Quick Review: INVOCATIONS by Various (Black Library)

WarhammerHorror-InvocationsReturn to the dark places of the worlds of Warhammer for a new anthology of sinister stories that dive into the arcane, the unexpected and the downright terrifying.

An Imperial Priest extracts a monstrous confession; a widower embarks on a doomed pilgrimage; a witch hunter returns to the place of his nightmares… Invocations is Black Library’s second Warhammer Horror anthology, featuring more short stories set in the chilling hellscape of the 41st Millennium and the arcane gloom of the Mortal Realms. From the whispering corridors of an abandoned medicae facility to the shrieking dungeons of ghostly castles, this collection of sinister stories further explores the unspeakable evil haunting in the worlds of Warhammer.

An interesting, engaging collection of horror and suspense fiction, set in the Warhammer science fiction and fantasy worlds. Atmospheric, creepy, and featuring varied protagonists, this is a solid anthology. I enjoyed it. Continue reading

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.)

*

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: 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: CHILDREN OF RUIN by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Orbit/Tor UK)

Tchaikovsky-C2-ChildrenOfRuinUKThe Children of Time are going on an adventure…

Thousands of years ago, Earth’s terraforming program took to the stars. On the world they called Nod, scientists discovered alien life – but it was their mission to overwrite it with the memory of Earth. Then humanity’s great empire fell, and the program’s decisions were lost to time.

Aeons later, humanity and its new spider allies detected fragmentary radio signals between the stars. They dispatched an exploration vessel, hoping to find cousins from old Earth.

But those ancient terraformers woke something on Nod better left undisturbed.

And it’s been waiting for them.

Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Clarke Award-winning Children of Time is one of my favourite sci-fi novels. When it was announced that he was going to revisit the setting (it was originally meant as a stand-alone, I believe), it was music to my ears. The story is comprised of two threads — one sort-of parallel to the first novel (“past”) and also a continuation of that story (“present”). A substantial tale of exploration, hubris, and contact with others, this is a very good read.

Continue reading

Quick Reviews: THE DEVASTATION OF BAAL by Guy Haley & MEPHISTON: REVENANT CRUSADE by Darius Hinks (Black Library)

BloodAngels-Haley&Hinks

Two recent novels of the Blood Angels

The Blood Angels are probably one of the most popular Space Marine chapters/legions (depending on the timeline in which you’re reading). In these two novels — one a stand-alone, the other a middle-volume in a trilogy — we learn more about some of the central, legendary characters. Specifically, Commander Dante and Chief Librarian Mephiston. We are also given a glimpse at the Blood Angels’ psyche, and their eternal struggle against the Flaw. I enjoyed both of them. Continue reading