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Category: New Treasures

New Treasures: The Ballad of Perilous Graves by Alex Jennings

New Treasures: The Ballad of Perilous Graves by Alex Jennings

The Ballad of Perilous Graves (Redhook, June 21, 2022)

What’s the best thing about knowing writers on Facebook? They’re always talking about books, that’s what. Yesterday P. Djèlí Clark (A Master of Djinn, The Haunting of Tram Car 015) tipped me off to a great new debut fantasy by Alex Jennings.

The Ballad of Perilous Graves by Alex Jennings — featuring a New Orleans of sky trolleys, living graffiti, trans dimensional portals, and terrifying haints — gotta be one of the most amazing books I’ve read in a minute. Magical, lyrical, gritty, otherworldly… sh*t is hype like Bayou Classic in the 90s, set to song. Put this on your list for the summer.

Okay, that doesn’t tell you much about the plot. Social media ain’t perfect. Besides, we’re Black Gate, we have a staff of investigative reporters for that.

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New Treasures: Kagen the Damned by Jonathan Maberry

New Treasures: Kagen the Damned by Jonathan Maberry


Kagen the Damned (St. Martin’s Griffin, May 10, 2022). Cover design by Bob Grom

Jonathan Maberry is a prolific guy, with dozens of science fiction and horror novels under his belt — including ten volumes in the popular Joe Ledger series, which Brandon Crilly described in his Black Gate review as “filled with a host of deeply-imagined heroes and villains… Every novel features some sort of established horror premise and gives it a mad science twist.” As a fervent supporter of mad science, that’s definitely an endorsement I can get behind.

Kagen the Damned is Maberry’s first straight-up adventure fantasy, and it looks like a winner. Publishers Weekly calls it “gripping… peppered with figures from European folklore and monsters from the Cthulhu mythos,” and Fantasy Book Critic describes it as “a violent pulp read, fast and furious, with fantastic ideas and creepy mythos.” In true adventure-fantasy style, it’s the first installment of an epic fantasy series, and that’s okay by me. Here’s an excerpt from the notice at Kirkus Reviews, which labels it “a vibrant, textured, and exciting admixture of subgenres.”

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Adventures in Supernatural Dystopia: The Edinburgh Nights Novels by T. L. Huchu

Adventures in Supernatural Dystopia: The Edinburgh Nights Novels by T. L. Huchu


The Library of the Dead and Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments (Tor Books, June 2021 and April 2022)

Tor Books seems to have a hit on its hands with the Edinburgh Nights novels by Zimbabwe author T. L. Huchu (who writes non-genre novels under the name Tendai Huchu). The opening book The Library of the Dead hit the bestseller lists in the US, and expectations were high for the second, Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments, which arrived in April.

The international press raved about the first book. The Times called it “A fast-paced, future-set Edinburgh thriller… mixes magical mysteries with a streetwise style of writing,” and SFX labeled it “One of the strangest and most compelling fantasy worlds you’ll see all year.” But my favorite coverage was Stuart Kelly’s thoughtful review in The Scotsman, which said, “Contemporary fantasy, at its best, is both escapist and urgent: this does both admirably.” Here’s a longer snippet.

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Exploring the Darkness That Surrounds Us: Lies of Tenderness by Stephen Volk

Exploring the Darkness That Surrounds Us: Lies of Tenderness by Stephen Volk

Lies of Tenderness (PS Publishing, May 2022). Cover by Pedro Marques

Lies of Tenderness
Stephen Volk
PS Publishing (482 pages, £25.00 in hardcover, May 1, 2022)
Cover art by Pedro Marques

Horror fiction comes in many shades. There’s graphic horror; splatterpunk (or whatever it’s called nowadays) full of gore, blood and other amenities; and there is a type of quiet horror, of higher literary quality, exploring with a more elegant touch the darkness that surrounds us.

