A Cyberpunk Video Game Between Two Covers: The Cry Pilot Trilogy by Joel Dane

Sunday, January 19th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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Covers by Matt Griffin

“Joel Dane” is the pseudonym of an author of over 20 novels who launched an intriguing new military SF trilogy in August. The opening novel Cry Pilot followed a recruit with a secret drawn into a desperate war against lampreys, biological horrors created by the terra fixing process remaking a ruined Earth. Publishers Weekly raved, summing it up as “Riveting action paired with a sharp psychoemotional landscape.. the explosive launch of a futuristic trilogy.” In a review titled “The Closest Thing to an Immersive Cyberpunk FPS Video Game Between Two Covers,” S. Qiouyi Lu at The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog said:

Terrafixing gives abandoned machines and technology a new life, turning them into violent creatures that are both organic and inorganic — a fusion of weapon and mutated animal. After proving himself as a cry pilot, Kaytu becomes part of a squad training to defend against the latest of these threats (not to mention the most dire to date) — mysterious, ruthless creatures called lampreys hell-bent on destruction. With no known weaknesses and a casualty count mounting higher and higher, the pressure is on Kaytu and his squad to keep their reflexes quick and use all their training to fight against this seemingly unbeatable foe…

Cry Pilot… is a vivid, immersive novel that leans strongly into its military science fiction identity. Its main asset is its voice: Kaytu’s strong personality and first-person narration creates an intimate reading experience… Cry Pilot feels like a high-definition cyberpunk first-person shooter video game, with sleek, polished graphics and tons of lore to explore. If that’s your thing, suit up and dive in — this book will take you for a hell of a ride.

Hot on the heels of Cry Pilot comes Burn Cycle, with the third volume Kill Orbit already in the pipeline for July 2020. Here’s all the details.

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An Alien Mystery in the Heart of an Ancient Space Object: The Embers of War Trilogy by Gareth L. Powell

Saturday, January 18th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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Covers by Julia Lloyd

Gareth L. Powell is the author of the popular Ack-Ack Macaque series, and two short story collections, The Last Reef (2008) and Entropic Angel and Other Stories (2017). His new space opera trilogy began with Embers of War (Titan Books, 2018), and folks took notice immediately. Here’s Joel Cunningham at The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog.

Gareth L. Powell’s Embers of War is a space opera that does everything right: it’s expansive in scope, but character-focused. It nods to genre tropes, but interrogates them too, considering the real-world ramifications of the lasting trauma of war. Oh, also: it has a great sentient starship. It quickly became a favorite of ours — not to mention the voters who handed it this year’s British Science Fiction Award for Best Novel — and our enthusiasm was not at all muted by the recent release of the just-as-good sequel Fleet of Knives.

Powell’s series is one of the more popular space operas on the market (and you all know how I feel about space opera). I was intrigued by the first two books immediately, but hesitant to jump in until the third one arrived. So this week I was delighted to receive a review copy of Light of Impossible Stars, the third installment in Embers of War, which formally goes on sale February 18 from Titan.

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Future Treasures: The Bard’s Blade, Book I of The Sorcerer’s Song by Brian D. Anderson

Tuesday, January 14th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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Cover art by Felix Ortiz

Brian D. Anderson is a self-published author who’s sold over half a million copies of his books worldwide — no mean feat. His bestselling series include The Godling Chronicles and Dragonvein. This month he makes the move to mainstream publishing with his first book for Tor, The Bard’s Blade. It’s the opening novel in The Sorcerer’s Song, which Publisher’s Weekly calls “an ambitious, enjoyable tale.” Here’s the description.

Mariyah enjoys a simple life in Vylari, a land magically sealed off from the outside world, where fear and hatred are all but unknown. There she’s a renowned wine maker and her betrothed, Lem, is a musician of rare talent. Their destiny has never been in question. Whatever life brings, they will face it together.

But destiny has a way of choosing its own path, and when a stranger crosses the wards into Vylari for the first time in centuries, the two are faced with a terrible prophecy. For beyond the borders, an ancient evil is returning, its age-old prison shattered.

The two must leave their home behind, and in doing so will face sorcerers and thieves, con-men and assassins, treachery and greed. How far down this path will they have to go to stop the rising darkness and save their home? And how much of themselves will they have to give up along the way?

