Taking the Prize for Strange Worldbuilding: Jon Sprunk’s Book of the Black Earth

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Blood-and-Iron-Jon-Sprunk-smaller Storm-and-Steel-smaller Blade and Bone-small

Blade and Bone, the long-awaited third book in Jon Sprunk’s Book of the Black Earth series, finally arrives next week. Here’s Sarah Avery from her enthusiastic review of the first one, Blood and Iron:

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… 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.

Here’s the description for the third volume, Blade and Bone.

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Future Treasures: You Should Come With Me Now by M. John Harrison

Monday, February 19th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

You Should Come With me Now-smallWe’re big fans of M. John Harrison here at Black Gate. Howard Andrew Jones, Fletcher Vredenburgh, Matthew David Surridge and others have all written enthusiastically about his early work.

Unfortunately the bulk of it, including The Centauri Device (1974) and his individual Viriconium novels, is not an easy find, especially if you haven’t been collecting paperbacks for decades. I’m frequently asked by frustrated readers how to start with M. John Harrison, so I’ve very pleased to see a brand new collection scheduled for next month. You Should Come With Me Now arrives in trade paperback on March 1st.

M. John Harrison is a cartographer of the liminal. His work sits at the boundaries between genres – horror and science fiction, fantasy and travel writing – just as his characters occupy the no man’s land between the spatial and the spiritual. Here, in his first collection of short fiction for over 15 years, we see the master of the New Wave present unsettling visions of contemporary urban Britain, as well as supernatural parodies of the wider, political landscape. From gelatinous aliens taking over the world’s financial capitals, to the middle-aged man escaping the pressures of fatherhood by going missing in his own house… these are weird stories for weird times.

Our previous coverage of M. John Harrison includes:

To Unbuild the Unreal City: M. John Harrison’s Viriconium, by Matthew David Surridge
The Pastel City by Fletcher Vredenburgh
A Storm of Wings by Fletcher Vredenburgh
In Viriconium by Fletcher Vredenburgh
The End of the Matter: Viriconium Nights by Fletcher Vredenburgh
The Machine in Shaft Ten

You Should Come With Me Now will be published by Comma Press on March 1, 2018. It is 272 pages, priced at $14.95 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital edition. Get complete details at the Comma Press website.

Future Treasures: The Invasion by Peadar O’Guilin

Thursday, February 15th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Call Peadar O'Guilin-small The Invasion Peadar O'Guilin-small

Peadar O’Guilin has been one of our most prolific and popular contributors. He published his first story with us, “The Mourning Trees,” in Black Gate 5 (Spring 2003), and followed it with “Where Beauty Lies in Wait” (BG 11), “The Evil Eater” (BG 13), and “The Dowry,” which appeared as part of our Black Gate Online Fiction catalog.

His fourth novel The Call (2016) was an international sensation; here’s Howard Andrew Jones from his 2016 interview with Peadar:

What I discovered was a novel absolutely deserving of the hype it has received — a dystopian YA story about a fractured society, with heroic teenaged protagonists who are realistic AND don’t whine. There are moments of chilling otherworldly horror owing to the frequent presence of the fae folk, the force behind the terrible situation facing these Irish children. And there’s excellent pacing and characterization, and growth…

After keeping the world on tether hooks for the past two years, Peadar has finally revealed a sequel, The Invasion. It arrives in hardcover from David Fickling Books on March 27. Here’s the description.

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Future Treasures: Flotsam by RJ Theodore

Sunday, February 11th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Flotsam R J Theodore-big Flotsam R J Theodore-back-small

I’m not familiar with Parvus Press, and that looks like an oversight on my part. Their first book, Scott Warren’s Vick’s Vultures, the opening volume in the Union Earth Privateers space opera series, arrived in October 2016; it was followed by two releases in 2017. According to their website they have a total of five releases planned for 2018:

Parvus Press LLC was founded in 2016 by two lifelong friends, Colin Coyle and Eric Ryles. John Adamus joined us shortly thereafter as Managing Editor because a publisher without an editor is like a world without dogs. You can live with it, but why? We are a publisher of speculative fiction, passionate about great stories, and committed to publishing the next generation of great creative minds. Parvus has sold over 10,000 copies of our titles to date and will release four novels and one amazing anthology of short fiction in 2018 for your reading pleasure. We are headquartered in Northern Virginia and look forward to meeting you all soon!

Their first title of the year, Flotsam, is the opening novel in the Peridot Shift trilogy by RJ Theodore. I received a copy in the mail a few weeks ago, with this friendly note from Colin tucked inside:

Enclosed, you will find Flotsam, our fourth release. It’s a wonderful blend of space opera and steampunk bound together with a dash of magic. It’s a great read for anyone who appreciates bold characters and adventure. I hope you’ll consider giving Flotsam a read.

