Quick Review/Second Look: THE GAMESHOUSE by Claire North (Orbit)

NorthC-GameshouseNovella triptych released in single, fantastic volume

Everyone has heard of the Gameshouse. But few know all its secrets…

It is the place where fortunes can be made and lost through chess, backgammon — every game under the sun.

But those whom fortune favors may be invited to compete in the higher league… a league where the games played are of politics and empires, of economics and kings. It is a league where Capture the Castle involves real castles, where hide and seek takes place on the scale of a continent.

Among those worthy of competing in the higher league, three unusually talented contestants play for the highest stakes of all…

I first read The Gameshouse when it was released as three novella eBooks: The Serpent, The Thief and The Master. I loved the story then, and it has stuck with me ever since. The release of the omnibus edition gave me an excuse to give it a second look. This is a really good story, and just more evidence of why Claire North is a must-read author. Continue reading

Excerpt: SUN AND SERPENT by Jon Sprunk (Pyr)

SprunkJ-BotBE-SunAndSerpentToday, we have a short excerpt from Sun and Serpent by Jon Sprunk. The fourth and final book in the author’s Book of the Black Earth series, it was published by Pyr Books in December. Here’s the synopsis…

THE WAR CONTINUES, AND THE UNDEAD RAVAGE THE LAND. JIROM, HORACE, AND EMANON BEGIN TO HOPE THEY MIGHT FREE THE EMPIRE. BUT CAN THEY MANAGE TO DO SO BEFORE THE DARK KING CONQUERS THE WORLD?

Horace has come a long way from his days of slavery. Now he, Jirom, and their companions think they just might glimpse victory ahead, and the triumphant end to what began as a mere slave rebellion. But first Horace must recover from the loss of his beloved Alyra. And Jirom finds himself asking if even victory will be worth the cost–how can he be sure he and the other winners of this war will rule more justly than the Akeshians did? Meanwhile, a mysterious mass murder-suicide in a temple in Thuum hints that they have more foes than they knew of. And as they advance upon the capital, they find strange obstacles barring their way. Obstacles that suggest the barriers between worlds are growing dangerously thin…

Now, on with the excerpt…

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Upcoming: THE EIGHTH DETECTIVE by Alex Pavesi (Henry Holt/Penguin)

PavesiA-EighthDetective

I spotted Alex Pavesi‘s upcoming novel The Eighth Detective a while ago in an online Macmillan catalogue, and made a note to keep an eye open for it — it sounds really interesting, with an intriguing premise. The North American and UK covers recently made their way online, so I thought I’d share some info about it here. Here’s the synopsis for The Eight Detective, which will be published in the UK as Eight Detectives:

A thrilling, wildly inventive nesting doll of a mystery, in which a young editor travels to a remote village in the Mediterranean in the hopes of convincing a reclusive writer to republish his collection of detective stories, only to realize that there are greater mysteries beyond the pages of books.

There are rules for murder mysteries. There must be a victim. A suspect. A detective. The rest is just shuffling the sequence. Expanding the permutations. Grant McAllister, a professor of mathematics, once sat down and worked them all out – calculating the different orders and possibilities of a mystery into seven perfect detective stories he quietly published. But that was thirty years ago. Now Grant lives in seclusion on a remote Mediterranean island, counting the rest of his days.

Until Julia Hart, a sharp, ambitious editor knocks on his door. Julia wishes to republish his book, and together they must revisit those old stories: an author hiding from his past, and an editor, keen to understand it.

But there are things in the stories that don’t add up. Inconsistencies left by Grant that a sharp-eyed editor begins to suspect are more than mistakes. They may be clues, and Julia finds herself with a mystery of her own to solve.

The Eighth Detective is a cerebral, inventive novel with a modern twist, where nothing is what it seems, and proof that the best mysteries break all the rules

I’m really looking forward to giving this a try. Alex Pavesi’s debut is due to be published in August in North America by Henry Holt (4th) and Penguin in the UK (20th).

Follow the Author: Goodreads, Twitter

Quick Review: HOUR OF THE ASSASSIN by Matthew Quirk (William Morrow)

QuirkM-HourOfTheAssassinUSA very fast-paced, political conspiracy thriller

Framed and on the run for his life, a former Secret Service agent discovers how far some men will go to grasp the highest office in the land…

As a Secret Service agent, Nick Averose spent a decade protecting the most powerful men and women in America and developed a unique gift: the ability to think like an assassin. Now, he uses that skill in a little-known but crucial job. As a “red teamer,” he poses as a threat, testing the security around our highest officials to find vulnerabilities — before our enemies can. He is a mock killer, capable of slipping past even the best defenses.

His latest assignment is to assess the security surrounding the former CIA director at his DC area home. But soon after he breaches the man’s study, the home’s inner sanctum, Nick finds himself entangled in a vicious crime that will shake Washington to its foundations — as all the evidence points to Nick.

