Upcoming: Two New Novellas by K.J. Parker!

Each year, K. J. Parker seems to publish at least one novella with Subterranean Press and Tor.com. In 2021, the trend continues with two intriguing and, for me at least, highly-anticipated new novellas. Here are the details:

ParkerKJ-BigScoreTHE BIG SCORE (Subterranean Press) — March 2021

Welcome to the world of Saloninus, the most unlikely Renaissance Man you will ever encounter. A man of many and diverse talents, he is the hero and narrator of K.J. Parker’s witty, hugely entertaining novella, The Big Score.

Saloninus is a man with two distinct professions. In idle moments, he dashes off immortal masterpieces — philosophical treatises, musical compositions, dramas of Shakespearean range and depth — that never manage to turn a profit. His primary profession — that of thief, grifter and itinerant con man — is equally unprofitable, and he spends his life in constant flight from the encroaching forces of the law.

The story opens in the aftermath of Saloninus’s own funeral, an act of self-concealment he has staged many times before. Newly risen from the dead, he encounters an old flame — a sort of archetypal femme fatale — with whom he shares a colorful — and highly illegal — history. She has a plan in mind, one that involves both of Saloninus’s skill sets: criminality and literary genius. If successful, that plan will lead to the elusive “big score” that will set them free forever. Against his better judgment, and fully aware that failure and betrayal may await him, Saloninus agrees to participate. The result is this ingenious — and very funny — tale.

Described as “a comic gem”, the novella “also offers a heartfelt commentary on books, art, and the comforts they provide.” Saloninus is a great character, who also appears in the Blue and Gold (Subterranean Press) and The Devil You Know (Tor.com). The former is also included in the Academic Exercises collection, and the latter in The Father of Lies collection (both published by Subterranean Press).

The Big Score is due to be published by Subterranean Press, in March 2021.

*

ParkerKJ-InsideManINSIDE MAN (Tor.com) — June 2021

K. J. Parker returns to the amoral world of Prosper’s Demon with a wry, sardonic novella that flips the eternal, rule-governed battle between men and demons on its head.

An anonymous representative of the Devil, once a high-ranking Duke of Hell and now a committed underachiever, has spent the last forever of an eternity leading a perfectly tedious existence distracting monks from their liturgical devotions. It’s interminable, but he prefers it that way, now that he’s been officially designated by Downstairs as “fragile.” No, he won’t elaborate.

All that changes when he finds himself ensnared, along with a sadistic exorcist, in a labyrinthine plot to subvert the very nature of Good and Evil. In such a circumstance, sympathy for the Devil is practically inevitable.

As the synopsis states, this novella is a sequel to the excellent Prosper’s Demon, which was one of my favourite reads of the year. Really looking forward to where Parker takes the story and setting.

Inside Man is due to be published by Tor.com in North America and in the UK, on June 15th, 2021.

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

Follow the Author: Goodreads

Quick Review: REMOTE CONTROL by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com)

OkoraforN-RemoteControlAn intriguing novella about belonging, community, and what drives us

An alien artifact turns a young girl into Death’s adopted daughter…

“She’s the adopted daughter of the Angel of Death. Beware of her. Mind her. Death guards her like one of its own.”

The day Fatima forgot her name, Death paid a visit. From hereon in she would be known as Sankofa — a name that meant nothing to anyone but her, the only tie to her family and her past.

Her touch is death, and with a glance a town can fall. And she walks — alone, except for her fox companion — searching for the object that came from the sky and gave itself to her when the meteors fell and when she was yet unchanged; searching for answers.

But is there a greater purpose for Sankofa, now that Death is her constant companion?

I’ve been a fan of Nnedi Okorafor’s work since Lagoon. Since then, I’ve always kept my eyes open for new fiction by the author. I’m happy to report that Remote Control is an excellent sci-fi novella, and I really enjoyed reading it. Continue reading

Orbit & Tor Acquire New Trilogy from Adrian Tchaikovsky!

TchaikovskyA-AuthorPicOrbit Books (North America) and Tor Books (UK) have acquired a new trilogy from Adrian Tchaikovsky! This is fantastic news, because every new novel (or novella) by Tchaikovsky is something to be cheered and eagerly anticipated. There’s not much information, yet, about the trilogy save for this mini-description:

The new far-future science fiction trilogy begins with Shards of Earth, which will be published worldwide in spring 2021. The novel is set fifty years after a war that nearly extinguished humanity, when the enemies of the human race reappear after a long silence.

Spring 2021 still feels very far away, though. If you are new to Tchaikovsky’s work, or have yet to read anything by him, then maybe you’d like to read one of his already-available novels before the new one comes out? But where to begin? Adrian has written a lot of great novels, by now, so here are just a few suggestions for you to pick from, depending on your tastes. (He has written many more excellent books, but these are just some I think would be good starting points.) Continue reading

Quick Review: RING SHOUT by P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com)

ClarkPD-RingShoutA dark fantasy historical novella that gives a supernatural twist to the Ku Klux Klan’s reign of terror

IN AMERICA, DEMONS WEAR WHITE HOODS.

In 1915, The Birth of a Nation cast a spell across America, swelling the Klan’s ranks and drinking deep from the darkest thoughts of white folk. All across the nation they ride, spreading fear and violence among the vulnerable. They plan to bring Hell to Earth. But even Ku Kluxes can die.

Standing in their way is Maryse Boudreaux and her fellow resistance fighters, a foul-mouthed sharpshooter and a Harlem Hellfighter. Armed with blade, bullet, and bomb, they hunt their hunters and send the Klan’s demons straight to Hell. But something awful’s brewing in Macon, and the war on Hell is about to heat up.

Can Maryse stop the Klan before it ends the world?

