Featuring: Mitch Albom, Gillian Anderson, Kelly Armstrong, Lauren Beukes, Adam Brookes, Christopher Buehlman, Blake Butler, W. Bruce Cameron, Michael Carroll, Al Ewing, Tana French, Peter F. Hamilton, Michael Harvey, Lee Henderson, Steffen Jacobsen, Rajan Khanna, James Luceno, Todd Moss, Claire North, Pierre Pevel, John Sandford, Graeme Simsion, Matthew Smith, Peter Watts, Alec Worley
Mitch Albom, The First Phone Call From Heaven (Harper)
The First Phone Call from Heaven tells the story of a small town on Lake Michigan that gets worldwide attention when its citizens start receiving phone calls from the afterlife. Is it the greatest miracle ever or a massive hoax? Sully Harding, a grief-stricken single father, is determined to find out. An allegory about the power of belief — and a page-turner that will touch your soul — Albom’s masterful storytelling has never been so moving and unexpected.
This will be the first book by Albom I’ll read, and I’m quite looking forward to it. Sounds rather strange, potentially, but also very interesting.
Review copy from Publisher
Gillian Anderson & Jeff Rovin, A Vision of Fire (Simon & Schuster)
Renowned child psychologist Caitlin O'Hara is a single mum trying to juggle her job, her son, and a lacklustre love life. Her world is suddenly upturned when Maanik, the daughter of India’s ambassador to the United Nations, starts having violent visions. Maanik’s parents are sure that her fits have something to do with the recent assassination attempt on her father – a shooting that has escalated nuclear tensions between India and Pakistan to dangerous levels – but when children start having similar outbursts around the world, Caitlin begins to think that there’s a stranger force at work.
With Asia on the cusp of nuclear war, Caitlin must race across the globe and uncover the supernatural links between these seemingly unrelated cases in order to save her patient – and perhaps the world.
It’s a sci-fi novel written by Scully! Yeah, I know that’s not the best reason to want to read a novel, but I’ll admit Anderson’s involvement (not to mention the fact she wants to bring it to screen as well) caught my interest. It sounds really good, too. It’s high on my TBR mountain.
Review copy from Publisher
Kelly Armstrong, Dime Store Magic (Vintage/Orbit)
Paige Winterbourne was always either too young or too rebellious to succeed her mother as leader of one of the world's most powerful elite organizations – the American Coven of Witches. Now that she is twenty-three and her mother is dead, the Elders can no longer deny her. But even Paige’s wildest antics can’t hold a candle to those of her new charge – an orphan who is all too willing to use her budding powers for evil… and evil is all too willing to claim her. For this girl is being pursued by a dark faction of the supernatural underworld. They are a vicious group who will do anything to woo the young, malleable, and extremely powerful neophyte, including commit murder – and frame Paige for the crime. It’s an initiation into adulthood, womanhood, and the brutal side of magic that Paige will have to do everything within her power to make sure they both survive.
I’ve wanted to read it for years, but kept forgetting to buy it. Now I have, so I have no excuse not to read it soon. I have the North American edition, though I really do prefer the UK cover (right)… This is the third book in Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series, following the first two werewolf novels (Bitten), but the first featuring Paige Winterbourne.
Lauren Beukes, Moxyland (Angry Robot)
You think you know what’s going on?
You think you know who’s really in power?
You have No. Fucking. Idea.
Moxyland is an ultra-smart thriller about technological progress, and the freedoms it removes.
In the near future, four hip young things live in a world where your online identity is at least as important as your physical one. Getting disconnected is a punishment worse than imprisonment, but someone’s got to stand up to government inc., whatever the cost.
Lauren Beukes, Zoo City (Angry Robot)
Zinzi has a Sloth on her back, a dirty 419 scam habit and a talent for finding lost things. But when a little old lady turns up dead and the cops confiscate her last paycheck, she’s forced to take on her least favourite kind of job – missing persons.
Being hired by reclusive music producer Odi Huron to find a teenybop pop star should be her ticket out of Zoo City, the festering slum where the criminal underclass and their animal companions live in the shadow of hell’s undertow.
