Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Silver Bough by Lisa Tuttle: book review

The Silver Bough by Lisa Tuttle (Jo Fletcher Books £14.99)

Reviewed by Jan Edwards

A silver bough is, in parts of Scotland, the name for apple trees in general; Lisa Tuttle’s novel is a retelling of the Mabinogi story of King Bran and the mystic ringing silver bough which bears the golden apples.

The Silver Bough centres around a village on the Scottish coast. Once a prosperous place, the significantly named Appleton has fallen into decay. Enter three American women all looking for something in their lives: Ashley Kaldis, a teenager searching for the truth about her grandmother who left Appleton for Texas so many years before; Kathleen Mullaroy, the town’s new librarian, recently divorced and  looking for a new start; Nell Westray, a young widow looking for a hiding place to recover from her beloved husband’s death.

A landslide blocks the only road in and out of Appleton, cutting off all power and communications to the modern world; plus a mystery fog creeps into the shoreline and keeps shipping at bay. This catastrophe brings about changes throughout the town and its inhabitants. All of those changes gradually coalesce around a strange young man named Ronan and the apple tree that has remained hidden in a walled garden for years on years.

As the town’s enforced isolation goes on, its turns in on itself to examine its demise. The focus falls upon the Apple Queen celebrations, an ancient fertility rite, which they had ceased to celebrate in the 1950s, and from which neglect the older inhabitants feel sure their woes began. When Nell finds a way into the walled garden and determines to resurrect the old tradition Appleton begins to subtly change.

This skilful weaving of old folk traditions with modern urban myth makes The Silver Bough a fascinating, wistful and intriguing tale that cannot fail to satisfy any lover of fantasy, any kind of fantasy. Lisa Tuttle ramps up the mystery and tension right to the very end. Love story, folktale, fantasy, supernatural mystery: The Silver Bough is all of these things. Its characters are fully formed and their histories complete, as are their intertwined fates, all encased in a excellently-written narrative. This is an excellent read, beautifully presented in a handsome hardback edition. (Note: The Silver Bough was first published by Bantam in 2006.)

The Apocalypse Codex by Charles Stross

Charles Stoss’s The Apocalypse Codex is published next month (Orbit £7.99):

“Bob Howard used to fix computers for the Laundry – the branch of the British Secret Service that deals with otherworldly threats – but those days are over. He’s not only been promoted to active service but actually survived missions against cultists, enemy spies and tentacled horrors from other dimensions. Willingly or not, he’s on his way up in this dangerous organisation. When a televangelist with connections to 10 Downing Street seems able to work miracles, the Laundry takes an interest. But an agency that answers to the Prime Minister can’t spy on him themselves, and Bob’s shadowy superiors come up with a compromise – they hire ‘freelancers’, with Bob in charge.”

New books from Kate Locke and Markus Heitz

God Save the Queen by Kate Locke is published next month by Orbit (£7.99):

“The Year is 2012 – and Queen Victoria still rules with an immortal fist. She’s the undead matriarch of a Britain where the Aristocracy is made up of werewolves and vampires, where goblins live underground and mothers know better than to let their children out after dark. A world where technology lives side by side with magic, where being nobility means being infected with the Plague (side-effects include undeath) and Hysteria is the popular affliction of the day. Xandra Vardan is a member of the elite Royal Guard, and it’s her duty to protect the Aristocracy. But things get complicated when her sister goes missing. Xandra will not only realise she’s the prize in a dangerous power struggle – but she’ll also uncover a conspiracy that threatens to topple the empire itself.”

Also due next month from Orbit is The Fate of the Dwarves (£9.99). This is the fourth instalment in the epic fantasy from international bestselling author Markus Heitz.

“For the last time, the dwarves are going to war – and the outcome will decide the fate of their race. There has been no word from the brave warrior Tungdil since the vicious battle at the Black Abyss. Dragons, magicians, and the malevolent √§lfar have advanced far into the kingdom of Girdlegard, ruthlessly seizing vast areas of land. The dwarves seem to be facing their next battle with little hope of survival. But then the inexplicable happens. A dwarf dressed in black armour returns from the abyss with a formidable army in tow. He calls himself Tungdil, and for his most loyal friend Ireheart and his allies, this means a new hope. But soon doubts begin to arise . . . Could this really be Tungdil, or is this warrior following his own dark agenda? It is a question of the future of Girdlegard – and the future of all the dwarves.”

Sunday, June 24, 2012

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson: book review

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit £18.99)

Reviewed by John Howard

The year is 2312 (yes really). The Solar System two centuries hence is a very different place from now. We get to see this. There is a lot of travelling. The panoramas are exhilarating and sometimes dangerous.

The structure of 2312 recalls (and is acknowledged by a nod) that of John Dos Passos’ trilogy USA (1930-36): weaving in and out between the main narrative chapters there are recurring sections with numbered headings which contain lists, bits of info-dumps, extracts, etc. The earthbound SF exemplar is Stand on Zanzibar (1969) by John Brunner.

Alex is dead, but is still probably the most important character in the novel. She remains central – people and events revolve around her – although she is never there.

Where it has proved possible for humanity to settle in the Solar System, it has, with lesser or greater degrees of insecurity and danger. Spacers are the humans who have been born and live away from Earth. Sometimes distrusted on Earth, the rest of the Solar System is their territory.

