New Books (March)

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Featuring: Daniel Abraham, Jason Arnopp, Stephen Aryan, Madeline Ashby, Adrian Barnes, Terry Brooks, Steve Cavanagh, Catherine Cerveny, Curtis C. Chen, Jennifer Close, Brenda Cooper, John DeCure, Christopher Fowler, Neil Gaiman, Deena Goldstone, Jack Grimwood, Aidan Harte, Nathan Hill, L.S. Hilton, Roger Hobbs, Trevor Hoyle, Richard A. Knaak, Spencer Kope, Giles Kristian, Robert Kroese, Jason LaPier, Glenda Larke, James Lovegrove, Drew Magary, Gail Z. Martin, Malka Older, Melissa F. Olson, Stephanie Saulter, Jon Skovron, Sam Sykes, Laura van Den Berg, Dan Vyleta, David Wingrove, Ben H. Winters, John Wray

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Quick Review: VANISHING GAMES by Roger Hobbs (Corgi/Knopf)

HobbsR-G2-VanishingGamesUKPBThe Ghostman returns, to save his mentor…

I work alone. 

I may be the best thief in the world but no one will ever know a single thing about me. Well, almost no one. 

A lifetime ago I had a mentor, Angela. She taught me how to be a criminal, how to run a heist. 

And now, six years after she vanished and left me high and dry on a job in Kuala Lumpur, she’s sent me an SOS.

Or at least I think it’s her. If it is, then I’ve got to go. I owe her that much.

So soon I’ll be on a plane to Macau, either to see a friend or walk into a trap. Or both. 

But that’s the way I like it. Sometimes the only thing that makes me happy is risking my life. 

Time to go.

I very much enjoyed Roger Hobbs’s debut, Ghostman: it was fast-paced, entertaining and offered an interesting twist on the international, high-tech thief genre. In this sequel, Hobbs gives readers more of the same. For the main, this is a very good thing, and I blitzed through Vanishing Games. Continue reading

New Books (February)

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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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Guest Review: GUARDS! GUARDS! by Terry Pratchett (Corgi)

PratchettT-GuardsGuardsUKReviewed by Ryan Frye

“Vimes ran a practised eye over the assortment before him. It was the usual Ankh-Morpork mob in times of crisis; half of them were here to complain, a quarter of them were here to watch the other half, and the remainder were here to rob, importune or sell hotdogs to the rest.”

Insurrection is in the air in Ankh-Morpork. The Haves and Have-Nots are about to fall out all over again. Captain Sam Vimes of the city’s ramshackle Night Watch is used to this. It’s enough to drive a man to drink. Well, to drink more. But this time, something is different – the Have-Nots have found the key to a dormant, lethal weapon that even they don’t fully understand, and they’re about to unleash a campaign of terror on the city. Time for Captain Vimes to sober up.

Many years ago I read my first Terry Pratchett book. I started where I normally start with any author that I’m new to, the beginning. Sad to say, The Color of Magic and I did not find sweet harmony together. Why? Honestly, it was too long ago to remember what exactly it was I didn’t like about that first read, but I stayed away from Pratchett for a number of years, only to return again a few years later for another shot at this vaunted author. My reread of The Color of Magic went much like the first, and I left feeling sort of ambivalent towards the whole Discworld thing.

Through the passage of years, and my involvement in blogging, online forums, twitter, and the like, I’ve become increasingly aware of the fact that the lack of Pratchett-penned novels has left a gaping hole in my fantasy reading resume. With Pratchett’s recent passing I was inspired by the vast outpouring of love towards this man to give his work a third and final shot. If things didn’t work out on the third try…well, sorry Sir, three strikes and you’re out.

Going in, I knew I needed to take a different approach. I sure as hell wasn’t gonna read The Color of Magic again. I needed to move on to different pastures…

The Light Fantastic was out, since that is the sequel to The Color of Magic. Not going there. I kept moving chronologically, reading synopses until I read the blurb for Guards! Guards!, and I knew I had my next Terry Pratchett read. Continue reading

Books Received… (June)

BooksReceived-20140614

Another good week (creating something of an overwhelming situation, vis-à-vis my TBR mountain). Below are the books, eBooks and graphic novels I’ve either received for review or bought over the past two weeks.

