New Treasures: The Light of All That Falls, Book 3 of the Licanius Trilogy by James Islington

Sunday, December 22nd, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The-Shadow-of-What-Was-Lost-small An Echo of Things to Come-small The Light of All That Falls-small

Covers by Dominick Saponaro

Three long years ago, in November 2016, Jim Killen at the B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog shared his thoughts on The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of the month. Based on his rec I purchased the debut novel by James Islington, The Shadow of What Was Lost, volume one of what was to become the Licanius Trilogy at some nebulous point in the future.

Low and behold, the future is here. The second book, An Echo of Things to Come, arrived in August 2017, and now the final volume, The Light of All That Falls, appeared on December 10. Just in time to keep me company over my long Christmas break! What did Killen say all those years ago that got me so interested? I had to go look it up this morning:

The Shadow of What Was Lost feels old-fashioned in the best of ways, molding familiar genre traditions into something wholly unique. In a world where the magical class has been overthrown, hunted, and subjugated, the struggle cannot simply be divided between magic and mundane or human and divine. The evil that encroaches Andarra, the center of the action, is neither simple, singly focused, or, for that matter, definitively evil. It’s been 20 years since the Unseen War, which overthrew the Augurs, powerful and portentous demigods. Those who once feared and obeyed the them rose up, wiping out the leaders and binding those with lesser magical abilities, the Gifted, to Four Tenets that restrict the use of their powers. Davian, a student of the Gifted, struggles to wield Essence, the magic that should sustain and flow through him with ease, but can “read” people to determine whether they’re telling the truth, a power that once belonged only to the Augurs. That’s a dangerous association for one raised in a world endlessly suspicious of those with abilities outside the norm. But as forces long thought defeated descend from the North, Devian’s quest to understand who he is and what he can do takes on greater urgency than he can comprehend.

Here’s the complete publishing details for all three.

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Celebrating a Decade of Excellence: Clarkesworld Year Ten, Volumes One & Two, edited by Neil Clarke and Sean Wallace

Thursday, December 19th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Covers by Shichigoro-Shingo and Rudy Faber

Clarkesworld editors Neil Clarke and Sean Wallace have had a busy year.

For one thing, they’ve published a full 12 issues of one of the most acclaimed science fiction magazines on the planet. For another, there’s all those conventions, nominations, and shiny awards to keep them occupied — including a Best Editor Hugo nomination for Neil, a Hugo nomination for Simone Heller’s “When We Were Starless” (Clarkesworld 145, October 2018), and a World Fantasy Award win for Kij Johnson’s novella “The Privilege of the Happy Ending” (Clarkesworld, Aug. 2018). On top of that, Neil was presented with the 2019 Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award for distinguished contributions to the science fiction community at the Nebula awards weekend in May, one more award to polish on his mantlepiece.

They also have their own projects — Sean edits the fine magazine The Dark and runs Prime Books, and Neil has produced a pair of anthologies this year, The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Four and The Eagle Has Landed: 50 Years of Lunar Science Fiction.

But in addition to all of that, Neil and Sean are also keeping up a hectic pace of Clarkesworld annual anthology volumes — four in the past two months alone. Clarkesworld Year Ten, Volumes One & Two, containing a year’s worth of fabulous tales from 2015 & 2016, were published on October 3, 2019; Clarkesworld Year Ten, Volumes One & Two followed less than a month later, on November 1, 2019. I’m not sure how they do it, but someone should create an award for science fiction overachievement, and give it to both of them. If they can get either one of them to stop moving long enough to accept it.

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Cover Reveal: Carson of Venus: The Edge of All Worlds by Matt Betts

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019 | Posted by christopher paul carey


Science fiction author Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of Tarzan and John Carter of Mars, wrote four novels and a novella about former stuntman Carson Napier and his wayward adventures on the planet Venus (or Amtor, as it is known to its inhabitants). Now get ready to transport yourself into the Edgar Rice Burroughs Universe with the first new Carson of Venus novel to be published in more than fifty years: Carson of Venus: The Edge of All Worlds by Matt Betts.

The Edge of All Worlds releases Spring 2020 from Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., and launches the canonical ERB Universe series of interconnected novels.

