Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Shape Stealer by Lee Carroll

The Shape Stealer by Lee Carroll (Bantam £8.99 – out this week) is the final volume in the urban fantasy trilogy that began with Black Swan Rising:
“Garet James is the watchtower – the last in a long line of powerful women sworn to protect our world from evil. She once defeated the malign sorcerer Dr Dee, but her pursuit of the man she loves – the centuries-old vampire Will Hughes – has unleashed another ages-old entity into our time – a being that threatens everything and everyone.
His name is Marduk and he is the descendant of a demonic Babylonian deity. Now abroad in Paris, he has sought out the villainous John Dee and they have hatched a plan together that will create chaos and ensure ruin. And it will fall to Garet to confront this new threat. Around her she gathers a band of modern-day knights – a brotherhood dedicated to preserving the sanctity of the time-line. But there are others out there who would see Garet fail and who will stop at nothing to bring an end to everything she – and we – hold dear...”

Winter by William Horwood

Winter, a Hyddenworld novel, by William Horwood is out now (Macmillan £18.99). This is the last instalment of Horwood’s fantasy quartet. 
"Storms rage as the worst winter in living memory ravages the human and Hydden worlds. The prophesied End of Days is here and the universe is dying, yet only a few are even aware of the forces at work.
Jack and Katherine must help their friend Bedwyn Stort halt this chaos by locating the last gem of Winter, something only he can do. Then it must be returned to the Earth’s unwilling guardian, their daughter Judith. She will need it to try and reignite the fires of the universe.
Yet Stort is riddled with uncertainty. He yearns for Judith, as she does for him, but a love between mortal and immortal cannot be. To find the gem, he must solve this conundrum and vanquish death itself. But can he really lead mortalkind to salvation?”

The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley

The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley is the first book in the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne sequence (Tor £16.99) – published on 2 January 2014.
“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?”

The Descent by Alma Katsu

Alma Katsu’s supernatural trilogy — that began with The Taker — comes to a conclusion with The Descent (Arrow £7.99). Out in a day or so:
“Lanore McIlvrae encounters Adair, her powerful nemesis. Dismayed by Adair’s otherworldly powers and afraid of his passionate temper, Lanore has run from him across time, even imprisoning him behind a wall for two centuries to save Jonathan, her eternal love. But instead of punishing her for her betrayal, Adair declared his love for Lanore once more and set her free.

Now, Lanore has tracked Adair to his mystical island home to ask for one last favour. The Queen of the Underworld is keeping Jonathan as her consort, and Lanore wants Adair to send her to the hereafter so that she may beg for his release. Will she honour her promise to return to Adair? Or is her true intention to be reunited with Jonathan at any cost?”

Monday, December 30, 2013

Veins and Skulls by Daniele Serra

Veins and Skulls by Daniele Serra. SST Publications. £16.95
Reviewed by Peter Coleborn
If you love the work of Daniele Serra – as I do – you should love this art book. Dani Serra has the ability to use a limited palette coupled with few bold brush strokes to generate paintings that are alive with motion and emotion. Based on the PDF I was sent for review, these examples represent some of Serra’s best work. But it’s not all pictures: the book starts off with a three-page introduction by Jeffrey J Mariotte.
The trouble with reviewing an art book in PDF format is that it’s difficult to get a feel for the book as a whole – the page size and format, the quality of the paper (sure, there are the facts [reproduced below] but I am an old-fashioned type of reader/reviewer and I like to touch the artefact). I am confident, though, that anything with Serra’s name attached to it will be of the highest standard. Currently only available via the SST website.
Their website states the following:
  • SST Art Book Series #1
  • Publisher: Short, Scary Tales Publications
  • Release Date: December 2013
  • ISBN: 978-1-909640-12-2
  • Dimensions: 8.5 x 8.5 inches, 64 pages
  • Unjacketed hardcover with four-colour matte laminated cover, full four-colour interior, printed on acid-free paper

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Fall of the Governor by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga

From the hit TV show comes The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor (part one) by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga (Tor £7.99; part two is due out in a few months):

“Über-villain Phillip Blake has come a long way. He journeyed from humble beginnings into the dark heart of the zombie apocalypse. And here, he has manoeuvred to become a small town’s self-proclaimed leader. But Woodbury’s residents (those who survive) will live to regret the day Blake, aka the Governor, darkened their doors. For the Governor runs a twisted, violent dictatorship within Woodbury’s ever-tightening barricades. Those that manage to breach those barricades find only misery within, and the terror of the zombie menace without.”

Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal

Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal is the third volume in The Glamourist Histories (Corsair £7.99) – out on 16 January 2014.
“Summer, 1816: Glamourists Jane and David Vincent return home to an unseasonably cold Long Parkmeade. Cooped up inside with Jane's fretful sister and father, they soon become restless, so when they receive a commission from a prominent family in London, they decide to go – taking Melody with them. Perhaps the change of scenery will brighten their moods (and Melody's marriage prospects).
The capital is fizzing with talk of crop failures and unemployment riots in the north. Finding it difficult to avoid getting embroiled in the intrigue, it's not long before Jane and David realise they must use their magic to solve a crisis of international proportions ... and get Melody to the church on time.”

