New Books… (October/November)

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Featuring: David Annandale, Tim Baker, David Baldacci, Brett Battles, Matt Bell, M.L. Brennan, Jonathan Carroll, Jonathan Coe, Noah Hawley, Matt Hill, Michelle Latiolais, Tim Lees, Barbra Leslie, Jack McDevitt, Victor Milán, Clare Morrall, Jo Nesbo, Emma Newman, James Patterson, Susan Philpott, Rob Sanders, Ken Scholes, Maureen Sherry, Marc Turner, Matt Wallace, Robin Wasserman, Catherine Webb Continue reading

Upcoming: TAINTED BLOOD by M.L. Brennan (Roc)

BrennanML-GV3-TaintedBloodThe third novel in M.L. Brennan’s great Generation V series has a cover! Brennan unveiled it on her website earlier today, and because I enjoyed the first two books I thought I’d share it here, too. It’s not due out until November 2014 (no UK publisher as yet, sadly, so if you’re in Blighty you’ll need to seek import options). Here’s the synopsis:

In the third Generation V novel, Fortitude Scott proves that working with family can be deadly…

Former film student Fortitude Scott is finally gainfully employed. Unfortunately, said employment happens to be with a group of sociopathic vampires – his family. And as much as Fort is loath to get too deep into the family business, when his brother, Chivalry, is temporarily unable to run the territory, it’s up to Fort to keep things under control.

So when the leader of a powerful faction of shifters turns up murdered, Fort finds himself tracking down a killer while navigating dangerous rivalries, longtime grudges, and hidden agendas. Even with the help of his foxy kitsune sidekick, Suzume, he’ll need to pull out all the stops to hunt for the paranormal assassin.

But as he calls on fairies, witches, and ghouls for help, he discovers that the problem is much bigger than a single dead werebear. The supernatural community is preparing for a massive shift in power within the Scott family leadership – and Fort has landed right in the middle of the gathering storm…

“Werebear”? Cool… I’m looking forward to this.

Also on CR: Reviews of Generation V and Iron Night, Interview with M.L. Brennan

“Iron Night” by M.L. Brennan (Roc)

BrennanML-GV2-IronNightA second, fine mess Fortitude Scott has got himself into…

Underachieving film theory graduate and vampire Fortitude Scott may be waiting tables at a snooty restaurant run by a tyrannical chef who hates him, but the other parts of his life finally seem to be stabilizing. He’s learning how to rule the Scott family territory, hanging out more with his shapeshifting friend Suzume Hollis, and has actually found a decent roommate for once.

Until he finds his roommate’s dead body.

The Scott family cover-up machine swings into gear, but Fort is the only person trying to figure out who (or what) actually killed his friend. His hunt for a murderer leads to a creature that scares even his sociopathic family, and puts them all in deadly peril.

Keeping secrets, killing monsters, and still having to make it to work on time? Sometimes being a vampire really sucks.

The sequel to Generation V, in Iron Night, we get more of the same – which is by no means a bad thing. We get to see Fort embracing his vampire heritage a little more. Since he started going through his physical changes, he appears to have accepted that he can’t escape what he is, and as a result has stopped rebelling as much as he used to. Iron Night is a solid follow-up, complete with great character development. Continue reading

“Generation V” by M.L. Brennan (Roc Books)

BrennanML-GV1-GenerationVThe start of a new, fun vampire Urban Fantasy series

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…

Generation V is that rare beast: an Urban Fantasy that managed to both entertain me and surprise me, while also eliciting plenty of chuckles. I’m not as versed in the genre as I perhaps should be, but this was a lot of fun, and I can’t wait for the sequel.

Brennan offers up an interesting spin on vampire urban fantasy (some of which is detailed in yesterday’s interview). For one thing, I liked the Not Born a Vampire, but Born to a Vampire thing – the gradual evolution from human to vampire for those born to a vampire line was pretty intriguing. Naturally, therefore, Fort’s “transition” to vampire, or apparent lack of managing it, forms a good part of the meta-narrative of the novel. The process is kind of random and unknown, and Brennan drops hints about it and the overall process along the way. The vampires in this reality are not the uber-predators we may be used to. Sure, they lack a conscience, and drink blood, etc. But they have extreme difficulty in reproducing more vampires. I liked this.

