Interview with CHELSEA ABDULLAH

AbdullahC-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Chelsea Abdullah?

I’m an American-Kuwaiti SFF author, reader, video gamer, sometimes-artist… and an all-around creative person who wishes they had more time on their hands to juggle everything! As a writer, I love exploring found family dynamics and experimenting with storytelling structures.

Your debut novel, The Stardust Thief, will be published by Orbit in May. It looks really interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader?

The Stardust Thief is an epic fantasy that follows a smuggler, a prince, a jinn, and a thief on their quest through the desert to find a mythical magic lamp. On the way they’ll have to face a myriad of obstacles, including a cunning jinn queen, a mysterious hunter, and an unfortunate number of dead things… Continue reading

Upcoming: NEOM by Lavie Tidhar (Tachyon)

Tidhar-CS2-NeomBack in 2016, Tachyon Publications released Lavie Tidhar‘s Central Station, a fantastic novel that went on to win a whole bunch of awards and commendations. Fans of the novel will be very happy to know that a new novel set in the same universe, Neom, is due to be published in November! Here’s the synopsis:

The city known as Neom is many things to many beings, human or otherwise. Neom is a tech wonderland for the rich and beautiful; an urban sprawl along the Red Sea; and a port of call between Earth and the stars.

In the desert, young orphan Saleh has joined a caravan, hoping to earn his passage off-world from Central Station. But the desert is full of mechanical artefacts, some unexplained and some unexploded. Recently, a wry, unnamed robot has unearthed one of the region’s biggest mysteries: the vestiges of a golden man.

In Neom, childhood affection is rekindling between loyal shurta-officer Nasir and hardworking flower-seller Mariam. But Nasu, a deadly terrorartist, has come to the city with missing memories and unfinished business.

Just one robot can change a city’s destiny with a single rose — especially when that robot is in search of lost love.

Lavie Tidhar’s Neom is due to be published by Tachyon Publications in North America and in the UK, on November 9th.

Also on CR: Interview with Lavie Tidhar (2019); Excerpt from The Best of World SF, Volume 1; Reviews of The Violent Century and By Force Alone

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Quick Review: PORTRAIT OF A THIEF by Grace D. Li (Tiny Reparations)

LiGD-PortraitOfAThiefUSHCDiaspora, History, Heists, and Ennui

History is told by the conquerors. Across the Western world, museums display the spoils of war, of conquest, of colonialism: priceless pieces of art looted from other countries, kept even now.

Will Chen plans to steal them back.

A senior at Harvard, Will fits comfortably in his carefully curated roles: a perfect student, an art history major and sometimes artist, the eldest son who has always been his parents’ American Dream. But when a mysterious Chinese benefactor reaches out with an impossible — and illegal — job offer, Will finds himself something else as well: the leader of a heist to steal back five priceless Chinese sculptures, looted from Beijing centuries ago.

His crew is every heist archetype one can imag­ine — or at least, the closest he can get. A con artist: Irene Chen, a public policy major at Duke who can talk her way out of anything. A thief: Daniel Liang, a premed student with steady hands just as capable of lockpicking as suturing. A getaway driver: Lily Wu, an engineering major who races cars in her free time. A hacker: Alex Huang, an MIT dropout turned Silicon Valley software engineer. Each member of his crew has their own complicated relationship with China and the identity they’ve cultivated as Chinese Americans, but when Will asks, none of them can turn him down.

Because if they succeed? They earn fifty million dollars — and a chance to make history. But if they fail, it will mean not just the loss of everything they’ve dreamed for themselves but yet another thwarted at­tempt to take back what colonialism has stolen.

Who doesn’t like a heist story? I love them, so when I had the chance to read and review Grace D. Li’s debut novel, I jumped at the chance. Five amateur thieves thrown together by a wealthy benefactor, on a mission to retrieve stolen Chinese antiques. This had a lot of promise, and I’m happy to report that it lived up to my expectations. I very much enjoyed this.
Continue reading

Quick Review: THE MURDER RULE by Dervla McTiernan (William Morrow)

McTiernanD-MurderRuleUSHCA young law student tries to derail a murder trial

First Rule: Make them like you.

