Review: LOCK IN by John Scalzi (Gollancz/Tor)

Scalzi-LockInA solid sci-fi crime thriller

Imagine a plague that incapacitates almost 1.7 million people — and now imagine a cure that is even worse.

Fifteen years from now, a new virus sweeps the globe. 95% of those afflicted experience nothing worse than fever and headaches. 4% suffer acute meningitis, creating the largest medical crisis in history. And 1% find themselves “locked in” — fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus.

1% doesn’t seem like a lot. But in the US that’s 1.7 million people “locked in” — including the President’s wife and daughter.

Spurred by grief and the sheer magnitude of the suffering, America undertakes a massive scientific initiative. Nothing can fully restore the locked in. But then two new technologies emerge. One is a virtual-reality environment, “The Agora”, where the locked-in can interact with other humans, whether locked-in or not. The other is the discovery that a few rare individuals have brains that are receptive to being controlled by others, allowing those who are locked in to occasionally “ride” these people and use their bodies as if they were their own.

This skill is quickly regulated, licensed, bonded, and controlled. Nothing can go wrong. Certainly nobody would be tempted to misuse it, for murder, for political power, or worse…

Another very good novel from John Scalzi, offering an excellent blend of two genres. In Lock In, Scalzi takes core elements of the crime/conspiracy thriller and injects some excellent techno-sci-fi elements reminiscent of Surrogates and I, Robot. I enjoyed this. Continue reading

Upcoming: “The Emperor’s Blades” by Brian Staveley (Tor UK & US)

Staveley-TheEmperorsBlades

I thought I had missed all mention of this book until today, when Tor UK unveiled the new cover art (left). The Emperor’s Blades is the first book in Brian Staveley’s Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, and it sounds pretty interesting. As it turned out, though, I’d caught a glimpse of the US cover art a couple of months back (on the right). Of the two, I think I prefer the UK cover, but the US one isn’t exactly hideous. The UK one is very, well, “typical” of the way fantasy and medieval-fiction covers have been developing over the past couple of years, but I do like the colouring.

Check out the synopsis…

The circle is closing. The stakes are high. And old truths will live again.

The Emperor has been murdered, leaving the Annurian Empire in turmoil. Now his progeny must bury their grief and prepare to unmask a conspiracy. His son Valyn, training for the empire’s deadliest fighting force, hears the news an ocean away. He expected a challenge, but after several ‘accidents’ and a dying soldier’s warning, he realizes his life is also in danger. Yet before Valyn can take action, he must survive the mercenaries’ brutal final initiation.

Meanwhile, the Emperor’s daughter, Minister Adare, hunts her father’s murderer in the capital itself. Court politics can be fatal, but she needs justice. And Kaden, heir to the empire, studies in a remote monastery. Here, the Blank God’s disciples teach their harsh ways – which Kaden must master to unlock their ancient powers. When an imperial delegation arrives, he’s learnt enough to perceive evil intent. But will this keep him alive, as long-hidden powers make their move?

Brian Staveley’s The Emperor’s Blades is due to be published in January 2014. I’m very much looking forward to reading it.

Upcoming: “Art of Hunting” by Alan Campbell (Tor)

Campbell-GC2-ArtOfHuntingThe first novel in Alan Campbell’s Gravedigger Chronicles, Sea of Ghosts, is one of my favourite novels from 2011. After reading that, though, I haven’t heard much at all from Mr. Campbell. The author, who also wrote the Deepgate Codex trilogy – Scar Night, Iron Angel and God of Clocks – is an fabulously talented fellow, in my opinion, and I’ve been desperately keeping my eyes open for information about his next novel. (Interestingly, or perhaps weirdly, I was reading his blog before I ever started this one. His and Joe Abercrombie’s… Anyway.)

Thanks to a work-requirement to read Locus magazine, I spotted a mention that Alan Campbell’s Art of Hunting is on its way, and it is the sequel to Sea of Ghosts! This has made me ridiculously happy (and impatient). Here’s the synopsis…

The Haurstaf have been decimated. The Unmer have seized the palace at Awl. Ianthe’s father carries her to safety. But she is not interested in a life of treasure hunting with him. She returns to the palace, hoping to find the Unmer prince with whom she shared some of her darkest moments.

Prince Paulus Marquetta discovers a friend and ally in Ianthe, albeit a dangerous one. She has the power to destroy his mind with a single thought, and yet she herself remains at risk from his own innate sorcerous abilities. The handsome young prince could murder her with a simple touch.

Briana Marks, meanwhile, has escaped with her life. Fearful of Marquetta’s rule, she travels to the Dragon Isles to seek out the exiled Unmer lord, Argusto Conquillas and beg him to help her assassinate Ianthe. When Granger learns of this plot to kill his daughter, he must use every scrap of his resourcefulness and cunning to protect her.

Maskelyne returns to Scythe Island to study the crystal he plucked from the wreckage of the Unmer chariot. The artifact leads him to discover exactly why the Drowned continue to deposit thousands upon thousands of keys on the beach beneath his fortress. The Unmer, in their quest to unlock the secrets of the universe, forged a monster. Now Maskelyne knows where this thing is imprisoned…

Art of Hunting is due out in November 2013, published by Tor in the UK.

Books Received (Three Weeks’ Worth! ’Twas Like Early Christmas…)

I was away for a couple of weeks, and when I returned home, I had a veritable jackpot in books waiting for me:

BooksReceived-20130814

In the spirit of full-disclosure (and just in case it takes a while for me to get around to reading and reviewing them), here’s what turned up, and a few preliminary, pre-reading thoughts…

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ArmstrongK-OmensUKKelley Armstrong, Omens (Sphere)

Twenty-four-year-old Olivia Taylor Jones has the perfect life. The only daughter of a wealthy, prominent Chicago family, she has an Ivy League education, pursues volunteerism and philanthropy, and is engaged to a handsome young tech firm CEO with political ambitions.

