Monday, July 28, 2014

New Books… (July/August)


Featuring: Guy Adams, Scott K. Andrews, Edward Cox, Matthew Dunn, Maria & Sergey Dyachenko, Ian C. Esslemont, William Gibson, Bill Granger, Lev Grossman, Marc Guggenheim, Jim C. Hines, Mark Hodder, James Lovegrove, Andy Miller, Fredrik T. Olsson, Gaie Sebold, Tricia Sullivan, David Shafer

AdamsG-CS2-RainSoakedBrideUKGuy Adams, The Rain-Soaked Bride (Del Rey UK)

How do you stop an assassin that can’t be killed?

When several members of the diplomatic service die in seemingly innocent, yet strangely similar

circumstances, it seems a unique form of murder is being used.

Toby Greene is part of Section 37, known as The Clown Service, a mostly forgotten branch of British Intelligence tasked with fighting exactly this kind of threat.

However, the Rain-Soaked Bride is no ordinary assassin. Relentless, inexorable and part of a larger game, merely stopping this impossible killer may not be enough to save the day…

This is the sequel to Adams’s The Clown Service, which I have not yet read. It sounds pretty interesting, though.


AndrewsSK-1-TimebombScott K. Andrews, Timebomb (Hodder)

New York City, 2141: Yojana Patel throws herself off a skyscraper, but never hits the ground.

Cornwall, 1640: gentle young Dora Predennick, newly come to Sweetclover Hall to work, discovers a badly-burnt woman at the bottom of a flight of stairs. When she reaches out to comfort the dying woman, she's knocked unconscious, only to wake, centuries later, in empty laboratory room.

On a rainy night in present-day Cornwall, seventeen-year-old Kaz Cecka sneaks into the long-abandoned Sweetclover Hall, determined to secure a dry place to sleep. Instead he finds a frightened housemaid who believes Charles I is king and an angry girl who claims to come from the future.

Thrust into the centre of an adventure that spans millennia, Dora, Kaz and Jana must learn to harness powers they barely understand to escape not only villainous Lord Sweetclover but the forces of a fanatical army… all the while staying one step ahead of a mysterious woman known only as Quil.

Sounds interesting. Looks like it hops back-and-forth in time quite frequently. Could work. Or could not. We’ll see.


CoxE-RG1-RelicGuild2014Edward Cox, The Relic Guild (Gollancz)

In the sealed Labyrinth, a young woman must find a way to control her magic and escape her prison in this remarkable debut fantasy.

Magic caused the war. Magic is forbidden. Magic will save us.

It was said the Labyrinth had once been the great meeting place, a sprawling city at the heart of an endless maze where a million humans hosted the Houses of the Aelfir. The Aelfir who had brought trade and riches, and a future full of promise. But when the Thaumaturgists, overlords of human and Aelfir alike, went to war, everything was ruined and the Labyrinth became an abandoned forbidden zone, where humans were trapped behind boundary walls a hundred feet high.

Now the Aelfir are a distant memory and the Thaumaturgists have faded into myth. Young Clara struggles to survive in a dangerous and dysfunctional city, where eyes are keen, nights are long, and the use of magic is punishable by death. She hides in the shadows, fearful that someone will discover she is touched by magic. She knows her days are numbered. But when a strange man named Fabian Moor returns to the Labyrinth, Clara learns that magic serves a higher purpose and that some myths are much more deadly in the flesh.

The only people Clara can trust are the Relic Guild, a secret band of magickers sworn to protect the Labyrinth. But the Relic Guild are now too few. To truly defeat their old nemesis Moor, mightier help will be required. To save the Labyrinth – and the lives of one million humans – Clara and the Relic Guild must find a way to contact the worlds beyond their walls.

I read an early draft of this, and I’m very eager to get stuck in to read this final, fully-edited version of the story. I have very high hopes for this novel and series.

Also on CR: Interview with Edward Cox


DunnM-S4-DarkSpiesUSMatthew Dunn, Dark Spies (William Morrow)

On the run from the CIA, intelligence operative Will Cochrane heads to the U.S. to uncover a diabolical spymaster at the center of an international conspiracy in this thrilling follow up to Slingshot.

When Will Cochrane encounters a Russian spymaster – codenamed Antaeus – who everyone believes is dead, he is thrust into a deadly game set in motion by powerful players deep inside the U.S. intelligence community. Will has worked with the CIA for years and knows them all. But now he knows there’s no one he can trust.