Brennan offers a lot of detail, but doesn’t get bogged down or over-complex. In many ways, Generation V plays the role of origin story, as the novel has a pretty clear purpose: to introduce us to these characters and this mythology. It does an excellent job, actually. We learn about Fort’s family (see quote below, for his relationship with his siblings), his friends, his manipulative ex-girlfriend, his feckless and douchebag of a roommate.

“My sister, Prudence, fantasized about breaking all of my bones to kindling (as detailed to me last year at Christmas), but Chivalry wouldn’t. He was just giving me a reminder of what I wasn’t. He was a full vampire, and could break a person’s neck before the person even realized he was moving. I was still mostly human, and sucked at sports.”

Fort is an interesting character, and a fun guide to this new world. He is world-weary, but also loves being human, and wants to hang on to it as long as possible. He is also a victim of the economic downturn (sort-of…), languishing in the service industry after graduating from college.

My favourite character, though, is Suzume, who I liked immediately. She’s a lot of fun, and plays a wonderfully mischievous bodyguard with a slight case of ADHD, and a mission to protect Fort. While simultaneously driving him crazy… She’s a “kitsune”, a fox trickster from Japanese mythology, and Brennan does a great job of weaving in this myth into her narrative. (Interestingly, kitsune have featured in more of my reading of late – see Fairest Volume 2, by Lauren Beukes.) Suzume’s clan’s history, however, also presented the only clanger in the novel: while recounting her grandmother’s migration from Japan to the US, the story gets the order of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan wrong, which I thought was a very strange mistake to make (“After the next bomb was dropped on Hiroshima…” – the first was dropped on Hiroshima, the second on Nagasaki…)

The novel is lighthearted in tone (as I mentioned earlier, the story and banter made me chuckled frequently). That being said, Brennan can also conjure up claustrophobic fight scenes and a dash of the sinister, too, and equally skillfully. The author avoids becoming flippant, but does skirt quite close on just a couple of occasions. Generation V is the closest I’ve come across that evokes the style and fun of Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series (which is also superb).

Ultimately, this is recommended for anyone who wants their Urban Fantasy with a healthy does of fun, an interesting new twist on vampire and supernatural mythology, and a decent story. True, it is very much part one of a series: it feels like an opening salvo, focusing perhaps too much for some readers on laying the groundwork for something larger and more long-term. But, I had a blast reading this – it’s quickly-paced, tightly-written, and often funny. I really can’t wait for the sequel, Iron Night.

Certainly recommended.

An Interview with M.L. BRENNAN

BrennanML-GV2-IronNight

I don’t read much Urban Fantasy. I don’t really know why. But, last week I read ML Brennan’s Generation V, which I found to be a lot of fun. Naturally, after liking the novel, my first inclination was to send the author some interview questions…

Let’s start with an introduction: Who is ML Brennan?

I’m an avid reader, a writer, and in my day job an adjunct professor. A lot of the time I wish there were many more hours in the day, since all three of those occupations have big time requirements!

I thought we’d start with your fiction: Your latest novel, Generation V, was recently published by Roc Books. How would you introduce the novel to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

Generation V is the first in a series of books. Right now, I’m contracted for three books, but I’m hopeful that the series will do well, because I have ideas and plans for several more.

The elevator pitch of my book is that Fortitude Scott has a useless degree, a minimum-wage job, a cheating girlfriend, and a roommate who stiffs him on the rent. And he’s a vampire… mostly. But when a little girl is kidnapped, suddenly he’s the only one who is willing to try and do something about it, so he teams up with a wise-cracking shapeshifter and heads off for a rescue mission that will very likely kill him.

This is a book with a very non-typical hero – he isn’t the most powerful character, in fact he’s almost on human levels of weakness when the book begins. In order to beat someone, he has to outsmart them, or make friends and alliances that can help him. There’s no “End of the World” peril – instead, the peril at the heart of the book is one that Fortitude could very easily just ignore and it wouldn’t effect his life at all. His entire family urges him to just look the other way, but he doesn’t, and so it’s his own choices that lead to the life-threatening peril. There’s a lot of banter, a bit of dark humor. But at the core, it’s about a person who is afraid of himself and his heritage, who has to decide between the path of least resistance or something harder.

BrennanML-GenerationV

What inspired you to write the novel? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?

Inspiration is a tricky thing for me – no one thing inspired me, rather it was a combination of a lot of ideas and topics that I found interesting. Over time I had a lot of scraps of ideas, and they eventually coalesced into the world that Fortitude inhabits.

