New Treasures: The Man in the Tree by Sage Walker

Friday, February 2nd, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Man in the Tree Sage Walker-smallHere’s one that slipped under my radar when it was originally published by Tor in September. It’s the second novel from Sage Walker. Her first, Whiteout (1996) won the Locus Award for Best First Novel. Gary Wolfe reviews her sophomore effort at Locus:

The Man in the Tree is a generation starship tale… but Walker makes a couple of interesting choices that set The Man in the Tree apart. In the first place, Kybele is still in the decades-long preparatory phase before leaving orbit, with contract workers arriving and departing, and the culling of the population – to determine who will be allowed to remain among the 30,000 on the actual voyage – is an ongoing source of tension. In the second place, Walker’s plot is that of a police procedural murder mystery. One of those contract workers, Cash Ryan, is found impaled on a tree, having either jumped or been thrown from a nearby high-rise tower.

Here’s the description.

Humanity’s last hope of survival lies in space…but will we even get there?

Helt Borresen is an Incident Analyst. What that means is that aboard the seed ship Kybele, he is the closest thing that the organization has to a security officer. But he doesn’t think that it’ll be a big part of his job, as all the candidates have been carefully screened.

Why the need for a seed ship? Because our planet is toast and the colonists that leave our world are the best shot that we have for our species to continue.

Everything is set… and then someone is found hanging dead just weeks before the launch. Fear and paranoia spread as the death begins to look more and more like a murder. The authorities want the case settled quickly and quietly so as not to cause panic.

And Helt is the one to prevent a murderer from sabotaging the entire mission.

The Man in the Tree was published by Tor Books on September 12, 2017. It is 384 pages, priced at $26.99 in hardcover and $13.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by John Harris. Read Chapter One at Tor.com.


Andrew Liptak on 18 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books to Read this January

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Black Star Renegades by Michael Moreci-small Apart in the Dark Ania Ahlborn-small Frankenstein in Baghdad Ahmed Saadawi-small

Holy cats, it’s the last few hours of January. I’m already a month behind on my 2018 reading plan. How the heck did that happen??

In cases like this I’ve learned (through long experience) that it’s best to distract myself with books until the problem goes away. To do that I turn to the always reliable Andrew Liptak at The Verge, and his monthly recommended reading column. Let’s dig in and see what Andrew has for us this month.

First up is the debut novel from Michael Moreci, author of the comic series Roche Limit and Burning Fields. Kirkus Reviews calls Black Star Renegades “A propulsive space opera that is also an unapologetic love letter to Star Wars… Impossible not to love.”

Black Star Renegades by Michael Moreci (St. Martin’s Press, 384 pages, $27.99 in hardcover, January 2, 2018)

A young man named Cade Sura reluctantly controls the most powerful weapon in the galaxy, and it puts him into the path of the evil Praxis Kingdom. Michael Moreci is known for his comic books, but his debut novel is a mashup of familiar tropes from space operas like Star Wars and Guardians of the Galaxy. Kirkus Reviews says that he’s assembled all of these tropes “with such devotion and style that it’s impossible not to love this strange mashup for its own sake.”

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New Treasures: Nemo Rising by C. Courtney Joyner

Monday, January 29th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Nemo Rising-smallC. Courtney Joyner has more than 25 movies to his credit, including the Viggo Mortensen film Prison. His new novel Nemo Rising began as a screenplay, as Joyner reveals in the appendix, “Nemo Rising: From Script to Novel and Back Again.” Here’s a snippet.

A kiddie matinee, with popcorn boxes and cups of soda flying overhead, was my introduction to Jules Verne. The movie was Mysterious Island, that grand and very loose adaptation of Verne’s semi-sequel to Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, which featured that wonderful giant crab, created by Ray Harryhausen, and a mesmerizing Captain Nemo in the form of actor Herbert Lom. I was about eight years old, and hadn’t read any Verne yet, but I knew who he was, thanks to monster magazines, comic books, [and] paperbacks… I wish I could pretend my interest in Verne, and all that he created, had more sophisticated roots, but the movies and comic books touched the nerve that made me want to discover the real thing and sit down and read.

Joyner sounds like a man after our own heart. I get the feeling he and our Saturday morning blogger Ryan Harvey would hit it off especially well. His script version of Nemo Rising (a sample of which he includes in the appendix) was a sequel to Verne’s adventures of Captain Nemo; he turned it into a novel and attracted the attention of Tor Books, no mean feat. Here’s the description.

Sea monsters are sinking ships up and down the Atlantic Coast. Enraged that his navy is helpless against this onslaught and facing a possible World War as a result, President Ulysses S. Grant is forced to ask for assistance from the notorious Captain Nemo, in Federal prison for war crimes and scheduled for execution.

