Vintage Treasures: Re-Birth (The Chrysalids) by John Wyndham

Sunday, November 17th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Re-Birth John Wyndham-small Re-Birth John Wyndham-back-small

Cover by Michael Herring

In the 1950s, Ballantine Books reprinted much of John Wyndham’s science fiction in the US with memorable covers by Richard Powers, including The Kraken Wakes (1953), The Chrysalids (1955), Tales of Gooseflesh and Laughter (1956), Trouble with Lichen (1960), and The Infinite Moment (1961). In the process they also made up new names for it, because, you know, America. So The Kraken Wakes became Out of the Deeps, and The Chrysalids became Re-Birth.

In the mid-70s, which was when I was discovering John Wyndham, Del Rey repackaged four of Wyndham’s most popular novels with brand new modern covers. They were:

The Midwich Cuckoos (June 1976)
Trouble with Lichen (August 1977)
Out of the Deeps (December 1977)
Re-Birth (April 1978)

Wikipedia calls The Chrysalids “the least typical of Wyndham’s major novels, but regarded by some as his best.” In a ridiculously short 3-sentence review Kirkus said it was “SF on the fantasy side.” A far more reliable reviewer, Jo Walton at Tor.com, called it, “My favourite of his books… [it] set the pattern for the post-apocalyptic novel.” It’s is my favorite as well…. but mostly because it’s the only one set in Canada (Labrador, that strange slip of Quebec that belongs to Newfoundland). Here’s a snippet from Jo comments.

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A Psychological Thriller in a Canola Field: Foe by Iain Reid

Friday, November 15th, 2019 | Posted by CAITLIN MCALLISTER

FOE by Iain Reid-small FOE by Iain Reid-back-small

Cover by Laywan Kwan

Foe
By Iain Reid
Gallery/Scout Press (288 pages, $16 in trade paperback/$11.99 digital, July 2, 2019)
Cover by Laywan Kwan

Junior loves the wide-open space and solitude that the country provides. He’s content sharing a cup of hot, black coffee with his wife Henrietta (Hen), feeding the chickens and putting in a good day’s work at the mill. Life is good. Until it’s unexpectedly, incredibly, not.

A flash of sinister green headlights surprises Junior and Hen, and turns out to be a harbinger of an unusual visitor who turns their quiet life upside down. Junior has been chosen as one of the first travelers to help colonize a new community in outer space. He’ll be gone for years, but to keep Hen company they’ve provided her with very familiar company.

Set in the near future in (what I interpreted as) middle America, Foe is a masterfully woven tale of suspense. Reid creates a psychological thriller in the middle of an innocuous canola field.

Each chapter brings more questions and more unease through a brilliant use of punctuation and prose. It’s a short book, thank God, as it’s hard to put down once begun. Some chapters are only two pages, and for the small amount of words used, Reid spins a deliciously complicated plot.

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Tor.com on Six-Guns and Strange Shooters

Wednesday, November 13th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Territory Emma Bull-small Dust Devil Blu Ray-small Jonah Hex Face Ful of Violence-small

It’s been a very good year for science fiction, horror, and dark fantasy, and overall I am content. But, you know, I’m never totally content, because really, what’s the point of that? This year my crankiness originates from a near total lack of Weird Westerns. It’s like the genre dried up and blew away in the wind in 2019.

At least there are a few Weird West books, movies and comics to fall back on. Earlier this year at Tor.com Theresa DeLucci shared her picks of some of the best in Six-Guns and Strange Shooters: A Weird West Primer, and she managed to point out more than a few I haven’t tried yet, including Emma Bull’s fantasy retelling of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Territory, and the 1990 film Dust Devil. And she reminded me I need to read more Jonah Hex. Here’s what she said about everyone’s favorite creepy gunslinger.

Forget the terrible movie. (You know Josh Brolin wishes he could.) The original 1977 DC comic is considered one of the first popular representations of the Weird West. The bounty hunter marked by a demon’s brand seeks out the West’s worst and also, sometimes, less earthly quarry. He also sometimes time travels and gets into a gun-fight with a T-Rex. Jonah Hex‘s best and creepiest run was written by east Texan horror master Joe R. Lansdale and come highly recommended.

Theresa also showcases The Etched City by K.J. Bishop, the Golgotha novels by R. S. Belcher, the great Deadlands: Reloaded RPG, and much more. Check out her article here.

