Featuring: Megan Abbott, Robert Galbraith, Robert Goddard, Carl Hiaasen, Stephen King, J.F. Lewis, Richard K. Morgan, Warren Murphy, M.C. Planck, Kim Stanley Robinson, Thomas Sweterlitsch, Jon Wallace, Jo Walton
Megan Abbott, Dare Me (Reagan Arthur Books)
Addy Hanlon has always been Beth Cassidy’s best friend and trusted lieutenant. Beth calls the shots and Addy carries them out, a long-established order of things that has brought them to the pinnacle of their high-school careers. Now they’re seniors who rule the intensely competitive cheer squad, feared and followed by the other girls – until the young new coach arrives.
Cool and commanding, an emissary from the adult world just beyond their reach, Coach Colette French draws Addy and the other cheerleaders into her life. Only Beth, unsettled by the new regime, remains outside Coach’s golden circle, waging a subtle but vicious campaign to regain her position as “top girl” – both with the team and with Addy herself.
Then a suicide focuses a police investigation on Coach and her squad. After the first wave of shock and grief, Addy tries to uncover the truth behind the death – and learns that the boundary between loyalty and love can be dangerous terrain.
This came out when I was in the States last, and I thought it looked pretty interesting. I’m not sure why I didn’t pick it up at the time, though. Regardless, I picked it up last week, and have been hearing very good things about this and Abbott’s latest novel, The Fever, which I’d also like to read.
Robert Galbraith, The Silkworm (Sphere)
When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days – as he has done before – and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.
But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives – meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.
When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before…
Finished The Cuckoo’s Calling over the weekend, and really enjoyed it. I received this for review from Sainsbury’s eBook division (a pleasant surprise), and intend to read it very soon.
Robert Goddard, The Corners of the Globe (Bantam Press)
Spring, 1919. James ‘Max’ Maxted, former Great War flying ace, returns to the trail of murder, treachery and half-buried secrets he set out on in The Ways of the World. He left Paris after avenging the murder of his father, Sir Henry Maxted, a senior member of the British delegation to the post-war peace conference. But he was convinced there was more – much more – to be discovered about what Sir Henry had been trying to accomplish. And he suspected elusive German spymaster Fritz Lemmer knew the truth of it.
Now, enlisted under false colours in Lemmer’s service but with his loyalty pledged to the British Secret Service, Max sets out on his first – and possibly last – mission for Lemmer. It takes him to the far north of Scotland – to the Orkney Isles, where the German High Seas Fleet has been impounded in Scapa Flow, its fate to be decided at the conference-table in Paris. Max has been sent to recover a document held aboard one of the German ships. What that document contains forces him to break cover sooner than he would have wished and to embark on a desperate race south, towards London, with information that could destroy Lemmer – if Max, as seems unlikely, lives to deliver it
The sequel to The Ways of the World, this is a series I really want to read. But have been slow about getting around to. Hopefully I’ll address this very soon.
Carl Hiaasen, Bad Monkey (Sphere)
When a severed arm is discovered by a couple on honeymoon in the Florida Keys, former police detective – now reluctant restaurant inspector – Andrew Yancy senses that something doesn’t add up. Determined to get his badge back, he undertakes an unofficial investigation of his own.
Andrew’s search for the truth takes him to the Bahamas, where a local man, with the help of a very bad monkey (who allegedly worked on the Pirates of the Caribbean movies) is doing everything in his power to prevent a developer from building a new tourist resort on the island, with deadly consequences…
Outrageous, hilarious and addictive, this is the unique Carl Hiaasen at his absolute best. Bad Monkey will have you on the edge of your seat and laughing out loud.
It’s been a long time since I last read a novel by Carl Hiaasen. His novels are uniformly strange and amusing, although they haven’t always hit the mark for me. It’ll be interesting to return to his zany approach to crime stories after so long, and this could make a nice change from the more-serious-in-tone thrillers I usually read.