Swan Er Hong is mourning her grandmother Alex, whose death at the age of 191 is nevertheless a great shock to Swan and the wide-ranging network of Alex’s friends. Swan’s ongoing grief has scarcely begun to abate when she visits Mqaret, Alex’s partner. Jean Genette is a close friend of Alex’s, looking for something she might have left behind. Wahram, from Titan, and another friend of Alex’s, arrives there too.

Mercury: a planet blasted by the sun. The city of Terminator endlessly travels along its ribbon of endless track, kept moving by the power of light and the pursuit of shadow. Out on Mercury’s surface, the feral sunwalkers have to stay moving to keep up.

Some people have a qube (implanted or carried with them). Qubes are personal AIs that can be turned on and off at will, and networked throughout the Solar System. Swan and Jean Genette have them. Who else has qubes, and what are they doing that humans might not know about?

Jean Genette is an inspector from Interplan, the Solar System’s police. He asks Swan to carry out her grandmother’s wishes and travel to Io to deliver personally a paper note to Wang, another friend and colleague of Alex’s. Why should this be, when interplanetary and personal communication and travel is so easy? Swan agrees and travels to Io with Wahram.

Two examples: Io, volcanic hellworld; Iapetus, liquid world frozen into an irregular sphere. Spacers keep a precarious hold on what they have been able to grasp.

Swan and Wahram: fire and ice: light and dark: nevertheless something may well be there.

2312 is a trilogy packed into a single volume. Robinson keeps things lean and is always cutting to the chase.

Earth, ravaged by climate change and the massive rise in sea level, is still a main player in Solar System politics. Much of its population of eleven billion lives in poverty in the shadow of the orbital space elevators.

On Earth, Swan is rescued from a bad situation by poor boy Kiran, who is rewarded with a job working on the gigantic project terraforming Venus. Kiran keeps his eyes and ears open and finds things out, whether he wants to or not.

Robinson is often categorised as a utopian writer, which he often is. Perhaps sometimes he seems to be too willing to concentrate too much on the sunny side of his detailed worlds. But his work is not that simple and things are not that clear-cut.

The terraria: Aymara, Aspen, Tatar Soul, Saint George, The Little Prince, Arabia Deserta: some of the nineteen thousand asteroids and satellites occupied by humans, each custom designed with an environment for a particular interest group. Some terraria also function as huge space transports: the Orient Expresses and cargo liners of the Solar System.

…Are not always what they might seem. Swan and Wahram meet some they are very unsure about. They look human, but…?

Mars is now terraformed, Venus is in the process of being terraformed. Some feel that mistakes have been made and are being made, and want to change things. The Solar System could be torn apart by a series of planetary civil wars. Swan, Wahram, Jean Genette, and Kiran find themselves involved in a tangle of schemes that Alex had left in progress.

The connected significance of several dramatic events in different parts of the Solar System slowly dawns on Swan, Wahram, Jean Genette, Kiran, and others they have enlisted to help.

Swiftly and surely, inexorably, Robinson closes the woven tapestry of 2312 and loose ends are trimmed, not without sacrifice. But there is welcome uplift.

The verdict: perhaps Robinson sometimes coasts a little in 2312. Nevertheless he constantly holds the interest and shoots out ideas like solar prominences. This is a fine novel from an author of many fine novels. Humanity would still be lucky if everything 200 years hence were to turn out this way. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Shadow by Will Elliott

Shadow by Will Elliott is the second book in the Pendulum Trilogy (Jo Fletcher Books £12.99) – available in July.

“Eric and Case came to the world of Levaal through a door in an old railway arch, and it wasn’t long before they found themselves caught up in the war to control this strange land. But the Wall at World’s End, which once divided Levaal, has been brought down. Eric and his companions are forced to flee from the Tormentors, the dreadful creatures that poured through the breach, and there are rumours that one of the great dragons has escaped its sky prison. But there is even more to fear, for the transformation into a god of Vous, Friend and Lord of the world, is almost complete, and a being called Shadow, who looks remarkably like Eric, is wandering Levaal with great power but no purpose it yet understands. The end might be coming faster than anyone thinks.”

Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch: book review

Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch (Gollancz £12.99)

Reviewed by Jan Edwards

This is the third volume that follows the progress of Peter Grant, Metropolitan Police constable and trainee wizard. This time we are taken below ground into the dank and dangerous world of the London Underground and the sewers where mysterious sightings of ghosts and street people are being linked with organised crime. Goblin markets and underground raves are just two of the things that PCs Peter Grant and Lesley May come across as they investigate the disappearance of a son of a US Senator, aided and mislead by the beautiful and headstrong FBI agent Kimberley Reynolds.

As Whispers Under Ground concentrates very much on the trio of Grant, May and Reynolds, newcomers to Aaronovitch’s London may want to read the first two Peter Grant books Rivers of London and Moon Over Soho in order to fully understand the plotlines. For example: how and where Grant’s mentor Inspector Nightingale, Molly the maid and Ziggy the dog come into the equation. May’s facial destruction, for example is frequently referred to, but only in terms of her reticence to be seen and Grant’s need to see her – which occasionally veers into near obsession without resolution. But these are small points.  