But Olivia’s world is shattered when she learns that she’s adopted. Her real parents? Todd and Pamela Larsen, notorious serial killers serving a life sentence. When the news brings a maelstrom of unwanted publicity to her adopted family and fiancé, Olivia decides to find out the truth about the Larsens.

Olivia ends up in the small town of Cainsville, Illinois, an old and cloistered community that takes a particular interest in both Olivia and her efforts to uncover her birth parents’ past.

Aided by her mother’s former lawyer, Gabriel Walsh, Olivia focuses on the Larsens’ last crime, the one her birth mother swears will prove their innocence. But as she and Gabriel start investigating the case, Olivia finds herself drawing on abilities that have remained hidden since her childhood, gifts that make her both a valuable addition to Cainsville and deeply vulnerable to unknown enemies. Because there are darker secrets behind her new home and powers lurking in the shadows that have their own plans for her.

I’ve only read a couple of Armstrong’s novels – and, strangely, not the ones I always wanted to… I discovered her Women of the Otherworld series around the time I started receiving ARCs from publishers, which meant I could never really justify buying them for myself. Then the later books in the series started turning up, and my sister pinched them (she did buy the first ones, you see). I did, however, read Armstrong’s two non-supernatural thrillers, ?? and ??, which I enjoyed a great deal. This novel is the start of a new series, so I’m hoping to read it very soon (and prevent my sister from liberating it first…).

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CooperB-RS2-DiamondDeepBrenda Cooper, The Diamond Deep (Pyr)

What if a woman as strong and as complex as Eva Perón began her life as a robot repair assistant threatened by a powerful peacekeeping force that wants to take all she has from her?

The discovery ship, Creative Fire, is on its way home from a multi-generational journey. But home is nothing like the crew expected. They have been gone for generations, and the system they return to is home to technologies and riches beyond their wildest dreams. But they are immediately oppressed and relegated to the lowest status imaginable, barely able to interact with the technologies and people of the star station where they dock, the Diamond Deep.

Ruby Martin and her partner, Joel North, must find a way to learn what they need to know and to become more than they have ever been if they are to find a way to save their people.

I have sadly been unable to keep on top of all my reading from Pyr Books. I feel pretty bad about this, given how willing they are to send me review copies (not to mention how much I like their authors…). The previous book in this series, This Creative Fire, is one such missed book. I’ll do my best to catch up ASAP.

Also on CR: Interview with Brenda Cooper

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SW-Crucible(Denning)Troy Denning, Crucible (Century)

Han Solo, Leia Organa Solo, and Luke Skywalker return in an all-new Star Wars adventure, which will challenge them in ways they never expected—and forever alter their understanding of life and the Force.

When Han and Leia Solo arrive at Lando Calrissian’s Outer Rim mining operation to help him thwart a hostile takeover, their aim is just to even up the odds and lay down the law. Then monstrous aliens arrive with a message, and mere threats escalate into violent sabotage with mass fatalities. When the dust settles, what began as corporate warfare becomes a battle with much higher stakes—and far deadlier consequences.

Now Han, Leia, and Luke team up once again in a quest to defeat a dangerous adversary bent on galaxy-wide domination. Only this time, the Empire is not the enemy. It is a pair of ruthless geniuses with a lethal ally and a lifelong vendetta against Han Solo. They will stop at nothing to control the lucrative Outer Rim mining trade—and ultimately the entire galactic economy. And when the murderous duo gets the drop on Han, he finds himself outgunned in the fight of his life. To save him, and the galaxy, Luke and Leia must brave a gauntlet of treachery, terrorism, and the untold power of an enigmatic artifact capable of bending space, time, and even the Force itself into an apocalyptic nightmare.

I’m rather behind on my Star Wars reading. I have to finish Fate of the Jedi, and then read Mercy Kill before I can get to this. Hopefully soon-ish. Interestingly, I was also able to find an early draft version of the cover. I think it’s rather good, so I decided to share it again here…

SW-Crucible(Denning)Draft

I may actually like this one better…

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Hodder-SecretOfAbduElYezdiUKMark Hodder, The Secret of Abdu el-Yezdi (Del Rey UK)

Burton & Swinburne return in a new series!

The Beast is coming. History will be remade.

Since the assassination of Queen Victoria in 1840, a cabal of prominent men-including King George V, HRH Prince Albert, Benjamin Disraeli, and Isambard Kingdom Brunel-has received guidance from the Afterlife. The spirit of a dead mystic, Abdu El Yezdi, has helped them to steer the empire into a period of unprecedented peace and creativity. But on the eve of a groundbreaking alliance with the newly formed Greater German Confederation, scientists, surgeons, and engineers are being abducted-including Brunel!

The government, in search of answers, turns to the Afterlife, only to find that Abdu El Yezdi is now refusing to speak with the living. Enter the newly-knighted Sir Richard Francis Burton, fresh from his discovery of the source of the Nile. Appointed the king’s agent, he must trace the missing luminaries and solve the mystery of Abdu El Yezdi’s silence. But the Beast has been summoned.

How can the famous explorer fulfill his mission when his friends and loved ones are being picked off, one by one, by what appears to be a supernatural entity-by, perhaps, Abdu El Yezdi himself?

I’ve never read any of Hodder’s series… I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe this will be the first? Anyone know if that’s not a good idea? Should I start from the very beginning, or can I just dive straight in?

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Karpyshyn-ChildrenOfFireUKDrew Karpyshyn, Children of Fire (Del Rey UK)

Long ago the gods chose a great hero to act as their agent in the mortal world and to stand against the demonic spawn of Chaos. The gods gifted their champion, Daemron, with three magical Talismans: a sword, a ring, and a crown. But the awesome power at his command corrupted Daemron, turning him from savior to destroyer. Filled with pride, he dared to challenge the gods themselves. Siding with the Chaos spawn, Daemron waged a titanic battle against the Immortals. In the end, Daemron was defeated, the Talismans were lost, and Chaos was sealed off behind the Legacy—a magical barrier the gods sacrificed themselves to create.

