Once again, I take the opportunity to post exciting artwork and highlight some of 2011’s releases that have caught my eye. It looks like the first six months of next year are going to be pretty interesting in the world of books, and particularly speculative fiction.
As I was putting this together, I noticed that I’ve lost touch with the thriller genre that I so love. Partly, I think, this is because there is a decreasing amount of originality in the genre – the War on Terrorism is fast becoming a limited, saturated topic (which might explain Vince Flynn’s slight shift – see below). As it stands, there were only three thrillers I’m aware of that stood out as novels I’d like to read.
As for science fiction and, particularly, fantasy… Well, 2011 is going to be an exciting year indeed. I’ve not included every book that has caught my eye – some, such as Doug Hulick’s Among Thieves, I’ve mentioned before on the site, so I don’t want to be too repetitive.
In no particular order, here are some of the intriguing books coming out in the next eight months…
Simon Morden, Equations of Life, Theories of Flight & Degrees of Freedom (Orbit – April, May, June)
Set in the overcrowded, decaying urban jungle of the London Metrozone, the series features Samuil Petrovitch – a foul-mouthed, selfish and anti-social Russian émigré who also happens to have a genius-level intellect. Going against his customary principle of ‘don’t get involved’, Petrovitch surprises himself one day by performing an uncharacteristically kind act – resulting in him being propelled into a world of rival gang lords, exiled yakuza, crooked cops, crazed prophets and gun-toting warrior nuns...
I’ve not been the biggest fan of London-based fiction (save for James McGee’s Ratcatcher), but there’s been quite a buzz about this series for a few months. I’m certainly interested in giving this a go. We’ll just have to wait and see if my strange aversion to London-based fiction can be halted by this trilogy.
Daniel Abraham, The Dragon’s Path (Orbit - April)
The dragons are gone, the powerful magics that broke the world diluted to little more than parlor tricks, but the kingdoms of men remain and the great game of thrones goes on. Lords deploy armies and merchant caravans as their weapons, maneuvering for wealth and influence.
But a darker power is rising – an unlikely leader with an ancient ally threatens to unleash the madness that destroyed the world once already. Only one man knows the truth and, from the shadows, must champion humanity.
The world’s fate stands on the edge of a dagger, its future on the toss of a coin...
Daniel Abraham has been writing for a long time, but I first read his work earlier this year, when Orbit published the omnibus editions of his Long Price Quartet. His fantasy is very broad in scope, superbly crafted, intricately plotted and expertly characterised. High praise? From almost everyone. It is also very highly deserved. With The Dagger & The Coin, the author returns, and hopefully with another winning series.
[Interestingly, Abraham has also written an Urban Fantasy novel, under a pseudonym. I’m tempted to get over my prejudice against that sub-genre and give it a go. If I get the time, of course…]
Dan Abnett, Prospero Burns (Black Library – January)
The Emperor is enraged. Primarch Magnus the Red of the Thousand Sons Legion has made a terrible mistake that endangers the very safety of Terra. With no other choice, the Emperor charges Leman Russ, Primarch of the Space Wolves, with the apprehension of his brother from the Thousand Sons home world of Prospero. This planet of sorcerers will not be easy to overcome, but Russ and his Space Wolves are not easily deterred.
With wrath in his heart, Russ is determined to bring Magnus to justice and bring about the fall of Prospero.
Long-time readers of the site will know just how much I love Black Library’s Horus Heresy series (particularly the last three novels), as well as how much I respect and enjoy Mr Abnett’s work. As this is a sister-volume to Graham McNeill’s superb A Thousand Sons, there is added anticipation as Abnett offers the reverse perspective of McNeill’s novel, and the Space Wolves (think heavily armed-and-armoured Nordic berzerker-supermen) finally get their own novel. [Geek note: When I was younger, and more interested in the game aspect of Warhammer 40,000, the Space Wolves were my favourite army.]
Black Library have kindly sent me an advance copy of Prospero Burns, so it is currently staring at me from my ‘to-review’ shelf… I shall, however, hold off on the review until mid- to late-December.
Brian Ruckley, Edinburgh Dead (Orbit – ?)
