Cherry Wilder had a relatively short career as fantasy writers go. Her first novel was The Luck of Brin’s Five (1977), which won the 1978 Ditmar Award for Best Australian Science Fiction Novel, and was the first novel in The Torin Trilogy. She produced two other series, The Rulers of Hylor (four novels, published between 1984 and 2004) and two novels in the Rhomary Land series (in 1986 and 1996), several short stores, and that was it. She died in 2002.
Still, she is very fondly remembered as one of the shining lights of 80s fantasy. Although The Torin Trilogy has all the trappings of fantasy — including sorcerers, far-flung kingdoms, and mystical powers — at heart it’s actually science fiction. It’s the tale of Scott Gale, a space traveler from Earth who finds himself shipwrecked on the world of Torin, where he’s accepted as a family member by Brin’s Five. Before long he finds himself embroiled in a desperate battle against the feared man who rules much of the land, Strangler Tiath Pentroy.
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British horror writer Adam Nevill has been winning over fans here in the US, with books like Last Days and The House of Small Shadows (which Goth Chick reviewed for us here). His latest novel, No One Gets Out Alive, looks like it will continue that trend nicely. It was recently released in hardcover by St. Martin’s Press, and has just been nominated for a 2015 British Fantasy Award.
When Stephanie moves to the notoriously cheap Perry Bar neighborhood of Birmingham, she’s just happy to find an affordable room for rent that’s large enough not to deserve her previous room’s nickname, “the cell.” The eccentric — albeit slightly overly-friendly — landlord seems nice and welcoming enough, the ceilings are high, and all of the other tenants are also girls. Things aren’t great, but they’re stable. Or at least that’s what she tells herself when she impulsively hands over enough money to cover the first month’s rent and decides to give it a go.
But soon after she becomes uneasy about her rash decision. She hears things in the night. Feels them. Things… or people… who aren’t there in the light. Who couldn’t be there, because after-all, her door is locked every night, and the key is still in place in the morning. Concern soon turns to terror when the voices she hears and presence she feels each night become hostile. It’s clear that something very bad has happened in this house. And something even worse is happening now. Stephanie has to find a way out, before whatever’s going on in the house finds her first.
No One Gets Out Alive was published by St. Martin’s Press on April 28. It is 640 pages, priced at $27.99 in hardcover and $14.99 for the digital edition.
See all of our recent New Treasures here.
We’re more than three quarters of the way through July, and I’ve barely scratched the surface on the 30 new books we covered in The Best New Releases in June. If I want to get caught up, I’ll have to cut back on late-night superhero movie marathons with my kids (and probably sleeping, and eating.)
July’s crop of new fantasy releases includes some terrific work from C.S.E. Cooney. Peter V. Brett, Max Gladstone, Wesley Chu, Lou Anders, Melinda Snodgrass, Victor Milan, Chris Willrich, Elizabeth Bear, Nnedi Okorafor, D.B. Jackson, and many others. There are 33 in the list this month, so let’s get started.
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So there we stood, surrounded. Demons in all directions, converging fast – and we’re not talking garden variety patsies. Even for our major league party, the future looked bleak, bloody, and painful. On the plus side, we had our pizza in place, our dice at the ready. Beers and sodas hovered with popped caps and bated breath, anticipating action.
“Initiative!” cried the DM.
We each rolled. One of the demons, which just happened to moonlight as a spell-caster, moved first — and what did that pipsqueak no-good blackguard cheat of a demon cast our way?
At fifteenth level.
Two hours later, with the pizza cold and stiff, the beers stale and the sodas flat, we finally finished adjudicating the effects of that single spell. We were in shock, and grumbling to beat the band. The DM, equally weary and perplexed, said, “Okay. Still first round. Who gets to take the next action?”
That I no longer recall, but this I know: we won the battle, and the demons lost. So did Chain Lightning. We made a solemn pledge that very day to never again allow that spell to eclipse the glory of our triumphant campaigning. Banned it was, all but ripped from the pages of the rulebook. And good riddance, too.
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Michael Swanwick’s Darger and Surplus stories, featuring a con-man and a genetically engineering talking dog, began with the Hugo-award winning short story “The Dog Said Bow-Wow” in 2002. Since then there have been many additional tales of adventure featuring the two, including the 2002 Hugo nominee “The Little Cat Laughed to See Such Sport,” and the 2011 novel Dancing with Bears (which finished sixth in the 2012 Locus Poll for Best SF Novel).
