Future Treasures: Upon the Flight of the Queen by Howard Andrew Jones

Wednesday, November 6th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

For the Killing of Kings-small Upon the Flight of the Queen-small

In his Black Gate review of For the Killing of Kings, the opening novel in Howard Andrew Jones’ new epic fantasy Ring-Sworn Trilogy, Fletcher Vredenburgh wrote:

For the Killing of Kings is proof that great, modern heroic fantasy is being written. Like Doc Smith’s Lensmen or DC Comics’ Green Lantern Corps, the Altenerai are an elite band of warriors endued with magical talents and dedicated to protecting the land and ensuring justice… Heroes are a too often forgotten commodity in fantasy these days, but not here.

I think Fletcher nailed what I loved so much about this book: it’s packed with heroes you can root for. More than that, it pits those heroes against truly overwhelming odds. The courageous men and women of the Altenerai aren’t just up against a nearly-unbeatable army of their ancient enemy; they also face betrayal from within, mysterious and sinister magic, and a conspiracy whose roots run to the very highest levels of government. To win, they’ll have to emulate the Altenerai legends of old: use bravery, guile, and magic of their own, and — especially — rely on each other. For the Killing of Kings is filled with powerful moments in which untested men and women faced breathtaking odds, and somehow find the strength to become genuine heroes.

But I think the best thing about Howard’s new Ring-Sword Trilogy may be that we don’t have to wait long for the sequel. For the Killing of Kings was released in hardcover by St. Martin’s Press earlier this year; the sequel, Upon the Flight of the Queen, will be in stores in less than two weeks. It’s already getting rave reviews — Publishers Weekly calls it “a heart-racing, action-packed thrill.” Here’s the back covers for both books, and a snippet from the PW review.

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When the Berlin Wall Falls: The Cold War Magic Novels by W.L. Goodwater

Friday, November 1st, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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I bought W.L. Goodwater’s debut Breach earlier this year, about five minutes after picking it up in the bookstore. The back cover blurb did it for me. I’m a sucker for an original premise, and a Cold War apocalypse fantasy hit all the right buttons. Here’s an excerpt from the review at BookPage.

In the waning hours of World War II, Soviet magicians conjured a wall of pure magic, dividing Berlin in two and protecting their hold on East Germany. While the world was aghast, there was little the West could do. The wall was impenetrable except at specific, predetermined crossing points like Checkpoint Charlie. Until now. The wall is failing, and to avoid World War III, the US needs to find out why — and try to reverse the process. The CIA calls on Karen, a young researcher from the American Office of Magical Research and Deployment. As she searches for a way to repair the wall, Karen quickly realizes that the truth is never straightforward in Berlin, especially when it comes to the story behind the Wall itself….

Goodwater’s debut novel is tightly wound in the way that only good suspense stories can be. At any moment it seems that the fragile peace built between the West and East could fall apart with disastrous consequences, which is a testament to Breach’s overall success with dramatic timing… Breach combines the magical world building of The City & the City with the suspense of Cold War thrillers like Bridge of Spies, resulting in a cinematic suspense story that will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the very last page.

The second book in the series, Revolution, arrives in two weeks, and I’m very much looking forward to it. In this installment, set some years after Breach, American magician Karen O’Neil travels to Cuba to find a missing girl intertwined with a new kind of magic that threatens to upend the global balance of power. Here’s the description.

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Future Treasures: The Best of Jerry Pournelle edited by John F. Carr

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Best of Jerry Pournelle-smallJerry Pournelle was the author of the Falkenberg’s Legion series, including one of my favorite military SF novels, West of Honor (1976), as well as Janissaries, and dozens of other novels. He’s perhaps best remembered for his bestselling collaborations with Larry Niven, including The Mote in God’s Eye (1974), Lucifer’s Hammer (1977), and Footfall (1985), which contains a barely-disguised Robert A. Heinlein as a character. He died in 2017.

Pournelle was a controversial figure in SF. He was one of the writers who paid to have a pro-Vietnam War proclamation in Galaxy Science Fiction in 1968, and he described his politics as “somewhere to the right of Genghis Khan.” His novels, like The Legacy of Heorot (1987, written with Steven Barnes and Larry Niven) contain heroes who stroke their rifle lovingly, noting that they’ve never cared for a woman as much as they care for their guns. They contain lines that will make you drop the book on your foot.

Still, he was a tireless editor and short story writer. His anthologies include 2020 Vision (1974), a book that looked 46 years into the future, at the distant year 2020; Black Holes (1978), still one of the best introductions to the enigma of black holes in SF; the long-running Far Frontiers series (seven volumes, edited with Jim Baen), and ten volumes of a gonzo series that looked forward to future conflicts with near-sexual desire, There Will Be War (1983-2015).

