Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Adam Robots by Adam Roberts

Gathered together in this book are the short stories of Adam Roberts. Adam Robots is now available from Gollancz (12.99):

“Unique twisted visions from the edges and the centre of the SF genres. Stories that carry Adam Roberts' trademark elegance of style and restless enquiry of the genre he loves so much. Acclaimed stories that have appeared in magazines and anthologies, and some appearing for the first time.

Stories to make you think, to make you laugh, to make you wonder, to make you uneasy. Stories that ask questions, stories that sow mysteries. But always stories that entertain.”

The Iron King by Maurice Druon

Out this week: The Iron King by Maurice Druon (Harper Collins £14.99). Druon’s novel has been translated from the French into English by Humphrey Hare; and the book also includes a Foreword by George R R Martin.

“’Accursed! Accursed! You shall be accursed to the thirteenth generation!’

The Iron King – Philip the Fair – is as cold and silent, as handsome and unblinking as a statue. He governs his realm with an iron hand, but he cannot rule his own family: his sons are weak and their wives adulterous; while his red-blooded daughter Isabella is unhappily married to an English king who prefers the company of men.

A web of scandal, murder and intrigue is weaving itself around the Iron King; but his downfall will come from an unexpected quarter. Bent on the persecution of the rich and powerful Knights Templar, Philip sentences Grand Master Jacques Molay to be burned at the stake, thus drawing down upon himself a curse that will destroy his entire dynasty…”

In his Foreword, Martin says that fantasy and historic fiction often overlaps and that The Iron King was “…the original game of thrones.”

A Perfect Blood by Kim Harrison

A Perfect Blood by Kim Harrison is out this week from Harper Voyager (£7.99).

“Ritually murdered corpses are appearing across Cincinnati, terrifying amalgams of human and other.

Pulled in to help investigate by the I.S. and the FIB, former witch turned day-walking demon Rachel Morgan soon realises a horrifying truth: a human hate group is trying to create its own demons to destroy all Inderlanders, and to do so, it needs her blood.

She’s faced vampires, witches, werewolves, demons, and more, but humanity itself might be her toughest challenge yet.”

The Testimony by James Smythe

The Testimony by James Smythe is published by Blue Door (£7.99) next month. Blue Door is an imprint from Harper Collins.

“What would you do if the world was brought to a standstill? If you heard deafening static followed by the words, ‘My children. Do not be afraid’?

Would you turn to God? Subscribe to the conspiracy theories?

Or put your faith in science and a rational explanation?

The lives of all twenty-six people in this account are affected by the message. Most because they heard it. Some because they didn’t.”

Age of Voodoo by James Lovegrove

Age of Voodoo by James Lovegrove is published next month (Solaris £7.99):

“Lex Dove thought he was done with the killing game. A retired British wetwork specialist, he’s living the quiet life in the Caribbean, minding his own business. Then a call comes. One last mission: to lead an American black ops team into a disused Cold War bunker on a remote island. The money’s good, which means the risks are high.

How high, Dove doesn’t discover until he and his team are a hundred feet below ground, facing the fruits of an experiment in science and voodoo witchcraft gone wrong. As if barely human monsters weren’t bad enough, a clock is ticking. Deep in the bowels of the earth, a god is waiting. And his anger, if roused, will be fearsome indeed.”

Gideon's Angel by Clifford Beal

Clifford Beal’s Gideon’s Angel appears from Solaris next month (£7.99):

“1653: The long and bloody English Civil War is at an end. King Charles is dead and Oliver Cromwell rules the land as king in all but name. Richard Treadwell, an exiled royalist officer and soldier-for-hire to the King of France and his all-powerful advisor, the wily Cardinal Mazarin, burns with revenge for those who deprived him of his family and fortune.

He decides upon a self-appointed mission to return to England in secret and assassinate the new Lord Protector. Once back on English soil however, he learns that his is not the only plot in motion. A secret army run by a deluded Puritan is bent on the same quest, guided by the Devil’s hand. When demonic entities are summoned, Treadwell finds himself in a desperate turnaround: he must save Cromwell to save England from a literal descent into Hell.”

The Air War by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Book eight in Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Shadows of Apt series – The Air War – is due from Tor (£8.99):

“All is in turmoil as the world moves towards war. In Solarno, the spies watch each other and ready their knives, while Myna sees the troops muster at its border and emotions run high as it vows never to be enslaved again. In Collegium, the students argue politics, too late to turn the tide.