Grant returns Nemo’s submarine, the infamous Victorian Steampunk marvel Nautilus, and promises a full Presidential pardon if Nemo hunts down and destroys the source of the attacks. Accompanied by the beautiful niece of Grant’s chief advisor, Nemo sets off under the sea in search of answers. Unfortunately, the enemy may be closer than they realize…

Nemo Rising was published by Tor Books on December 26, 2017. It is 368 pages, priced at $27.99 in hardcover and $14.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Raymond Swanland. Read the first chapter here.


New Treasures: The Queen of All Crows by Rod Duncan

Friday, January 26th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Queen of All Crows-small The Queen of All Crows-back-small

Rod Duncan is the author of The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire trilogy, a supernatural mystery series featuring Elizabeth Barnabus, who lives a double life as herself and as her brother, a private detective. The first volume, The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter (2014) was a finalist for the 2014 Phillip K. Dick Award. We covered The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter here, and the entire series here.

His newest, The Queen of All Crows, is the start of a brand new series, The Map of Unknown Things. Only Elizabeth Barnabus can stop the world from descending into endless war in this new saga set in the world of the Gas-Lit Empire. It seems an odd mix of steampunk, supernatural mystery, and intellectual property thriller, but I like it.

The Queen of All Crows was published by Angry Robot on January 2, 2018. It is 348 pages, priced at $9.99 in trade paperback and $6.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Will Staehle. Get more details at the Angry Robot website.


Winter Reading: The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson with an Assist from James Stoddard

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018 | Posted by Nick Ozment

night land

If you’ve at any point heard some rumors, some whispers, some strange buzz about this book by William Hope Hodgson called The Night Land… maybe you’ve heard it is one of the greatest works of horror or dystopian dark fantasy…but you’ve also heard that it’s practically unreadable because of Hodgson’s choice to write it in a very weird prose style…”Penned in 1912, The Night Land is considered by many to be a work of genius, but one written in a difficult, archaic style that readers often find impenetrable.”

In 2010, James Stoddard (a fantastic fantasy author in his own right) wrote a “translation” into a more modern, readable vernacular. If you’re thinking of maybe reading Stoddard’s version, I must tell you this:

DO IT. Sooner rather than later. The fact is, one of the all-time great masterworks of sustained horror and imaginative vision, was, unfortunately, self-hampered by its author with his choice of writing it in a clunky, pseudo-archaic language. Stoddard did a supreme service to all of us by simply adapting the work into accessible modern English. I read Stoddard’s version, and via that gateway discovered what all the fuss was about. Yes, it really is that great an achievement: If Hodgson had written it in more accessible language, it would be as well known and celebrated today as any of the other seminal works of horror, fantasy, and science fiction.

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Son of Tall Eagle by John R. Fultz

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

Son of Tall Eagle-small

The tree was a god with a thousand arms.

Crawling on its skin I was less than an ant.

I had come to the khaba forest to hunt the Ghost Serpent. For six days I tracked it across the high realm of branch and leaf. I followed it past the ruined wrecks of Opyd nests and skeletal remnants of its former victims. I watched it stalk and devour a wounded jaguar, swallowing the carcass whole. Eventually I followed the great snake to one particular Tree God among the leafy millions. The one that was its home.

So begins John R. Fultz’s new book, Son of Tall Eagle (2017), sequel to The Testament of Tall Eagle (2015). The tale, a model of .swords & sorcery precision, picks up the story of the People, a tribe of Native Americans, 22 years after they were transported by the alien Myktu to their world in order to avoid their mutual destruction. This new home is a land of crystalline mountains, titanic trees, and other, non-human, races.

Once known for his great prowess as a warrior, Tall Eagle has become a passionate student of the Myktus’ advanced civilization, and endeavors to help lead the People into a new age of peace and growth away from the continuous all-consuming Circle of War. The Circle of War is Tall Eagle’s name for the cycle of raiding that occurred between the People and their enemies in the Old World. Now, the People are farmers and some have even given their children Myktu names. Others have taken Myktu spouses, creating a hybrid people. (Aside: technically, this might really be a sword & planet story, but there’s enough magic for me count it as S&S.)

To a great extent, Tall Eagle’s efforts have been successful. Instead of gaining a reputation for audacity in battle, his son, Kai, is known for his skill as a hunter and one of the rare non-Myktu able to ride their giant birds, the Opyds. The birds allow themselves to be ridden only by those they choose, and Kai is one of those few. He is the embodiment of his father’s aspirations for the People: brave but undesirous of being a warrior; instead, a man of peace with a foot in the Myktu world as well as the People’s.

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The Mountain, the Count, and the Air War: Brendan Detzner’s The Orphan Fleet

Monday, January 22nd, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Orphan Fleet-small The Hidden Lands-small City of the Forgotten Brendan Detzner-small

I’m a fan of Brendan Detzner’s Orphan Fleet series, the tale of a community of free children on a wind-swept mountain that comes under attack from a vengeful air admiral. Eighteen months ago I invited him to be a guest blogger at Black Gate, and he spoke about the classic science fiction that helped inspire his tale.