Hunger by Melvin Burgess

Hunger by Melvin Burgess is out on 16 January 2014 as a Hammer paperback (£7.99):
“When Beth wakes up one morning covered in dirt, she puts it down to an extreme case of sleep-walking. But when reports of a desecrated grave start to circulate, her night-time wanderings take on a sinister air.
Soon the city is being plagued by strange sightings and sudden disappearances.

Beth knows that something is changing within her. Something that's filling her with an urgent, desperate hunger that demands to be satisfied – at any cost...”

The Arrows of Time by Greg Egan

Greg Egan’s The Arrows of Time is the third volume of the Orthogonal trilogy (Gollancz £16.99)
“After generations of travel, the spaceship Peerless may finally have achieved its goal – but the decision to return home may create more tensions than ever before.
In an alien universe where space and time play by different rules, interstellar voyages last longer for the travellers than for those they left behind. After six generations in flight, the inhabitants of the mountain-sized spacecraft the Peerless have used their borrowed time to develop advanced technology that could save their home world from annihilation.
But not every traveller feels allegiance to a world they have never seen, and as tensions mount over the risks of turning the ship around and starting the long voyage home, a new complication arises: the prospect of constructing a messaging system that will give the Peerless news of its own future.

While some of the crew welcome the opportunity to be warned of impending dangers - and perhaps even hear reports of the ship's triumphant return – others are convinced that knowing what lies ahead will be oppressive, and that the system will be abused. Agata longs for a chance to hear a message from the ancestors back on the home world, proving that the sacrifices of the travellers have not been in vain, but her most outspoken rival, Ramiro, fears that the system will undermine every decision the travellers make.”

The Suicide Exhibition by Justin Richards

The Suicide Exhibition by Justin Richards is book one of The Never War (Del Rey £16.99):
“Wewelsburg Castle, 1940: The German war machine has woken an ancient threat – the alien Vril and their Ubermensch have returned. Ultimate Victory in the war for Europe is now within the Nazis’ grasp.
England, 1941: Foreign Office trouble shooter Guy Pentecross has stumbled into a conspiracy beyond his imagining – a secret war being waged in the shadows against a terrible enemy.

The battle for Europe has just become the war for humanity.”

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Snowblind by Christopher Golden

Snowblind by Christopher Golden sees publication 16 January 2014 (Headline £13.99).
 “Twelve years ago the small town of Coventry, Massachusetts was in the grasp of a particularly brutal winter. And then came the Great Storm. It hit hard. Not everyone saw the spring. Today the families, friends and lovers of the victims are still haunted by the ghosts of those they lost so suddenly. If only they could see them one more time, hold them close, tell them they love them.
It was the deadliest winter in living memory. Until now. When a new storm strikes, it doesn't just bring snow and ice, it brings the people of Coventry exactly what they've been wishing for. And the realisation their nightmare is only beginning.”

“Snowblind is instantly involving and deeply scary. Throw away all those old ‘it was a dark and stormy night’ novels; this one is the real deal." — Stephen King.

The Wasteland Saga by Nick Cole

The Wasteland Saga by Nick Cole is an omnibus volume featuring The Old Man and the Wasteland, The Savage Boy and The Road is a River (Harper Voyager £9.99):

“Forty years after a devastating thermonuclear Armageddon, mankind has been reduced to salvaging the ruins of a broken world. In a style that’s part Hemingway and part Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, The Wasteland Saga chronicles the struggle of the Old Man, his granddaughter, and a mysterious boy as they try to survive the savage lands of this new American Dark Age.”

Blood and Bone by Ian C Esslemont

Blood and Bone by Ian C Esslemont is available from Bantam (£8.99):

“In the western sky the bright emerald banner of the Visitor descends like a portent of annihilation. On the continent of Jacuruku, the Thaumaturgs have mounted yet another expedition to tame the neighbouring wild jungle. Yet this is no normal wilderness. It is called Himatan, and it is said to be half of the spirit-realm and half of the earth. And it is said to be ruled by a powerful entity whom some name the Queen of Witches, and some a goddess: the ancient Ardata. Saeng grew up knowing only the rule of the magus Thaumaturgs — but it was the voices out of that land's forgotten past that she listened to. And when her rulers mount an invasion of the neighbouring jungle, those voices send her and her brother on a desperate mission.”

The Daylight War by Peter V Brett

Peter V Brett’s The Daylight War is out now from Harper Voyager (£8.99).
“Humanity has thirty days to prepare for the next demon attack, but one month is scarcely enough time to train a village to defend themselves, let alone an entire continent caught in the throes of civil war.
Arlen Bales understands the coreling threat better than anyone. Born ordinary, the demon plague has shaped him into a weapon so powerful he has been given the unwanted title of saviour, and attracted the attention of deadly enemies both above and below ground.
Unlike Arlen, Ahmann Jardir embraces the title of Deliverer. His strength resides not only in the legendary relics he carries, but also in the magic wielded by his first wife, Inevera, a cunning and powerful priestess whose allegiance even Jardir cannot be certain of.

