Quick Review: DARK MATTER by Blake Crouch (Crown/Macmillan)

CrouchB-DarkMatterUSA gripping multiverse thriller

“Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. Hiswife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined — one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

There was so much buzz surrounding this book in the lead-up to its publication. So much, in fact, that I started to get nervous. Having now finished the novel, though, it’s very easy to see why so many people have been recommending it: it’s superb. Crouch, author of the Wayward Pines novels, has penned a fantastic sci-fi mystery. Continue reading

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New Books (January)

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Featuring: André Alexis, Jennifer Armstrong, Rob Boffard, Ezekiel Boone, Algis Budrys, Matthew de Abaitua, Patrick Flanery, Ian Graham, Elizabeth Greenwood, Sarah Hilary, Joe Hill, Gregg Hurwitz, Davide Mana, Samuel Marolla, Vonda N. McIntyre, A.D. Miller, Tim Murphy, Daniel José Older, Chris Pavone, Aidan Donnelley Rowley, Adrian Selby, Nick Stone, Patrick S. Tomlinson, Fran Wilde

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New Books (October-November)

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Featuring: Fiona Barton, Robert Jackson Bennett, Lee Bermejo, Mike Brooks, Nick Cole, Steve Coogan, Nate Crowley, David Dalglish, Matthew Dunn, Kate Elliott, Christopher Fowler, Alexander Freed, Teresa Frohock, Christopher Golden, Charlaine Harris, Thomas Olde Heuvelt, Mark Hodder, Drew Karpyshyn, Julia Knight, Victor Lavalle, Peter Liney, Peter McLean, Claire North, Megan O’Keefe, Steven Rowley, Jane Smiley, Paul Starkey, Tom Toner, Ian Tregillis

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Upcoming: CITY OF BLADES by Robert Jackson Bennett

I loved the first novel in Robert Jackson Bennett‘s new series, City of Stairs. Not long ago, Bennett’s US publisher Crown unveiled their cover for the sequel, City of Blades:

BennettRJ-2-CityOfBladesUS

Today, though, I spotted the UK cover for City of Blades over on Quercus’s website (below). Sadly, fans of the series will have a bit of a wait — the novel is not due to be published until January 2016.

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Here’s the synopsis (from Goodreads):

The city of Voortyashtan was once the domain of the goddess of death, war, and destruction, but now it’s little more than a ruin. General Turyin Mulaghesh is called out of retirement and sent to this hellish place to try to find a Saypuri secret agent who’s gone missing in the middle of a mission, but the city of war offers countless threats: not only have the ghosts of her own past battles followed her here, but she soon finds herself wondering what happened to all the souls that were trapped in the afterlife when the Divinities vanished. Do the dead sleep soundly in the land of death? Or do they have plans of their own?

Also on CR: Interview with Robert Jackson Bennett; Guest post on City of Stairs & the Super Tropey Fantasy Checklist”; Reviews of City of Stairs and The Company Man

Excerpt: CITY OF STAIRS by Robert Jackson Bennett (Jo Fletcher Books)

BennettRJ-CityOfStairsUKRobert Jackson Bennett‘s City of Stairs was one of my favourite novels from last year. Just released in paperback in the UK by Jo Fletcher Books, the publisher has provided and extract for me to share here. But first, the synopsis:

The city of Bulikov once wielded the powers of the gods to conquer the world, enslaving and brutalizing millions — until its divine protectors were killed. Now Bulikov has become just another colonial outpost of the world’s new geopolitical power, but the surreal landscape of the city itself — first shaped, now shattered, by the thousands of miracles its guardians once worked upon it — stands as a constant, haunting reminder of its former supremacy.

Into this broken city steps Shara Thivani. Officially, the unassuming young woman is just another junior diplomat sent by Bulikov’s oppressors. Unofficially, she is one of her country’s most accomplished spies, dispatched to catch a murderer. But as Shara pursues the killer, she starts to suspect that the beings who ruled this terrible place may not be as dead as they seem — and that Bulikov’s cruel reign may not yet be over.

Read on for Chapter 1…
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Review: CITY OF STAIRS by Robert Jackson Bennett (Jo Fletcher Books/Crown Publishing)

BennettRJ-CityOfStairsUKAnother superb novel from RJB

The city of Bulikov once wielded the powers of the gods to conquer the world, enslaving and brutalizing millions — until its divine protectors were killed. Now Bulikov has become just another colonial outpost of the world’s new geopolitical power, but the surreal landscape of the city itself — first shaped, now shattered, by the thousands of miracles its guardians once worked upon it — stands as a constant, haunting reminder of its former supremacy.Into this broken city steps Shara Thivani. Officially, the unassuming young woman is just another junior diplomat sent by Bulikov’s oppressors. Unofficially, she is one of her country’s most accomplished spies, dispatched to catch a murderer. But as Shara pursues the killer, she starts to suspect that the beings who ruled this terrible place may not be as dead as they seem — and that Bulikov’s cruel reign may not yet be over.

City of Stairs is a superb novel, offering imaginative new takes on classic fantasy ideas and themes, populated by diverse and well-realised characters, and presented in excellent prose. This was one of my most-anticipated novels of 2014, and it exceeded by expectations. Continue reading

Review: THE ACCIDENT by Chris Pavone (Crown Publishing/Faber)

PavoneC-TheAccidentUSAn engaging suspense, featuring a secret manuscript, a conspiracy, and unwitting pawns caught in the middle.

As dawn approaches in New York, literary agent Isabel Reed is turning the final pages of a mysterious, anonymous manuscript, racing through the explosive revelations about powerful people, as well as long-hidden secrets about her own past. In Copenhagen, veteran CIA operative Hayden Gray, determined that this sweeping story be buried, is suddenly staring down the barrel of an unexpected gun. And in Zurich, the author himself is hiding in a shadowy expat life, trying to atone for a lifetime’s worth of lies and betrayals with publication of The Accident, while always looking over his shoulder.

Over the course of one long, desperate, increasingly perilous day, these lives collide as the book begins its dangerous march toward publication, toward saving or ruining careers and companies, placing everything at risk—and everyone in mortal peril.  The rich cast of characters—in publishing and film, politics and espionage—are all forced to confront the consequences of their ambitions, the schisms between their ideal selves and the people they actually became.

The action rockets around Europe and across America, with an intricate web of duplicities stretching back a quarter-century to a dark winding road in upstate New York, where the shocking truth about the accident itself is buried.

Pavone’s The Expats was an international bestseller – one I seem to have missed almost entirely. When The Accident popped up on NetGalley, though, its synopsis sent it right to the top of my Must Read titles. The story is located at the confluence of a number of my key interests: politics, media, international relations/espionage, and publishing. While the novel is not perfect, it is nevertheless a gripping, fast-paced thriller that entertained and gripped me from the start. Continue reading