Stranded on the planet Amtor for nearly two decades, Earthman Carson Napier returns from his latest adventure to discover a mysterious enemy has struck his adopted nation of Korva and reduced one of its cities to ash and cinders. The trail of the mysterious threat leads Carson and his love Duare through dark cyclopean corridors deep beneath Amtor to a distant land, where they must confront both a powerful new alien species and the shadows of Carson’s past.

I’m pleased to present the exclusive cover reveal for Carson of Venus: The Edge of All Worlds, featuring the artwork of the amazing Chris Peuler.

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New Treasures: The Spider Dance by Nick Setchfield

Monday, December 16th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The War in the Dark-small-min The Spider Dance-small-min

Last year I wrote a brief New Treasures piece on Nick Setchfield’s debut novel The War in the Dark, and made a note to keep an eye out for the sequel. The Spider Dance finally arrived in September, and in October Nick gave this enticing summary in an interview with Starburst Magazine.

It’s the next adventure for supernaturally-inclined British Intelligence agent Christopher Winter. This time he’s mixed up with the stolen hearts of the undead, unholy criminal empires and a contract for a kill that demands a very strange bullet indeed. It’s a quest that spans the stranger corners of London, Budapest, Venice, Normandy, and Naples and the map certainly gets spattered with blood along the way.

[It’s] The Day of the Jackal – with vampires…. I wanted to refresh the vampire myth. Keep the essential glamour and horror of the creature but create a breed of vampire that would slot into a ‘60s-set spy thriller.

That certainly sound like something I need. But is it any good? Last week Ginger Nuts of Horror gave it a rave review, saying in part:

The Spider Dance is the direct sequel to his excellent 2017 novel The War in the Dark , a perfect genre blend of spies, monsters, magic and derring-do… In Nick Setchfield’s previous novel, he laid out the groundwork for a well constructed and believable alternative history where magic and the occult coexist in an otherwise reasonably realistic representation of our world…

It’s going to become cliched and, but you can’t review this book without mentioning James Bond, after all the simplest way to describe this book is James Bond meets the occult…

The mashing up of genres is pitch perfect… However it [is] his portrayal of a classic horror monster that shines in this book… Setchfield has created an exciting and extraordinary version of the creature that has sadly over the years been unfairly represented in fiction.

The Spider Dance was published by Titan Books on September 3, 2019. It is 352 pages, priced at $14.95 in trade paperback and $9.99 in digital formats. See all our recent New Treasures here.

New Treasures: Of Wars, and Memories, and Starlight by Aliette de Bodard

Tuesday, December 10th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Of Wars and Memories and Starlight-small Of Wars and Memories and Starlight-back-small

Cover by Maurizio Manzieri

I met Aliette de Bodard at the Nebulas weekend in 2015, on the way to a party in the Palmer House hotel, and we ended up chatting for about 20 minutes. She was charming, articulate, humble, and a very stylish dresser. And you know, that’s just not a combo you see very often, especially at a science fiction convention.

Anyway, she’s also won, like, ALL THE AWARDS. Her Universe of Xuya series may be the most honored SF story cycle of the last decade, with numerous Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and BSFA nominations and wins. John Clute’s entry for Aliette in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction reads in part:

Mostly comprising shorter works, the Universe of Xuya sequence – beginning with “The Lost Xuyan Bride” (December 2007 Interzone) and including On a Red Station, Drifting (2012), a short novel – is an Alternate History series in which China settles North America from the west, with complex consequences for earlier settlers like the Aztecs; some stories are set in space…

The Tea Master and the Detective… in the loose Xuya Universe sequence, is a Space Opera whose protagonists – Holmes and her shipmind Watson – are both female; it won a Nebula as best novelette.

Subterranean Press issued her first major collection on September 30 of this year. Of Wars, and Memories, and Starlight contains 14 tales, including many award winners: 11 Xuya stories, a novelette in her acclaimed Dominion of the Fallen fantasy series, and an original novella, “Of Birthdays, and Fungus, and Kindness.”

