Excerpt: THE GALAXY GAME by Karen Lord (Jo Fletcher Books)

LordK-2-GalaxyGamesUKPBJo Fletcher Books publishes Karen Lord‘s critically-acclaimed novel The Galaxy Game in paperback on January 7th, 2016. It is the sequel to the equally-acclaimed The Best of All Possible Worlds. In advance of it hitting shelves, JFB have sent me this short extract to share here, to whet readers’ appetites for the novel. First up, the synopsis:

For years, Rafi Delarua saw his family suffer under his father’s unethical use of psionic power. Now the government has Rafi under close watch but, hating their crude attempts to analyse his brain, he escapes to the planet Punartam, where his abilities are the norm, not the exception. Punartam is also the centre for his favourite sport, wallrunning – and thanks to his best friend, he has found a way to train with the elite.

But Rafi soon realises he’s playing quite a different game, for the galaxy is changing; unrest is spreading and the Zhinuvian cartels are plotting, making the stars a far more dangerous place to aim. There may yet be one solution — involving interstellar travel, galactic power and the love of a beautiful game.

And now, read on for the prologue… Continue reading

Books Received: December #2 (Or, “It Rained Books Just Before Xmas…”)

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A nice wave of new titles arrived or were purchased just before Christmas. I’ve just been slow about posting this, which means I’ve already read a couple (and dismissed a couple). Some more have arrived since, too, but I’ll post about those at the beginning of January.

Featuring: Kate Atkinson, Belinda Bauer, Gregory Benford, Douglas Brunt, Chelsea Cain, John Connolly, Christopher Farnsworth, Helen Giltrow, Karl Taro Greenfeld, Lev Grossman, Glenda Larke, Karen Lord, Alex Marhsall, Peyton Marshall, Brian McClellan, D.J. Molles, Syliva Moreno-Garcia, Mark Morris, Larry Niven, Claire North, Chuck Palahniuk, Matthew Pearl, D.B.C. Pierre, Jennifer Ridyard, Jeff Somers, Gabriel Squailia, Mark Sullivan, S.J. Watson, Jaye Wells Continue reading

Gift Guide #1: Jo Fletcher Books

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The first of this year’s round-ups of bookish things you and your bibliophile and SFF friends that should make your Christmas and/or holiday season all the better. I’ll be breaking these down by publisher, and maybe a smorgasbord post at the end. And, because I am always looking forward, I’ll include some recommendations for the new year, too. As much as I would like to include all the books published by my favourite publishers, it would take far too long, and so I’m just picking out a selection.

First up, books you should check out from Jo Fletcher Books…

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untitledKaren Lord, The Best of All Possible Worlds

A proud and reserved alien society finds its homeland destroyed in an unprovoked act of aggression, and the survivors have no choice but to reach out to the indigenous humanoids of their adopted world, to whom they are distantly related. They wish to preserve their cherished way of life but come to discover that in order to preserve their culture, they may have to change it forever.

Now a man and a woman from these two clashing societies must work together to save this vanishing race — and end up uncovering ancient mysteries with far-reaching ramifications. As their mission hangs in the balance, this unlikely team — one cool and cerebral, the other fiery and impulsive — just may find in each other their own destinies… and a force that transcends all.

I have sadly not had a chance to read this, but it has received so much praise and support from the SFF community. It is a must-read, in my opinion, and I’m hoping to get around to it ASAP.

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Ian McDonald’s Everness Series

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There is not one you. There are many yous. There is not one world. There are many worlds. Ours is one among billions of parallel earths.

When Everett Singh’s scientist father is kidnapped from the streets of London, he leaves young Everett a mysterious app on his computer. Suddenly, this teenager has become the owner of the most valuable object in the multiverse — the Infundibulum — the map of all the parallel earths, and there are dark forces in the Ten Known Worlds who will stop at nothing to get it. They’ve got power, authority, the might of ten planets—some of them more technologically advanced than our Earth — at their fingertips. He’s got wits, intelligence, and a knack for Indian cooking.

To keep the Infundibulum safe, Everett must trick his way through the Heisenberg Gate that his dad helped build and go on the run in a parallel Earth. But to rescue his dad from Charlotte Villiers and the sinister Order, this Planesrunner’s going to need friends. Friends like Captain Anastasia Sixsmyth, her adopted daughter, Sen, and the crew of the airship Everness.

Can they rescue Everett’s father and get the Infundibulum to safety? The game is afoot!

The first two of these novels (Planesrunner and Be My Enemy) are already out, with Empress of the Sun due at the end of the year. I’ve seen so many people raving about this series. And hey, it’s Ian McDonald – he’s one of today’s SF masters.

