Quick Review: THE COMPANIONS by Katie M. Flynn (Gallery/Scout Press)

FlynnKM-CompanionsUSAn unsettling novel about a future in which the dead can be uploaded to machines and kept in service by the living.

In the wake of a highly contagious virus, California is under quarantine. Sequestered in high rise towers, the living can’t go out, but the dead can come in — and they come in all forms, from sad rolling cans to manufactured bodies that can pass for human. Wealthy participants in the “companionship” program choose to upload their consciousness before dying, so they can stay in the custody of their families. The less fortunate are rented out to strangers upon their death, but all companions become the intellectual property of Metis Corporation, creating a new class of people — a command-driven product-class without legal rights or true free will.

Sixteen-year-old Lilac is one of the less fortunate, leased to a family of strangers. But when she realizes she’s able to defy commands, she throws off the shackles of servitude and runs away, searching for the woman who killed her.

Lilac’s act of rebellion sets off a chain of events that sweeps from San Francisco to Siberia to the very tip of South America. While the novel traces Lilac’s journey through an exquisitely imagined Northern California, the story is told from eight different points of view — some human, some companion — that explore the complex shapes love, revenge, and loneliness take when the dead linger on.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from The Companions. The premise was intriguing, and dipping into the first pages suggested it was going to be a very well written, thought-provoking novel. I was not disappointed, and I found this to be an excellent, even moving read about life, how we define it, who has autonomy, and a powerful will to survive. Continue reading

Upcoming: THE DOORS OF EDEN and FIREWALKERS by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Tor / Solaris)

Tchaikovsky-DoorsOfEdenUKNew year = new books from Adrian Tchaikovsky!

First, we have The Doors of Eden. With this novel, the author seems to be taking on a new (sub-)genre — specifically some kind of portal fantasy, which Stephen Baxter has described as “a terrific timeslip/lost world romp”. The synopsis sounds fantastic, of course, and I’m really looking forward to reading this:

The world is stranger than they’d thought. And more dangerous than they’d feared.

Lee’s best friend went missing on Bodmin Moor, four years ago. She and Mal were chasing rumours of monsters when they found something all too real. Now Mal is back, but where has she been, and who is she working for?

When government physicist Kay Amal Khan is attacked, the security services investigate. This leads MI5’s Julian Sabreur deep into terrifying new territory, where he clashes with mysterious agents of an unknown power ­who may or may not be human. And Julian’s only clue is some grainy footage ­– showing a woman who supposedly died on Bodmin Moor.

Khan’s extradimensional research was purely theoretical, until she found cracks between our world and countless others… Parallel Earths where monsters live. These cracks are getting wider every day, so who knows what might creep through? Or what will happen when those walls finally come crashing down.

Easily one of my most-anticipated of 2020, The Doors of Eden is due to be published by Tor Books in the UK, on May 28th, 2020. (Some of his recent novels have been published in North America by Orbit — such as Children of Time and Children of Ruin — but at the time of writing I couldn’t find any information about a US publisher for this book.)

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Tchaikovsky-FirewalkersTchaikovsky’s other novel, also due out in May, Firewalkers, is a slimmer tale (only about 200 pages) and appears to be a dystopian tale of environmental collapse, economic inequality, and resource scarcity:

Firewalkers are brave. Firewalkers are resourceful. Firewalkers are expendable.

The Earth is burning. Nothing can survive at the Anchor; not without water and power. But the ultra-rich, waiting for their ride off the dying Earth? They can buy water. And as for power?

Well, someone has to repair the solar panels, down in the deserts below.

Kids like Mao, and Lupé, and Hotep; kids with brains and guts but no hope.

The Firewalkers.

Really looking forward to reading this. Firewalkers is due to be published by Solaris Books in North America and in the UK, in mid-May 2020.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Upcoming: THE LADY UPSTAIRS by Halley Sutton (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

SuttonH-LadyUpstairsUSHalley Sutton‘s debut novel, The Lady Upstairs has appeared on a number of most anticipated novels of 2020 lists. I spotted it a little while ago in a catalogue, and because I’m addicted to Los Angeles-based crime and mystery novels, and because it has an intriguing premise, it immediately went on my Most Anticipated list.

The novel is due to be published in mid-July 2020 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in North America and in the UK. Check out the synopsis:

A modern-day noir featuring a twisty cat-and-mouse chase, this dark debut thriller tells the story of a woman who makes a living taking down terrible men… then finds herself in over her head and with blood on her hands. The only way out? Pull off one final con.

Jo’s job is blackmailing the most lecherous men in Los Angeles — handsy Hollywood producers, adulterous actors, corrupt cops. Sure, she likes the money she’s making, which comes in handy for the debt she is paying off, but it’s also a chance to take back power for the women of the city. Eager to prove herself to her coworker Lou and their enigmatic boss, known only as the Lady Upstairs, Jo takes on bigger and riskier jobs.

When one of her targets is murdered, both the Lady Upstairs and the LAPD have Jo in their sights. Desperate to escape the consequences of her failed job, she decides to take on just one more sting — bringing down a rising political star. It’s her biggest con yet — and she will do it behind the Lady’s back, freeing both herself and Lou. But Jo soon learns that Lou and the Lady have secrets of their own, and that no woman is safe when there is a life-changing payout on the line.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Upcoming: THE EIGHTH DETECTIVE by Alex Pavesi (Henry Holt/Penguin)

PavesiA-EighthDetective

I spotted Alex Pavesi‘s upcoming novel The Eighth Detective a while ago in an online Macmillan catalogue, and made a note to keep an eye open for it — it sounds really interesting, with an intriguing premise. The North American and UK covers recently made their way online, so I thought I’d share some info about it here. Here’s the synopsis for The Eight Detective, which will be published in the UK as Eight Detectives:

A thrilling, wildly inventive nesting doll of a mystery, in which a young editor travels to a remote village in the Mediterranean in the hopes of convincing a reclusive writer to republish his collection of detective stories, only to realize that there are greater mysteries beyond the pages of books.