Stephen King, Mr. Mercedes (Hodder)
A cat-and-mouse suspense thriller featuring a retired homicide detective who’s haunted by the few cases he left open, and by one in particular – the pre-dawn slaughter of eight people among hundreds gathered in line for the opening of a jobs fair when the economy was guttering out. Without warning, a lone driver ploughed through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes. The plot is kicked into gear when Bill Hodges receives a letter in the mail, from a man claiming to be the perpetrator. He taunts Hodges with the notion that he will strike again.
Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing that from happening.
Brady Hartsfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. And he’s preparing to kill again.
Only Hodges, with a couple of misfit friends, can apprehend the killer in this high-stakes race against time. Because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim hundreds, even thousands.
I bought the eBook from Sainsbury’s after creating an account with them and getting a 20% off voucher. Last year was the first time I read one of King’s novels all the way through (The Shining), and this one sounds really interesting.
J.F. Lewis, Grudgebearer (Pyr)
Kholster is the first born of the practically immortal Aern, a race created by the Eldrennai as warrior-slaves to defend them from the magic-resistant reptilian Zaur. Unable to break an oath without breaking their connection with each other, the Aern served the Eldrennai faithfully for thousands of years until the Sundering. Now, the Aern, Vael, and Eldrennai meet every hundred years for a Grand Conjunction to renew their tenuous peace.
While the tortures of slavery remain fresh in Kholster’s mind, most of the rest of the world has moved on. Almost six hundred years after the Sundering, an Eldrennai prince carelessly breaks the truce by setting up a surprise museum exhibit containing sentient suits of Aernese armor left behind, never to be touched, lest Kholster kill every last Eldrennai. Through their still-existing connection with their ancient armor, the Aern know instantly, and Kholster must find a way to keep his oaths, even those made in haste and anger. While Kholster travels to the Grand Conjunction with his Freeborn daughter and chosen successor Rae’en, his troops travel by sea, heading for war.
I’d never heard of this novel before it dropped through the mailbox. Sounds interesting, but also a little familiar. Not sure when I’ll get to this.
Richard K. Morgan, The Dark Defiles (Del Rey)
Ringil Eskiath, a reluctant hero viewed as a corrupt degenerate by the very people who demand his help, has traveled far in search of the Illwrack Changeling, a deathless human sorcerer-warrior raised by the bloodthirsty Aldrain, former rulers of the world. Separated from his companions – Egar the Dragonbane and Archeth – Ringil risks his soul to master a deadly magic that alone can challenge the might of the Changeling. While Archeth and the Dragonbane embark on a trail of blood and tears that ends up exposing long-buried secrets, Ringil finds himself tested as never before, with his life and all existence hanging in the balance.
It feels like an absolute age since I read The Steel Remains. And even longer since I read Altered Carbon, which blew me away. This series has been met with a very wide array of criticism and praise. I’ve heard people say it’s ruined fantasy, or taken grimdark too far. Others sing its praises for breaking the boundaries of the (sub-)genre, being daring and forging a new path. I enjoyed The Steel Remains, and bought The Cold Commands (but haven’t read it yet – that may suggest something about how much I enjoyed the first novel, compared to other series I’ll buy and read each new installment as soon as possible). I hope to get caught up with this series pretty soon, given that this is the final volume. The series is published in the UK by Gollancz.
Warren Murphy, Created the Destroyer (Orbit)
When you’re on death row, minutes from the electric chair, and a hook-handed monk offers to save your life if you’ll just swallow a simple little pill… what’ve you got to lose? You take the pill. Then you wake up, officially “dead,” in the back of an ambulance, headed for an undisclosed location. Welcome to your new life, working for CURE, the most secret, most deniable, most extra-judicial government agency ever to exist. Only the President knows about it, and even he doesn’t control it.
That’s what happened to Remo Williams, a New Jersey cop framed for a murder he didn’t commit. Framed by the very people who saved him, in fact. And now, trained in esoteric martial arts by Chiun, master of Sinanju, he’s going to become the ultimate killing machine. Remo will be America’s last line of defense against mad scientists, organized crime, ancient undead gods, and anything else that threatens the Constitution. Remo Williams is the Destroyer.