Pournelle is not for everyone. Obviously. But he did produce some fine short fiction, much of it still worth a look today. Baen Books will release The Best of Jerry Pournelle next week, a fat 576-page collection gathering 15 stories — including a 162-page novella previously only available as an e-book, The Secret of Black Ship Island (2012, written with his long-time collaborators Steven Barnes & Larry Niven), and two previously unpublished stories.

It also contains some of Pournelle’s non-fiction (the preface to There Will be War, Volume I), and tributes by Larry King, David Gerrold, Larry Niven, Steven Barnes, and Robert Gleason.

Here’s the description, and the complete Table of Contents.

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Future Treasures: Novice Dragoneer by E.E. Knight

Thursday, October 24th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Novice Dragoneer-smallI’m a huge fan of E.E. Knight. For one thing, he hosts the best board game nights I’ve ever seen. His Heroscape sessions, held annually in Chicago after the Windy City Pulp and Paper show for many years, were the stuff of legend. As he noted in one of his epic post-game Action Reports, they featured “Mohicans and British infantry and lizard men battling dinosaurs, giant spiders, dragons, and Atlantean robots in a jungle-choked ruin.” Don’t ask me to describe them, but they were life-changing.

He’s also a damn fine writer. You’re probably familiar with his 11-volume Vampire Earth series, which opened with Way of the Wolf, or his six-volume Age of Fire series. He’s also an occasional blogger here at Black Gate. And I was very proud to publish his Blue Pilgrim tale “The Terror in the Vale,” one of the very best stories in our Black Gate Online Fiction library (and reprint the first, “That of the Pit,” which first appeared in the underrated anthology Lords of Swords).

So naturally I was very excited to hear that he has a new novel arriving next month, the tale of an impoverished girl who enters into a military order of dragonriders. And if the buzz already building around Novice Dragoneer is any indication, it’s the beginning of a major new fantasy series. I asked Eric if he could tell us a little about it, and he graciously shared the following.

I’m very much looking forward to readers, both long-time and new, meeting our novice Ileth. She’s a little bit of each of my three kids spun around my own experiences at that age. I’ve even worked my first job, which I took on at twelve, into the story (although I was dealing with dog poop rather than dragon waste). I’ve been on a bit of a break from writing raising those three, so I’m excited to find out if I have any game left.

Here’s the publisher’s description.

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Future Treasures: Quillifer the Knight by Walter Jon Williams

Wednesday, October 16th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Covers by Gregory Manchess and Alejandro Colucci

Walter Jon Williams is one of the most versatile writers we have. Space opera, military science fiction, cyberpunk, alternative history, SF police procedural — you name it, he’s done it. He’s written historical adventures, disaster novels (The Rift) and even a Star Wars novel (The New Jedi Order: Destiny’s Way). In his Locus review of the opening novel in William’s ambitious new fantasy series, Quillifer, Gary K. Wolfe says “Williams has been cheerfully genre-hopping for most of his career, sometimes even in the same novel.”

Quillifer is worth a second look — and not just because it’s one of Williams rare attempts at historical fantasy. Booklist calls it a “swashbuckling tale reminiscent of George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman.” The second novel in the series, Quillifer the Knight, arrives in three weeks. Here’s Gary on the first volume.

Quillifer belongs to the ranks of what we might call displaced historical fantasies, stories which make meticulous use of actual historical detail (Williams’s character quote Elizabethan poets, and his weapons and ships are all historically real), but which are set in imaginary nations or kingdoms, often with restrained use of fantasy elements – such as we see from writers like Ellen Kushner, K.J. Parker, or Guy Gavriel Kay (although Kay is far more specific in his historical analogues).

In classic adventure-novel tradition, Quillifer comes from modest beginnings: the son of a butcher, he studies law in the port city of Eth­lebight, but is also something of a classic 18th-century rake, and the novel opens with his comical escape out the window of the young woman with whom he’s currently in love… things quickly begin to change when Ethlebight is invaded, plundered, and destroyed by pirates from the rival empire of the Aekoi. Quillifer survives, but is later captured by a notorious bandit calling himself Sir Basil…

With the aid of a nymph-goddess who finds him appealing, he manages to escape again, but rejects her advances as he realizes that joining her in her kingdom might result in his returning to his world as much as a century later (one of the few classic fantasy motifs that Williams employs). Spurning her sets up a threat that will hang over Quillifer for the rest of the novel, which consists largely of fully realized independent episodes: Quillifer finds his way into the court of Duisland, where he assumes the title “Groom of the Pudding” and almost accidentally proves himself to be a champion stag-killer (drawing on his background as a butcher), later a brilliant naval strategist, and eventually an effective field-marshal in a crucial land battle to save the kingdom from usurpers…  a thoroughly enjoyable series of historical adventures in a faux-Europe that is as meticulous in its details as it is vague in time and place.