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New Treasures: Down Among the Dead, Book 2 of The Farian War by K. B. Wagers

Monday, December 2nd, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Covers by Lauren Panepinto and Stephan Martiniere

Down Among the Dead, the second novel in K. B. Wagers’ Farian War series, arrives from Orbit tomorrow, and it’s one of the most anticipated SF books of the month. It’s the sequel to the The Indranan War trilogy featuring gunrunner empress Hail Bristol, which put Wagers on the map for serious space opera fans. The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog said the opening novel, There Before the Chaos, was “”A perfect blend of political intrigue and realistically-conveyed action…. [with] Kick-butt women, space battles, complex relationships, and fiendish plots.” Publishers Weekly was even more enthusiastic:

Hailimi “Hail” Bristol, an Indranan princess turned selectively ruthless gunrunner, was forced to take her empire’s throne after conspirators murdered her family. She saved the empire, but now a war between Indrana’s centuries-long allies, the Farians, who can heal or kill with a touch, and the Farians’ ancient enemy, the Shen, threatens to spill over to all of humankind, with disastrous consequences… Wagers achieves a rare balance of action… tension, and quiet moments, keeping pages turning while deepening the portraits of Hail and the friends and foes around her. Fans of the original trilogy will welcome Hail’s return, and any space opera reader can easily jump in here.

We covered There Before the Chaos last November. Down Among the Dead will be published tomorrow by Orbit; it is 448 pages, priced at $16.99 in trade paperback and $11.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Stephan Martiniere.

Surprisingly (well surprising to me, anyway), The Farian War is not the only space opera series Wagers has on the go at the moment. Early next year she’s launching a brand new military science fiction series that looks extremely interesting. Check it out below.

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The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog on the Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of November 2019

Sunday, December 1st, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Fortuna by Kristyn Merbeth-small Made Things Adrian Tchaikovsky-small The Killing Light Myke Cole-small

It’s December already. Hard to believe, I know. But it’s true.

It’s many ways I’m not sad to have November in the rear view mirror. For one thing, the weather was terrible. More importantly, it brought disturbing changes to one of my favorite genre websites, the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, which fired all their freelancers on November 26th. I don’t know if the ongoing changes will also impact folks like founding editor Joel Cunningham, or Jeff Somers, who writes the top-notch book survey every month, but I really hope not. We’ve benefited greatly from their work here at Black Gate, and I hope it continues.

In particular, Jeff Somers’ monthly survey of the best genre books is something I always look forward to, and he never disappoints. His November column — with 25 titles by Neil Gaiman, Myke Cole, Walter Jon Williams, and many others — is a classic example. Packed in there with the blockbuster new books by E.E. Knight, Howard Andrew Jones, and Rebecca Roanhorse, are several genuine surprises. Here’s a look at the best unexpected books on the list.

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New Treasures: Starship Alchemon by Christopher Hinz

Thursday, November 28th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Anachronisms Christopher Hinz-small Starship Alchemon-small

Covers: unknown (left) , and Francesca Corsini

Christopher Hinz’s 1987 SF classic Liege-Killer won the Compton Crook Award, and came in fourth for the Locus Award for Best First Novel. It’s part of the Paratwa Saga, which also includes Ash Ock (1989), The Paratwa (1991), and Binary Storm (2016). I picked up his latest novel Starship Alchemon on Saturday, only to discover it’s a rewrite of his second novel, Anachronisms, from 1988. Here’s an excerpt from the Strange Alliances review by Elaine Aldred, who is clearly better informed than I am.

The nine members of the crew of the Starship Alchemon are sent to investigate a mysterious anomaly on a distant planet. But the mission is far from straightforward and the crew are soon battling for their lives.

Starship Alchemon started life as Christopher Hinz’s 1980’s novel Anachronisms, but this version is not a simple rehash. It has an up-to-date feel and explores the characters in more depth, as well as tightening the whole worldbuilding experience. Each of the crew has their own particular skill set, with some possessing extraordinary abilities, like the character LeaMarsa de Host’s powerful psionic qualities. But there is careful attention paid to giving each of the characters a significant role in the story. The first half of the novel is slow, but the moment strange and ominous events begin to kick off, there is an Alien narrative in the sense of the crew just fighting to survive the escalating events.