Featuring: Adam Baker, Terry Brooks, Carol K. Carr, Malcolm Cross, Emily Gould, C.B. Harvey, Ben Peek, Jodi Picoult, Gabriel Roth, Maggie Shipstead, Scott Sigler, Matthew Spektor, Jon Steele, Adrian Tchaikovsky, & Graphic Novels

Baker-ImpactUKAdam Baker, Impact (Hodder)

The world is overrun by an unimaginable horror. The few surviving humans are scattered in tiny outposts across the world, hoping for reprieve – or death.

Waiting on the runway of the abandoned Las Vegas airport sits the B-52 bomber Liberty Bell, revving up for its last, desperate mission. On board – six crew members and one 10-kiloton nuclear payload. The target is a secret compound in the middle of the world’s most inhospitable desert.

All the crew have to do is drop the bomb and head to safety.

But when the Liberty Bell crashes, the surviving crew are stranded in the most remote corner of Death Valley. They’re alone in an alien environment, their only shelter the wreckage of their giant aircraft, with no hope of rescue. And death is creeping towards them from the place they sought to destroy – and may already reside beneath their feet in the burning desert sands.

I’m a relatively recent convert to Baker’s novels, as I’ve mentioned before on the blog. My first of his was Terminus, last year, which I really enjoyed. When this dropped through the mail, I was very excited – I had no idea it was on the way (it was only recently added to Goodreads, and I just haven’t seen any mention of it before). It has also upended my reading plans for the next couple of weeks. Because I’ve already started reading it…

Also on CR: Interview with Adam Baker, Guest Post

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BrooksT-DoS1-TheHighDruidsBladeUKTerry Brooks, The High Druid’s Blade (Orbit)

Legend has it that Paxon Leah is descended from the royals and warriors who once ruled the Highlands and waged war with magical weapons. But those kings, queens, and heroes are long gone, and there is nothing enchanted about the antique sword that hangs above Paxon’s fireplace. Running his family’s modest shipping business, Paxon leads a quiet life – until extraordinary circumstances overturn his simple world… and rewrite his destiny.

When his brash young sister is abducted by a menacing stranger, Paxon races to her rescue with the only weapon he can find. And in a harrowing duel, he is stunned to discover powerful magic unleashed within him – and within his ancestors’ ancient blade. But his formidable new ability is dangerous in untrained hands, and Paxon must master it quickly because his nearly fatal clash with the dark sorcerer Arcannen won’t be his last. Leaving behind home and hearth, he journeys to the keep of the fabled Druid order to learn the secrets of magic and earn the right to become their sworn protector.

But treachery is afoot deep in the Druids’ ranks. And the blackest of sorcery is twisting a helpless innocent into a murderous agent of evil. To halt an insidious plot that threatens not only the Druid order but all the Four Lands, Paxon Leah must summon the profound magic in his blood and the legendary mettle of his elders in the battle fate has chosen him to fight.

It must be twenty years since I last read a Brooks novel. I believe it was either Sword of Shannara or Elfstones of Shannara. Maybe Magic Kingdom For Sale, Sold. Between then and my rediscovery of and happy disappearance down the rabbit hole of fantasy fiction in 2008, I also developed a very strong desire to only read series in order. Naturally, this caused some difficult when it came to Brooks’s continuing Shannara series. I can’t promise I’ll get around to this, but I would like to return to the world at some point. We’ll see.

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CarrCK-IB3-AndTheShadowsOfAnarchyUKCarol K. Carr, India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy (Titan)

In Victorian London, India Black has all the attributes a high-class madam needs to run a successful brothel – wit, beauty, and an ability to lie with a smile. Luckily for Her Majesty’s Government, all these talents also make her a first-rate spy…

India Black, full-time madam and occasional secret agent, is feeling restless, when one of Disraeli’s men calls on her to meet the prime minister – alone. Even though all her previous meetings have been organized by the rakishly handsome spy French, it’s been decided this is a mission India must attempt on her own.

Revolt has spread across Europe and reached the shores of England – anarchists have begun assassinating lords and earls, one by one. Now India must infiltrate the ranks of the underground group responsible for those attacks, the sinister Dark Legion. To stop their dread plot, India will go from the murkiest slums of London to the highest levels of society, uncovering secrets that threaten her very existence…

An intriguing-looking steampunk, Victoriana spy series. I haven’t had the chance to read the first two books in the series, yet, but I am interested in checking it out.