In the heart of the Empire, new pilots have completed their secretive training, generals are being recalled to service and armies are ready to march. Their Empress, the heir to two worlds, intends to claim her birthright. And nothing – either within the Empire or beyond it – will stand in her way.

A conflict is coming, the like of which the insect-kinden have never seen.”

One of Adrian’s kinden stories – the excellent “Bones” – appears in The Alchemy Press Book of Ancient Wonders.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Magic edited by Jonathan Oliver: reviewed

Magic edited by Jonathan Oliver. Solaris £7.99

Reviewed by Peter Coleborn

Magic is subtitled “an anthology of the esoteric and arcane” and that’s a pretty handy tag for this book. But first, I offer congratulations and thanks to Solaris for daring to publish original SF, fantasy and horror anthologies (House of Fear, Solaris Rising, etc) in the mainstream UK market. Publishers, with few exceptions, shy away from short stories to – in my view – the detriment of readers.

Magic includes fifteen short stories, all of them immensely enjoyable. Obviously there are some I prefer above the others – that’s the nature of the beast. One of my favourites is “Dumb Lucy” by Robert Shearman. This writer is a master of the off-the-wall fantasy and this is no exception. “Mailerdemon” by Sophie McDougall is another favourite. Here, a demon is exchanged via email, ostensibly to help the recipient deal with nightmares. “The Art of Escapology” by Alison Littlewood deals with more than a Houdini-like act. And so on. Other contributors include Audrey Niffenegger, Dan Abnett, Christopher Fowler, Storm Constantine, Gail Z Martin and Liz Williams…

I’m sure many of the book’s stories will be picked for the various “best of 2012” collections due this year, and that’s justly right. These fifteen stories are a treasure trove of magic. I’ll end on a simple question: why aren’t there more anthologies of this class?

The Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

The Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed is released later this week (Gollancz £12.99):

“The Crescent Moon Kingdoms, land of djenn and ghuls, holy warriors and heretics, Khalifs and killers, is at boiling point. A power struggle between the iron-fisted Khalif and the mysterious master thief known as the Falcon Prince is reaching its climax. In the midst of this brewing rebellion, a series of brutal supernatural murders strikes at the heart of the Kingdoms. Only a handful of reluctant heroes can learn the truth, and stop the killing.

Doctor Adoulla Makhslood just wants a quiet cup of tea. Three score and more years old, he has grown weary of hunting monsters and saving lives, and is more than ready to retire from his dangerous and demanding vocation. But when an old flame's family is murdered, Adoulla is drawn back to the hunter's path. Raseed bas Raseed, Adoulla's young assistant, a hidebound holy warrior whose prowess is matched only by his piety, is eager to deliver God's justice. Zamia Badawi has been gifted with the near-mythical power of the Lion-Shape, but shunned by her people for daring to take up a man's title. She lives only to avenge her father's death. Until she learns that Adoulla and his allies also hunt her father's killer. Until she meets Raseed.”

The City of Silk and Steel by Mike, Linda and Louise Carey

The City of Silk and Steel by Mike Carey, Linda Carey and Louise Carey is scheduled for publication in March by Gollancz (£14.99).

“Once, in a city known as Bessa, there was a sultan named Bokhari Al-Bokhari, who was thrown down by the zealots of the ascetic Hakkim Mehdad. The sultan, his wives and children were put to the sword, while his 365 concubines were sent to a neighbouring caliph as tribute, Hakkim having no use for the pleasures of the flesh.

But a day after the caravan had departed from Bessa, Hakkim discovered the terrible secret that the concubines had hidden from him. His reaction was swift and cruel. Kill the women of the harem forthwith, along with their children and maidservants. Let not one survive. Their bodies let the desert claim, and their names be fed to silence.

This, then, is the tale – or tales – of how a remarkable group of women fight together to survive both the fury of Hakkim and the rigours of the desert. It is the tale of Zuleika, whose hidden past holds the key to their future, and of Rem, the librarian whose tears are ink. Of the wise Gursoon, who defines the group's conscience, and of the silver-tongued thief, Anwar Das, who knows when to ignore that conscience.

This is the tale of the forging of a rabble of concubines, children, camel-herds and thieves into an army of silk and steel. It is the tale of the redemption and rise of Bessa, fabled City of Women. And it is the tale of an act of kindness that carries the seed of death, and will return to bring darkness and the end of a dream..."