Make no mistake, Whispers Under Ground is a compulsive read, utilising the folklore and urban myths of London and beyond to devastating effect. Aaronovitch ruthlessly plunders the legends of fae magic and river spirits and entwines them seamlessly with such modern myths as 24 Leinster Gardens. Dark humour and atmospheric explorations of the unknown corners beneath London’s streets ensures that Whispers Under Ground does not disappoint. The meticulous research that obviously went into this book makes for an informative read without descending into the lectures and info dumps that so often appear in the many fantasy books that take on unusual settings or events. The magic is ever present but never steps beyond the realms of ‘possibility’, with well-defined limits and ramifications placed on its use.

All in all Whispers Under Ground is another great urban crime fantasy in the ‘Peter Grant’ series, which sets us up nicely for volume four. Highly recommended.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce: book review

Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce. Gollancz £9.99

Reviewed by Peter Coleborn

There is a marvellous creative-writing-workshop in-joke in this book. Tara explains to her brother Peter where she’s been for these past six months/twenty years (depending on one’s perspective). She tells him a long story. A chapter or so later Peter paraphrases this tale to his wife: the fairies took her.

Tara turns up on Christmas Day, dishevelled, in need of a bath. She appears exactly the same as she did twenty years ago, when she vanished while walking in the local woods. Her family had thought she’d been kidnapped, murdered, her body lying in a grave somewhere. Her boyfriend had been blamed for her disappearance although hard evidence was never found. And in those two decades they all mourned Tara and eventually came to terms with their loss.

Twenty years on she’s back. But to her, she’s only been gone for six months, living in a commune, of sorts, in that other place, with the fairies (although they hate that moniker). She was trapped there for those months, unable to cross back until the stars were correctly aligned. Tara’s abductor fell in love with her but she didn’t reciprocate; all she wanted to do was return to her world.

Now she is back. Of course, almost no one believes her story. It is up to us, the reader, to decide if she is fabricating the events in order to hide a dark secret. And as Graham Joyce has done so well in previous novels, he drops in huge elements of ambiguity: is the story real or is it all in the mind? Did she run off to Scarborough or somewhere, or perhaps join a circus?

Some Kind of Fairy Tale is a well-crafted novel. Graham Joyce wonderfully weaves into it the people affected by Tara – those who knew her twenty years ago, and the new arrivals: Peter’s wife and their children. Tara’s boyfriend makes a couple of discoveries. Her parents do their best to cope. The children are bemused. The psychiatrist has his own agenda. Peter is infuriated. And Mrs Larwood … I’ll not say more for fear of leaking the plot’s subtleties. All of these folk are brilliantly portrayed – they leave the page as fully-formed adults and children. In the Author’s Notes, Joyce says his own children put him in his place – I bet they did.

You can probably deduce that I loved this novel. It flows with humanity, humour and pathos. I’d be amazed if it doesn’t move you. I rate Some Kind of Fairy Tale amongst the author’s best works, along with The Tooth Fairy, Smoking Poppy and The Facts of Life. Graham Joyce is one of our finest writers who sits happily in both the fantasy and non-fantasy arenas. One hundred percent recommended. (Incidentally, a tenner for a hardcover: a bargain.)

Lost Fleet: Invincible by Jack Campbell

“The war-weary Alliance First Fleet, commanded by Admiral John ‘Black Jack’ Geary, is scores of light-years from human-controlled space. After narrowly escaping the deadly enigma race they were sent to evaluate, the fleet is facing a second, even more hostile, alien species in an unknown star system. Geary is determined to make it home before danger can strike humanity again. To fight his way out of the alien trap, all he has to do is hold the fleet together, despite everything that threatens to break it apart.”

To discover more, read The Lost Fleet – Beyond the Frontier: Invincible  by Jack Campbell (Titan £7.99)

The Armageddon Rag by George R R Martin: book review

The Armageddon Rag by George R R Martin. Gollancz £18.99

Reviewed by Peter Coleborn

I first read this novel in the 1980s, soon after it was published. I remember enjoying it and writing a positive review (which I can’t locate right now). On re-reading the novel, I again found it enjoyable – almost equally but not quite – but for other reasons. Back then, this was a contemporary storyl. Now, thirty years on, it has a nostalgic feel to it.

The Nazgul were one of the biggest bands ever – as big as the Beatles or the Stones (according to the narrator). The band broke apart in the mid-70s after their singer was assassinated by a sniper’s bullet while playing at a huge outdoor arena. A few years later the band’s manager is found murdered with clues scattered around pointing to black magic and, perhaps, implicating the Nazgul.

The police investigation seems to go nowhere conclusive and Sandy, a reporter/writer for the underground press, is assigned to look into the events, to write an article on the band and the manager’s murder. Sandy embarks on a quest across America, seeking out the still-living band members and past-acquaintances and lovers. He uncovers more than he bargained for on this road trip...

I rather liked the way that Martin used his narrative to question the events of the 60s and 70s, the radicalism, the student politics. There are plenty of questions raised about that era; what was achieved, if anything; on how people were affected and adapted to the real world outside that radicalism.

My main criticism is that George Martin often goes into expository asides and remembrances, explaining what happened in the past, why people did the things they did. I found these a bit too intrusive and I think the book would’ve been much stronger without them, just using the bits really necessary to progress the story. Back in the 80s I didn’t mind so much but nowadays I feel that we don’t need these reminiscences. Don’t be put off by my comments. The Armageddon Rag is still a fine novel, written by Martin comparatively close to the start of his career, before mega-fame took off with the Game of Thrones series. Along with his short stories of that time (“Sandkings”, “Nightflyers”, “A Song for Lya”, etc), this reprint represents an important part in the author’s development.