Once Arlen and Jardir were like brothers. Now they are the bitterest of rivals. As humanity’s enemies prepare, the only two men capable of defeating them are divided against each other by the most deadly demons of all: those that lurk in the human heart.”

Sunday, December 1, 2013

End of the Road edited by Jonathan Oliver

An anthology of original short stories by the bestselling author Philip Reeve and the World Fantasy award-winning Lavie Tidhar among others: End of the Road edited by Jonathan Oliver (Solaris £7.99).

“Each step will lead you closer to your destination, but who, or what, can you expect to meet at journey’s end? Here are stories of misfits, spectral hitch-hikers, nightmare travel tales and the rogues, freaks and monsters to be found on the road.” Includes:

  • We Know Where We're Goin' - Philip Reeve
  • Fade to Gold - Benjanun Sriduangkaew
  • Without a Hitch - Ian Whates
  • Balik Kampung (Going Back) - Zen Cho
  • Driver Error - Paul Meloy
  • Locusts - Lavie Tidhar
  • The Track - Jay Caselberg
  • Dagiti Timayap Garda (of the Flying Guardians) - Rochita Loenen-Ruiz
  • I'm The Lady of Good Times, She Said - Helen Marshall
  • The Widow - Rio Youers
  • The Cure - Anil Menon
  • Through Wylmere Woods - Sophia McDougall
  • Bingo - S.L. Grey
  • Peripateia - Vandana Singh
  • Always in our Hearts - Adam Nevill

The Waking that Kills by Stephen Gregory

“When his elderly father suffers a stroke, Christopher Beale returns to England. He has no home, no other family. Adrift, he answers an advert for a live-in tutor for a teenage boy. The boy, Lawrence Lundy, possesses the spirit of his father, a military pilot – missing, presumed dead. Unable to accept that his father is gone, Lawrence keeps his presence alive, in the big old house, in the overgrown garden.

His mother, Juliet Lundy, a fey, scatty widow living on her nerves, keeps the boy at home, away from other children, away from the world. And in the suffocating heat of a long summer, she too is infected by the madness of her son. Christopher Beale becomes entangled in the strange household ... enmeshed in the oddness of the boy and his fragile mother. Only by forcing the boy to release the spirit of his father can there be any escape from the haunting.”

The Waking that Kills by Stephen Gregory, “a dark novel of possession”, is out from Solaris (£7.99).

The Copper Promise by Jen Williams

The Copper Promise by Jen Williams, her first novel, is due next February (Headline £13.99).

“There are some far-fetched rumours about the caverns beneath the Citadel: some say the mages left their most dangerous secrets hidden there; others, that great riches are hidden there; even that gods have been imprisoned in its darkest depths. For Lord Frith, the caverns hold the key to his vengeance. Against all the odds, he has survived torture and lived to see his home and his family taken from him ... and now someone is going to pay.

For Wydrin of Crosshaven and her companion, Sir Sebastian Carverson, a quest to the Citadel looks like just another job. There's the promise of gold and adventure. Who knows, they might even have a decent tale or two once they're done. But sometimes there is truth in rumour. Sometimes it pays to listen. Soon this reckless trio will become the last line of defence against a hungry, restless terror that wants to tear the world apart. And they're not even getting paid.”

The Glass Republic by Tom Pollock

The Glass Republic by Tom Pollock is now out from Jo Fletcher Books (£14.99). 

“Pen's life is all about secrets: the secret of the city's spirits, deities and monsters her best friend Beth discovered, living just beyond the notice of modern Londoners; the secret of how she got the intricate scars that disfigure her so cruelly – and the most closely guarded secret of all: Parva, her mirror-sister, forged from her reflections in a school bathroom mirror. Pen's reflected twin is the only girl who really understands her.

Then Parva is abducted and Pen makes a terrible bargain for the means to track her down. In London-Under-Glass, looks are currency, and Pen's scars make her a rare and valuable commodity. But some in the reflected city will do anything to keep Pen from the secret of what happened to the sister who shared her face.”

Moon's Artifice by Tom Lloyd

Moon’s Artifice by Tom Lloyd is the first in a new series (Gollancz £20.00).

“The series starts with a bang as Narin has the chance of promotion after an unremarkable career, to be a Lawbringer in the Imperial City. To be a guardian of the Emperor’s laws and a bastion for justice is his dream, but it’s come at a very bad time; a chance encounter drags him into a plot of gods and monsters, spies and assassins, accompanied by a grief-stricken young woman, an old man haunted by the ghosts of his past and an assassin with no past.

To save his own life and those of untold thousands, Narin must understand the key to it all – Moon’s Artifice, the poison that could destroy an empire.”

The Art of Hunting by Alan Campbell

The Art of Hunting by Alan Campbell is the second volume of the Gravedigger Chronicles (Tor £16.99).