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Sarah Pinborough’s Mayhem and The Language of Dying

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The Language of Dying: Tonight is a special, terrible night.

A woman sits at her father’s bedside watching the clock tick away the last hours of his life. Her brothers and sisters – all traumatised in their own ways, their bonds fragile – have been there for the past week, but now she is alone.

And that’s always when it comes.

As the clock ticks in the darkness, she can only wait for it to find her…

Mayhem: A new killer is stalking the streets of London’s East End. Though newspapers have dubbed him ‘the Torso Killer’, this murderer’s work is overshadowed by the hysteria surrounding Jack the Ripper’s Whitechapel crimes.

The victims are women too, but their dismembered bodies, wrapped in rags and tied up with string, are pulled out of the Thames – and the heads are missing. The murderer likes to keep them.

Mayhem is a masterwork of narrative suspense: a supernatural thriller set in a shadowy, gaslit London, where monsters stalk the cobbled streets and hide in plain sight.

This has been a pretty awesome year for Pinborough, and these two novels – quite different – are among the cream of the year’s crop.

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Stephanie Saulter, Gemsigns and Binary

SaulterS-Gemsigns&Binary

For years the human race suffered from a deadly Syndrome, but when a cure was found – in the form of genetically engineered human beings, gems – the line between survival and ethics was radically altered.

Now the gems are fighting for their freedom, from the oppression of the companies that created them, and against the norms who see them as slaves. And a conference at which Dr Eli Walker has been commissioned to present his findings on the gems is the key to that freedom.

But with the gemtech companies fighting to keep the gems enslaved, and the horrifying godgangs determined to rid the earth of these ‘unholy’ creations, the gems are up against forces that may just be too powerful to oppose.

Gemsigns was one of my favourite reads of the year. Binary is out next April, so be sure to make a note in your calendar.

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untitledDavid Towsey, Your Brother’s Blood

Thomas is thirty-two. He comes from the small town of Barkley. He has a wife there, Sarah, and a child, Mary; good solid names from the Good Book. And he is on his way home from the war, where he has been serving as a conscripted soldier.

Thomas is also dead – he is one of the Walkin’.

And Barkley does not suffer the wicked to live.

More zombies? Yes. But this is a great, intelligent novel, and just goes to show that there’s (un)life in the sub-genre yet. (Yes, I had to go there and use a pun.) Go read it.

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For the New Year…

deCastellS-GC1-TraitorsBladeSebastien de Castell, Traitor’s Blade

Falcio is the first Cantor of the Greatcoats. Trained in the fighting arts and the laws of Tristia, the Greatcoats are travelling Magisters upholding King’s Law. They are heroes. Or at least they were, until they stood aside while the Dukes took the kingdom, and impaled their King’s head on a spike.

Now Tristia is on the verge of collapse and the barbarians are sniffing at the borders. The Dukes bring chaos to the land, while the Greatcoats are scattered far and wide, reviled as traitors, their legendary coats in tatters.

All they have left are the promises they made to King Paelis, to carry out one final mission. But if they have any hope of fulfilling the King’s dream, the divided Greatcoats must reunite, or they will also have to stand aside as they watch their world burn…

This just sounds great, as I mentioned earlier this month. (Due out in March.)

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Vermes-LookWhosBackTimur Vermes/Jamie Bulloch, Look Who’s Back

Summer 2011. Berlin. Adolf Hitler wakes up on a patch of ground, alive and well.

Things have changed – no Eva Braun, no Nazi party, no war. Hitler barely recognises his beloved Fatherland, filled with immigrants and run by a woman. People certainly recognise him, though – as a brilliant, satirical impersonator who refuses to break character. The unthinkable, the inevitable, happens, and the ranting Hitler takes off, goes viral, becomes a YouTube star, gets his own TV show, becomes someone who people listen to. All while he’s still trying to convince people that yes, it really is him, and yes, he really means it.

Look Who’s Back is a black and brilliant satire of modern media-bloated society, seen through the eyes of the Führer himself. Adolf is by turns repellent, sympathetic and hilarious, but always fascinating. Look Who’s Back is outrageously clever, outrageously funny – and outrageously plausible.

Ok, so this is actually published by Maclehose Press, but as that’s another Quercus imprint, it counts. It sounds really, really… well, potentially awesome. I do love a good, subversive novel…

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Which other books from Jo Fletcher Books are you most looking forward to? [As I mentioned at the start, any exclusions from this list are not to be taken as lack of interest.]

