Friday, July 27, 2012

The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha by Wagner & Ezquerra

Strontium Dog. The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha: The Project, written by John Wagner with art by Carlos Ezquerra, includes two main stories, The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha and The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha: The Project, and a short strip What If? Max Bubba Hadn’t Killed Wulf (2000AD/Rebellion £14.99).

“Johnny Alpha – the mutant bounty hunter with the X-ray eyes – has been given his toughest job to date. The mutant underground has kidnapped King Clarkie The Second, and the British government want Alpha to secure his release. Finding himself working for the norms, Johnny must venture deep into the mutant ghetto and deep into his own past. As Johnny unravels a plot to start a new war with the mutants he must ask himself the toughest question. In order to save his own kind can Johnny Alpha betray them?”

Savage: The Guv'nor by Mills & Goddard

“In 1999, Britain was successfully invaded by the Volgans. When London lorry driver Bill Savage learnt that his family had been killed during the initial invasion, he became a one-man war machine – a persistent thorn in the side of the occupying army.

Having adopted the identity of his dead brother, Savage now operates out of a bombed-out London, leading the resistance against his hated enemy. Meanwhile, business brain Howard Quartz – the CEO of Ro-Busters - has launched an attack on the Volgan forces with his Mark-One War Droids, but the Volgans have some technological tricks of their own, including a functional teleportation device and a powerful beast with a taste for human flesh!”

Savage: The Guv’nor, volume two in the series, written by 2000AD’s Pat Mills with art by Patrick Goddard, is published by 2000AD/Rebellion at £14.99.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

“There is something strange about Coraline's new home. It's not the mist, or the cat that always seems to be watching her, nor the signs of danger that Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, her new neighbours, read in the tea leaves. It's the other house - the one behind the old door in the drawing room. Another mother and father with black-button eyes and papery skin are waiting for Coraline to join them there. And they want her to stay with them. For ever. She knows that if she ventures through that door, she may never come back.”

It’s unlikely that you haven’t heard of Neil Gaiman’s fabulous children’s dark-fantasy novel, Coraline, or seen the film. It really is a creepy story – a modern day fairy tale. But did you know that it’s ten years old this year? In celebration, Bloomsbury is re-issuing Coraline, again with illustrations by Chris Riddell. There is the regular hardcover at £12.99 plus a signed limited edition (signed by both Gaiman and Riddell) at £25.00.  Due in the bookshops next month.

13 by Kelley Armstrong

13 by Kelley Armstrong is the finale to the Women of the Otherworld series, published by Orbit (£16.99)

“War is coming to the Otherworld. A sinister cult known as The Supernatural Liberation Movement is hell-bent on exposing the truth about supernaturals to the rest of the world. Their violent, ruthless plan has put everyone at risk: from werewolves to vampires, from witches to half-demons.

Savannah Levine – fiery and unpredictable – stands at the heart of the maelstrom. There is a new, dark magic inside her, granting her the power to summon spells of terrifying strength. But whether this magic is a gift or a curse, no one knows. On the eve of battle, all the major players must come together in a last, desperate fight for survival – Elena and Clay; Adam and Savannah; Paige and Lucas; Jeremy and Jaime; Hope, Eve and more… They are fighting for lives. They are fighting for their loved ones. They are fighting for the Otherworld.”

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Exile by Rowena Cory Daniells

Exile by Rowena Cory Daniells is the second book in The Outcast Chronicles, and is published in August by Solaris (£7.99).

“For over three hundred years the mystics have lived alongside the true-men, until King Charald lays siege to the mystic’s island city. Imoshen, most powerful of the female mystics, is elected to negotiate with the true-man king. The male mystics still resent her, but she has an ally in Sorne, the half-blood, who was raised by true-men. Even though he is vulnerable to her gifts, he gives Imoshen his loyalty. In return, she gives him the most dangerous of tasks, to spy for her.

She negotiates exile for her people. They must pack all their valuables, reach port and set sail by the first day of winter. But to do this, they have to cross a kingdom filled with true-men who are no longer bluffed by their gifts. Meanwhile, there are mystics living in the countryside, unaware that their people have been exiled. King Charald announces any mystics who remain behind after they are exiled will be hunted down and executed.”

Blood and Feathers by Lou Morgan

“‘What’s the first thing you think of when I say “angel”?’ asked Mallory.

Alice shrugged. ‘I don’t know... guns?’

Alice isn’t having the best of days: she got rained on, missed her bus, was late for work. When two angels arrive, claiming her life so far is a lie, it turns epic, grand-scale worse.

The war between the angels and the Fallen is escalating; an age-old balance is tipping, and innocent civilians are getting caught in the cross-fire. The angels must act to restore the balance – or risk the Fallen taking control. Forever. Hunted by the Fallen and guided by Mallory – a disgraced angel with a drinking problem – Alice will learn the truth about her own history ... and why the angels want to send her to hell. What do the Fallen want from her? How does Mallory know so much about her past? What is it the angels are hiding – and can she trust either side? Caught between the power plays of the angels and Lucifer himself, it isn’t just hell’s demons that Alice will have to defeat...”