“With the Haurstaf decimated, the palace at Awl has been seized by the Unmer. Prince Paulus Marquetta discovers an ally in the blind girl Ianthe – but it would be hard to form a more dangerous alliance. She has the power to destroy his mind with a single thought. But Ianthe’s friendship with Paulus, and his people, has given her powerful enemies. Argusto Conquillas is determined to challenge the prince and his followers. And he’s prepared to kill anyone who gets in his way.”

Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett

"Change is afoot in Ankh-Morpork. Discworld's first steam engine has arrived, and once again Moist von Lipwig finds himself with a new and challenging job." Read all about it in Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett (Doubleday £20.00).

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Crimewave 12: Hurts

Crimewave number 12, subtitled Hurts, is now available from TTA Press. This is one of the best crime magazines around, so recommended. This time we get:

  • ‘Singularity’ by Melanie Tem
  • ‘The Only Broken Blonde’ by Simon Avery
  • ‘Bless’ by Stephen Volk
  • ‘The Simpson Frames’ by Antony Mann
  • ‘Cheap Rent’ by Janice Law
  • ‘By Night He Could Not See’ by Joel Lane
  • ‘What Grief Can Do’ by Stephen Bacon
  • ‘Scenes From Country Life’ by Tim Lees
  • ‘Night Fishing’ by James Cooper
  • ‘Unfinished Business’ by Christopher Priest
  • ‘Dodge County’ by Danny Rhodes
  • ‘The Space That Runs Away With You’ by Steven J. Dines
  • ‘Gator Moon’ by Ray Cluley
  • ‘Trial’ by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Cover art by Ben Baldwin

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Broken Wheel by David Wingrove. Book review

The Broken Wheel (Chung Kuo Book 7) by David Wingrove. Corvus £14.99

Reviewed by John Howard

David Wingrove’s vast novel Chung Kuo originally appeared in eight volumes between 1989 and 1997. Now Wingrove has ‘recast’ the entire series, spreading out it across twenty volumes, with the addition of completely new material in two prequel volumes and two more planned at the end. The Broken Wheel was part of the original book three, The White Mountain.

In this instalment the action takes place over a short period of time: the summer and autumn of 2207. The continent-spanning multi-levelled world city-state of Chung Kuo is barely holding together. Discontent is still seething in the frequently violent lower levels, and in the higher levels divisions are widening within the ruling Seven. It seems likely that everything, after many close calls, is about to fall apart at last.

In The Broken Wheel – a powerful symbol and one several times referred to and made use of – the old order begins to give way to the new, with the younger members of the ruling establishment and their opponents having the opportunity to start to wield real power, whether behind the scenes or entirely overtly. The old T’ang (ruler) of City Europe dies, and his young son Li Yuan succeeds him, determined to restore stability once and for all, and at any cost. The untried ruler has achieved great – if not almost absolute – power, but will have to exercise it in the context of great responsibility.

One of Li’s first acts is to promote the ambitious Hans Ebert to the trusted position of General, but we know Ebert is playing more than one game. Terrorist attacks continue to plague and destabilise Chung Kuo as the Ping Tao (Levellers) are cleaned up, only to be replaced by another group, the Yu, whose manipulator dreams of nothing less than liberating humanity and restoring its stolen inheritance through the complete physical destruction of Chung Kuo and all it stands for.

Other wild (or perhaps not so wild) cards are played as the webs of intrigue and counter-intrigue are woven and rewoven. As in a dance, remembered names resurface, stay awhile, and fade away again, at least for now. Howard DeVore, arch-enemy of the Seven, remains as implacable as ever, as he survives a major setback. The secret research undertaken by Kim Ward, the boy genius from the Clay – the ruined former surface of the earth now hidden beneath the City in utter darkness – gains new impetus, and for the first time a shadowy organisation calling itself the Sons of Benjamin Franklin makes an appearance. The former New World and the legacy of the vanished American Empire of sixty-nine states seems about to call attention to itself.

With yet more hints of other, larger and potentially catastrophic (depending on the point of view) designs behind the scenes on the part of all sides, David Wingrove’s breathlessly heady mix of scheming and strategy, high politics and low life, beauty and brutality, trust and betrayal that is the world of Chung Kuo leaves the reader wanting more, and waiting with impatience to plunge in all over again the next time. 

Dodger's Guide to London by Terry Pratchett

  • Ladies and Gents, Sir Jack Dodger brings you a most excellent Guide to London!
  • Did you know . . . ?
  • If a Victorian couldn’t afford a sweep, they might drop a goose down their chimney to clean it!
  • A nobby lady’s unmentionables could weigh up to 40lbs!
  • Parliament had to be suspended during the Great Stink of 1858!

From the wretches of the rookeries to the fancy coves at Buckingham Palace, Dodger will show you every dirty inch of London.”

All this is in Terry Pratchett’s Dodger’s Guide to London, published on 21 November – just in time for Christmas – by Doubleday (£12.99).

The Alchemy Press: new website

The Alchemy Press has migrated from its blog page to a new website. 
For news of all Alchemy Press books visit:

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Pulp Heroes volume 2 edited by Mike Chinn

The Alchemy Press Book of Pulp Heroes 2 edited by Mike Chinn (The Alchemy Press £10.99) comes out at the end of the month with a launch at the World Fantasy Convention.