Excerpt: THE BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS by Karen Lord (Jo Fletcher Books)

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Karen Lord is also the author of Redemption in Indigo, which I first heard of at the Kitschies Award ceremony back in February 2013. It immediately went on to my to-be-purchased list (I’m still getting around to it!). Luckily, I do have a copy of The Best of All Possible Worlds, the author’s second and already-critically-acclaimed novel, which I hope to read as soon as possible. In the meantime, I offer you this taste of the novel, courtesy of Lord’s UK publisher, Jo Fletcher Books…

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THE BEST OF

ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS

by Karen Lord

BEFORE…

He always set aside twelve days of his annual retreat to finish up reports and studies, and that left twelve more for everything else. In earlier times, he had foolishly tried retreats within commreach of his workplace, and that was not at all helpful. There would always be some crisis, something for which his help would be required. As his salary and sense increased, he took his retreats further and further away, until at last he found himself going off-planet to distant temples where the rule of silence and solitude could not be broken by convenient technologies.

This season, he had chosen Gharvi, a place with small wooden buildings scattered about a huge temple of stone, all set within the rain shadow of a mountain range. An endless ocean, both vista and inspiration, ran parallel to the mountains, and a beach between the two offered long walks to nowhere on either side. A place of two deserts, some said, for sea and land were bleak together – one boundless, one narrow, and both thirsty.

There was a place at home very like it, which had probably influenced his choice, but the sky was unique. The atmosphere was the cloudy blueish-lavender of a recently bioformed planet and the sun was scorching bright. It was so unlike the cool, strong blues and gentle sunlight of his home world that for the first few days he kept his head down and his door closed till nightfall.

On the twelfth day, he took his handheld, replete with work well completed, and put it in the box outside his hermitage door. He cooked and ate his evening lentils, slept soundly through the night and rose to prepare his morning porridge. There was a little water left over from the day before (he was ever frugal), but to have enough for washing he had to fetch the new day’s supply from the box. The young acolytes of the temple always put sufficient water and food into each hermit’s box before dawn. It was enough to stay clean, to fill the solar pot with porridge or pottage and to sip and slake the constant thirst that was the natural consequence of dry air and silence. The acolytes would also take away his handheld and safely transmit its contents to his workplace.

But his handheld was still there.

He paused, confused by this disconnect in the seamless order of the temple’s routine. He stared at the untouched box. He looked up and frowned in puzzlement at the squat shape of the temple, vaguely visible through a haze of heat, blown sand and sea spray.

Then he shrugged and went on with his day, a little dustier, a little thirstier but convinced that an explanation would eventually be made manifest.

The following morning, well before dawn, the sound of the box lid closing woke him from a sleep made restless by dreams of dryness. He waited a bit, then went to bring in the supplies and drink deeply of the water. His handheld was gone and a double ration of food sat in its place. He did not even peer into the darkness to catch sight of the tardy acolyte. Order had been restored.

‘Dllenahkh, with your level of sensitivity and strength, you must go on retreat regularly.’ So he had been told, long ago, by the guestmaster of his monastery. ‘You are constantly looking to set things to rights, even within yourself. A retreat will teach you again and again that you are neither indispensable nor self-sufficient.’

Put bluntly, learn to stop meddling. Commitment is important, detachment equally so. He congratulated himself on his developing ability to keep curiosity in check and spent the next few days in undisturbed meditation and reflection.

One day, after a long morning meditation, he felt thirsty and decided to fetch more water from his supply box. He stepped out with his glass drinking bowl in hand and set it on the edge of the box while he tilted the half-lid and reached inside. His hands were steady as he poured water smoothly from the heavy narrownecked jug. Moving slowly, he straightened and took a moment of blissful idleness, the jug left uncovered near his feet, to squint at the sun glare on the desert beach and the desert ocean, and to feel the coolness of the water creeping into his palms as he held the bowl and waited to drink. It was a child’s game, to hold a bowl of water and mark the increase of thirst with masochistic pleasure, but he did it sometimes.

He brought the bowl to his mouth and had a perfect instant of pale-blue ocean, bright blue glass and clear water in his vision before he blinked, sipped and swallowed.

Many times after, when he tried to recall, his mind would stop at that vivid memory – the neatly nested colours, the soothing coolness of the glass – and not wish to go any further. It was not long after that, not very long at all, that the day became horribly disordered.

A man walked out of the ocean, his head darkly bright with seawater and sunlight. He wore a pilot’s suit – iridescent, sleek and permeable – which would dry as swiftly as bare skin in the hot breeze, but his hair he gathered up in his hands as he approached, wringing water from the great length of it and wrapping it high on the crown of his head with a band from his wrist.