Instead, it catapults Zinzi deeper into the maw of a city twisted by crime and magic, where she’ll be forced to confront the dark secrets of former lives – including her own.
I’ve read and loved The Shining Girls and Broken Monsters (review later this week), so decided it was high time that I went back to Beukes’s first two novels, so I bought them.
Not sure exactly when I’ll get around to reading them, but I hope to do so soon.
Adam Brookes, Night Heron (Sphere)
Set in China, and ripped from today’s headlines, comes a pulse-pounding debut that reinvents the spy thriller for the 21st century.
A lone man, Peanut, escapes a labor camp in the dead of night, fleeing across the winter desert of north-west China.
Two decades earlier, he was a spy for the British; now Peanut must disappear on Beijing’s surveillance-blanketed streets. Desperate and ruthless, he reaches out to his one-time MI6 paymasters via crusading journalist Philip Mangan, offering military secrets in return for extraction.
But the secrets prove more valuable than Peanut or Mangan could ever have known… and not only to the British.
I spotted this in Goldsboro Books when I was still in London. For some reason, it’s taken me this long to go out and pick up my own copy – it sounds interesting, mixing both East Asia and espionage (two of my favourite topics).
Blake Butler, 300,000,000 (Harper Perennial)
Blake Butler’s fiction has dazzled readers with its dystopian dreamscapes and swaggering command of language. Now, in his most topical and visceral novel yet, he ushers us into the consciousness of two men in the shadow of a bloodbath: Gretch Gravey, a cryptic psychopath with a small army of burnout followers, and E. N. Flood, the troubled police detective tasked with unpacking and understanding his mind.
A mingled simulacrum of Charles Manson, David Koresh, and Thomas Harris’s Buffalo Bill, Gravey is a sinister yet alluring God figure who enlists young metal head followers to kidnap neighboring women and bring them to his house — where he murders them and buries their bodies in a basement crypt. Through parallel narratives, Three Hundred Million lures readers into the cloven mind of Gravey — and Darrel, his sinister alter ego — even as Flood’s secret journal chronicles his own descent into his own, eerily similar psychosis.
This sounds really interesting. I think I’ll be reading this very soon, too.
Review copy from Publisher
W. Bruce Cameron, The Midnight Dog of the Repo Man (Forge)
This short story introduces former college football star turned repo man Ruddy McCann, star of W. Bruce Cameron’s new novel The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man, and tells how Ruddy met his best friend Jake, a lazy but lovable basset hound, during a repo gone wrong.
It sounded kind of interesting, so I picked it up. I’ll hopefully pick up the full-length novel, too. They sound kind of goofy, but that could be a good thing.
Christopher Buehlman, The Lesser Dead (Berkley)
“The secret is, vampires are real and I am one. The secret is, I’m stealing from you what is most truly yours and I’m not sorry…”
New York City in 1978 is a dirty, dangerous place to live. And die. Joey Peacock knows this as well as anybody—he has spent the last forty years as an adolescent vampire, perfecting the routine he now enjoys: womanizing in punk clubs and discotheques, feeding by night, and sleeping by day with others of his kind in the macabre labyrinth under the city’s sidewalks.
The subways are his playground and his highway, shuttling him throughout Manhattan to bleed the unsuspecting in the Sheep Meadow of Central Park or in the backseats of Checker cabs, or even those in their own apartments who are too hypnotized by sitcoms to notice him opening their windows. It’s almost too easy.
Until one night he sees them hunting on his beloved subway. The children with the merry eyes. Vampires, like him…or not like him. Whatever they are, whatever their appearance means, the undead in the tunnels of Manhattan are not as safe as they once were.
And neither are the rest of us.
I’ve heard a lot of great things about Buehlman’s writing, so I decided to pick this up. Haven’t read any vampire fiction in a while, and with Anne Rice’s Prince Lestat out later this month (I have it on pre-order), this could end up being a very vampire October… This may end up being my next read. Not sure yet, but it looks like it will be…
Tana French, The Secret Place (Viking)
The photo on the card shows a boy who was found murdered, a year ago, on the grounds of a girls’ boarding school in the leafy suburbs of Dublin. The caption says, I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM.
Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to get a foot in the door of Dublin’s Murder Squad — and one morning, sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey brings him this photo. The Secret Place, a board where the girls at St. Kilda’s School can pin up their secrets anonymously, is normally a mishmash of gossip and covert cruelty, but today someone has used it to reignite the stalled investigation into the murder of handsome, popular Chris Harper. Stephen joins forces with the abrasive Detective Antoinette Conway to find out who and why.
But everything they discover leads them back to Holly’s close-knit group of friends and their fierce enemies, a rival clique — and to the tangled web of relationships that bound all the girls to Chris Harper. Every step in their direction turns up the pressure. Antoinette Conway is already suspicious of Stephen’s links to the Mackey family. St. Kilda’s will go a long way to keep murder outside their walls. Holly’s father, Detective Frank Mackey, is circling, ready to pounce if any of the new evidence points toward his daughter. And the private underworld of teenage girls can be more mysterious and more dangerous than either of the detectives imagined.
It’s getting a lot of attention, the premise sounds good, and my partner loves French’s novels (as does her family), so I picked this up.
Peter F. Hamilton, The Abyss Beyond Dreams (Del Rey/Tor UK)
The year is 3326. Nigel Sheldon, one of the founders of the Commonwealth, receives a visit from the Raiel — self-appointed guardians of the Void, the enigmatic construct at the core of the galaxy that threatens the existence of all that lives. The Raiel convince Nigel to participate in a desperate scheme to infiltrate the Void.
Once inside, Nigel discovers that humans are not the only life-forms to have been sucked into the Void, where the laws of physics are subtly different and mental powers indistinguishable from magic are commonplace. The humans trapped there are afflicted by an alien species of biological mimics — the Fallers — that are intelligent but merciless killers.
Yet these same aliens may hold the key to destroying the threat of the Void forever — if Nigel can uncover their secrets. As the Fallers’ relentless attacks continue, and the fragile human society splinters into civil war, Nigel must uncover the secrets of the Fallers — before he is killed by the very people he has come to save
Uh… I thought both the UK and US covers were very nice. And then I spotted it on NetGalley, read the synopsis, and thought it sounded really interesting. I also haven’t read a great deal of SF, recently, so I thought this might be a good option.
Review copy from Del Rey, via NetGalley
Michael Harvey, The Governor’s Wife (Knopf)
In the latest installment in Michael Harvey’s beloved Michael Kelly series, Chicago's favorite Ovid-reading, gun-toting private investigator takes on Illinois’s first family in a blistering thriller that charts the border where ambition ends and evil begins.
It’s been two years since disgraced Illinois governor Ray Perry disappeared from a federal courthouse in Chicago moments after being sentenced to thirty-eight years in prison on corruption charges. P.I. Michael Kelly is sitting in his office when he gets an anonymous email offering to pay him nearly a quarter million dollars if he will find Perry, no questions asked. Kelly’s investigation begins with the woman Ray Perry left behind – his wife, Marie. Ostracized by her former friends and hounded by the feds, Marie tells Kelly she has no idea where her husband is. Like everyone else, Kelly doesn’t believe her. As he hunts for her husband, Kelly begins to unwind Marie Perry’s past. What he finds is a woman who turns out to be even more intriguing than her husband, with her own deeply complicated reasons for standing by him. Everyone in Chicago has secrets, including the governor’s wife. Some of them she shared with her husband. Some of them she kept to herself. And some of them could get Michael Kelly killed.
The Governor’s Wife is a gimlet-eyed look at the intersection of the political and the personal, at the perils of trusting even those closest to us and the collateral damage of our highest aspirations. Stylish, knock-out suspense from a modern master.
I recently visited Chicago for the first time. And I’ve been enjoying The Boss TV series… So, Chicago politics was on my mind when I spotted this available for review. It’s the fifth in a series, but I think it looks like it can be read independently of the others.