Following the success of The Alchemy Press Book of Pulp Heroes, here is another helping of stories to stir your adventurous heart: stories in the tradition of the pulp heroes, of Doc Savage and The Green Hornet, of The Shadow and The Bat. Heroes and heroines and villainous villains. 

Fourteen exciting stories by Mike Resnick, Adrian Cole, William Meikle, Anne Nicholls, Bryn Fortey, Chico Kidd, Pauline E Dungate, Marion Pitman, Robert William Iveniuk, Stuart Young, Ian Hunter, Andrew Coulthard, Martin Gately and Arch Whitehouse.

Urban Mythic edited by Jan Edwards and Jenny Barber

The Alchemy Press Book of Urban Mythic edited by Jan Edwards and Jenny Barber (The Alchemy Press £10.99) is launched at the World Fantasy Convention later this month.

There is magic out there on the street and the Mythic are alive and well and creating chaos in a city near you.

Fourteen authors bring you tales of wonder and horror, with ancient curses and modern charms, strange things in the Underground, murder and redemption, corporate cults and stalwart guardians, lost travellers and wandering gods, fortune tellers and urban wizards, dragons, fae and unspeakable beasts.

With stories from: James Brogden, Joyce Chng, Zen Cho, Graham Edwards, Jaine Fenn, Christopher Golden, Kate Griffin, Alison Littlewood, Anne Nicholls, Jonathan Oliver, Mike Resnick, Gaie Sebold, Adrian Tchaikovsky, and Ian Whates.

Astrologica edited by Allen Ashley

What's your star sign? Is our fate pre-determined by the constellations and the position of the planets? Can astrology really present an alternative vision to the apparent certainties of science, politics, religion and celebrity culture? Or should its claims of determinism, fate, fortune and personality profiling perhaps be taken with a large pinch of salt?

Here are fourteen brand new astrologically themed stories to delight and enthral, spanning the range of science fiction, fantasy and horror, with stories by Doug Blakeslee, Mark David Campbell, Storm Constantine, Adam Craig, Megan Kerr, Joel Lane, Bob Lock, Jet McDonald, David McGroarty, Ralph Robert Moore, Christine Morgan, David Turnbull, Neil Williamson and Stuart Young.

What is the secret of the white bull and his labyrinthine ranch? Why should you never trust gifts you win at a funfair? And why are twins always apparently at war with each other? Read on and find out...

Astrologica: Stories of the Zodiac edited by Allen Ashley is official launched at the World Fantasy Convention later this month (The Alchemy Press £10.99).

Rags & Bones edited by Melissa Marr and Tim Pratt

Rags & Bones, edited by Melissa Marr and Tim Pratt, is out in a week or so (Headline £12.99):

“There are some stories that will always be told, tales as timeless as they are gripping. There are some authors who can tell any story.

In Rags & Bones, award-winning and best-selling authors retell classic fairy tales and twisted tales in the way that only they can. With magic and love, they bring these stories - whether much loved or overlooked - back to life.

Read ‘Sleeping Beauty’ as only Neil Gaiman can tell it. See ‘Rumpelstiltskin’ through the eyes of Kami Garcia. And learn of Rudyard Kipling's ‘The Man Who Would Be King’ from the inimitable Garth Nix.”

This fine-looking anthology includes twelve stories in all. In addition to the afore mentioned writers, you get tales from Gene Wolfe, Kelley Armstrong and Holly Black amongst others. Add to this a number of beautiful drawings by Charles Vess, you have superb value for money for this hardcover book.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar

Coming out in a few weeks: The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar (Hodder & Stoughton £18.99). Thgis book has been eagerly anticipated, so not long to wait now.

“They’d never meant to be heroes. For seventy years they guarded the British Empire. Oblivion and Fogg, inseparable friends, bound together by a shared fate. Until one 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. Now, 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?"

The James Ellroy quote calls it a "phantasmagoric reconfiguring" of the 20th century.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Doctor Who: The Vault by Marcus Hearn

Doctor Who: The Vault by Marcus Hearn (BBC Books £30), with a foreword by Steven Moffat, is full of pages depicting the “treasures” from the first fifty years of the good Doctor.

“Drawing on unseen and iconic material from the BBC archive and private collectors, The Vault is an unforgettable journey through 50 years of Doctor Who, via carefully selected photographs, props, costumes designs, production memos, letters, scripts and more.

This is the full and official story of Doctor Who, from the first pre-production memos in 1963 to the most recent props created for the 2013 series, including interviews with key contributors and scores of prop photos, design sketches and behind the scenes stills from every decade of the show's production. Taking you year by year through the world's longest running science fiction series, Marcus Hearn explores the show's groundbreaking innovations as well as its impact on popular culture through books and comics, magazines and toys, merchandise and ephemera.”

Glancing through the book brought back many memories of me, as a child, watching the early episodes – indeed, I remember watching episode one’s first ever broadcast. I don’t profess to be a Doctor Who geek and so I found this book fascinating, with a lot of material I wasn’t aware of. However, for the serious Who fan I suspect that there is little new – but nevertheless, whatever your knowledge on the subject, this volume would make a smashing Christmas gift.