Charles L. Grant, Robert Aickman, and more recently Reggie Oliver and Steve Duffy are just a few examples of that latter sub-genre. And Stephen Volk. Author of a couple of collections, playwright and TV author, Volk returns with a new collection featuring seventeen pieces, both stories and novellas, some previously unpublished, some reprinted from anthologies or magazines.

The atmospheres here are dark and sinister, but the narrative style is consistently elegant, sensitive and totally captivating, so much so than even readers exclusively devoted to mainstream fiction would fully enjoy Lies of Tenderness.

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A Lush Visual History of Science Fiction: Futures Past by Jim Emerson

A Lush Visual History of Science Fiction: Futures Past by Jim Emerson


The first two issues of Futures Past, a Visual History of Science Fiction, edited and published by Jim Emerson

Way back in the 90s, before most of you young whippersnappers were born, Jim Emerson had a very fine fanzine called Futures Past, covering the birth of modern science fiction. He published four issues, each covering one year of SF history, from 1926-29.

In 2014 Jim resurrected his fondly-remembered zine as a 64-page digital magazine, with gorgeous full-color pages. The first issue covered 1926, the year Hugo Gernsback founded Amazing Stories. Futures Past Vol. 1 illuminated the Birth of Modern Science Fiction, covering all the highlights of science fiction publishing in magazines and books.

A Kickstarter intended to fund full-color print versions of the new version in 2014 wasn’t successful. Undaunted, Jim funded the project himself, and earlier this year I was surprised and very pleased to receive a print copy of Futures Past, Volume 2 in the mail. Covering the year 1927 and the Dawn of the SF Blockbuster, this 144-page publication is a love letter to a forgotten era, when a brand new literary genre was being born in the pages of pulp magazines, books, and on the silver screen.

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New Treasures: The Best of David Brin

New Treasures: The Best of David Brin


The Best of David Brin (Subterranean Press, July 31, 2021). Cover by Patrick Farley

Subterranean Press has done a flat-out fabulous job of producing memorable single-author collections over the last decade.

For one thing, Subterranean mastermind William Schafer has terrific taste. He edited a delightful small press magazine (titled, appropriately enough, Subterranean) for many years, and demonstrated admirable skill at selecting and editing short fiction. For another, he’s been working at it tirelessly for decades, and it shows. He’s produced dozens of Best of retrospective collections from many of the top SF, fantasy and horror writers in biz, including Lucius Shepard (two volumes!), John Kessel, Walter Jon Williams, Elizabeth Hand, Elizabeth Bear, Michael Marshall Smith, Harry Turtledove, Greg Egan, Chaz Brenchley, Alastair Reynolds, Gregory Benford, Nancy Kress, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Joe Haldeman, Kage Baker, Neal Barrett, Jr., Robert Silverberg, Peter S. Beagle, Michael Swanwick, Larry Niven, and many others.

And thirdly — these are really gorgeous books. They’re generously sized hardcovers, published in both deluxe limited formats and very reasonable-priced trade hardcover editions, usually around 40 bucks retail. The one that grabbed my eye recently was The Best of David Brin, released just last year. It’s a feast of a book, just the thing I need to settle down with after a long and tiring week.

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Magic, Dinosaurs, and Mad Scientists: The Tensorate Series by Neon Yang

Magic, Dinosaurs, and Mad Scientists: The Tensorate Series by Neon Yang


The Tensorate Series (Tor.com, September 21, 2021). Cover by Yuko Shimizu

I love omnibus volumes. They’re the safety blanket of the fat fantasy market. Let’s face it, if your plane’s going down over a desert island and you can only grab one book, you’re gonna secure yourself a thick omnibus, right? Of course you are. Heaven knows how long it will take until that stately cruise liner arrives to rescue you. I plan all my book purchases with this in mind, and it’s worked out well so far.

It’s great to see Tor.com start to produce omnibus editions of their popular novellas. They did it with Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti. The did it with Andy Remic’s An Impossible War novellas, and Sarah Gailey’s American Hippo stories. They did it with Matt Wallace’s Sin du Jour. They did it with…. well, actually, I think that’s it. But what the hell, it’s a start.