Anachronisms could probably be thought of as being “of its time” however, put in the context of 1980’s science fiction, it still makes for an interesting read. Despite having been exposed to the novel in its first incarnation, I enjoyed this second outing, which can be thought of as having its own personality…

Despite being a rewrite of an older book, there’s a lot that appeals to me about Starship Alchemon — not the least of which is Aldred’s comparison to Alien. She’s not the only one to make that connection; keikii Eats Books on Reddit has the same idea.

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A Tale of Two Covers: Gunslinger Girl by Lyndsay Ely

Wednesday, November 27th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Covers by Mark Owen/Trevillion Images (left) and uncredited

While I was at Windycon here in Chicago last week, I stopped by Larry Smith’s booth in the Dealer’s Room and ended up buying a small pile of books from Sally Kobee. Gunslinger Girl by Lyndsay Ely was an impulse buy, but a good one, I think. It’s part of the James Patterson Presents line, and was an Amazon and B&N Best Book of the Month, and an Indie Next pick. It’s also the tale of a female sharpshooter in a dystopian near-future West, and I like the sound of that. Here’s the description.

Seventeen-year-old Serendipity “Pity” Jones inherited two things from her mother: a pair of six shooters and perfect aim. She’s been offered a life of fame and fortune in Cessation, a glittering city where lawlessness is a way of life. But the price she pays for her freedom may be too great….

In this extraordinary debut from Lyndsay Ely, the West is once again wild after a Second Civil War fractures the U.S. into a broken, dangerous land. Pity’s struggle against the dark and twisted underbelly of a corrupt city will haunt you long after the final bullet is shot.

My problem with the book is that I bought the trade paperback on the left, and when I was checking out the details online I discovered the mass market paperback edition on the right, with the gorgeously colorful cover. It was vividly different and inexpensive enough ($5.49) that I decided to get a copy of that one as well, this time as a gift for my daughter. I ordered it from Amazon… and promptly received a second copy of the book at left. Every edition Amazon lists online has the cover at right (including the audio, paperback and hardcover editions), but I don’t see any way to actually get one.

Well, I love a book challenge, and I’m not ready to give up yet. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Here’s the back cover of the trade edition.

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Happy Book Birthday to Starlight, Book 2 of Skyward, by Brandon Sanderson

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Skyward Sanderson-small Starsight Sanderson-small

Covers by Charlie Bowater

Brandon Sanderson is one of the most ambitious fantasy authors at work today. (To give you some idea what I mean, he’s already 3,424 pages into his projected 10-volume Stormlight Archive series — and that just the first three books.) He has multiple series on the go at the moment, including Skyward, projected to reach four books.

Skyward is being marketed as Young Adult (unless you’re in the UK, where it’s being marketing as adult fiction — go figure.) Deana Whitney and Darci Cole at call it a “girl and her starship” story, and that seems to be right on the money.  Here’s an excerpt from the Kirkus review of the first novel, Skyward.

Eager to prove herself, the daughter of a flier disgraced for cowardice hurls herself into fighter pilot training to join a losing war against aliens.

Plainly modeled as a cross between Katniss Everdeen and Conan the Barbarian (“I bathed in fires of destruction and reveled in the screams of the defeated. I didn’t get afraid”), Spensa “Spin” Nightshade leaves her previous occupation — spearing rats in the caverns of the colony planet Detritus for her widowed mother’s food stand — to wangle a coveted spot in the Defiant Defense Force’s flight school. Opportunities to exercise wild recklessness and growing skill begin at once, as the class is soon in the air, battling the mysterious Krell raiders who have driven people underground… Meanwhile, hints that all is not as it seems, either with the official story about her father or the whole Krell war in general, lead to startling revelations and stakes-raising implications by the end… Sanderson plainly had a ball with this nonstop, highflying opener, and readers will too.

The second volume Starlight was released today by Tor. It is 461 pages, priced at $19.99 in hardcover and $10.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Charlie Bowater. Read a huge excerpt from Skyward (the first 15 chapters) at Underlined and another one at i09.

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