New Treasures: Last Tango in Cyberspace by Steven Kotler

Friday, May 17th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Last Tango in Cyberspace-smallTwenty years ago Steven Kotler’s debut The Angle Quickest For Flight, from small press Four Walls Eight Windows, made a minor splash. A science fiction novel about book thieves, an ancient Kabbalistic text, and a quest “Indiana Jones would have signed up for in a second had he known about it” (Randall Cohan), it was praised by John Barth as “a brilliant novel.”

In the intervening decades Kotler has become a New York Times bestselling author, but with Last Tango in Cyberspace he returns to science fiction for the first time with a near-future thriller about the evolution of empathy. Library Journal proclaims it “A fascinating read. Highly recommend,” and Booklist calls it “an intriguing blend of detective story and social critique… a vivid picture of near-future earth.” Here’s the description.

Hard to say when the human species fractured exactly. Harder to say when this new talent arrived. But Lion Zorn is the first of his kind―an empathy tracker, an emotional soothsayer, with a felt sense for the future of the we. In simpler terms, he can spot cultural shifts and trends before they happen.

It’s a useful skill for a certain kind of company.

Arctic Pharmaceuticals is that kind of company. But when a routine em-tracking job leads to the discovery of a gruesome murder, Lion finds himself neck-deep in a world of eco-assassins, soul hackers and consciousness terrorists. But what the man really needs is a nap.

A unique blend of cutting-edge technology and traditional cyberpunk, Last Tango in Cyberspace explores hot topics like psychology, neuroscience, technology, as well as ecological and animal rights issues. The world created in Last Tango is based very closely on our world about five years from now, and all technology in the book either exists in labs or is rumored to exist. With its electrifying sentences, subtle humor, and an intriguing main character, readers are sure to find something that resonates with them in this groundbreaking cyberpunk science fiction thriller.

Last Tango in Cyberspace was published by St. Martin’s Press on May 14, 2019. It is 330 pages, priced at $27.99 in hardcover and $14.99 in digital formats. The cover was designed by Ervin Serrano. Read an excerpt here, or listen to an audio sample from the book here.


Space Opera with Military Flair: A Chain Across the Dawn by Drew Williams

Tuesday, May 14th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Stars Now Unclaimed-small A Chain Across the Dawn-small

I’m still on a space opera kick, and Drew Williams’ The Stars Now Unclaimed was one of the books that got me started. It was published by Tor last August, and Liz Bourke at Tor.com called it “Superpowered Space Opera… a strikingly entertaining debut novel, an enjoyable space opera with military flair.” I’ve been keeping my eye open for the sequel, but it still managed to sneak up on me last week. Here’s the description.

Drew Williams continues the Universe After series with A Chain Across the Dawn, an epic space opera chase across the galaxy with witty banter, fantastical planets, and a seemingly unbeatable foe.

It’s been three years since Esa left her backwater planet to join the ranks of the Justified. Together, she and fellow agent Jane Kamali have been traveling across the known universe, searching for children who share Esa’s supernatural gifts.

On a visit to a particularly remote planet, they learn that they’re not the only ones searching for gifted children. They find themselves on the tail of a mysterious being with impossible powers who will stop at nothing to get his hands on the very children that Esa and Jane are trying to save.

With their latest recruit in tow ― a young Wulf boy named Sho ― Esa and Jane must track their strange foe across the galaxy in search of answers. But the more they learn, the clearer it becomes ― their enemy may be harder to defeat than they ever could have imagined.

We covered the first volume here. A Chain Across the Dawn was published by Tor Books on May 7, 2019. It is 317 pages, priced at $18.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Fred Gambino. See all our recent coverage of the best new SF and Fantasy series titles here.


A New Gem from a Seasoned Master: Guy Gavriel Kay’s A Brightness Long Ago

Tuesday, May 14th, 2019 | Posted by David B. Coe

A Brightness Long Ago-smallBy any measure, Guy Gavriel Kay is a giant in the field of fantasy. He has won a World Fantasy Award (for Ysabel in 2008) and been nominated for three others. He has won the Aurora and Sunburst awards, and in 2014 was made a member of the Order of Canada. Even before the release of his first series, the critically acclaimed Fionavar Tapestry (The Summer Tree, The Wandering Fire, The Darkest Road) Kay had already established himself as an important figure in the fantasy world by editing The Silmarillion with Christopher Tolkien. Every one of his thirteen novels has enjoyed stunning critical success. And on a personal note, his work, with its lyrical prose, insightful character work, and brilliant world building, has been an inspiration to me throughout my career.