This is the premise for Blood and Feathers, the debut novel from Lou Morgan (Solaris £7.99), out next month. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Ivoria by Tanith Lee: book review

Ivoria by Tanith Lee. Immanion Press £11.99

Reviewed by Peter Coleborn

Laurence (an archaeologist) covertly leaves a Roman pin (from his latest dig) at his brother Nick’s (a gigolo) flat before he (Laurence) leaves for a dalliance with Kitty before he (Laurence) goes home to his wife Angela. Laurence takes with him a small rectangle made of ivory; the Roman pin is also made of ivory; and the moon’s ivory light shines through the octagonal window…

But Laurence dies of an aneurysm – the same illness that killed their mother years before. A certain Mr Pond visits Nick, seeking information on Laurence and his many affairs. Nick then has his own dalliance, also with Kitty. Later, Nick is threatened by three thugs, and left dying from a knife wound. Are you with me so far?

Nick recovers, staying with his sister Serena – who also (yes!) had a dalliance with (you’ve guessed) Kitty. Meanwhile, Kitty (under one of her other names) is living on a Greek island with Ross – father of the aforementioned Laurence, Serena and Nick. Phew.

This convoluted, complex story takes place in the first 220 pages. In the final 20-30 pages Tanith Lee explains the background, the secret story behind the story, introducing fresh insights, taking the reader off on sudden oblique angles. This last part is mostly tell and not enough show for my preferences; a bit like Hercule Poirot explaining all But to be honest, I’m not sure how else Ms Lee could’ve worked in all the extra details without signposting the plot too much, to the detriment of the novel.

As I was explaining the plot to my partner this morning (including a lot more detail than I’ve provided in the above) we ended up giggling. Not because the story is plain daft (it isn’t), but because it is a farce in the genuine, dramatic sense of the word; a black comedy of errors. For sure, I gave a knowing smile here and there as I read the novel; it was only at the end that I fully appreciated the wit and wonder of Ivoria. This is not obvious fantasy or horror, although horror does occur; there are also elements of crime and thriller tales. A heady mix, a wacky story, in Tanith Lee’s inimitable style. Recommended.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Hide Me Among the Graves by Tim Powers

Excellent news for fans of Tim Powers. His new novel, Hide Me Among the Graves is published by Corvus in September (£14.99). And if you’ve not yet read Powers’ The Stress of Her Regard you are in for a double treat (also out in September from Corvus £8.99).

Hide Me Among the Graves: “London, winter of 1862, Adelaide McKee, a former prostitute, arrives on the doorstep of veterinarian John Crawford, a man she met once seven years earlier. Their brief meeting produced a child who, until now, had been presumed dead. McKee has learned that the girl lives – but that her life and soul are in mortal peril from a vampiric ghost. But this is no ordinary spirit; the bloodthirsty wraith is none other than John Polidori, the onetime physician to the mad, bad, and dangerous Romantic poet Lord Byron. Both McKee and Crawford have mysterious histories with creatures like Polidori, and their child is a prize the malevolent spirit covets dearly.

Polidori is also the late uncle and supernatural muse to the poet Christina Rossetti and her brother, the painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti. When she was just fourteen years old, Christina unwittingly brought Polidori's curse upon her family. But the curse bestowed unexpected blessings as well, inspiring Christina's poetry and Gabriel's paintings. But when Polidori resurrects Dante's dead wife – turning her into a horrifying vampire – and threatens other family members, Christina and Dante agree that they must destroy their monstrous uncle and break the spell, even if it means the end of their creative powers.

Sweeping from the mansions of London's high society to its grimy slums, the elegant salons of the West End to the pre-Roman catacombs beneath St. Paul's Cathedral, Hide Me Among the Graves blends the historical and the supernatural in a dazzling, edge-of-your-seat thrill ride – a modern horror story with a Victorian twist.”

The Stress of Her Regard: “The secret history of the Romantic poets – Lake Geneva, 1816: As Byron and Shelley row on the peaceful waters of Lake Geneva, a sudden squall threatens to capsize them. But this is no natural event - something has risen from the lake itself to attack them.

Kent, 1816: Michael Crawford's wife is brutally murdered on their wedding night as he sleeps peacefully beside her - and a vengeful ghost claims Crawford as her own husband. Crawford's quest to escape his supernatural wife will force him to travel the Continent in the company of the most creative, most doomed poets of his age. Byron, Keats and Shelley all have a part to play in his fate, and the fate of Europe.”

The Rise of Nine by Pittacus Lore

The third volume in the Lorien Legacies series, The Rise of Nine by Pittacus Lore (Michael Joseph £14.99) hits the stores next month:

“Until I met John Smith, Number Four, I'd been on the run alone, hiding and fighting to stay alive. Together we are much more powerful. But it could only last so long before we had to separate to find the others . . .

I went to Spain to find Seven, and I found even more, including a tenth member of the Garde who escaped from Lorien alive. Ella is younger than the rest of us, but just as brave. Now we're looking for the others - including John. But so are they. They caught Number One in Malaysia. Number Two in England. And Number Three in Kenya.

They caught me in New York - but I escaped. I am Number Six. They want to finish what they started. But they'll have to fight us first.”