Now the Legacy is fading. On the other side, the banished Daemron stirs. And across the scattered corners of the land, four children are born of suffering and strife, each touched by one aspect of Daemron himself—wizard, warrior, prophet, king.

Bound by a connection deeper than blood, the Children of Fire will either restore the Legacy or bring it crashing down, freeing Daemron to wreak his vengeance upon the mortal world.

I’ve mentioned this on the blog before. I’m certainly interested in seeing what Karpyshyn has come up with. I enjoyed his Star Wars novels (at least, the Darth Bane books, which are the only ones of his that I’ve read). Hopefully get to this pretty soon.

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Polansky-SheWhoWaitsDaniel Polansky, She Who Waits (Hodder)

Low Town: the worst ghetto in the worst city in the Thirteen Lands.

Good only for depravity and death. And Warden, long ago a respected agent in the formidable Black House, is now the most depraved Low Town denizen of them all.

As a younger man, Warden carried out more than his fair share of terrible deeds, and never as many as when he worked for the Black House. But Warden’s growing older, and the vultures are circling. Low Town is changing, faster than even he can control, and Warden knows that if he doesn’t get out soon, he may never get out at all.

But Warden must finally reckon with his terrible past if he can ever hope to escape it. A hospital full of lunatics, a conspiracy against the corrupt new king and a ghetto full of thieves and murderers stand between him and his slim hope for the future. And behind them all waits the one person whose betrayal Warden never expected. The one person who left him, broken and bitter, to become the man he is today.

The one woman he ever loved.

She who waits behind all things.

Possibly my most-anticipated novel of the year. Ever since I read Straight Razor Cure/Low Town, and Tomorrow the Killing shortly thereafter, I have been impatient for this novel. Expect it to be read and reviewed very soon. If you haven’t read this series yet, I highly recommend that you do. It’s superb.

Also on CR: Interview with Daniel Polansky

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RansomC-OrphanUKChristopher Ransom, The Orphan (Sphere)

The truth is more terrifying than you can imagine. Darren and Beth Lynwood always dreamed of having a son, but when young amnesiac runaway Adam enters their lives, he brings with him a creeping darkness that threatens to engulf their family and everyone around them. When Adam’s memories claw their way to the surface, Darren finds himself haunted by thoughts of his own childhood – and of a boy very much like Adam who was done an unspeakable wrong. As buried secrets are unearthed, the Lynwood’s happy home becomes the hunting ground for a relentless evil and an obsession that will not die. There’s no point locking the door. There’s no use shutting out the night. Because the orphan is already inside. Dare you read to the end of The Orphan? Discover the chilling new novel from the author of The Birthing House and The People Next Door.

I’ve never read anything by Christopher Ransom. Sounds pretty cool, though…

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crowntower-2-5Michael J Sullivan, The Crown Tower (Orbit)

TWO MEN WHO HATE EACH OTHER. ONE IMPOSSIBLE MISSION. A LEGEND IN THE MAKING.

A warrior with nothing to fight for is paired with a thieving assassin with nothing to lose. Together they must steal a treasure that no one can reach. The Crown Tower is the impregnable remains of the grandest fortress ever built and home to the realm’s most valuable possessions. But it isn’t gold or jewels the old wizard is after, and this prize can only be obtained by the combined talents of two remarkable men. Now if Arcadias can just keep Hadrian and Royce from killing each other, they just might succeed.

Loved the Riyria Revelations, Sullivan’s original six-part series set in this world. The Crown Tower (and The Rose and Thorn) takes place prior to that series, and introduces us to Hadrian and Royce as they meet for the first time.

Also on CR: Interview with Michael J. Sullivan, Guest Posts – Gritty vs. Heroic Fantasy and History & Riyria

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Tchaikovsky-9-WarMastersGateAdrian Tchaikovsky, War Master’s Gate (Tor)

Relentlessly advancing towards Collegium, the Empire is again seeking to break down its walls. The mighty imperial armies have learnt from their failures, and Empress Seda will brook no weakness in her soldiers. However, Stenwold Maker has earned his title, and the War Master has strategies to save his city. His aviators rule the skies – but the Wasp Kinden Empire has developed a terrifying new aerial weapon.

Yet the campaign may be decided far from marching armies and the noise of battle. In an ancient forest, where Mantis clans pursue their own civil war, the Empress Seda is seeking lost magic. Some dangerous shadow of old night is locked up among these trees and she is wants its power. Cheerwell Maker must stop her, at any cost, but will their rivalry awaken something far deadlier? Something that could make even their clash of nations pale into insignificance…

A series I have shamefully left un-caught-up… I plan to do a mega catch-up at some point in the near future. Perhaps one a month or something (I overdose easily). Hopefully in time so I am ready for the final book, when it’s published. Really enjoyed the first book in the series, Empire in Black & Gold.

Also on CR: Interview with Adrian Tchaikovsky, Guest Post

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Lavie Tidhar, The Violent Century (Hodder)

They’d never meant to be heroes.

For seventy years they’d guarded the British Empire. Oblivion and Fogg, inseparable at first, bound together by a shared fate. Until a night in Berlin, in the aftermath of the Second World War, and a secret that tore them apart.

But there must always be an account… and the past has a habit of catching up to the present.

Recalled to the Retirement Bureau from which no one can retire, Fogg and Oblivion must face up to a past of terrible war and unacknowledged heroism, a life of dusty corridors and secret rooms; of furtive meetings and blood-stained fields, to answer one last, impossible question:

What makes a hero?

It’s Lavie, dealing with Super-Heroes and 20th Century history. Of course I’m interested in reading this. I’ll be reading it very soon. I’ve also seen a mock-up of the cover art, which I think is really cool. Can’t wait to see the final version.

[Disclaimer: I work for Lavie’s agent. Which means this is also ‘work’ reading. It’s a hard life…]

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TowseyD-YourBrothersBloodDavid Towsey, Your Brother’s Blood (Jo Fletcher)

Thomas is thirty-two. He comes from the small town of Barkley. He has a wife there, Sarah, and a child, Mary; good solid names from the Good Book. And he is on his way home from the war, where he has been serving as a conscripted soldier.

