Just a quick run-down of my ten most-anticipated novels of August 2012. Given the lack of stability, frequent travel and relocation of the past few weeks, I’ve not been able to keep on top of my reviewing as well as I would have liked. Therefore, these books may not be reviewed in a particularly timely fashion (some because I don’t have them, others because I don’t have them with me at the moment). Nevertheless! Each of these is near the top of my to-read list, and I fully intend to feature more of them in the near future. Of course, the best laid plans…
Featured: Madeline Ashby, vN; Charles Cumming, A Foreign Country; James Enge, A Guile of Dragons; Jim C. Hines, Libriomancer; Darius Hinks, Orion: The Vaults of Winter; Mark Lawrence, King of Thorns; Tim Lebbon, The Heretic Land; T.C. McCarthy, Chimera; James Rollins, Bloodline; James Swallow, Fear To Tread
Amy Peterson is a von Neumann machine, a self-replicating humanoid robot.
For the past five years, she has been grown slowly as part of a mixed organic/synthetic family. She knows very little about her android mother’s past, so when her grandmother arrives and attacks her mother, little Amy wastes no time: she eats her alive.
Now she carries her malfunctioning granny as a partition on her memory drive, and she’s learning impossible things about her clade’s history – like the fact that the failsafe that stops all robots from harming humans has failed… Which means that everyone wants a piece of her, some to use her as a weapon, others to destroy her.
File Under: Science Fiction [ Von Neumann Sisters | Fail Safe Fail | The Squid & the Swarm | Robot Nation ]
This has been on my radar for a long time. But, as I seem prone to do, my “Saving This For Later” tendency has pushed it lower on the TBR mountain, which means I haven’t been able to get it reviewed in time for release. Expect it soon.
Also on CR: Interview with Madeline Ashby
On the vacation of a lifetime in Egypt, an elderly French couple are brutally murdered. Days later, a meticulously-planned kidnapping takes place on the streets of Paris. Amelia Levene, the first female Chief of MI6, has disappeared without a trace, six weeks before she is due to take over as the most influential spy in Europe. It is the gravest crisis MI6 has faced in more than a decade. Desperate not only to find her, but to keep her disappearance a secret, Britain’s top intelligence agents turn to one of their own: disgraced MI6 officer Thomas Kell. Tossed out of the Service only months before, Kell is given one final chance to redeem himself – find Amelia Levene at any cost. The trail leads Kell to France and Tunisia, where he uncovers a shocking secret and a conspiracy that could have unimaginable repercussions for Britain and its allies. Only Kell stands in the way of personal and political catastrophe.
This is the US release date for this, as A Foreign Country was already released in the UK a few months ago. I’m a big fan of Cumming’s novels, having thoroughly enjoyed both Typhoon and The Trinity Six. If you’re a fan of espionage thrillers a la John le Carre, then I’d highly recommend Cumming’s work.
Before history began, the dwarves of Thrymhaiam fought against the dragons as the Longest War raged in the deep roads beneath the Northhold. Now the dragons have returned, allied with the dead kings of Cor and backed by the masked gods of Fate and Chaos.
The dwarves are cut cut off from the Graith of Guardians in the south. Their defenders are taken prisoner or corrupted by dragonspells. The weight of guarding the Northhold now rests on the crooked shoulders of a traitor’s son, Morlock syr Theorn (also called Ambrosius).
But his wounded mind has learned a dark secret in the hidden ways under the mountains. Regin and Fafnir were brothers, and the Longest War can never be over...
I’ve read an enjoyed a couple of Enge’s short-stories, but I admit I had a little difficulty with Blood of Ambrose – this was largely down to my mood at the time, but I’ve never got around to trying another full-length Ambrosius novel. A Guile of Dragons is set near the start of Ambrose’s career as an adventurer, so I’m hoping it’ll be a great place to re-start.
