Review: RIVER OF TEETH by Sarah Gailey (Tor.com)

gaileys-riverofteethAn classic-style Western. Only, with killer hippos…

In the early 20th Century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. This is true.

Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two.

This was a terrible plan.

Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge.

River of Teeth has a fantastic premise: what if hippos were imported into the United States, to make up for the decline in buffalo stocks? This was a real proposal, way back when, and Gailey has done a great job of imaging an America in which hippos have spread and thrived — some are used as mounts, and there are thousands of deadly “ferals” populating the waterways. Now, throw in a group of mercenaries, drawn together on an operation (not a caper), and you have all the ingredients for a fun, original adventure. Continue reading

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Review: KAREN MEMORY by Elizabeth Bear (Tor)

BearE-KarenMemoryUSAn interesting Weird West adventure

“You ain’t gonna like what I have to tell you, but I’m gonna tell you anyway. See, my name is Karen Memery, like memory only spelt with an e, and I’m one of the girls what works in the Hôtel Mon Cherie on Amity Street. Hôtel has a little hat over the o like that. It’s French, so Beatrice tells me.”

Hugo-Award winning author Elizabeth Bear offers something new in Karen Memory, an absolutely entrancing steampunk novel set in Seattle in the late 19th century — an era when the town was called Rapid City, when the parts we now call Seattle Underground were the whole town (and still on the surface), when airships plied the trade routes bringing would-be miners heading up to the gold fields of Alaska, and steam-powered mechanicals stalked the waterfront. Karen is a “soiled dove,” a young woman on her own who is making the best of her orphaned state by working in Madame Damnable’s high-quality bordello. Through Karen’s eyes we get to know the other girls in the house — a resourceful group — and the poor and the powerful of the town. Trouble erupts into her world one night when a badly injured girl arrives at their door, seeking sanctuary, followed by the man who holds her indenture, who has a machine that can take over anyone’s mind and control their actions. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the next night brings a body dumped in their rubbish heap — a streetwalker who has been brutally murdered.

This is the first novel by Elizabeth Bear that I’ve read. Lauded far and wide, throughout the SFF online community, I had very high hopes for Karen Memory, a weird Western adventure/crime story. It mostly lived up to them. There’s much to like in the novel, certainly, but there was one consistent thing that didn’t work for me. Nevertheless, it’s quite an enjoyable read. Continue reading

Upcoming: THE SHOTGUN ARCANA by R.S. Belcher (Tor/Titan)

BelcherRS-ShotgunArcana

Two very cool, very different covers for R.S. Belcher’s follow-up to The Six-Gun Tarot. On the left, the US cover (Tor Books); and on the right, the UK cover (Titan Books). Here’s the US synopsis:

1870. A haven for the blessed and the damned, including a fallen angel, a mad scientist, a pirate queen, and a deputy who is kin to coyotes, Golgotha has come through many nightmarish trials, but now an army of thirty-two outlaws, lunatics, serial killers, and cannibals are converging on the town, drawn by a grisly relic that dates back to the Donner Party… and the dawn of humanity.

Sheriff Jon Highfather and his deputies already have their hands full dealing with train robbers, a mysterious series of brutal murders, and the usual outbreaks of weirdness. But with thirty-two of the most vicious killers on Earth riding into Golgotha in just a few day’s time, the town and its people will be tested as never before — and some of them will never be the same.

I really want to read this series. I have no idea why I haven’t done so yet… I shall make that a goal for the rest of 2014. Watch this space…

You can read an excerpt from The Shotgun Arcana over on Tor.com.

The first book in this series, The Six-Gun Tarot had equally interesting covers, but I must say in that case the UK cover was by far the best. Here’s the US and UK covers, side-by-side:

Belcher-SixGunTarot

Covers, US vs. UK Edition: “The Six-Gun Tarot” by R.S. Belcher (Tor & Titan)

Spotted the UK cover in Forbidden Planet in London today, and was moved to share it on here. I’ve been aware of R.S. Belcher’s The Six-Gun Tarot since it came out in the US (published by Tor), but it seems to have also been quietly released in the UK, recently, by Titan Books. Here are the two covers…

Belcher-SixGunTarot

Out of the two, I definitely prefer the UK cover (on the right). Really cool. If that doesn’t grab your attention, here’s the synopsis:

Nevada, 1869: Beyond the pitiless 40-Mile Desert lies Golgotha, a cattle town that hides more than its share of unnatural secrets. The sheriff bears the mark of the noose around his neck; some say he is a dead man whose time has not yet come. His half-human deputy is kin to coyotes. The mayor guards a hoard of mythical treasures. A banker’s wife belongs to a secret order of assassins. And a shady saloon owner, whose fingers are in everyone’s business, may know more about the town’s true origins than he’s letting on.