Here’s a look at the back cover.

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Future Treasures: The Name of All Things by Jenn Lyons

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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You can learn a lot about the publishing industry by watching what they spend money on. And this year Tor is spending a lot of money and energy promoting the debut fantasy novel by Jenn Lyons, The Ruin of Kings, released this February, and its sequel, The Name of All Things, due in bookstores in three weeks.

It seems to have paid off. The Ruin of Kings scored a rare quadruple crown, with starred reviews from Library Journal (“Stunning”), Booklist (“Dazzling”), Publishers Weekly (“intricate epic fantasy”) and Kirkus Reviews (“Un-put-down-able”). Kirkus calls the new installment “top-notch adventure fantasy written for a 21st-century audience.” Here’s the description.

You can have everything you want if you sacrifice everything you believe.

Kihrin D’Mon is a wanted man. Since he destroyed the Stone of Shackles and set demons free across Quur, he has been on the run from the wrath of an entire empire. His attempt to escape brings him into the path of Janel Theranon, a mysterious Joratese woman who claims to know Kihrin.

Janel’s plea for help pits Kihrin against all manner of dangers: a secret rebellion, a dragon capable of destroying an entire city, and Kihrin’s old enemy, the wizard Relos Var. Janel believes that Relos Var possesses one of the most powerful artifacts in the world― the Cornerstone called the Name of All Things. And if Janel is right, then there may be nothing in the world that can stop Relos Var from getting what he wants.

And what he wants is Kihrin D’Mon.

The Name of All Things is Book 2 of A Chorus of Dragons. On her website Lyons says that, if everything goes according to plan, “Tor will be releasing a book in the series every nine months or so. Two this year, one next year, two the year after that.” That’s a grueling publication schedule, but it should keep fans happy. The Name of All Things will be published by Tor on October 29, 2019. It is 587 pages, priced at $26.99 in hardcover and $13.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Lars Grant-West. Read a lengthy excerpt at Tor.com.

Future Treasures: Soon by Lois Murphy

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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It’s October, and you know what that means. Spooky book season! Now, I like to read spooky books all year round, but there’s something about October that makes it almost mandatory.

This year I’m kicking it off with Soon, the debut novel from Lois Murphy, about the last six survivors in a very haunted town. There’s been plenty of good press about it, but I confess what sealed the deal for me was Joanne P’s Booklover review of the original Australian edition.

An almost deserted town in the middle of nowhere, Nebulah’s days of mining and farming prosperity – if they ever truly existed – are long gone…. One winter solstice the birds disappear. A strange, residual and mysterious mist arrives….

Partly inspired by the true story of Wittenoom, the ill-fated West Australian asbestos town, Soon is the story of the death of a haunted town, and the plight of the people who either won’t or simply can’t abandon all they have ever had. With finely wrought characters and brilliant storytelling, it is a taut and original novel, where the people we come to know and those who are drawn to the town’s intrigue must ultimately fight for survival…. An utterly gripping debut novel… Despite containing fantastical story elements, Soon feels uncommonly gritty and grounded. Murphy’s character development and evocation of both the natural environment and small town setting is first class — a reader cannot help but become invested in their plight.

The sense of foreboding is at times gut wrenching. Soon is an edge of your seat, page-turning read — the experience similar to the very best genre thrillers — yet it features some of the most artful prose and thought-provoking passages I have read this year.

Soon will be published by Titan Books on October 15, 2019. It is 336 pages, priced at $14.95 in trade paperback and $7.99 in digital.

See all our recent coverage of the best upcoming fantasy and science fiction here.

Future Treasures: Nebula Awards Showcase 2019 edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Friday, September 27th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Cover art by Tiffany Dae

The Nebula Awards Showcase is one of the most prestigious and honored anthologies in Science Fiction. It has appeared every year since 1966, and been published by Pyr since 2012. Pyr’s once considerable output has slowed in the last year, and I was very pleased to see the 2019 Showcase volume picked up by one of the best of the new small press publishers, Parvus Press. It’s a significant coup for them, and I hope it’s a sign of even greater things to come.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s introduction is one of the most powerful non-fiction pieces I’ve read in a Nebula anthology in a long time, both a celebration of the increasing diversity in our field, and a bald statement about why it’s so vitally important.