Thomas is also dead – he is one of the Walkin’.

And Barkley does not suffer the wicked to live.

I’ve mentioned Your Brother’s Blood on the blog before (as well as hosted an excerpt), and it’s one of my most-anticipated of 2013. Hope to get to this ASAP. The novel is due to be published in the UK on September 26th 2013.

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Helene Wecker, The Golem and the Djinni (HarperCollins)

WeckerH-Golem&Djinni

If you were bewitched by The Night Circus…

If you were mesmerised by A Discovery of Witches…

If you were enthralled by Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell…

You will be enchanted by

THE GOLEM & THE DJINNI

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master, the husband who commissioned her, dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York in 1899.

Ahmad is a djinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop. Though he is no longer imprisoned, Ahmad is not entirely free – an unbreakable band of iron binds him to the physical world.

The Golem & The Djinni is their magical, unforgettable story; unlikely friends whose tenuous attachment challenges their opposing natures – until the night a terrifying incident drives them back into their separate worlds. But a powerful threat will soon bring Chava and Ahmad together again, challenging their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice.

Having read none of those comparisons, I really don’t know what to expect from this novel. But it was available through Amazon Vine, so I thought why not? I’m certainly interested in reading it, as I try to mix up the genres I’m reading and featuring on the blog. The title is slightly (pointlessly) different in the US: The Golem and the Jinni (also published by Harper).

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From the Library…

BooksReceived-20130817

A new additional component of the Books Received posts – I will now include mention of anything I’ve picked up in the local library. Because… well, why not?

 

Adobe Photoshop PDFRichard Kadrey, Kill City Blues (Voyager)

James Stark, aka Sandman Slim, has managed to get out of Hell, renounce his title as the new Lucifer, and settle back into life in LA. But he’s not out of trouble yet. Somewhere along the way he misplaced the Qomrama Om Ya, a weapon from the banished older gods who are also searching for their lost power.

The hunt leads Stark to an abandoned shopping mall-a multi-story copy of LA-infested with Lurkers and wretched bottom-feeding Sub Rosa families, squatters who have formed tight tribes to guard their tiny patches of this fake LA. Somewhere in the kill zone of the former mall is a dead man with the answers Stark needs. All Stark has to do is find the dead man, get back out alive, and outrun some angry old gods-and a few killers-on his tail.

I love this series. It’s dark, irreverent, funny, and has plenty of action and weird goings-on. This is book five, and each of the previous four was a strong addition to the series. Everyone should read it. Go on, what are you waiting for?

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AstroCity-Vol.1-LifeInTheBigCity-ArtAstro City, Vol.1 – “Life In The Big City” (DC Comics)

Welcome to Astro City, a shining city on a hill where super heroes patrol the skies. Each chapter in this collection is a standalone story, highlighting different aspects or characters in the Astro City world. The city’s leading super hero tries to be everywhere at once, and berates himself for every wasted second as he longs for just a moment of his own. A smalltime hood learns a hero’s secret identity, and tries to figure out how to profit from the knowledge. A beat reporter gets some advice from his editor on his first day on the job. A young woman tries to balance the demands of her family with her own hopes and desires. Despite the fantastic settings, the characters in these slice-of-life stories feel like real people, and that gives the stories real power.

This series has just been re-booted/-launched by DC, so I figured it was a good time to start at the very beginning, and see what it was like before investing in the new series (which I think has reached #3).

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BlackOrchid-CoverBlack Orchid (Vertigo)

Before introducing the modern version of The Sandman, Neil Gaiman wrote this dark tale that reinvented a strange DC Comics super hero in the Vertigo mold. Featuring spectacular art by Gaiman’s frequent collaborator, Dave McKean, BLACK ORCHID is now collected in a deluxe trade paperback

After being viciously murdered, Susan Linden is reborn fully grown as the Black Orchid, a hybrid of plant and human, destined to avenge her own death. Now, as this demigoddess attempts to reconcile human memory and botanical origins, she must untangle the webs of deception and secrets that led to her death. Beginning in the cold streets of a heartless metropolis and ending in the Amazon rainforest, this book takes the reader on a journey through secrets, suffering and self-rediscovery.

I’ve never read this, but I’ve heard a lot of great things. After reading my first volume of Sandman, too, I’m interested in reading a lot more of Gaiman’s comic-work. So when I saw this on the shelf, I picked it up right away – after all, where better to start than at the beginning?

Upcoming: “Jupiter War” by Neal Asher (Tor)

AsherN-O3-JupiterWarUKThe highly-anticipated third book in Neal Asher’s Owner Trilogy

Alan Saul is now part-human and part-machine, and our solar system isn’t big enough to hold him. He craves the stars, but can’t leave yet. His sister Var is trapped on Mars, on the wrong side of a rebellion, and Saul’s human side won’t let her die. He must leave Argus Station to stage a dangerous rescue – but mutiny is brewing onboard, as Saul’s robots make his crew feel increasingly redundant. Serene Galahad will do anything to prevent Saul’s escape. Earth’s ruthless dictator hides her crimes from a cowed populace as she readies new warships for pursuit. She aims to crush her enemy in a terrifying display of interstellar violence. Meanwhile, The Scourge limps back to earth, its crew slaughtered, its mission to annihilate Saul a disaster. There are survivors, but while one seeks Galahad’s death, Clay Ruger will negotiate for his life. Events build to a climax as Ruger holds humanity’s greatest prize – seeds to rebuild a dying Earth. This stolen gene-bank data will come at a price, but what will Galahad pay for humanity’s future?

Jupiter War will be published by Tor UK, on September 26th, 2013.