Recognition came to Dllenahkh gradually. At first, when the figure appeared, it was a pilot; then, as it began to walk, it was a familiar pilot; and finally, with that added movement of hands in hair, it was Naraldi – a man well known to him, but not so well known as to excuse the early breaking of a retreat. He opened his mouth to chide him. Six more days, Naraldi! Could anything be so important that you could not wait six more days? That was what he intended to say, but another thought came to him. Even for a small planet with no docking station in orbit, it was highly uncommon for a mindship to splash down so close to land that a pilot could swim to shore. Although he knew Naraldi, they were not so close as to warrant a visit at this time and in this place.

The pilot slowed his step and looked uncertainly at him with eyes that streamed from the irritation of salt water.

‘Something terrible has happened,’ Dllenahkh said simply.

Naraldi wiped at his wet face and gave no reply.

‘My mother?’ Dllenahkh prompted to break the silence, dread growing cold and heavy in his stomach.

‘Yes, your mother,’ Naraldi confirmed abruptly. ‘Your mother, and my mother, and . . . everyone. Our home is no more. Our world is—’

‘No.’ Dllenahkh shook his head, incredulous rather than upset at the bitterness and haste of Naraldi’s words. ‘What are you saying?’

He remembered that he was still thirsty and tried to raise the bowl again, but in the meantime his hands had grown chilled and numb. The bowl slipped. He snatched at it, but only deflected it so that it struck hard on the side of the water jug and broke just in time to entangle his chasing fingers.

‘Oh,’ was all he said. The cut was so clean, he felt nothing. ‘I’m sorry. Let me . . .’ He crouched and tried to collect the larger fragments but found himself toppling sideways to rest on one knee.

Naraldi rushed forward. He grasped Dllenahkh’s bleeding right hand, yanked the band from his hair and folded Dllenahkh’s fist around the wad of fabric. ‘Hold tight,’ he ordered, guiding Dllenahkh’s left hand to clamp on to his wrist. ‘Don’t let go. I’ll get help.’

He ran off down the beach towards the temple. Dllenahkh sat down carefully, away from the broken bits of glass, and obediently held tight. His head was spinning, but there was one small consolation. For at least the length of time it took Naraldi to return, he would remember the words of the guestmaster: he would not be curious, he would not seek to know, and he would not worry about how to right the tumbled world.

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Karen Lord’s The Best of All Possible Worlds is published by Jo Fletcher Books in the UK, and Del Rey in the US (both covers, below the synopsis).

The Sadiri were once the galaxy’s ruling élite, but now their home planet has been rendered unlivable and most of the population destroyed. The few groups living on other worlds are desperately short of Sadiri women, and their extinction is all but certain.

Civil servant Grace Delarua is assigned to work with Councillor Dllenahkh, a Sadiri, on his mission to visit distant communities, looking for possible mates. Delarua is impulsive, garrulous and fully immersed in the single life; Dllenahkh is controlled, taciturn and responsible for keeping his community together. They both have a lot to learn.

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Books Received (May-June) – Or, “An Embarrassment of Riches…”

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I’ve been lax about keeping up-to-date with these posts (I like to give every book I receive at least a mention on the blog), so this is a bit of a bumper-edition of Books Received. It has been a wonderfully busy few weeks, too…

First Batch…

BallantineP-KindredAndWingsPhilippa Ballantine, Kindred and Wings (Pyr)

On the back of the dragon Wahirangi, Finn the Fox flees the world he has known. As he sets out to find the brother he never knew of, he still holds in his heart the memory of the Hunter. He has denied his love for her, but he cannot deny it forever.

In the halls of the Last Believers, Talyn begins to uncover her own mysteries, but her lust for the death of the Caisah is still strong and clouds her vision. She must choose her path, as the Seer of her people or as the assassin of the overlord.

Meanwhile, Byre, Talyn’s brother, must venture into the fiery world of the Kindred, to rebuild the pact that his ancestors made. He will risk everything he is as he forms a new pact that will change his people forever.

Dragons and myths will be reborn, as the Hunter and her Fox face each other once more.

This is the sequel to Hunter and Fox, which I have sadly left in New York… I will be reunited with it soon, though, and hopefully get caught up.

Also on CR: Interview with Philippa Ballantine

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Enge-WrathBearingTreeJames Enge, Wrath-Bearing Tree (Pyr)

Into the Unguarded Lands…

The masked powers of Fate and Chaos are killing gods in the land of Kaen, facing the Wardlands across the Narrow Sea.

Vocates Aloe Oaij and Morlock Ambrosius go into the Unguarded Lands, on a mission to find the reasons for the godslaying, and to avert any threat to the lands the Graith of Guardians has sworn to protect.