It is no exaggeration to say that the release of a new Guy Gavriel Kay novel is always a notable event in our genre. The May 14 publication of his latest work, A Brightness Long Ago (Berkley), promises to be no exception. Moving, intriguing, surprising, and ultimately deeply satisfying, it ranks with Tigana, The Lions of Al-Rassan, Ysabel, and Under Heaven as one of Kay’s very best.

A recitation of the plot of A Brightness Long Ago hardly does justice to the richness of this narrative. An old man, Guidanio Cerra, reflects on his past, in particular his life-altering romance with a young noblewoman, Adria Ripoli. They first meet on a night in Danio’s youth when Adria has come to the city-state of Mylasia, posing as an innocent who has been sent to satisfy the sadistic sexual appetites of Mylasia’s Count Uberto. In reality, she has come to assassinate the Count. But Adria is wounded in their encounter and is unable to flee the palace without help. Danio knows the count was a brute, and he admires Adria’s strength and courage, as well as her beauty. He also knows of her noble heritage. He offers his aid, allowing her to evade capture.

They next meet when Adria rides a mount in the famed race of Bischio. It is rare for a woman to ride, unheard of for the daughter of a noble house to do so, though in this, too, she attempts to keep her identity hidden. The extravagant wagering on the race attracts the notice of rival mercenary commanders, Teobaldo Monticola di Remigio and Folco Cino d’Acorsi, and the contest’s unexpected outcome draws Danio into the drama of the men’s blood feud.

To reveal more would be to spoil some truly wonderful moments of drama, suspense, passion, tragedy, and vengeance. It is enough to say that the pace of this tale does not flag.

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New Treasures: The Best of R. A. Lafferty, edited by Jonathan Strahan

Sunday, May 12th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Best of R. A. Lafferty-small The Best of R. A. Lafferty-back-small

At last! At last! The Best of R. A. Lafferty is available here in the United States.

Back in October of last year, uber-editor Jonathan Strahan made the following terse announcement on his Facebook page, alongside a tantalizing cover reveal.

The Best of R.A. Lafferty will be published by Gollancz in March 2019. The book features 22 classic Lafferty stories along with an introduction by Neil Gaiman and forewords by some of the most important writers and editors working in the field today.

Fabulous! Lafferty is one of my favorite short story writers, and far too much of his work — virtually all of it, really — is either long out of print, or available only in very expensive collector’s editions from Centipede Press. The prospect of a generous collection of his best short fiction in a compact and affordable trade paperback edition (with a cover by Emanuel Santos illustrating one of his finest stories, “Nine Hundred Grandmothers”) seemed too good to be true.

And for a while, it look like it would be. I immediately added the book to my Amazon queue, and impatiently awaited the March release date. It came and went, and Amazon switched the status of the book from “Available for pre-order” to flat-out “Unavailable.” Copies of the book were unavailable through any of my regular sources. Until a few weeks ago, when a handful of sellers finally signaled they had it in stock. I placed an order, and it arrived last week.

And what a book it is. Not only does it include 22 terrific stories, but editor Strahan has also assembled thoughtful and entertaining intros to each by some of the finest writers in the field, including Samuel R. Delany, Robert Silverberg, Michael Swanwick, Michael Bishop, John Scalzi, Jeff VanderMeer, Nancy Kress, Andy Duncan, Gregory Frost, Neil Gaiman, Connie Willis, Jack Dann, Harlan Ellison, Cat Rambo, and many others.

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New Treasures: The Bayern Agenda by Dan Moren

Tuesday, May 7th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Bayern Agenda-small The Bayern Agenda-back-small

Dan Moren’s second novel The Bayern Agenda shares a world and key characters with his debut The Caledonian Gambit (2017). Publishers Weekly calls his new effort “a frenzied story full of bold spycraft and exciting ground and air chases… suspenseful space opera.” In her feature review at the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog, Emily Wenstrom finds lots to enjoy.

Whether you’ve read that earlier book or not, you’ll certainly enjoy this one, provided “fast-paced, high-action space opera with a spy adventure bent” sounds like your jam; think Star Trek meets Mission: Impossible.

In many ways, the plot hits all the familiar genre beats — active wormholes, intriguing planets, intense face-offs, and a few twists along the way — but set against the backdrop of a satisfyingly built world, it offers plenty to enjoy even if you think you’ve read this sort of thing before. The action takes place during the cold war that gives the series its name, and the complex history of tensions between its two opposing forces, the Illyrican Empire and the Commonwealth of Independent Systems, lends the caper at the novel’s center a fair bit of weight — both sides of the conflict being more than ready to instigate a new wave of aggression at the first sign of trouble.

