paolini, Stan Parish, K.J. Parker, C.T. Rwizi, Ethan Sherwood Strauss, Andrea Stewart, Jeremy Szal, Kimberly Unger, Michael Wood

Continue reading

Annotated Excerpt: THREADING THE LABYRINTH by Tiffani Angus

AngusT-AuthorPicThreading the Labyrinth, at its most basic, is about 400 years in a haunted English Garden—a sort of Tom’s Midnight Garden or The Children of Green Knowe but for adults. The novel has a frame set in 2010 in which Toni, our protagonist, has inherited a house and the remains of a once great estate; she dubs it The Remains because it’s just that: what’s left after time and economic hardship have taken their toll. As Toni uncovers the mysteries of the place, the narrative jumps back to stories about earlier garden workers, mostly women, who lived there in the 1620s, 1770s, 1860s and 1940s, but not necessarily in chronological order. I wrote the novel as part of a dissertation for a PhD in Creative Writing, which required research into several centuries of English gardening history and how gardens function in fantasy fiction. The final PhD version of the novel was different from the published version of the novel: it underwent a structure shift, lost a POV character, had another POV change, and survived other changes. But what I annotate here is mostly original to the “viva” version of the book. Continue reading

Upcoming: RED WIDOW by Alma Katsu (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

KatsuA-RedWidowUSSpotted this on Edelweiss. After making quite a splash with The Deep, a supernatural suspense novel about the Titanic, Alma Katsu‘s next novel takes on the espionage genre. In addition to the eye-catching cover, Katsu’s latest novel has an intriguing premise — the mole in the spy agency sub-genre has always been interesting to me, so this is high on my must-read list. It looks like it could appeal to readers of Karen Cleveland (Need to Know and Keep You Close), John le Carré, Jason Matthews (the Red Sparrow trilogy), and thriller/mystery readers in general. Here’s the synopsis for Red Widow:

An exhilarating spy thriller about two women CIA agents who become intertwined around a threat to the Russia Division — one that’s coming from inside the agency.

Lyndsey Duncan worries her career with the CIA might be over. After lines are crossed with another intelligence agent during her most recent assignment, she is sent home to Washington on administrative leave. So when a former colleague, now Chief of the Russia Division, recruits her for an internal investigation, she jumps at the chance to prove herself once more. Lyndsey was once a top handler in the Moscow Field Station, known as the “human lie detector” and praised for recruiting some of the most senior Russian officials. But now, three Russian assets have been discovered — including one of her own — and the CIA is convinced there’s a mole in the department. With years of work in question, and lives on the line, Lyndsey is thrown back into life at the agency, only this time tracing the steps of those closest to her.

Meanwhile, fellow agent Theresa Warner can’t avoid the spotlight. She is the infamous “Red Widow,” the wife of a former director killed in the field under mysterious circumstances. With her husband’s legacy shadowing her every move, Theresa is a fixture of the Russia Division, and as she and Lyndsey strike up an unusual friendship, her knowledge proves invaluable. But as Lyndsey uncovers a surprising connection to Theresa that could answer all of her questions, she exposes a terrifying web of secrets within the department, if only she is willing to unravel it…

Alma Katsu’s Red Widow is due to be published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in North America and in the UK, on March 23rd, 2021. Looking forward to reading it!

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Quick Review: SONS OF THE SELENAR by Graham McNeill (Black Library)

McNeillG-HHSoT-SonsOfTheSelenarThe Shattered Legions’ story comes to a heroic, tragic, and fitting end

The Shattered Legions crew of the Sisypheum, broken and at the end of their endurance, find themselves divided – torn between following their resurrected captain on a suicidal mission or obeying orders to return to Terra and rejoin their Legion brothers.

Following a series of garbled messages intercepted by the Kryptos, the divided warriors descend to the shattered surface of Luna. Here, their bonds of loyalty, duty, and their devotion to one another will be tested as ancient horrors of the earliest days of gene-manipulation are unleashed, and a long-buried secret is revealed.

A secret that will have far-reaching consequences for the future course of the galaxy, no matter who eventually claims Terra.

Following the betrayal at Isstvan, a handful of loyalist legions were shattered. Various members of these forces — Salamanders, Raven Guard, and Iron Hands — eventually coalesced into mixed forces that have persecuted their own crusade against Horus and his Traitor Legions. As the Siege of Terra begins, the vestiges of this ragtag force makes its way to the Solar system. I really enjoyed this novella. Continue reading

Quick Review: FAIR WARNING by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown/Orion)

ConnellyM-JM3-FairWarningUSThe hero of The Poet and The Scarecrow is back…

Jack McEvoy, the journalist who never backs down, tracks a serial killer who has been operating completely under the radar — until now.

Veteran reporter Jack McEvoy has taken down killers before, but when a woman he had a one-night stand with is murdered in a particularly brutal way, McEvoy realizes he might be facing a criminal mind unlike any he’s ever encountered.

Jack investigates — against the warnings of the police and his own editor — and makes a shocking discovery that connects the crime to other mysterious deaths across the country. Undetected by law enforcement, a vicious killer has been hunting women, using genetic data to select and stalk his targets.

Uncovering the murkiest corners of the dark web, Jack races to find and protect the last source who can lead him to his quarry. But the killer has already chosen his next target, and he’s ready to strike.

Jack McEvoy returns! He’s at a new online publication, with new colleagues, but has the same determined drive to uncover the truth. He also retains his slightly flexible approach to the rules and ethics of journalism. Fair Warning is another excellent novel from the master of the craft. I thoroughly enjoyed this. Continue reading

Orbit & Tor Acquire New Trilogy from Adrian Tchaikovsky!

TchaikovskyA-AuthorPicOrbit Books (North America) and Tor Books (UK) have acquired a new trilogy from Adrian Tchaikovsky! This is fantastic news, because every new novel (or novella) by Tchaikovsky is something to be cheered and eagerly anticipated. There’s not much information, yet, about the trilogy save for this mini-description:

The new far-future science fiction trilogy begins with Shards of Earth, which will be published worldwide in spring 2021. The novel is set fifty years after a war that nearly extinguished humanity, when the enemies of the human race reappear after a long silence.

Spring 2021 still feels very far away, though. If you are new to Tchaikovsky’s work, or have yet to read anything by him, then maybe you’d like to read one of his already-available novels before the new one comes out? But where to begin? Adrian has written a lot of great novels, by now, so here are just a few suggestions for you to pick from, depending on your tastes. (He has written many more excellent books, but these are just some I think would be good starting points.) Continue reading

Quick Review: MECHANICUM by Graham McNeill (Black Library)

McNeillG-HH9-MechanicumThe Heresy comes to Mars

As the flames of treachery spread throughout the Imperium, Horus plots to subvert or destroy all those who would stand against him. On Mars, home world of the Mechanicum priesthood, the great manufactory-cities have long produced much of the weaponry required for the expeditionary fleets across the galaxy – making the world invaluable to whoever controls it in the coming war. Now, the Warmaster’s agents begin to stoke the fires of rebellion, turning the loyalist forges and the mighty Titan Legions against one another. And, with whispers spreading of an ancient terror lurking beneath the Red Planet’s surface, the Dark Mechanicum rises…

For some reason, I missed reading Mechanicum when it first came out. I was reminded recently that I hadn’t read it yet, and decided to plug this gap. The ninth book in the Horus Heresy series, it’s an interesting look at how Horus’s betrayal split the Mechanicum forces and saw Mars fall into civil war, grounded in some human stories of those who were either at the centre of events or existed on the periphery. I enjoyed it. Continue reading