But I was interested in the idea of family and heritage – Fortitude is a person who has very little in common with his family, and in fact is deathly afraid that he’ll eventually take on the kind of very selfish and harsh worldview that they possess and view as natural. This folds in really well with how I was interested in writing vampires – as dangerous predators, rather than some of their more benign depictions in recent movies. I am also a professor, and one of the things that those of us who teach have really been exposed to in recent years are films, lectures, and books about the idea of an extended adolescence. I also am very personally familiar (through my own experience and those of my friends) with what it can feel like to get a graduate degree and then enter a job market where the only jobs you seem able to find are ones that you could’ve done with a high school diploma. Those things really had a part in how I created Fortitude – he’s twenty-six, underemployed, stuck with a bad roommate and a bad relationship, but his biggest problem is his lack of self-confidence and ownership in his life. Over the course of the book, that starts changing, and it’s a theme that I’m looking forward to exploring in the sequels as well.

How were you introduced to genre fiction?

My brother is older than me by two years, so my first introduction to genre fiction came very much because I was the classic younger sibling: whatever my brother was doing was interesting to me, and whatever he was reading I wanted to read as well. I’m lucky that my brother was fairly tolerant, and he let me borrow all of his books. Thanks to him, I read Ender’s Game, the Death Gate Cycle, Star Trek novels (my favorites were the Peter David ones), and the Thrawn trilogy of Star Wars books. When I was a little older, our tastes and interests diverged, and I headed in the direction of David Eddings, Anne McCaffrey, and Margaret Weis’s Star of the Guardians series.

BrennanML-SFFIntro

How do you enjoy being a writer and working within the publishing industry? Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?

Very much. Traditional publishing was always my goal, and I worked very hard to achieve it. I spent almost a decade of very serious writing before I sold a book, and I have to say, starting a project feels different when you know for certain that you will be paid for it, and it is a very, very good feeling.

In terms of writing practices, I’m very much a planner. I don’t start writing a book until I have a very clear direction and an overall outline of the book very solidly hammered out. I know other writers who start writing and figure out that plot as they go, and while I respect their process, I know that I’m just too much of an anal-retentive control-freak to try that myself. Sometimes the outlining can take a few months (and sometimes even longer than writing the book itself takes), but it’s the method that works best for me. I like having already ironed out any timeline or motivation issues before I start working, and having an outline in front of me helps figure out if my plot or characters are somehow out of balance.

When did you realize you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing? Do you still look back on it fondly?

I’ve always enjoyed reading, and writing is something that I realized very young came pretty easily to me, but I didn’t have much desire to be an author when I was younger. Or, maybe a better way of putting it is that I didn’t want to be solely an author. I grew up in a single-parent household where my mother worked very, very long hours to provide for us, and so I was very leery at the thought of embarking on a career path that didn’t have a solid paycheck and reliability. So, while I did want to write, I always wanted it to be something on the side, with a regular paycheck always there just in case writing wasn’t enough to pay all the bills. I had that plan in mind all through college, in fact, and right up into my first month of law school.

And that first month of law school, unfortunately, is when I realized that I didn’t want the writing to be something that happened on the side – it was what I wanted to do all the time. I wasn’t happy about that realization at the time (as you can imagine, neither was my mother or my spouse), but there it was. I left law school and entered an MFA program, and writing has been the center of my professional life ever since. (In the interests of full disclosure – yes, the pay was every bit as low and unreliable as I’d feared when I was younger.)

What I view as my first serious foray into writing happened when I was an undergraduate in college: a short story that I’d written was published in a literary magazine. I do look back on it very fondly – I had no personal or professional connections to that literary magazine, and I mailed the story to them with just a standard cover letter. My story had already been rejected from easily two dozen other literary magazines, but I kept at it, and I was published. That experience really helped years later when I was trying to get a book published!

What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?

I think the genre that I’m working in – urban fantasy – is really exciting. Dip into urban fantasy and you can find everything from hard-bitten, noir-ish police procedurals with monsters, to very sexually-charged paranormal romance. Urban fantasy is a big tent genre, which is why I have so much fun with it.

I think what can potentially be problematic about some urban fantasy is when authors start becoming formulaic in the hopes of getting an audience quickly. I made some decisions in my book that I felt helped make it be what I think urban fantasy should always try to be: something fun and new.

