New Treasures: The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2015, edited by Rich Horton

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2015-smallIn his introduction to this year’s volume, Rich provides a penetrating breakdown of the current state of our genre’s magazines:

Trevor Quacchri… [is] introducing some intriguing new writers, while not abandoning Analog’s core identity. Last year he published Timons Esais’ “Sadness,” clearly one of the very best stories of the year. Even more recently, F&SF has changed editors… the editing reins have been handed to C.C. Finlay, who “auditioned” with a strong guest issue in July-August 2014, from which I’ve chosen Alaya Dawn Johnson’s “A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i” for this book. Asimov’s stays the course with Sheila Williams, and 2014 was a very good year for the magazine….

I choose four stories each from two other top online sources, Clarkesworld (three-time Hugo Winner for Best Semiprozine) and LightspeedClarkesworld publishes almost soley science fiction, and Lightspeed publishes an even mixture of science fiction and fantasy, so it can be argued that another online ‘zine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, is the top fantasy magazine online, and the two outstanding stories I chose from it should support that argument. And it would be folly to forget Tor.com…

The New Yorker regularly features science fiction and fantasy (including a pretty decent story by Tom Hanks this year), and New Yorker stories have appeared in these anthologies. Tin House in particular is very hospitable to fantastika, and this year I saw some outstanding work at Granta.

Since I was on stage to present the Nebula Award for Best Novelette to Alaya Dawn Johnson’s “A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i,” I can personally attest that Rich knows how to pick ‘em. The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2015 was published by Prime Books on June 11, 2015. It is 576 pages, priced at $19.99 in trade paperback and $6.99 for the digital edition. See the complete Table of Contents here.


New Treasures: The Revolutions by Felix Gilman

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Revolutions Felix Gilman-smallMatthew David Surridge called Felix Gilman “one of the strongest new novelists in fantasy fiction today.” Over the past eight years Gilman has been gradually making a name for himself, with popular steampunk novels like Thunderer, Gears of the City, and the duology The Half-Made World and The Rise of Ransom City. For his latest, The Revolutions, now available in paperback from Tor, Gilman has written a sweeping stand-alone tale of Victorian science fiction, arcane exploration, and planetary romance.

In 1893, young journalist Arthur Shaw is at work in the British Museum Reading Room when the Great Storm hits London, wreaking unprecedented damage. In its aftermath, Arthur’s newspaper closes, owing him money, and all his debts come due at once. His fiancé Josephine takes a job as a stenographer for some of the fashionable spiritualist and occult societies of fin de siècle London society. At one of her meetings, Arthur is given a job lead for what seems to be accounting work, but at a salary many times what any clerk could expect. The work is long and peculiar, as the workers spend all day performing unnerving calculations that make them hallucinate or even go mad, but the money is compelling.

Things are beginning to look up when the perils of dabbling in the esoteric suddenly come to a head: A war breaks out between competing magical societies. Josephine joins one of them for a hazardous occult exploration-an experiment which threatens to leave her stranded at the outer limits of consciousness, among the celestial spheres.

Arthur won’t give up his great love so easily, and hunts for a way to save her, as Josephine fights for survival… somewhere in the vicinity of Mars.

The Revolutions was published in hardcover by Tor Books on April 1, 2014, and reprinted in trade paperback on April 7, 2015. It is 416 pages, priced at $16.99, or $9.99 for the digital edition.


New Treasures: The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar

Sunday, June 28th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Violent Century-smallLavie Tidhar’s last novel, Osama, won the World Fantasy Award, and his “Guns & Sorcery” novella Gorel & The Pot Bellied God won the British Fantasy Award. His novel The Violent Century was published in the UK last year, and was called a masterpiece by both the Independent (UK) and Library Journal — and “Watchmen on crack” by io9.

An unusual amount of praise for a superhero novel. Earlier this year The Violent Century was released here in the US, and we finally have a chance to see what all the fuss is about.

They never meant to be heroes.

For seventy years they guarded the British Empire. Oblivion and Fogg, inseparable friends, bound together by a shared fate. Until one night in Berlin, in the aftermath of the Second World War, and a secret that tore them apart.

But there must always be an account… and the past has a habit of catching up to the present. Now, recalled to the Retirement Bureau from which no one can retire, Fogg and Oblivion must face up to a past of terrible war and unacknowledged heroism — a life of dusty corridors and secret rooms, of furtive meetings and blood-stained fields — to answer one last, impossible question:

What makes a hero?

We last covered Lavie Tidhar with a look at the omnibus edition of his steampunk trilogy The Bookman Histories from Angry Robot.