And as to that caper: Simon Kovalic is a seasoned Commonwealth intelligence agent with deep experience in the field and the psychological damage to go with it… During a mission gone awry that opens the novel, Kovalic obtains intelligence that suggests that the Empire is making some sort of move involving the massive Bayern Corporation, a planet-sized bank. Figuring out what’s going on and why is crucial: with the capital Bayern could provide, the Illyricans could seriously upset the balance of power in the system… though the novel does leverage a few familiar science fiction adventure tropes, it puts them to economical use, moving us quickly into the action. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to enjoy a fast, fun high-concept romp.

The Bayern Agenda is Book One of The Galactic Cold War, which sounds very promising. It was published by Angry Robot on March 5, 2019 It is 384 pages, priced at $12.99 in trade paperback, and $9.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Amazing15. Read the complete first chapter (21 pages) here.


Kay Kenyon Wraps Up the Dark Talents Trilogy with Nest of the Monarch

Saturday, May 4th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

At-the-Table-of-Wolves-Kay-Kenyon-smaller Serpent-in-the-Heather-smaller Nest of the Monarch Kay Kenyon-small

Covers by Mike Heath

At the 2016 World Fantasy Convention I enjoyed a bunch of terrific readings, but my favorite — by a wide margin — was Kay Kenyon, who read from her  WWII spy novel At the Table of Wolves, the tale of a young English woman with superhuman abilities who stumbles on a chilling Nazi plan to invade England using superhuman agents. The sequel Serpent in the Heather arrived last year, and just last month the concluding volume in the trilogy, Nest of the Monarch, was published in hardcover by Saga Press. Kay’s Amazon bio has a nice summary of the entire series; here it is.

My trilogy, The Dark Talents novels finished in spring of 2019 with the publication of Nest of the Monarch. The series features Kim Tavistock, who deals with dark Talents, Nazi conspiracies, and espionage in 1936 England and Europe. Both Nest of the Monarch and At the Table of Wolves received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly.

In Book two, Serpent in the Heather, Kim must track down the Nazi assassin who is systematically killing young people with Talents. Kirkus called it “A unique concept that is superbly executed.” Book three brings Kim undercover in Berlin… I was inspired to write this series by the stories of the many women spies, radio operators and resistance fighters in the world wars. See my blog series, “Women spies in the World Wars” at www.KayKenyon.com.

Kay offers a great teaser for the closing volume at her website.

I wanted to pull out all the stops for what Kim Tavistock is capable of, and place the events of the book in the scariest environment I could imagine, at least for a spy: 1936 Berlin and a secret SS outpost. The result is my richest story yet, I’m thinking

Here’s the full description for Nest of the Monarch.

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New Treasures: Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell

Thursday, May 2nd, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Sky Without Stars-smallNow here’s an interesting item. A fat, epic YA novel that reimagines Victor Hugo’s classic Les Misérables as a tale of revolution on the French planet of Laterre. Caitlyn Paxson at NPR calls it “kind of brilliant… a massive tome, full of twists and turns and a thousand agonies that propel its characters to their inevitable fates.” It arrived in hardcover from Simon & Schuster in March.

A thief.
An officer.
A guardian.

Three strangers, one shared destiny…

When the Last Days came, the planet of Laterre promised hope. A new life for a wealthy French family and their descendants. But five hundred years later, it’s now a place where an extravagant elite class reigns supreme; where the clouds hide the stars and the poor starve in the streets; where a rebel group, long thought dead, is resurfacing.

Whispers of revolution have begun — a revolution that hinges on three unlikely heroes…

Chatine is a street-savvy thief who will do anything to escape the brutal Regime, including spy on Marcellus, the grandson of the most powerful man on the planet.

Marcellus is an officer — and the son of a renowned traitor. In training to take command of the military, Marcellus begins to doubt the government he’s vowed to serve when his father dies and leaves behind a cryptic message that only one person can read: a girl named Alouette.

Alouette is living in an underground refuge, where she guards and protects the last surviving library on the planet. But a shocking murder will bring Alouette to the surface for the first time in twelve years… and plunge Laterre into chaos.

All three have a role to play in a dangerous game of revolution — and together they will shape the future of a planet.

Power, romance, and destiny collide in this sweeping reimagining of Victor Hugo’s masterpiece, Les Misérables.

Sky Without Stars was published by Simon Pulse on March 26, 2019. It is 582 pages, priced at $19.95 in hardcover and $10.99 for the digital version. The cover is by Billelis. Read the complete first chapter here.