Late last year Tor.com published a tidy omnibus volume of all four of Neon Yang’s Tensorate novellas, a series that has been nominated for the Hugo, World Fantasy, Nebula, and Locus awards, and it was such a great value I snatched it up immediately. I’m ready for the plane to go down, Captain.

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New Treasures: Sweep of Stars by Maurice Broaddus

New Treasures: Sweep of Stars by Maurice Broaddus


Sweep of Stars (Tor Books, March 29, 2022). Cover art by Connor Sheehan

Maurice Broaddus is the author of the The Knights of Breton Court trilogy from Angry Robot, the acclaimed Tor.com novella Buffalo Soldier, and now Sweep of Stars, which James Rollins calls the “opening gambit in a great saga… epic,” and which Publishers Weekly labels a “Powerful, sweeping Afrofuturist space opera … A hugely ambitious and notable work of postcolonial science fiction.” If you’re in the market for a fresh and original space opera, this might be just what you’re looking for.

Sweep of Stars is the first novel of the Astra Black trilogy, and it introduces Muungano, a society of space-faring pan-African people who fled oppression on Earth and have now spread across the solar system. It is 2121, and unknown forces are working against Muungano, forcing its ruling families to make hard choices. Meanwhile, thousands of light years away, Muungano soldiers find themselves in the middle of an alien firefight, and faced with tough decisions of their own.

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Westside Stories: The Gilda Carr Tiny Mystery Fantasies by W.M. Akers

Westside Stories: The Gilda Carr Tiny Mystery Fantasies by W.M. Akers


Westside, Westside Saints, and Westside Lights (Harper Voyager, 2019, 2020, and 2022). Cover designs by Owen Corrigan.

First I heard of W.M. Akers’ Westside books was when Jeff Somers blurbed the first volume for the Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of May 2019 at The Barnes & Noble Sci-fi & Fantasy Blog. Here’s what he said.

In an alternate 1920s Manhattan in which a heavily fortified wall running along Broadway divides the island into Eastside, where the normal laws of reality still apply, and Westside, where things have gone down the magical drain, the latter has become a magical wasteland where only the dregs of society — criminals, artists, and drunks — remain. Gilda Carr calls Westide home, and works as a private investigator specializing in bite-sized mysteries like recovering lost gloves. Somehow, though, her latest case pushes her into a gangland war that connects to her own long-missing father and the reason for the Westside’s descent into unreal chaos. As much as she might like to, Carr can’t sidestep the responsibility she suddenly feels to get to the bottom of both mysteries, for her own sake and that of everyone living in the magic-ravaged city. Akers’ hugely enjoyable debut marries inventive alt-history with truly strange magic and a protagonist you won’t soon forget.

An alternate 1920s Manhattan, a magical wasteland, and a PI who only takes tiny cases? You know I need to check out this one. Westside was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; sequel Westside Saints arrived a year later. Westside Lights, published in March, closes out the trilogy.

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High Fantasy Noir: Fevered Star by Rebecca Roanhorse

High Fantasy Noir: Fevered Star by Rebecca Roanhorse


Black Sun (paperback reprint) and Fevered Star (Saga Press, June 2021 and April 2022). Covers by John Picacio

My first novel The Robots of Gotham was released in June 2018, and it was gratifying to see a summer debut could quickly climb bestseller lists, receive wide attention and praise from numerous venues, snag a Nebula and Hugo nomination, and win a Locus Award.

Not mine, of course. No, all that breathless acclaim went to Rebecca Roanhorse’s Trail of Lightning, released a week after Robots. It was consistently annoying to hear the excited chatter about that book from friends, coworkers, parents, children, and people standing next to me at the damn post office.

I decided to read Roanhorse’s book so I could see what I was up against. That was a huge mistake. Pretty soon I was talking it up to anyone who would listen — or even make eye contact. You haven’t read Trail of Lightning?? I heard myself say. Check it out first — it’s fantastic. I guess I suck as a self-promoter, but I’m still your guy for honest book recs.

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