The Silver Bough by Lisa Tuttle

Next month sees a new edition of Lisa Tuttle’s The Silver Bough (Jo Fletcher Books £14.99) – originally published in 2006 in the USA.

“Appleton is a small town nestled on the coast of Scotland. Though it was once famous for the apples it produced, these days it’s a shadow of its former self. But in a hidden orchard a golden apple dangles from a silver bough, an apple believed lost for ever. The apple is part of a legend, promising either eternal happiness to the young couple who eat from it secure in their love – or a curse, for those who take its gift for granted. Now, as the town teeters on the edge of decline, the old rituals have been forgotten and the mists are rolling in. And in the mist, something is stirring…”

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

New and forthcoming books

Here’s a round up of recent and forthcoming books. Further details of most of these titles are available on Piper – just use the search facility to the right of this post.

Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch (Gollancz £12.99)

The House of Rumour by Jake Arnott (Sceptre £17.99)

Juggernaut by Adam Baker (Hodder £6.99)

The Science of Avatar by Stephen Baxter (Gollancz £18.99)

Chime by Franny Billingsley (Bloomsbury £6.99)

Blackwood by Gwenda Bond (Strange Chemistry £7.99)

Existence by David Brin (Orbit £13.99)

Legacy of Blood by T S Church (Titan £7.99)

Doctor Who: Dark Horizons by J T Colgan (BBC Books £12.99)

Caliban’s War by James S A Corey (Orbit £13.99)

Shift by Kim Curran (Strange Chemistry £7.99)

Empire of the Saviours by A J Dalton (Gollancz £14.99)

Time’s Last Gift by Philip Jose Farmer (Titan £7.99)

The Other Log of Phileas Fogg by Philip Jose Farmer (Titan £7.99)

Fate by L R Fredericks (John Murray £18.99)

Blackout by Mira Grant June (Orbit £7.99)

Kiss the Dead by Laurell K Hamilton (Headline £16.99) 

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller (Headline £14.99)

Cursed by Benedict Jacka (Orbit £7.99).

The Shadowed Sun by N K Jemisin (Orbit £7.99)

Curious Warnings: The Great Ghost Stories of M R James edited by Stephen Jones (Jo Fletcher Books £30)

Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce (Gollancz £9.99)

Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey (Harper Voyager £9.99)

The Third Section by Jasper Kent (Bantam £8.99)

11.22.63 by Stephen King (Hodder £7.99)

Lord of Slaughter by M D Lachlan (Gollancz £14.99)

Nightmare by Stephen Leather (Hodder £6.99)

Killing Violets by Tanith Lee (Immanion £10.99)

The Last Man Standing by Davide Longo (MacLehose Press £12.99)

Dragon’s Time by Anne & Todd McCaffrey (Corgi)

Railsea by China Mieville (Macmillan £17.99)

The City’s Son by Tom Pollock (Jo Flecther Books £12.99)

Miss Felicity Beedle’s The World of Poo by Terry Pratchett (Corgi £7.99)

The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter (Doubleday £18.99)

Wings to the Kingdom by Cherie Priest (Titan £7.99)

The Maginot Line edited by Rob Redman (Fiction Desk £9.99)

Triggers by Robert J Sawyer (Gollancz £14.99)

Shadow’s Master by Jon Sprunk (Gollancz £12.99)

The Satyr’s Head: Tales of Terror edited by David A Sutton (Shadow Publishing £5.99)

The Legion of Shadow by Michael J Ward (Gollancz £16.99)

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Green Woman: graphic novel review

The Green Woman by Peter Straub, Michael Easton and John Bolton. Vertigo $17.99

Reviewed by Peter Coleborn

This graphic novel continues the tale of Straub’s serial killer Fielding “Fee” Bandolier from his Blue Rose trilogy. On Fee’s trail is the NY cop Bob Steele, desperate to get his man, and to make his mark as a policeman. I haven’t read the Blue Rose books so all the characters are new to me. But that isn’t a problem: they are well delineated and their motives clear. It seems that Fee is looking to hang up his knife, maybe retire somewhere nice, but something is stopping him. Besides, not only is Bob Steele on his heels, but other killers follow his lead. This all sounds grand but, sadly, I found the story slight. Not bad, but not especially riveting, and I think I’d rather read this as a novella.

What makes this book special, though, is John Bolton’s exquisite paintings. They are in a class of their own. Bolton is, quite simply, one of the best comic-book embellishers around. How does he find the time to paint 140 pages of art? By magic, I imagine. Some of the panels capture the story’s characters perfectly: the picture of the killer on page 25, for example.

In summary, The Green Woman is a good read but it’s a much better artbook.

Lord of Slaughter by M D Lachlan

M D Lachlan's century-spanning series of gods, wolves and humans reaches the 10th century with Lord of Slaughter (Gollancz £14.99), out this month.

“On a battlefield strewn with corpses, a ragged figure, dressed in wolfskin and intent on death, slips past the guards into the tent of the Emperor and draws his sword. The terrified citizens of Constantinople are plagued by mysterious sorcery. The wolves outside the city are howling. A young boy had traded the lives of his family for power. And a Christian scholar, fleeing with his pregnant wife from her enraged father, must track down the magic threatening his world.