‘I’ve Never Read…’ & New Jackets for GARY GIBSON (Tor)

GibsonG-Marauder-Full

A new series for the blog (although, I may have done some similar, occasional posts way back when), in which I take a look at an author I’ve never read but really want to. And perhaps should have read by now…

GARY GIBSON, author of many well-received sci-fi novels, published by Tor in the UK. And definitely an author I should have read by now… I’ve always been drawn more to fantasy than science fiction (with the exception of Star Wars and Warhammer 40k, but that’s through long years of familiarity), which probably goes some way to explaining the oversight.

I was reminded of his work today, because Gibson’s Angel Station is Tor’s eBook of the month (DRM free, don’t forget). The author’s novels have received some rather nice new covers for the earlier books (The Shoal series, and his first two stand-alones), to match the style of his latest novel, another stand-alone, Marauder (the full artwork for which graces the top of this post).

Over on the Tor blog, you can read a quick Five Question Interview with the author, which is quite interesting.

Here are the new covers and the novels’ synopses, in chronological order…

GibsonG-AngelStations2013ANGEL STATIONS

Aeons ago, a super-scientific culture known as ‘Angels’ had left incomprehensible relics all over the galaxy. Among these phenomena were the Stations, whereby human spacecraft could jump instantly from one part of the galaxy to another. And from them the brilliant Angel technology could be explored and exploited.

One of these stations orbits the planet Kaspar, where the only other known sentient species outside Earth has been meticulously allowed to continue evolving in its own world of primitive ignorance. But suddenly Kaspar’s mysterious ‘Citadel’ has become the vital key to repelling the fast-approaching threat of the stellar burster.

At what cost, though, to its native inhabitants… and to the human residents of the orbiting Angel station?

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GibsonG-AgainstGravity2013AGAINST GRAVITY

It’s the late twenty-first century, and Kendrick Gallmon, survivor of an infamous research facility called the Maze, is trying to pick up the pieces of his life, even though he knows the Labrat augments inside his body are slowly killing him.

Then one day his heart stops beating, forever, and a ghost urges him to return to the source of all his nightmares, a long-abandoned military complex filled with entirely real voices of the dead.

I really like this cover. Reminds me a little of the artwork for Chris Wooding’s Fade, actually.

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The Shoal Sequence:

STEALING LIGHT, NOVA WAR, and EMPIRE OF LIGHT

GibsonG-ShoalTrilogy

In the 25th century, only the Shoal possess the secret of faster-than-light travel, giving them absolute control over all trade and exploration throughout the galaxy.  This gives the Shoal absolute control over all trade and exploration throughout the galaxy.

Mankind has meanwhile operated within their influence for two centuries, establishing a dozen human colony worlds scattered along Shoal trade routes. Dakota Merrick, while serving as a military pilot, has witnessed atrocities for which this alien race is responsible.

But the Shoal are not yet ready to relinquish their monopoly over a technology they acquired through ancient genocide.

Marauder, below, is also set in the Shoal universe, but is a stand-alone…

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Final Days Series:

FINAL DAYS and THE THOUSAND EMPERORS

Gibson-FinalDaysDuo

It’s 2235 and through the advent of wormhole technology more than a dozen interstellar colonies have been linked to Earth. But this new mode of transportation comes at a price and there are risks. Saul Dumont knows this better than anyone. He’s still trying to cope with the loss of the wormhole link to the Galileo system, which has stranded him on Earth far from his wife and child for the past several years.

Only weeks away from the link with Galileo finally being re-established, he stumbles across a conspiracy to suppress the discovery of a second, alien network of wormholes which lead billions of years in the future. A covert expedition is sent to what is named Site 17 to investigate, but when an accident occurs and one of the expedition, Mitchell Stone, disappears – they realise that they are dealing with something far beyond their understanding.

When a second expedition travels via the wormholes to Earth in the near future of 2245 they discover a devastated, lifeless solar system – all except for one man, Mitchell Stone, recovered from an experimental cryogenics facility in the ruins of a lunar city. Stone may be the only surviving witness to the coming destruction of the Earth. But why is he the only survivor – and once he’s brought back to the present, is there any way he and Saul can prevent the destruction that’s coming?

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GibsonG-Marauder2013MARAUDER

Megan Jacinth has three goals, and they all seem unattainable.

First, she needs to find her oldest friend Bash, who she’d left for dead to save her own life. Then she needs Bash’s unique skill-set to locate an ancient space-faring entity. Lastly she must use this Wanderer’s knowledge to save human-occupied worlds from an alien incursion.

The odds seem impossible, but the threat is terrifyingly real. Megan finds Bash, but the person she’d known and loved is a husk of his former self. Bash is also held captive by her greatest enemy: Gregor Tarrant. Tarrant wants the Wanderer too, even more than he wants her life, with motives less pure than her own. And he’s close to finding Megan’s most closely-guarded secret. A race across space to reach the Wanderer seems Megan’s best option. But this entity is also known as the Marauder, and is far from benign. The price for its secrets may be just too high. Megan should know, as she still bears the scars from their last encounter…

I actually have a copy of Final Days, somewhere, so I think I’ll try to get that read. But I may start with Angel Stations. We’ll see.

[If you’re in the UK, Amazon are selling the eBook for less than £4, which is less than Tor, but obviously locked to your device with DRM… The same goes for Nova War and Final Days; Stealing Light and Empire of Light are under £5.]

Anyone read Gibson’s work? What did you think?

Recent Acquisitions… (April 2013)

RecentAcquisitions-201304

It’s been a pretty great couple of weeks, in terms of new books and comics that have arrived and been purchased. I thought it might be nice to just write a little something about the books that have arrived, and a few that I’ve bought, as it might take me a while to get around to reading and reviewing them all.

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Abraham-D&C-3-TheTyrantsLawDaniel Abraham, The Tyrant’s Law (Orbit)

The great war cannot be stopped.

The tyrant Geder Palliako had led his nation to war, but every victory has called forth another conflict. Now the greater war spreads out before him, and he is bent on bringing peace. No matter how many people he has to kill to do it.

