Upcoming: TIME WAS by Ian McDonald (Tor.com)

McDonald-TimeWasYesterday, Tor.com unveiled the cover for Ian McDonald‘s upcoming novella, Time Was. I think it sounds really interesting. Here’s the synopsis:

A love story stitched across time and war, shaped by the power of books, and ultimately destroyed by it.

In the heart of World War II, Tom and Ben became lovers. Brought together by a secret project designed to hide British targets from German radar, the two founded a love that could not be revealed. When the project went wrong, Tom and Ben vanished into nothingness, presumed dead. Their bodies were never found.

Now the two are lost in time, hunting each other across decades, leaving clues in books of poetry and trying to make their desperate timelines overlap.

Time Was is due to be published by Tor.com in April 2018, in North America and in the UK. McDonald’s latest series is the Luna series: New Moon and Wolf Moon (published by Tor Books in the US, and Gollancz in the UK).

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Review: ALL OUR WRONG TODAYS by Elan Mastai (Doubleday)

MastaiE-AllOurWrongTodaysUSAn excellent debut novel, one of the first must reads of 2017

There’s no such thing as the life you’re “supposed” to have.

You know the future that people in the 1950s imagined we’d have? Well, it happened. In Tom Barren’s 2016, humanity thrives in a techno-utopian paradise of flying cars, moving sidewalks and moon bases, where avocados never go bad and punk rock never existed… because it wasn’t necessary.

Except Tom just can’t seem to find his place in this dazzling, idealistic world, and that’s before his life gets turned upside down. Utterly blindsided by an accident of fate, Tom makes a rash decision that drastically changes not only his own life but the very fabric of the universe itself. In a time-travel mishap, Tom finds himself stranded in our 2016, what we think of as the real world. For Tom, our normal reality seems like a dystopian wasteland.

But when he discovers wonderfully unexpected versions of his family, his career and — maybe, just maybe — his soulmate, Tom has a decision to make. Does he fix the flow of history, bringing his utopian universe back into existence, or does he try to forge a new life in our messy, unpredictable reality? Tom’s search for the answer takes him across countries, continents and timelines in a quest to figure out, finally, who he really is and what his future — our future — is supposed to be.

Elan Mastai is the writer of, among other things, The F Word — a movie set in Toronto that I found utterly charming and amusing. When I discovered that he’d written a novel, I immediately tried to get a review copy. I eventually did (thank you, Doubleday!), and I am delighted to report that the novel did not disappoint. All Our Wrong Todays is an endearing, amusing, thought-provoking novel. Certainly, it is one of the year’s first must-reads. Continue reading

Upcoming: ALL OUR WRONG TODAYS by Elan Mastai (Dutton)

MastaiE-AllOurWrongTodaysUSHaving just finished Blake Crouch’s excellent Dark Matter, the synopsis for Elan Mastai‘s tale of altered reality/history caught my attention (apparently, I’m in the mood for this type of novel, now). After doing some further digging, I also learned that Mastai wrote the movie The F Word, which I very much enjoyed (starring Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan and Adam Driver, it was both endearing and funny).

All Our Wrong Today’s sounds really interesting:

You know the future that people in the 1950s imagined we’d have? Well, it happened. In Tom Barren’s 2016, humanity thrives in a techno-utopian paradise of flying cars, moving sidewalks, and moon bases, where avocados never go bad and punk rock never existed… because it wasn’t necessary.

Except Tom just can’t seem to find his place in this dazzling, idealistic world, and that’s before his life gets turned upside down. Utterly blindsided by an accident of fate, Tom makes a rash decision that drastically changes not only his own life but the very fabric of the universe itself. In a time-travel mishap, Tom finds himself stranded in our 2016, what we think of as the real world. For Tom, our normal reality seems like a dystopian wasteland.

But when he discovers wonderfully unexpected versions of his family, his career, and — maybe, just maybe — his soul mate, Tom has a decision to make. Does he fix the flow of history, bringing his utopian universe back into existence, or does he try to forge a new life in our messy, unpredictable reality? Tom’s search for the answer takes him across countries, continents, and timelines in a quest to figure out, finally, who he really is and what his future — our future — is supposed to be.

All Our Wrong Todays is about the versions of ourselves that we shed and grow into over time. It is a story of friendship and family, of unexpected journeys and alternate paths, and of love in its multitude of forms. Filled with humor and heart, and saturated with insight and intelligence and a mind-bending talent for invention, this novel signals the arrival of a major talent.

All Our Wrong Todays is published by Dutton, on February 7th, 2017. I’m really looking forward to this one.

Review: THE FIRST FIFTEEN LIVES OF HARRY AUGUST by Claire North (Orbit)

NorthC-FirstFifteenLivesOfHarryAugustUKA superb timey-wimey novel

Harry August is on his deathbed. Again.

No matter what he does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, Harry always returns to where he began, a child with all the knowledge of a life he has already lived a dozen times before. Nothing ever changes.

Until now.

As Harry nears the end of his eleventh life, a little girl appears at his bedside. ‘I nearly missed you, Doctor August,’ she says. ‘I need to send a message.’

This is the story of what Harry does next, and what he did before, and how he tries to save a past he cannot change and a future he cannot allow.