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Various-JournalOfThePlagueYearMalcolm Cross, C. B. Harvey & Adrian Tchaikovsky, Plague Year (Abaddon)

The Cull swept the world in the early years of the twenty-first century, killing billions and ending civilisation as we know it. Only those fortunate to be blessed with the right blood were spared. In the latest instalment to the shared world of Afterblight Chronicles three fantastic authors lead us further into the apocalypse:

In Cross’ Orbital Decay, astronaut Alvin Burrows watches helplessly as the world collapses, and the crew on board the Space Station are murdered one by one.

In Harvey’s Dead Kelly, fugitive Kelly McGuire returns to the lawless city of Melbourne seeking revenge on his old gang mates.

In Tchaikovsky’s The Bloody Deluge (previously unpublished), biochemist Katy Lewkowitz and her friend Dr. Emil Weber seek refuge from the deadly cult of the New Teutonic Order.

Journal of the Plague Year is an omnibus collection of three unique novellas; it will thrill, enthral and horrify you in equal measures.

I have to admit that what sold me on this collection was the inclusion of Adrian Tchaikovsky’s novella. It is, I believe, his first published sci-fi/dystopia fiction. Don’t mean to be disrespectful to the other two authors, of course, but I am a big fan of Tchaikovsky’s already. I haven’t read anything else in the Afterblight Chronicles, but I don’t think it’s necessary to have past experience with it. If nothing else, I’m going to read Adrian’s story ASAP, and then get back to the other two at a later date (alternating between this and full-length novels, perhaps).

Also on CR: Interview with Adrian Tchaikovsky, Guest Post by Adrian

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GouldE-FriendshipUKEmily Gould, Friendship (Virago)

Bev Tunney is stuck in circumstances that would have barely passed for New York bohemian in her mid-twenties: temping, living in a shared house, drowning in debt. Her friend Amy Schein is a charismatic and fiercely impetuous Brooklyn media darling still riding the tailwinds of early success, but reality is catching up with her – her job, her lease and her relationship are on the brink of collapse. And now Bev is unexpectedly pregnant.

As Amy and Bev are dragged into their thirties and genuine adulthood, they are forced to contemplate the possibility that growing up might mean growing apart. They want to help each other but can’t help themselves; want to make good decisions, but fall prey to their worst impulses; find their generosity overwhelmed by petty concerns. An unsettling encounter with an accomplished older woman, Sally, throws their problems into sharp relief.

Emily Gould’s dazzling debut novel traces the evolution of a friendship with wry sympathy, refreshing honesty and humour.

I like stories set in New York City. I’m in my thirties. Thought it might be a nice change to the SFF/thrillers I mainly read. I’ve been reading more in the contemporary and literary fiction genres, and I’ve found a lot that I like. True, there are certain tropes and structural consistencies across the genre, but I like them, too. Mostly. I’m looking forward to reading this.

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PeekB-C1-GodlessUKBen Peek, The Godless (Tor UK)

The Gods are dying. Fifteen thousand years after the end of their war, their bodies can still be found across the world. They kneel in forests, lie beneath mountains, and rest at the bottom of the world’s ocean. For thousands of years, men and women have awoken with strange powers that are derived from their bodies.

The city Mireea is built against a huge stone wall that stretches across a vast mountain range, following the massive fallen body of the god, Ger. Ayae, a young cartographer’s apprentice, is attacked and discovers she cannot be harmed by fire. Her new power makes her a target for an army that is marching on Mireea. With the help of Zaifyr, a strange man adorned with charms, she is taught the awful history of “cursed” men and women, coming to grips with her new powers and the enemies they make.

Meanwhile, the saboteur Bueralan infiltrates the army that is approaching her home to learn its terrible secret. Split between the three points of view, The Godless’s narrative reaches its conclusion during an epic siege, where Ayae, Zaifyr and Bueralan are forced not just into conflict with those invading, but with those inside the city who wish to do them harm.

I started reading this when I was really not in the mood for a new fantasy series. But, I read the first few pages while sorting out newly arrived books, and found it really well-written. Peek’s done a great job of crafting this world. I’ve put the book aside for a little bit, though, as I didn’t want to force myself to push throught he Fantasy Funk I’m in. I think I’m going to really like the rest of it. Watch this space for more.

Also on CR: Interview with Ben Peek

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PicoultJ-WhereTheresSmokeUKJodi Picoult, Where There’s Smoke (Hodder)

Even as a child, Serenity Jones knew she possessed unusual psychic gifts. Now, decades later, she’s an acclaimed medium and host of her own widely viewed TV show, where she delivers messages to the living from loved ones who have died. Lately, though, her efforts to boost ratings and garner fame have compromised her clairvoyant instincts.