Second Rule: Make them need you.

Third Rule: Make them pay.

They think I’m a young, idealistic law student, that I’m passionate about reforming a corrupt and brutal system.

They think I’m working hard to impress them.

They think I’m here to save an innocent man on death row.

 They’re wrong. I’m going to bury him.

Dervla McTiernan’s latest novel has been getting quite a bit of good buzz in the lead up to publication. The synopsis was intriguing, and I’m always on the look-out for new authors to follow. (Because, you know, I never have enough to read.) After receiving a review copy, I dove right in, and blitzed through it in just a few sittings. This is a well-paced, well-written, and gripping thriller. Continue reading

Upcoming: PULLING THE WINGS OFF ANGELS by K. J. Parker (Tor.com)

ParkerKJ-PullingTheWingsOffAngelsI spotted this a while back in a catalogue, but I’ve been waiting for the cover to be revealed before sharing it. As you might know, K. J. Parker is one of my favourite authors — his shorter fiction is near-peerless, and his recent string of novellas for Tor.com and Subterranean Press have been especially excellent: intelligent, whimsical, extremely well-written. Pulling the Wings Off Angels is his next Tor.com publication, and I can’t wait to read it. Here’s the synopsis:

A whirlwind theological paradox that calls into question the existence of God, repentance, destiny — and angels.

Long ago, a wealthy businessman stole an angel and hid her in a chapel, where she remains imprisoned to this day.

That’s the legend, anyway.

When a clerical student finds himself in debt to a local gangster, he’s given an ultimatum — deliver the angel his grandfather once kidnapped, or forfeit various body parts in payment.

K. J. Parker’s Pulling the Wings Off Angels is due to be published by Tor.com in North America and in the UK, on November 15th.

Also on CR: Reviews of The Devil You Know, The Last Witness, Downfall of the Gods, My Beautiful Life, Prosper’s Demon, Academic Exercises, The Big Score, and The Long Game

Follow the Author: Goodreads

Upcoming: ITHACA by Claire North (Orbit)

NorthC-IthacaI stumbled across this in an Edelweiss catalogue, and my interested was immediately grabbed: first by the cover, then realizing it was by Claire North, and then the synopsis. It’s another novel in the growing body of mythological figure retellings (a sub-genre that has become especially popular in the last year or two). North’s novels are fantastic: always different, packed with intriguing and interesting ideas and twists, and often surprising. Due to be published in September, here’s the synopsis for Ithaca:

This is the story of Penelope of Ithaca, famed wife of Odysseus, as it has never been told before. Beyond Ithaca’s shores, the whims of gods dictate the wars of men. But on the isle, it is the choices of the abandoned women — and their goddesses — that will change the course of the world.

Seventeen years ago, King Odysseus sailed to war with Troy, taking with him every man of fighting age from the island of Ithaca. None of them has returned, and the women of Ithaca have been left behind to run the kingdom.

Penelope was barely into womanhood when she wed Odysseus. While he lived, her position was secure. But now, years on, speculation is mounting that her husband is dead, and suitors are beginning to knock at her door.

No one man is strong enough to claim Odysseus’ empty throne — not yet. But everyone waits for the balance of power to tip, and Penelope knows that any choice she makes could plunge Ithaca into bloody civil war. Only through cunning, wit, and her trusted circle of maids, can she maintain the tenuous peace needed for the kingdom to survive.

On Ithaca, everyone watches, including the gods. And there is no corner of the land where intrigue does not reign.

A daring, powerful, and moving tale that breathes new life into ancient myth, and tells of the women who stand defiant in a world ruled by ruthless men. It’s time for the women of Ithaca to tell their story…

I’m really looking forward to reading this. Ithaca is due to be published by Orbit Books in North America and in the UK, on September 6th.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Upcoming: UNTIL THE LAST by Mike Shackle (Gollancz)

ShackleM-LW3-UntilTheLastUKHCWe Are the Dead by Mike Shackle is one of the best fantasy debuts I’ve ever read. Ever since reading it, I’ve been eagerly awaiting each new novel by the author. (Although, I have fallen somewhat behind, and have A Fool’s Hope still to read.) With Until the Last, the highly-anticipated conclusion to The Last War series, due out later this year, I think it’s well past time for me to get caught up and ready for the final book! To be published by Gollancz on July 21st, here’s the synopsis:

SEKINOWARI – THE LAST WAR – HAS ARRIVED.