Cithrin bel Sarcour, rogue banker of the Medean Bank, has returned to the fold. Her apprenticeship has placed her in the path of war, but the greater dangers are the ones in her past and in her soul.

Widowed and disgraced at the heart of the Empire, Clara Kalliam has become a loyal traitor, defending her nation against itself. And in the shadows of the world, Captain Marcus Wester tracks an ancient secret that will change the war in ways not even he can forsee.

The mighty Daniel Abraham! Perhaps one of the busiest authors writing today, not to mention one of the most talented, this is the third novel in his The Dagger & the Coin epic fantasy series. I devoured the first in the series, The Dragon’s Path, but the second novel was published around one of my hectic transatlantic moves, and therefore slipped by the wayside. With this volume firmly in my grasp, though, I have no excuse not to get off my ass and catch up. Watch this space!

Also on CR: Interview with Daniel Abraham

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CainS-QuietSusan Cain, Quiet (Penguin)

At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Although they are often labeled “quiet,” it is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society – from van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer.

Passionately argued, impressively researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so. Taking the reader on a journey from Dale Carnegie’s birthplace to Harvard Business School, from a Tony Robbins seminar to an evangelical megachurch, Susan Cain charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal in the twentieth century and explores its far-reaching effects. She talks to Asian-American students who feel alienated from the brash, backslapping atmosphere of American schools. She questions the dominant values of American business culture, where forced collaboration can stand in the way of innovation, and where the leadership potential of introverts is often overlooked. And she draws on cutting-edge research in psychology and neuroscience to reveal the surprising differences between extroverts and introverts.

Perhaps most inspiring, she introduces us to successful introverts – from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Finally, she offers invaluable advice on everything from how to better negotiate differences in introvert-extrovert relationships to how to empower an introverted child to when it makes sense to be a “pretend extrovert.”

This extraordinary book has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how introverts see themselves.

A bit of non-fiction, this has been quite the popular little book. As someone who considers themselves an introvert, I’m rather interested to see what’s inside.

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CargillCR-DreamsAndShadowsUKC. Robert Cargill, Dreams & Shadows (Gollancz)

DREAMS AND SHADOWS takes us beyond the veil, through the lives of Ewan and Colby, young men whose spirits have been enmeshed with the otherworld from a young age, and follows the boys from their star-crossed adolescences to their haunted adulthoods.

We are taken inside the Limestone Kingdom, a parallel universe where whisky-swilling genies and foul-mouthed wizards argue over the state of the metaphysical realm. Having left the spirit world and returned to the human world, Ewan and Colby discover that the creatures from this previous life have not forgotten them, and that fate can never be sidestepped.

This novel is one I’m very excited about. Like a lot of novels I can’t wait to read, I end up Saving Them For Later. I will be diving into this hopefully very soon. I’ve heard nothing but good things, and it has been described as “part Neil Gaiman, part Guillermo Del Torro, part William Burroughs”. So that sounds pretty awesome. Watch this space.

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Jon Courtenay-Grimwood, Outcast Blade & Exiled Blade (Orbit)

Grimwood-Books1&2

As the Byzantine and German emperors plot war against each other, Venice’s future rests in the hands of three unwilling individuals:

The newly knighted Sir Tycho. He defeated the Mamluk navy but he cannot make the woman he loves love him back. Tortured by secrets, afraid of the daylight, he sees no reason to save a city he hates.

The grieving Lady Giulietta. Virgin. Mother. Widow. All she wants is to retire from the poisonous world of the Venetian court to mourn her husband in peace. But her duty is to Venice: both emperors want her hand in marriage and an alliance with Europe’s richest city. She must choose, knowing that whichever suitor she rejects will become Venice’s bitterest enemy.

Lastly, a naked, mud-strewn girl who crawls from a paupers’ grave on an island in the Venetian lagoon and begins by killing the men who buried her.

Between them, they will set the course of history.

I loved The Fallen Blade, the first novel in this series. I thought the author had written something both engaging and brave (the first chapters are written in a confusing, swirling manner, to match the main character’s mental state – this put off some readers). Another victim of my multiple-moves, with the publication of the final book in the trilogy, I can get cracking with it! [The synopsis above is for The Outcast Blade – to include that for the third book would have meant big spoilers.]

Also on CR: Interview with Jon Courtenay-Grimwood, Guest Post

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EvansL-M1-TroubleWithFateLeigh Evans, The Trouble with Fate (Tor)

WHAT SHE DOESN’T KNOW MIGHT KILL HER: Hedi looks normal. Yet that’s taken effort. Her fellow Starbucks baristas don’t see her pointed ears, fae amulet or her dark past, and normal is hard for a half-fae, half-werewolf on the run. Hedi’s life changed ten years ago, when her parents were murdered by unknown assassins. She’s been in hiding with her loopy aunt Lou since, as whatever they wanted she’s determined they won’t get it. Things change when wolves capture Lou, forcing Hedi to steal to free her – for if she can offer up a fae amulet like her own they may trade. But it belongs to a rogue werewolf named Robson Trowbridge, who betrayed Hedi on the night of her greatest need. Over forty-eight hours, Hedi will face the weres of Creemore, discover the extent of her fae powers and possibly break her own heart in the process.

I’m quite interested in trying this out. It’s inching up my TBR mountain… So many books, so little time…

Also on CR: Interview with Leigh Evans (video)

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GemmellS-CityStella Gemmell, The City (Bantam Press)

The City is ancient, layers upon layers. Once a thriving metropolis, it has sprawled beyond its bounds, inciting endless wars with neighboring tribes and creating a barren wasteland of what was once green and productive.

In the center of the City lives the emperor. Few have ever seen him, but those who have recall a man in his prime, though he should be very old. Some grimly speculate that he is no longer human, if he ever was. A small number have come to the desperate conclusion that the only way to stop the war is to end the emperor’s unnaturally long life.