Swanwick’s latest novel, Chasing the Phoenix, finds our two con-men/heroes in post-collapse China, in the middle of a brand new con… one that quickly spirals beyond their control, and soon attracts the kind of attention they’d much rather avoid.
In the distant future, Surplus arrives in China dressed as a Mongolian shaman, leading a yak which carries the corpse of his friend, Darger. The old high-tech world has long since collapsed, and the artificial intelligences that ran it are outlawed and destroyed. Or so it seems.
Darger and Surplus, a human and a genetically engineered dog with human intelligence who walks upright, are a pair of con men and the heroes of a series of prior Swanwick stories. They travel to what was was once China and invent a scam to become rich and powerful. Pretending to have limited super-powers, they aid an ambitious local warlord who dreams of conquest and once again reuniting China under one ruler. And, against all odds, it begins to work, but it seems as if there are other forces at work behind the scenes…
Chasing the Phoenix will be published by Tor Books on August 11, 2015. It is 320 pages, priced at $26.99 in hardcover, and $12.99 for the digital version.
Lavie Tidhar has made a heck of a big name for himself in a very short period of time. His novel Osama won the World Fantasy Award, and his “Guns & Sorcery” novella Gorel & The Pot Bellied God won the British Fantasy Award. His novel The Violent Century was called “A masterpiece” by both the Independent and Library Journal. And his second short story collection, Black Gods Kiss, has just been nominated for the British Fantasy Award.
Black Gods Kiss is set in the same world as Gorel & The Pot-Bellied God. Theaker’s Quarterly called it “Classic heroic fantasy,” and Locus called it “One of the most flamboyantly entertaining collections of the year… almost the pure essence of pulp – violent, action-packed, paced like a runaway freight train, politically incorrect and socially unredeemable.” Originally published as a limited edition hardcover in the UK, it is now available in digital format.
His name was Gorel of Goliris and he was a gunslinger and an addict, touched by the Black Kiss. Gorel wanted nothing more than to return to his home, the greatest empire the World had ever known, from which he was banished by sorcery as a child. But wherever he went, trouble doggedly followed, and death preceded his steps.. . In Black Gods Kiss Lavie Tidhar returns to the vivid world of his 2012 British Fantasy Award winning novella, Gorel & The Pot-Bellied God. It collects 5 long adventures set before and after the events of Pot-Bellied God, and includes a brand-new novella, “Kur-a-Len.” In these pages you will find thrilling tales of guns and sorcery, filled with ghosts, mercenaries, necromancers and gods – not to mention sex, and death!
Black Gods Kiss was published in a limited edition hardcover by PS Publishing in October 2014. It was released in digital format by the Jabberwocky Literary Agency on April 30, 2015. It is 174 pages, priced at $35 in hardcover and $6.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Pedro Marques.
In The Change, the author of the Emberverse novels opens the doors to his post-apocalyptic universe wide. A substantial text at more than 600 pages, it contains 16 stories and an introduction by S.M. Stirling, who also contributes “Hot Night at the Hopping Toad,” featuring the most contemporary protagonist of the Emberverse series, Orlaith.
Sterling’s series has seen extensive attention here in the Fantasy Literature column at Black Gate. Those entries were less reviews than low brow scholarly chatter about the many interesting features, issues, and aspects of the Emberverse. This, however, is a review. But what is this Emberverse?
In short, the Emberverse begins with something commonly called the Change (some tales here call it other things, of course). In 1997 all high-energy technologies cease to function — something tweaked the rules of physics. Guns won’t fire. Electricity doesn’t electricit. Even steam engines won’t steam — at least not usefully. While the sun burns on, here on Earth, the technological culture we take for granted grinds to a halt. Billions die by violence, through hunger, and from disease.
Some small number survive; Stirling’s early novels in the series describe the events of the Change and the first ten or so years; 2014′s novel, The Golden Princess, features the granddaughter of various key players of the recovery from the Change in the Pacific northwest: Orlaith Mackenzie. A lot of war and politics lies behind the cutting edge of the series, but these stories take place at various points in the chronology of the Emberverse.
The first question: can a reader new to the Emberverse read and enjoy this anthology? Yes.