All paths lead to the squalid and filthy prison deep below the city, where a man who believes he is a wolf lies chained. The Norsemen camped outside the city have their own legends, of the wolf who will kill the gods. It is clear to Loys that Ragnarok is coming. Will he be prepared to sacrifice his life, his position, his wife and his unborn child for a god he doesn't believe in?”

Legacy of Blood by T S Church

“The city of Varrock is at breaking point, people are fleeing from the country into the already-full city and riots are breaking out as the government struggles to keep order. Meanwhile Gar’rth struggles with his dark destiny, Theodore chases a holy relic, Kara prepares for war. As the friends continue to fight against evil, Zamorak’s power continues to rise, bringing with it the walking dead...”

Legacy of Blood by T S Church is the third RuneScape novel, out later this month from Titan (£7.99). The books are based on the on-line game.

Shadow's Master by Jon Sprunk

Shadow’s Master by Jon Sprunk is available as a trade paperback from Gollancz (£12.99) in a few days.

“A land of death and shadow where only the strongest survive. Yet that is where Caim must go to follow the mystery at the heart of his life. Armed only with his knives and his companions, he plunges into a world of eternal night where the sun is never seen and almost every hand is turned against him. Only Kit, spectral vision and often unreliable accomplice, will stand by Caim in his darkest hour. But how much can he rely on her, when he can't even fulfil her greatest wish? Caim has buried his father's sword and found some measure of peace, but deep in the north an unfathomable power lays waiting. To succeed on this mission, Caim will have to more than just survive. He must face the Shadow's Master.”

Blood and Feathers by Lou Morgan

Lou Morgan’s Blood and Feathers, her debut novel, sees publication this August (Solaris £7.99).

It’s been described as: “Alice in Wonderland goes to hell ... urban fantasy just got Biblical … The war between the angels and the Fallen is escalating, and innocent civilians are caught in the cross-fire. Hunted by the Fallen and guided by a disgraced angel with a drinking problem – our heroine will learn the truth about her own history and why the angels want to send her to hell.”

Edge-Lit: mini-convention

This July the QUAD in Derby sees a gathering of science-fiction, fantasy and horror writers for Edge-Lit, a one day event for fans, readers and aspiring writers of the genre. Over thirty authors, agents and speakers are scheduled for a day of workshops, panels, readings and more. The two Guests of Honour for the day are Christopher Fowler and Geoff Ryman. Details here.

The 2013 Gemmell Awards

The 2013 Gemmell Awards will be presented at the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton next year.

The Gemmells are intended to raise public awareness of fantasy fiction and to commemorate the legacy of British author David Gemmell and his contribution to the genre. First presented in 2009, the annual Gemmell Awards present the Legend Award for Best Fantasy Novel; the Morningstar Award for Best Fantasy Debut, and the Ravenheart Award for Best Fantasy Artwork. More details on the Gemmells can be found here.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Dragon's Time by Anne & Todd McCaffrey

The story of the Dragons of Pern has been going on for a long time. I recall reading the first volume way back in the 1970s. Now the story continues in Dragon’s Time by Anne & Todd McCaffrey, due next month. According to the press release, this is the final book in the Pern saga.

“Although Lorana cured the dragons' sickness so many died from the disease that there are no longer enough dragons to fight the deadly Thread, and more dragons and their riders die each Threadfall. With their numbers dwindling, Lorana made the decision to fly forward in time in a desperate bid to bring dragons from the future to fight Thread. She knew that jumping so far in time would result in her losing her baby, but without her jump all life on Pern is doomed.”

Three from Orbit

Cursed by Benedict Jacka is now available from Orbit (£7.99). Jim Butcher’s quote: “I just added Benedict Jacka to my must-read list” so I imagine that gives some indication of the book’s narrative.

“Things are going well for Alex Verus. He’s on moderately good terms with the Council, his apprentice is settling in and his shop in Camden is gaining quite a reputation. But when a mysterious woman bursts into the Arcana Emporium one night with an assassin on her tail, Alex is thrown into a plot to revive a long-forbidden ritual. His old enemies are after the secret, as well as a Council mage named Belthas and a mercenary named Garrick, and at least one of them is trying to get Alex killed – if he only knew which. He can see the future, but knowing who to trust is something else.”

Book two of The Dreamblood, The Shadowed Sun by N K Jemisin is published this month (Orbit £7.99):

“Gujaareh, the city of dreams, suffers under the imperial rule of the Kisuati Protectorate. A city where the only law was peace now knows violence and oppression. And nightmares: a mysterious and deadly plague haunts the citizens of Gujaareh, dooming the infected to die screaming in their sleep. Trapped between dark dreams and cruel overlords, the people yearn to rise up – but Gujaareh has known peace for too long. Someone must show them the way.”

Blackout by Mira Grant is out in June (Orbit £7.99). If you like zombies, this is probably dead right for you!

“The year is 2041, and Shaun Mason is having a bad day. Everyone he knows is dead or in hiding. The world is doing its best to end itself for the second time. The Centre for Disease Control is out to get him. With too much left to do and not much time left to do it in, he must face mad scientists, zombie bears and rogue government agencies before the conspiracy that killed Georgia manages to kill the only thing he has left of her – the truth. And if there’s one thing he knows is true in this post-zombie, post-resurrection America, it’s this: Things can always get worse.