Also on CR: Interview with James Enge
Isaac Vainio is a Libriomancer, a member of the secret organization founded five centuries ago by Johannes Gutenberg.
Libriomancers are gifted with the ability to magically “reach” into books and draw forth objects. When Isaac is attacked by vampires that “leaked” from the pages of books into our world, he barely manages to escape. To his horror he discovers that vampires have been attacking other magic-users as well, and Gutenberg has been kidnapped.
With the help of a motorcycle-riding dryad who packs a pair of oak cudgels, Isaac finds himself hunting the unknown dark power that has been manipulating humans and vampires alike. And his search will uncover dangerous secrets about Libriomancy, Gutenberg, and the history of magic…
When I get around to Libriomancer, it will be my first Hines novel. He’s quite popular already, but I’ve seen a lot of buzz surrounding this novel, so it could tip him over into a wider audience. I’m very eager to read this.
At the heart the wood elf kingdom of Athel Loren, the forest-king Orion slumbers through the winter months to be reborn each spring and resume his arboreal throne. However, this year he awakens to discover a foul canker at the core of his eternal spirit – he has been cursed, though by whom and for what reason he does not know. In the grip of a furious rage he leads the asrai to war, but as the corruption spreads to the woodland realm around him, he feels his power waning and must rely upon his loyal subjects to help him unmask the traitor within their ranks.
When I was a frequent reader of the Warhammer source-material, I found the Wood Elves to be quite a fascinating race. I read and re-read the Armies book multiple times, intrigued by the wilder (though not evil) elves, admiring their abandon and aesthetic. While I haven’t read nearly as much fiction by Mr Hinks as I would like, I have no doubt he’ll do justice to their ruler, the demi-God Orion. This is very high on my to-read list.
Also on CR: Interview with Darius Hinks
Mark Lawrence, King of Thorns (Voyager)
The Broken Empire burns with the fires of a hundred battles as lords and petty kings battle for the all-throne. 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.
Faced by an enemy many times his strength Jorg knows that he cannot win a fair fight. But playing fair was never part of Jorg’s game plan.
One of the most highly-anticipated sequels of the year, and I was lucky enough to get my hands on an ARC. Needless to say, it’s excellent. So I wrote two different reviews for it – one that utilized cute animal photos, and another more serious review.
Also on CR: Interview with Mark Lawrence
Arrested by the Ald, scholar Bon Ugane and merwoman Leki Borle find themselves on a prison ship bound for the island of Skythe – a barren land and the site of long-ago wars.
Warped and ruined by the ancient conflict, survival on the island is tough and its original inhabitants are neither friendly nor entirely still human. But something else waits on the island, a living weapon whose very existence is a heresy. Destroyed many years ago, it silently begins to clutch at life once more.
Tim Lebbon is one of those authors I’ve always meant to try, but for a variety of reasons never manage to do so. This time, however, I am going to make a concerted effort to read The Heretic Land – it sounds great, and given how much praise his novels receive, I decided I really had no excuse to delay any longer. Expect a review of this pretty soon.
Escaped Germline soldiers need to be cleaned up, and Stan Resnick is the best man for the job. A job that takes him to every dark spot and every rat hole he can find.
Operatives from China and Unified Korea are gathering escaped or stolen Russian and American genetics, and there are reports of new biological nightmares: half-human things, bred to live their entire lives encased in powered armor suits.
Stan fights to keep himself alive and out of prison while he attempts to capture a genetic, one who will be able to tell them everything they need to know about this new threat, the one called “Project Sunshine.”
Germline was a superb debut novel – it was visceral, intense and excellently-written. Despite this, I never got around to reading the second in the series, Exogene. So, now that I’ve acquired a copy of Chimera as well, I think I’m going to sit down and read them both in quick succession. I will also, now that they’re available in the UK, read McCarthy’s three short stories, which were released through Orbit’s Short Fiction initiative (a series of short stories from a number of great Orbit authors, most of which I really want to read…).
