Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Book Shelf

A new feature I might run a couple of times a year, in which I take a look at what the ‘to-read’ shelf looks like at the moment.


Some pretty exciting releases, stretching from December to March next year. (Behind the fiction are many of the non-fiction titles I’ve used for my PhD. My flat has way too many books in it…) The books are arranged by publication date, but not necessarily in the order I shall read them. Those on the right will (or, at least, should) be reviewed after those on the left, but the best laid plans…

First, pre-December releases (which I’m being slow with reading, and really should have paid more attention to):

Karpyshyn-DynastyOfEvilDrew Karpyshyn, Dynasty of Evil (Arrow)

Twenty years have passed since Darth Bane, reigning Dark Lord of the Sith, demolished the ancient order devoted to the dark side and reinvented it as a circle of two: one Master to wield the power and pass on the wisdom, and one apprentice to learn, challenge, and ultimately usurp the Dark Lord in a duel to the death. But Bane's acolyte, Zannah, has yet to engage her Master in mortal combat and prove herself a worthy successor. Determined that the Sith dream of galactic domination will not die with him, Bane vows to learn the secret of a forgotten Dark Lord that will assure the Sith’s immortality-and his own.

It’s been a while since I read a Star Wars novel, so this will probably be reviewed pretty soon (also, I feel bad for not getting to it sooner). This is the only ‘early’ Star Wars series that I’ve been following with much interest, and is the third novel to feature Darth Bane – the Sith who reinvented the order into the Rule of Two that we know from the movies (one master, one apprentice, no others). I prefer the post-New Hope novels, of which I think I’ve read most, if not all. Good science fiction escapism, in a familiar setting = comfort reading worth pursuing! I’m also eager to get my hands on Vortex, the latest instalment of the Fate of the Jedi series.

Hinks-WarriorPriestDarius Hinks, Warrior Priest (Black Library)

Warrior Priests are the holy crusaders of the Empire, crushing daemons, witches and heretics alike with righteous fury. These bold men wield death and damnation, with warhammers held high and the word of Sigmar on their lips. They provide the final bastion against the forces of darkness that would run rampant and forever turn the hearts of men. Jakob Wolff is one such warrior, and sets out to track down his brother, whose soul has been tainted by the Ruinous Powers. Family must be put to one side as he battles to prevent the Empire from sinking into Chaos, with only his strength of arms and the purity of his beliefs to call upon.

The Warrior Priests have always been an intriguing sect in the Warhammer realm – as are their real-life inspirations from the Crusades (and other eras, of course). This would be my first novel from the Empire Armies series, and I’ve heard some good stuff about Hinks’s writing, so I’m looking forward to having the time to read this sometime over the Christmas break. I don’t know what sort of novels they are – I assume plenty of warfare, which is actually not what I favour (I prefer more attention to be paid to plotting and character development), but I’ve only heard good things about Warrior Priest and Hinks’s writing, so I shall definitely give this a go, and soon.


Untitled-1Amanda Downum, The Bone Palace (Orbit)

Death is no stranger in the city of Erisín, but some deaths attract more attention than others.

When a prostitute dies carrying a royal signet, Isyllt Iskaldur, necromancer and agent of the Crown, is called to investigate. Her search leads to desecrated tombs below the palace, and the lightless vaults of the vampiric vrykoloi. But worse things than vampires are plotting in Erisín – a long-dead sorceress is making a bid not only for renewed life but for the throne as well, and Isyllt’s former lover is caught in her schemes.

As a sorcerous plague sweeps the city, Isyllt must decide who she’s prepared to betray – the man she still loves, or the royal family she’s sworn to defend.

I’m actually reading this at the moment, so if you wait just a few days, you’ll be able to read my whole review. Needless to say, I liked Downum’s debut (The Drowning City), and I’m loving this second novel a whole lot more. There is an exceptional quality to Downum’s writing and attention to character that is noticeably improved from her debut. I’m am finding myself very much drawn to her world and style. Now if only I would stop being interrupted by other things going on, I could give this the attention it deserves and sink into the story. I should get a lot read over the next couple of days.