Your novel features vampires. What’s different about your vampires, and why do you think they (and other undead beasties) have been, and continue to be so popular with readers?

I think vampires rest in our cultural consciousness so well because they hit a lot of our buttons. Vampires look human, so they can pass among us unnoticed, and we can’t immediately identify them as a threat. Vampires are traditionally humans who have been changed and converted, so that hits on our fear of treachery, that the person who was an ally, friend, or loved one today might turn on us tomorrow. Vampires feed on human blood – this frightens us because it raises the horror we have of being prey, and of being consumed. Vampires typically have a level of sexualization – this also brings up that fear of not recognizing a threat, and of facing treachery later. I think all of those elements make vampires more popular (and sustain that popularity) over creatures that don’t play on those fears. For example, the Creature From The Black Lagoon: it poses no threat of infiltrating society, it can never betray you since everyone already hates it, while it does have a bit of subliminal sexual horror in that it sure seems to gravitate to pretty women in bathing suits, but it doesn’t seem to possess genitalia, and no one is going to be seduced by it, so no worries there, and finally it doesn’t really seem to eat us – mostly just squeeze us to death, if my memory of the movie is accurate.

So, vampires have a very long-standing appeal. In terms of the vampires in my book, I actually made a lot of changes to the traditional presentation. In the majority of vampire fiction, the vampire is a human who has been transformed into a vampire, and through that transformation process they are now ageless, immortal, and undead. I’ve always found this kind of idea a bit problematic. For one thing, a creature that reproduces just through a tiny blood donation? Talk about a population explosion! For another, a character that never gets older and will never die? That’s a fairly static character with very few outside pressures. I was never interested in writing about an immortal character.

The big change that I made for my vampires is to make them a separate species. These aren’t transformed humans – they have a lifecycle that includes growing up, old age, and ultimately death. They also have a reproductive cycle that is rather finicky and difficult, and it gives a good reason why vampires haven’t just overrun the planet – in fact, my vampires are a species in total crisis, and right on the edge of extinction.

BrennanML-GV2-IronNight

What other projects are you working on, and what do you have currently in the pipeline?

In the pipeline is Generation V’s sequel IRON NIGHT. It’s with the copyeditor right now, and I’m currently working on the third Fortitude Scott book, which has to be finished by the end of the summer, so that’s pretty much filling most of my days.

What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?

I’m a fairly wide reader, so if you asked me that week-to-week the answer would always be changing. Right now, I’m reading non-fiction, Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. It’s good – very challenging, extremely applicable to a lot of what is happening right now, but ultimately very optimistic. This has been on my stack for a while now. I haven’t read any Sagan before, though I did have a general working understanding of him.

SaganC-DemonHauntedWorldMy first encounter with Carl Sagan was actually thanks to The Far Side comics, which my brother and I used to read in the paper every day and puzzle over. There’s one comic that’s supposed to be Carl Sagan as a kid, and it’s two little kids looking up at the night sky, and one says to the other something like, “Look at all those stars, Susie! There must be hundreds and hundreds of them!” Which is funny, if you know about Sagan’s famous comment “billions and billions.” My mother explained that to us, which led to my brother reading one of Sagan’s books on outer space. I remember looking at the pictures but nothing else…

What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?

I guess it would depend on what readers’ expectations of me were. One expectation that I’ve actually encountered a few times (primarily, it must be said, from friends of my parents who don’t do much genre reading), is this idea that if I write about vampires, than I must be an active believer in vampires, ghosts, witches, UFOs, and just about everything else, or that I have some kind of obsession with one of those topics. That’s definitely not the case. While I have an interest, it’s similar to the interest I have when I read about mythology. Curiosity and enthusiasm for Norse myths doesn’t mean that I have an altar to Odin in my closet, or that I’ve decorated my house with runes.

What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?

Oh, lots of things! I’m going to my first convention as a writer in just a few weeks – ConnectiCon, and I actually will be on two panels, so I’m extremely excited about that. At the end of the summer I’ll be at WorldCon, which should be pretty amazing. And then Iron Night will be published in January, so I’ve got a lot of really great stuff to be looking forward to!

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Be sure to check out Brennan’s website, Facebook and Twitter for more information about the Generation V series (sometimes called the “American Vampire” series, apparently), and more.

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

BooksReceived-20130524

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?