His orders from Langley are clear: ANTAEUS MUST NOT BE TOUCHED. FURTHER INQUIRIES REQUIRE PROJECT FERRYMAN CLEARANCE. But as Antaeus and his men then attempt to execute the CIA’s best agents, Will decides to take his own shot at the spymaster, knowing it will make him a marked man.

Now, the only way to save his career – and his life – is to get into the U.S. and expose the truth about Project Ferryman. But to accomplish that he’s got to outmaneuver four deadly Russian assassins and an elite FBI team controlled by shadowy officials who will stop at nothing to keep their sins and secrets safe.

This is the fourth novel in Dunn’s Spycatcher series. A series I have not actually yet read. It has, however, been on my radar for a very long time, and so I’ve bought the first three books in the series to catch up on – I’m hoping to do a number of thriller-series-binges over the next few months. So, expect these to feature soon. (I also received the novella for review, which falls between books three and four.)


Dyachenko-VitaNostraMaria & Sergey Dyachenko, Vita Nostra

The words VITA NOSTRA, or “our life,” come from an old Latin student anthem Gaudeamus : “Vita nostra brevis est, Brevi finietur” or “Our life is brief, It will shortly end …”

The heroine of the novel has been forced into a seemingly inconceivable situation. Against her will, she must enter the Institute of Special Technologies. A slightest misstep or failure at school – and the students’ loved ones pay a price. Governed by fear and coercion, Sasha will learn the meaning of the phrase "In the beginning was the word …"

VITA NOSTRA is a thrilling journey into the deepest mysteries of existence, a dizzying adventure, an opening into a world that no one has ever described, a world that frightens and attracts the readers of the novel.

The novel combines the seemingly incongruous aspects – spectacular adventures and philosophical depth, incredible transformations and psychological accuracy, complexity of ethical issues and mundane details of urban life.

VITA NOSTRA enjoyed a considerable critical acclaim in Russia. It has received eight major literary prizes and has been named the best novel of the twenty first century in the sci-fi/fantasy genre (Prize of Prizes, Eurocon-2008, Moscow). It has been translated into several languages.

Information about this novel is pretty limited in the English-speaking world. I heard about it via Aliette de Bodard’s Twitter feed and a short blog post she wrote about it. More a press release than a synopsis, what it above is pretty much all I’ve been able to find outside of other review. (Lev Grossman provided the blurb on the cover, which further increased my interest.) It does sound pretty interesting. I picked it up for my Kindle (it’s very cheap for a new, 500+ page novel) and also The Scar – the authors’ previous novel, an epic fantasy that was published in the US by Tor Books.


Esslemont-AssailIan C. Esslemont, Assail (Transworld)

Tens of thousands of years of ice is melting, and the land of Assail, long a byword for menace and inaccessibility, is at last yielding its secrets. Tales of gold discovered in the region’s north circulate in every waterfront dive and sailor’s tavern and now adventurers and fortune-seekers have set sail in search of riches. And all they have to guide them are legends and garbled tales of the dangers that lie in wait – hostile coasts, fields of ice, impassable barriers and strange, terrifying creatures. But all accounts concur that the people of the north meet all trespassers with the sword – and should you make it, beyond are rumoured to lurk Elder monsters out of history’s very beginnings.

Into this turmoil ventures the mercenary company, the Crimson Guard. Not drawn by contract, but by the promise of answers: answers that Shimmer, second in command, feels should not be sought. Also heading north, as part of an uneasy alliance of Malazan fortune-hunters and Letherii soldiery, comes the bard Fisher kel Tath. With him is a Tiste Andii who was found washed ashore and cannot remember his past and yet commands far more power than he really should. It is also rumoured that a warrior, bearer of a sword that slays gods and who once fought for the Malazans, is also journeying that way. But far to the south, a woman patiently guards the shore. She awaits both allies and enemies. She is Silverfox, newly incarnate Summoner of the undying army of the T’lan Imass, and she will do anything to stop the renewal of an ages-old crusade that could lay waste to the entire continent and beyond. Casting light on mysteries spanning the Malazan empire, and offering a glimpse of the storied and epic history that shaped it, Assail brings the epic story of the Empire of Malaz to a thrilling close.

The final book in the Malazan world, I believe. A series I have not read. Still. Now that the epic is complete – both Esslemont’s and Erikson’s novels – maybe I’ll give it a try.


