A pre-Christmas selection of books that I’ve received or purchased over the last few weeks. A very nice selection, all told – only one book probably won’t be reviewed, and that’s because it’s the fifth book in a series I’ve never read. [See below – I’m offering it to a US/Canadian in return for a guest review.]
Ex-cop Mona Bright has been living a hard couple of years on the road, but when her estranged father dies, she finds she’s had a home all along: a little house her deceased mother once owned in Wink, New Mexico.
And though every map denies Wink exists, Mona finds they’re wrong: not only is Wink real, it is the perfect American small town, somehow retaining all the Atomic Age optimism the rest of world has given up on.
But the closer Mona gets to understanding her mother’s past, the more she begins to understand that the people in Wink are very, very different – and what’s more, Mona begins to recognize her own bond to this strange place, which feels more like home every day.
Robert Jackson Bennett’s awesome. Coming hot on the heels of The Troupe (one of the novels that slipped by me in 2012, sadly), this novel sounds like it could be his best. Expect a review close to its release date.
The electrifying story of Abraham Lincoln's rise to greatness during the most perilous year in our nation’s history
As 1862 dawned, the American republic was at death's door. The federal government appeared overwhelmed, the U.S. Treasury was broke, and the Union’s top general was gravely ill. The Confederacy—with its booming economy, expert military leadership, and commanding position on the battlefield—had a clear view to victory. To a remarkable extent, the survival of the country depended on the judgment, cunning, and resilience of the unschooled frontier lawyer who had recently been elected president.
Twelve months later, the Civil War had become a cataclysm but the tide had turned. The Union generals who would win the war had at last emerged, and the Confederate Army had suffered the key losses that would lead to its doom. The blueprint of modern America—an expanding colossus of industrial and financial might—had been indelibly inked. And the man who brought the nation through its darkest hour, Abraham Lincoln, had been forged into a singular leader.
In Rise to Greatness, acclaimed author David Von Drehle has created both a deeply human portrait of America’s greatest president and a rich, dramatic narrative about our most fateful year.
Abraham Lincoln is one of the most interesting Americans to have ever lived. I’ve read a number of shorter biographies about him, but I caught von Drehle’s article in Time magazine before Spielberg’s Lincoln hit theaters, and I thought it was pretty well-written. I’m a little skeptical about a 300-odd-page book about a single year of a president’s administration, but I’m certainly intrigued. It was also 60% off in Barnes & Noble. Which I took as a sign…
In the western sky the bright emerald banner of the Visitor descends like a portent of annihilation. On the continent of Jacuruku, the Thaumaturgs have mounted yet another expedition to tame the neighboring wild jungle. Yet this is no normal wilderness. It is called Himatan, and it is said to be half of the spirit-realm and half of the earth. And it is said to be ruled by a powerful entity whom some name the Queen of Witches, and some a goddess: the ancient Ardata. Saeng grew up knowing only the rule of the magus Thaumaturgs – but it was the voices out of that land's forgotten past that she listened to. And when her rulers mount an invasion of the neighboring jungle, those voices send her and her brother on a desperate mission.
To the south, the desert tribes are united by the arrival of a foreign warleader, a veteran commander in battered ashen mail whom his men call, the Grey Ghost. This warleader takes the tribes on a raid like none other, deep into the heart of Thaumaturg lands. While word comes to K'azz, and mercenary company the Crimson Guard, of a contract in Jacuruku. And their employer... none other than Ardata herself.
This is the fifth book in Esslemont’s contributions to the Malazan series (also written by Steven Erikson). Sadly, I have read none of the series, so the chances of me getting to this book anytime soon is next to zero. So! Who would like to review it? I’m offering it to anyone in the US or Canada, in return for a review. Just email me at civilian.reader[at]hotmail.co.uk if you’re interested, make your case, and I’ll get back to you.
Today isn’t Rojan’s day. His latest bounty almost killed him three times, his girlfriends all found out about each other and trashed his rooms—and his niece has been kidnapped. Now he’s got to use his magic to find her – and there is a good chance it will end up destroying him.
Rojan follows his niece’s trail to the Pit, the underbelly of the city. The Pit was evacuated when the Synth-tox wiped out most of the city’s residents —and a new city was built over it. But what he wasn’t told is that the Pit was never emptied. And Rojan isn’t the only one using pain magic. And there is more at stake than the life of one little girl.
I am very much looking forward to diving into this novel. I love the premise. It’s one of Orbit’s highly-anticipated debuts of 2013, and I’ll hopefully get to it very soon indeed. At the same time, I keep getting details about Francis Knight wrong on Twitter! First, I said the author was male, then American. She is British. Clearly, what I need to do is interview Knight so I can avoid any more clangers…
Isak is a white-eye, feared and despised in equal measure. Trapped in a life of poverty, hated and abused by his father, Isak dreams of escape, but when his chance comes, it isn't to a place in the army as he'd expected. Instead, the Gods have marked him out as heir-elect to the brooding Lord Bahl, the Lord of the Fahlan.