The first in a long-running thriller series, Orbit will be bringing it to the UK in the very near future. It sounds fun. So I’ll be reading this very soon.
M.C. Planck, Sword of the Bright Lady (Pyr)
Christopher Sinclair goes out for a walk on a mild Arizona evening and never comes back. He stumbles into a freezing winter under an impossible night sky, where magic is real-but bought at a terrible price.
A misplaced act of decency lands him in a brawl with an arrogant nobleman and puts him under a death sentence. In desperation he agrees to be drafted into an eternal war, serving as a priest of the Bright Lady, Goddess of Healing. But when Marcius, god of war, offers the only hope of a way home to his wife, Christopher pledges to him instead, plunging the church into turmoil and setting him on a path of violence and notoriety.
To win enough power to open a path home, this mild-mannered mechanical engineer must survive duelists, assassins, and the never-ending threat of monsters, with only his makeshift technology to compete with swords and magic.
But the gods and demons have other plans. Christopher’s fate will save the world… or destroy it.
First heard about this novel via Staffer’s Book Review, as Justin was taking a look at the cover art. It sounds intriguing.
Robin Sloan, Ajax Penumbra, 1969 (Atlantic Books)
It is August 1969. The Summer of Love is a fading memory. The streets of San Francisco pulse to the sounds of Led Zeppelin and Marvin Gaye. And of jackhammers: A futuristic pyramid of a skyscraper is rising a few blocks from City Lights bookstore and an unprecedented subway tunnel is being built under the bay. Meanwhile, south of the city, orchards are quickly giving way to a brand-new industry built on silicon.
But young Ajax Penumbra has not arrived in San Francisco looking for free love or a glimpse of the technological future. He is seeking a book – the single surviving copy of the Techne Tycheon, a mysterious volume that has brought and lost great fortune for anyone who has owned it. The last record of the book locates it in the San Francisco of more than a century earlier, and on that scant bit of evidence, Penumbra’s university has dispatched him west to acquire it for their library. After a few weeks of rigorous hunting, Penumbra feels no closer to his goal than when he started. But late one night, after another day of dispiriting dead ends, he stumbles across a 24-hour bookstore, and the possibilities before him expand exponentially…
I really enjoyed Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, and so when I saw that Sloan had written this novella-length prequel, I knew I wanted to read it ASAP. It just took a little longer than normal for me to buy it. May read it as soon as I finish my current read.
Kim Stanley Robinson, Fifty Degrees Below and Sixty Days & Counting (Voyager)
FDB: After years of denial and non-action, a near-future Earth faces a crossroad when it is threatened with the dire implications of global warming, an environmental crisis that ironically could unleash a devastating Ice Age on the planet.
SD&C: By the time Phil Chase is elected president, the world’s climate is far on its way to irreversible change. Food scarcity, housing shortages, diminishing medical care, and vanishing species are just some of the consequences. The erratic winter the Washington, D.C., area is experiencing is another grim reminder of a global weather pattern gone haywire: bone-chilling cold one day, balmy weather the next.
But the president-elect remains optimistic and doesn’t intend to give up without a fight. A maverick in every sense of the word, Chase starts organizing the most ambitious plan to save the world from disaster since FDR – and assembling a team of top scientists and advisers to implement it.
For Charlie Quibler, this means reentering the political fray full-time and giving up full-time care of his young son, Joe. For Frank Vanderwal, hampered by a brain injury, it means trying to protect the woman he loves from a vengeful ex and a rogue “black ops” agency not even the president can control – a task for which neither Frank’s work at the National Science Foundation nor his study of Tibetan Buddhism can prepare him.
In a world where time is running out as quickly as its natural resources, where surveillance is almost total and freedom nearly nonexistent, the forecast for the Chase administration looks darker each passing day. For as the last – and most terrible – of natural disasters looms on the horizon, it will take a miracle to stop the clock… the kind of miracle that only dedicated men and women can bring about.
