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Category: New Treasures

Guran strikes again! The Year’s Best of Dark Fantasy & Horror, Volume 2

Guran strikes again! The Year’s Best of Dark Fantasy & Horror, Volume 2

The Year’s Best of Dark Fantasy & Horror, Volume 2 (Pyr, October 2021)

Widely known, well respected, prolific editor of dark fiction Paula Guran returns with a new volume of her Year’s Best of Dark Fantasy & Horror. This new, huge anthology collects thirty short stories that previously appeared in 2020 in various books and magazines.

Clearly it would be impossible (and tedious) to comment upon each one, hence I will only mention those which especially impressed me. In other words my personal “best” among Guran’s best.

“Recognition” by Victor Lavalle is a disquieting story set in a New York apartment building where flats are vacated little by little during the first COVID outbreak, while “ Odette” by Zen Cho is the neat description of the difficult relationship between a young orphan, her stern uncle, and the house where they live.

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Crisis and Mystery at the End of the Universe: The Divide Series by J. S. Dewes

Crisis and Mystery at the End of the Universe: The Divide Series by J. S. Dewes

The Last Watch and The Exiled Fleet (Tor, April and August 2021). Cover art by Shutterstock

As days get shorter and nights get longer, my reading ambitions begin to grow. Recently I’ve been on the hunt for a more substantial reading project, and I think I’ve found it in J.S. Dewes debut series The Divide. The opening book The Last Watch received plenty of breathless notices; in her mid-year wrap-up of The Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books of the Year, Sadie Gennis at Vulture called it “one of the most stunning sci-fi series debuts of recent years… [a] nail-biting space epic,” and Booklist proclaimed it “a bravura debut that blends great action with compelling characters.”

The first volume was released in April, and sequel The Exiled Fleet followed hot on its heels four months later. Dewes has announced a third volume on her website, to be released next year. An epic space opera with more volumes in the pipeline is just what I had in mind for a fall reading project. Here’s a sample from Matt Matkowski’s enthusiastic review of the audiobook version of The Last Watch at Booklist.

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New Treasures: The Conductors by Nicole Glover

New Treasures: The Conductors by Nicole Glover

The Conductors (John Joseph Adams Books, March 2021). Cover art by Elizabeth Leggett. Click for bigger versions.

As we near the end of 2021 (thank God!), I’m already starting to look back at the big fantasy releases and debuts of the year. One that surprised me was Nicole Glover’s The Conductors, the opening novel in her Murder & Magic series, which follows the adventures of black detectives Hetty and Benjy Rhodes, who pry into cases white police officers deign to investigate in Reconstruction era Philadelphia.

The Conductors was published and edited by John Joseph Adams, the man who pulled my own debut novel out of the slush pile and published it in 2018, so perhaps you can forgive me if I think the man has superb taste. I’m not the only one, however. NPR praises The Conductors as “A history buff’s dream fantasy novel,” and P. Djèlí Clark calls it “a tangled mystery of murder, spellwork, and freedom amid the remnants of slavery’s lingering memories.” Here’s an excerpt from the starred review at Publishers Weekly.

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Hard SF and Cosmic Lovecraftian Horror: The Fallen, Book 2 of The Outside by Ada Hoffman

Hard SF and Cosmic Lovecraftian Horror: The Fallen, Book 2 of The Outside by Ada Hoffman

The Outside and The Fallen (Angry Robot, June 2019 and July 2021). Covers by Lee Gibbons.

Ada Hoffman’s The Outside (Angry Robot) hit the sweet of my favorite genres. The B&N SciFi & Fantasy Blog called it “starkly original, and tinged with hints of horror fantasy – truly operatic stuff,” and Kate Sherrod at The Skiffy and Fanty podcast labeled it

A boffo combination of hard science fiction, cosmic Lovecraftian horror, both cyber-and-god-punk, some ridiculously charismatic aliens, and a fascinating female protagonist somewhere on the autism spectrum… Ada Hoffmann’s The Outside feels like it was made to order for us.

OK, maybe my favorite genres are a little eclectic, but you gotta admit that sounds good. And you can understand my immediate interest in the sequel, The Fallen, which arrived this summer. Here’s all the details.

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New Treasures: Among Thieves by MJ Kuhn

New Treasures: Among Thieves by MJ Kuhn

Among Thieves by M.J. Kuhn (Saga Press, September 2021)

It’s been a long week, and it’s time to relax with a good fantasy novel. Lucky for me, Saga Press has just released M.J. Kuhn’s debut, the tale of a high-stakes heist in a world of magic and malice. It sounds like just what I’m looking for. Here’s the enthusiastic review from Publisher’s Weekly.

Kuhn debuts with an electrifying fantasy that takes readers into the seamy heart of Dresdell, one of the five kingdoms of Thamorr, where rival crime syndicates vie for jobs. When Toliver Shadowwood, the King of Edale, arranges a meeting with the Kestrel Crowns, Ryia Cautella, an infamous member of the Saints of the Wharf, snoops on their rendezvous. She discovers that Shadowwood is after an ancient, magical quill belonging to the Guildmaster of Thamorr, the most powerful person in all the five kingdoms. It’s this quill that gives the Guildmaster his uncanny powers, so when the Crowns reject the offer, Ryia seizes the opportunity to poach the job… Kuhn successfully builds a fast-paced mystery around both the quill’s powers and Ryia’s troubled past. Fantasy fans won’t want to miss this.

Among Thieves was published by Saga Press on September 7, 2021. It is 343 pages, priced at $26.99 in hardcover, $12.99 in digital and $19 in audio formats. The cover is by Chris McGrath. See all our recent New Treasures here.

