Upcoming: 84K by Claire North (Orbit)

NorthC-84KUSA new Claire North book is always something to cheer. The only problem is that we have to wait until next year… 84K, the author’s fifth novel, sounds fantastic:

What if your life were defined by a number?

What if any crime could be committed without punishment, so long as you could afford to pay the fee assigned to that crime?

Theo works in the Criminal Audit Office. He assesses each crime that crosses his desk and makes sure the correct debt to society is paid in full.

But when Theo’s ex-lover Dani is killed, it’s different. This is one death he can’t let become merely an entry on a balance sheet.

Because when the richest in the world are getting away with murder, sometimes the numbers just don’t add up.

84K is due to be published by Orbit Books in the UK and US, in May 2018.

Also on CR: Reviews of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry AugustTouch, the Gamehouse TrilogyThe Sudden Appearance of Hope

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter


Upcoming in 2017… Orbit Books


Here are some of my most-anticipated novels published by Orbit Books…

Featuring: Jordanna Max Brodsky, M.R. Carey, Nicholas Eames, Charlie Fletcher, Dale Lucas, Brian McClellan, David Mealing, Elizabeth Moon, Claire North, Jon Skovron, Kim Stanley Robinson, Sam Sykes

[Updated on January 16th with five more books; and on February 2nd with a video of interviews with new Orbit authors.]

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New Books (Nov-Dec 2016)


Featuring: David Annandale, Marie Brennan, Maurice Broaddus, Paul Cornell, Michael Crichton, Thoraiya Dyer, Warren Ellis, Christopher Golden, Lee Irby, Kathleen Kent, Christina Kovac, Jonathan Lethem, Laura Lippman, Gregory McDonald, Claire North, Andrew Pyper, Joshua Reynolds, Suzanne Rindell, Kim Stanley Robinson, Steven Savile, Norman Spinrad, Ingrid Thoft, Tim Walker, Alex Wells, Jen Williams, Jason Zinoman

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Review: THE SUDDEN APPEARANCE OF HOPE by Claire North (Orbit)

NorthC-SuddenAppearanceOfHopeUKAn intriguing novel about identity and isolation, thieves and scary tech…

My name is Hope Arden, and you won’t know who I am. But we’ve met before — a thousand times.

It started when I was sixteen years old. 

A father forgetting to drive me to school. A mother setting the table for three, not four. A friend who looks at me and sees a stranger.

No matter what I do, the words I say, the crimes I commit, you will never remember who I am.

That makes my life difficult. It also makes me dangerous.

Long-time readers will know that Claire North is one of my favourite authors. With each new novel (and novella, because we have to include the linked Gamehouse trilogy), North takes reading on a riveting journey of unexpected and thought-provoking directions. The Sudden Appearance of Hope is no exception, with one of the most intriguing characters I’ve read in a while. Well, maybe since North’s previous novel… I enjoyed this a lot. Continue reading

New Books (February)


Featuring: David Annandale, Jo Baker, Mishell Baker, David Baldacci, Elizabeth Bonesteel, Pierce Brown, Christopher Charles, Jessica Chiarella, Dan Cluchey, Max Allan Collins, John Connolly, Don DeLillo, S.B. Divya, Rachel Dunne, Mark Andrew Ferguson, Hadley Freeman, S.L. Grey, Lauren Groff, A.J. Hartley, Noah Hawley, Katie Heaney, Patrick Hemstreet, Mitchell Hogan, Lee Kelly, Shane Kuhn, Joe R. Lansdale, John Lansdale, Tim Lebbon, David Levien, Brian McClellan, Claire North, Willow Palecek, K.J. Parker, Bryony Pearce, Victor Pelevin, Molly Prentiss, Andy Remic, William Shatner, Mickey Spillane, Jo Spurrier, Allen Steele, Stuart Stevens, Alex Stewart, Jack Sutherland, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Marc Turner, Simon Kurt Unsworth, Teddy Wayne

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Upcoming: THE SUDDEN APPEARANCE OF HOPE by Claire North (Orbit)


A couple of days ago, Orbit unveiled the cover (above) for Claire North‘s highly anticipated next novel, The Sudden Appearance of Hope. Given how much I’ve loved all of Claire North’s books, this is very easily in my top five most anticipated novels of 2016. Maybe even the most anticipated of the year.

You might have met Hope Arden before. In fact, you might have met her a hundred times.

But there’s no way that you’ll remember who she is. Because Hope’s unique problem… is that she’s the girl the world forgets.

It all started when she was sixteen years old. A slow declining, a kind of isolation, one piece at a time. Her father forgetting to drive her to school. Her mother setting the table for three, not four. A teacher forgeting to chase her missing homework. A friend looking straight through her and seeing a stranger.

No matter what Hope does – the words she says, the people she hurts, the crimes she commits – you will never remember who she is. That makes her life tricky. But it also makes her dangerous.

The Sudden Appearance of Hope is due to be published in all English-language territories in May by Orbit in UK, Redhook in US (there may be a slightly different cover for the North American market, but I’m not sure — I’ll share if there is).

Also on CR: Reviews of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry AugustTouchThe Gameshouse Trilogy


Review: THE GAMESHOUSE Trilogy by Claire North (Orbit)

A magnificent, linked trilogy of novellas

It’s tricky to review these novellas without spoiling events across the series. So, I’m keeping these as brief as possible, which has meant the reviews are a bit more vague than I would usually like. Really, the take away should be: this is a fantastic series, and a must read.