Aaron-3-SpiritEaterRachel Aaron, The Spirit Eater (Orbit)

With the pressure on after his success in Gaol, Eli Monpress, professional thief and degenerate, decides it’s time to lie low for a bit. Taking up residence in a tiny seaside village, Eli and his companions seize the chance for some fun and relaxation.

Nico, however, is finding it a bit hard. Plagued by a demon’s voice in her head and feeling powerless, she only sees herself as a burden. Everyone’s holiday comes to an untimely close, though, when Pele arrives to beg Eli’s help for finding her missing father.

But there are larger plans afoot than even Eli can see, and the real danger, and the solution, may lie with one of his own and her forgotten past.

If only Nico could remember whose side she’s on…

I really enjoyed the first novel in the Eli Monpress series, The Spirit Thief, and as soon as I get the middle book in the series (The Spirit Eater is the third volume, preceded by The Spirit Rebellion), I shall probably get through them both pretty quickly. A series that focuses on the more fun aspects of fantasy, doesn’t take itself too seriously, but also contains an intriguing take on magic, this is highly recommended.

Clancy-DeadOrAliveTom Clancy & Grant Blackwood, Dead Or Alive (Penguin)

For years, Jack Ryan, Jr. and his colleagues at the Campus have waged an unofficial and highly effective campaign against the terrorists who threaten western civilization. The most dangerous of these is the Emir. This sadistic killer has masterminded the most vicious attacks on the west and has eluded capture by the world’s law enforcement agencies. Now the Campus is on his trail. Joined by their latest recruits, John Clark and Ding Chavez, Jack Ryan, Jr. and his cousins, Dominick and Brian Caruso, are determined to catch the Emir and they will bring him in... dead or alive.

It’s been a long while since I read a Clancy novel, and this is quite the beast (not to mention press event – there were parachutes, the Tower of London, and lockdowns involved!). Clancy is a thriller author of considerable prestige, a leading talent in the genre, and one of the few who has been able to make the transition from a Cold War setting to the War on Terror setting. As the characters have developed over time, and the new generation of soldier has taken over from the old (see The Teeth of the Tiger), Clancy has maintained the personal and large scale attention to plot and story. I’m eager to settle into this mammoth thriller, so expect a review relatively soon.

Lyons-DeadMenWalkingSteve Lyons, Dead Men Walking (Black Library)

When the necrons rise, a mining planet descends into a cauldron of war and the remorseless foes decimate the human defenders. Salvation comes in an unlikely form – the Death Korps of Kreig, a force as unfeeling as the Necrons themselves. When the two powers go to war, casualties are high and the magnitude of the destruction is unimaginable.

Sounds like a good, action-packed slice of Warhammer 40,000, so I am hoping to get to this very soon. My reading about the Imperial Guard has mainly focussed on Gaunt’s Ghosts – the flagship WH40k series that I have featured and written about frequently on this site. Dead Men Walking would be a new reading experience for me, and the regiment portrayed is very different from the Tanith First & Only, so I’m interested to see if this novel holds as much enjoyment as Abnett’s series.

Untitled-4Paolo Bacigalupi, The Windup Girl (Orbit)

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 The Windup Girl has already received a ton of praise from seemingly all across the publishing and journalism landscape, not to mention a number of awards over in the US. Finally, Orbit have brought the book properly to the UK, and with it has come a good deal of expectation and interest. I’m eager to give this a read, so I shall try to slot it in as soon as possible. For those of you who have already heard of the novel, and would like to give it a try, head over to the website to read a sample.


Abnett-ProsperoBurnsDan Abnett, Prospero Burns (Black Library)

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.

The next Horus Heresy novel. And it’s by Dan Abnett. Enough said, really. Can’t wait to get to this, but I’m going to leave it for closer to the release date. It’s really difficult to not dive straight into it, but I shall control myself.

Flynn-AmericanAssassinUKVince Flynn, American Assassin (Simon & Schuster)

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.