Prayer by Philip Kerr

Prayer is the latest from Philip Kerr, out on Quercus (£18.99).

“Special Agent Gil Martins investigates domestic terrorism for the Houston FBI. He is a religious man who is close to losing his faith; the very nature of his job has led him to question the existence of a God who could allow the things that Gil sees every day.

But Gil’s wife Ruth doesn’t see things the same way and his crisis of faith provokes a fracture in their marriage. Gil’s world is breaking apart.

At the same time, Gil starts to investigate a series of unexplained deaths that bring this crisis of faith into uncomfortable focus. When Esther, a disturbed woman, informs Gil that these men have been killed by prayer, Gil questions her sanity. But as the evidence mounts up that there might be something in what she says, his new-found atheism is severely challenged, more so as he finds his own life is next on the line.”

Thieves’ Quarry by D.B. Jackson

Thieves’ Quarry by D.B. Jackson, follow-up to Thieftaker, is available from Tor ($25.99).

“Ethan Kaille isn’t the likeliest hero. A former sailor with a troubled past, Ethan is a thieftaker, using conjuring skills to hunt down those who steal from the good citizens of Boston. And while chasing down miscreants in 1768 makes his life a perilous one, the simmering political tensions between loyalists like himself and rabble-rousing revolutionaries like Samuel Adams and others of his ilk are perhaps even more dangerous to his health.

When one hundred sailors of King George III's Royal Navy are mysteriously killed on a ship in Boston Harbor, Ethan is thrust into dire peril. For he — and not Boston’s premier thieftaker, Sephira Pryce — is asked to find the truth behind their deaths. City Sheriff Edmund Greenleaf suspects conjuring was used in the dastardly crime, and even Pryce knows that Ethan is better equipped to contend with matters of what most of Boston considers dark arts. But even Ethan is daunted by magic powerful enough to fell so many in a single stroke.

When he starts to investigate, he realizes that the mass murderer will stop at nothing to evade capture. And making his task more difficult is the British fleet's occupation of the city after the colonials' violent protests after the seizure of John Hancock's ship. Kaille will need all his own magic, street smarts, and a bit of luck to keep this Boston massacre from giving the hotheads of Colonial Boston an excuse for inciting a riot — or worse.”

Kinslayer by Jay Kristof

Kinslayer by Jay Kristoff is now available (Tor £18.99).

“A SHATTERED EMPIRE: Shōgun Yoritomo has been assassinated by the Stormdancer Yukiko, and the threat of civil war looms over the Shima Imperium. The Lotus Guild conspires to renew the nation’s broken dynasty and crush the growing rebellion by endorsing a new Shōgun who desires nothing more than to see Yukiko dead.

A DARK LEGACY: Yukiko and the mighty thunder tiger Buruu have been cast in the role of heroes by the Kagé rebellion. But Yukiko herself is blinded by rage over her father’s death, and her ability to hear the thoughts of beasts. Along with Buruu, Yukiko’s anchor is Kin, the rebel Guildsman who helped her escape from Yoritomo’s clutches.

A GATHERING STORM: Kagé assassins lurk within the Shōgun’s palace, plotting to end the new dynasty before it begins. A new enemy gathers its strength, readying to push the fracturing Shima imperium into a war it cannot hope to survive. And across raging oceans, Yukiko and Buruu will face foes no katana or talon can defeat. The ghosts of a blood-stained past.”

The Ace of Skulls by Chris Wooding

The Ace of Skulls by Chris Wooding, a Ketty Jay novel, is out this month (Gollancz £12.99).

“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?”

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Raven’s Shadow by Elspeth Cooper

The Raven’s Shadow by Elspeth Cooper is available from Gollancz (£14.99).

“Sometimes those with the greatest potential must withstand the hardest blows. Fate, it seems, has nothing kind in store for Gair. First his lover and now his mentor have been killed – the first by the dangerous, ambitious Savin, the second in a revolutionary uprising. Alone, and with even his magical abilities betraying him, he has only one goal left: revenge. 

Far to the north, if Teia has one goal it is survival. Attempting to cross a high mountain pass in the teeth of winter is an act of desperation, but the message she carries cannot wait for spring. An invasion force is gathering behind her, and only an ancient order of knights can hold them back. The danger is real, there are enemies in the shadows, and time is running out.”

Angel City by Jon Steele

Angel City by Jon Steele is out now from Bantam (£18.99).

“Jay Harper, one of the last 'angels' on Planet Earth, is hunting down the half-breeds and goons who infected Paradise with evil. Intercepting a plot to turn half of Paris into a dead zone, Harper ends up on the wrong side of the law and finds himself a wanted man. That doesn't stop his commander, Inspector Gobet of the Swiss Police, from sending him back to Paris on a recon mission ... a mission that uncovers a truth buried in the Book of Enoch. 