Jack Glass by Adam Roberts

It says: “Golden Age SF meets Golden Age Crime from the author Kim Stanley Robinson thinks should have won the Booker.” Jack Glass by Adam Roberts is published by Gollancz this month (£14.99). It boasts a superb cover illustration, like a stained-glass window,

“Jack Glass is the murderer. We know this from the start. Yet as this extraordinary novel tells the story of three murders committed by Glass the reader will be surprised to find out that it was Glass who was the killer and how he did it. And by the end of the book our sympathies for the killer are fully engaged.

Riffing on the tropes of crime fiction (the country house murder, the locked room mystery) and imbued with the feel of golden age SF, Jack Glass is another bravura performance from Roberts.

Jack Glass has some wonderfully gruesome moments, is built around three gripping HowDunnits and comes with liberal doses of sly humour.”

Mazecheat by B R Collins

Coming next month from Bloomsbury, aimed at the younger reader: Mazecheat by B R Collins (£6.99):

“Ario is a Cheat; somebody who designs and sells Cheat Codes to Gamerunners. Rick and Pir are Gamerunners; people who try to win their fortune by playing The Maze, the interactive computer game that is so much more than an ordinary computer game. MazeCheat is set in a futuristic cityscape where acid rain permanently falls.

But despite the dreary surroundings there is a something that enables everybody to escape their everyday life. And that is The Maze, the interactive computer game where you don't just play the game onscreen, you physically enter the world. Once in, you play - run, fight, avoid traps, choose your weapons - as if you are actually there. The hold of the game on everybody's minds means that the company behind it, CRATER, is all-powerful. But CRATER has a game expansion that is sinister to the extreme. In their new game, if you finally manage to beat it, it takes your brain and in particular your memories, to use as material for new games, for new Gamerunners, leaving you an empty shell. Except no one knows that yet.

And when something terrible happens to Pir in The Maze, Ario and Rick need to try to destroy this terrible expansion of the game that kills. But the all-seeing CRATER is also onto them and time is running out…”

Ancient Wonders: ToC announced

We can now reveal the contents for TheAlchemy Press Book of Ancient Wonders, edited by Jan Edwards and Jenny Barber:

Kari Sperring – Introduction
Adrian Tchaikovsky – Bones 
James Brogden – If Street
Shannon Connor Winward - Passage  
Pauline E. Dungate – One Man’s Folly
Anne Nicholls - Dragonsbridge 
Peter Crowther – Gandalph Cohen and the Land at the End of the Working Day 
Misha Herwin – The Satan Stones 
Lynn M. Cochrane – Ringfenced
Bryn Fortey – Ithica or Bust 
Adrian Cole – The Sound of Distant Gunfire
William Meikle – The Cauldron of Camulos
John Howard – Time and the City
Selina Lock – The Great and Powerful 
Aliette de Bodard - Ys

Friday, July 20, 2012

Postscripts issue 26/27 edited by Crowther & Gevers

Already available: the bumper Postscripts anthology, issue 26/27, again edited by the winning team of Peter Crowther and Nick Gevers, contains 27 new stories from some of today's finest speculative fiction writers:

Michael Bishop, Darrell Schweitzer, Mike Chinn, Richard Calder, Quentin S Crisp, Matthew Hughes, Eric Brown, Thomas Olde Heuvelt, Christopher Harman, Robert Reed, Greg Ouiring, Amber D Sistla, Mike Resnick, Steven Utley, Simon Unsworth, Kit Reed, Michael Swanwick, Michael Kelly, Neal Barrett, Jr and many others.

The anthology comes in two editions, the regular at £29.99 and the signed edition at £59.99. However, if you are quick you can buy the standard edition for just £13.00 – until the end of the month. A bargain. Visit the PS Publishing website for details.

Wildcatter by Dave Duncan

Wildcatter, Dave Duncan’s short novel, is published by Edge ($9.95) next month.

“As long as there is money to be made, there will be Wildcatters. Throughout human history wildcatters, the first great explorers and prospectors to lay claim to newly discovered lands, have marched to the beat of a different drummer — motivated by a deep yearning to be the first to walk on uncharted land and benefit from treasures yet to be discovered.

In the future, wildcatters in space will travel to exoplanets, located in The Big Nothing, to search for new chemicals which, when transformed into pharmaceuticals, will bring untold wealth and fame to the individuals and corporations that stake their claim for exclusive exploitation rights. Such is the quest of the crew of the independent starship Golden Hind, whose mission is to travel a year and a half to ‘Cacafuego’, beat the larger corporations to the exoplanets’ resources, and strike it rich for themselves.

But will a yellow warning flag, planted above the planet, stop them? Or will the Golden Hind’s prospector foray to the planet’s surface, possibly to never return alive?”

Paradox Resolution by K A Bedford

Paradox Resolution by K A Bedford is published in August by Edge ($14.95)

“Aloysius ‘Spider’ Webb fixes time machines for a living. He hates his job; he hates his life, and hates time travel even more. He simply wants to get on with his life. He’s a hard working ­Australian bloke — a good man in a bad ­situation who is willing to do almost anything to regain his self-respect and the affection of his nearly ­ex-wife, Molly; a mad sculptress on her way to international fame and fortune.