In seventeenth century Venice exists a mysterious establishment known only as the Gameshouse.

There, fortunes are made and fortunes are broken over games of chess, backgammon and every other game under the sun.

But those whom fortune favours 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 a scale as big as the British Isles.

Not everyone proves worthy of competing in the higher league. But one woman who is about to play may just exceed everyone’s expectations.

Though she must always remember: the higher the stakes, the more deadly the rules…

In this first novella, North introduces us to the Gameshouse, and offers a relatively small-scale game. We follow Thene, a woman trapped in an enforced marriage to a drunken waster. After a while frequenting the Gameshouse, and engaging in “standard” contests and games, she is eventually approached by the umpires and invited to play in the higher league. Rather than duelling with an opponent over a chessboard or other table-top game, Venice itself becomes the board, and its inhabitants the pieces. Each player is given a selection of… well, I suppose you could call them “trumps”: specific pieces who have become indebted to the Gameshouse for a variety of reasons.

The Serpent is a quick read, and follows an interesting protagonist — the story is told somewhat from afar, as if we are watching Thene’s play and the directed actions of her pieces from the audience. She’s an interesting character, made cold and emotionless by her difficult childhood and unhappy marriage, but given new life and focus by the Gameshouse.

Through Thene’s first higher league game, we learn of the various ways the Gameshouse operates, how the pieces work, and so forth. Along the way, North also gives us a few hints about the institution’s history — which, as it turned out, would be further elaborated on in the second and third books. The author never info-dumps on the reader, though, much to my relief. The momentum of the story never lets up, while never being rushed.

It’s an excellent introduction to the series. The only weird decision was using em-dashes to indicate dialogue, rather than quotation marks. The only other time I’ve seen this used was in Lavie Tidhar’s The Violent Century.



The Gameshouse is an unusual institution.

Many know it as the place where fortunes can be made and lost though games of Chess, Backgammon — every game under the sun.

But a select few, who are picked to compete in the higher league, know that some games are played for higher stakes — those of politics and empires, of economics and kings…

In 1930s Bangkok, one higher league player has just been challenged to a game of hide and seek. The board is all of Thailand — and the seeker will use any means possible to hunt down his quarry — be it police, government, strangers or even spies…

This second instalment was even better than the first. Pre-Second World War Thailand is brought wonderfully to life on the page — since I was born there, I’m always interested to see how people recreate the city on the page (at any time), and I think North did a wonderful job of creating such a rich and colourful city, and also doing the wilder regions of the country justice.

Our player is a more established player, with centuries of experience. A drunken evening has led him into a game of hide-and-seek against a rival with an unusual determination. As he first flees the city, Remy Burke ends up struggling through the jungle, occasionally benefiting form the kindness of strangers and sometimes suffering betrayals. North does a great job of showing us how difficult Remy’s ordeal is. The two sides of the game are interesting and very different. The solution and tactics of our hero are ingenious, and I gave a little cheer at the end.

We get a little bit more detail of the Gameshouse’s history and origins, while also hints at possible future events. Given a similar event in both The Serpent and The Thief, we’re led to clues for The Master, and after finishing this one I couldn’t wait to see how North brought it all together: the moments that seemed disconnected from the specific games in Venice and Thailand. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait, and dove right into the final novella…



The Gamehouse is an unusual institution. 

Many know it as the place where fortunes can be made and lost though games of Chess, Backgammon — every game under the sun.

But a select few, who are picked to compete in the higher league, know that some games are played for higher stakes — those of politics and empires, of economics and kings…

And now, the ultimate player is about to step forward.

The final novella in the series brings us up to the present, as the ultimate player decides its time to start the Great Game. The player in question (who I shall not name, in order to not spoil things), has appeared in each of the previous novellas. The Gameshouse has continued to evolve with the times, adjusting what it has to offer with each new generation and era in which it endures.

“New games too: Cluedo, Settlers of Catan, Age of Empires, Mario Kart, Mortal Kombat Whatever fought between a shrieking bishop and a deputy mayor. A judge, a police commissioner, a gangster, a congressman, a chief of staff, a general, a consulting doctor, a research fellow, a professor, a hit-man, a pharmaceutical king, an oil magnate, a seller of used cars and cheap cocaine – all the men and women who think they are someone, could be something more – they all come here as they have come through the centuries, across the world.”

As with the previous two books, The Master is a tightly-plotted action thriller, as the Great Game is writ larger than ever: where first it was a city, then a country, now it is the whole world, and North makes full use of the effectively-limitless resources the two players have to hand. The game, chess, is quite insane, as everything from the NSA and MI5 to entire national armies are deployed, not to mention hackers and assassins. It’s over-the-top, yes, but it never feels as ridiculous as it might in another author’s hands. I was completely hooked, and blitzed through. The ending was powerful, and only gradually was the truth revealed. The way one previous character is used was a great surprise. A superb conclusion to the trilogy. Absolutely magnificent.

Across all three novellas, North continues to show an incredibly gift for writing characters, dialogue and exposition: the people are three-dimensional, even when minor characters; the plots are tight and focused; the atmosphere and environs colourfully described and brought to life, while never in excess.

I’ve said it before in two previous reviews, but Claire North is fast becoming my favourite author.

Absolutely recommended to all, this are must-reads.


The SerpentThe Thief and The Master are all out now, published in the UK and US by Orbit Books.

Also on CR: Reviews of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August and Touch