GibsonW-DistrustThatParticularFlavorWilliam Gibson, Distrust That Particular Flavour (Putnam)

“The future’s already here: it’s just not evenly distributed.”

William Gibson was writing fiction when he predicted the internet. And as his stories bled into reality so he became one of the first to report on the real-world consequences of cyberspace’s growth and development.

Now, with the dust settling on the first internet revolution, comes Gibson’s first collection of non-fiction – essays from the technological and cultural frontiers of this new world.

Covering a variety of subjects, they include: Metrophagy – the Art and Science of Digesting Great Cities; An account of obsession in “the world’s attic” – eBay; Reasons why “The Net is a Waste of Time”; Singapore as “Disneyland with the Death Penalty”; A primer on Japan, our default setting for the future…

These and many other pieces, collected for the first time in Distrust that Particular Flavour, are studded with revealing autobiographical fragments and map the development of Gibson’s acute perceptions about modern life. Readers of Neal Stephenson, Ray Bradbury and Iain M. Banks will love this book.

Some non-fiction by William Gibson. Should be interesting.


Bill Granger, November Man Series #1-3 (Grand Central)


The president learned long ago that the CIA could not be trusted. And so he created his own group of deadly efficient men to gather independent intelligence: a watchdog organization to keep the CIA in check. R Section was born.

“There are no spies…”

Until he heard those four simple words, Devereaux thought he’d left his days in R Section behind. He was no longer The November Man, an American field officer in the vice-grip of duty and danger – and the most brilliant agent R Section had ever produced. When he receives the cryptic message from Hanley, his former handler, Devereaux has no idea he’s about to be reactivated into a mission to save both his life and R Section itself. He’s not aware that a beautiful KGB agent has been ordered to stalk and kill him-or that Hanley is now in a government-subsidized asylum for people with too many secrets. And he doesn’t know that zero hour ticks closer for an operation to catch a master spy… with Devereaux the designated pawn.

What The November Man doesn’t know can kill him.

Code Name November, Schism, and The Shattered Eye are the first three novels in Bill Granger’s long-running November Man series, which is being re-issued to celebrate the upcoming release of the Pierce Brosnan-starring movie based on the first book. I’m quite intrigued, I must say. It sounds like a classic espionage thriller. High hopes.

Confusingly, Code Name November was previously published as The November Man, and originally published as There Are No Spies.

CORRECTION: I actually have The November Man, which is the seventh title in the November Man series – that is the novel that has been adapted into a movie starring Pierce Brosnan.


GrossmanL-3-MagiciansLandLev Grossman, The Magician Land (Penguin)

Quentin Coldwater has lost everything. He has been cast out of Fillory, the secret magical land of his childhood dreams that he once ruled. Everything he had fought so hard for, not to mention his closest friends, is sealed away in a land Quentin may never again visit. With nothing left to lose he returns to where his story began, the Brakebills Preparatory College of Magic. But he can’t hide from his past, and it’s not long before it comes looking for him. Meanwhile, the magical barriers that keep Fillory safe are failing, and barbarians from the north have invaded. Eliot and Janet, the rulers of Fillory, embark on a final quest to save their beloved world, only to discover a situation far more complex – and far more dire – than anyone had envisioned.

Along with Plum, a brilliant young magician with a dark secret of her own, Quentin sets out on a crooked path through a magical demimonde of gray magic and desperate characters. His new life takes him back to old haunts, like Antarctica and the Neitherlands, and old friends he thought were lost forever. He uncovers buried secrets and hidden evils and ultimately the key to a sorcerous masterwork, a spell that could create a magical utopia. But all roads lead back to Fillory, where Quentin must face his fears and put things right or die trying.

I just finished The Magician King, which was excellent (if a tad slow to get going). I’m taking a short break from this setting, but will hopefully get this reviewed for the week of release. If you haven’t tried Grossman’s series, yet, then you really should – it does a wonderful job of deconstructing the fantasy genre (especially that pioneered by C.S. Lewis).

Also on CR: Interview with Lev Grossman


GuggenheimM-OverwatchMarc Guggenheim, Overwatch (Mulholland)

A young CIA lawyer uncovers a dangerous worldwide conspiracy, masterminded by forces within the US intelligence community.

Alex Garnett has spent his life in the shadow of his father, a former Chief of Staff and Solicitor General to two presidents who’s been responsible for getting Alex every job he ever had, including his latest: attorney for the CIA. However, a seemingly routine litigation leads to a series of unexpected events, including poison, kidnapping, torture and murder. As casualties pile up, it becomes clear Alex is the final target in someone’s blood-soaked attempts to cover their tracks.