Katherine Taylor and her two year old son Max are living in a small town in the American Northwest. It's a quiet life. She runs a candle shop and spends her afternoons drinking herbal teas, imagining a crooked little man in the belfry of Lausanne Cathedral, a man who believed Lausanne was a hideout for lost angels. And there was someone else, someone she can't quite remember ... as if he was there, and not there at the same time.

A man with a disfigured face emerges from the shadows. His name is Astruc. He's obsessed with the immortal souls of men. Like a voice crying in the wilderness, he warns the time of The Prophecy is at hand ... a prophecy that calls for the sacrifice of the child born of light...”

Dragon Queen by Stephen Deas

Now available: Dragon Queen by Stephen Deas (Gollancz £16.99).

“In the years before the Dragons laid waste to man's empire, the fearsome monsters were used for war and as gifts of surpassing wealth to buy favour in the constant political battles that tore at the kingdoms. Notorious in these battles was the Dragon Queen. And now she is a prisoner. But no-one is more dangerous than when caged...”

Dragon Queen is a companion volume to the Memory of Flames trilogy.

Harvest by William Horwood

William Horwood’s Harvest, a Hyddenworld novel is published later this month (Pan £8.99).

“It is August, time of the first harvest, traditional time of plenty. But at the farthest reaches of the Hyddenworld, in sea-bound Englalond, disaster looms. A blight in the land is growing, marked by quakes and increasingly unnatural blizzards. Judith is tasked with healing the land, but this burden is almost unbearable. Lonely and lovelorn, she threatens to reap a terrible harvest of her own.

Yet a trio of hydden travellers hold out hope – for both the land and the war threatening the hydden people. For Jack and Katherine, Judith’s parents, the shadow of the hydden Empire’s army looms large. They must muster allies or it will mean disaster for the city of Brum. And only Bedwyn Stort, Brum’s famed scrivener, has the courage to unravel a secret that could heal their world. The lost gem of Autumn must be found and Stort must risk death to seek it. Only his love for Judith will give him the will to endure – and bring her the gem she needs to tame the wild earth.”

A Blink of the Screen by Terry Pratchett

Coming next week: A Blink of the Screen by Terry Pratchett (Corgi £7.99).

“In the four decades since his first book appeared in print, Terry Pratchett has become one of the world's best-selling and best-loved authors. Here for the first time are his short stories and other short form fiction collected into one volume. A Blink of the Screen charts the course of Pratchett's long writing career: from his schooldays through to his first writing job on the Bucks Free Press; to the origins of his debut novel, The Carpet People; and on again to the dizzy mastery of the phenomenally successful Discworld series.

Here are characters both familiar and yet to be discovered; abandoned worlds and others still expanding; adventure, chickens, death, disco and, actually, some quite disturbing ideas about Christmas, all of it shot through with his inimitable brand of humour. 

With an introduction by Booker Prize-winning author A.S. Byatt, colour illustrations by the late Josh Kirby and drawings by the author himself.”

Children of Fire by Drew Karpyshyn

Children of Fire by Drew Karpyshyn is out now (Del Rey £16.99).

“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 saviour 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.”

The Secrets of Life and Death by Rebecca Alexander

The Secrets of Life and Death by Rebecca Alexander (Ebury £12.99) hits the bookshops shortly.

Krakow, 1585: Summoned by the King of Poland to help save his dying niece, Edward Kelley and his master, alchemist and scholar Dr John Dee, discover a dark secret at the heart of The Countess Bathory’s malady. But perhaps the cure will prove more terrifying than the alternative...

England, 2013: Jackdaw Hammond lives in the shadows, a practitioner and purveyor of occult materials. But when she learns of a young woman found dead on a train, her body covered in arcane symbols, there’s no escaping the attention of police consultant Felix Guichard. Together they must solve a mystery centuries in the making, or die trying…”

Deeply Odd by Dean Koontz

Deeply Odd is the sixth Odd Thomas thriller from Dean Koontz (Harper £7.99).

“Our reluctant hero is drawn once more into a strange encounter with the lingering dead.

Later that morning, when I walked downtown to buy blue jeans and a few pairs of socks, I met a guy who offered to neuter me with a .45 pistol.

In a sinister encounter with a rogue truck driver, Odd – who has the gift of seeing the dead and the soon-to-be dead – has a disturbing vision of the slaughter of three innocent children.

Across California, into Nevada and back again, Odd embarks on a road chase to prevent the tragedy. But he is to discover that he is not up against a single twisted sociopath but a mysterious network of evil men and women whose resources appear supernatural.”

The Witch’s Daughter by Paula Brackston

Coming in December: The Witch’s Daughter by Paula Brackston (Corsair £7.99).

“In the spring of 1628, young Bess Hawksmith watches her mother's body swing limp from the Hanging Tree. She knows that only one man can save her from the same fate – Gideon Masters, the Warlock. She knows, too, that his help comes at a steep price.

In present-day England, Elizabeth has built a quiet life for herself. She has spent the centuries in solitude, moving from place to place, surviving plagues, wars and the heartbreak that comes with immortality. Her loneliness comes to an abrupt end when she is befriended by a teenage girl called Tegan. Against her better judgment, Elizabeth opens her heart to Tegan and begins teaching her the ways of the Hedge Witch. But Gideon is still hunting her. He will stop at nothing, determined even after centuries to claim her soul. And now, Bess is not fighting to save herself alone: now, she must protect the girl she has grown to love like a daughter.”