Once, time machines were as big as cars; but now they’re smaller and compact, portable, and cost too much to get fixed so it’s easier for people to simply buy a new one. Times are tough and there is no end in sight. Meanwhile, Spider’s new boss at the Time ­Machines Repaired While-U-Wait franchise needs help: his ­secretly built, totally ­illegal, ­radically over-clocked, hotrod time ­machine has been stolen, and Spider is the right man to get it back before it falls into the wrong hands, or worse, inadvertently destroys the entire universe.”

Visit the Edge website for further details.

Forge of Darkness by Steven Erikson

The latest fantasy from Steven Erikson, Forge of Darkness, the first in The Kharkanas Trilogy, is published later this month by Bantam Press (£20.00).

“This is the story of the early years of Anomander Rake, and his brothers, Andarist and Silchas Ruin. It is a tale that begins within the Age of Darkness and the Birth of Light and involves the forging of a sword unlike any other, and tells of the tragedy that was the collapse of the realm of the Tiste Andii. It is the story of the devastating civil war that tore their world apart - a story of bitter family rivalries, of jealousies and betrayals, of wild magic and unfettered power, of death and terrifying destruction.

It is the story of a how the goddess of the Tiste, Mother Dark, abandoned her children and turned her back on her people...”

Insatiable by Meg Cabot

Insatiable by Meg Cabot is now available from Harper Voyager (£7.99).

“Sick of hearing about vampires? So is Meena Harper. She is familiar with the supernatural. After all, she knows how you're going to die. (Not that you're going to believe her. No one ever does.) But not even Meena's precognition can prepare her for Lucien Antonescu—who she meets and then makes the mistake of falling in love with – a modern-day prince with a bit of a dark side for which an ancient society of vampire hunters would prefer to see him dead.
The problem is Lucien's already dead. Maybe that's why he's the first guy Meena's ever met with whom she could imagine herself having a future. While Meena's always been able to see everyone else's destiny, she's never been able look into her own. So now would be a good time for Meena to start learning to predict her own future … if she has one.”

Kill the Dead by Richard Kadrey

“James Stark, a.k.a. Sandman Slim, crawled out of Hell, took bloody revenge for his girlfriend's murder, and saved the world along the way. After that, what do you do for an encore? You take a lousy job tracking down monsters for money. It's a depressing gig, but it pays for your beer and cigarettes. But in L.A., things can always get worse.

Like when Lucifer comes to town to supervise his movie biography and drafts Stark as his bodyguard. Sandman Slim has to swim with the human and inhuman sharks of L.A.'s underground power elite. That's before the murders start. And before he runs into the Czech porn star who isn't quite what she seems. Even before all those murdered people start coming back from the dead and join a zombie army that will change our world and Stark's forever.”

You can read the whole story in Kill the Dead by Richard Kadrey (Harper Voyager £9.99), the follow-up to Sandman Slim.

Messenger's Angels by Heather Killough-Walden

Messenger's Angel by Heather Killough-Walden (Headline £6.99) continues the Lost Angels series:

“Four archangels each with their own soulmate: As dangerous forces array against them, will they be able to find a love that was cast down from heaven? Sexy, dangerous, immortal - these archangels are definitely no angels...

In the second in Heather Killough-Walden's paranormal series, The Lost Angels, it is the turn of Gabriel, the Messenger Archangel, to seek his soul mate. Gabriel has always called Scotland his true home. Nevertheless, he is stunned when his archess suddenly appears in the land closest to his heart. Juliette Andersen's encounter with the gorgeous silver-eyed stranger changes their worlds for ever. But even as they find each other, enemies surround them. With danger closing in, they will have one chance to fulfil a destiny written for them in the stars...”

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Control Point by Myke Cole

Control Point is Myke Cole’s debut novel, out next month (Headline £7.99):

“All over the world people are 'coming up latent' - developing new and terrifying abilities. Untrained and pan­icked, they are summoning storms, raising the dead, and setting every­thing they touch ablaze.

US Army Lieutenant Oscar Britton has always done his duty, even when it means working alongside the feared Supernatural Operations Corps, hunting down and taking out those with newfound magical talents. But when he manifests a rare, startling power of his own and finds himself a marked man, all bets are off. On the run from his former colleagues, Britton is driven into an underground shadow world, where he is about to learn that magic has changed all the rules he's ever known ... and that his life isn't the only thing he's fighting for.”

The Magician King by Lev Grossman

Quentin Coldwater is “king of the bizarre and wonderful land of Fillory. But he is getting restless, even in heaven a man needs a little adventure. So when a steward is murdered on a morning's hunt Quentin gets exactly that. But this quest is like no other. What starts as a glorified cruise to faraway lands soon becomes the stuff of nightmares...”

The Magician King by Lev Grossman is out next month (Arrow £7.99).  The Guardian says that this is “Harry Potter for grown-ups who have learned to hate Harry Potter.”  Kirkus says this is a “fabulous fantasy spiked with bitter adult wisdom – not to be missed.” Sounds good.

Sleep Walkers by Tom Grieves

Tom Grieves’ Sleep Walkers has been described as a “high concept thriller for fans of Inception and The Adjustment Bureau”. Sleep Walkers is released in August from Quercus (£16.99):

“Ben is your average married man: wife, two kids, steady job. Toby is your average schoolboy: fifteen years old, sweet-natured and shy. Two people, two separate, unremarkable lives. Except for their dreams. Dreams of violence. Dreams of rage. Dreams of torture. Dreams that are always followed - the next morning - by scratches, scars, pain. When their dreams and doubts become too powerful to ignore, one fact will become clearer than any other: that the truth they are running towards is the very thing that they should be running away from.”