After crash-landing on the hostile coast of Kaen, they will face vengeful frightened gods, a calmly murderous dragon, a demon called Andhrakhar, and a bitter old necromancer named Merlin Ambrosius.

Amid these dangers they will find that they can trust no one but themselves—and each other.

Ah, James Enge… An author I’ve always want to read, but always start a novel when I’m not really in the mood… I’ll get there eventually, I promise. This is the sequel to A Guile of Dragons, and part of the Tournament of Shadows series.

Also on CR: Interview with James Enge (2011)

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HoffmanE-ShieldOfSeaAndSpaceErin Hoffman, Shield of Sea and Spice (Pyr)

Vidarian Rulorat, called the Tesseract, a powerful magic-user whose abilities spread across multiple elements, finds himself at war with the Alorean Import Company, a powerful cabal of merchants wealthy enough to buy nations. By opening the gate between worlds, Vidarian released the Starhunter, goddess of chaos. With her coming, wild magic returned to the world of Andovar, bringing with it shape-changers and strange awakened elemental technologies, including many-sailed ships powered by air magic, and mechanical automata lit from within by earth and fire. Now, Vidarian discovers that the Alorean Import Company is determined to eliminate two-thirds of this new life on Andovar in the hopes of hoarding more magic for themselves in a new, worldwide plutocracy. Along with his human, gryphon, and shapechanger allies, he must stop the Company if he is to safeguard any future for the diverse life of Andovar, including his and Ariadel’s newborn daughter. With the existence of whole species hanging in the balance, Vidarian is locked in a race for the future of the world.

Really striking cover art – couldn’t help but stare at it for a little while, when I opened the package. Sadly, I haven’t read the previous novel in the Chaos Knight series. I’ve heard some interesting things, though, so I will try to get to it at some point soon.

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KaneB-Hannibal2-FieldsOfBloodBen Kane, Hannibal: Fields of Blood (Preface)

The fields of Cannae provide the setting for one of the bloodiest battles in history. But who will triumph? Hannibal and his warrior army, or the mighty legions of Rome.

Hannibal’s campaign to defeat Rome continues as he marches south to confront his enemy.

With him is a young soldier, Hanno. Like his general, Hanno burns to vanquish Rome. Never has the possibility seemed so likely.

But a stealthy game of cat and mouse is being played as Rome’s generals seek to avoid confrontation.

Eventually the two armies meet under a fierce summer sun. The place is Cannae – the fields of blood.

The battle will go down in history as one of the bloodiest ever fought, a battle in which Hanno knows he must fight as never before – just to stay alive.

Also on CR: Interview with Ben Kane

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McDonald-BeMyEnemyUKIan McDonald, Be My Enemy (Jo Fletcher)

Everett Singh has escaped with the Infundibulum from the clutches of Charlotte Villiers and the Order, but at a terrible price. His father is missing, banished to one of the billions of parallel universes of the Panoply of All World, and Everett and the crew of the airship Everness have taken a wild, random Heisenberg Jump to a random parallel plane. Everett is smart and resourceful, and, from a frozen earth far beyond the Plenitude, he plans to rescue his family. But the villainous Charlotte Villiers is one step ahead of him.

The action traverses the frozen wastes of iceball earth; to Earth 4 (like ours, except that the alien Thryn Sentiency occupied the moon in 1964); to the dead London of the forbidden plane of Earth 1, where the emnants of humanity battle a terrifying nanotechnology run wild—and Everett faces terrible choices of morality and power. But Everett has the love and support of Sen, Captain Anastasia Sixsmyth, and the rest of the crew of Everness—as he learns that the deadliest enemy isn’t the Order or the world-devouring nanotech Nahn—it’s yourself.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about this series (for work), and I’m really interested in trying it out. Be My Enemy is the sequel to Planesrunner. I have both of the novels, and hope to get to them ASAP. (They are published by Pyr Books in the US.)

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Nevill-HouseOfSmallShadowsAdam Nevill, House of Small Shadows (Macmillan)

Catherine’s last job ended badly. Corporate bullying at a top antiques publication saw her fired and forced to leave London, but she was determined to get her life back. A new job and now things look much brighter. Especially when a challenging new project presents itself – to catalogue the late M. H. Mason’s wildly eccentric cache of antique dolls and puppets.

Rarest of all, she’ll get to examine his elaborate displays of posed, costumed and preserved animals, depicting bloody scenes from World War II.