The KKK are monsters. But what if, in addition to the human kind of monsters, they were also actual otherworldly demons? P. Djèlí Clark examines just such a situation, in this engaging and twisted novella. I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Review: THE SEVENTH PERFECTION by Daniel Polansky (Tor.com)

PolanskyD-SeventhPerfectionAn excellent new mystery novella about memory

When a woman with perfect memory sets out to solve a riddle, the threads she tugs on could bring a whole city crashing down. The God-King who made her is at risk, and his other servants will do anything to stop her.

To become the God-King’s Amanuensis, Manet had to master all seven perfections, developing her body and mind to the peak of human performance. She remembers everything that has happened to her, in absolute clarity, a gift that will surely drive her mad. But before she goes, Manet must unravel a secret which threatens not only the carefully prepared myths of the God-King’s ascent, but her own identity and the nature of truth itself.

I’ve been a fan of Daniel Polansky’s writing ever since his debut, The Straight Razor Cure, was published in the UK. The Seventh Perfection is his second novella for Tor.com (following the superb The Builders), and I’m very happy to report that it absolutely met my very high expectations. Continue reading

Quick Review: AN UNNATURAL LIFE by Erin K. Wagner (Tor.com)

WagnerEK-AnUnnaturalLifeAn interplanetary tale of identity and responsibility.

The cybernetic organism known as 812-3 is in prison, convicted of murdering a human worker but he claims that he did not do it. With the evidence stacked against him, his lawyer, Aiya Ritsehrer, must determine grounds for an appeal and uncover the true facts of the case.

But with artificial life-forms having only recently been awarded legal rights on Earth, the military complex on Europa is resistant to the implementation of these same rights on the Jovian moon.

Aiya must battle against her own prejudices and that of her new paymasters, to secure a fair trial for her charge, while navigating her own interpersonal drama, before it’s too late.

Who enjoys the full protections of the law? Can an AI have a jury of its peers, if no AIs are represented? Can humans make objective choices if they need to decide the fate of an artificial being? All these and more are the questions asked by Wagner’s interesting novella. Continue reading

Quick Review: UPRIGHT WOMEN WANTED by Sarah Gailey (Tor.com)

GaileyS-UprightWomenWantedReinvents the pulp Western with an explicitly antifascist, near-future story of queer identity.

“That girl’s got more wrong notions than a barn owl’s got mean looks.”

Esther is a stowaway. She’s hidden herself away in the Librarian’s book wagon in an attempt to escape the marriage her father has arranged for her — a marriage to the man who was previously engaged to her best friend. Her best friend who she was in love with. Her best friend who was just executed for possession of resistance propaganda.

The future American Southwest is full of bandits, fascists, and queer librarian spies on horseback trying to do the right thing.

Sarah Gailey has really carved out a niche for herself in the pulp western sub-genre. First, with the American Hippo duology (also published by Tor.com), and now with Upright Women Wanted. I’d been looking forward to this since it was announced, and I’m happy to report that I enjoyed it very much. Continue reading

Upcoming: THE SEVENTH PERFECTION by Daniel Polansky (Tor.com)

PolanskyD-SeventhPerfectionLong-time readers of CR will know that I am a big fan of Daniel Polansky‘s work. His Low Town trilogy is one of my favourite fantasy series, and mixes grimdark fantasy stylings with noir-ish crime/mystery. (If you haven’t had a chance to read these, yet, then I highly recommend you give the series a try.) In 2015, Tor.com published his first novella, The Builders — an excellent fantasy novella that took a Brian Jacques-style fantasy world and plonked it firmly in the grimdark sub-genre. Later this year, the publisher will release The Seventh Perfection, a new novella that not only has a stunning cover, but also sounds fantastic:

When a woman with perfect memory sets out to solve a riddle, the threads she tugs on could bring a whole city crashing down. The God-King who made her is at risk, and his other servants will do anything to stop her.

To become the God-King’s Amanuensis, Manet had to master all seven perfections, developing her body and mind to the peak of human performance. She remembers everything that has happened to her, in absolute clarity, a gift that will surely drive her mad. But before she goes, Manet must unravel a secret which threatens not only the carefully prepared myths of the God-King’s ascent, but her own identity and the nature of truth itself.

Easily one of my most-anticipated books of the year, I can’t wait to read this. The Seventh Perfection is due to be published by Tor.com in North America and in the UK, on September 22nd, 2020.

Also on CR: Interview with Daniel Polansky (2011); Reviews of Straight Razor Cure, Tomorrow the Killing, She Who Waits, The Builders, and A City Dreaming

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: THE EMPRESS OF SALT AND FORTUNE by Nghi Vo (Tor.com)

VoN-EmpressOfSaltAndFortuneA short, engaging novella about imperialism and exclusion

A young royal from the far north, is sent south for a political marriage in an empire reminiscent of imperial China. Her brothers are dead, her armies and their war mammoths long defeated and caged behind their borders. Alone and sometimes reviled, she must choose her allies carefully.

Rabbit, a handmaiden, sold by her parents to the palace for the lack of five baskets of dye, befriends the emperor’s lonely new wife and gets more than she bargained for.

At once feminist high fantasy and an indictment of monarchy, this evocative debut follows the rise of the empress In-yo, who has few resources and fewer friends. She’s a northern daughter in a mage-made summer exile, but she will bend history to her will and bring down her enemies, piece by piece.

In this short novella, Vo introduces us to a handful of interesting and engaging characters, as one regales another with a story of imperialism and oppression. As the synopsis states, the world depicted is akin to imperial China, and the author has a gift for writing evocative, albeit-brief description. After meeting Rabbit, the emperor’s wife’s handmaid, Cleric Chih learns Empress In-yo’s story. Through this, we glean the larger picture of not only In-yo’s life, but also the world and culture in which all of the characters exists. Continue reading