Featuring: Annie Hauxwell, David Hosp, C.C. Humphreys, David Ignatius, Tim Lebbon, Rebecca Levene, D.J. Molles, Marie Phillips, William Shaw, & graphic novels
Annie Hauxwell, A Morbid Habit (William Heinemann)
The hands were warm. Soft fingers, but flesh inflected with iron. Squeezing. The tongue lolled and protruded from the mouth. Vertebrae fragmented, one, two, three, until finally the hands relaxed and the limp body slid from their embrace.
Blood turned to ice and sealed the nostrils.
It’s the week before Christmas. Catherine Berlin sits alone gazing at a bank of monitors, each capturing a slice of a vast industrial estate. A van appears: two men delivering crates, moving quickly. Her boss tells her to ignore them, but she can’t.
Berlin’s scars have faded, but she still walks with a limp. She’s broke and working nights as a relief CCTV operator, and looking for something more substantial. Her heroin habit is under control – only just.
The night shifts end, but now Berlin herself is being watched. When an old friend offers her a job in Russia, she quickly agrees. The details are vague: a mysterious businessman with money to spend, a UK company offering a high fee for Berlin to investigate. Easy enough.
But Berlin arrives in Moscow to find that her problems are only just beginning. She is soon forced to confront some uncomfortable truths about her past, and her present. A body is found at the airport: a man clutching a sign with her name on it. Her pursuers reappear, and her guide, a Brit named Charlie, has secrets to hide. When Berlin’s businessman goes missing, she realises that she cannot trust anyone or anything, if she is to survive.
I’ve never heard of Hauxwell’s work, but this sounds pretty interesting. We’ll see.
David Hosp, Game of Death (Macmillan)
When a dark and thrilling fantasy becomes a terrifying reality
The first thing I notice is her face. It is so perfect it seems unlikely that it could ever exist in the real world. Her white skin is flawless, her features perfectly symmetrical, her lips red and wet and full, parting with every gasp. It is her eyes that hold me, though. They are a shade of blue I have never seen, with flecks of gold and crystal, and they are so penetrating it feels as though they are reaching out straight through his eyes into mine, begging me for… something I can't quite make out. It’s like those eyes have captured the dialectic of every human emotion that ever mattered - love and hate; ecstasy and terror; comfort and jealousy – and rolled them into a single glance that could level entire cities. I am slaughtered.
Imagine being able to create and experience your deepest dreams and your darkest fantasies…
Boston entrepreneur and techno whizz-kid, Nick Caldwell with the help of his long-time friend and colleague, Yvette, has worked on a programme where people can do just that – all from the safety and comfort of their home.
NextLife is an exciting young company which promises its subscribers the chance to experience anything they want. Climb Everest. Dive off the Barrier Reef. Go to a 1970s Rolling Stones concert. Walk the Great Wall of China.
But it seems that one of their clients has much more sinister desires.
And it involved the girl with the wonderful blue eyes…
David Hosp is an author I’ve been aware of for years, but for some inexplicable reason haven’t got around to reading before… This novel, however, sounds really good (even more so than his other, really-good-sounding novels), so I may read this next-but-one. Or certainly this month, anyway.
C.C. Humphreys, Plague (Century)
London, May 1665.
On a dark road outside London, a simple robbery goes horribly wrong – when the gentlemanly highwayman, William Coke, discovers that his intended victims have been brutally slaughtered.
Suspected of the murders, Coke is forced into an uneasy alliance with the man who pursues him – the relentless thief-taker, Pitman.
Together they seek the killer – and uncover a conspiracy that reaches from the glittering, debauched court of King Charles to the worst slum in the city, St Giles in the Fields.
But there’s another murderer moving through the slums, the taverns and palaces, slipping under the doorways of the rich.
A mass murderer.
Another author I’ve been familiar with, but haven’t read… There are an ever-growing number of those, too… I hope to get to this soon. I haven’t read much historical fiction, recently, so it’ll be nice to start mixing up the genres a bit more. I’ve heard nothing but excellent things about Humphreys, too.
David Ignatius, The Director (Quercus)
A MAN WITH SOMETHING TO CHANGE.
Graham Weber, the new director of the CIA, is tasked with revolutionising an agency in crisis. Never intimidated by a challenge, Weber intends to do just that.