With the help of a neurotic hacker, Alex unravels a conspiracy older than the CIA itself. The trail of clues reveals the presence of unseen forces that are bringing this nation to the brink of war – and Alex’s life is only one of many in danger.

This novel has been on my radar for a while, and I’m very happy that I finally have my hands on it. Guggenheim is quite the accomplished writer of TV (Law & Order, Brothers & Sisters) and comics (Spider-Man, Wolverine, etc.), not to mention the fact that he is also a co-creator of Arrow, one of my favourite new TV shows. And this is a political thriller. So I’m really looking forward to reading this. It may have to be my next read, after I finish Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (another Mulholland title – details below).


HinesJC-MEL2-CodexBornUKJim C. Hines, Codex Born (Del Rey UK)

They’re back. And they want revenge…

Sent to investigate the brutal slaughter of a wendigo in the north Michigan town of Tamarack, Isaac Vainio and his companions find they have wandered into something far more dangerous than a simple killing.

A long established werewolf territory, Tamarack is rife with ancient enemies of Libriomancy who quest for revenge. Isaac has the help of Lena Greenwood, his dryad bodyguard born from the pages of a pulp fantasy novel, but he is not the only one in need of her unique and formidable powers…

The second novel in Hines’s Magic El Libris series. I enjoyed the first one, Libriomancer – though it was slightly flawed, it was a lot of fun, especially for genre fans and fantasy bibliophiles.


Hodder-TheReturnOfTheDiscontinuedManUKMark Hodder, The Return of the Discontinued Man (Del Rey UK)

Burton and Swinburne return in a new wildly imaginative steampunk adventure, and this time they’re facing their greatest foe…

Leicester Square, London. Blood red snow falls from the sky and a strange creature, disorientated and apparently insane, materialises out of thin air. Spring Heeled Jack has returned, and he is intent on one thing: hunting Sir Richard Francis Burton.

Burton is experiencing one hallucination after another; visions of parallel realities and future history plague his every thought. These send him, and his companions, on an unimaginable expedition – a voyage through time itself…

An author I have never got around to reading, this is the latest in Hodder’s Burton & Swinburne steampunk series. I have never really been taken with steampunk. But, given how popular this series is, I may just have to give it a go.


Lovegrove-WorldOfFireJames Lovegrove, World of Fire (Solaris)

Dev Harmer, reluctant agent of Interstellar Security Solutions, wakes up in a newly cloned host body on the planet Alighieri, ready for action. It’s an infernal world, so close to its sun that its surface is regularly baked to 1000 degrees centigrade, hot enough to turn rock to lava. But deep underground there are networks of tunnels connecting colonies of miners who dig for the precious helium-3 regolith deposits in Alighieri’s crust.

Polis+, the AI race who are humankind’s great galactic rivals, want to claim the fiery planet’s mineral wealth for their own. All that stands between them and this goal is Dev. But as well as Polis+’s agents, there are giant moleworms to contend with, and a spate of mysterious earthquakes, and the perils of the surface where a man can be burned to cinders if he gets caught unprotected on the day side...

Sounds a little like Richard Morgan’s Altered Carbon, only set on a really hot planet. Could be cool – Lovegrove is a great author, after all.

Also on CR: Interview with James Lovegrove; Guest Posts – Age of Godpunk, Pantheon Inspirations; Excerpt from Age of Shiva


MillerA-TheYearOfReadingDangerouslyUSAndy Miller, The Year of Reading Dangerously (William Morrow)

An editor and writer’s vivaciously entertaining, and often moving, chronicle of his year-long adventure with fifty great books (and two not-so-great ones) – a true story about reading that reminds us why we should all make time in our lives for books.

Nearing his fortieth birthday, author and critic Andy Miller realized he’s not nearly as well read as he’d like to be. A devout book lover who somehow fell out of the habit of reading, he began to ponder the power of books to change an individual life – including his own – and to the define the sort of person he would like to be. Beginning with a copy of Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita that he happens to find one day in a bookstore, he embarks on a literary odyssey of mindful reading and wry introspection. From Middlemarch to Anna Karenina to A Confederacy of Dunces, these are books Miller felt he should read; books he’d always wanted to read; books he’d previously started but hadn’t finished; and books he’d lied about having read to impress people.