The Violent Century was published by Thomas Dunne Books on February 24, 2015. It is 362 pages. priced at $25.99 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital version. The cover was designed by Ervin Serrano. The US edition contains an exclusive Author Q&A, and a brand new short story, “Aftermaths,” set some time after the end of the novel.


What Do I Read First? Who Fears Death and The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor

Sunday, June 28th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Who Fears Death-small2 The Book of Phoenix-small

Nnedi Okorafor’s first novel for adults, Who Fears Death, won the 2011 World Fantasy Award, and was also a Tiptree Honor Book and a Nebula nominee. The prequel, The Book of Phoenix, arrived in hardcover last month, and it made me realize I need to get the lead out and read the first one.

Of course, now I’m tortured by that great dilemma of 21st Century fantasy…. should I read the acclaimed first novel first, or the prequel? Which makes more sense?

Life is hard. Here’s the description for Who Fears Death.

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New Treasures: The Acolyte by Nick Cutter

Friday, June 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Acolyte by Nick Cutter-smallNick Cutter is the pseudonym for Craig Davidson, author of Sarah Court and Cataract City. Davidson explains the Cutter identity was created at his agent’s suggestion, to help readers differentiate between Davidson’s more serious output, and “the gore-spattered nightmares” of Nick Cutter. The Troop, his debut novel under the name Cutter, was one of the most acclaimed horror novels of last year. It won the Jame Herbert Award for Horror Writing, and Stephen King said “The Troop scared the hell out of me, and I couldn’t put it down. This is old-school horror at its best.”

Cutter’s new novel The Acolyte appeared from ChiZine last month, and it’s even more interesting to me than The Troop. A police procedural set in a religious dystopia where the police are responsible for eradicating heretical religious faiths, it follows acolyte Jonah Murtag as he unravels the truth behind a mysterious string of urban bombings.

Jonah Murtag is an Acolyte on the New Bethlehem police force. His job: eradicate all heretical religious faiths, their practitioners, and artefacts. Murtag’s got problems — one of his partners is a zealot, and he’s in love with the other one. Trouble at work, trouble at home. Murtag realizes that you can rob a citizenry of almost anything, but you can’t take away its faith.

When a string of bombings paralyzes the city, religious fanatics are initially suspected, but startling clues point to a far more ominous perpetrator. If Murtag doesn’t get things sorted out, the Divine Council will dispatch The Quints, aka: Heaven’s Own Bagmen. The clock is ticking towards doomsday for the Chosen of New Bethlehem.

And Jonah Murtag’s got another problem. The biggest and most worrisome…

Jonah isn’t a believer anymore.

The Acolyte was published by ChiZine Publications on May 19, 2015. It is 301 pages, priced at $16.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital edition. The cover art is by Erik Mohr. I got my copy at the Nebula Awards weekend here in Chicago in early June. See our recent survey of the impressive ChiZine catalog here.


New Treasures: Multiverse: Exploring the Worlds of Poul Anderson, edited by Greg Bear and Gardner Dozois

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Multiverse Exploring the Worlds of Poul Anderson-smallPoul Anderson was one of the greats of 20th Century science fiction and fantasy. He was astoundingly prolific, writing over 70 novels and numerous short stories before his death in 2001. He won virtually every award the field has to offer, including seven Hugos and three Nebulas, and the ambitious project to collect his short fiction, The Collected Short Works of Poul Anderson from NESFA Press, stands at six thick volumes and counting.

Multiverse: Exploring the Worlds of Poul Anderson is a tribute anthology edited by Greg Bear and Gardner Dozois that collects all-original fiction from Larry Niven, C. J. Cherryh, Stephen Baxter, Robert Silverberg, David Brin, Harry Turtledove, Terry Brooks, Gregory Benford, Tad Williams, Nancy Kress, and many others. It also contains articles and reminiscences of Anderson by most of the authors involved, plus Jerry Pournelle, Poul Anderson’s wife Karen, his daughter Astrid, and his son-in-law, novelist and co-editor Greg Bear.

For Poul Anderson fans, and for those being introduced to him for the first time, this is a truly invaluable anthology featuring some of the brightest names in the field. Here’s the complete table of contents.

Introduction: My Friend Poul, by Greg Bear
“Outmoded Things” by Nancy Kress
“The Man Who Came Late” by Harry Turtledove
“A Slip in Time” by S. M. Stirling
Living and Working with Poul Anderson, by Karen Anderson

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New Treasures: Legends of the Duskwalker by Jay Posey

Monday, June 22nd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Legends of the Duskwalker Three-small Legends of the Duskwalker Morningside Fall-small Legends of the Duskwalker Dawnbreaker-small

Jay Posey’s writing career is rich and varied, and he’s had more success than the vast majority of writers of his generation… but that doesn’t mean you’re likely to have heard of him. That’s because Posey is primarily a videogame writer. As the Senior Narrative Designer at Red Storm Entertainment, he’s spent over eight years writing for Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six franchises, and his stories have been enjoyed by millions of fans around the world.