From the mazelike sewers below the City, where the poor struggle to stay alive in the dark, to the blood-soaked fields of battle, where few heroes manage to endure the never-ending siege, the rebels pin their hopes on one man – Shuskara. The emperor’s former general, he was betrayed long ago and is believed to be dead. But, under different aliases, he has survived, forsaking his City and hiding from his immortal foe. Now the time has come for him to engage in one final battle to free the City from the creature who dwells at its heart, pulling the strings that keep the land drenched in gore.

I have actually started this novel already, but I started it in what became an insanely busy week. After four days, I’d managed to read only 70 pages. I have, therefore, put it aside for a little while until I get a bit more settled and can give it my proper attention. I really liked what I’d read (I’d really like to run an excerpt on the site, too), so I will be getting back to it. My silence and the lack of a review should not be taken as disinterest or disappointment.

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Higgins-WolfhoundCenturyPeter Higgins, Wolfhound Century (Gollancz)

Investigator Vissarion Lom has been summoned to the capital in order to catch a terrorist – and ordered to report directly to the head of the secret police. A totalitarian state, worn down by an endless war, must be seen to crush home-grown terrorism with an iron fist.

But Lom discovers Mirgorod to be more corrupted than he imagined: a murky world of secret police and revolutionaries, cabaret clubs and doomed artists. Lom has been chosen because he is an outsider, not involved in the struggle for power within the party. And because of the sliver of angel stone implanted in his head.

Wolfhound Century is a superb novel, this is a second copy I’ve someone managed to get, and I’ve already reviewed it here. There seems to be a slight uptick in interest in novels that have a Russian flavour to them, and I consider myself one of the people who would like to see more in this vein. Not too much, but maybe a couple of others that draw on this rich, atmospheric and fascinating culture.

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HillJ-NOS4R2Joe Hill, N0S4R2 (Gollancz)

Summer. Massachusetts.

An old Silver Wraith with a frightening history. A story about one serial killer and his lingering, unfinished business.

Anyone could be next.

We’re going to Christmasland…

Charlie Manx burned a man to death in his black 1938 Rolls Royce Wraith, but that’s not the worst of it. Rumor has it that he kidnapped dozens of children, taking them to a place he calls “Christmasland.” The only child ever to escape was a very lucky girl named Victoria McQueen.

Vic has a gift – she can ride her bike through the Shorter Way bridge and she’ll come out the other side wherever she needs to be, even if it’s hundreds of miles away. Vic doesn’t tell anyone about her ability; no one would understand.

When Charlie Manx finally dies after years in prison, his body disappears…after the autopsy. The police and media think someone stole it, but Vic knows the truth: Charlie Manx is on the road again…

As with Gemmell’s The City (above), Hill’s latest horror opus is another victim of a recently busy, stressful week. I’ve read a third of the novel, and I’ll be sure to finish it off in the next couple weeks at least. Hill’s gift for writing incredibly real-feeling characters is on full display. His fiction and comics pack such a wallop (emotional, visual, atmospheric) that I frequently find myself struggling to find the language to review them…

I also recently picked up one of Hill’s other novels, Horns (which will soon be hitting the big screen in a movie adaptation starring Daniel Radcliffe).

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Lafferty-ShamblingGuideToNYCMur Lafferty, The Shambling Guide to New York City (Orbit)

Because of the disaster that was her last job, Zoe is searching for a fresh start as a travel book editor in the tourist-centric New York City. After stumbling across a seemingly perfect position though, Zoe is blocked at every turn because of the one thing she can’t take off her resume – human.

Not to be put off by anything – especially not her blood drinking boss or death goddess coworker – Zoe delves deep into the monster world. But her job turns deadly when the careful balance between human and monsters starts to crumble – with Zoe right in the middle.

A novel that has been on my radar for a good long while, I hope to read this in a couple of books (so maybe starting it by the end of next week?). Watch this space!

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Jeff Noon, Pollen & Vurt (Tor)

Noon-Vurt&Pollen

Take a trip in a stranger’s head. Travel rain-shot streets with a gang of hip malcontents, hooked on the most powerful drug you can imagine. Yet Vurt feathers are not for the weak. As the mysterious Game Cat says, ‘Be careful, be very careful’. But Scribble isn’t listening. He has to find his lost love. His journey is a mission to find Curious Yellow, the ultimate, perhaps even mythical Vurt feather. As the most powerful narcotic of all, Scribble must be prepared to leave his current reality behind.

I’ve never read anything by Jeff Noon. Both of these novels (which are both re-issues) sound pretty intriguing. Therefore, I’m going to do my best to get to them A.S.A.P. Anyone else read them…?

The sweet death of Coyote, master taxi driver, was only the first.

Soon people are sneezing and dying all over Manchester. Telekinetic cop Sybil Jones knows that, like Coyote, they died happy – but even a happy death can be a murder. As exotic blooms begin to flower all over the city, the pollen count is racing towards 2000 and Sybil is running out of time.

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Peeler-JT6-TempestRebornNicole Peeler, Tempest Reborn (Orbit)

Anyan may be trapped in an evil dragon and Blondie may be gone, but Jane knows one thing: she’s not about to give up. She’s ready to tear down heaven and earth to save her lover, despite those who believe he’s lost.

Luckily for Jane, those who’ve given up on Anyan do not include those closest to her. Defying The Powers That Be, Jane and Company form their own crack squad of misfits, in whose hands the fate of the world may well rest.

With a little help from her friends, the Universe, and lots of snacks, Jane embarks on her greatest adventure yet, confident that with great sacrifice comes great reward. The question is, who will be that sacrifice?

This is the sixth book in the Jane True series. Orbit (for the UK and Down Under market) has re-packaged the series in a much better overall design. I’d like to try it, but I’m not sure when I’d get around to reading all previous five books before this one… I’ll add it to my Series To Try list, and keep it in mind for the future.

