The Story Bright Should Have Been: The Carter Archives by Dan Stout

Saturday, April 4th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Titanshade-Dan-Stout-small Titan's Day Dan Stout-small

Covers by Chris McGrath

Dan Stout’s novel Titanshade was one of the breakout hits of 2019. W. Michael Gear called it “A masterpiece of a first novel,” John DeNardo picked it as one of the Best Books of March, and Black Gate columnist Brandon Crilly selected it as one of his Top Five of the year, saying:

Titanshade is the story Bright should have been. Stout provides this fascinating, pseudo-dieselpunk world populated by unique creatures instead of orcs and elves. It has everything I loved about Lethal Weapon and Bad Boys without the problematic bits, centered on truly engaging and dynamic characters. And I just found out we’ll be getting a sequel in April 2020!

Brandon was right about the sequel. Titan’s Day arrives in hardcover next week, returning us to the gritty town of Titanshade, where danger lurks around every corner. Here’s the publisher’s description.

The city of Titanshade pulses with nervous energy. The discovery of new riches beneath its snowfields has given residents hope for prosperity, but it also means the arrival of federal troops, along with assurances that they are only there to “stabilize the situation.”

Newcomers flood the streets, dreaming of finding their fortunes, while in the backrooms and beer halls of the city, a populist resistance gains support, its leaders’ true motives hidden behind nativist slogans. And in an alley, a gruesome discovery: the mutilated body of a young woman, a recent immigrant so little-regarded that not even her lovers bothered to learn her name. But in death, she’s found a champion.

Detective Carter single-mindedly pursues the killer as he navigates political pressures and resists becoming a pawn in the struggles tipping the city toward anarchy. But when more innocent lives are lost and time runs short, he’s forced to decide if justice is worth sparking all-out war in the streets during the biggest celebration of the year: Titan’s Day.

Titan’s Day will be published by DAW on April 7, 2020. It is 432 pages, priced at $26 in hardcover and $13.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Chris McGrath. Read an excerpt from the first novel Titanshade here, and get all the details on the series at Dan Stout’s website here. See all our recent cover of the best new fantasy series here.


New Treasures: Sword of Fire by Katharine Kerr

Monday, March 30th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Sword of Fire-smallKatharine Kerr’s science fiction novels include Polar City Blues, Palace (with Mark Kreighbaum), and Snare. But she’s much more well known for sixteen epic fantasy novels set in the world of Deverry, starting with Daggerspell (1986), Darkspell (1987), and The Bristling Wood (1989).

Kerr’s roots are firmly in fantasy gaming, which immediately increases her cred in my book. She was introduced to fantasy gaming in in 1979, and she quickly began writing articles for gaming magazines. She was a contributing editor to Dragon magazine, and authored adventure modules for TSR and Chaosium’s Pendragon role-playing game. Her first novel was published in 1986, and she’s never looked back. It’s fiction that brings the fame and the fast cars, so I guess I can’t blame her.

The last few years she’s been occupied with her Nola O’Grady urban fantasy series for DAW (which the author describes as a “female James Bond with magic rather than violence”). It’s been over a decade since we’ve seen a new novel in Deverry, though, and it’s good to see her return. Ralph Harris gave Sword of Fire a warm review at BookPage; here’s a sample.

Sword of Fire centers around a sociopolitical struggle against the unjust courts of the Kingdom of Deverry. While that certainly could be a backdrop for a bleak, dark struggle, Kerr’s novel is instead a lovely quest with an ever-optimistic, wholeheartedly enthusiastic crew of brilliant women and chivalrous men. Alyssa, our primary heroine, embarks on a trip to recover a book that can help usurp the old traditions of the courts with even older, supposedly more fair traditions….

With a lightly magical, extremely familiar setting and lovable cast of characters, Kerr sets out to take the reader through the Kingdom of Deverry’s evolution to a (hopefully) more just world. She doles out plot points via chatty gossip between noble families and secret messages sent by way of servants… Meandering through the pages of Kerr’s Sword of Fire was escapism of the finest quality. For readers looking for a dark drama of epic proportions, these 380 pages will hold nothing for you. Here, you will only find charming banter, happy endings and optimism in prose form.

Sword of Fire is the opening volume in The Justice War. It was published by DAW on February 18, 2020. It is 384 pages, priced at $27 in hardcover and $13.99 in digital formats. The cover was designed by Katie Anderson. Read an excerpt from Chapter One here.

See all our recent New Treasures here.