Mixing real history and historical figures with magics and conspiracies, this novel imagines the Edinburgh of 1827, populated by mad alchemists who treat Frankenstein as textbook rather than novel, and by a criminal underclass prepared to treat with the darkest of powers.
The plot follows the progress of an officer of the recently formed Edinburgh City Police as he follows a trail of undead hounds, emptied graves, brutal murders and mob violence into the deepest and darkest corners of Edinburgh’s underworld – both literal and magical – and back again to the highest reaches of elegant, intellectual Edinburgh society.
I’ve not managed to read Ruckley’s Godless World trilogy yet, but when I read the blurb of Edinburgh Dead, I was immediately intrigued. I love the idea of “Frankenstein as textbook rather than novel”, and can’t wait to see how the author does this.
Alan Campbell, The Sea of Ghosts (Tor – April)
The Gravedigger Chronicles
When the last of the Gravediggers, an elite imperial infiltration unit, are disbanded and hunted down by the emperor they once served, munitions expert Colonel Thomas Granger takes refuge in the unlikeliest of places. He becomes a jailer in Ethugra – a prison city of poison-flooded streets and gaols in which a million enemies of the empire are held captive. But when Granger takes possession of two new prisoners, he realises that he can’t escape his past so readily.
Ianthe is a young girl with an extraordinary psychic talent. A gift that makes her unique in a world held to ransom by the powerful Haurstaf – the sisterhood of telepaths who are all that stand between the Empire and the threat of the Unmer, the powerful civilization of entropic sorcerers and dragon-mounted warriors. In this war-torn land, she promises to make Granger an extremely wealthy man, if he can only keep her safe from harm.
This is what Granger is best at. But when other factions learn about Ianthe’s unique ability, even Granger’s skills of warfare are tested to their limits. While, Ianthe struggles to control the powers that are growing in ways no-one thought were possible. Another threat is surfacing: out there, beyond the bitter seas, an old and familiar enemy is rising – one who, if not stopped, will drown the world and all of humanity with it…
Another author I’ve not yet read (Emma nabbed his previous series for review, and I’ve just not managed to get around to it, even though it sounds superb). With the beginning of a new series, however, I’ll have the opportunity to get in at the beginning. Also, if you read the synopsis and aren’t intrigued (even a little), then they could well be something very wrong with you.
Expect a review mid-March – might even be able to do a joint-review with Emma, who is reading the book at the moment.
Paolo Bacigalupi, The Windup Girl (Orbit – December 2010)
Prize-Winning Dystopian Future
Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen's calorie representative in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, he combs Bangkok’s street markets in search of foodstuffs long thought to be extinct. There he meets the windup girl - the beautiful and enigmatic Emiko - now abandoned to the slums. She is one of the New People, bred to suit the whims of the rich. Engineered as slaves, soldiers and toys, they are the new underclass in a chilling near future where oil has run out, calorie companies dominate nations and bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe.
And as Lake becomes increasingly obsessed with Emiko, conspiracies breed in the heat and political tensions threaten to spiral out of control. Businessmen and ministry officials, wealthy foreigners and landless refugees all have their own agendas. But no one anticipates the devastating influence of the Windup Girl.
Bacigalupi’s novel has been out in the US for a while, now, but Orbit are finally bringing it to the UK! The Windup Girl has been winning a slew of prestigious awards, and received praise from a broad range of critics and authors. Anticipation is high – so high, in fact, that the publication date has been brought forward – and I’m certainly going to give it a try as soon as I can.
Jon Courtenay Grimwood, The Fallen Blade (Orbit - February)
Venice in the early Fifteenth Century is at the height of its power. Duke Marco’s aunt and uncle reign as regents, but Venice’s fate will be decided by three men.
Atilo il Mauros: head of the Assassini, the shadow army enforcing Venice’s will at home and abroad.
Prince Leopold: bastard son of the German emperor and leader of the krieghund – the only force in Venice more feared than the Assassini.
And Atilo’s angel-faced apprentice. Only a boy, Tycho is stronger and faster than any man. He can see in the dark, but sunlight burns him. It is said that he drinks blood...
I first heard of this novel when the cover artwork was published on the interwebs (although I forget, now, where I saw it first…), and I’ve been intrigued ever since. As far as I can tell, it’s a story of a vampire assassin. I am assuming this will not be anywhere near Twilight fare, so my interest in (almost) all things vampiric has been well and truly piqued.