See all our coverage of the best of the Weird West here.


New Treasures: The New Voices of Science Fiction edited by Hannu Rajaniemi & Jacob Weisman

Tuesday, November 12th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The New Voices of Fantasy-small The New Voices of Science Fiction-small

Covers by Camille André and Matt Dixon

Two years ago Tachyon published the groundbreaking anthology The New Voices of Fantasy, edited by Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman. It contained fiction by Sofia Samatar, Sarah Pinsker, Amal El-Mohtar, Hannu Rajaniemi, Carmen Maria Machado, and many others, and won the 2018 World Fantasy Award, beating out some very stiff competition. (See the complete TOC here.)

Since then I’ve been wondering when the companion volume would appear, and it has finally arrived. The New Voices of Science Fiction, edited by Hannu Rajaniemi & Jacob Weisman, contains 20 stories published in the past five years by the rising stars of SF, including the Hugo award winner “The Secret Life of Bots” by Suzanne Palmer, Nebula winner “Our Lady of the Open Road” by Sarah Pinsker, and Hugo and Nebula winner “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™” by Rebecca Roanhorse, plus stories by Kelly Robson, Amal El-Mohtar, Rich Larson, Sam J. Miller, Lettie Prell, E. Lily Yu, and many others.

This looks like one of the major anthologies of the fall, and it has vaulted near the top of my TBR pile. It has already received starred reviews from Booklist, Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly. Here’s a quick look at some of that early praise.

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A Grim Take on the Holy Grail: Upon the Flight of the Queen by Howard Andrew Jones

Tuesday, November 12th, 2019 | Posted by SELindberg

flight-of-the-queen-larger-BG When comes my numbered day, I will meet it smiling. For I’ll have kept this oath.

I shall use my arms to shield the weak.

I shall use my lips to speak the truth, and my eyes to seek it.

I shall use my hands to mete justice to high and low, and I will weigh all things with heart and mind.

Where I walk the laws will follow, for I am the sword of my people and the shepherd of their lands.

When I fall, I will rise through my brothers and sisters, for I am eternal.

Pledge of the Altenerai

The Ring-Sworn Trilogy

Howard Andrew Jones’s For the Killing of Kings jumpstarted the epic fantasy Ring Sworn trilogy this February 2019, and the sequel Upon the Flight of the Queen hits shelves next week (November 19th). MacMillan’s St. Martin’s Press pitches the series as “The Three Musketeers presented via the style of Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber.” The pacing is reminiscent of Zelazny since Howard Andrew Jones (HAJ) doles out action and backstory with precision. Yet there are many more than three heroes, and the milieu has more medieval flare than musketry, so it is more “King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table” than Musketeers.

For the Killing of Kings is actually a grim take on the consequences of seeking, and finding, a figurative Holy Grail (hearthstones). The Altenerai guard had been spread out over the Five Realms searching for many hearthstones that fuel magic — the enigmatic Queen Leonara deems them holy. Twice I was completely floored by plot twists, and the last third kept me from going to sleep. I haven’t had that much fun reading a book in a long time. Black Gate’s Fletcher Vredenburgh’s review should likewise entice new readers.

#2 Upon the Flight of the Queen

Summarizing a sequel can be tough without spoiling its predecessor, but the following overview will try as it showcases why you should commit to Ring-Sworn. Upon the Flight of the Queen starts off exactly where For the Killing of Kings ends. The adventure begins in high-gear with Alten Rylin assuming his action-thriller role (~James Bond) penetrating the Naor camp disguised in magic, dragging the reader into mayhem.

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Ancient Gods and Trees That House an Entire City: The Titan’s Forest Trilogy by Thoraiya Dyer

Sunday, November 10th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Crossroads-of-Canopy-small Echoes-of-Understorey-by-Thoraiya-Dyer-small Tides of the Titans-small

Cover art by Marc Simonetti

In her 2017 guest post at Tor.com ,”Walk Beneath the Canopy of These 8 Fictional Forests,” Thoraiya Dyer wrote:

Give me your Fangorns and your Lothloriens, your Green Hearts and your Elvandars. Evoke your Haunted Forest Beyond the Wall complete with creepy weirwoods, your Steddings and your Avendesoras. Send me pleasant dreams about Totoro’s Japanese Camphor and the Forest Spirit’s kodama-filled canopy. Or, y’know, tree cities full of Wookiees instead of elves. I will take them all!