The entire Parvus Press line-up looks exciting, and I’m very much looking forward to diving into the world of Flotsam. It arrives in on March 27. It is 402 pages, priced at $14.99 in trade paperback and $6.99 for the digital version. The beautiful cover is by Julie Dillon. Sign up to read Chapter One here, and get all the details at the Parvus Press website.

Future Treasures: The Tangled Lands by Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Buckell

Monday, February 5th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Tangled Lands Paolo Bacigalupi-smallWell here’s an interesting superhero team up: The Tangled Lands, a collaboration between Paolo Bacigalupi, the Hugo Award-winning author of The Windup Girl and Ship Breaker, and Tobias S. Buckell, author of the Nebula nominee Ragamuffin and the best selling Halo: The Cole Protocol.

Bacigalupi and Buckell have collaborated before. They produced an audiobook anthology in 2011, The Alchemist and The Executioness, for Audible Frontiers. Subterranean Press eventually published their individual contributions as separate novellas. This is their first literary collaboration, and it looks very promising indeed.

From award-winning and New York Times bestselling authors Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias Buckell comes a fantasy novel told in four parts about a land crippled by the use of magic, and a tyrant who is trying to rebuild an empire — unless the people find a way to resist.

Khaim, The Blue City, is the last remaining city in a crumbled empire that overly relied upon magic until it became toxic. It is run by a tyrant known as The Jolly Mayor and his devious right hand, the last archmage in the world. Together they try to collect all the magic for themselves so they can control the citizens of the city. But when their decadence reaches new heights and begins to destroy the environment, the people stage an uprising to stop them.

In four interrelated parts, The Tangled Lands is an evocative and epic story of resistance and heroic sacrifice in the twisted remains surrounding the last great city of Khaim. Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias Buckell have created a fantasy for our times about a decadent and rotting empire facing environmental collapse from within — and yet hope emerges from unlikely places with women warriors and alchemical solutions.

The Tangled Lands will be published by Saga Press on February 27, 2018. It is 304 pages, priced at $26.99 in hardcover and $7.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Krzysztof Domaradzki.

Future Treasures: Warhammer 40k: The Magos by Dan Abnett

Saturday, February 3rd, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Magos Dan Abnett-smallThree years ago, as I was commuting three hours a day to a job I hated, I found a way to add a little joy to my tedious morning drive. I started listening to the Warhammer Audio Books produced by Heavy Entertainment for Black Library.

And man, what a delight they were. Not just readings, these were full-cast audio dramas, with wonderfully produced sound effects and professional voice actors like Toby Longworth, Gareth Armstrong, Jonathan Keeble, and many others. I’d pull into the parking lot with the sound of ricocheting bolter fire and space marine battle cries echoing in my ear, and it made getting out of the car and starting the long walk into work a little easier.

I enjoyed virtually all of those action-packed audio dramas, but I think my favorite was Dan Abnett’s Thorn and Talon: From the Case Files of Eisenhorn and Ravenor, an anthology of tales of the dedicated Imperial Inquisitor Eisenhorn and his apprentice Ravenor, as they came up again Chaos plots, strange warp artifacts, and more dangerous things.

That was my introduction to the tales of Inquisitor Eisenhorn. Although truthfully, if I’d just listened to my friends Howard Andrew Jones and John Denardo, I could have saved myself a lot of time. Way back in 2009 Howard raved about Abnett’s Eisenhorn omnibus, a fat volume collecting all three novels of the Eisenhorn trilogy and a handful of shorter works:

Dan Abnett wasn’t satisfied with creating a fabulous lead character in an action-packed space opera; he sent him to fantastic places and provides a series of detective/investigative stories full of logical turns, surprises, and plenty of action.

And in his 2016 article ‘In Defense of Media Tie-Ins,” John wrote:

One of the best set of books I’ve ever read — in any genre — was the Eisenhorn trilogy by Dan Abnett. The books are set in the richly-imagined Warhammer 40K universe… Abnett is a one of the most skilled master storytellers you’ve never heard of. This is the series that I point to when anyone is quick to dismiss tie-in fiction… I don’t play the game, but that didn’t stop me from losing sleep because I couldn’t stop turning page after action-packed page, or cheering when a bad guy finally got his comeuppance.

The long-awaited fourth book in the Eisenhorn series finally arrives next month. The Magos, a fat 720-page volume, collects a dozen Eisenhorn short stories and a brand new novel. Here’s the description.

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Asphodel by Jane Lindskold, Out Now!