The authors of this Arabian Nights fairy tale are Mike Carey and his wife and daughter.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Demi-Monde: Summer by Rod Rees

“The Demi-Monde is a computer-generated steampunk horror-pit of a virtual world, ruled by history’s choicest psychos.”

The latest volume in the series by Rod Rees, The Demi-Monde: Summer, is due out next week on Jo Fletcher Books (£20):

“Eight-thousand years ago the Deluge destroyed the empire of the Lilithi, setting the race of super-warriors known as the Grigori loose in the outside world. They have lain hidden until now when – thanks to the creation of the dystopian virtual reality that is the Demi-Monde – they at last stand ready to achieve mastery of the Real World – and to cull HumanKind in the Final Solution.

Three girls stand between them and victory: Norma Williams, trapped in the nightmare that is the Coven Sector of the Demi-Monde; Ella Thomas, enslaved by the spirit of Lilith-come-again; and Trixie Dashwood, consumed by her hatred for Heydrich and his evil ForthRight.”

Tales from Lovecraft Middle School

Quirk Books is releasing a series of YA books as part of the Tales from Lovecraft Middle School series. Volume one is Professor Gargoyle by Charles Gilman (due at the end of January at £9.99)

Each book in the series will be fully illustrated and feature an original lenticular portrait on the cover. 

“In Professor Gargoyle, we’re introduced to 11-year-old Robert Arthur and the strange world of Lovecraft Middle School. It’s a brand-new state-of-the-art facility — so why do so many creepy things keep happening? Why is the science teacher acting so strangely? And where are all the rats coming from? As Robert explores with his new friends Glenn and Carina, he discovers that the school may be a portal to another world.”

In volume two, The Slither Sisters also by Charles Gilman, “we follow Robert and his friends deeper into the world of Lovecraft Middle School — and its bizarre parallel dimension, the Tillinghast Mansion. Along the way they discover a pair of mysterious twin sisters who may not be exactly what they seem. Can they convince the principal that something is wrong before it’s too late?”

The Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams Chima

The Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams Chima is the third volume in The Seven Realms Series (Harper Voyager £8.99):

“Han Alister thought he had already lost everyone he loved. But when he finds his friend Rebecca Morley near death in the Spirit Mountains, Han knows that he must save her, no matter what the cost. Nothing can prepare him for what he discovers: the beautiful, mysterious girl he knew as Rebecca is none other than Raisa ana’ Marianna, heir to the Queendom of the Fells. Han feels betrayed, but if he is to fulfil his end of an old bargain, he must do everything in his power to see Raisa crowned queen.

Meanwhile, some people will stop at nothing to prevent Raisa from ascending. With each attempt on her life, she wonders how long it will be before her enemies succeed. Her heart tells her that the thief-turned-wizard Han Alister can be trusted. She wants to believe it — he’s saved her life more than once. But with danger coming at her from every direction, Raisa can only rely on her wits and her iron-hard will to survive — and even that might not be enough."

The Scrivener's Tale by Fiona McIntosh

Fiona McIntosh’s The Scrivener’s Tale is a standalone adventure moving from present-day Paris to medieval Morgravia (Harper Voyager £8.99):

“In the bookshops and cafes of present-day Paris, ex-psychologist Gabe Figaret is trying to put his shattered life back together. When another doctor, Reynard, asks him to help with a delusional female patient, Gabe is reluctant … until he meets her. At first Gabe thinks the woman, Angelina, is merely terrified of Reynard, but he quickly discovers she is not quite what she seems.

As his relationship with Angelina deepens, Gabe’s life in Paris becomes increasingly unstable. He senses a presence watching and following every move he makes, and yet he finds Angelina increasingly irresistible. When Angelina tells Gabe he must kill her and flee to a place she calls Morgravia, he is horrified. But then Angelina shows him that the cathedral he has dreamt about since childhood is real and exists in Morgravia.

Soon, Gabe’s world will be turned upside down, and he will learn shocking truths about who he is ... and who he can – or cannot – trust.”

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

New from the Arthur C Clarke Award-winning author Lauren Beukes: The Shining Girls is due from HarperCollins (£12.99) in May:

“The girl who wouldn’t die, hunting a killer who shouldn’t exist…

1930’s America: Lee Curtis Harper is a delusional, violent drifter who stumbles on a house that opens onto other times. Driven by visions, he begins a killing spree over the next 60 years, using an undetectable MO and leaving anachronistic clues on his victims’ bodies.