Vince Flynn, American Assassin (Simon & Schuster - January)
Before he was considered a CIA-super agent, before he was thought of as a terrorist's worst nightmare, and before he was both loathed and admired by politicians on Capitol Hill, Mitch Rapp was a star college athlete with an untapped instinct for violence.
Tensions in the Middle East are simmering when Central Intelligence Agency Director Irene Kennedy pays a visit to Syracuse University, where she hopes to recruit none other than Mitch Rapp, a student who has quickly climbed up the academic and athletic ranks. At first glance, he appears like any other smart, good-looking American college kid. Under the surface, however, a tempest rages.
Tragedy entered Mitch's life a year before when 35 of his classmates, including his girlfriend, perished on Pan Am flight 103. Since then, Mitch has grieved their senseless deaths and has felt helpless in his desire for revenge. When Kennedy arrives on campus, his career path is suddenly laid out for him. Nine months later, after gruelling training, Mitch finds himself in Istanbul on his first assignment, which is to assassinate the Turkish arms dealer who sold the explosives used in the Pan Am attack. Mitch hits his target but quickly sees, for the first time, what revenge means to the enemy.
When Mitch's mentor and a fellow recruit are kidnapped and tortured by a dangerous group of Islamic jihadists, he must stop at nothing to save them.
I have long been a fan of Flynn’s novels, and have reviewed a couple of the most recent ones on the site. He remains one of the best thriller writers today, and his novels are always well-plotted and -paced, and his characters are complex and realistic. Mitch Rapp may, at times, be a bit too gifted at his job, but despite his killing expertise, he remains very human and aware of his sociopathic tendencies. Irene Kennedy, his mentor, is likewise an excellent character. The twelfth novel in the series, it is going to be interesting to see how Mitch was inducted into the CIA.
David Baldacci, Hell’s Corner (Macmillan - December)
On the night of the State Dinner honouring the British Prime Minister, Oliver Stone witnesses an explosion as the motorcade leaves the White House. A bomb has been detonated in what looks like a terrorist plot directed at the President and the Prime Minister.
In the aftermath, British MI5 agent Mary Chapman, an experienced, lethal operative with an agenda of her own, is sent to assist and coordinate the investigation alongside American authorities. Stone, together with Harry Finn, Alex Ford and the rest of the Camel Club, is drawn into the inquiry.
But everything is not what it seems, and what happened in the park may not have been the actual plan. It seems the mysterious attackers had another target in their sights, and it’s up to the Camel Club to stop them, or face the catastrophic results.
Easily the best of Baldacci’s series, The Camel Club books offer an interesting take on the American political thriller. Oliver Stone is a great, complex character with a colourful (and lethal) past, and each new novel offers more insight into his character and background. His companions are alternately kooky and your typical straight-laced federal cop, trying to get used to Stone’s unorthodox methods. The premise of this novel sounds, again, pretty original and with great potential. I’ll review this as soon as I can. Hopefully it’ll live up to my high expectations.
Patrick Rothfuss, The Wise Man’s Fear (Gollancz - March)
“There are three things all wise men fear: the sea in storm, a night with no moon, and the anger of a gentle man.”
An escalating rivalry with a powerful member of the nobility forces Kvothe to leave the University and seek his fortune abroad. Adrift, penniless, and alone, he travels to Vintas, where he quickly becomes entangled in the politics of courtly society. While attempting to curry favour with a powerful noble, Kvothe discovers an assassination attempt, comes into conflict with a rival arcanist, and leads a group of mercenaries into the wild, in an attempt to solve the mystery of who (or what) is waylaying travellers on the King’s road.
All the while, Kvothe searches for answers, attempting to uncover the truth about the mysterious Amyr, the Chandrian, and the death of his parents. Along the way, Kvothe is put on trial by the legendary Adem mercenaries, forced to reclaim the honor of the Edema Ruh, and travels into the Fae realm. There he meets Felurian, the faerie woman no man can resist, and who no man has ever survived. Under her tutelage, Kvothe learns much about true magic and the ways of women.