The Bard’s Blade will be published by Tor Books on January 28, 2020. It is 430 pages, priced at $17.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Felix Ortiz. It will be followed A Chorus of Fire, coming in August. Read a brief excerpt at the Tor/Forge Blog, and see all of our recent coverage of the best upcoming science fiction and fantasy here.

Future Treasures: Fighters of Fear: Occult Detective Stories edited by Mike Ashley

Monday, January 6th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Fighters of Fear Occult Detective Stories-smallMike Ashley has been editing anthologies since at least 1977 (with the Year’s Best volume SF Choice 77 from Orbit), and in the last 40 years he’s produced dozens, including no less than 19 volumes of The Mammoth Book of.. (such as The Mammoth Book of Science Fiction, The Mammoth Book of Sorcerers’ Tales, etc.), and over a dozen for British Library Publishing, including Lost Mars: The Golden Age of the Red Planet and Moonrise: The Golden Era of Lunar Adventures. He’s also edited multiple volumes of the Stark House Algernon Blackwood.

His latest is Fighters of Fear, a collection of 31 classic occult detective tales from Arthur Machen, Robert W. Chambers, William Hope Hodgson, Victor Rousseau, Sax Rohmer, Seabury Quinn, Henry S. Whitehead, Manly Wade Wellman, Joseph Payne Brennan, Jessica Amanda Salmonson, and many, many others — including a handful that have never before been reprinted.

It’s a fat 624-page volume that belongs in the library of every serious fantasy fan, and it’s easily one of my most anticipated volumes of winter. It got a starred review from Publishers Weekly, pretty much unprecedented for a collection of generally obscure, mostly 19th Century genre fantasy. Here’s a snippet:

Ashley… has never been better in conveying his genre expertise than in this impressive assembly of 31 short stories featuring psychic or occult detectives from the mid-19th century (Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s “Green Tea”) to the late 20th century (Jessica Amanda Salmonson’s “Jeremiah”). While usual suspects Arthur Machen and William Hope Hodgson are deservedly included, the volume’s real value lies in its introducing fans of those writers to more obscure authors, such as Max Rittenberg, whose “The Sorcerer of Arjuzanx,” concerning a possible case of bewitchment at Lourdes, makes the case that his consulting psychologist, Xavier Wycherley, merits having all his stories republished. And few setups are more tantalizing than Victor Rousseau’s “The Woman with the Crooked Nose,” in which a man consults a doctor after seeing a ghost resembling a dead woman in every particular, except that it has a straight nose, unlike the deceased.

It’s been a lean few years for occult detective fans. The most recent really comprehensive anthologies I can think of were Stephen Jones’ Dark Detectives: An Anthology of Supernatural Mysteries (Fedogan & Bremer, 1999), Paula Guran’s Weird Detectives (Prime, 2013), and of course The Complete Tales of Jules de Grandin, by Seabury Quinn (Night Shade Books, 2017-18). And we mustn’t forget Occult Detective Magazine, which just published its 6th issue last month.

Fighters of Fear will be published in trade paperback in two weeks. Here’s the complete description and Table of Contents.

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Future Treasures: A Longer Fall by Charlaine Harris

Monday, December 30th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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An Easy Death (October 2018) and A Longer Fall (January 2020), both from Saga Press. Covers by Colin Anderson

There aren’t enough Weird Westerns in the world, which is why I treasure them when I find ’em. Charlaine Harris (the Sookie Stackhouse novels) kicked off a promising series last year with An Easy Death, the first Gunnie Rose novel, which follows gunslinger Lizbeth Rose in the fractured countries and territories that were once the U.S. A Longer Fall, which arrives in hardcover in two weeks, sends Lizbeth to the southeast territory of Dixie on a dangerous mission. Here’s an excerpt from the enthusiastic review at Kirkus for An Easy Death.

In the opening novel of Harris’ new series, set in a dangerous and largely lawless alternate United States, a young gunslinger for hire hits the trail to track down a descendant of Rasputin.