It took me a long time to get around to reading this novel. I really don’t know why. Nevertheless, having now finished it, all I can say is: Wow. This novel is brilliant, and is an absolute must-read. Continue reading

So, uh, This Really Doesn’t Sound Any Good…

Colfer-W1-ReluctantAssassin

While on Goodreads last night, I stumbled across this upcoming book, the first in Artemis Fowl-author Eoin Colfer’s new series: THE RELUCTANT ASSASSIN (W.A.R.P. #1). The novel will be published by Puffin in UK, and Disney Hyperion in US. Its synopsis is one of the most underwhelming I have ever read…

Riley, a teen orphan boy living in Victorian London, has had the misfortune of being apprenticed to Albert Garrick, an illusionist who has fallen on difficult times and now uses his unique conjuring skills to gain access to victims’ dwellings. On one such escapade, Garrick brings his reluctant apprentice along and urges him to commit his first killing. Riley is saved from having to commit the grisly act when the intended victim turns out to be a scientist from the future, part of the FBI’s Witness Anonymous Relocation Program (WARP) Riley is unwittingly transported via wormhole to modern day London, followed closely by Garrick.

In modern London, Riley is helped by Chevron Savano, a seventeen-year-old FBI agent sent to London as punishment after a disastrous undercover, anti-terrorist operation in Los Angeles. Together Riley and Chevie must evade Garrick, who has been fundamentally altered by his trip through the wormhole. Garrick is now not only evil, but he also possesses all of the scientist’s knowledge. He is determined to track Riley down and use the timekey in Chevie’s possession to make his way back to Victorian London where he can literally change the world.

Never before have I read a synopsis for a published novel that was this problematic. First of all, I’m not sure about the trend (or, at least, the beginnings of a trend) in YA novels featuring protagonists that are assassins is a particularly inspired one.

Next up: The FBI are operating in London? Really? They’re the department in charge of domestic US law enforcement! At the very least, Colfer could have picked the CIA, which would have been at least a little bit believable… The clunkiest attempt I’ve seen to keep a novel set in the UK “American accessible/friendly”. And a 17-year-old FBI agent? Sorry, no.

Finally: that steampunk-esque cover on the right isn’t going to fool anyone… The inclusion of Victorian-era characters does not a Steampunk novel make.

If I read this on submission, from a would-be-debut author, I would reject it out of hand. Given the author, I can only hope this is a case of “Someone Doesn’t Know How to Write Synopses”, but if I’m honest I still don’t care.

“The Shining Girls” by Lauren Beukes (Harper/Mulholland)

Beukes-ShiningGirlsA superb, unusual thriller.

The girl who wouldn’t die, hunting a killer who shouldn’t exist…

A terrifying and original serial-killer thriller from award-winning author, Lauren Beukes.

1930’s America: Lee Curtis Harper is a delusional, violent drifter who stumbles on a house that opens onto other times.

Driven by visions, he begins a killing spree over the next 60 years, using an undetectable MO and leaving anachronistic clues on his victims’ bodies.

But when one of his intended ‘shining girls’, Kirby Mazrachi, survives a brutal stabbing, she becomes determined to unravel the mystery behind her would-be killer. While the authorities are trying to discredit her, Kirby is getting closer to the truth, as Harper returns again and again…

This has been one of the most anticipated novels of 2013. There are ads in many publications, and plenty of posters in the London Underground. I’m very happy to report, then, that it absolutely deserves the hype it has enjoyed. The Shining Girls is a superb novel, and one of the most interesting thrillers I’ve read in a long while. Easily one of the best reads of the year so far.

What jumped out at me right from the start was the strength of Beukes’s prose. They’ve wonderfully composed – not the least bit florid, but nor stripped to the bone. They’re just right. The author is able to portray both the mundane and sinister in equally evocative, engaging manners. There’s also a great, natural humour running through the dialogue – especially between Kirby and her journalist boss/mentor, Dan.

The novel is not presented in a linear narrative, as can perhaps be expected – the chapters bounced around a bit, between the past and 1990s. This did have the effect of feeling slightly disjointed to begin with, but I quickly got used to the pacing and rhythm. We see Kirby before and after her attack, which offered a nice mix, as well as great character development.

We see Harper acclimating to his bizarre new “role” (like many psychopaths, he thinks he is on some sacred mission, to snuff out these shining girls). He learns along the way how best to approach each victim, and it was interesting and disturbing to see his evolution as a killer. It’s tricky to write about this novel in any detail (how many times have I written that in recent months…?) – much of the pleasure in reading it is in seeing how the story unfolds, along with a good number of surprises.

Beukes-ShiningGirlsUSThe story really kicks in after Kirby gets an internship at the Chicago Sun Times, and pairs up with the homicide reporter who covered her attempted murder (he’s now working the sports desk, and doesn’t like interns, but of course she catches his interest after introducing herself). Kirby’s analysis of how others treat her, and how she handles it, is well presented and sharply written. She’s a superb character, and I would have liked more of the novel told from her perspective (she didn’t feature as much as I had been expecting). That being said, Beukes puts much of the focus on the victims (of which Kirby is one, of course), presenting a more varied novel. We get interesting and compact windows into and snapshots of the lives of these impressive women.

There is also a really good author’s note at the end, including some very good bibliographic entries – some of which I’ve read and would certainly recommend.

I thoroughly enjoyed this. Some people may find the jumping about a little disorienting to begin with, but you get used to it quickly. The characters are great, varied, and wonderfully written. The story is addictive, gripping, and builds towards a satisfying conclusion.

A superb novel, this certainly deserves all the hype and attention it has been enjoying. A real page-turner. Highly recommended. I can’t wait to read Beukes’s next novel. She is easily one of my favourite new authors (well, new for me, anyway…).

*

The Shining Girls is published by Harper Collins in the UK and Mulholland Books in the US.