When Serenity books a young war widow to appear as a guest, the episode quickly unravels, stirring up a troubling controversy. And as she tries to undo the damage – to both her reputation and her show – Serenity finds that pride comes at a high price.

I’ve never read anything by Picoult. Not really sure why, either. I spotted this in my Amazon recommendations, saw that it was a free short story, and jumped on the opportunity to give her work a try. It appears to tie in to Picoult’s upcoming full-length novel, too, so that could bode very well.

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RothG-TheUnknownsUKPBGabriel Roth, The Unknowns (Picador)

Eric has survived his ostracised teens in the school computer basement of the mid-80s and seems to have everything: the dot com millions, the beautiful apartment, the quick mind, and even passable looks. But he has never quite found love. Until, with all the glamorous alliteration of a movie star, Maya Marcom arrives on his horizon.

It’s not easy to pursue the most alluring woman in North America when you’re a misfiring circuit of over-analytical self-doubt and she has a killer line and a perfectly raised eyebrow. But as Eric refines his email technique, his date patter and his capacity to shut up after sex, he finds there’s more to Maya Marcom than meets the eye.

Will our loveable geek be able to conquer his dogged need to discover the whole truth about his lover – or will they continue in bliss and wonder? This is a story about the mysteries of the heart, and the ways in which one fragile human being is harder to really know than enough computer code to make a fortune.

I’d been hovering over buying this novel for some time. It sounded really fun and quirky. So, I eventually bought it. I’ll be reading it pretty soon, hopefully.

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ShipsteadM-SeatingArrangementsUKMaggie Shipstead, Seating Arrangements (Blue Door)

The Van Meters have gathered at their family retreat on the New England island of Waskeke to celebrate the marriage of daughter Daphne to an impeccably appropriate young man. The weekend is full of lobster and champagne, salt air and practiced bonhomie, but long-buried discontent and simmering lust seep through the cracks in the revelry.

Winn Van Meter, father-of-the-bride, has spent his life following the rules of the east coast upper crust, but now, just shy of his sixtieth birthday, he must finally confront his failings, his desires, and his own humanity.

I’ve heard good things, and it was difficult to miss it for a while, if you spent any time in a UK bookstore. It then popped up as a Kindle Daily Deal, and I thought that left no excuse to give it a try.

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Sigler-3-PandemicScott Sigler, Pandemic (Hodder)

The alien intelligence that unleashed two horrific assaults on humanity has been destroyed. But before it was brought down in flames, it launched one last payload – a tiny soda-can-sized canister filled with germs engineered to wreak new forms of havoc on the human race. That harmless-looking canister has languished under thousands of feet of water for years, undisturbed and impotent… until now.

Days after the new disease is unleashed, a quarter of the human race is infected. Entire countries have fallen. And our planet’s fate now rests on a small group of unlikely heroes, racing to find a cure before the enemies surrounding them can close in.

I’ve always wanted to read this series, but it’s one of the ones that started when I was hopping across the Atlantic too frequently. This meant my copy of the first in the series got lost in the shuffle. I’ll be sure to pick the preceding two books ASAP so I can get around to this one. I’ve heard really good things about it and Sigler’s writing.

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SpektorM-AmericanDreamMachineUKPBMatthew Spektor, American Dream Machine (Sphere)

A big sweeping story of Los Angeles and of the rise and fall and rise of one man amongst the grit, glamour, desperation and ambition of the movie business in the ’60s and ’70s.

Beau Rosenwald – overweight, far from handsome, and improbably charismatic – arrives in Los Angles in 1962 with nothing but an ill-fitting suit and a pair of expensive brogues. By the late 1970s he has helped found the most successful agency in Hollywood.

Through the eyes of his son, we watch Beau and his partner go to war, waging a battle that will reshape an entire industry. We watch Beau rise and fall and rise again, forging and damaging remarkable relationships. We watch Beau’s partner, the enigmatic Williams Farquarsen, struggle to control himself and this oh-so-fickle world of movies. We watch two generations of men fumble and thrive across the LA landscape, revelling in their successes and learning the costs of their mistakes.

This sounds really good. I caught wind of it quite a while ago, but for some reason I never got around to reading it. It popped up this week on NetGalley, and my request was approved! So that’s nice. I’m hoping to get to it pretty soon.