A HACKER WITH SOMETHING TO EXPOSE.
Weber’s task greatens when a young computer genius approaches the CIA with proof their systems have been compromised. There is a breach. There is a mole.
A WOMAN WITH SOMETHING TO PROVE.
The agent who takes this walk-in is K. J. Sandoval – a frustrated yet ambitious base chief desperate to prove her worth to the agency and its new director.
Weber must move quickly. And he must choose his allies carefully, if he is to succeed in identifying an enemy that is inside the gates, and out to destroy him.
Yet another author I’m very familiar with – but, in this case, more his non-fiction and journalism. All of this novels and short stories have looked pretty interesting. I don’t really know why I haven’t given them a try, though… This is his latest, and I’m really interested in the politics/issues he’s looking at here.
Tim Lebbon, Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi – Into the Void (Arrow)
Taking place thousands of years before the time of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. On the remote world Tython ancient philosophers and scientists share their mystical knowledge and study the ways of the Force. They establish the order of the Je’daii – which, in years to come, will become the Jedi. But first these visitors from so many different planets must colonize a dangerous new homeworld and surmount societal conflicts as the burgeoning Rakatan Empire prepares to conquer the known galaxy.
Lebbon is a pretty good writer. Sadly, though, I’m not particularly interested in Star Wars fiction set before episode IV. I also didn’t particularly care for the Dawn of the Jedi comic books – it felt a bit… I don’t know. The only thing I can come up with is the rather ineloquent “meh”…
Rebecca Levene, Smiler’s Fair (Hodder)
Yron the moon god died, but now he’s reborn in the false king’s son. His human father wanted to kill him, but his mother sacrificed her life to save him. He’ll return one day to claim his birthright. He’ll change your life.
He’ll change everything.
Smiler’s Fair: the great moving carnival where any pleasure can be had, if you’re willing to pay the price. They say all paths cross at Smiler’s Fair. They say it’ll change your life. For five people, Smiler's Fair will change everything.
In a land where unimaginable horror lurks in the shadows, where the very sun and moon are at war, five people – Nethmi, the orphaned daughter of a murdered nobleman, who in desperation commits an act that will haunt her forever. Dae Hyo, the skilled warrior, who discovers that a lifetime of bravery cannot make up for a single mistake. Eric, who follows his heart only to find that love exacts a terrible price. Marvan, the master swordsman, who takes more pleasure from killing than he should. And Krish, the humble goatherd, with a destiny he hardly understands and can never accept – will discover just how much Smiler’s Fair changes everything.
This is a really nice-looking hardcover – not only in terms of the story, but also the physical object. Really nicely put together. I should have got around to reading this already (I received an ARC a while ago), but I’ve just been in a really weird reading-mood these past couple of months.
D.J. Molles, The Remaining: Aftermath (Orbit)
A SOLDIER’S MISSION IN A WORLD GONE TO HELL: SURVIVE, RESCUE, REBUILD
Nothing has gone according to plan.
To Captain Lee Harden, Project Hometown feels like a distant dream and the completion of his mission seems unattainable.
Wounded and weaponless, he has stumbled upon a group of survivors that seems willing to help. But a tragedy in the group causes a deep rift to come to light and forces him into action. In the chaos of the world outside, Lee is pursued by a new threat: someone who will stop at nothing to get what he has.
The second installment in Molles’s originally-self-published zombie apocalypse series with a difference. Now published in eBook and print by Orbit Books, I do really want to read this ASAP. I have a soft-spot for the genre, but I’m also really particular about what I like within it (V.M. Zito and Adam Baker have been my favourites so far). We’ll see. Still need to read the first book, too.
Marie Phillips, The Table of Less Valued Knights (Jonathan Cape)
Sir Humphrey du Val of the Table of Less Valued Knights – Camelot’s least prestigious table, with one leg shorter than the others so that it has to be propped up with a folded napkin – doesn't do quests … until he meets Elaine, a damsel in distress with a secret to hide.
Meanwhile, Queen Martha of Puddock is on the run from an arranged marriage to the odious Prince Edwin of Tuft. But an encounter with the Locum of the Lake (standing in for the full-time Lady) leaves her with a quest of her own: to find her missing brother, long believed dead.