Empty Space by M John Harrison

Good news for fans of M John Harrison: the final book in the Kefahuchi Tract is published this month:

“An alien research tool the size of a brown dwarf star hangs in the middle of nowhere, as a result of an attempt to place it equidistant from everything else in every possible universe. Somewhere in the fractal labyrinth beneath its surface, a woman lies on an allotropic carbon deck, a white paste of nanomachines oozing from the corner of her mouth. She is neither conscious nor unconscious, dead nor alive. There is something wrong with her cheekbones. At first you think she is changing from one thing into another -- perhaps it's a cat, perhaps it's something that only looks like one -- then you see that she is actually trying to be both things at once. She is waiting for you, she has been waiting for you for perhaps 10,000 years. She comes from the past, she comes from the future. She is about to speak…”

Empty Space is a sequel to Light and Nova Swing (Gollancz £12.99 and £20.00)

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Forbidden by F R Tallis: book review

The Forbidden by F R Tallis. Macmillan £12.99

Reviewed by Peter Coleborn

F R Tallis is the cunning disguise of crime writer Frank Tallis – now branching into supernatural horror with this novel mostly set in late 19th century France. The first-person narrative is the story of Paul Clément. As a trainee doctor he takes a position in the Caribbean where he witnesses a voodoo murder. On his return to Paris he investigates the use of electricity to save lives (an antecedent of today’s defibrillator) … and marrying his experience on the tropical island he embarks on a quest to explore the moments after death to discover what, if anything, is out there. (I will try to avoid plot spoilers in the following but I fear some will leak through.)

To pursue this he “kills” himself, to be re-vitalised by a colleague using batteries. But Clément doesn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Instead, he encounters the depravities of hell, of demons and devils inflicting unending torture on the condemned souls. On his return to life Clément unwittingly brings with him a demon, infecting him, gradually altering his actions, his perceptions of right and wrong. And then there is the exorcism with its terrifying consequences.

Clément is a sceptic, doubting the existence of an omnipotent God. And yet he soon accepts demons and hell as real, not simply illusions or metaphors, even though the first exorcism required a priest and hallowed ground his scepticism persists. It is only when he finally believes that he finds the strength to face and possibly defeat the evil of the demon.

At times this novel felt too polemical. Also, I think the book would’ve worked better from the third person perspective. In horror fiction it’s not unusual for the narrative to come from beyond the grave. However, as the story progressed I knew that Clément would survive to recount his tale, would be redeemed, which takes away some of the uncertainty of the finale. Nevertheless, I enjoyed The Forbidden and I recommend it. The story is compelling, the characters engaging. But note: it’s not a pacy read; the story develops slowly, perhaps mirroring the speed of life of those times. Indeed, the style emulates that of a 19th century novel, a little wordy, where unfurling events are described deliberately – with, I suggest for a 21st century horror fan, a bit too much research slipping through.

Some of the set pieces seem destined to be scenes in a movie. The exorcism and trip to hell reminded me of The Exorcist and Constantine, for example. It’s not “Hell on Earth” – as the press release states – it is, most certainly, Clément’s personal hell.

New and forthcoming books

Here’s a roundup of recently published and forthcoming books. Use the Archive or the Search facility (right-hand column) to search this blog for further information.

Whispers Under Ground -- Ben Aaronovitch. Gollancz
Sherlock Holmes: The Army of Doctor Moreau -- Guy Adams. Titan
The Corpse-Rat King -- Lee Battersby. Angry Robot
The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier: Invincible -- Jack Campbell. Titan
The Alchemy Press Book of Pulp Heroes edited by Mike Chinn. Alchemy Press
The Curse of the Fleers -- Basil Copper. PS Publishing
Besieged -- Rowena Cory Daniells. Solaris
Shadow -- Will Elliott. Jo Fletcher Books
The Fate of the Dwarves -- Markus Heitz. Orbit
Some Kind of Fairy Tale -- Graham Joyce. Gollancz
Ivoria -- Tanith Lee. Immanion Press
The Games -- Ted Kosmatka. Titan
King of Thorns -- Mark Lawrence. Harper Voyager
God Save the Queen -- Kate Locke. Orbit
Sky Dragons --Anne & Todd McCaffrey. Bantam
The Armageddon Rag -- George R R Martin. Gollancz
Throne of Glass -- Sarah Maas. Bloomsbury
Hush -- James Maxey, Solaris
Sharps -- by K J Parker. Orbit
2312 -- Kim Stanley Robinson. Orbit
Tangle of Need -- Nalini Singh. Gollancz
The Apocalypse -- Charles Stoss. Orbit
The Forbidden -- F R Tallis. Macmillan
The Guard -- Peter Terrin.  Maclehose Press
Bitter Seeds -- by Ian Tregillis. Orbit
The Silver Bough -- Lisa Tuttle. Jo Fletcher Books

Besieged by Rowena Cory Daniells

Besieged by Rowena Cory Daniells, the first book in The Outcast Chronicles is available from Solaris (£7.99):

“For nearly 300 years the mystics have lived alongside the true-men, who barely tolerate them, until...