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SteeleJ-A2-AngelCityUKJon Steele, Angel City (Corgi)

Jay Harper, one of the last “angels” on Planet Earth, is hunting down the half-breeds and goons who infected Paradise with evil. Intercepting a plot to turn half of Paris into a dead zone, Harper ends up on the wrong side of the law and finds himself a wanted man. That doesn’t stop his commander, Inspector Gobet of the Swiss Police, from sending him back to Paris on a recon mission… a mission that uncovers a truth buried in the Book of Enoch.

Katherine Taylor and her two year old son Max are living in a small town in the American Northwest. It’s a quiet life. She runs a candle shop and spends her afternoons drinking herbal teas, imagining a crooked little man in the belfry of Lausanne Cathedral, a man who believed Lausanne was a hideout for lost angels. And there was someone else, someone she can’t quite remember… as if he was there, and not there at the same time.

A man with a disfigured face emerges from the shadows. His name is Astruc, he’s obsessed with the immortal souls of men. Like a voice crying in the wilderness, he warns the time of The Prophecy is at hand… a prophecy that calls for the sacrifice of the child born of light…

This is the second book in Steele’s Angelus Trilogy, following on from The Watchers – which, as with so very many books, now, I have yet to read. I really like the new cover designs for the series, too. Very good decision. I’ve heard pretty mixed things about The Watchers – some have said it’s amazing, others have been cool on it. I’ll be sure to form my own opinion. Just… not sure when. It does sound interesting, though. Probably good for fans of Lou Morgan’s Blood and Feathers, Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone series, and Anne Rice’s Seraphim duology.

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GRAPHIC NOVELS

Haven’t featured the graphic novels I’ve received for a while, so these go back a fair way. Some interesting ones, though…

BlackScience-Vol.01Black Science, Vol.1 – “How to Fall Forever” (Image)

Writer: Rick Remender | Art: Matteo Scalera, Dean White

Anarchist scientist Grant McKay has done the impossible! Using the Pillar, he has punched a hole through the barriers between dimensions, allowing travel to all possible universes. But now Grant and his team are trapped in the folds of infinity, the Pillar sending them careening through a million universes of unimaginable adventure, sanity-flaying danger and no way home…

Collects: Black Science #1-6

New science fiction series from Rick Remender, who’s doing some great work, recently. Therefore, I’m very interesting in reading this.

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Bunker-Vol.01The Bunker, Vol.1 (Oni Press)

Writer: Joshua Hale Fialkov | Art: Joe Infurnari

On their way to bury a time capsule, five friends – Grady, Heidi, Natasha, Daniel, and Billy – uncover a metal bunker buried deep in the woods. Inside, they find letters addressed to each of them… from their future selves.

Told they will destroy the world in the very near future, the friends find, over the next few days, growing further and further apart.

Though they’ve been warned against making the wrong choices, how do they know what the right ones are?

Can the future really be changed, or will an even darker fate engulf the world?

Collects: The Bunker #1-4

I met Fialkov in September 2011, at a signing in Los Angeles. He was very affable, and chatted with me for a bit about I, Vampire, his other work, and gave me a couple of suggestions. This is a new series of his, and it’s been doing really well with critics and fans alike. I’ve just been really slow about getting around to reading it. Looking forward to it.

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DeathSentence-Vol.01Death Sentence Vol.1 (Titan Comics)

Writer: Monty Nero | Art: Mike Dowling

What would you do with superpowers – and six months to live?

That’s the dilemma facing three people who’ve contracted the G+ Virus, an infectious agent that gives you incredible superpowers – before killing you!

What will struggling graphic designer Verity, failing indie guitarist Weasel and roguish media personality Monty do in the time that remains? Fade away – or go out in a blaze of glory?

And if they choose to kick back… will there be anything left of the world when they’re through?

From the streets of London to the North Atlantic, from intimate betrayals to the death of thousands, from muses lost and futures thrown away to the fall of society – DeathSentence is the jaw-dropping next step in superpowered storytelling!

Funny, fearless and frightening, packed with shocks, dialogue you can’t stop quoting, and the character finds of a generation – don’t miss this unforgettable comics debut!

The collection comes with 26-pages of exclusive commentary by the creators.

Collects: Death Sentence #1-6

This is a really interesting premise. I read the first issue after a ComiXology sale on Titan Comics, and really liked it. As I am wont to do, I promptly forgot to get the rest of the series, as I was distracted by many other things. With the collection coming out soon, I was happy to get this for review. Should be fun. I’m halfway through it already. It has some pretty interesting commentary in there, but it does lean a little bit towards the “shocking” (which isn’t really), which buries the thrust of the story a little bit. Still, it’s pretty good.