Curious Warnings. The Great Ghost Stories of M R James

Commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the birth of M R James, the sumptuously-crafted Curious Warnings: The Great Ghost Stories of M R James, edited by Stephen Jones (Jo Fletcher Books £30), contains all the author’s classic supernatural stories collected in a single volume, including the children’s novel The Five Jars, along with uncompleted works, essays, and a 50 page historical Afterword by Stephen Jones, all copiously illustrated by award-winning artist Les Edwards. This is a must-have book for fans of the ghost story, and for those who want to learn a little of the history of the traditional ghost tale.

In his introduction, Jones tells us that he’s revisited the original text in order to improve the punctuation – after all, he says, the stories were originally meant to be read aloud, with punctuation designed for that purpose.

Jo Fletcher Books will launch this 650 page omnibus at tomorrow’s BFS Open Night, with editor Jones and artist Edwards on hand to personalise copies (venue: The Mug House, 1 Tooley Street, London E1 2PF, from 1.00 pm until late). The book is officially published on 5th July.

Kiss the Dead by Laurell K Hamilton

Kiss the Dead by Laurell K Hamilton (now available from Headline £16.99) is an Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter novel – which mixes mystery, fantasy, horror and erotica in tales about the ubiquitous vampire hunter, who is also a US Marshall:

“When a fifteen-year-old girl is abducted by vampires, it's up to me to find her. And when I do, I'm faced with something I've never seen before: a terrifyingly ordinary group of people - kids, grandparents, soccer moms - all recently turned and willing to die to avoid serving their vampire master. And where there's one martyr, I know there will be more... But even vampires have monsters that they're afraid of. And I'm one of them...”

Fate by L R Fredericks

Fate (John Murray £18.99) is the second book in L R Fredericks’ loosely linked Time and Light series. It’s due out next month. This is the story of Lord Francis Damory’s quest for the elixir of immortality.

“Set against the magnificent background of the eighteenth century where science and magic, death and beauty meet in the gilded salons of the decadent nobility and the brothels and debtors’ prisons of London, Francis tells of his many love affairs and his deadly duels, his encounters with courtesans and castrati, alchemists and anatomists, Rosicrucians, visionaries, monsters, charlatans, spies and assassins. His travels take him through France, across the Alpine passes to Venice and the pirate-infested Mediterranean Sea to Egypt, Cyprus and distant, exotic Constantinople on the trail of his mysterious ancestor Tobias – who might, just possibly, still be alive…”

The House of Rumour by Jake Arnott

Jake Arnott is probably best known for his crime novels, in particularly The Long Firm, his debut novel from 1999.  With The House of Rumour (Sceptre £17.99) he’s turned his hand to fantasy – alternate-history fiction; and it looks very intriguing:

“What connects Larry Zagorski – a young Californian writer of pulp fiction – with a British intelligence agent, the occultist Aleister Crowley, Hitler’s deputy Rudulf Hess, a transsexual prostitute and Ian Fleming? The answer lies in 1941, when Britain was fighting for survival … and in a private memoir that emerges decades later. But when Larry looks back at the pivotal year, he finds it hard to separate fact from disinformation…

Here is a tale of spies, SF writers, cult leaders, rocket scientists, astronauts, UFO spotters, magicians, film makers, rock stars, actors, adulterers and unrequited lovers…”

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Joyce & Aaronovitch: new books

Two of the highlights to look out for this month from Gollancz:

Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce (£9.99): “It is Christmas afternoon and Peter Martin gets an unexpected phone call from his parents … He arrives to discover that they have a visitor, his sister Tara. Not so unusual you might think, this is Christmas after all, a time when families get together. But twenty years ago Tara took a walk into the woods and never came back and as the years have gone by with no word from her the family had assumed that she was dead.”

Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch (£12.99): “Peter Grant is learning magic fast. And it’s just as well – he's already had run ins with the deadly supernatural children of the Thames and a terrifying killer in Soho. Progression in the Police Force is less easy. Especially when you work in a department of two. A department that doesn't even officially exist. A department that if you did describe it to most people would get you laughed at. Now something horrible is happening in the labyrinth of tunnels that make up the tube system that honeycombs the ancient foundations of London.”

New Doctor Who book by Stephen Baxter

BBC Books has announced the forthcoming publication of Doctor Who: The Wheel of Ice by Stephen Baxter, an all-new Doctor Who adventure starring The Second Doctor, as played by Patrick Troughton, with his companions Jamie and Zoe. The Wheel of Ice is due in August 2012 as a £16.99 hardback. 

“She had no name. She had only her mission - she would return Home. And bathe in the light of a long-dead sun... Even if it meant the sacrifice of this pointless little moon to do it.”

The Art of Luke Chueh

The Art of Luke Cheuh, is described as being “Like a cuddly Trojan horse, Cheuh’s work is pretty on the outside, but nice and macabre on the inside,” by Entertainment weekly.

The first book from acclaimed pop surrealist artist Luke Chueh, The Art of Luke Chueh (Titan Books, out this month) presents Chueh's bold and unusual art – employing minimal colour schemes, simple animal characters, and a seemingly endless list of ill-fated situations.

Chueh has enjoyed success in the Lowbrow and Pop Surrealist art movements, and has risen to the forefront of the art scene in LA. Some of Chueh's characters have been recreated as a line of toys, and he also designed the cover for Fall Out Boy’s album Folie a Deux.