But when one of his intended ‘shining girls’, Kirby Mazrachi, survives a brutal stabbing, she becomes determined to unravel the mystery behind her would-be killer. While the authorities are trying to discredit her, Kirby is getting closer to the truth, as Harper returns again and again…”

The Daylight War by Peter V Brett

The Daylight War by Peter V Brett is book three in the Demon Cycle, due next month (Harper Voyager £18.99):

“Humanity is fighting back. Although the night still belongs to the demons that arise as the sun sets, new wards and weapons are giving those willing to fight in the darkness a chance to retaliate against their core-spawned enemies. But, as humanity is about to learn, not all monsters are confined to the dark.

Civil war ravages the north and south, battles fought between those who should be working together. It is up to Arlen – the Painted Man – and Jardir – the self-proclaimed Shar’Dama Ka, the Deliverer – to put aside their differences and bring their people to terms if they are to have any chance of saving their civilisation from demon-rule.”

The Many-Coloured Land by Julian May

Tor is reissuing the Julian May’s Saga of the Exiles series, starting with The Many-Coloured Land – out next week at £8.99:

“In the 22nd Century, a group of misfits and mavericks are preparing to leave behind everything they have known. Advanced technology has created a one-way time portal to Earth’s Pliocene Era – six million years ago. Those seeking a better life are drawn to the promise of a simple utopia, far from the civilised Galactic Mileu. But no one could have predicted the dangers on the other side.

For the group will enter the battleground of two warring alien races, exiled from a distant planet. And these races not only have potent mind powers, but seek to exploit and enslave humans for their own needs. The travellers are about to discover that their unspoilt paradise is far from Eden.”

Further titles include The Golden Torc, The Nonborn King and The Adversary, all with matching covers.

Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole

Myke Cole’s latest is Fortress Frontier (Headline £7.99), out later this month:

“The Great Reawakening did not come quietly. Suddenly people from all corners of the globe began to develop terrifying powers – summoning fire, manipulating earth, opening portals and decimating flesh. Overnight the rules had changed ... but not for everyone.

Alan Bookbinder might be a Colonel in the US Army, but in his heart he knows he's just a desk jockey, a clerk with a silver eagle on his jacket. But one morning he is woken by a terrible nightmare and overcome by an ominous drowning sensation. Something is very, very wrong.

Forced into working for the Supernatural Operations Corps in a new and dangerous world, Bookbinder's only hope of finding a way back to his family will mean teaming up with former SOC operator and public enemy number one: Oscar Britton. They will have to put everything on the line if they are to save thousands of soldiers trapped inside a frontier fortress on the brink of destruction, and show the people back home the stark realities of a war that threatens to wipe out everything they're trying to protect.”

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Dangerous Gifts by Gaie Sebold

Dangerous Gifts by Gaie Sebold, a Babylon Steel novel, is released later this month (Solaris £7.99).

“Babylon Steel, former avatar of the goddess of sex and war and owner of the Scarlet Lantern brothel, has been offered a job as bodyguard to Enthemmerlee, candidate for the Council of Incandress, and as spy for the barely acknowledged government of Scalentine. Incandress is on the verge of civil war; Enthemmerlee represents the hopes or fears of many of its people and is a prime target for assassination.

Babylon must somehow turn Enthemmerlee’s useless household guard into a disciplined fighting force, dodge the ‘Moral Statutes’ and soothe the very lovely, and annoyed, diplomat Darask Fain, who had no intention of joining her on Incandress. And all the while, those she most loves back home are facing a threat she’d never dreamed existed...”

The Woman Who Died a Lot by Jasper Fforde

The Woman Who Died a Lot is the seventh Thursday Next novel by the popular Jasper Fforde (Hodder £7.99), due later this month.

“The BookWorld's leading enforcement officer Thursday Next is four months into an enforced semi-retirement following an assassination attempt. She returns home to Swindon for what you'd expect to be a time of recuperation. If only life were that simple. Thursday is faced with an array of family problems - son Friday's lack of focus since his career in the Chronoguard was relegated to a might-have-been, daughter Tuesday's difficulty perfecting the Anti-Smote shield needed to thwart an angry Deity's promise to wipe Swindon off the face of the earth, and Jenny, who doesn't exist.

And that's not all. With Goliath attempting to replace Thursday at every opportunity with synthetic Thursdays, the prediction that Friday's Destiny-Aware colleagues will die in mysterious circumstances, and a looming meteorite that could destroy all human life on earth, Thursday's retirement is going to be anything but easy.”

