Upcoming: THE BLACK GOD’S DRUMS by P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com)

ClarkPD-BlackGodsDrumsThe cover for P. Djèlí Clark‘s The Black God’s Drums started doing the rounds online a little while ago. (I’ve also seen that reviewers are starting to receive ARCs, so reviews should start appearing soon, too.) Due to be published by Tor.com in August 2018. I haven’t read any of Clark’s previous work, but I have high hopes for this, given how interesting it sounds:

In an alternate New Orleans caught in the tangle of the American Civil War, the wall-scaling girl named Creeper yearns to escape the streets for the air – in particular, by earning a spot on-board the airship Midnight Robber. Creeper plans to earn Captain Ann-Marie’s trust with information she discovers about a Haitian scientist and a mysterious weapon he calls The Black God’s Drums.

But Creeper also has a secret herself: Oya, the African orisha of the wind and storms, speaks inside her head, and may have her own ulterior motivations.

Soon, Creeper, Oya, and the crew of the Midnight Robber are pulled into a perilous mission aimed to stop the Black God’s Drums from being unleashed and wiping out the entirety of New Orleans.

The novella “brings an alternate New Orleans of orisha, airships, and adventure to life”, and has been described by Scott Westerfeld as “A sinewy mosaic of Haitian sky pirates, wily street urchins, and orisha magic. Beguiling and bombastic!” That’s a pretty great endorsement. Looking forward to giving it a try. The Black God’s Drums will be published on August 21st, by Tor.com in North America and in the UK.

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“Galveston” by Nic Pizzolatto (Sphere)

PizzolattoN-GalvestonUKAn interesting, if flawed debut thriller

Roy Cady is by his own admission “a bad man”. With a snow flurry of cancer in his lungs and no one to live for, he’s a walking time-bomb of violence. Following a fling with his boss’s lover, he’s sent on a routine assignment he knows is a death trap. Yet after a smoking spasm of violence, Roy’s would-be killers are mostly dead and he is mostly alive.

Before Roy makes his getaway, he finds a beaten-up woman in the apartment, and sees something in her frightened, defiant eyes that causes a crucial decision. He takes her with him on the run from New Orleans to Galveston, Texas, permanently entwining their fate along a highway of seedy bars and fleabag hotels, a world of treacherous drifters, pick-up trucks, and ashed-out hopes, with death just a car-length behind.

Only after finishing this novel, did I learn that Pizzolatto is the creator of HBO’s critically-acclaimed True Detective series (starring Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConnaughey). I can certainly see it, now, though. This is a good thriller: very well-written and fast-paced. However, it also left me slightly dissatisfied at the end.

The story is told from the perspective of Roy, a bagman for a crook in New Orleans. After the set-up (mentioned in the synopsis, above), he escapes bruised and brutalised, taking with him Rocky (Raquel), the partner of a prostitute who was turning a trick at the home of the trap. Roy soon finds that, despite a desire to ditch Rocky (and her toddler ‘sister’, Tiffany, who they pick up on the way to Texas), he can’t seem to follow through. Ruminating on his life and his pending death-by-cancer, he develops a wary connection with Rocky and Tiffany. Definitely attracted to Rocky, he is unwilling to allow himself to accept any of her advances – at first, somewhat business-like, but later perhaps genuine. Instead, he plays a role of protector and, in some ways, rehabilitator – a somewhat ironic role, given his own past actions (not to mention present/future actions that he commits over the course of the story).

Pizzolatto writes incredibly well: his prose is stripped back, fluid and sparse. There isn’t a redundant phrase or extraneous word in sight. This has the positive effect of making this a very quick read (I read the first 10% on a Saturday night, after finishing another novel, and blitzed through the rest on Sunday). However, it does also mean certain things aren’t developed too much. There is a fever-like quality to Roy’s recollection and narrative – he is, after all, a practicing alcoholic who necks one hell of a lot of bourbon in these pages…

By the end of the novel, I felt pretty invested in these characters’ fates. But, given the very brisk pacing, by the brutal end, the dénouement was robbed of some impact, while remaining tragic. It was a peculiar feeling, really. Slightly disconnected.

Nevertheless, Galveston is still well-worth checking out. Pizzolatto has a great style, and can only get better. I am definitely looking forward to reading his next novel, and also watching True Detective.