Fighting Schools, Ancient Palaces, and a Killing Fog: The Grave Kingdom Trilogy by Jeff Wheeler

Sunday, March 29th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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Cover design by Shasti O’Leary Soudant

Jeff Wheeler was been toiling away in the fantasy word mines for nearly two decades, and in 2014 he took the leap and retired from Intel to write full-time. He’s written several popular series, including the Whispers from Mirrowen trilogy, two novels in the Landmoor series, and two trilogies in the Muirwood universe, the second of which was the Covenant of Muirwood, which we covered here back in 2015.

His latest, The Grave Kingdom trilogy, kicked off this month with The Killing Fog. At Mary Robinette Kowal’s blog, Jeff Wheeler contributed a My Favorite Bit entry that piqued my interest — and not just for the Big Trouble in Little China and Kung Fu references (though they definitely didn’t hurt). Here’s what he said.

When I was young, I used to watch the TV show Kung Fu with David Carradine. I respected the loner monk wandering through America’s Wild West and taking out the bad guys. During high school, one of my favorite films was Big Trouble in Little China, just for the great martial art medley of different styles they demonstrated. What many don’t know about me is that I’ve been a practitioner of many forms of Kung Fu for almost thirty years, starting at Wing Lam Kung Fu school in Silicon Valley after my missionary service.

When I was inspired to write The Killing Fog after a month-long trip to China, I chose to set it in a world with the geography of Alaska and the culture of medieval China. Instead of palaces and royalty, I wanted to focus on the martial artists. The protagonist of the story, Bingmei (a name which means ‘ice rose’ in Chinese), is the granddaughter and daughter of a family who owns a fighting school… Bingmei’s world is a lot harsher than the one we live in. While ancient forms of fighting have been passed down within families, history has not. There is no written language, no knowledge of where the ancient buildings and palaces came from. No understanding of why the Death Wall was built and why no one is allowed to cross it. Most importantly, no one knows who left behind magical relics carved from meiwood and imbued with magical power. People collect these relics to hide them away because if their power is invoked, the presence of magic summons a deadly fog which kills any creature caught within it. And no one knows why.

It’s Bingmei’s destiny to find out.

The KIlling Fog will be followed by The Buried World in June of this year, and The Immortal Words arrives three months later, on September 22. Publishers Weekly calls the opening volume a “winding tale of valor and sacrifice… [an] excellent introduction to the prolific Wheeler’s work.”

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New Treasures: Re-Coil by J. T. Nicholas

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Re-Coil J T Nicholas-smallWhen I published my first novel The Robots of Gotham (written under the name Todd McAulty), John Scalzi was enormously kind to me, helping me promote it by featuring me on his blog Whatever, one of the most popular SF sites in the country. I used the opportunity to conduct a mock interview with an ill-fated Sovereign Intelligence machine character, and it was a lot of fun.

Scalzi’s blog is a great way to discover new writers, in fact, and I’ve become a regular reader. It’s how I discovered J.T. Nicholas’ new novel Re-Coil, out this month from Titan. Here’s a snippet from his own guest post at Scalzi’s Whatever, published earlier this month:

The story – the plot – is a whodunnit at its heart, a mystery where the protagonists are trying to hunt down their would-be killers and stop the first truly existential threat to humanity since mankind uncovered the secrets of immortality. It’s part mystery, part space action romp, and part cyberpunk conspiracy tale. But writing those bits was the easy part. For me, the hard part of Re-Coil was creating the world, fleshing out the societies, and answering the questions my agent and editor posed. Big questions on race and sex and gender and identity and power that I hadn’t really intended to write about, but once I set up the basic premise, I couldn’t possibly avoid.

You can read Nicholas’ full article here. Here’s the publisher’s description for Re-Coil.

Carter Langston is murdered whilst salvaging a derelict vessel — a major inconvenience as he’s downloaded into a brand-new body on the space station where he backed up, several weeks’ journey away. But events quickly slip out of control when an assassin breaks into the medbay and tries to finish the job.

Death no longer holds sway over a humanity that has spread across the solar system: consciousness can be placed in a new body, or coil, straight after death, giving people the potential for immortality. Yet Carter’s backups — supposedly secure — have been damaged, his crew are missing, and everything points back to the derelict that should have been a simple salvage mission.

With enemies in hot pursuit, Carter tracks down his last crewmate — re-coiled after death into a body she cannot stand — to delve deeper into a mystery that threatens humanity and identity as they have come to know it.

Re-Coil was published by Titan Books on March 3, 2020. It is 359 pages, priced at $14.95 in trade paperback and $7.99 in digital format. The cover was designed by Vince Haig. Read an excerpt at Tor.com, and see all our recent New Treasures here.