Queen of Nowhere by Jaine Fenn

Jaine Fenn’s latest, Queen of Nowhere, is now available from Gollancz at £14.99.

“The Sidhe look like us. They live amongst us. What they lack in numbers they make up with their fearsome mental abilities and the considerable physical resources at their disposal. And their biggest advantage? No one believes they exist. Almost no one.

Bez, the best hacker in human-space, is fighting a secret war against them. Always one step ahead, never lingering in one place, she's determined to bring them down. But she can't expose the Hidden Empire alone and when the only ally she trusted fails her she must accept help from an unexpected quarter.

Just one misstep, one incorrect assumption, and her Sidhe trap – her life's work – could end in vicious disaster. Worse, if Bez fails then humanity may never have another chance to win free of the manipulative and deadly Sidhe..."

This River Awakens by Steven Erikson

This River Awakens is the first novel by Steven Erikson (author of the acclaimed Malazan books) and has been revised for this new edition, now available (Bantam £7.99)

“A time to escape: Twelve-year-old Owen Brand and his family move to Middlecross, a riverside town in rural Canada, hoping to leave poverty and unhappiness behind.

A time for innocence: Owen meets three local boys, and they soon form an inseparable band. Over the summer holidays they create their own world, a place apart from the adults who watch over them. Owen also grows close to Jennifer, a fascinating but deeply troubled girl.

And a time to grow up: Then the gang stumble across a body in the river – a discovery with unimaginable consequences for them and the town, from which there is no going back.”

Fuse by Julianna Baggott

Fuse is the second book in Julianna Baggott’s Pure trilogy (headline £12.99) – due next month.

“When the end came, the world was divided. Those considered perfect, the Pure, sheltered inside the controlled Dome. Outside, the Wretches struggled in a destroyed world, crippled by the fusings that branded them after the apocalypse that changed everything.

Partridge, a Pure, has left the safety of the Dome in search of the truth. Pressia, a Wretch, is desperate to decode the secret that will cure her people of their fusings forever. Together, they must seek out the answers that will save humankind, and prevent the world's annihilation. But the betrayal of Partridge's departure has not been forgotten. As the Dome unleashes horrifying vengeance upon the Wretches in an attempt to get Partridge back, Partridge has no choice but to return to face the darkness that lies there, even as Pressia travels to the very ends of the world to continue their search.

Theirs is a struggle against a formidable foe, and it is a fight that will push them over boundaries of land and of sea, of heart and of mind. They can only hope for success because failure is unimaginable...”

The Explorer by James Smythe

There is no turning back in James Smythe’s The Explorer (Harper Voyager hardcover £12.99):

“When journalist Cormac Easton is selected to document the first manned mission into deep space, he dreams of securing his place in history as one of humanity’s great explorers. But in space, nothing goes according to plan.

The crew wake from hypersleep to discover their captain dead in his allegedly fail-proof safety pod. They mourn, and Cormac sends a beautifully written eulogy back to Earth. The word from ground control is unequivocal: no matter what happens, the mission must continue. But as the body count begins to rise, Cormac finds himself alone and spiralling towards his own inevitable death … unless he can do something to stop it.”

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Sex, Lies and Family Ties by Sarah J Graham. Book review

Sex, Lies and Family Ties by Sarah J Graham. Alchemy Press, 2012, £10 paperback (also available in Kindle edition)

Reviewed by Allen Ashley

Set mostly during September 1970, this book will evoke bittersweet memories for anyone who remembers drinking halves of cider or bottles of Kia-ora; painting their bedroom wall orange or purple; listening to early T Rex and mourning the untimely death of Hendrix; describing unpleasant situations as a “bummer” or “heavy vibes”. At the core of the story are three friends – Carol, Syl, and Jac – all aged nineteen and on the cusp of womanhood. It is bookshop assistant and biker girl Carol whose narrative we mostly follow. The occasionally meandering plot reflects her damaged and uncertain psychological state as she inches towards taking control of her own destiny and throwing off the stifling shackles of “Family… something you got lumbered with.” She is a sympathetic though sometimes annoyingly self-centred heroine. The novel has some strongly written scenes, particularly the gripping final chapter as Carol floats adrift through her abusive brother’s funeral and wake before metaphorically swimming to safety. A thought-provoking coming of age story; as well as a snapshot of those difficult times.