This is proving to be the Summer Flood of Many Exciting Books… Although, this installment also contains a fair few books I’ve bought myself.
Featuring: Lauren Beukes, Gwenda Bond, Amanda Carlson, Stephan Eirik Clark, Tony Earley, Joshua Ferris, Tom Fletcher, Bill Granger, Michael Hastings, Emily St. John Mandel, Ann Leckie, Carol O’Connell, Mark Pryor, John Scalzi, Julie Schumacher, Jeremy Spencer, Peter Swanson, Lavie Tidhar, Andy Weir, Django Wexler
Lauren Beukes, Broken Monsters (Mulholland)
A criminal mastermind creates violent tableaus in abandoned Detroit warehouses…
Detective Gabriella Versado has seen a lot of bodies. But this one is unique even by Detroit’s standards: half boy, half deer, somehow fused together. As stranger and more disturbing bodies are discovered, how can the city hold on to a reality that is already tearing at its seams?
If you’re Detective Versado’s geeky teenage daughter, Layla, you commence a dangerous flirtation with a potential predator online. If you’re desperate freelance journalist Jonno, you do whatever it takes to get the exclusive on a horrific story. If you’re Thomas Keen, known on the street as TK, you’ll do what you can to keep your homeless family safe – and find the monster who is possessed by the dream of violently remaking the world.
A genre-redefining thriller about broken cities, broken dreams, and broken people trying to put themselves back together again.
I loved The Shining Girls, and have been anticipating this novel with bated breath. Will read very soon.
Gwenda Bond, Fallout (Capstone)
Lois Lane is starting a new life in Metropolis. An Army brat, Lois has lived all over – and seen all kinds of things. (Some of them defy explanation, like the near-disaster she witnessed in Kansas in the middle of one night.) But now her family is putting down roots in the big city, and Lois is determined to fit in. Stay quiet. Fly straight.
As soon as she steps into her new high school, though, she can see it won’t be that easy. A group known as the Warheads is making life miserable for another girl at school. They’re messing with her mind, somehow, via the high-tech immersive videogame they all play. Not cool. Armed with her wit and her new snazzy job as a reporter, Lois has her sights set on solving this mystery. But sometimes it’s all a bit much. Thank goodness for her maybe-more-than-a friend, a guy she knows only by his screenname, SmallvilleGuy.
Lois Lane in high school. Could be really interesting. And I am familiar with Bond’s previous novels, so I’m cautiously optimistic.
Review copy via NetGalley.
Amanda Carlson, Red Blooded (Orbit)
Jessica is going to Hell.
After settling a fragile truce between the vampires, werewolves and witches, the last thing Jessica wants to do is face the demons head on. But when the Prince of Hell kidnapped her brother, he set into motion a chain of events that even Jessica doesn’t have the power to stop.
Now, Jessica must go into battle again. But hell is a whole new beast – new rules, more dangerous demons, and an entirely foreign realm. And when Jessica is dropped into the Underworld too soon, without protection or the help of her friends, she must figure out just how powerful she can be… or she will never make it out alive.
The fourth novel in the Jessica McClaine series – which I really must catch up on ASAP. I don’t read much urban fantasy, and I do want to try more. This has been getting good reviews from reviewers I follow, so I have high hopes for it.
Review copy via NetGalley.
Stephan Eirik Clark, Sweetness #9 (Little, Brown)
It’s 1973, and David Leveraux has landed his dream job as a Flavorist-in-Training, working in the secretive industry where chemists create the flavors for everything from the cherry in your can of soda to the butter on your popcorn.
While testing a new artificial sweetener – “Sweetness #9” – he notices unusual side-effects in the laboratory rats and monkeys: anxiety, obesity, mutism, and a generalized dissatisfaction with life. David tries to blow the whistle, but he swallows it instead.
Years later, Sweetness #9 is America’s most popular sweetener – and David’s family is changing. His wife is gaining weight, his son has stopped using verbs, and his daughter suffers from a generalized dissatisfaction with life. Is Sweetness #9 to blame, along with David’s failure to stop it? Or are these just symptoms of the American condition?