King Charald is cursed with a half-blood mystic son. Sorne is raised to be a weapon against the mystics. Desperate to win his father’s respect, Sorne steals power to trigger visions. Unaware King Charald plans their downfall, the mystics are consumed by rivalry. Although physically stronger, the males’ gifts are weaker than the females. Imoshen, the only female mystic to be raised by males, wants to end the feud. But the males resent her power and, even within her own sisterhood Imoshen’s enemies believe she is addicted to the male gifts.

Sorne tries, but cannot win the respect of true-men. When he has a vision of half-bloods in danger he has to ask himself where his loyalty lies. Convinced he can destroy the mystics, King Charald plans to lay siege to their island city. Will Imoshen win the trust of the mystic leaders and, if she does, will she believe the visions of a half-blood?”

Hush by James Maxey

Now available: Hush by James Maxey (Solaris £7.99), the second book of The Dragon Apocalypse

“The invulnerable, super-strong warrior Infidel has a secret: she’s lost her magical powers right at the moment when she needs them most. To keep a promise to a fallen friend, she must journey to the frozen wastelands of the north. Her quest leads her through the abstract realms of the Sea of Wine, where she uncovers a conspiracy that threatens all life. Hush, the primal dragon of cold, has formed an alliance with the ghost of a vengeful witch to murder Glorious, the dragon of the sun, plunging the world into an unending winter night. Without her magical strength, can Infidel possibly survive her battle with Hush? If she fails to save Glorious, will the world see another morning?”

Tangle of Need by Nalini Singh

Tangle of Need by Nalini Singh is a Psy-Changeling Novel from Gollancz (£12.99):

“Adria, wolf changeling and resilient soldier, has made a break with the past. Now comes a new territory, and a devastating new complication: Riaz, a SnowDancer lieutenant already sworn to someone else. For Riaz, the primal attraction he feels for Adria is a staggering betrayal. For Adria, his dangerous lone-wolf appeal is beyond sexual. It consumes her. It terrifies her. It threatens to undermine everything she has built of her new life. But fighting their wild compulsion toward one another proves a losing battle.

Their coming together is an inferno … and a melding of two wounded souls who promise each other no commitment, no ties, no bonds. Only pleasure. Too late, they realise that they have more to lose than they ever imagined. Drawn into a cataclysmic psy-war that may alter the fate of the world itself, they must make a decision that might just break them both.”

The Games by Ted Kosmatka

The Games by Ted Kosmatka is now available from Titan (£7.99):

“In a future where the most popular Olympic event is a bloody gladiator competition that pits genetically engineered life forms in a fight to the death, Dr. Silas Williams is the brilliant geneticist tasked with creating the US entrant. Desperate to win, his superiors engage an experimental supercomputer to design a highly specialized killing machine, its genome never before seen on earth. When the creature demonstrates inexplicable strength, speed, and — most disquietingly — intelligence, Silas calls in Dr. Vidonia João, an expert in extraterrestrial biology. As the contest approaches, the pair race to understand the horror wrought by the computer’s cold logic, and their scientific curiosity soon gives way to sheer terror.”

Friday, July 13, 2012

King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

The second volume in Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire trilogy, King of Thorns, is due from Harper Voyager (£14.99) in August:

“The land burns with the fires of a hundred battles as lords and petty kings fight for the Broken Empire. The long road to avenge the slaughter of his mother and brother has shown Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath the hidden hands behind this endless war. He saw the game and vowed to sweep the board. First though he must gather his own pieces, learn the rules of play, and discover how to break them.

A six nation army, twenty thousand strong, marches toward Jorg′s gates, led by a champion beloved of the people. Every decent man prays this shining hero will unite the empire and heal its wounds. Every omen says he will. Every good king knows to bend the knee in the face of overwhelming odds, if only to save their people and their lands. But King Jorg is not a good king.”

The Guard by Peter Terrin

Coming from Maclehose Press, an imprint of Quercus, in September: The Guard by Peter Terrin (£16.99):

“Harry and Michel live in the basement of a luxury apartment block, guarding the inhabitants. No-one goes outside. The world might be at war - it might even have been plunged into nuclear winter. No-one knows. All Harry and Michel know is that if they are vigilant, 'the Organization' will reward them: promotion to an elite cadre of security officers remains their shining goal. But what if there were no-one left to guard? And if the promised relief shift arrives, how will they fit in to Michel and Harry's studied routine of boredom and paranoia?”

The Corpse-Rat King by Lee Battersby

The Corpse-Rat King by Lee Battersby is published in September by Angry Robot (£7.99):

“Marius don Hellespont and his apprentice, Gerd, are professional looters of battlefields. When they stumble upon the corpse of the King of Scorby, and Gerd is killed, Marius is mistaken for the monarch by one of the dead soldiers and is transported down to the Kingdom of the Dead.
Just like the living citizens, the dead need a King — after all, the King is God’s representative, and someone needs to remind God where they are. And so it comes to pass that Marius is banished to the surface with one message: if he wants to recover his life he must find the dead a King. Which he fully intends to do. Just as soon as he stops running away.”