A haven for the blessed and the damned, Golgotha has known many strange events, but nothing like the primordial darkness stirring in the abandoned silver mine overlooking the town. Bleeding midnight, an ancient evil is spilling into the world, and unless the sheriff and his posse can saddle up in time, Golgotha will have seen its last dawn…and so will all of Creation.

I’ll be sure to review it as soon as possible (I already have it).

An Interview with DAVID TOWSEY

TowseyD-AuthorPicCropDavid Towsey’s debut novel, Your Brother’s Blood caught my attention a few months ago, and ever since I have been eagerly awaiting my chance to read it. Thankfully, I recently got my mitts on a copy, so I hope to start it sometime next week. In the meantime, his publisher has set up this interview, in which I quiz David on his writing, how he got into genre fiction, and more. If you wanted to check out the novel for yourself, be sure to read this excerpt.

Let’s start with an introduction: Who is David Towsey?

I’m twenty-eight. I’m finishing a PhD in Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University – where I’ll start lecturing full-time in September. I guess you could say I’m a geek or nerd – if such labels are helpful. I play computer games, specifically MMOs, which I’ve been a regular player of since I was fourteen and first got hold of Ultima Online. I also enjoy playing Magic: the Gathering at a fairly competitive level. But between all that gaming and writing I try and keep active by playing squash and swimming at least twice a week.

Your latest novel, Your Brother’s Blood, was recently published by Jo Fletcher Books. How would you introduce the novel to a potential reader? Is it intended as part of a series?

When people ask me about the book I tend to see if they’ve read or seen The Road. If they have, I say it’s a lot like that. Except Your Brother’s Blood follows a father and daughter. And the the father is a “zombie”. If they haven’t, it becomes more difficult. It’s a novel that sits somewhere between a road-movie and a zombie-western. For me, it focuses on family relationships that come under strain – sometimes through normal situations and sometimes because of more extreme circumstances. Your Brother’s Blood is the first part of a trilogy that follows a central family, the McDermotts. Continue reading

Upcoming: “THE ACE OF SKULLS” by Chris Wooding (Gollancz)

WoodingC-AceOfSkullsOne of my most-anticipated novels of the year, The Ace of Skulls is the final planned installment in Chris Wooding’s Ketty Jay series. I loved the first two books in the series – Retribution Falls and The Black Lung Captain – but have been reprehensibly slow about reading The Iron Jackal (which I have on my Kindle – I fear an out-of-sight-out-of-mind Kindle victim, here…).

I’ll endeavor to get caught up with the third novel before this one comes out, though. It’s a great, fun, and very well-plotted and -written sci-fi Western(-ish) adventure. Here’s the synopsis…

All good things come to an end. And this is it: the last stand of the Ketty Jay and her intrepid crew.

They’ve been shot down, set up, double-crossed and ripped off. They’ve stolen priceless treasures, destroyed a ten-thousand-year-old Azryx city and sort-of-accidentally blew up the son of the Archduke. Now they’ve gone and started a civil war. This time, they’re really in trouble.

As Vardia descends into chaos, Captain Frey is doing his best to keep his crew out of it. He’s got his mind on other things, not least the fate of Trinica Dracken. But wars have a way of dragging people in, and sooner or later they’re going to have to pick a side. It’s a choice they’ll be staking their lives on. Cities fall and daemons rise. Old secrets are uncovered and new threats revealed.

When the smoke clears, who will be left standing?

The Ace of Skulls is published by Gollancz in the UK on September 19th, 2013. Really can’t wait to read this one.

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Covers of the First Three Ketty Jay Novels