Life isn’t easy and death is around every corner in Harris’ thrilling new adventure, in which the U.S. is a shadow of its former self. Franklin Roosevelt was assassinated before he could be sworn in, and the country was subsequently fractured: Mexico has reclaimed Texas, Canada has usurped a large swath of the northern states, and the Holy Russian Empire has taken over California… Nineteen-year-old Lizbeth Rose is a skilled gunslinger for hire, but a disastrous run-in with bandits has left her the sole survivor of her crew. After making it home, she’s approached by Paulina Coopersmith and Ilya “Eli” Savarov, two grigoris (aka wizards), who want her to help them find wizard Oleg Karkarov, who they think is a descendant of Rasputin and whose blood may be able to help their beloved czar. There’s a hitch: She tells them he’s dead but doesn’t mention that she’s the one who killed him… A refreshing and cinematic, weird Western starring a sharp-as-nails, can-do heroine. Harris’ many fans will surely follow Gunnie Rose anywhere.

A Longer Fall will be published by Saga Press on January 14, 2020. It is 304 pages, priced at $26.99 in hardcover and $12.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Colin Anderson. Read Chapter One (and details on the cover) at Paste Magazine.

Rogue Blades Foundation Announces Upcoming Second Book: The Lost Empire of Sol

Friday, December 27th, 2019 | Posted by Ty Johnston


Not sitting on its laurels, the recently-formed non-profit publisher Rogue Blades Foundation (RBF) last week announced the upcoming release of its second book, Scott Oden Presents The Lost Empire of Sol: An Anthology of Sword & Planet Tales.

Edited by Jason M Waltz and Fletcher Vredenburgh, this collection brings together ten stories of adventure and excitement from across a gloomy and ancient solar system far older than the one known to us. From the back cover of the book, “The legends speak of a united Empire that spanned the entire system.” Then, “All that is certain is that when the Daemons came, they brought a level of destruction not experienced in countless millennia.” And, “In the end, the Empire was fractured in the wake of the Daemons’ passing. Some worlds maintained tenuous contact; others were blasted into a state that left them bereft of their own history …”

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Future Treasures: Stars Beyond, Book 2 of Stars Uncharted by S. K. Dunstall

Tuesday, December 24th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Cover art by John Harris and Fred Gambino

S. K. Dunstall has rapidly become one of my favorite science fiction writers.

OK, that’s not entirely accurate, but not because of any deficit in my admiration. It’s because “S. K. Dunstall” is actually two people, the sibling writing team of Sherylyn and Karen Dunstall. I wrote about their splendid Linesman Trilogy from Ace Books in 2016 (which I consumed in the audible version narrated by Brian Hutchison, and which I highly recommend), and last year I alerted you to the release of Stars Uncharted, the opening novel in a new series about a band of explorers who make the greatest find in the galaxy, which John DeNardo said “Combines the best parts of space action and space opera.” The sequel Stars Beyond arrives next month, and it’s one of my most anticipated books of 2020. Here’s what Everdeen Mason at The Washington Post said about Stars Uncharted in her list of the Best science fiction and fantasy books of August 2019.

Nika Rik Terri and Josune Arriola are two women on the run from corporate gangsters in a future where humans lay claim to multiple planets and colonies across the galaxy. Explorers and companies alike seek maps to long-lost worlds, where they hope to find precious resources. Nika is a body modifier who redesigns people into works of art, but she leaves all she’s built to escape from an abusive boyfriend and the company he works for. Josune is a crew member of the explorer ship Hassim and has infiltrated a rival explorer ship. But when she tries to return to the Hassim, Josune finds that the company has wiped out her crew, and now she’s a target…. This is a fun adventure novel with an irresistible ragtag crew.

Stars Beyond will be released by Ace Books on January 21, 2020. It is 407 pages, priced at $16 in trade paperback and $9.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Fred Gambino. Read the complete 15-page first chapter of Stars Uncharted here, and see all our recent coverage of the best upcoming SF and fantasy here.

The Magic of the Black Earth

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019 | Posted by Jon Sprunk

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The Book of the Black Earth (Pyr Books). Covers by Jason Chan

Six years ago, when I was conceptualizing a new fantasy series, I spent a lot of time thinking about the setting world. And I knew from the start that one of the primary building blocks would be the magic system.

For those of you who have read my Shadow Saga trilogy, you no doubt realized that magic played a big part in the events, especially in the second and third books. I knew that magic would be even more important in the new series, that it would be entwined into every aspect of the story, so I wanted its foundation to be rock-solid from the start.