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ForeverEvil-HCForever Evil (DC Comics)

Writer: Geoff Johns | Art: David Finch

The Justice League is DEAD! And the villains shall INHERIT the Earth! In a flash of light, the world’s most powerful heroes vanish as the Crime Syndicate arrives from Earth-3! As this evil version of the Justice League takes over the DC Universe, no one stands in the way of them and complete domination… no one except for Lex Luthor.

Collects: Forever Evil #1-7

One of DC’s latest mega-event things. Not really sure what it’s about, or how it ties in with the main New 52 series (both DC and Marvel seem to have gone down the cross-over rabbit hole in 2013 and 2014). It’s a pretty big book, so should be a nice, long read. Johns does good work, for the main, so I am cautiously optimistic.

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Letter44-Vol.01Letter 44, Vol.1 – “Escape Velocity” (Oni Press)

Writer: Charles Soule | Art: Alberto Alburquerque

On Inauguration Day, newly elected President Stephen Blades hoped to tackle the most critical issues facing the nation: war, the economy, and a failing health care system. But in a letter penned by the outgoing President, Blades learns the truth that redefines “critical”: seven years ago, NASA discovered an alien presence in the asteroid belt, and kept it a secret from the world. A stealth mission crewed by nine astronauts was sent to make contact, and they’re getting close – assuming they survive the long journey to reach their destination.

Today, President-elect Blades has become the most powerful man on the planet. This planet!

Collects: Letter 44 #1-6

I picked up the first issue in this series a couple months back, and rather enjoyed the premise and writing, and the artwork is pretty good, too. This is the first collection, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the story panned out.

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SupermanWonderWoman-Vol.01Superman/Wonder Woman, Vol.1 – “Power Couple” (DC Comics)

Writer: Charles Soule | Art: Tony Daniel

Beginning a bold new series that details the relationship between The Man of Steel and the Warrior Princess as writer Charles Soule (Swamp Thing) is joined by artist Tony S. Daniel (Batman) to tell the tale of a romance that will shake the stars themselves. These two super-beings love each other, but not everyone shares their joy. Some fear it, some test it – and some will try to kill for it. Some say love is a battlefield, but where Superman and Wonder Woman are concerned it spells Doomsday!

Collects: Superman/Wonder Woman #1-6

This was a controversial title, when it was first announced. I don’t actually think I’ve seen anyone review it, among the circle of reviewers I pay attention to. This means I’ll be coming at it with no preconceptions or expectations. I am still hoping for a good New 52 Superman title – Superman has become rather bland, and Action Comics suffered from… well, Grant Morrison. Please let this one not disappoint.

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Umbral-Vol.01Umbral, Vol.1 – “Out of the Shadows” (Image)

Writer: Antony Johnson | Art: Christopher Mitten

AN INCREDIBLE NEW DARK FANTASY STARTS HERE!

The young thief called Rascal witnesses the horrific and brutal murder of the royal family – now the world’s dark legends will be relived, and only Rascal even knows it’s happening!

Master worldbuilders ANTONY JOHNSTON (Wasteland, Daredevil) and CHRISTOPHER MITTEN (Wasteland, Criminal Macabre) bring you a new fantasy world rich in mythology, history, and blood!

Collects: Umbral #1-6

Image Comics hasn’t steered me wrong, recently. This is one of their new series, so of course I’m interested in checking it out. Looks weird and potentially creepy. Bodes well.

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Upcoming: THE SHADOW’S CURSE by Amy McCulloch (Corgi)

McCullochA-2-ShadowsCurseThe action-packed sequel to The Oathbreaker’s Shadow

I really enjoyed Amy McCulloch’s debut novel, and have been itching to get my hands on the follow-up, to find out what happens next for Raim et al. After finishing The Oathbreaker’s Shadow, I thought I’d figured out a possible upcoming twist, so I really want to know if I was right…

Here’s the synopsis:

Raim is no closer to figuring out the meaning of the broken vow that sentenced him to exile for life. But with his former best friend now a tyrannical Khan who is holding the girl Raim loves captive, he finds it hard to care. Every day, he and Draikh learn more about their powers, but it quickly becomes clear that he will never be able to stop Khareh and free Wadi unless he can free himself from the ultimate taboo of his people. Reluctantly, Raim begins the long journey down to the dangerous South, to find the maker of his oath.