When Mason’s elderly niece invites her to stay at Red House itself, where she maintains the collection, Catherine can’t believe her luck. Until his niece exposes her to the dark message behind her uncle’s “art”. Catherine tries to concentrate on the job, but M. H. Mason’s damaged visions raise dark shadows from her own past. Shadows she’d hoped therapy had finally erased. Soon the barriers between reality, sanity and memory start to merge. And some truths seem too terrible to be real…

I’ve never read anything by Nevill, before. After a discussion about horror at work, in which he was mentioned, this rather fortuitously appeared in the mail! It must be fate. Colour me intrigued. Even if the cover gives me the willies…

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Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Presidential Leadership and the Creation of the American Era (Princeton)

A non-fiction book, obviously. I don’t know why I included that in the picture… I have received other non-fiction books, and they belong on Politics Reader. I’ve actually already finished this slim volume. It was good, but somewhat wanting. Review on the other site in the next few days, hopefully.

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Pryor-CryptThiefMark Pryor, The Crypt Thief (Seventh Street)

It’s summer in Paris and two tourists have been killed in Père La Chaise cemetery in front of Jim Morrison’s grave. One of the dead tourists is American and the other a woman linked to a known terrorist; so the US ambassador sends his best man and the embassy’s head of security – Hugo Marston – to help the French police with their investigation. At first, Hugo is stumped. How does this killer operate unseen? And why is he stealing the bones of once-famous can-can girls?

Hugo cracks the secrets of the graveyard, but soon realizes that old bones aren’t all this serial killer wants: his ultimate plan requires the flesh and organs of the living. And when the crypt thief spots the former FBI agent on his tail, he decides that Hugo’s body will do just fine.

This is the sequel to The Bookseller, which I thought was a pretty interesting debut. It wasn’t perfect (what is), but I enjoyed the writing, the character and the location. Pryor does a great job of bringing Paris to life on the page.

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RyanA-RS1-BloodSongUKAnthony Ryan, Blood Song (Orbit)

We have fought battles that left more than a hundred corpses on the ground and not a word of it has ever been set down. The Order fights, but often it fights in shadow, without glory or reward. We have no banners.

Vaelin Al Sorna’s life changes forever the day his father abandons him at the gates of the Sixth Order, a secretive military arm of the Faith. Together with his fellow initiates, Vaelin undertakes a brutal training regime – where the price of failure is often death. Under the tutelage of the Order’s masters, he learns how to forge a blade, survive the wilds and kill a man quickly and quietly.

Now his new skills will be put to the test. War is coming. Vaelin is the Sixth Order’s deadliest weapon and the Realm’s only hope. He must draw upon the very essence of his strength and cunning if he is to survive the coming conflict. Yet as the world teeters on the edge of chaos, Vaelin will learn that the truth can cut deeper than any sword.

The latest self-published author to be given the traditional-publisher roll-out, I’ve been hearing good things about this series for a while. A number of reviewers have reviewed the novel before Orbit picked it up for wider distribution. I’m certainly intrigued. I’ve also heard there’s a cockney urchin in it. This troubles me… Nevertheless, I’ll be reading it pretty soon, I hope.

And hey: broody-fella on the cover? Not wearing a hood!

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SaulterS-GemsignsStephanie Saulter, Gemsigns (Jo Fletcher)

For years the human race was under attack from a deadly Syndrome, but when a cure was found – in the form of genetically engineered human beings, Gems – the line between survival and ethics was radically altered.

Now the Gems are fighting for their freedom, from the oppression of the companies that created them, and against the Norms who see them as slaves. And a conference at which Dr. Eli Walker has been commissioned to present his findings on the Gems is the key to that freedom.

But with the Gemtech companies fighting to keep the Gems enslaved, and the horrifying godgangs determined to rid the earth of these ‘unholy’ creations, the Gems are up against forces that may just be too powerful to oppose.

I’ve already reviewed this novel (see, I told you I’ve been slow about getting this posts written…). Great novel. Highly recommended.

Also on CR: Excerpt from Gemsigns

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NebulaAwardsShowcase2013Various, Nebula Awards Showcase 2013 (Pyr)

The Nebula Awards Showcase volumes have been published annually since 1966, reprinting the winning and nominated stories in the Nebula Awards, voted on by the members of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. The editor selected by SFWA’s anthology committee (chaired by Mike Resnick) is two-time Nebula winner, Catherine Asaro.

This year’s volume includes stories and excerpts by Connie Willis, Jo Walton, Kij Johnson, Geoff Ryman, John Clute, Carolyn Ives Gilman, Ferrett Steinmetz, Ken Liu, Nancy Fulda, Delia Sherman, Amal El-Mohtar, C. S. E. Cooney, David Goldman, Katherine Sparrow, E. Lily Yu, and Brad R. Torgersen.