In The Wise Man’s Fear Kvothe takes his first steps on the path of the hero and learns how difficult life can be when a man becomes a legend in his own time.
And so continues the Kingkiller Chronicle, the story of Kvothe. I’m reading The Name of the Wind at the moment, and I’m eager to know how Kvothe’s tale progresses. The pace of the series is a bit slower than I would like, but there is no denying Rothfuss’s skill as an author. Highly enjoyable, and rather immersive, this novel is expected to dazzle readers all over again.
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As well as these new novels, I thought it would be a good idea to just mention some other novels I’ll be reading in the final month of 2010 and early months of 2011 – specifically, the long-neglected series that have been collecting dust on my shelves for far too long.
Joe Abercrombie, The First Law series & Best Served Cold (Gollancz)
I don’t really know why I haven’t got around to this series, yet – I’ve started The Blade Itself before, but really wasn’t in the mood for fantasy at the time (so I stopped before I got grumpy with it), and I’ve read the first chapter of Best Served Cold (which I thought was great). I’ve also been a long-time reader of Abercrombie’s blog, so I really have no idea why I keep putting the series off…
I shall finally remedy this next year, or possibly over Christmas. Abercrombie’s novels have, like a lot of other Gollancz books, been bumped aside by other novels I’ve been sent for review. I don’t know why I keep doing so, but it’s probably because of Reviewer Guilt – that sense that one should be reviewing what we’re sent by publishers, rather than stuff we’ve bought ourselves… It’s an irrational feeling, but I think other bloggers and reviewers sometimes suffer from it.
MD Lachlan, Wolfsangel (Gollancz)
The Viking King Authun leads his men on a raid against an Anglo-Saxon village. Men and women are killed indiscriminately but Authun demands that no child be touched. He is acting on prophecy. A prophecy that tells him that the Saxons have stolen a child from the Gods. If Authun, in turn, takes the child and raises him as an heir, the child will lead his people to glory. But Authun discovers not one child, but twin baby boys. Ensuring that his faithful warriors, witness to what has happened, die during the raid Authun takes the children and their mother home, back to the witches who live on the troll wall. And he places his destiny in their hands.
And so begins a stunning multi-volume fantasy epic that will take a werewolf from his beginnings as the heir to a brutal viking king, down through the ages. It is a journey that will see him hunt for his lost love through centuries and lives, and see the endless battle between the wolf, Odin and Loki - the eternal trickster - spill over into countless bloody conflicts from our history, and over into our lives.
Another Gollancz orphan that I’ve been wanting to read ever since I first heard about it. I love Norse Mythology (I even took an elective module in Old Norse during my third undergraduate year), and coupled with my conviction that what Lachlan does with the werewolf mythology will be nothing like Twilight, this novel should be a perfect selection. I shall get to it ASAP (it’s ready and waiting on my Kindle), and hopefully before the second in the series, Fenrir, is published in May 2011.
The Vikings are laying siege to Paris. As the houses on the banks of the Seine burn, a debate rages in the Cathedral on the walled island of the city proper. The situation is hopeless. The Vikings want the Count’s sister, in return they will spare the rest of the city. Can the Count really have ambitions to be Emperor of the Franks if he doesn’t do everything he can to save his people? Can he call himself a man if he doesn’t do everything he can to save his sister? His conscience demands one thing, the demands of state.
The Count and the church are relying on the living saint, the blind and crippled Jehan of St Germain, to enlist the aid of God and resolve the situation for them. But the Vikings have their own gods. And outside their camp a terrifying brother and sister, priests of Odin, have their own agenda. An agenda of darkness and madness. And in the shadows a wolfman lurks.
M.D. Lachlan’s stunning epic of mad Gods, Viking and the myth of Fenrir, the wolf destined to kill Odin at Ragnorok, powers forward into a new territories of bloody horror, unlikely heroism, dangerous religion and breathtaking action.
Sounds bloody marvellous! I think I’ll be pre-ordering this, depending on how much I like Wolfsangel.
There are actually quite a few Gollancz orphans at the moment (Tom Lloyd is another author I have neglected), but as the months pass, I shall do everything I can to finally catch up with these authors and their novels. I am already remedying this with Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind, and will do so again with Abercrombie and Lachlan very soon.