Combining memoir and literary criticism, The Year of Reading Dangerously is Miller’s heartfelt, humorous, and honest examination of what it means to be a reader. Passionately believing that books deserve to be read, enjoyed, and debated in the real world, Miller documents his reading experiences and how they resonated in his daily life and ultimately his very sense of self. The result is a witty and insightful journey of discovery and soul-searching that celebrates the abiding miracle of the book and the power of reading.

Why this book is interesting probably doesn’t need an explanation.


OlssonFT-ChainOfEventsUKFredrik T. Olsson, Chain of Events (Sphere)

Nothing would make me keep a diary.

Except for one thing.

The realisation that soon there won’t be anyone around to read it.

William Sandberg. A broken genius, snatched from his home.

Christina Sandberg, his ex-wife. She does not believe their lies.

Our future hangs on their survival. If they fail, we are all lost.

To be honest, I don’t know much about this novel, but it has been on my radar for some time. It’s created a fair bit of stir and seems to be picking up international publishers left and right. As I’m going to be reading and featuring more thrillers in the coming months, this should fit in very nicely. Expect more pretty soon.


Sebold-ShanghaiSparrowGaie Sebold, Shanghai Sparrow (Solaris)

The British Empire is at war, both within and without. Eveline Duchen was once a country child, touched by the magic that clings to the woods. Now she is a street urchin in a London where brutal poverty and glittering new inventions exist side by side, living as a thief and a con-artist. Caught in an act of deception, Eveline is faced with Mr Holmfirth, who offers her a stark choice. Transportation, or an education – at Madam Cairngrim’s school for female spies.

The school’s regime is harsh, but she plans to take advantage of everything they can teach her, then go her own way. But in the fury of the Opium Wars, the British Empire is about to make a devil’s bargain. Eveline’s choices will change the future of her world, and reveal the truth about the death of her sister Charlotte. Shaghai Sparrow is set in an alternative England and China.

I finally got around to buying this. I loved Sebold’s debut novel, Babylon Steel, and this sounds even more like something I’d like (being a Chinese history fan). Hopefully get to this pretty soon.

Also on CR: Interview with Gaie Sebold


ShaferD-WhiskeyTangoFoxtrotDavid Shafer, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (Mulholland)

The Committee, an international cabal of industrialists and media barons, is on the verge of privatizing all information. Dear Diary, an idealistic online Underground, stands in the way of that takeover, using radical politics, classic spycraft, and technology that makes Big Data look like dial-up. Into this secret battle stumbles an unlikely trio: Leila Majnoun, a disillusioned non-profit worker; Leo Crane, an unhinged trustafarian; and Mark Deveraux, a phony self-betterment guru who works for the Committee.

Leo and Mark were best friends in college, but early adulthood has set them on diverging paths. Growing increasingly disdainful of Mark’s platitudes, Leo publishes a withering takedown of his ideas online. But the Committee is reading – and erasing – Leo’s words. On the other side of the world, Leila’s discoveries about the Committee’s far-reaching ambitions threaten to ruin those who are closest to her.

In the spirit of William Gibson and Chuck Palahniuk, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is both a suspenseful global thriller and an emotionally truthful novel about the struggle to change the world in- and outside your head.

I’ve heard and read a lot of positive murmers about this novel. I’m reading it at the moment, and enjoying it a good deal. Shafer writes very well, and, while I’m not entirely sure where the story is headed, it’s well-paced and engaging. Very good characters, too.


SullivanT-1-ShadowboxerTricia Sullivan, Shadowboxer (Solaris / Ravenstone)

Jade Barrera is a 17-year-old champion martial arts fighter; when she’s in the cage she dominates her opponents – but in real life she’s out of control. After a confrontation with a Hollywood star that threatens her gym’s reputation, Jade’s coach sends her to a training camp in Thailand for an attitude adjustment.

Hoping to discover herself, she instead uncovers a shocking conspiracy. In a world just beyond our own, a man is stealing the souls of children to try and live forever.

As Jade’s world collides with that of ten-year-old refugee Mya, can she keep her cool and remember the training camp’s lessons when she enters the ring for the fight of her life? A fight that will seal not only her own fate, but Mya’s too...

Sounds like an interesting novel. Not sure if it’s the first of a series or a stand-alone, but I hope to get to it soon.



  1. I have to admit that I'm not overly impressed with the crop of covers in that round up.

    1. They're not the best collection, no. But not all bad.