Ghosts of the Past, Ghosts of the Present: December Tales, edited by J.D. Horn

Ghosts of the Past, Ghosts of the Present: December Tales, edited by J.D. Horn

 

December Tales: A Collection of New and Classic Ghost Stories
Edited by J.D. Horn; Foreword by Colin Dickey
Curious Blue Press (468 pages, $19.95 paperback/$5.95 digital formats, September 28, 2021)

The title of the present anthology refers to the tradition of telling ghost stories at Christmas time, a tradition enforced by Charles Dickens, who not only wrote the famous “A Christmas Carol” but also edited Victorian era magazines regularly featuring ghost stories in their Christmas issues.

Truth be told, ghost stories are now available throughout the year and, fortunately, modern writers are still devoted to the genre.

Editor J.D. Horn has developed the brilliant idea of assembling in one volume both classical ghostly tales from various parts of the world and brand new stories by contemporary authors.

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New Treasures: We Have Always Been Here by Lena Nguyen

New Treasures: We Have Always Been Here by Lena Nguyen

We Have Always Been Here (DAW, July 2021). Cover by Yurly Muzur

We’re back! Well, we never left, but a corrupted database table made it…. challenging to publish new articles. That happens when your site is 20 years old and has half a million subscribers. So they tell me.

I’m sick of looking at database tables, let me tell you. What do I want to look at? Books! Come on, that was an easy one.

So tonight I settle down with a new science fiction debut, a creepy novel of deep space exploration by Lena Nguyen. Kirkus Reviews calls it “claustrophobic and dark, full of twisting ship corridors and unreliable characters…. A promising, atmospheric debut,” and The Chicago Review of Books praises it as a “multi-layered ghost story in space… [set in] an increasingly horrific labyrinth.” Here’s the publisher’s description for We Have Always Been Here.

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In 500 Words or Less: Plague Birds by Jason Sanford

In 500 Words or Less: Plague Birds by Jason Sanford

Plague Birds by Jason Sanford
Apex Publications (274 pages, $16.95 paperback/$6.99 eBook, Sept 21, 2021)
Cover by Marcela Bolívar

I remember not long ago when CRISPR was on the tip of a lot of people’s tongues, among science fiction writers as well as the general public. Obviously we’re focused on other topics in science and medicine right now, but sooner or later people will come back to asking whether gene editing should be allowed, what should be permissible, and the possibilities if this branch of science is allowed to run unchecked.

Jason Sanford deals with that last point in Plague Birds, by jumping ahead thousands of years after a total societal collapse caused in part by conflict between genetically modified humans. The set-up and frame here is pretty cool: millennia after this collapse, humans live in isolated settlements and mostly stay away from each other, protected by AIs that are gradually weeding out the “crisper” inside their DNA. We get to see a lot of how the world has changed, but the real focus is on Crista, a young woman forced to become one of the “plague birds” who essentially root out the most heinous wrongdoers among the settlements – though it often isn’t a simple job.

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New Treasures: The Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis

New Treasures: The Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis

The Lights of Prague (Titan, May 2021). Cover design by Julia Lloyd

I found Nicole Jarvis’s The Lights of Prague while wandering through Barnes & Noble this summer. It’s a debut in every sense of the word — Jarvis hasn’t published any previous short fiction, and I can’t even find a web page for her. But the book sounds extremely relevant to my interests. Have a look at this snippet from Mya Alexice’s BookPage review.

Nicole Jarvis’ debut fantasy, The Lights of Prague, welcomes readers into an arresting and vivid historical fantasy world… In her version of the culturally rich European city, creatures from Czech folklore haunt its streets and endanger its citizens. Pijavice — vampiric monsters consumed by bloodlust — are particularly terrifying to those who walk alone at night. The Lights of Prague follows Domek Myska, an earnest member of the lamplighters, who in this world are also a monster-hunting secret society that keeps these creatures at bay, and Lady Ora Fischerová, a charming widow with her own ties to Prague’s supernatural underground…

The Lights of Prague is an impressive and mature feat from a debut novelist.

The Lights of Prague was published by Titan Books on May 25, 2021. It is 413 pages, priced at $15.95 in paperback and $9.99 in digital formats. The cover was deigned by Julia Lloyd. See all our recent New Treasures here.

Future Treasures: The Actual Star by Monica Byrne

Future Treasures: The Actual Star by Monica Byrne

The Actual Star (Harper Voyager, September 14, 2021)

Tomorrow I’m playing hooky from work and spending the day at the Windy City Pulp and Paper show in Lombard, Illinois. It’s my favorite annual convention, and the first I’ve attended in the pandemic era. It will be great to meet up with Black Gate contributors Rich Horton, Doug Ellis, William Patrick Maynard — and Greg Mele, whom I’ve never met in person before.

Even though I’m going to be spending the three days immersed in the great SF and fantasy of the past, I’m still here for you when it comes to SF and fantasy of the future. So before I jump in my trusty pulpmobile and head out for the weekend, I want to take a minute to tell you about Monica Byrne’s second novel, The Actual Star, arriving in hardcover next week. Her first novel The Girl in the Road (2014) was nominated for the Locus award and won the 2015 James Tiptree, Jr. Award. And this one has garnered a lot of advance praise — Booklist calls it “Complex and captivating,” and Tor.com says it’s “Reminiscent of Octavia E. Butler… Byrne creates cultures and characters that embody depth, sensitivity, and a riveting story line.” Here’s a snippet from the feature review by Michael Marshall at New Scientist, who labels it “a stone-cold masterpiece.”

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