Forests in speculative fiction novels have a special place in my heart. Especially tree-cities.

Now there’s a woman who talks my language. Tree cities! Haunted forests! Creepy weirwoods! Kodama-filled canopies!(Uh, what?) Whatever, just tell me Dyer has a more than casual interest in tree cities. Like a book trilogy or something?

Yeah, it’s a rhetorical question. I write a book blog; everybody I talk about has a book trilogy. Dyer’s is titled Titan’s Forest, in which trees loom large as skyscrapers, mortals can be reborn as gods, and a young man sets out on an epic woodland journey to unlock the great Forest’s hidden secrets. It opened with Crossroads of Canopy (Tor Books, 2017), her debut novel; Echoes of Understorey was published last year, and the third book Tides of the Titans arrived earlier this year.

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The Return of The Thing: Frozen Hell by John W. Campbell

Saturday, November 9th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Frozen Hell John W Campbell-back-small Frozen Hell John W Campbell-small

Cover by Bob Eggleton

Several years ago, while researching his groundbreaking book Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction (which Thomas Parker reviewed for us here), Alec Nevala-Lee found a yellowing letter from John W. Campbell that mentioned he’d donated his papers to Harvard Library. Alec tracked them down, and inside a carton in an offsite storage facility he made a major discovery: the original uncut version of “Who Goes There?”, which Alec calls “The greatest science fiction horror story of all time.” Last year John Gregory Betancourt of Wildside Press launched a hugely successful Kickstarter to publish it (raising $155,366 on a $1,000 goal), and the book appeared last month. Here’s John’s Kickstarter description.

In 1938, acclaimed science fiction author John W. Campbell published the novella “Who Goes There?,” about a team of scientists in Antarctica who discover and are terrorized by a monstrous, shape-shifting alien entity. The story would later be adapted into John Carpenter’s iconic movie The Thing (following an earlier film adaptation in 1951). The published novella was actually an abridged version of Campbell’s original story, called “Frozen Hell,” which had to be shortened for publication. The “Frozen Hell” manuscript remained unknown and unpublished for decades, and it was only recently rediscovered. “Frozen Hell” expands the Thing story dramatically, giving vital backstory and context to an already incredible tale. We are pleased and honored to offer Frozen Hell to you now, as Campbell intended it.

Frozen Hell will include a preface written by Alec Nevala-Lee, who rediscovered the “Frozen Hell” manuscript while doing research for his upcoming book Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction (Dey Street Books).

This is a highly anticipated book, and for good reason. I don’t know if the post-Worldcon negative publicity around John W. Campbell will impact sales at all, but I’m certainly still interested, and I know I’m not the only one. Frozen Hell was published by Wildside Press on October 8, 2019. It is 158 pages, priced at $15 in trade paperback and $6.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Bob Eggleton.

See all of our recent New Treasures here.


Upon the Flight of the Queen by Howard Andrew Jones: a Trailer

Friday, November 8th, 2019 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

9781250148803November, 19th is a date worth marking on your calendar. It’s the day Upon the Flight of the Queen (St. Martin’s Press), the second installment of Howard Andrew Jones’ Ring-Sworn Trilogy debuts. I loved For the Killing of Kings, the first book. You can read my review of it here. It’s a terrific swords & sorcery tale with a heavy dose of swashbuckling. If you haven’t read it yet, it should be clear I heartily recommend it. It’s felt like an age since my last post here at Black Gate. I’m still not sure when I’ll return here with any sort of regularity, but for books like this, I’m willing to make an appearance.

I’m old, so the idea of doing a trailer for a book isn’t something I’ve ever thought of. Apparently it’s a thing and it can be pretty cool. Up above is the brand new one for Upon the Flight of the Queen and it was done by Jones’ son, Darian Jones, an animator (as well as many other talents as will become clear later). As trailers are a whole new concept for me, I figured I’d ask Darian about himself and how he created the one for Flight.


Fletcher: So, Darian, can you please, tell us about yourself and your animation background?