After considering a few different systems of magic, I decided that one based on the primary alchemical elements (earth, water, fire, and air) would best fit the story I was telling. It been done many times before, perhaps most notably in the Wheel of Time saga by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, but it still appealed to me because it matched well with the non-western philosophies and themes I was aiming to use.

I have studied several disciplines of martials arts over my lifetime, and one of the things which most appeals to me about eastern fighting styles is the concept of balance. Hard versus soft, aggressive versus pliable, offense and defense. These opposites are joined together in a natural back and forth that revolves around finding a balance. A hard style becomes soft, defense turns into offense, and so forth. In developing the magic system for the new series, I ran with this concept. In this world I was building, the cosmic forces had lost their balance and a calamity was approaching.

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Future Treasures: The Broken Heavens, Book 3 of the Worldbreaker Saga by Kameron Hurley

Friday, December 13th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Covers by Richard Anderson

Kameron Hurley has had a charmed career, and she’s just getting started. Her debut novel God’s War was nominated for a Nebula Award, and she won a Hugo in 2014 for Best Related Work. But her most ambitious work so far has been the Worldbreaker Saga. Opening novel The Mirror Empire came in third in the 2015 Locus Poll for Best Fantasy novel, and Library Journal said “This is a hugely ambitious work, bloody and violent… [an] imaginative tangle of multiple worlds and histories colliding.” In his feature review of the second volume Empire Ascendant at Grimdark Magazine, Sean Grigsby wrote:

Kameron Hurley’s Worldbreaker Saga is about as grimdark as fantasy literature can get… To catch you up, The Mirror Empire introduced us to a world where the people worship four distinct celestial bodies: Tira, Para, Sina, and Oma. Certain gifted individuals can call on the “breath” of these bodies to help them perform all kinds of cool magic. However, only one body is in the sky at a time, sometimes not returning for a thousand years. Those gifted by the ascendant star are more powerful than those whose comet is in decline.

But it’s when Oma appears, that everyone gets worried. It signals the clashing of worlds, when the thread between parallel universes becomes so thin that crossing between them becomes possible. But the catch is that your “mirror” self has to be dead in the universe you want to cross into. So when Kirana’s world is coming to a cataclysmic end, she has a lot of people to kill on the other side so all of the people in her world can come over…

There were many awesome moments in Empire Ascendant. Some that had me severely creeped out or squirming in my seat. One especially intense scene that I really enjoyed is when legionnaire Zezili crawls into the lair of monsters and comes across a disgusting creature straight out of nightmares. If Hurley ever tried her hand at horror, she’d do fantastically.

The closing book in the trilogy, The Broken Heavens, arrives next month from Angry Robot. Here’s the publisher’s description.

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Future Treasures: The Shadow Saint, Book 2 of The Black Iron Legacy by Gareth Hanrahan

Thursday, December 5th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Covers by Richard Anderson

We’ve covered a surprising number of titles by Gareth Hanrahan here at Black Gate… but most of them haven’t been novels. He made a name for himself first in the gaming industry, with many releases that greatly impressed me for Ashen Stars, 13th Age, Trail of Cthulhu, and Traveller.

But his breakout book was definitely his debut novel The Gutter Prayer, the opening title in The Black Iron Legacy series. Publishers Weekly praised its “thrilling action sequences and imaginative worldbuilding,” and Holly at GrimDark Magazine wrote:

To say that the hype surrounding this book is intense would be an understatement. Anticipation levels have been through the goddamn roof… Briefly, it features three friends, thieves, who get caught up in an ongoing magical battle. Shenanigans abound….

It’s evident that Hanrahan writes role-playing games, because he took all of the best things from RPG’s & made it into something even more mesmerizing within this fantasy epic. The world building is just wondrous. The characters are intriguing (I loved Aleena. She is such a badass!). The storytelling is phantasmal. It’s a book that I had to stop and turn around in my head for a bit once it had ended.

The Gutter Prayer is incredibly original… Within, there is a smorgasbord of imaginative beings littering the universe. Monsters, humans, sorcerers, Lovecraftian ghouls, Gods, saints, Tallowmen (warriors made from wax), AND… WORM CREATURES THAT FEAST ON THE DEAD.

There’s a lot about this book that caught my attention, and I’m delighted to see the sequel, The Shadow Saint, scheduled for release next month. Here’s the description.

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