In Khareh’s camp, Wadi is more than capable of devising her own escape plan, but she’s gradually realizing she might not want to. The more she learns about Khareh, the more confused she becomes. He’s done unquestionably bad things, horrific even, but he’s got big dreams for Darhan that might improve their dire situation. What’s more, rumours of a Southern king massing an army to invade Darhan are slowly gaining ground. Only if the Northern tribes can come together under a single ruler will they have the strength to fight the South – but what if that ruler is an impulsive (albeit brilliant) young man, barely able to control his ever-growing power, and missing the one part of him that might keep him sane?

Whoever conquers the desert, wins the war. And the secret to desert survival lies in Lazar, which is set to become the heart of a great battle once again.

The Shadow’s Curse is due to be published in July 2014 by Corgi in the UK and Canada; and on August 15th in Australia and New Zealand.

Also on CR: Interview with Amy McCulloch

Books Received (Easter Week & a Bit)

BooksReceived-201404-17

Featuring: Mark Alder, Charles Cumming, Stella Gemmell, Terry Hayes, Sarah Pinborough, Justin Richards, Marcus Sakey, Tom Rob Smith

AlderM-SonOfTheMorningMark Alder, Son of the Morning (Gollancz)

Edward the Third stands in the burnt ruin of an English church. He is beset on all sides. He needs a victory against the French to rescue his Kingship. Or he will die trying.

Philip of Valois can put 50,000 men in the field. He has sent his priests to summon the very Angels themselves to fight for France. Edward could call on God for aid but he is an usurper. What if God truly is on the side of the French?

But for a price, Edward could open the gates of Hell and take an unholy war to France…

This has been creating quite the buzz around the UK SFF community. It took me a little while to discover that “Mark Alder” is a pseudonym for “M.D. Lachlan” (which, incidentally, is also a pseudonym…). I really enjoyed Wolfsangel and Fenrir, but have yet to catch up with the rest of Lachlan’s werewolf series. Soon, hopefully. You can read an excerpt from the novel, here.

Also on CR: Interview with M.D. Lachlan, Catch-Up Interview

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Cumming-AColderWarUKCharles Cumming, A Colder War (Harper)

A top-ranking Iranian military official is blown up while trying to defect to the West. An investigative journalist is arrested and imprisoned for writing an article critical of the Turkish government. An Iranian nuclear scientist is assassinated on the streets of Tehran. These three incidents, seemingly unrelated, have one crucial link. Each of the three had been recently recruited by Western intelligence, before being removed or killed.

Then Paul Wallinger, MI6’s most senior agent in Turkey, dies in a puzzling plane crash. Fearing the worst, MI6 bypasses the usual protocol and brings disgraced agent Tom Kell in from the cold to investigate. Kell soon discovers what Wallinger had already begun to suspect – that there’s a mole somewhere in the Western intelligence, a traitor who has been systematically sabotaging scores of joint intelligence operations in the Middle East.

Charles Cumming is one of my favourite authors – not just of thrillers, but of any genre. I’ve fallen behind a bit, but I’m really looking forward to jumping into this novel. A Foreign Country, the first in this series, is one of the books I haven’t read, so I’ll be reading that in a few days, before starting in on this one.

Also on CR: Reviews of Typhoon and The Trinity Six

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GemmellS-CityUKPBStella Gemmell, The City (Corgi)

The City is ancient and vast and has been waging almost constant war for centuries. At its heart resides the emperor. Few have ever seen him. Those who have remember a man in his prime – and yet he should be very old. Some speculate that he is no longer human, others wonder if indeed he ever truly was. And a few have come to a desperate conclusion: that the only way to halt the emperor’s unslakeable thirst for war is to end his unnaturally long life.

From the crumbling catacombs beneath the City where the poor struggle to stay alive to the blood-soaked fields of battle where so few heroes survive, these rebels emerge. Their hopes rest on one man. A man who was once the emperor’s foremost general – a revered soldier who could lead an uprising and liberate a city, a man who was betrayed, imprisoned, tortured and is now believed to be dead…

The paperback release of this novel arrives. I received the large, trade-paperback last year. I started reading it when I was really not in the mood for fantasy. It was very well-written, and the world was really well-realised. But at the time I found it rather slow, and a bit too heavy on the world-building over the story-telling. I’ll give it another go, hopefully, some time later this year.

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Hayes-IAmPilgrimTerry Hayes, I Am Pilgrim (Corgi)

Can you commit the perfect crime?