The two quests collide, introducing a host of Arthurian misfits, including a freakishly short giant, a twelve-year-old crone, an amorous unicorn, and a magic sword with a mind of her own.
“With Gods Behaving Badly Marie Phillips showed that she has a rare gift for comedy, giving the Greek Gods an ingenious contemporary twist. In The Table of Less Valued Knights it’s Camelot’s turn, and you’ll never see a knight in shining armour in the same way again.”
William Shaw, A House of Knives (Quercus)
London, November 1968. The decade is drawing its last breath. In Marylebone CID, suspects are beaten in the cells and the only woman is resigning. Detective Sergeant Breen has a death threat in his in-tray and a mutilated body on his hands.
The dead man was the wayward son of a rising MP with the ear of the home office – and everywhere Breen turns to investigate, he finds himself obstructed and increasingly alienated. But PR wary politicians can’t stop him talking to the art dealer Robert ‘Groovy Bob’ Fraser; whose glamorous parties mask a spreading heroin addiction among London’s young and beautiful.
He begins to see that the abuse of power is at every level of society. And when his actions endanger those at the top, he becomes their target. Out in the cold, banished from a corrupt and fracturing system, Breen is finally forced to fight fire with fire.
Don’t know much about this novel, or the author. This sounded pretty cool, though, so I requested it via NetGalley. I’m really behind on my Quercus/Jo Fletcher Books reviews, though. Quite shameful. I’m hoping to catch up over the next couple of months, though.
Writer: Jonathan Luna & Sarah Vaughn | Artist: Jonathan Luna
The last thing in the world Alex wanted was an X5, the latest in realistic androids. But after Ada is dropped into his life, he discovers she is more than just a robot.
Picked up the first issue during one of Image Comics’ first issue sales on ComiXology (it was actually free, along with a whole bunch of others), and really liked it. Far more than I’d anticipated, too. So, when it appeared on NetGalley, I snapped it up. Should read it very soon. (Oh, those famous last words…)
Justice League America, Vol.2 – “Survivors of Evil” (DC New 52)
Writer: Matt Kindt | Artist: Doug Mahnke & others
As the smoke clears from the Trinity War, one thing looks disturbingly clear, the members of the Justice League of America are dead, betrayed by one of their own. But as with the Trinity War, all is not what it seems. Martian Manhunter and Star Girl have lived to fight another day and find themselves trapped on an alien world that is under the control of a group of super-villains. The key to their survival may lie in the hands of the super-villain Despero, but will these heroes be able to find it within themselves to trust someone who is supposed to be their mortal enemy?
Now, I was actually not particularly taken by Justice League of America, Volume 1 (which I bought). I’m always willing to give series a look a little way beyond when I think they drop off in quality (or never meet it) – there have been a couple of series that have improved after a writer finds his or her feet. So, I’m hoping this series picks up. Despite having already been canned, to be replaced (sort of) by Justice League International (or, JL Canada, as I like to call it, for reasons).
Rocket Girl, Vol.1 – “Times Squared” (Image)
Writer: Brandon Montclare | Artist: Amy Reeder
A teenage cop from a hightech future is sent back in time to 1986 New York City. Dayoung Johansson is investigating the Quintum Mechanics megacorporation for crimes against time. As she pieces together the clues, she discovers the “future” she calls home – an alternate reality version of 2014 – shouldn’t exist at all!
This series has been garnering a lot of attention, recently. I picked up the first issue via ComiXology, but I got the first collection via NetGalley. Expect a review very soon.
Writer: Brian Ruckley | Artist: Alberto Ponticelli
Nu-Earth, just another planet ravaged by a galaxy-wide war, its atmosphere poisoned by chemical weapons. Created to fight in such conditions were the G.I.s – genetically engineered infantrymen. But now only one remains, the man known as… Rogue Trooper.
Years ago – years! – I had a subscription to 2000AD. One of my favourite characters and series therein was Rogue Trooper. Not only that, I’ve really enjoyed Brian Ruckley’s fiction Edinburgh Dead in particular). So when I learned that he was writing a Rogue Trooper story, I was very intrigued indeed. I picked up this ARC from NetGalley.
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