David’s search for an answer unfolds in this expansive novel that is at once a comic satire, a family story, and a profound exploration of our deepest cultural anxieties.
Wickedly funny and wildly imaginative, Sweetness #9 questions whether what we eat truly makes us who we are.
Yes, I heard about this because Edan Lepucki mentioned it on The Colbert Report… The Colbert Bump is a real thing. Sounds interesting.
Review copy via NetGalley.
Tony Earley, Mr. Tall (Little, Brown)
Two decades after his debut collection Here We Are in Paradise (LB, 2/94) heralded Tony Earley as one of the most accomplished writers of his generation, the rueful, bittersweet, and riotous stories of Mr. Tall reestablish him as a mythmaker and tale spinner of the first rank. These stories introduce us not only to ordinary people seeking to live extraordinary lives, but also to the skunk ape (a southern variant of Bigfoot), the ghost of Jesse James, and a bone-tired Jack the Giant Killer. Whether it’s Appalachia, Nashville, the Carolina Coast, or a make-believe land of talking dogs, each world Earley creates is indelible.
It sounded interesting. And I haven’t been reading many anthologies, recently, so I thought it might offer a nice change.
Review copy via NetGalley.
Joshua Ferris, To Rise Again At A Decent Hour (Little, Brown)
Paul O’Rourke is a man made of contradictions: he loves the world, but doesn’t know how to live in it. He’s a Luddite addicted to his iPhone, a dentist with a nicotine habit, a rabid Red Sox fan devastated by their victories, and an atheist not quite willing to let go of God.
Then someone begins to impersonate Paul online, and he watches in horror as a website, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account are created in his name. What begins as an outrageous violation of his privacy soon becomes something more soul-frightening: the possibility that the online “Paul” might be a better version of the real thing. As Paul’s quest to learn why his identity has been stolen deepens, he is forced to confront his troubled past and his uncertain future in a life disturbingly split between the real and the virtual.
I’ve never read anything by Ferris, but I’m intrigued by the social media aspect of this story, so I picked it up.
Tom Fletcher, Gleam (Jo Fletcher Books)
The gargantuan Factory of Gleam is an ancient, hulking edifice of stone, metal and glass ruled over by chaste alchemists and astronomer priests.
As millennia have passed, the population has decreased, and now only the central district is fully inhabited and operational; the outskirts have been left for the wilderness to reclaim. This decaying, lawless zone is the Discard; the home of Wild Alan.
Clever, arrogant, and perpetually angry, Wild Alan is both loved and loathed by the Discard’s misfits. He’s convinced that the Gleam authorities were behind the disaster that killed his parents and his ambition is to prove it. But he’s about to uncover more than he bargained for.
Really looking forward to trying this. Expect it to feature on the site again soon.
Bill Granger, The Zurich Numbers (Grand Central)
They are immigrants, working in American laboratories and universities. They are Soviet spies, forced into a network of terror, with their families dangling as hostages. When Devereaux – the November Man – uncovers the brutal scheme, the forces of both East and West mark him and the woman he loves for death.
From California to Chicago to Switzerland, the November Man tracks the cold-blooded mastermind who controls the numbers. In a vicious maze of power, murder, and greed, every enemy may be a friend – and every friend, a sudden traitor.
Grand Central has been releasing the eARCs for these in a rather strange order – I can’t tell if it has been the first, second and third, or some random order… The problem with so many editions, and changing titles over the decades… I suppose I’ll just have to read them to find out! (Oh, what hardship…)
Review copy via NetGalley.