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Saintcrow-RedPlagueAffairLilith Saintcrow, The Red Plague Affair (Orbit)

The service of Britannia is not for the faint of heart – or conscience…

Emma Bannon, Sorceress Prime in service to Queen Victrix, has a mission: to find the doctor who has created a powerful new weapon. Her friend, the mentath Archibald Clare, is only too happy to help. It will distract him from pursuing his nemesis, and besides, Clare is not as young as he used to be. A spot of Miss Bannon’s excellent hospitality and her diverting company may be just what he needs.

Unfortunately, their quarry is a fanatic, and his poisonous discovery is just as dangerous to Britannia as to Her enemies. Now a single man has set Londinium ablaze, and Clare finds himself in the middle of distressing excitement, racing against time and theory to find a cure. Miss Bannon, of course, has troubles of her own, for the Queen’s Consort Alberich is ill, and Her Majesty unhappy with Bannon’s loyal service. And there is still no reliable way to find a hansom when one needs it most…

The game is afoot. And the Red Plague rises.

This is the second novel in the Bannon & Clare series (there is also a novella – The Damnation Affair – that takes place between this and The Iron Wyrm Affair). A steampunk investigative series, this looks like it would be popular with fans of the myriad, proliferating series in the same sub-genre, but perhaps especially for fans of James P. Blaylock’s St. Ives series…?

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Stross-BloodlineFeudCharles Stross, The Bloodline Feud (Tor)

Miriam knows there’s no smoke without fire. And she’s about to get burnt…

The Family Trade and The Hidden Family – The first two installments of the Merchant Princes series combined in one volume.

Miriam Beckstein is a successful reporter for a hi-tech magazine. So when she discovers a huge money-laundering scam, she thinks she’s hit the big time. But when she takes it to her editor, she’s not only fired, but receives death threats. That’s just the beginning.

To distract her furious daughter, Miriam’s adopted mother unearths mementos from her real mother, murdered when she was an infant. But these reveal a secret that will ultimately throw governments into disarray. For what Miriam thinks is a simple locket has the power to fling her into an alternate timeline. In this less-developed world, knights on horseback wield automatic weapons, and world-skipping assassins lurk on the other side of our reality. Here, her true family runs a criminal empire – and they want her back. But Miriam has other plans.

I reviewed the two novels (and the third in the series) collected in this omnibus a few years back, when they were first released in the UK. I loved the concept, and I’m interested to read the rest of the series. (Tor will be releasing another two omnibus editions – The Traders’ War and The Revolution Trade – in May and June 2013.)

Stross-MP-Omnibus2&3

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Tregillis-3-NecessaryEvilUKIan Tregillis, Necessary Evil (Orbit)

The history of the Twentieth Century has been shaped by a secret conflict between technology and magic. When a twisted Nazi scientist devised a way to imbue ordinary humans with supernatural abilities – to walk through walls, throw fire and see the future – his work became the prized possession of first the Third Reich, then the Soviet Army. Only Britain’s warlocks, and the dark magics they yield, have successfully countered the threat posed by these superhuman armies.

But for decades, this conflict has been manipulated by Gretel, the mad seer. And now her long plan has come to fruition. And with it, a danger vastly greater than anything the world has known. Now British Intelligence officer Raybould Marsh must make a last-ditch effort to change the course of history – if his nation, and those he loves, are to survive.

If there’s a single regular or casual reader of this blog who hasn’t figured out that Tregillis is one of my favourite authors, you’re just not paying attention… This is a masterful conclusion to the Milkweed Triptych, and I can’t recommend the series enough.

Also on CR: Reviews of Bitter Seeds, The Coldest War, Necessary Evil, Guest Post

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Chuck Wendig, The Blue Blazes (Angry Robot) & Gods & Monsters: Unclean Spirits (Abaddon)

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Meet Mookie Pearl.

Criminal underworld? He runs it.

Supernatural underworld? He hunts in it.

Nothing stops Mookie when he’s on the job.

But when his daughter takes up arms and opposes him, something’s gotta give…

The first in a new urban fantasy series in which lovable thug Mookie Pearl must contend with the criminal underworld, the supernatural underworld, a new drug that makes the invisible visible, and a rebellious teen daughter who opposes him at every turn.

I’m a big fan of Wendig’s writing, despite not being quite as good as I should be about keeping up-to-date. I haven’t read either of the Miriam Black books (Blackbirds and Mockingbird – both also published by Angry Robot Books), for example. Nevertheless, I do hope to get to these two A.S.A.P. Both of these novels are the start of new series. Gods & Monsters, however, is the first novel in a shared-setting for Abaddon books, and further volumes will be written by other authors – though I wouldn’t be surprised if Wendig revisits it in the future.

Five years ago, it all went wrong for Cason Cole. He lost his wife and son, lost everything, and was bound into service to a man who chews up human lives and spits them out, a predator who holds nothing dear and respects no law. Now, as the man he both loves and hates lies dying at his feet, the sounds of the explosion still ringing in his ears, Cason is finally free.

The gods and goddesses are real. A polytheistic pantheon – a tangle of divine hierarchies – once kept the world at an arm’s length, warring with one another for mankind’s belief and devotion. It was a grim and bloody balance, but a balance just the same. When one god triumphed, driving all other gods out of Heaven, it was back to the bad old days: cults and sycophants, and the terrible retribution the gods visit on those who spite them. None of which is going to stop Cason from getting back what’s his…

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Other recent acquisitions include Joe Abercrombie’s Best Served Cold and The Heroes (Gollancz): in the course of one of my near-endless moves (the life of a vagrant has some downsides), my entire collection of Abercrombie’s novels (all 1st Editions) were… misplaced. I have searched high and low, but eventually had to accept that they were lost. So I completed my eBook set. And am currently reading Last Argument of Kings. Another Gollancz book, I also recently bought the eBook edition of Scott Lynch’s Lies of Locke Lamora – this is a novel I keep giving my copy of away, spreading it around friends and family. This time, I decided to get an eBook copy, in preparation for a re-read of books 1 & 2 before The Republic of Thieves comes out in October. It also means I can’t give it away…

Any of these catch your eye? Anything new you’ve got recently that you think might be of interest to CR readers?