Lord Bahl is also a white-eye, a genetic rarity that produces men stronger, more savage and more charismatic than their normal counterparts. Their magnetic charm and brute strength both inspires and oppresses others.
Now is the time for revenge, and the forging of empires. With mounting envy and malice the men who would themselves be kings watch Isak, chosen by Gods as flawed as the humans who serve them, as he is shaped and moulded to fulfil the prophecies that are encircling him like scavenger birds. The various factions jostle for the upper hand, and that means violence, but the Gods have been silent too long and that violence is about to spill over and paint the world the colour of spilled blood and guts and pain and anguish…
This series has eluded me for way too long. With the recent publication of the final book in the series (although, an anthology of short stories is on its way), I think it’s about time I read it. So I will. Very soon.
Also on CR: Interview with Tom Lloyd
Cherie Priest, Boneshaker, Clementine & Dreadnought (Tor UK)
Maria Isabella Boyd’s success as a Confederate spy has made her too famous for further espionage work, and now her employment options are slim. Exiled, widowed, and on the brink of poverty…she reluctantly goes to work for the Pinkerton National Detective Agency in Chicago.
Adding insult to injury, her first big assignment is commissioned by the Union Army. In short, a federally sponsored transport dirigible is being violently pursued across the Rockies and Uncle Sam isn’t pleased. TheClementine is carrying a top secret load of military essentials—essentials which must be delivered to Louisville, Kentucky, without delay.
Intelligence suggests that the unrelenting pursuer is a runaway slave who’s been wanted by authorities on both sides of the Mason-Dixon for fifteen years. In that time, Captain Croggon Beauregard Hainey has felonied his way back and forth across the continent, leaving a trail of broken banks, stolen war machines, and illegally distributed weaponry from sea to shining sea.
And now it’s Maria’s job to go get him.
He’s dangerous quarry and she’s a dangerous woman, but when forces conspire against them both, they take a chance and form an alliance. She joins his crew, and he uses her connections. She follows his orders. He takes her advice.
And somebody, somewhere, is going to rue the day he crossed either one of them.
I reviewed Boneshaker a while back (synopsis above is for Clementine; Dreadnought synopsis below). It was… not the best book I’ve ever read, but I can certainly see why it made a splash in the SFF community. With the UK releases rolling out over the next few months, I thought it would be a great time to catch up with the series. I picked up Clementine (eNovella) when it became available in the UK, and I’ll be reading that before I dive into Dreadnought and Ganymede (I picked up the US edition). The latest book in the series, Inexplicables, is out already in the US and is coming early 2013 in the UK.
Nurse Mercy Lynch is elbows deep in bloody laundry at a war hospital in Richmond, Virginia, when Clara Barton comes bearing bad news: Mercy’s husband has died in a POW camp. On top of that, a telegram from the west coast declares that her estranged father is gravely injured, and he wishes to see her. Mercy sets out toward the Mississippi River. Once there, she’ll catch a train over the Rockies and—if the telegram can be believed—be greeted in Washington Territory by the sheriff, who will take her to see her father in Seattle.
Reaching the Mississippi is a harrowing adventure by dirigible and rail through war-torn border states. When Mercy finally arrives in St. Louis, the only Tacoma-bound train is pulled by a terrifying Union-operated steam engine called the Dreadnought. Reluctantly, Mercy buys a ticket and climbs aboard.
What ought to be a quiet trip turns deadly when the train is beset by bushwhackers, then vigorously attacked by a band of Rebel soldiers. The train is moving away from battle lines into the vast, unincorporated west, so Mercy can’t imagine why they’re so interested. Perhaps the mysterious cargo secreted in the second and last train cars has something to do with it?
Mercy is just a frustrated nurse who wants to see her father before he dies. But she’ll have to survive both Union intrigue and Confederate opposition if she wants to make it off the Dreadnought alive.
Tempus Rerum Imperator: Time, Emperor of All Things
1758. England is embroiled in a globe-spanning conflict that stretches from her North American colonies to Europe and beyond. Across the Channel, the French prepare for an invasion – an invasion rumored to be led by none other than Bonnie Prince Charlie. It seems the map of Europe is about to be redrawn. Yet behind these dramatic scenes, another war is raging - a war that will determine not just the fate of nations but of humanity itself...
Daniel Quare is a journeyman in an ancient guild, The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers. He is also a Regulator, part of an elite network within the guild devoted to searching out and claiming for England's exclusive use any horological innovation that could give them an upperhand, whether in business or in war.