There are rules for murder mysteries. There must be a victim. A suspect. A detective. The rest is just shuffling the sequence. Expanding the permutations. Grant McAllister, a professor of mathematics, once sat down and worked them all out – calculating the different orders and possibilities of a mystery into seven perfect detective stories he quietly published. But that was thirty years ago. Now Grant lives in seclusion on a remote Mediterranean island, counting the rest of his days.

Until Julia Hart, a sharp, ambitious editor knocks on his door. Julia wishes to republish his book, and together they must revisit those old stories: an author hiding from his past, and an editor, keen to understand it.

But there are things in the stories that don’t add up. Inconsistencies left by Grant that a sharp-eyed editor begins to suspect are more than mistakes. They may be clues, and Julia finds herself with a mystery of her own to solve.

The Eighth Detective is a cerebral, inventive novel with a modern twist, where nothing is what it seems, and proof that the best mysteries break all the rules

I’m really looking forward to giving this a try. Alex Pavesi’s debut is due to be published in August in North America by Henry Holt (4th) and Penguin in the UK (20th).

Follow the Author: Goodreads, Twitter

Upcoming: STORMBLOOD by Jeremy Szal (Gollancz)

SzalJ-StormbloodUKOne of the best things about every new year is the slew of debut authors whose books are going to be hitting shelves in the coming months.

Gollancz, of course, is one of the SFF publishers every fan of the genres watches and, in addition to Nick Martell’s debut (which I’ve mentioned before on CR), Stormblood by Jeremy Szal is high on my list of 2020 most anticipated of the year. The first in a new sci-fi series, The Common, here’s the synopsis:

Vakov Fukasawa used to be a Reaper: a bio-enhanced soldier fighting for the Harmony, against a brutal invading empire. He’s still fighting now, on a different battlefield: taking on stormtech. To make him a perfect soldier, Harmony injected him with the DNA of an extinct alien race, altering his body chemistry and leaving him permanently addicted to adrenaline and aggression. But although they meant to create soldiers, at the same time Harmony created a new drug market that has millions hopelessly addicted to their own body chemistry.

Vakov may have walked away from Harmony, but they still know where to find him, and his former Reaper colleagues are being murdered by someone, or something — and Vakov is appalled to learn his estranged brother is involved. Suddenly it’s an investigation he can’t turn down… but the closer he comes to the truth, the more addicted to stormtech he becomes.

And it’s possible the war isn’t over, after all…

Really looking forward to this. Stormblood is due to be published by Gollancz in the UK, on June 4th, 2020 (not sure about a separate North American publisher, but I’ll keep checking).

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Quick Review: RIOT BABY by Tochi Onyebuchi (Tor.com)

OnyebuchiT-RiotBabyA powerful dystopian novella

Ella has a Thing. She sees a classmate grow up to become a caring nurse. A neighbor’s son murdered in a drive-by shooting. Things that haven’t happened yet. Kev, born while Los Angeles burned around them, wants to protect his sister from a power that could destroy her. But when Kev is incarcerated, Ella must decide what it means to watch her brother suffer while holding the ability to wreck cities in her hands.

Rooted in the hope that can live in anger, Riot Baby is as much an intimate family story as a global dystopian narrative. It burns fearlessly toward revolution and has quietly devastating things to say about love, fury, and the black American experience.

Ella and Kev are both shockingly human and immeasurably powerful. Their childhoods are defined and destroyed by racism. Their futures might alter the world.

In Tochi Onyebuchi’s first book for Tor.com, we are introduced to Ella and Kev: sister and brother, navigating contemporary and future America. This is an unstinting look at the injustices of modern society, as well as an extrapolation of where the country could be headed if these failings are left unchecked. It’s a powerful story, and I very much enjoyed reading it. Continue reading

Quick Review: MOLLY BIT by Dan Bevacqua (Simon & Schuster)

BevacquaD-MollyBitUSThe story of the stratospheric rise of an enigmatic Hollywood star and her legacy

A tragic death was not part of the script.

Molly Bit doesn’t believe she’s destined for success — she knows it.

This certainly helps her get through the countless auditions featuring actors who look and dress just like she does; helps her swallow the indignity of less talented actors landing roles; even helps her endure the industry’s aggressive over-sexualizing of young women.

When Molly is offered a lead role in a major film, she knows, too, that to seize this opportunity she must sacrifice everything. Even her commitment to an old friend.

It’s her big break, and Molly becomes a star. But she soon learns the hardest part of fame is everything after.

Molly Bit begins as a portrait of the artist as a young woman and transforms into an ode to the strange, personal magic of moviemaking, and our obsession — public and private — with performance. In Molly Bit, Dan Bevacqua announces himself as a force of wit and insight with his profound reflections on celebrity, beauty, violence, and the power of art.

I was initially intrigued by this novel for two reasons: its connection to Hollywood, and also the pitch stated that it was akin to Daisy Jones and the Six, one of my favourite novels from 2019. Having read the novel, I’m not sure that connection is as strong as they might hope, but I understand why they chose it. Molly Bit is an interesting novel with a lot to say about Hollywood, celebrity, and an individual’s legacy. Continue reading