Review copy from Edelweiss
Lee Henderson, The Road Narrows As You Go (Hamish Hamilton)
All Wendy Ashbubble has ever wanted is to draw comics as well as Charles Schultz’s Peanuts — and to one day see her creations grace the pages of a major daily newspaper. Growing up in Victoria in the 1970s, Wendy dreams of getting out, getting away… and getting recognition for her talent. And there’s another, never-whispered motivation that prompts her to seek her fortune: a deeply buried memory and unshakeable belief that her unknown father is Ronald Reagan, the fortieth president of the United States.
A chance meeting in Victoria with an attractive-but-mysterious travelling artist inspires Wendy to take the plunge, and she runs away to live in a dilapidated artists’ commune in San Francisco. There, amid the haze of top-quality weed, unbridled creativity, and unfettered sex, her dream begins to take tangible shape. With the aid of Frank Fleecen, an up-and-coming bonds trader and agent, Wendy’s Strays are soon competing for newsprint space against the likes of Berkeley Breathed, Jim Davis, and Bill Watterston… even against Wendy’s beloved Charles Schultz himself.
But there are darker shades on the pencilled horizon: the spectre of AIDS, unexplained disappearances, bad therapy, junk bonds, demonology, and SEC agents investigating Frank’s business protocols.
The Road Narrows As You Go is simultaneously the portrait of a young woman struggling to find her place and a bright, rollicking, unflinching depiction of the 1980s. It embodies all the brash optimism and ruthless amoralism of the decade, as well as its preoccupation with repressed memories, and fully captures the flavour of an uncertain but deeply vibrant era.
Saw it got a good review in… either the Toronto Star or Globe & Mail, and the reviewer drew favourable comparisons with Chabon’s Kavalier & Clay, so that clinched it for me. Let’s hope it lives up to expectations.
Steffen Jacobsen, Trophy (Quercus)
The sun released its grip on the mountains in the east as they started running. Hunted for their lives, Ingrid and Kasper Hansen can think of only one thing: if they can get through the next 24 hours, they’ll see their children again.
The question they should be asking is: why?
Security consultant and private investigator Michael Sander is tasked with the investigation of a video that seems to show two people being hunted to their deaths. His job is to find out who they are, and why they were murdered. But this isn’t just another case, and these deaths are only one piece of the puzzle.
This time Michael is investigating the darkest reaches of humanity, uncovering crimes that reach further than he ever imagined.
It looked interesting, and Quercus has a great track record for thriller releases. Jacobsen’s previous novel looks interesting, too – When The Dead Awaken.
Review copy from NetGalley
Rajan Khanna, Falling Sky (Pyr)
Ben Gold lives in dangerous times. Two generations ago, a virulent disease turned the population of most of North America into little more than beasts called Ferals. Some of those who survived took to the air, scratching out a living on airships and dirigibles soaring over the dangerous ground.
Ben has his own airship, a family heirloom, and has signed up to help a group of scientists looking for a cure. But that’s not as easy as it sounds, especially with a power-hungry air city looking to raid any nearby settlements. To make matters worse, his airship, the only home he’s ever known, is stolen. Ben must try to survive on the ground while trying to get his ship back.
This brings him to Gastown, a city in the air recently conquered by belligerent and expansionist pirates. When events turn deadly, Ben must decide what really matters-whether to risk it all on a desperate chance for a better future or to truly remain on his own.
Saw a lot of buzz about this one, recently. Hopefully it’ll live up to my expectations (and I’ve been very negligent about reading Pyr titles, recently – not sure why, they’re usually pretty good).
James Luceno, Tarkin (Del Rey)
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. . .
He’s the scion of an honorable and revered family. A dedicated soldier and distinguished legislator. Loyal proponent of the Republic and trusted ally of the Jedi Order. Groomed by the ruthless politician and Sith Lord who would be Emperor, Governor Wilhuff Tarkin rises through the Imperial ranks, enforcing his authority ever more mercilessly . . . and zealously pursuing his destiny as the architect of absolute dominion.