The breakneck conclusion to the trilogy that started with We Are the Dead. To beat the ultimate evil, sometimes the price is more than you can pay…

The war with the Egril has changed Tinnstra forever. A coward no more, she’ll go to any length to defeat every last one of her enemies.

Zorique has grown into her powers. It’s time for her to lead her army into Jia and spearhead the fight for her homeland.

But at what cost? The Egril emperor Raaku – the Son of Kage himself – is waiting for them. And he intends to destroy Zorique, Tinnstra and all their allies.

They will need to put everything on the line if Jia hopes to see the dawn.

If you read only one fantasy series this year, make it this one. Can’t wait for July!

Mike Shackle’s Until the Last is due to be published by Gollancz on July 21st.

Also on CR: Interview with Mike Shackle (2019); Review of We Are the Dead

Follow the Author: Goodreads, Twitter

Review: TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW by Gabrielle Zevin (Knopf)

ZevinG-TomorrowAndTomorrowAndTomorrowUSHCA thought-provoking novel about friendship and our misperceptions of others’ inner lives

On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn’t heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom. These friends, intimates since childhood, borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo. Overnight, the world is theirs. Not even twenty-five years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won’t protect them from their own creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts.

Spanning thirty years, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Venice Beach, California, and lands in between and far beyond, Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a dazzling and intricately imagined novel that examines the multifarious nature of identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love. Yes, it is a love story, but it is not one you have read before.

Gabrielle Zevin’s latest novel has been the recipient of a fair amount of pre-publication buzz, so I was very happy to received a review copy a little while back. The synopsis had caught my attention, and what I found was an interesting, nuanced, and thoughtful examination of friendship, jealousy, and misperception. I enjoyed this quite a bit. Continue reading

Interview with RICHARD SWAN, Author of THE JUSTICE OF KINGS

SwanR-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Richard Swan?

I am a 32 year-old writer from the UK! I have a wife and two very young boys, and for the better part of the last 10 years I was living in London working as a commercial litigator. As of October 2021, we moved to Sydney, where I am currently enjoying some time away from the world of law and focusing on my writing.

Your debut novel, The Justice of Kings, will be published by Orbit tomorrow. I’ve been lucky and have already read the novel (which I very much enjoyed). How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

Here’s how I pitched it to my agent – I think it still holds up:

“[The Justice of Kings] is told through the eyes of Helena Sedanka, the clerk to and protégé of Sir Konrad Vonvalt. Sir Konrad is the titular Emperor’s Justice, a fantastical combination of C J Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake and Robert Harris’ Cicero, blessed with the powers of both a medieval Judge Dredd and Andrzej Sapkowski’s Geralt of Rivia. In essence, he is an Imperial policeman, mage and itinerant court rolled into one. Continue reading

Quick Review: YOU HAVE A FRIEND IN 10A by Maggie Shipstead (Knopf)

ShipsteadM-YouHaveAFriendIn10AUSHCAn engaging, varied collection of short fiction

A love triangle plays out over decades on a Montana dude ranch. A hurdler and a gymnast spend a single night together in the Olympic village. Mistakes and mysteries weave an intangible web around an old man’s deathbed in Paris, connecting disparate destinies. On the slopes of an unfinished ski resort, a young woman searches for her vanished lover. A couple’s Romanian honeymoon goes ominously awry, and, in the mesmerizing title story, a former child actress breaks with her life in a Hollywood cult.

Last year’s Great Circle was the first of Shipstead’s novels that I read. I loved her style and the way she wrote her characters. So, I was very much looking forward to reading her next book (as well as her back-catalogue). In You Have Got a Friend in 10A, Shipstead presents readers with a varied portrait of humanity, and the ways many of us cope with our situation and choices. I enjoyed this. Continue reading