New Treasures: Made To Order: Robots and Revolution edited by Jonathan Strahan

Wednesday, March 18th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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Cover by Blacksheep UK

A new anthology by Jonathan Strahan is always an event. He’s been editing Year’s Best volumes since 2003, for ibooks, the Science Fiction Book Club, Night Shade, and Solaris, and just announced the contents of the first volume of The Year’s Best Science Fiction from Saga Press (if that Facebook link doesn’t work for you, don’t worry about it; I’ll cover it in an upcoming Future Treasures post). He also edited the groundbreaking Infinity series for Solaris, seven volumes starting with Engineering Infinity (2010) and ending with Infinity’s End (2018), perhaps the most acclaimed original anthology series of the last decade.

His latest is Made To Order: Robots and Revolution, released yesterday by Solaris. Published on the 100th anniversary of the word “Robot” entering our modern lexicon, Made To Order contains brand new stories by Sofia Samatar, Peter Watts, Ken Liu, Sarah Pinsker, Alastair Reynolds, Peter F. Hamilton, Annalee Newitz, Suzanne Palmer, Ian R. MacLeod, Rich Larson, and others. (To get a sense of the spirit of this anthology, read the first story “A Guide for Working Breeds” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad, complete and completely free, at Tor.com. It’s a hilarious tale of two robot pals who couldn’t be more different, and it’s well worth your time.)

Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

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John DeNardo on the 7 Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Books of March

Tuesday, March 17th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

A Pale Light in the Black-small The House in the Cerulean Sea-small The Gobblin’ Society by James P. Blaylock-small

Covers by Vadim Sadovski, Chris Sickels/Red Nose Studio, and Jon Foster

Good friends recommend good books. And that makes John DeNardo just about the best friend we have in this business. I’ve come to rely on his regular columns for Kirkus Reviews to point me towards the best new releases each month, in articles like “Sex Robots, the Future of Racism, and Cthulhu Vacations” [Jan 21] and “The Definitive List of the Top Science Fiction & Fantasy of 2019” [Dec 2019].

He also does regular monthly round-ups of the best novels — while not neglecting short fiction, which is one of the things I like about him. For March he looks at new novels by Katie M. Flynn, K. B. Wagers, Myke Cole (Sixteenth Watch), TJ Klune, N. K. Jemisin (The City We Became), Zack Jordan, and Menna van Praag, and new short fiction and collections from Tor (including Dragon Age: Tevinter Nights, and Hearts of Oak by Eddie Robson), Titan Books (including Cursed edited by Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane), Undertow Publications, the British Library, and Black Library, not to mention James P. Blaylock, Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, and many others.

As always, there’s plenty of great stuff on John’s list. Here’s a few of the highlights.

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Space Renegades, Leviathan Ships, and Planet-Eating Monsters: The Honors Trilogy by Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre

Friday, March 13th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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Covers by Jeff Huang

I think a lot of the classic SF I read in the 70s and 80s would be characterized as YA today. Certainly the novels of Clifford D. Simak, Roger Zelazny and Anne McCaffrey still speak to a modern audience, and would probably do well in the YA section of the bookstore.

Or maybe not. Every new generation finds writers who speak its language, and sets aside the treasured writers of older generations. And that’s the way it should be. It’s good to pass along our love of Simak, Zelazny, McCaffrey and others to young readers… but it’s a good idea to take the time to see what the heck they’re reading as well.

What are they reading? Lots of stuff. The YA section of my local Barnes & Noble is crammed full of new releases every week, and a great many of them are science fiction. And more than a few look pretty interesting, too. The Honors trilogy by Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre piqued my interest recently… probably because I saw the one-sentence summary for Honor Lost (“Quick-thinking Leviathan pilot Zara Cole must stop a planet-eating monster or lose everyone she loves in the finale of this acclaimed trilogy”), and let’s face it, planet-eating monsters are my weakness.

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New Treasures: The Boatman’s Daughter by Andy Davidson

Friday, March 13th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

The Boatman's Daughter-smallI’ve been reading a lot of science fiction and fantasy lately, and I’m in the mood for something different. With impeccable timing, along comes Andy Davidson’s The Boatman’s Daughter, a supernatural thriller about a young woman facing down ancient forces in the depths of the bayou. It features the silhouette of a swampman with a plant growing out of his head on the cover, and that qualifies as sufficiently different in my book.

Andy Davidson is the author of In the Valley of the Sun, which was a finalist for the 2017 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. His second novel is getting even more attention… Kirkus Reviews says, “The remote Arkansas bayou is a swirling kaleidoscope of murder, greed, and dark, ancient magic… A stunning supernatural Southern Gothic.”

I like the sound of that. Here’s the publisher’s description.