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson is now available from Gollancz (£12.99).

"Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills. 

Nobody fights the Epics ... nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them. And David wants in. He wants Steelheart – the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David's father. For years, like the Reckoners, David's been studying, and planning – and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience. He's seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.”

Knight of Shadows by Toby Venables

Hunter of Sherwood: Knight of Shadows by Toby Venables is published by Abaddon (£7.99)

“England, 1191. Richard Lionheart has left the realm bankrupt and leaderless in his quest for glory. Only Prince John seems willing to fight back the tide of chaos threatening England – embodied by the traitorous ‘Hood.’ But John has a secret weapon: Guy of Gisburne, outcast, mercenary, and now knight. His first mission: to intercept the jewel-encrusted skull of John the Baptist, sent by the Templars to Philip, King of France. Gisburne’s quest takes him, his world-weary squire Galfrid in tow, from the Tower of London to the hectic Crusader port of Marseilles – and into increasingly bloody encounters with the ‘White Devil’: the fanatical Templar de Mercheval.”

The Eidolon by Libby McGugan

The Eidolon by Libby McGugan is available early next month from Solaris (£7.99).

“When physicist Robert Strong loses his job at the Dark Matter research lab and his relationship falls apart, he returns home to Scotland. Then the dead start appearing to him, and Robert begins to question his own sanity.

Vincent Amos, an enigmatic businessman, arrives and recruits Robert to sabotage CERN’S Large Hadron Collider, convincing him the next step in the collider’s research will bring about disaster. Everything Robert once understood about reality, and the boundaries between life and death, is about to change forever. And the biggest change will be to Robert himself...”

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Christmas Ghost Stories of Lawrence Gordon Clark

Between 1971 and 1978, during the Christmas holiday period, the BBC broadcast a series of dramas under the umbrella title of A Ghost Story for Christmas, most based on stories by M. R. James and all directed by Lawrence Gordon Clark. This December, Spectral Press will be publishing its first hybrid/non-fiction book, The Christmas Ghost Stories of Lawrence Gordon Clark, in celebration of those classic short films.

Edited and introduced by Tony Earnshaw (Beating the Devil – The Making of Night of the Demon); Foreword by Mark Gatiss (The League of Gentlemen, Sherlock, First Men in the Moon, the forthcoming The Tractate Middoth); plus all the M. R. James tales from which the dramas were adapted, each prefaced by a new introduction by Clark.

Additionally, there will also be a reprint of an unfilmed “Count Magnus” script by Basil Copper, as well as other material including unpublished behind-the-scenes photographs.

Fire and Ash by Jonathan Maberry

Fire and Ash by Jonathan Maberry is available from Simon and Schuster (£7.99).

“Benny Imura and his friends have found the jet and Sanctuary — but neither is what they expected. Instead of a refuge, Sanctuary is a hospice, and the soldiers who flew the plane seem to be little more than bureaucrats who have given up hope for humanity’s future. With Chong hovering between life and death, clinging to his humanity by a thread, Benny makes a startling discovery: A scientist may have discovered a cure for the zombie plague. Desperate to save Chong, Benny and his friends mount a search and rescue mission. But they’re not the only ones on the hunt. The reapers are after the cure too, and they want to use it turn all the zombies into superfast shock troops — and wipe humanity off the face of the earth.”

This is the conclusion to the Rot & Ruin series.

The Devil Delivered by Steven Erikson

The Devil Delivered by Steven Erikson (Bantam £16.99) includes three novella-length stories:

The Devil Delivered: “In the breakaway Lakota Nation, in the heart of a land blistered beneath an ozone hole the size of the Great Plains of North America, a lone anthropologist wanders the deadlands, recording observations that threaten to bring the world's powers to their knees.”

Revolvo: “In the fictitious country of Canada, the arts scene is ruled by technocrats who thrive in a secret, nepotistic society of granting agencies, bursaries, and peer review boards, all designed to permit self-proclaimed artists to survive without an audience.”

Fishing with Grandma Matchie: “A children's story of a boy tasked with a writing assignment becomes a stunning fantastical journey with his tale-spinning grandmother.”

Happy Hour in Hell by Tad Williams

Out next week: Happy Hour in Hell by Tad Williams (Hodder & Stoughton £18.99):

“My name’s Bobby Dollar, sometimes known as Doloriel, and of course, Hell isn’t a great place for someone like me — I’m an angel. They don’t like my kind down there, not even the slightly fallen variety. But they have my girlfriend, who happens to be a beautiful demon named Casimira, Countess of Cold Hands. Why does an angel have a demon girlfriend? Well, certainly not because it helps my career.

She’s being held hostage by one of the nastiest, most powerful demons in all of the netherworld — Eligor, Grand Duke of Hell. He already hates me, and he’d like nothing better than to get his hands on me and rip my immortal soul right out of my borrowed but oh-so-mortal body.”