Just such a mission has brought Quare to the London townhouse of eccentric collector, Lord Wichcote. He seeks a pocket watch rumoured to possess seemingly impossible properties that are more to do with magic than with any science familiar to Quare or to his superiors. And the strange timepiece has attracted the attention of others as well: the mysterious masked thief known only as Grimalkin, and a deadly French spy who stop at nothing to bring the prize back to his masters. Soon Quare finds himself on a dangerous trail of intrigue and murder that leads far from the world he knows into an otherwhere of dragons and demigods, in which nothing is as it seems… time least of all.
I seem to have missed all information about this book until it arrived. It sounds pretty awesome, though, so I will definitely do my best to get to it soon. It’s not out until mid-February, though, so it will probably have to wait a little longer.
Also, that is one nice cover…
Batman Incorporated (DC)
Bruce Wayne publicly announces that he is the financial backer of Batman and establishes a worldwide franchise of Batmen that will protect the entire globe. This is the beginning of a stunning direction for the world’s greatest detective that will team him with Catwoman, Batwoman and Batman Inc representatives on international crime fighting missions against Lord Death Man in Japan, South America and Argentina.
So I’m taking a bit of a gamble on this – my track record of liking Grant Morrison’s work is not exactly great. He’s very hit-and-miss, but I’m going to give this a try nevertheless. My main reasons are that a) this was pretty cheap, and b) I want to try the New 52 Batman Incorporated series, and this is a prequel to that. Sort of. We’ll see.
Blackest Night (DC)
Throughout the decades, death has plagued the DC Universe and taken the lives of heroes and villains alike. But to what end? As the War between the different colored Lantern Corps rages on, the prophecy of the Blackest Night descends and it's up to Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps to lead DC's greatest champions in a battle to save the Universe from an army of undead Black Lanterns made up of fallen Green Lanterns and DC's deceased heroes and villains.
My continuing education in the Green Lantern universe/setting continues with this book. After thoroughly enjoying the New 52 Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, Red Lanterns and (to a lesser extent) New Guardians (review soon) series, I decided that Blackest Night had to be next on my list. It’s sort-of the end of Johns’s pre-New 52 Lantern work, but it is directly tied into some of the new storylines, and it’s a DCU-spanning story, so I should find plenty of interest in here.
Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child – “Requiem” (Vertigo)
Lingering on the threshold between history and legend, the home of Mardi Gras and the birthplace of Jazz, New Orleans is also known as the most haunted city in America: a town of centuries-old ghosts and new spirits of those drowned by Katrina; where Loup Garous, Vampires and Voodoo Spirits make their home. Ruling over all of this are the powerful Voodoo Queens, whose influence stretches into politics, business and crime as they maintain the delicate equilibrium between the mortal and supernatural worlds. But that careful balance has been upset. The Queen has been murdered, and Tulane grad student Dominique Laveau is the No. 1 suspect--and marked for death.
This is one of the four new Vertigo titles that came out in September 2012. I tried a couple issues of each of them (two more of them, below), and really liked what I found in each of the titles. I decided, though, to wait for the collected editions. This book is, I believe, the complete series. It’s a great urban fantasy story set in New Orleans, and I’m looking forward to reading the end of it. Expect the review to appear very soon on the site.
Fairest, Vol.1 – “Wide Awake” (Vertigo)
A new series starring the female FABLES. Balancing horror, humor and adventure in the FABLES tradition, FAIREST explores the secret histories of Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Cinderella, The Snow Queen, Thumbelina, Snow White, Rose Red and others. The first 6-issue tale follows the misadventures of Briar Rose immediately after the events of FABLES #107 (collected in Fables Volume 16: Super Team), in which she was stolen away by the goblin army.
This was actually the first of Willingham’s series that I read (the first couple of issues), and it got me hooked on the author’s Fables setting. Since then, I’ve read the first five Deluxe editions (which Alyssa very kindly got me for various celebrations). Following “Wide Awake”, Willingham will serve as a consultant on future story arcs, and introduce new writers to the FABLES mythos. The current writer is Lauren Beukes, which is great news for any SFF fans who are familiar with her award-winning Angry Robot-published novels.
Saucer Country, Vol.1 – “Run” (Vertigo)
Arcadia Alvarado, the leading Democratic candidate for President of the United States, says she was “abducted by aliens.” As the Mexican-American Governor of New Mexico, she’s dealing with immigration, budget cuts and an alcoholic ex. She’s about to toss her hat into the ring as a candidate for President in the most volatile political climate ever. But then... a lonely road and a nightmarish encounter have left her with terrible, half-glimpsed memories. And now she has to become President. To expose the truth--and maybe, to save the world. With the help of her quirky staff, Arcadia will pursue the truth of her abduction into danger, mystery and awe.
American Politics meets alien abduction, from an awesome author (of both comics and novels). There was no way I was going to miss out on this one. And so now I won’t.