For his first novel Three, the opening book in the Legends of the Duskwalker series, Posey tried his hand at a futuristic weird western, and succeeded in reaching a brand new audience. Set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, the series features augmented humans, advanced weaponry, cyborgs, and dangerous creatures known as the Weir

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New Treasures: The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury

Friday, June 19th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Sin Eater's Daughter-smallWhen I arrived at the Nebula Awards weekend here in Chicago two weeks ago, I was given a bag with a generous number of book and magazines donated by various publishers. This is a common (and much loved) practice at many awards banquets and professional conventions. There was a fine assortment of books and advance galleys from some big names in my bag, but oddly the one I started reading first was from a debut writer, Melinda Salisbury. Chalk that up to an absolutely gorgeous cover, and an intriguing synopsis that includes court intrigue, treason, royal secrets, young love, and the incarnation of a goddess whose very touch brings death…

Seventeen-year-old Twylla lives in the castle. But although she’s engaged to the prince, Twylla isn’t exactly a member of the court.

She’s the executioner.

As the Goddess embodied, Twylla instantly kills anyone she touches. Each month, she’s taken to the prison and forced to lay her hands on those accused of treason. No one will ever love a girl with murder in her veins. Even the prince, whose royal blood supposedly makes him immune to Twylla’s fatal touch, avoids her company.

But then a new guard arrives, a boy whose easy smile belies his deadly swordsmanship. And unlike the others, he’s able to look past Twylla’s executioner robes and see the girl, not the Goddess. Yet Twylla’s been promised to the prince, and knows what happens to people who cross the queen.

However, a treasonous secret is the least of Twylla’s problems. The queen has a plan to destroy her enemies, a plan that requires a stomach-churning, unthinkable sacrifice. Will Twylla do what it takes to protect her kingdom? Or will she abandon her duty in favor of a doomed love?

The Sin Eater’s Daughter was published by Scholastic Press on February 24, 2015. It is 311 pages, priced at $17.99 in hardcover and $9.99 for the digital edition. The cover artist is uncredited.


New Treasures: Dave vs. The Monsters by John Birmingham

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Dave vs. the Monsters Emergence-small Dave vs. the Monsters Resistance-small Dave vs. the Monsters Ascendance-small

I’m not sure what to make of this new trend of releasing an entire trilogy in two months. In my day, you had to wait years for all three novels in a fantasy trilogy. And the publisher never told you when the last book was coming out because, hell, they didn’t know. Nobody knew. You just walked back and forth to the bookstore every single week, dutifully checking. In the snow. Uphill, both ways. And we liked it that way.

Kids today, they don’t know what waiting is. Take the new fantasy trilogy by John Birmingham, Dave vs. The Monsters, for example. The first volume, Emergence, was released on April 28, and the second one, Resistance, on June 2. And just in case that five week wait between volumes was too traumatic for you, Del Rey is releasing the final volume, Ascendance, just four weeks later, on June 30.

You’re spoiled rotten. You know that, right?

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New Treasures: The Edge of Reason Trilogy by Melinda Snodgrass

Sunday, June 14th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Edge of Reason-small The Edge of Ruin-small The Edge of Dawn-small

Melinda Snodgrass’s The Edge of Reason was originally published in hardcover with a snoozer of a cover (seriously — see below) by Tor Books in 2008. For the paperback edition in 2009 Tor recolored the cover, which I don’t think helped much. Maybe in 2009 it made sense to dress up the tale of a secret war between the forces of science and superstition as a Da Vinci Code lookalike, but here in 2015 we know better.

Maybe that’s why I never noticed The Edge of Reason when it first appeared. Why have I noticed it now? Because Tor reissued it on April 21 with a vastly superior cover by Chris McGrath (above). Seriously, this book has giant tentacles, and no one thought to feature them on the cover? This is Publishing 101, people.

Tor has not gifted us with a newer, awesomer edition of The Edge of Reason simply because Chris McGrath had a free weekend. The sequel, The Edge of Ruin, will be reprinted in paperback on July 28th (above, cover by McGrath), and the third volume, The Edge of Dawn, arrives on August 4th — also with a McGrath cover. Which also prominently features tentacles. Because that’s how you do it.

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