One of my favourite series (regardless of genre), Vince Flynn takes us back to the beginning of Rapp’s career with the CIA. It’s a time the author has only alluded to in previous novels, so it will be interesting to see how Rapp became the man he did over the course of the series. This will be read within the next couple of weeks. An awesome author, and I really hope this novel lives up to my expectations.

Osborne-KillMeOnceJon Osborne, Kill Me Once (Arrow)

Nathan Stiedowe is seeking perfection – and he has been learning from the best. Recreating some of the most sickening murders in history, his objective appears chillingly simple, but his true motive remains unclear.

On the trail of this sadistic monster is FBI Special Agent Dana Whitestone. Driven by the brutal childhood slaying of her parents, Dana’s relentless pursuit of the most evil and twisted criminals has seen her profile many violent cases. But never has she encountered a maniac as demented as Stiedowe, or a mind as horrifyingly disturbed…

I’ve been searching for a new thriller/crime author to take the place of James Patterson, and I have high hopes for Osborne. The premise of his novel sounds interesting, and I am eager to get started on this. I shall wait until closer to the novel’s publication date, however, so don’t expect a review within the next couple of weeks.


Cumming-TrinitySixCharles Cumming, The Trinity Six (HarperCollins)

One of the enduring mysteries of modern espionage is the Cambridge Spy Ring--the group that included Anthony Blunt, Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, and Donald Maclean – and the identity of the long-rumored sixth man. Many theories have been proposed over the years, yet no one has come forth with any irrefutable proof. And Sam Gaddis, an academic with a specialty in modern Russian history, is the least likely person to do so. Until an old friend reveals that she's working on just that story, suddenly dies; Sam's need for money becomes pressing, and he finds his way to someone claiming to have access to the real sixth man.

But the few remaining people with any direct connection to that sixth man begin dying unexpectedly, MI-6 begins tracking Gaddis trying to throw him off the trail, and he finds himself in the cross-hairs of a very real, very dangerous plot emanating from the highest levels of contemporary Russia. As Sam risks everything he has and everyone he loves to unravel the layers of secrets surrounding the identity of the sixth man, someone else is equally determined, for reasons unknown, to keep the details surrounding the long-standing deception surrounding the sixth man buried forever.

After I received a review copy of Cumming’s previous novel, Typhoon, I was eager to read more from this up-and-coming author. As a member of the Amazon Vine program, I was extremely happy to see it offered as a review-option. It’s not out for a while, so I probably won’t get to it until the second half of January, but if it’s anywhere near as good as Typhoon, then this will be a wonderful read.


Lowe-HeirOfNightHelen Lowe, The Heir of Night (Orbit)

The violence of an age-old war casts a long shadow. It falls on a world where mercy is weakness and conflict is a way of life.

Young Malian is being trained to rule. Her people garrison the mountain range known as the Wall of Night against an ancient enemy, keeping a tide of shadow from the rest of their world. Malian is expected to uphold this tradition, yet she’s known little of real danger until the enemy launches a direct attack upon her fortress home.

In the darkest part of the night, the Keep of Winds becomes a bloodbath. Women and children, warriors and priests, are slain by creatures with twisted magic flowing in their veins. And as the castle wakes to chaos, Malian flees deep into the Old Keep, her life at stake. Then when the danger is greatest, her own hidden magic flares into life.

But this untapped potential is a two-edged blade. If she accepts its power, she must prepare to pay the price.

I don’t know much about this novel or author, but the artwork for this novel is certainly eye-catching. The premise sounds interesting, and I’ve seen some positive feedback on the internet for the author and the novel. Again, like Cumming’s novel, it’s not out for some time. I am certainly looking forward to reading it, however.

*     *     *

So, that’s just a small slice of what we have in store over the next couple of months (with some other reviews not mentioned – mainly because I’ve bought them for my Kindle, so couldn’t include them in the photo at the start). As and when we discover more releases, the schedules might shift a little – as is always the case – but  I wanted to at least mention these books as novels readers of science fiction and fantasy should keep an eye out for. What I’ve seen of 2011 release schedules, it is going to be another great year for fantasy readers, and there will also be plenty of science fiction to slake even the most voracious reader’s thirst.

Happy reading.

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