Michael Hastings, The Last Magazine (Blue Rider Press)
The year is 2002. Weekly newsmagazines dominate the political agenda in New York and Washington. A young journalist named Michael M. Hastings is a twenty-two- year-old intern at The Magazine, wet behind the ears, the only one in the office who’s actually read his coworker’s books. He will stop at nothing to turn his internship into a full-time position, and he’s figured out just whom to impress: Nishant Patel, the international editor, and Sanders Berman, managing editor, both vying for the job of editor in chief. While Berman and Nishant try to one-up each other pontificating on cable news, A. E. Peoria—the one reporter seemingly doing any work—is having a career crisis. He’s just returned from Chad, where, instead of the genocide, he was told by his editors to focus on mobile phone outsourcing, which they think is more relevant. And then, suddenly, the United States invades Iraq—and all hell breaks loose. As Hastings loses his naïveté about the journalism game, he must choose where his loyalties lie—with the men at The Magazine who can advance his career or with his friend in the field who is reporting the truth.
Big fan of Hastings’s non-fiction writing – this is his only novel, published post-humously – which satirises his time at Newsweek. So I was very happy that it was widely available in Canada when I moved here from the UK. I picked it up this past week.
Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven (Knopf)
One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.
Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten’s arm is a line from Star Trek: “Because survival is insufficient.” But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.
Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleventells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.
One of my most-anticipated reads of the year, I’m very happy my Edelweiss request was approved! And, as it happens, I have already finished it. Review hopefully in the next couple of days…
Review copy via Edelweiss.
Ann Leckie, Ancillary Sword (Orbit)
JUSTICE FOR ALL
Breq – the soldier who used to be a spaceship – is serving the emperor she swore to destroy. She’s been given her own warship, her own crew and ordered to the only place in the galaxy she would have agreed to go: to Athoek Station, to protect the family of the lieutenant she murdered in cold blood.
Athoek was annexed by the Empire some six hundred years ago, and by now everyone is fully “civilised”. Or should be – but everything is not as tranquil as it appears. Old divisions are still troublesome, Athoek Station’s A.I. is restless and it looks like the alien Presger might have taken an interest in what’s going on. With no guarantees that their interest is benevolent.
Leckie’s debut novel is the first to win a clean sweep of the major SFF awards – Clarke, Nebula and Hugo. It has received a lot of attention, which suggests that the awards are entirely justified. The flood of reviews and discussion did, of course, make me less likely to review it in a timely manner – not because I wasn’t interested, but because I like giving attention to books that maybe won’t get a ton of coverage. Or, at the very least, haven’t got a lot of coverage yet. So, I decided to wait on Ancillary Justice. And wait. And wait… With the release of the second book coming up, I may have to get my skates on and get caught up. I’m not the biggest fan of “hard” science fiction to begin with, though, so I’m not sure how quickly I’ll get around to this. It is definitely on my To Read list, though.
Review copy via NetGalley.
Carol O’Connell, Mallory’s Oracle and The Man Who Lied To Women (Headline)
Detective Kathy Mallory. New York’s darkest. You only underestimate her once.
When NYPD Sergeant Kathy Mallory was an eleven-year-old street kid, she got caught stealing. The detective who found her was Louis Markowitz. He should have arrested her. Instead he adopted her, and raised her as his own, in the best tradition of New York’s finest.
Now Markowitz is dead, and Mallory the first officer on the scene. She knows any criminal who could outsmart her father is no ordinary human. This is a ruthless serial killer, a freak from the night-side of the mind.
And one question troubles her more than any other: why did he go in there alone?
This is one of three thriller/suspense series that is getting the re-issue treatment in the UK and US. And, I must say, I have the highest hopes for this one. I will read the first book in the series ASAP.
Mark Pryor, Button Man (Seventh Street Books)
In this prequel to The Bookseller, Hugo must find a reviled movie star lost in the English countryside, before a killer with a penchant for the noose finds him first.
Hugo Marston has just joined the State Department as head of security at the US Embassy in London. His task is to protect a pair of spoiled movie stars, Dayton Harper and his wife Ginny Ferro, whose reckless driving killed a prominent landowner in rural England.
The job turns from routine to disastrous almost immediately. Before Hugo has a chance to meet them, he finds out that Ferro has disappeared, and soon her body is found hanging from an oak tree in a London cemetery. Hours later a distraught Harper slips away from his protector, and Hugo has no idea where he’s going.