Ever since her father was killed when she was just a child, Miranda Crabtree has kept her head down and her eyes up, ferrying contraband for a mad preacher and his declining band of followers to make ends meet and to protect an old witch and a secret child from harm.

But dark forces are at work in the bayou, both human and supernatural, conspiring to disrupt the rhythms of Miranda’s peculiar and precarious life. And when the preacher makes an unthinkable demand, it sets Miranda on a desperate, dangerous path, forcing her to consider what she is willing to sacrifice to keep her loved ones safe.

With the heady mythmaking of Neil Gaiman and the heartrending pacing of Joe Hill, Andy Davidson spins a thrilling tale of love and duty, of loss and discovery. The Boatman’s Daughter is a gorgeous, horrifying novel, a journey into the dark corners of human nature, drawing our worst fears and temptations out into the light.

The Boatman’s Daughter was published by FSG Originals on February 11, 2020. It is 416 pages, priced at $16 in trade paperback and $9.99 in digital formats.

See all our recent New Treasures here.


Future Treasures: Hearts of Oak by Eddie Robson

Tuesday, March 10th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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Cover by Armando Veve

I’ve really been enjoy enjoying Tor.com’s line of near-weekly original novellas. I don’t know for sure how many they’ve published (I lost count somewhere around 120), but man. It’s a lot. They’ve hogged virtually all the Hugo nominations for Best Novella for the past five years, too, which is no small accomplishment. If you’re looking for cutting edge fantasy and SF from a Who’s Who of exciting new writers, this is the imprint to follow.

I can’t stay on top of all their releases, but every once in a while I get especially intrigued. It happened back in October when they released a sword-and-sorcery novella by Saad Z Hossain back-to-back with a promising space opera debut by Lina Rather. And it happened again this month, when Tor.com sent me a review copy of an odd little package titled Hearts of Oak, by Eddie Robson. Here’s a snippet from Publishers Weekly‘s enthusiastic review.

Four people in an uncannily unchanging city come to question their reality in this piercing work. Iona, Steve, Saori, and Victor can’t remember a time when they didn’t live in the unnamed city or follow their daily routines. They go to work, go home, and repeat this cycle again the next day alongside their obedient, homogeneous fellow citizens. But the arrival of a stranger triggers repressed memories, sending all four hurtling into danger… Robson (Welcome to Our Village, Please Invade Carefully) is a master of the gradual release of information, ratcheting up the tension by degrees as both readers and characters learn the truth of his intricately constructed universe… Clever, emotional, and thematically rich, this is sure to please fans of classic science fiction.

Clocking in at 265 pages, this is a very generous package for a novella. Hearts of Oak will be published by Tor.com on March 17, 2020. It is 265 pages, priced at $14.99 in trade paperback and $4.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Armando Veve. Get all the details here.

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An Exuberant Celebration of a Century of Fantasy: Flame and Crimson: A History of Sword-and-Sorcery by Brian Murphy

Sunday, March 8th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Flame and Crimson-small Flame and Crimson-back-small

Cover by Tom Barber

Brian Murphy was one of the most important of Black Gate‘s early contributors. In 59 articles published between 2010 and 2017, he thoughtfully asked what fantasy was good for (“Transcendent Fantasy, or Politics as Usual?“), suggested classic S&S tales for busy modern readers (“Six Sought Adventure: A Half-Dozen Swords And Sorcery Short Stories Worth Your Summer Reading Time“), and vividly recalled the joys of discovering fantasy in the 70s (“An Ode to the Berkley Medallion Conans“).

I can’t think any anyone more qualified to write Flame and Crimson: A History of Sword-and-Sorcery, an impeccably well researched study — and simultaneously an exuberant celebration — of a century of great fantasy. Here’s a representative sample from the Underground, Resurgence, and New Directions chapter, which is packed with enthusiastic recs for those looking for modern writers worth paying attention to.

Other notable recent sword-and sorcery/sword-and-sorcery-infleunced authors and stories include James Enge’s Morlock the Maker series, including Blood of Ambrose (2009), This Crooked Way (2009), and The Wolf Age (2010), and Paul Kemp’s Egil and Nix stories including The Hammer and the Blade (2012), A Discourse in Steel (2013) and A Conversation in Blood (2017)…. the episodic, street-level adventures of the outsider Moorlock [sic] — a spellcaster and black-blade wielder harkening back to Elric, albeit with more heart and humor — returns it to its sword-and-sorcery roots. Kemp is perhaps best known for his work writing fictional tie-ins to the Dungeons and Dragons campaign setting The Forgotten Realms.

When I asked Brian about writing the book, his reply was characteristically thoughtful and humble. Here’s what he said.

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