Joyland by Stephen King

Hard Case Crime, the award-winning pulp-styled crime novel imprint published by Titan Books, will publish Joyland, a new novel by Stephen King, in June 2013. Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement, Joyland is set in the summer of 1973 when college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carnie and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever.

Joyland is a never-previously- published novel.

The Heaven's Gate Chronicles

The Heaven's Gate Chronicles is a new gun-slinging fantasy series mixing the Wild West, Steampunk, angels, and a town that exists for only a day is set to begin its epic story next year, courtesy of Solaris. The Good, the Bad and the Infernal by Guy Adams will be the first book in the series, which debuts in April 2013:

 “Roughly every one hundred years a town appears. From a small village in the peaks of Tibet to a gathering of mud huts in the jungles of South American, it can take many forms. It exists for twenty-four hours then vanishes, but for that single day it contains the greatest miracle a man could imagine: a doorway to Heaven. It is due to appear on the 21st September 1889 as a ghost town in the American Midwest. When it does there are many who hope to be there:

Travelling preacher Obeisance Hicks and his simple messiah, a brain-damaged Civil War veteran; Henry and Harmonium Jones and their freak show pack of outlaws; the Brothers of Ruth and their sponsor Lord Forset (inventor of the Forset Thunderpack and other incendiary modes of personal transport); finally, an aging gunslinger who lost his wings at the very beginning of creation and wants nothing more than to settle old scores.”

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Dark Horizons by J T Colgan

"You may or may not have noticed, but we appear to be on fire...

On a windswept Northern shore, at the very tip of what will one day become Scotland, the islanders believe the worst they have to fear is a Viking attack. Then the burning comes. They cannot run from it. Water will not stop it. It consumes everything in its path - yet the burned still speak.

The Doctor is just looking for a game on the famous Lewis chess set. Instead he encounters a people under attack from a power they cannot possibly understand. They have no weapons, no strategy and no protection against a fire sent to engulf them all.”

Dark Horizons by J T Colgan (aka Jenny Colgan) is the latest Doctor Who novel to be published next month by BBC Books (12.99). In this story, the doctor is “played” by Matt Smith. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

The City's Son by Tom Pollock

Tom Pollock’s new novel, The City’s Son, is published by Jo Flecther Books in August (£12.99). It is the first volume in The Skyscraper Throne Trilogy:

“Expelled from school, betrayed by her best friend and virtually ignored by her dad, who’s never recovered from the death of her mum, Beth Bradley retreats to the sanctuary of the streets, looking for a new home. What she finds is Filius Viae, the ragged and cocky crown prince of London, who opens her eyes to the place she’s never truly seen.

But the hidden London is on the brink of destruction. Reach, the King of the Cranes, is a malign god of demolition, and he wants Filius dead. In the absence of the Lady of the Streets, Filius’ goddess mother, Beth rouses Filius to raise an alleyway army, to reclaim London’s skyscraper throne for the mother he’s never known. Beth has almost forgotten her old life – until her best friend and her father come searching for her, and she must choose between the streets and the life she left behind.”

11.22.63 by Stephen King

“What if you could go back in time and change the course of history? What if the watershed moment you could change was the JFK assassination? 11.22.63, the date that Kennedy was shot – unless… 

Jake Epping, a high school English teacher from Lisbon Falls, Maine, 2011, journeys back to 1958 – to a world of Elvis and JFK and a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald…”

Stephen King’s time travel / alternate-history novel, 11.22.63, is published in a paperback edition next month, available from Hodder (£7.99).

Alchemy Press: new covers

The covers for The Alchemy Press Books Of Ancient Wonders and Pulp Heroes have been released.

The Gathering Dark

The Darkling: "a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfil her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him."  Watch the video here.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Caliban's War by James Corey

Caliban’s War by James S A Corey (Orbit £13.99) is book two of The Expanse, available later this month. Book one, Leviathan Wakes, was published in June 2011.

“While Earth and Mars have stopped shooting each other, the core alliance is shattered. The outer planets and the Belt are uncertain in their new – possibly temporary – autonomy.  Then, on one of Jupiter’s moons, a single super-soldier attacks, slaughtering soldiers of Earth and Mars indiscriminately and reigniting the war. The race is on to discover whether this is the vanguard of an alien army, or if the danger lies closer to home.”

Existence by David Brin

If you’re quick you’ll be able to pick up a copy of David Brin’s Existence (Orbit £13.99) with a rather impressive 3D cover. It’s a smart-looking book and is bound to be a collector’s item: best buy two copies.

“An alien artefact plucked from Earth’s orbit throws the world into chaos with both warning and a promise. For the prophet who dreams of new world order, survival means putting an end to democracy. For the movie mogul with a talent for spinning facts, the public doesn’t know what’s best for them. And for the reporter determined to discover the truth, the world needs to know what’s at stake. All are determined to hold off Armageddon.”

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Juggernaut by Adam Baker

The CIA has to locate and retrieve a Russian satellite that’s crashed to Earth in the Iraqi desert. A team of mercenaries are sent to find it on what should be a quick in and out mission. “But all doesn’t go to plan and they find themselves marooned in an ancient citadel in the middle of some of the world’s most inhospitable landscape. And they are not the only occupants in the valley – and the team are soon trapped in a deadly battle.”

Juggernaut by Adam Baker is published by Hodder later this month (£6.99).