Rule through the fear of force rather than force itself, he advises his Emperor. Under Tarkin’s guidance, an ultimate weapon of unparalleled destruction moves ever closer to becoming a terrifying reality. When the so-called Death Star is completed, Tarkin is confident that the galaxy’s lingering pockets of Separatist rebellion will be brought to heel — by intimidation… or annihilation.
Until then, however, insurgency remains a genuine threat. Escalating guerrilla attacks by resistance forces and newfound evidence of a growing Separatist conspiracy are an immediate danger the Empire must meet with swift and brutal action. And to bring down a band of elusive freedom fighters, the Emperor turns to his most formidable agents: Darth Vader, the fearsome new Sith enforcer as remorseless as he is mysterious; and Tarkin — whose tactical cunning and cold-blooded efficiency will pave the way for the Empire’s supremacy… and its enemies’ extinction
Grand Moff Tarkin’s story. Enough said.
Review copy from NetGalley
Todd Moss, The Golden Hour (Putnam)
The Golden Hour: In international politics, the hundred hours following a coup, when there is still a chance that diplomacy, a secret back channel, military action — something — might reverse the chain of events.
As the top American diplomat for West Africa, Todd Moss saw a great deal about how diplomacy and politics actually work. But as he shows us, the results aren’t always pretty.
When Judd Ryker is appointed director of the new State Department Crisis Reaction Unit, he figures he has a mandate to help the United States respond more quickly to foreign crises, but he hasn’t reckoned with the intense State, Defense, Pentagon, White House, and CIA infighting and turf battles he would face. Then comes the coup in Mali. It is his chance to prove that his theory of the Golden Hour actually works — but in the real world, those hours move very, very quickly indeed, and include things he’d never even imagined.
As Ryker races from Washington across Europe to the Sahara Desert, he finds that personalities, loyalties, everything he thought he knew, begin to shift and change beneath his feet — and that friends and enemies come in many forms.
I saw this advertised in, I think, Foreign Affairs a little while back. I was surprised to see a thriller novel in there, but it had blurbs from a number of non-fiction writers, academics and journalists whose work I like and whose opinions I respect, so I sought it out. Hopefully get around to it soon (I really need to mix up the genres I’m reading more – feels like I’m getting genre fatigue much quicker than usual, now that I’m reading slower).
Claire North, Touch (Orbit)
Your violent death usually triggers the first switch.
Just before your life ebbs away, your skin happens to touch another human being – and in an instant, your consciousness transfers completely to the person you touched.
From that moment on, you can leap from body to body with a touch of the skin. You can remain for a minute, an hour, a lifetime, and after you leave, the host has no memory of the time you were there.
My name is Kepler. I could be you.
For me, the carefree life of jumping between bodies has become a terrifying nightmare. I am being hunted. I don’t know who. I don’t know why. If you’ve read this far, our lives have already touched. Now you are part of the conspiracy too.
Get ready to run.
I still haven’t read The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August (not sure why), but this popped up on NetGalley and I thought I’d pick it up to see what’s what. The ARC was available pretty early – as far as I could tell, there’s no artwork yet. The novel’s not out until February 2015, too. So, I have some time to catch up with North’s first novel as well…
Review copy from NetGalley
Pierre Pevel, The Knight (Gollancz)
Traitor… or hero?
This is the tale of Lorn Askarian.
Some say he brought the kingdom to the brink of destruction, taking advantage of a dying king and an unpopular queen to strike against his enemies, heedless of the danger posed by a growing rebellion.
Others claim he saved the kingdom, following the orders of a king who had him falsely imprisoned, heedless of the personal cost, and loyal to the last – fighting against desperate odds on the political and physical battlefields alike.
Whatever the truth, whatever you choose to believe, this is his story.
I’ve not read Pevel’s previous trilogy (also published by Gollancz), but this sounds like a good place to start with his work, too. I’m looking forward to starting it soon.