The second and third novels in Robinson’s Science in the Capitol series (for some reason, Forty Days of Rain is not available as an eBook). They’ve been on my Kindle Wish List for ages, and when I checked this morning they had dropped to just 99p. So, naturally, I bought them. Hope to read them soon. I also picked up Red Mars, which was also knocked down to 99p, but these two are higher on my priority list.
Thomas Sweterlitsch, Tomorrow and Tomorrow (Putnam)
A decade has passed since the city of Pittsburgh was reduced to ash.
While the rest of the world has moved on, losing itself in the noise of a media-glutted future, survivor John Dominic Blaxton remains obsessed with the past. Grieving for his wife and unborn child who perished in the blast, Dominic relives his lost life by immersing in the Archive – a fully interactive digital reconstruction of Pittsburgh, accessible to anyone who wants to visit the places they remember and the people they loved.
Dominic investigates deaths recorded in the Archive to help close cases long since grown cold, but when he discovers glitches in the code surrounding a crime scene – the body of a beautiful woman abandoned in a muddy park that he’s convinced someone tried to delete from the Archive – his cycle of grief is shattered.
With nothing left to lose, Dominic tracks the murder through a web of deceit that takes him from the darkest corners of the Archive to the ruins of the city itself, leading him into the heart of a nightmare more horrific than anything he could have imagined.
This has been described as a follower in the footsteps of William Gibson’s cyberpunk, which certainly caught my eye. Pretty intrigued by this.
Jon Wallace, Barricade (Gollancz)
Kenstibec was genetically engineered to build a new world, but the apocalypse forced a career change. These days he drives a taxi instead.
A fast-paced, droll and disturbing novel, BARRICADE is a savage road trip across the dystopian landscape of post-apocalypse Britain; narrated by the cold-blooded yet magnetic antihero, Kenstibec.
Kenstibec is a member of the “Ficial” race, a breed of merciless super-humans. Their war on humanity has left Britain a wasteland, where Ficials hide in barricaded cities, besieged by tribes of human survivors. Originally optimised for construction, Kenstibec earns his keep as a taxi driver, running any Ficial who will pay from one surrounded city to another.
The trips are always eventful, but this will be his toughest yet. His fare is a narcissistic journalist who’s touchy about her luggage. His human guide is constantly plotting to kill him. And that’s just the start of his troubles.
On his journey he encounters ten-foot killer rats, a mutant king with a TV fixation, a drug-crazed army, and even the creator of the Ficial race. He also finds time to uncover a terrible plot to destroy his species for good – and humanity too.
One of Gollancz’s 2014 debuts, I picked this up on the eBook promotion. His recent guest post for CR has caused a bit of a stir, too, and I really want to see what all the fuss is about (if, indeed, there’s something to cause a fuss about – I think his guest post has suffered from poor structuring and wording, which has led to some of the criticism he’s receiving. Can’t be sure until I read the novel, though). Will read this soon.
Jo Walton, My Real Children (Corsair)
What if you could remember two versions of your life? My Real Children is an alternate history, in which a woman with dementia struggles to remember her two contradictory lives. It’s a book about life and love and choices and moonbases. The day Mark called, Patricia Cowan’s world split in two.
The phone call.
A single word.
It is 2015 and Patricia Cowan is very old. “Confused today” read the notes clipped to the end of her bed. Her childhood, her years at Oxford during the Second World War – those things are solid in her memory. Then that phone call and… her memory splits in two.
She was Trish, a housewife and mother of four.
She was Pat, a successful travel writer and mother of three.
She remembers living her life as both women, so very clearly. Which memory is real – or are both just tricks of time and light?
My Real Children is the story of both of Patricia Cowan’s lives – each with its loves and losses, sorrows and triumphs, its possible consequences. It is a novel about how every life means the entire world.
Another new book in the UK from Walton (she’s been enjoying a string of re-issues over here), and it sounds really interesting. I still haven’t got around to reading anything by her. Hope to do so soon.