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Joe & Me by David Moody: chapbook review

Jo & Me by David Moody. This is Horror Chapbook £4.99

Reviewed by Peter Coleborn

In order to suspend disbelief – so that a story holds my attention – there must be an element of verisimilitude. Once I am engaged with a story, however, it can go just about anywhere; I am hooked for the ride. One of the biggest threat to that verisimilitude – and hence to that necessary suspension of disbelief – is found in the way science and scientists are handled. I blame 30 plus years in medical laboratories… 

Most of the fictional scientists I encounter are on TV, programmes such as CSI, NCIS, Bones, and Waking the Dead. I enjoy some of these shows – but I often shout at the screen, yelling, No! It takes longer than five minutes to get and match a DNA profile!

I admit that I have read relatively little fiction centred on science and scientists – a couple of Patricia Cornwell novels, perhaps a few others. And now Joe & Me. In this slim chapbook a scientist is working on a secret project for the military, a project involving GMO – bacteria in this case, bugs that are being developed as a bio-weapon. Gill, the lead scientist, is doing all this in a lab within high-containment rooms (and presumably there are other bio-defence mechanisms) with just one assistant. No one else: no cleaners, secretaries, other lab staff. The lab is located (I gather) in a converted factory (or similar) somewhere in the town – not on a university campus, not in a secure installation (such as Porton Down or a pharmaceutical research establishment), where one would expect such a facility. 

And at the same time she is secretly working on another GMO microorganism, one that will counter the bad bug and save the world. Sorry to say, I was yelling at the chapbook at this stage. 

Then the military pulls the plug because they are unhappy about the progress of her research. They want results not tomorrow, not today, but yesterday. I can buy that – people in authority are often unreasonable in their expectations. So all funding disappears – along with her assistant. Yet the military leaves her alone in the lab, with all the equipment they used in the earlier work. The lab isn’t re-tasked; it isn’t decommissioned. Gill is becomes a maverick scientist, working on her own project. 

In order to make ends meet she, her husband and son (that’s the me and Joe of the title) sell their house and live in the lab – that self same lab that’s been used to bio-engineer some nasty organisms. They sleep there. They cook and eat there. It’s as if this were a science fiction story written and set in the 1940s or 50s. 

I am sorry to say, that all this made it difficult for me to really engage with Joe & Me. This is a shame because, otherwise, the story moves along at pace. The writing is crisp. The protagonists – mum, dad and Joe – come across sympathetically enough. It’s just that the science behind the story hindered my full enjoyment. If David Moody had got that bit right it would have been a vastly better read, even with the signposted finale.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Sherlock Holmes and the Army of Dr Moreau

Since Titan is about to publish a new Sherlock Holmes adventure, Sherlock Holmes: The Army of Doctor Moreau by Guy Adams, I thought I’d reprint a review of an earlier volume in the new series (originally posted on the BFS website in October 2011).

The Army of Doctor Moreau: “Following the trail of several corpses seemingly killed by wild animals, Holmes and Watson stumble upon the experiments of Doctor Moreau.  Moreau, through vivisection and crude genetic engineering is creating animal hybrids, determined to prove the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin. In his laboratory, hidden among the opium dens of Rotherhithe, Moreau is building an army of 'beast men'.”

Sherlock Holmes: The Breath of God by Guy Adams. Titan £7.99

Reviewed by Peter Coleborn

Titan Books is publishing new titles featuring the famous and infamous creations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, including Kim Newman’s Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the D’Urbervilles and this novel by Guy Adams. Beginning The Breath of God, I was struck by how many memories it brought back, of a time long ago when I devoured the stories of Sherlock Holmes. That was an auspicious start.

Dr Silence seeks the expertise of London’s greatest detective, telling Holmes a tall tale. Holmes at the time seems to be suffering from ennui, with no case able to stretch his logical mind. Silence’s story does. And pretty soon Holmes and Watson are off on an adventure that involves murder, mayhem and the supernatural (or is it?).

With characters named Carnacki, Karswell, Crowley, Silence … it’s rather obvious in which direction the author takes this novel. And maybe certain readers of the Conan Doyle stories will be taken aback by the inexplicable, preferring the more rational explanations, not the supernatural. Nevertheless, readers steeped in the tales of Hope Hodgson and James et al, as well as Conan Doyle, will find themselves fully engaged in this book.

I won’t call this a pastiche since that has negative overtones. This is a homage that treats with respect the characters Adams has borrowed. Personally, I prefer Holmes in the short story format but other than that nitpick, this is well written, engrossing and effective.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Pulp Heroes: ToC announced

Editor Mike Chinn has now announced the ToC for The Alchemy Press Book of Pulp Heroes:

Mike Resnick -- Origins
Robert William Iveniuk -- House Name
Anne Nicholls -- Eyes of Day, Eyes of Night
William Meikle -- Ripples in the Ether
Chris Iovenko -- The Perfect Murder
Bracken N MacLeod -- Ivy's Secret Origin
Joshua Wolf -- Crossing the Line
James Hartley -- Jean Marie
Ian Gregory -- Currier Dread and the Hair of Destruction
Amber L Husbands -- The Going Rate
Michael Haynes -- No Way but the Hard Way
Adrian Cole -- The Vogue Prince
Joel Lane -- Upon a Granite Wind
Milo James Fowler -- The Last Laugh
Allen Ashley -- In the Margins
Peter Crowther -- Heroes and Villains
Peter Atkins -- The Return of Boy Justice

Sky Dragons by Anne & Todd McCaffrey

“After a vicious plague swept through the world of Pern, there are no longer enough dragons to fight off the current onslaught of Thread, the deadly spore that falls like rain from the skies and devours everything organic in its path.