Review copy from Publisher
John Sandford, Deadline (Putnam)
In Southeast Minnesota, down on the Mississippi, a school board meeting is coming to an end. The board chairman announces that the rest of the meeting will be closed, due to personnel issues. “Issues” is correct. The proposal up for a vote before them is whether to authorize the killing of a local reporter. The vote is four to one in favor.
Meanwhile, not far away, Virgil Flowers is helping out a friend by looking into a dognapping, which seems to be turning into something much bigger and uglier — a team of dognappers supplying medical labs — when he gets a call from Lucas Davenport. A murdered body has been found — and the victim is a local reporter…
Latest Virgil Flowers novel, a series I am woefully behind. But I make a point of getting all of Sandford’s novels, because he’s probably my favourite crime novelist. (His Prey and Kidd novels are must-reads, in my opinion.)
Graeme Simsion, The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect (Simon & Schuster)
An oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor on an unusual quest: to find out if he is capable of true love.
Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical — most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.
Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent — and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don’s Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie — and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.
The first in this series became a runaway success on both sides of the Atlantic. The second popped up on Edelweiss, so I requested it, and bought the first book so I could binge-read them both (assuming I like them, of course…).
Review copy from Edelweiss
Matthew Smith, Al Ewing & Matthew Carroll, Judge Dredd: Year One (Abaddon)
Mega-City One, 2080. Judge Joe Dredd’s first year on the streets as a full-eagle Judge. Bred for justice, trained in law, Dredd’s no helpless rookie, but he’s not the seasoned veteran we know either. Three tales follow the first adventures of the future city’s greatest lawman. With an introduction by the Mighty Tharg!
CITY FATHERS – The brutal murder of a Justice Department-sanctioned spy uncovers something new and dangerous in the sector’s murky black market. Unless Dredd can stop it, chaos will be unleashed.
COLD LIGHT OF DAY – A savage killing spree results in the deaths of two highly-regarded Judges, and many consider Dredd to be responsible: a decision he made five years earlier – while he was still a cadet – has come back to haunt him.
WEAR IRON – “Wear iron, that’s the rule.” Paul Strader is a stick-up man, and a stone cold professional. But when he gets in over his head, he has to risk everything on the word of a corrupt lawman and break every rule he has. Every rule but one…
I’ve already read the first novella in this collection – Matthew Smith’s City Fathers. I’ve been seeing a lot around the internet about Judge Dredd, recently – not only because it was recently Day of Dredd. The character just seems to be popping up a lot. As a result, I’ve been wanting to read more. Luckily, this arrived around the same time, so expect reviews to come along shortly. If anyone can recommend some of the collected editions of the comic series, I’m all ears. (Haven’t read any Dredd/2000AD since I was a teenager… It’s been a long time…)
Review copy from Publisher
It’s been two months since a myriad of alien objects clenched about the Earth, screaming as they burned. The heavens have been silent since – until a derelict space probe hears whispers from a distant comet. Something talks out there: but not to us. Who to send to meet the alien, when the alien doesn’t want to meet? Send a linguist with multiple-personality disorder, and a biologist so spliced to machinery he can’t feel his own flesh. Send a pacifist warrior, and a vampire recalled from the grave by the voodoo of paleogenetics. Send a man with half his mind gone since childhood. Send them to the edge of the solar system, praying you can trust such freaks and monsters with the fate of a world. You fear they may be more alien than the thing they've been sent to find – but you’d give anything for that to be true, if you knew what was waiting for them.
A novel that’s been getting some good reviews around the SFF blogosphere, recently. So I picked it up. The premise sounds delightfully batty, too. (It also got a thumbs-up from one of the chaps in Bakka Phoenix in Toronto – who I had a great, long chat with last week).
Alec Worley, Judge Anderson: Rookie – Heartbreaker (Abaddon)
Mega-City One, 2100 AD: Psi-Judge Anderson’s first year on the beat, and lovebirds at the newly-inaugurated MEET MARKET are doing their damnedest to kill each other.
There’s a psi-killer at work, and Cassie’s got days to stop him…
See above for my comments on my current desire to read more Dredd-related fiction (and comics, actually).
Review copy from Publisher
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