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Sidgwick & Jackson released The Best of Frank Herbert in hardcover in the UK in 1975. The book was edited by Anugs Wells, with a fairly drab cover by an unknown artist (see below). It was 302 pages.
For the paperback edition the following year, Sphere split the book into two volumes, both around 160 pages. The cover artist was uncredited in both cases, but it sure looks to me like Bruce Pennington. (Click the images above for bigger versions.)
The book was never released in the US, and the UK paperbacks have now been out of print for almost 40 years. The UK editions can be a little tricky to track down in the US, but they’re fairly common in the UK. As of this writing, half dozen copies are listed on eBay, priced at $10 and up per volume.
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One of the most popular authors in the later issues of the print version of Black Gate was Jonathan L. Howard. His first story for us, about a young thief named Kyth hired to penetrate a deadly tomb, was filled with surprises — not least of which was the amiable lich who congratulated Kyth when she reached the heart of his lair. It was titled “The Beautiful Corridor,” and its sequel, “The Shuttered Temple,” appeared in BG 15. Jonathan has had a very successful career as a fantasy novelist since those early days, and his latest novel, about a private detective who teams with the last descendant of H.P. Lovecraft to investigate some very bizarre crimes indeed, arrives in October. It’s one of the most anticipated titles of fall for me.
Daniel Carter used to be a homicide detective, but his last case — the hunt for a serial killer — went wrong in strange ways and soured the job for him. Now he’s a private investigator trying to live a quiet life. Strangeness, however, has not finished with him. First he inherits a bookstore in Providence from someone he’s never heard of, along with an indignant bookseller who doesn’t want a new boss. She’s Emily Lovecraft, the last known descendant of H.P. Lovecraft, the writer from Providence who told tales of the Great Old Ones and the Elder Gods, creatures and entities beyond the understanding of man. Then people start dying in impossible ways, and while Carter doesn’t want to be involved, but he’s beginning to suspect that someone else wants him to be. As he reluctantly investigates, he discovers that Lovecraft’s tales were more than just fiction, and he must accept another unexpected, and far more unwanted inheritance.
Jonathan L. Howard’s previous novels include the four volumes in the Johannes Cabal series (Johannes Cabal the Necromancer, Johannes Cabal the Detective, The Fear Institute, and The Brothers Cabal), and The Russalka Chronicles, including Katya’s World. Our previous coverage includes Jonathan’s article on writing the Johannes Cabel series, and his interview with John Joseph Adams. Carter & Lovecraft will be published by Thomas Dunne Books on October 20, 2015. It is 320 pages, priced at $25.99 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital edition. See more details at Jonathan’s website.
Storm and Steel, the long-awaited sequel to Blood and Iron, was published last month by Pyr. In her feature review of the first volume, Sarah Avery wrote:
Of all the wild re-envisionings of the Crusades I’ve seen lately, Jon Sprunk’s Blood and Iron may be the wildest. His alternate-universe Europeans are recognizably European, but the opposing culture they face is that of a Babylonian Empire that never fell. And why has this Babylon-by-another-name persisted for thousands of years, so powerful that only its own internal strife can shake it? Because its royals actually have the supernatural powers and demi-god ancestry that the ruling class of our world’s Fertile Crescent claimed…
Jon Sprunk’s book takes the prize for strange worldbuilding. The Akeshian Empire is approximately what the Akkadian Empire might have looked like, had each of its major cities lasted as long and urbanized as complexly as Rome did. When monotheism comes to Akeshia, it arrives as a local heresy run amok, rather than as a foreign faith attracting converts. Akeshia’s gods are not kind gods; its semi-divine ruling caste are not nice people. However, when our hero comes to understand them from something closer to their own perspective, he finds much to admire and many people worth trying to save from the civil war that is beginning to take shape around him…
Blood and Iron is overall a strong book, full of powerful imagery and a vivid sense of place, with intriguing historical what-ifs and a sense of moral urgency to match its sense of moral complexity.
Jon Sprunk is also the author of the popular Shadow Saga (Shadow’s Son, Shadow’s Lure, Shadow’s Master), and expectations are running high for the second volume of his new trilogy, The Book of the Black Earth.
Storm and Steel was published by Pyr on June 2, 2015. It is 479 pages, priced at $18 in trade paperback and $11.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Jason Chan. Learn more at Pyr Books or read our exclusive excerpt of the first novel here.