Also on CR: Interview with T.C. McCarthy
“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...
I’ve been waiting for this novel for ages, it seems. One of the most interesting premises I’ve read in a while, so expect a review ASAP. This is definitely among the top ten novels released this year that I’ve been most anticipating. Bring it on!
Also on CR: Interview with Lou Morgan
Galilee, 1025. Infiltrating an ancient citadel, a Templar knight uncovers a holy treasure long hidden within the fortress’s labyrinth: the Bachal Isu – the staff of Jesus Christ – a priceless icon that holds a mysterious and terrifying power that promises to change humankind forever.
A millennium later, Somali pirates hijack a yacht off the coast of the Horn of Africa, kidnapping a young pregnant American woman. Commander Gray Pierce is enlisted for a covert rescue mission into the African jungle. The woman is no rich tourist: she’s Amanda Gant-Bennett, daughter of the U.S. president.
Suspicious that the kidnapping masks a far more nefarious plot, Gray must confront a shadowy cabal which has been manipulating events throughout history... and now challenges the current presidency.
For this unique mission, SIGMA is aided by a pair of special operatives with unique talents: former Army Ranger Captain Tucker Wayne and his military war dog, Kane. But what should be a straightforward rescue turns into a fiery ambush and a deadly act of betrayal, as Gray and his team discover that the hostage is a pawn in a shattering act of terrorism with dark repercussions. And the danger is only beginning...
Halfway around the world, a firebombing at a fertility clinic in South Carolina exposes a conspiracy that goes back centuries... a scheme that lies within our genetic code. With time against them, SIGMA must race to save an innocent unborn baby whose very existence raises questions about the nature of humanity, asking: Could you live forever? Would you live forever?
That’s a long synopsis… I’m a big fan of Rollins’s Sigma Force series, and am always looking forward to the next installment. This has already received a fair bit of praise from across the pond, which has only increased my interest in reading it. The Devil Colony, the previous novel in the series, had a couple of weaknesses, but that has in no way dampened my interest in the Sigma adventures.
Since the earliest days of the Great Crusade, Sanguinius – angelic primarch of the IXth Legion – was ever among the closest and most loyal of Horus’s brothers. But the Blood Angels have long kept their true nature hidden from the rest of the Imperium, and when the Warmaster hints that the key to their salvation may lie in the ruins of a conquered world, the sons of Sanguinius race to claim it. Now, as the revelation of their betrayal dawns and the traitors’ hand is revealed, the Blood Angels must face all the warp-spawned armies of Chaos, as well their own personal daemons, upon the blasted plains of Signus Prime...
It’s the next novel in the Horus Heresy series. Do I need to say more? Well, I’m going to anyway: it focuses on the battle for the Blood Angels’ loyalty, a Legion that has been rather absent from the Heresy series of novels. I’m really looking forward to this one. Some others haven’t liked Swallow’s previous HH novels, but I think each one has been fantastic. I can’t wait to get my teeth into this one.
[I actually have a copy of Fear to Tread already, only it was sent to New York, where I no longer am… So it may be a while before Alyssa is able to forward it on to me – same goes for a few more books that have arrived lately, including a couple of September releases.]
There are, of course, plenty of other great novels released in August (Lilith Saintcrow’s The Iron Wyrm Affair was only just bumped off making the fully list above, for example), but one has to be picky in this busy publishing season and because there are only 24hrs in a day. Some of these releases are paperback editions of earlier publications, too, which is why they haven’t made the list.
As always, my reviewing plans are open to alteration, expansion, truncation, and any number of other changes. There are just so many amazing books coming out this year (and last year, and next year…). I shall do my best to read and review as many as possible, but there are also ever-more “old” novels I really want to try out as well. So, I’m going to be delving into the works of Robin Hobb, Ursula le Guin, and Joe Abercrombie among others over the course of the final five months of 2012.
Now over to you: What novels are you most looking forward to? Have I missed any other big releases I should take a look at?