A smorgasbord of fiction from a number of interesting authors. I’ll dip in, now and then.

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WilliamsM-2-KnifeSwornMazarkis Williams, Knifesworn (Jo Fletcher)

After years locked in a tower, Prince Sarmin has come into his own. He has been crowned emperor; he has wed Mesema of the horse tribes; the Pattern-Master is dead. Everything should be happy-ever-after.

But war has begun, Sarmin has no royal assassin, and both his wife and mother have given birth to sons, throwing the succession into question.

The last thing anyone needs is for Kavic, the Yrkman peace envoy, to be murdered in his bed. There are numerous possible killers, and with no convincing explanation for Kavic’s death, there is no hope for peace. It’s up to Grada, Sarmin’s trusted investigator, to solve the mystery – no matter how close to the throne the answer may lie.

I enjoyed The Emperor’s Knife, the first in this series. I’ll be interested to see how it continues, and hopefully before the third novel comes out, later this year.

Also on CR: Interview with Mazarkis Williams

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BooksReceived-20130605

And, the Second Batch…

Baker-TerminusAdam Baker, Terminus (Hodder)

The world has been overrun by a lethal infection, ravaged by a pathogen that leaves its victims locked half-way between life and death. New York, bombed to prevent the spread of the disease, has been reduced to radioactive rubble. A rescue squad enters the subway tunnels beneath Manhattan, searching for the one man who can create an antidote.

The squad battle floodwaters, lethal radiation and infected, irradiated survivors as they race against the disease that threatens to extinguish the human race.

Adam Baker has not featured enough on this blog. His novels all sound pretty cool, and right smack-dab in the middle of my wheelhouse. (Eh?) So, when I learned of the premise of his third novel (zombies in New York!), I knew it would have to get read very quickly. So expect a review of Terminus very soon. (It’ll be my next read, after I finish Robert Jackson Bennett’s American Elsewhere, but I’ve stored up a few reviews now, so it’ll be a couple of weeks before the review actually appears…)

Also on CR: Interview with Adam Baker (Video), Guest Post on Trauma

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BarryM-LexiconMax Barry, Lexicon (Mullholland)

Two years ago, something terrible was unleashed in an Australian mining town called Broken Hill. Thousands died.

Few people know what really happened.

Emily Ruff is one of them. She belongs to an elite organisation of ‘poets’: masters of manipulation who use language to warp others to their will. She was one of their most promising recruits until she made a catastrophic mistake: she fell in love.

Wil Parke knows the truth too, only he doesn’t remember it. And he doesn’t know why he’s immune to the poets’ powers. But he knows he needs to run.

As their stories converge, the past is revealed, and the race is on for a deadly weapon: a word.

Because the poets know that words can kill…

Max Barry is a superb author. Jennifer Government was superb, so I’m really looking forward to reading Lexicon. It’s going to be placed very near the top of Mt. TBR.

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BrennanML-GenerationVM.L. Brennan, Generation V (Ace)

Reality Bites

Fortitude Scott’s life is a mess. A degree in film theory has left him with zero marketable skills, his job revolves around pouring coffee, his roommate hasn’t paid rent in four months, and he’s also a vampire. Well, sort of. He’s still mostly human.

But when a new vampire comes into his family’s territory and young girls start going missing, Fort can’t ignore his heritage anymore. His mother and his older, stronger siblings think he’s crazy for wanting to get involved. So it’s up to Fort to take action, with the assistance of Suzume Hollis, a dangerous and sexy shape-shifter. Fort is determined to find a way to outsmart the deadly vamp, even if he isn’t quite sure how.

But without having matured into full vampirehood and with Suzume ready to split if things get too risky, Fort’s rescue mission might just kill him…

I first heard of this via Bastard Books (whose taste in Urban Fantasy I respect and value very highly), so when this turned up, I was most intrigued. I’m working on an interview with the author, too. Watch this space!

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Human-ApocalypseNowNow-UKCharlie Human, Apocalypse Now Now (Century)

Baxter Zevcenko is your average sixteen-year-old-boy — if by average you mean kingpin of a schoolyard porn syndicate and possible serial killer who suffers from surreal  nightmares. Which may very well be what counts as average these days. Baxter is the first to admit that he’s not a nice guy. After all, if the guy below you falls, dragging you down into an icy abyss you have to cut him loose — even in high school. That is until his girlfriend, Esmé, is kidnapped and Baxter is forced to confront a disturbing fact about himself — that he has a heart, and the damn thing is forcing him to abandon high-school politics and set out on a quest to find her. The clues point to supernatural forces at work and Baxter is must admit that he can’t do it alone. Enter Jackie Ronin, supernatural bounty hunter, Border War veteran, and all-round lunatic, who takes him on a chaotic tour of Cape Town’s sweaty, occult underbelly.