Nick knows he’s the perfect scapegoat. But who is framing him, and why? To clear his name, he must find the truth — a search that leads to a dark conspiracy whose roots stretch back decades. The prize is the most powerful position in the world: the Oval Office.

To save himself and the people he loves, Nick must stop the men who rule Washington before they bury him along with their secrets. 

I’ve been a fan of Matthew Quirk’s novels ever since I got my hands on an ARC of his debut, The 500. I blitzed through it in one long, gloriously entertaining sitting (staying up way into the night). Since then, I’ve read most of his novels and each has been a fast-paced thriller set in and around American politics — often in and around D.C., specifically. Hour of the Assassin is exactly the kind of novel I expected from Quirk: fast-paced, entertaining, and filled with commentary on the state of modern politics. Continue reading

Quick Review: LOW LIVES by Denny Flowers (Black Library)

FlowersD-N-LowLivesAn excellent Necromunda novella featuring a great pair of protagonists

Even in the nightmare depths of the underhive, there are heroes… or at least those who’d like to be heroes. Caleb Cursebound is one such soul, but pursued by bounty hunters and desperately outgunned, can he even survive, let alone prove his worth?

Caleb Cursebound, the Underhive’s ninth-most-dangerous man, and his ratskin partner Iktomi are in hiding, having deposed the tyrannical lord of a Necromundan noble house. Pursued by relentless bounty hunters, the pair descend to the remote mining settlement of Hope’s End, the last place anyone would think to look. They soon learn, however, that all is not well in Hope’s End; the people are being terrorised by a powerful Orlock gang, and in desperate need of a hero. Caleb cannot resist the opportunity to prove himself, but there are those who would see his reputation forever tarnished…

I’m very happy that GW decided to re-launch Necromunda — it was the game that most caught my attention and imagination when I was in my teens. With the recent re-launch of the game, there has been a welcome return to the setting in BL fiction. Denny Flowers is just one of the authors writing about life in the Underhive, but he has quickly become one to watch. I very much enjoyed this novella. Continue reading

Upcoming: STORMBLOOD by Jeremy Szal (Gollancz)

SzalJ-StormbloodUKOne of the best things about every new year is the slew of debut authors whose books are going to be hitting shelves in the coming months.

Gollancz, of course, is one of the SFF publishers every fan of the genres watches and, in addition to Nick Martell’s debut (which I’ve mentioned before on CR), Stormblood by Jeremy Szal is high on my list of 2020 most anticipated of the year. The first in a new sci-fi series, The Common, here’s the synopsis:

Vakov Fukasawa used to be a Reaper: a bio-enhanced soldier fighting for the Harmony, against a brutal invading empire. He’s still fighting now, on a different battlefield: taking on stormtech. To make him a perfect soldier, Harmony injected him with the DNA of an extinct alien race, altering his body chemistry and leaving him permanently addicted to adrenaline and aggression. But although they meant to create soldiers, at the same time Harmony created a new drug market that has millions hopelessly addicted to their own body chemistry.

Vakov may have walked away from Harmony, but they still know where to find him, and his former Reaper colleagues are being murdered by someone, or something — and Vakov is appalled to learn his estranged brother is involved. Suddenly it’s an investigation he can’t turn down… but the closer he comes to the truth, the more addicted to stormtech he becomes.

And it’s possible the war isn’t over, after all…

Really looking forward to this. Stormblood is due to be published by Gollancz in the UK, on June 4th, 2020 (not sure about a separate North American publisher, but I’ll keep checking).

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Quick Review: RIOT BABY by Tochi Onyebuchi (Tor.com)

OnyebuchiT-RiotBabyA powerful dystopian novella

Ella has a Thing. She sees a classmate grow up to become a caring nurse. A neighbor’s son murdered in a drive-by shooting. Things that haven’t happened yet. Kev, born while Los Angeles burned around them, wants to protect his sister from a power that could destroy her. But when Kev is incarcerated, Ella must decide what it means to watch her brother suffer while holding the ability to wreck cities in her hands.

Rooted in the hope that can live in anger, Riot Baby is as much an intimate family story as a global dystopian narrative. It burns fearlessly toward revolution and has quietly devastating things to say about love, fury, and the black American experience.

Ella and Kev are both shockingly human and immeasurably powerful. Their childhoods are defined and destroyed by racism. Their futures might alter the world.

In Tochi Onyebuchi’s first book for Tor.com, we are introduced to Ella and Kev: sister and brother, navigating contemporary and future America. This is an unstinting look at the injustices of modern society, as well as an extrapolation of where the country could be headed if these failings are left unchecked. It’s a powerful story, and I very much enjoyed reading it. Continue reading