Future Treasures: Nexus, Book 2 of The Androma Saga by Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings

Tuesday, April 30th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Zenith The Androma Saga-small Nexus The Androma Saga-small

When I parked myself in the sprawling Young Adult section at Barnes & Noble last December, I decided to take home the single book that appealed to me the most. I ended up choosing Zenith, the first book in The Androma Saga by Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings. This is why:

The book that won out over all the others was an instant New York Times bestseller by two popular YA writers, a tale of an all-girl crew of space privateers getting caught up in “a dark and complex sci-fi drama” (Library Journal), and it just screamed fun.

Publishers Weekly said the first volume “features plentiful action, complex politics, and a rich mythology,” and Buzzfeed went much further, saying:

This sci-fi novel follows Andi, also known as the Bloody Baroness, and her fearless all-female crew of space pirates. When someone of high importance proposes a mission that Andi cannot refuse, she finds herself and her crew partnered with Dex — a bounty hunter who has a not-so-pleasant past with Andy. They must work together to complete a nearly impossible mission. But what they don’t know is that the ruler of the planet Xen Ptera is planning to extract revenge on the galaxy, threatening all who inhabit it. Zenith is an spectacularly stunning, whirlwind adventure with a race-against-the-clock plot and strong as hell female characters.

The next book in the series, Nexus, arrives in hardcover next week, and it continues the saga in high fashion. Here’s the description.

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Warhammer Chronicles: The Gotrek & Felix Novels by William King and Nathan Long are Back in Print

Monday, April 29th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Gotrek and Felix Volume 1-small Gotrek & Felix The Second Omnibus-small Gotrek & Felix The Third Omnibus-small

I became a fan of Warhammer through Relic’s Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War series of computer games, and eventually became a huge fan of their audiobooks. But people I respect have been telling me for years that their fiction is worth reading. Howard Andrew Jones in particular recommended Clint Werner’s Brunner novels and Nathan Long’s Blackhearts volumes as fine examples of modern sword & sorcery.

But the series I’ve heard the most about is the long-running Gotrek and Felix, which currently stands at no less than 17 volumes, written by William King, Nathan Long, Josh Reynolds, and David Guymer. King is the originator of the series and he wrote the first seven volumes, which I’ve heard described as “the reference series for Warhammer fantasy.”

The early editions are long out of print, and in fact the original omnibus reprints, which collected three novels each and were issued in 2003-2004, are out as print as well. They’re expensive collectors editions today. So are the second batch of reprints, published by Black Library in 2006-2013, which gathered the first 12 novels.

So I was pleased to see Games Workshop issue a third edition of this classic adventure fantasy series, and bought the first volume as soon as it became available. The second volume arrived in February. and the third is due in June. Here’s the details.

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When Earth is a Graveyard of Gods: Edges by Linda Nagata

Saturday, April 27th, 2019 | Posted by Steve Case

Edges Linda Nagata-small Edges Linda Nagata-back-small

The Fermi Paradox is relatively simple. It asks, considering the immense expanse of time, the apparent plentitude of planets in our galaxy, and thus the likelihood of intelligent life somewhere else — why don’t we see it? Why is the sky so resolutely silent? Answering this question has become something of a hobby among science fiction writers, with responses ranging from the transcendental to the sobering. Maybe life evolves quickly beyond the physical. Or maybe life is out there but quietly watching and waiting. Linda Nagata’s work offers a more straightforward answer: intelligent life is hunted.

In Nagata’s universe, Chenzeme coursers are living alien weapons: biomechanical vessels coated in hulls of intelligent “philosopher cells.” The ships are programmed to systematically hunt down technological civilizations and sterilize entire worlds. In her previous series, humanity’s spread into the frontier was halted by encounters with these vessels. The coursers were only one prong though in an ancient assault that had long outlasted the ship’s original creators. The other was an ancient virus, which bypassed the frontier worlds and affected the original core planets of humanity’s origins, including Earth, subsuming entire planetary populations into huge group-minds that went on to construct immense Dyson spheres enclosing their stars.

I fell into this universe through a paperback copy of the final book in her previous series, Vast (1998), and was immediately entranced (I reviewed Vast for Black Gate here). Nagata has a way of making the incredible distances, both in space and time, of galactic travel real. Humans are tenuous here, following divergent evolutionary roads, clinging to disparate worlds in the night. Vast followed an expedition from the planet Deception Well to find the source of the Chenzeme coursers and spun out from there into a stunning novel that was at its core a centuries-long chase sequence but managed to explore the characters and the biomechanical and technological realities of life aboard the exploratory ship.

All this to say I was thrilled when I learned that Nagata, after nearly two decades, was returning to this universe with a follow-up series called Inverted Frontier. The first book in this series, Edges, was released this spring and Nagata was kind enough to send me a pre-print for review.

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