Monday, January 29th, 2018 | Posted by Emily Mah

Asphodel Jane Lindskold-smallI had the privilege of reading Asphodel by Jane Lindskold soon after it was written and cannot recommend it highly enough.

It’s surreal, but in a very grounded way, if that makes any sense. Lindskold weaves together deep myth and literary allegory with fabulist escapism, and manages to take the reader on a very real journey into human love, loss, and redemption.

The book is available as a trade paperback, and as an ebook on Kindle, Nook, i-Tunes , GooglePlay, and Kobo.

Here’s the jacket copy.

Prison or Refuge?

Nameless in a doorless tower graced with seven windows, she is imprisoned. Who is her jailer? What is her crime?

After she discovers the secret of the seven windows, the nameless one, accompanied by two impossible companions, sets forth on fantastical journeys of exploration. But, for the nameless one, learning her name may not be a welcome revelation, and the identity of her jailer will rock the foundations of a tower that has come to be as much refuge as prison.

Read on for Lindskold’s post on how this book came to be.

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Future Treasures: Pride & Prometheus by John Kessel

Saturday, January 27th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Pride and Prometheus John Kessel-back-small Pride and Prometheus John Kessel-small

John Kessel seems to be back.

He produced a string of well-regarded novels a few decades ago: Freedom Beach (1985, with James Patrick Kelly), Good News from Outer Space (1989) and Corrupting Dr. Nice (1997). Then he pretty much gave up on novels, switching to short fiction and producing five fiction collections between 1992 and 2012.

He returned in style last year with The Moon and the Other, his first novel in 20 years. Library Journal called it “Speculative fiction at its finest… impossible to put down,” and the Chicago Tribune labeled it “One of the year’s most intelligent and provocative novels.”

His fifth novel Pride & Prometheus, arriving in hardcover next month, blends Pride and Prejudice and Frankenstein as Mary Bennet falls for the enigmatic Victor Frankenstein and befriends his monstrous Creature.

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Future Treasures: Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell

Sunday, January 21st, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Embers of War-small Embers of War-back-small

Gareth Powell is best known around these parts as the author of Moving Forward, a thoughtful manifesto on escaping the legacy of science fiction’s pulp roots. It generated quite a bit of discussion when it appeared at SF Signal back in 2013.

In the wider world he’s better known as the author of Ack-Ack Macaque (2012), a trilogy of SF adventure tales featuring a cigar-chomping monkey, nuclear-powered Zeppelins, and German ninjas, as well as the novel The Recollection (2011) and numerous short stories that have appeared in places like Space Opera, Solaris Rising, and Interzone. His newest novel is one of the most intriguing titles of 2018, the tale of a sentient warship stripped of her weapons and assigned to rescue operations at the end of the war. Caught up in a mysterious struggle that threatens to engulf the entire galaxy, the sentient warship Trouble Dog discovers she has to remember how to fight again, and fast. BG author Jonathan L. Howard (the Kyth the Taker series) says it “Mashes together solid space opera with big concepts, real people, and a freewheeling rock’n’roll vibe.”

Embers of War will be published by Titan Books on February 20, 2018. It is 409 pages, priced at $14.95 in trade paperback and $8.99 for the digital edition. It is the first novel in a new space opera trilogy.

Future Treasures: The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley

Friday, January 12th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Beauty Aliya Whiteley-smallI don’t know about you lot, but I like my dystopian horror filled with cosmic weirdness, strange fungi, and terrifying tales told around post-apocalyptic campfires.

Okay, that’s fairly specific. I blame the pre-release copy for Aliya Whiteley’s novella The Beauty, which has admittedly sparked my imagination. The Beauty was originally published in the UK in 2014 by Unsung Stories, where it was promptly nominated for the Shirley Jackson and Saboteur awards, and chosen by Adam Nevill as one of his favorite horror tales. He calls it “A story of cosmic fecundity and fungal weirdness that I couldn’t put down.” Kirkus Reviews labeled it “gut-wrenching… renders a world that exists somewhere between post-apocalyptic and fable-esque… unforgettably grotesque.” It arrives in trade paperback next week from Titan Books.

Somewhere away from the cities and towns, in the Valley of the Rocks, a society of men and boys gather around the fire each night to listen to their history recounted by Nate, the storyteller. Requested most often by the group is the tale of the death of all women.

They are the last generation.

One evening, Nate brings back new secrets from the woods; peculiar mushrooms are growing from the ground where the women’s bodies lie buried. These are the first signs of a strange and insidious presence unlike anything ever known before…

Discover the Beauty.

The Beauty will be published by Titan Books on January 16, 2018. It is 288 pages, priced at $12.95 in trade paperback and $7.99 for the digital version.

See all our coverage of the best in upcoming fantasy, SF and horror here.

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