Pilgrim is the codename for a man who doesn’t exist. The adopted son of a wealthy American family, he once headed up a secret espionage unit for US intelligence. Before he disappeared into anonymous retirement, he wrote the definitive book on forensic criminal investigation.

But that book will come back to haunt him. It will help NYPD detective Ben Bradley track him down. And it will take him to a rundown New York hotel room where the body of a woman is found facedown in a bath of acid, her features erased, her teeth missing, her fingerprints gone. It is a textbook murder – and Pilgrim wrote the book.

What begins as an unusual and challenging investigation will become a terrifying race-against-time to save America from oblivion. Pilgrim will have to make a journey from a public beheading in Mecca to a deserted ruins on the Turkish coast via a Nazi death camp in Alsace and the barren wilderness of the Hindu Kush in search of the faceless man who would commit an appalling act of mass murder in the name of his God.

Another novel I’ve heard great things about, but for some reason haven’t got around to reading. It’s a biggie, but I’m really interested in reading it.

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PinboroughS-LT2-MurderSarah Pinborough, Murder (Jo Fletcher Books)

Dr. Thomas Bond, Police Surgeon, is still recovering from the event of the previous year when Jack the Ripper haunted the streets of London – and a more malign enemy hid in his shadow. Bond and the others who worked on the gruesome case are still stalked by its legacies, both psychological and tangible.

But now the bodies of children are being pulled from the Thames… and Bond is about to become inextricably linked with an uncanny, undying enemy.

This is the next in Pinborough’s historical London crime novels (with a hint of the supernatural). I’m currently reading the first, Mayhem, and really enjoying it. Review pretty soon, hopefully.

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RichardsJ-SuicideExhibitionUKPBJustin Richards, Suicide Exhibition (Del Rey UK)

WEWELSBURG CASTLE, 1940.

The German war machine has woken an ancient threat – the alien Vril and their Ubermensch have returned. Ultimate Victory in the war for Europe is now within the Nazis’ grasp.

ENGLAND, 1941

Foreign Office trouble shooter Guy Pentecross has stumbled into a conspiracy beyond his imagining – a secret war being waged in the shadows against a terrible enemy.

The battle for Europe has just become the war for humanity.

Another paperback release, and another novel I’ve been so slow about getting around to reading. I do like the sound of it, I’ve just been distracted constantly whenever I think about reading it. Maybe now I’ll get my act together.

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Sakey-B2-ABetterWorldMarcus Sakey, A Better World (Thomas & Mercer)

The brilliants changed everything.

Since 1980, 1% of the world has been born with gifts we’d only dreamed of. The ability to sense a person’s most intimate secrets, or predict the stock market, or move virtually unseen. For thirty years the world has struggled with a growing divide between the exceptional… and the rest of us.

Now a terrorist network led by brilliants has crippled three cities. Supermarket shelves stand empty. 911 calls go unanswered. Fanatics are burning people alive.

Nick Cooper has always fought to make the world better for his children. As both a brilliant and an advisor to the president of the United States, he’s against everything the terrorists represent. But as America slides toward a devastating civil war, Cooper is forced to play a game he dares not lose – because his opponents have their own vision of a better world.

And to reach it, they’re willing to burn this one down.

This is the sequel to Brilliance, which I have but have not yet got around to reading. (That is a bit of theme for this post…) I’ve never read anything by Sakey, but I’ve heard lots of very good things.

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SmithTR-TheFarmUSTom Rob Smith, The Farm (Grand Central)

If you refuse to believe me, I will no longer consider you my son.

Daniel believed that his parents were enjoying a peaceful retirement on a remote farm in Sweden. But with a single phone call, everything changes.

Your mother… she’s not well, his father tells him. She’s been imagining things – terrible, terrible things. She’s had a psychotic breakdown, and been committed to a mental hospital.

Before Daniel can board a plane to Sweden, his mother calls: Everything that man has told you is a lie. I’m not mad… I need the police… Meet me at Heathrow.

Caught between his parents, and unsure of who to believe or trust, Daniel becomes his mother’s unwilling judge and jury as she tells him an urgent tale of secrets, of lies, of a crime and a conspiracy that implicates his own father.

Tom Rob Smith’s previous novels have been huge, international hits. Which, as with so many in an ever-busier publishing environment, I haven’t managed to try, yet. After seeing it on NetGalley, and my request being accepted, I’m hoping to get around to this very soon. Especially since I seem to have developed a real taste for international thrillers, lately.

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Which of these catches your eye? Have you been waiting for any of them?