I grew up in a house where bookshelves were the most important pieces of furniture, and I was happy to take advantage, but in a hidden corner of the basement was a particularly important shelf, the one where my dad kept his old 70’s science-fiction and fantasy paperbacks. Roger Zelazny, Harlan Ellison, Michael Moorcock, Gene Wolfe. Not a bad haul. In one of those books, a short story collection from Gene Wolfe, was a story called “The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories,” which is about a child reading a story featuring a villain who he later imagines (or maybe not, it’s a Gene Wolfe story) breaking the fourth wall and discussing his role as a bad guy. He talks about how he and the hero seem to hate each other, but that backstage they actually get along and understood their interdependence.

I was enormously impressed by the opening volume in the series, The Orphan Fleet, a fast-paced tale of action set in a community of abandoned children. It’s a fascinating and beautifully realized setting that’s unlike any you’ve encountered before. Here’s what I said in my original review.

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New Treasures: Go Forth and Multiply, edited by Gordon Van Gelder

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Go Forth and Multiply-small Go Forth and Multiply-back-small

Here’s a fun thing, especially for fans of classic SF such as myself. An anthology celebrating a popular theme in science fiction magazines of the 50s and 60s: repopulating a planet.

It’s the kind of story that fell out of fashion by the early 70s, when overpopulation and pollution became hot-button topics, gradually eclipsing colonial and expansionist themes in SF. As a result many of the stories in Go Forth and Multiply have never been reprinted since they originally appeared in magazines like Astounding and New Worlds in the 1950s, including Randall Garrett’s “The Queen Bee,” Rex Jatko’s “On the Care and Breeding of Pigs,” and E. C. Tubb’s “Prime Essential.”

F&SF publisher (and editor emeritus) Gordon Van Gelder has gathered a terrific collection of what Tangent Online calls “twelve great classic science fiction stories,” including Kate Wilhelm’s acclaimed novella  “Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang,” Richard Wilson’s Nebula Award-winning “Mother to the World,” and stories by John Brunner, Poul Anderson, Robert Sheckley, Damon Knight, and many others.

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A Gentle Book about Harsh Times: The List by Patricia Forde

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018 | Posted by Elizabeth Galewski

The List Patricia Forde-small The List Patricia Forde-back-small

“Extinction is the saddest word,” Letta’s mentor tells her on his deathbed. “You don’t understand. In the old days, before the Melting, no one would listen. No one. The politicians just talked and talked. They used words to keep the people in ignorance.”

A dystopian novel, Patricia Forde’s The List takes place in our world after the polar ice caps have disappeared and sea levels have risen. Letta, our seventeen-year-old heroine, is only an apprentice when she abruptly inherits her master’s position as Wordsmith. Now a member of the elite, she’s one of the few people in the town of Ark who’s allowed to use the full scope of language. Everyone else must speak “List,” 500 words that leader John Noa has approved. (Yes. Letta lives in Noa’s Ark.)

The List doesn’t include words like “hope,” “love,” or “dream.” Noa considers these words too dangerous, since they encourage people to think about the future. Most articles are gone, as well as “Hello,” “Thank you,” and “Please.” People are only allowed to use specialized vocabulary if it’s necessary for them to do their jobs. Art and music of all kinds likewise have been forbidden.

As Wordsmith, Letta prepares basic Lists for Ark schoolchildren and specialized Lists for apprentices. She also thinks it’s part of her job to preserve non-List words so that humans can recover language at some future time, when our ancestors have proven they can handle it responsibly. What she doesn’t know is that Noa destroys her note cards, believing humans must be stripped of language completely.

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New Treasures: The Red Men by Matthew de Abaitua

Thursday, January 11th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Red Men Matthew de Abaitua-small The Red Men Matthew de Abaitua-back-small

The Red Men, Matthew de Abaitua’s debut novel, was originally published in trade paperback in 2009 by British fantasy small press Snowbooks. This is the first US edition. It follows de Abaitua’s two previous novels with Angry Robot, IF THEN and The Destructives.

In his acknowledgements de Abaitua says the theory of time as a solid state that he explores in the book “was put to me in an Italian restaurant in Northampton by Alan Moore.” The Red Men was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke award, and filmmakers Shynola adapted the first chapter into a gripping short called Dr. Easy, which you can watch here. The book was widely praised when it first appeared; Will Self said “De Abaitua operates on the smiling face of the present to reveal the grimacing skull of the future.” And Golden Apples of the West said “With The Red Men, De Abaitua joins the ranks of Philip K Dick, J G Ballard, Rudy Rucker and Lavie Tidhar, writers who see and understand what’s happening to reality before the rest of us do.”

The Red Men was published by Angry Robot on November 7, 2017. It is 368 pages, priced at $7.99 in paperback and $6.99 for the digital version. The cover is by Raid71.


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