What do glowing men, transsexual African valkyries, and zombie-creating arachnids have to do with Esmé’s disappearance? That’s what Baxter really, really needs to find out.

I’ve actually already read this novel. It’s kinda awesome. Review sometime in July…

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LordK-BestOfAllPossibleWorldsKaren Lord, The Best of all Possible Worlds (Jo Fletcher)

The Sadiri were once the galaxy’s ruling élite, but now their home planet has been rendered unlivable and most of the population destroyed. The few groups living on other worlds are desperately short of Sadiri women, and their extinction is all but certain.

Civil servant Grace Delarua is assigned to work with Councillor Dllenahkh, a Sadiri, on his mission to visit distant communities, looking for possible mates. Delarua is impulsive, garrulous and fully immersed in the single life; Dllenahkh is controlled, taciturn and responsible for keeping his community together. They both have a lot to learn.

I’m really intrigued by this novel, so I was very happy to get a copy in the mail. I’ll also be sharing an excerpt of it in the near future. (Can’t remember the exact date I settled on, but be sure to keep checking back.)

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Marmell-ICC1-InThunderForgedAri Marmell, In Thunder Forged (Pyr)

An action-packed steam-tech fantasy that combines elements of epic wartime adventure with thrilling cloak-and-dagger espionage.

The Iron Kingdoms are at war – a war fought with machine guns and magic, knights of valor, and earth shaking titans of steam and steel. And now that war may hinge entirely on nothing more than a sheaf of papers.

An alchemical formula, stolen by an ally they thought they could trust, could cost the brave soldiers of Cygnar everything. Their only hope: a cunning spy, a knight out of her element, and a frighteningly small unit of the best that Cygnar has to offer.

Arrayed against them is not only a single, devious enemy, but the combined intelligence apparatus-and possibly the full military might-of the most brutal martial power Cygnar has ever known.

This is the first novel in a new tie-in series, based on the Warmachine: Iron Kingdoms roleplaying game. I know nothing about the game (except for a quick visit to their website – it looks kinda interesting), but I’m a fan of Marmell’s novels (the Widdershins YA series, and also The Conqueror’s Shadow, the sequel for which I really need to get around to…). I’m going to have to squeeze this in near the top of the TBR mountain.

Also on CR: Interview with Ari Marmell (2010), Guest Post

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McIntoshW-LoveMinusEightyWill McIntosh, Love Minus Eighty (Orbit)

A NOVEL OF LOVE AND DEATH, IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER

The words were gentle strokes, drawing her awake. “Hello. Hello there.” She felt the light on her eyelids, and knew that if she opened her eyes they would sting, and she would have to shade them with her palm and let the light bleed through a crack. “Feel like talking?” A man’s soft voice. And then her mind cleared enough to wonder: who was this man at her bedside? She tried to sigh, but no breath came. Her eyes flew open in alarm.

The Minus Eighty… Where millionaires browse the catalogue of icy women, judging on beauty ratings and revival costs. Where a freezer’s gentle hum plays the background symphony for the world’s most expensive first dates. Where death is only the beginning.

This has been lauded around the SFF reviewing community already (and beyond – it’s causing quite the stir), so I’m hoping to get to it ASAP. It has a superb premise, too, which can’t fail but grab your attention.

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PatrickS-ReviverSeth Patrick, Reviver (Macmillan)

Death won’t silence them. Revivers. Able to wake the recently dead, and let them bear witness to their own demise.

Twelve years after the first reviver came to light, they have become accepted by an uneasy public. The testimony of the dead is permitted in courtrooms across the world. Forensic revival is a routine part of police investigation.

In the United States, that responsibility falls to the Forensic Revival Service. Despite his troubled past, Jonah Miller is one of their best. But while reviving the victim of a brutal murder, he encounters a terrifying presence. Something is watching. Waiting. His superiors tell him it was only in his mind, a product of stress. Jonah is not so certain.

Then Daniel Harker, the first journalist to bring revival to public attention, is murdered, and Jonah finds himself getting dragged into the hunt for answers. Working with Harker’s daughter Annabel, he’s determined to find those responsible and bring them to justice. Soon they uncover long-hidden truths that call into doubt everything Jonah stands for, and reveal a threat that if not stopped in time, will put all of humanity in danger…

This has been getting a fair bit of buzz on the Twitters, so I’m hoping to get to it relatively soon. It sounds pretty cool.

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Which of these grab your fancy? Any other upcoming books you’re really looking forward to?