Pern's last best chance to rebuild the decimated dragon population lies with a group of young dragonriders and their dragons left stranded on an unexplored island. Leadership of these dragons and riders falls to Xhinna, female rider of a blue dragon, who, as the most experienced dragonrider in the new Weyr, must earn the respect of all… She must solve the problem of how to get sufficient numbers of dragon eggs, although her newfangled ideas, like letting green dragons mate and lay eggs to hatch new dragons, cause uproar. All the while she must protect her people and baby dragons from the predators and, worse, traitors – or all hope for Pern will be lost.”

The Pern saga continues with Sky Dragons by Anne & Todd McCaffrey (Bantam £18.99)

Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas

I gather that Sarah Maas developed the world of Throne of Glass online. Bloomsbury is now publishing the novel – out in August (£6.99).

“In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake. She got caught.

Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament – fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny.”

Ivoria by Tanith Lee

“Nick Lewis certainly has no liking for his TV historian brother, Laurence. Aside from anything else Nick blames him for the death of their mother, the beautiful actress Claudia Martin. And so, is it possible the off-handedly childish trick played by Nick on Laurence really does cast some kind of curse?

Bizarre and unpleasant things begin to happen, without a doubt. And Nick himself is hardly immune. As the pattern of his secure yet eccentric life starts to come undone, he finds himself without remedies. Where has Laurence vanished to? What is the creepy Mr Pond’s part in it all? And who is the apparently sinister Kitty Price? Can repressed hatred cause such disruption, danger, even death? Or has he object caused it, as Nick pretended it could: that little ivory counter from a stolen drawer...”

To find out, read Ivoria by Tanith Lee, now available from Immanion Press (£11.99).

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Forbidden by F R Tallis

The Forbidden by F R Tallis (aka Frank Tallis) is published by Macmillan (£12.99):

“Superstition. Possession. Hell on Earth… When ambitious Doctor Paul Clément takes a job on Saint Sébastien, he has dreams of discovering cures for tropical diseases. What he finds is a place where the black arts are just a way of life. On returning to Paris, Clément studies the nervous system and resuscitation. He hears of patients who have apparently died, been brought back to life, and whilst suspended between life and death, experience what they believe to be heaven. Clément attempts a daring experiment in order to confirm these extraordinary reports, but the outcome is wholly unexpected … [does] he bring something back with him – an ancient evil, so powerful that it can never be destroyed?”

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Curse of the Fleers by Basil Copper

“When Captain Guy Hammond, on convalescent leave from his regiment, is contacted by his old friend Cedric Fleer, he finds himself plunged into a treacherous web of deadly intrigue and unimaginable horror surrounding a noble Dorset family. Cedric’s father, Sir John Fleer, is being driven to the brink of madness by the ghoulish apparition of the ‘Creeping Man of Fleers’ which haunts the battlements of Fleer Manor. Is the bloodied and dying figure the fulfilment of the gruesome ancestral curse laid on the family, or is there a yet more sinister explanation for the horrifying deaths that follow Hammond’s arrival at the ancient mansion?

As the mysterious deaths mount up, Hammond must unravel the family feud that has raged down the centuries between the Fleers and the Darnleys, born of appalling crimes in the bloody past. Is Sir Jeffrey Darnley, the Fleers’ hated neighbour, responsible for theses terrible events? Or could The Great Waldo, a celebrated actor who is also a master of disguise, also be implicated? Then there is the grotesque menagerie at Fleer Manor containing Konga, a huge ape that is capable of tearing a human being apart, and the sinister catacombs beneath the house which hide an ancient and deadly secret. But with time fast running out, can Captain Hammond brave death and danger long enough to discover what that terrifying secret is?”

The Curse of the Fleers by Basil Copper is a "lost" Victorian Gothic novel, now in the author’s preferred version, is due from PS Publishing in September 2012 in two editions at £19.99 and £39.99 (signed by Copper and editor Stephen Jones). The cover art is by Stephen Fabian.

New books from KJ Parker and Ian Tregillis

Two new books due from Orbit this month:

Sharps by K J Parker (£8.99)

“For the first time in nearly forty years, an uneasy truce has been called between two neighbouring kingdoms. The war has been long and brutal, fought over the usual things: resources, land, money… Now, there is a chance for peace. Diplomatic talks have begun and with them, the games of skill and chance. Two teams of fencers represent their nations at this pivotal moment. When the future of the world lies balanced on the point of a rapier, one misstep could mean ruin for all.”

Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis (£7.99)

“The year is 1939. Raybould Marsh and other members of British Intelligence have gathered to watch a damaged reel of film in a darkened room. It appears to show German troops walking through walls, bursting into flames and hurling tanks into the air from afar. If the British are to believe their eyes, a twisted Nazi scientist has been endowing German troops with unnatural, unstoppable powers. And Raybould will be forced to resort to dark methods to hold the impending invasion at bay. But dealing with the occult exacts a price. And that price must be paid in blood.”