Darian: Hello! Well, like my father, I have always been a performer and a storyteller. As a kid, he and I would be unable to watch a movie or listen to a song without taking it apart and analyzing it together. Animation seemed like the natural marriage of writing, art, and music, all things I loved to create. It started with simple comics during middle school at recess (and anytime the teacher wasn’t looking). Then I tried my hand at stop motion using stuffed animals and action figures. Over time I just fell in love with the medium. There is a vast storytelling potential in animation. I believe it is the best way to make any story visually beautiful and expressive. Unlike film, animation grants its creator the most minute control over every detail. I determine exactly what colors I use scene-by-scene. I determine how a character gesticulates and how their face emotes when they speak. I can give them shark teeth or hair made of drifting clouds if I want. My commitment to the study of animation earned me straight As and a position as Lead Animator on our class’ student thesis film. My professor said it was not only my skills with the medium but also my ability to negotiate calmly and effectively during times of extreme stress that won me the title. Now I have graduated college and I’ve been making little animations every chance I get to build my portfolio and, hopefully, win new positions at studios. Until then, I’m doing freelance work for writers and businesses.

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Vintage Treasures: City of Pearl by Karen Traviss

Friday, November 8th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Cover by Greg Bridges

Karen Traviss’s debut novel City of Pearl was a big hit here in the Black Gate offices, and it was passed around repeatedly and excitedly. We were far from the only ones who liked it — it was shortlisted for both the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel and the Philip K. Dick Award, and came in third in the 2005 Locus poll for Best First Novel. It launched her career quite effectively, and it eventually became the opening novel in the 6-volume Wess’har Wars series.

City of Pearl tells the ambitious tale of the clash of several distinct alien civilizations near Cavanagh’s Star in the year 2299. In his review of the novel and its sequel Crossing the Line at SF Site, Stuart Carter wrote:

This isn’t hard SF by any means. Although the laws of physics are largely obeyed they’re not particularly important to the story; there’s no arousing military- or techno-porn, and precious little ‘common-sense’ machismo or gung-ho soldiering. It’s worth mentioning that there are philosophical similarities with The Dispossessed, but these books are, in my opinion, even deeper and more complex than Ursula K. Le Guin’s classic, and they’re still far from over.

Another glorious aspect of these two books is that they’re almost the antithesis of everything Trek: humans haring round the universe imposing their morality and point-of-view upon anyone who can listen, and always, eventually, turning out to be right, or at least admirable. And if we’re not even admirable then at least we have bigger guns than everyone else to console ourselves with. In Karen Traviss’s universe we’re seen as being far from admirable and even further from right, and it looks like being a very hard, possibly even fatal, lesson for us to learn… If you want to read something that will leave you thinking, perhaps if you’re a fan of Ursula K. Le Guin, Kim Stanley Robinson or, more generally, of intricately gloomy English science fiction, then this series is one you want to read — I promise.

City of Pearl didn’t just hit with the critics. It is still in print, 15 years long after it was originally published; an extraordinary feat by any measure. Here’s the complete list of all six novels in the series.

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Bleak Creek overflows with Universal Truths

Friday, November 8th, 2019 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

Bleak CreekThe Lost Causes of Bleak Creak is not a novel I expected to be reviewing for Black Gate. It is a compelling thriller with a preternatural undercurrent that I heartily recommend, but that’s not what one would have expected from its authors. Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal have carved their own successful niche with Good Mythical Morning, a YouTube talk show/comedy show which seems to have successfully updated Ernie Kovacs’ format for the hipster generation. While that may be an accurate description on the surface, it belies the expansiveness of their burgeoning Mythical Entertainment media empire and its audience demographic composed of 20 million subscribers across their platform.

These two childhood friends from a small town in North Carolina have written two bestsellers; made their own critically-acclaimed, incredibly bizarre, but consistently funny streaming sitcom, Buddy System; hosted a trainwreck fascinating, but frequently funny IFC reality show, Commercial Kings; made an award-winning feature-length documentary about the search for their First Grade teacher, Looking for Ms. Locklear; released comedy albums; performed sold-out comedy concert tours on several continents; put together their own stage show to tie-in with their first book; and are currently undertaking a book tour in theaters around the country to promote their first novel. Regulars on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show where they provide a reminder of what late night comedy meant for those old enough to remember Carson or at least Letterman in his prime, they may be the two most ambitious and successful cult figures in the U.S. at present.

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