The Legion of Shadow by Michael Ward

Fighting Fantasy meets World of Warcraft.The Legion of Shadow by Michael J Ward (Gollancz £16.99) is a DestinyQuest chose your own adventure storybook. This is the type of game-book that seems to offer countless permutations in which the reader can lose him or herself.

“With only a sword and a backpack to your name, you must discover your destiny in an unfamiliar world full of monsters and magic. As you guide your hero through this epic adventure, you will be choosing the danger that they face, the monsters that they fight and the treasures that they find. Every decision that you make will have an impact on the story - and, ultimately, the fate of your hero. Welcome to a new world. Welcome to Valeron. Welcome to DestinyQuest.”

Empire of the Saviours by A J Dalton

Empire of the Saviours by A J Dalton (Gollancz £14.99) is the first volume in the Chronicles of a Cosmic Warlord:

“The People are forced to live in fortified towns. Their walls are guarded by an army of Heroes, whose task is to keep marauding pagans out as much as it is to keep the People inside. Several times a year, living Saints visit the towns to exact the Saviours' tithe from all those coming of age – a tithe often paid in blood. 

When a young boy, Jillan, unleashes pagan magicks in an accident, his whole town turns against him. He goes on the run, but what hope can there be when the Saviours and the entire Empire decide he must be caught? There are very few Jillan can trust, except for a ragtag group of outcasts.”

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Third Section by Jasper Kent

The Third Section, the third novel in Jasper Kent’s historical vampire series, The Danilov Quintet, is now available from Bantam (£8.99):

“Russia 1855. After forty years of peace in Europe, war rages. In the Crimea, the city of Sevastopol is besieged. In the north, Saint Petersburg is blockaded. But in Moscow there is one who needs only to sit and wait – wait for the death of an aging tsar, and for the curse upon his blood to be passed to a new generation.

As their country grows weaker, a man and a woman must come to terms with their shared legacy. In Moscow, Tamara Valentinovna Komarova uncovers a brutal murder and discovers that it not the first in a sequence of similar crimes, merely the latest, carried out by a killer who has stalked the city since 1812.”

Strange Chemistry launches...

Angry Robot’s new YA imprint, Strange Chemistry (edited by Amanda Rutter) launches in September this year with two titles.

First off is Blackwood by Gwenda Bond (£7.99): “On Roanoke Island, the legend of the 114 people who mysteriously vanished from the Lost Colony hundreds of years ago is just an outdoor drama for the tourists, a story people tell. But when the island faces the sudden disappearance of 114 people now, an unlikely pair of 17-year-olds may be the only hope of bringing them back.”

The second is Shift by Kim Curran (£7.99): “When your average, 16-year old loser, Scott Tyler, meets the beautiful and mysterious Aubrey Jones, he learns he’s not so average after all. He’s a ‘Shifter’. And that means he has the power to undo any decision he’s ever made. At first, he thinks the power to shift is pretty cool. But as his world quickly starts to unravel around him he realises that each time he uses his power, it has consequences; terrible unforeseen consequences.”

Wings to the Kingdom by Cherie Priest

A new Eden Moore supernatural novel has been published by Titan (£7.99): Wings to the Kingdom by Cherie Priest.

“Eden Moore can see dead people, or rather, she can see ghosts. However, when reports emerge of silent spectres in ragged uniforms appearing on the fields at of Chickamauga, Georgia — America’s oldest military park — terrifying tourists and park rangers alike, Eden is not interested, preferring to let a team of celebrity ghost hunters answer the spirits’ plea. Why do the ghostly soldiers march again? The apparitions need an intermediary, someone who can speak to them, and for them. Eventually reluctant medium, Eden, is drawn to the heart of the unearthly mystery.”

Friday, June 1, 2012

Terry Pratchett news

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a policeman taking a holiday would barely have had time to open his suitcase before he finds his first corpse.” So it says on the back cover of Terry Pratchett’s Snuff, now out as a paperback from Corgi (£7.99). This is sure to appeal to Discworld fans, as will Miss Felicity Beedle’s The World of Poo by Terry Pratchett (out this month on Doubleday at £12.99):

“Vimes' prompt arrival got a nod of approval from Sybil, who gingerly handed him a new book to read to Young Sam. Vimes looked at the cover. The title was The World of Poo. When his wife was out of eyeshot he carefully leafed through it. Well, okay, you had to accept that the world had moved on and these days fairy stories were probably not going to be about twinkly little things with wings. As he turned page after page, it dawned on him that whoever had written this book, they certainly knew what would make kids like Young Sam laugh until they were nearly sick.”

The World of Poo is a beautifully designed slim hardcover. It has all the appearances of a classy children’s book, with colourful; endpapers and many line drawings, throughout.

Terry Pratchett has teamed up with Stephen Baxter to write The Long Earth (Doubleday £18.99):

“1916: the Western Front. Private Percy Blakeney wakes up. He is lying on fresh spring grass. He can hear birdsong, and the wind in the leaves in the trees. Where have the mud, blood and blasted landscape of No Man's Land gone? 

2015: Madison, Wisconsin. Cop Monica Jansson is exploring the burned-out home of a reclusive - some said mad, others dangerous - scientist when she finds a curious gadget - a box containing some wiring, a three-way switch and a...potato. It is the prototype of an invention that will change the way Mankind views his world for ever. 

And that's an understatement if ever there was one...”