When I first harnessed the courage to start sending my stories out in 2006, it truly was a frightening prospect. I had never seen a Latina writer in any of the fantasy and science fiction magazines I read, nor at a bookstore… The science fiction and fantasy section was virtually devoid of people like me…

It’s easy to declare that diversity is a done deal, or even worse, that diversity is a trend, a fad, which has run its course. It is easy to churn lists that purport to contain the 10 Best Science Fiction Novels of all time and find out that the only woman who made the list was Mary Shelley. Or to find threads with people saying that women can’t write Lovecraftian fiction because women are able to give birth and therefore cannot understand cosmic horror (I am not making this comment up)…

What is hard is to build a better, more inclusive publishing community. It’s hard to read widely, to read beyond the things that you are used to, to organize events which feature a broad variety of guests, to write lists which go beyond the usual suspects. It’s hard, but it’s not impossible… We call speculative fiction the literature of the imagination, so why not imagine a future in which a young writer can find plenty of authors to emulate? A future in which that author is not silent and scared and feeling like she has no stories to tell, as I was 13 years ago when I began my writing journey.

This year’s volume contains some magnificent material, including “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience(TM)” by Rebecca Roanhorse, “A Human Stain” by Kelly Robson, and the complete text of Martha Wells’ Hugo and Nebula Award winning novella, All Systems Red, the first Murderbot tale. Here’s the complete tale of contents.

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Future Treasures: The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2019, edited by Carmen Maria Machado and John Joseph Adams

Saturday, September 21st, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Cover by Galen Dara

For the fifth volume of The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, series editor John Joseph Adams asked Carmen Maria Machado (Her Body and Other Parties) to narrow down 80 contenders from the US and Canada into 20 finalists, 10 fantasy and 10 science fiction. In her introduction, Machado says that to make her selection she ignored the distinction between “literary” and “genre” fiction, instead asking if the stories were a pleasure to read.

Does she succeed? Booklist thinks so (“Among the many and varied pleasures of the collection are stories that share Machado’s love of formal experimentation…this brilliant and beautiful collection is a must-read.”) And Publishers Weekly says,

Standouts include Annalee Newitz’s “When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis,” in which a drone befriends both humans and crows to combat inner-city epidemics; LaShawn M. Wanak’s “Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Memphis Minnie Sing the Stumps Down Good,” an alternate history piece in which singers are pressed into service against deadly spores; Sarah Gailey’s “STET,” which explores grief through the form of a scientific paper; Lesley Nneka Arimah’s “Skinned,” a provocative piece about the role of women in a patriarchal African society; Sofia Samatar’s “Hard Mary,” in which Amish-like girls adopt a broken android; and P. Djèlí Clark’s introspective history piece, “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington.” Despite the “American” label, there’s a decidedly global, multicultural feel to these pieces, which exemplify diversity and representation… In exploring the potential of the genre and challenging expectations, this anthology isn’t for everyone, but it’s a masterful showcase of what’s possible.

Here’s the complete table of contents. 80% of the fiction in this volume was selected from online sources (and none at all from the regular print magazines), so I’ve included links to the online stories so you can see how well the editors succeeded for yourself.

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Future Treasures: The Warrior Moon by K Arsenault Rivera

Saturday, September 14th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The-Tigers-Daughter-small The-Phoenix-Empress-small The Warrior Moon-small

Cover art by Jamie Jones

I’ve gotten in the comfortable habit of not starting trilogies until all three books are published. It’s served me well (very well) over the years. But what happens when the third book in a series appears and you’re not sure it’s a trilogy? What if you waited all this time and and there’s still a damn cliffhanger??

I guess a life of literary ambition is never truly free of risk. The third novel in K Arsenault Rivera’s maybe-trilogy Ascendant series arrives in bookstores September 24 and, hidden on the author page of the copy the publisher sent me is a novel called Sixteen Swords (listed as “forthcoming.”) But I’ve waited impatiently to start this series ever since Liz Bourke gave a rave review to the first two novels at Tor.com.

The Tiger’s Daughter recounted the adventures of their youth from Shefali’s perspective, including Shefali’s infection the blackblood plague — the first person ever to be infected and survive, albeit changed — culminating in their marriage and Shefali’s exile by Shizuka’s uncle, the emperor. Shefali may only return to the lands ruled by the empire once she has completed an impossible quest: acquire and bring back a phoenix feather.

The Phoenix Empress is essentially two stories at once. It is the story of Shefali and Shizuka, rediscovering each other after eight years apart, facing the deep problems of their potential destinies—and it’s the story that Shizuka tells to Shefali to explain how she’s changed. Why Shizuka drinks so much and wakes nightly from nightmares, and why she has no tears to cry…

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