Teaming up with a secretive young lady named Merlyn, Hugo’s search leads to a quaint English village. There, instead of finding Harper, another body turns up in the church graveyard.
But now the killer knows he’s being tailed. At one of England’s most famous tourist spots, the self-appointed executioner prepares for the final act of his murderous spree. And Hugo arrives just in time to play his part…
I enjoyed The Bookseller, so it’ll be interesting to read this prequel. If you haven’t tried Pryor’s novels, yet, I strongly recommend them – he does a great job with characterisation and writing Paris. I have no doubt he’ll do a great job with the UK, too.
John Scalzi, Lock In (Gollancz)
Imagine a plague that incapacitates almost 1.7 million people – and now imagine a cure that is even worse.
Fifteen years from now, a new virus sweeps the globe. 95% of those afflicted experience nothing worse than fever and headaches. 4% suffer acute meningitis, creating the largest medical crisis in history. And 1% find themselves “locked in” – fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus.
1% doesn’t seem like a lot. But in the US that’s 1.7 million people “locked in” – including the President’s wife and daughter.
Spurred by grief and the sheer magnitude of the suffering, America undertakes a massive scientific initiative. Nothing can fully restore the locked in. But then two new technologies emerge. One is a virtual-reality environment, “The Agora”, where the locked-in can interact with other humans, whether locked-in or not. The other is the discovery that a few rare individuals have brains that are receptive to being controlled by others, allowing those who are locked in to occasionally “ride” these people and use their bodies as if they were their own.
This skill is quickly regulated, licensed, bonded, and controlled. Nothing can go wrong. Certainly nobody would be tempted to misuse it, for murder, for political power, or worse…
I liked Red Shirts rather a lot, and I’ve been seeing a lot of good reviews of this popping up on other sites and blogs that I follow. So, with any luck, I’ll read it relatively quickly.
Julie Schumacher, Dear Committee Members (Random House)
Jason Fitger is a beleaguered professor of creative writing and literature at Payne University, a small and not very distinguished liberal arts college in the Midwest. His department is facing draconian cuts and squalid quarters, while one floor above them the Economics Department is getting lavishly remodeled offices. His once-promising writing career is in the doldrums, as is his romantic life, in part as the result of his unwise use of his private affairs for his novels. His star (he thinks) student can’t catch a break with his brilliant (he thinks) work “Accountant in a Bordello”, based on Melville’s Bartleby.
In short, his life is a tale of woe, and the vehicle this droll and inventive novel uses to tell that tale is a series of hilarious letters of recommendation that Fitger is endlessly called upon by his students and colleagues to produce, each one of which is a small masterpiece of high dudgeon, low spirits, and passive-aggressive strategies.
I heard about this quite some time ago (although I can’t remember where), and have kept my eye open for it ever since. I’d heard some very good things from others who have already reviewed it in the lead up to its release. When I finally got my mitts on it, I dove right in, and finished it in a couple of days. You can find the review here. It was a lot of fun.
Jeremy Spencer, Death Punch’d (Dey Street Books)
From the cofounder of Five Finger Death Punch, a fascinating inside account of one of the most successful heavy-metal bands of the past decade, and a revealing personal journey through the wild highs and terrifying lows of the rock and roll lifestyle—a wry and rollicking tale of music, addiction, and recovery
Hailed by the New York Times as one of the most unexpectedly consistently popular bands on the rock charts, Five Finger Death Punch has become the new heavyweight champ of the metal scene. In this high-energy memoir, Jeremy Spencer, the band’s cofounder and drummer, takes us onstage and behind the scenes, on tour and into the studio to tell the band’s story and his own.
Death Punch’d is a detailed in-depth account of the group’s origins and influences, as well as the infighting and tensions that, when channeled properly, result in the music fans love. It is also the hard-charging, laugh-out-loud tale of how a mischievous boy rose from small-town Indiana to rock royalty—and how he nearly destroyed it all for a good time.
Told in his unique, self-deprecating voice, filled with his twisted and humorous take on living the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll dream turned nightmare, and including dozens of photos, Death Punch’d is a lively, no-holds-barred ride and an inspiring cautionary tale that offers lessons for us all.
Something a bit different to what I normal look for, but I’m a huge fan of Spencer’s band, Five Finger Death Punch (could there be a more metal name than that?). If you haven’t checked them out, yet, I strongly recommend that you do – if you have any interest in rock music with groove, power and melodies, then FFDP is a must-listen.
Review copy via Edelweiss.
Peter Swanson, The Kind Worth Killing (William Morrow)
A devious tale of psychological suspense involving sex, deception, and an accidental encounter that leads to murder that is a modern reimagining of Patricia Highsmith’s classic Strangers on a Train.
On a night flight from London to Boston, Ted Severson meets the stunning and mysterious Lily Kintner. Sharing one too many martinis, the strangers begin to play a game of truth, revealing very intimate details about themselves. Ted talks about his marriage that’s going stale and his wife Miranda, who he’s sure is cheating on him. Ted and his wife were a mismatch from the start—he the rich businessman, she the artistic free spirit—a contrast that once inflamed their passion, but has now become a cliché.
But their game turns a little darker when Ted jokes that he could kill Miranda for what she’s done. Lily, without missing a beat, says calmly, “I’d like to help.” After all, some people are the kind worth killing, like a lying, stinking, cheating spouse. . . .
Back in Boston, Ted and Lily’s twisted bond grows stronger as they begin to plot Miranda’s demise. But there are a few things about Lily’s past that she hasn’t shared with Ted, namely her experience in the art and craft of murder, a journey that began in her very precocious youth.
Suddenly these co-conspirators are embroiled in a chilling game of cat-and-mouse, one they both cannot survive . . . with a shrewd and very determined detective on their tail.
Swanson’s debut novel – The Girl With A Clock For A Heart – received rave reviews pretty much from everyone who came into contact with it. So, when I spotted this on Edelweiss, I requested it on a whim. It sounds really interesting, though, so I hope to get around to reading it as soon as I can, work and other reading commitments permitting.
Review copy via Edelweiss.
Lavie Tidhar, A Man Lies Dreaming (Hodder)
Deep in the heart of history’s most infamous concentration camp, a man lies dreaming. His name is Shomer, and before the war he was a pulp fiction author. Now, to escape the brutal reality of life in Auschwitz, Shomer spends his nights imagining another world – a world where a disgraced former dictator now known only as Wolf ekes out a miserable existence as a low-rent PI in London’s grimiest streets.
An extraordinary story of revenge and redemption, A Man Lies Dreaming is the unforgettable testament to the power of imagination.
Been waiting to get my hands on this. I loved The Violent Century, and this sounds equally interesting. Hopefully get to it soon.
Andy Weir, The Martian (Del Rey UK)
I’m stranded on Mars.
I have no way to communicate with Earth.
I’m in a Habitat designed to last 31 days.
If the Oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the Water Reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.
So yeah. I’m screwed.
Paperback release. Still haven’t had the chance to read it. Really need to, though – many people have told me it’s brilliant. I’ll do my best to get to it ASAP.
Django Wexler, The Shadow Campaign (Del Rey UK)
The King of Vordan is dying, and his daughter, Raesinia, is destined to become the first Queen in centuries.
But politics knows no loyalties, especially for Duke Orlanko, Minister of Information and spymaster of the empire. The most feared man in the Vordan will bow his knee to no Queen, unless she is firmly under his influence.
Freshly returned from their recent victories in the colonies, Colonel Janus, Marcus and Winter must play a new and far deadlier game than the open warfare of the front, using all their talents, earthly or supernatural.
Already bought this book as an eBook when it was first published in the UK. Still, it’s nice to have a physical edition to sit on the shelf next to book one. Will read it as soon as I can. I really like Wexler’s writing and characters, so I have very high hopes for this one.