Ancient Gods and Trees That House an Entire City: The Titan’s Forest Trilogy by Thoraiya Dyer

Sunday, November 10th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Crossroads-of-Canopy-small Echoes-of-Understorey-by-Thoraiya-Dyer-small Tides of the Titans-small

Cover art by Marc Simonetti

In her 2017 guest post at ,”Walk Beneath the Canopy of These 8 Fictional Forests,” Thoraiya Dyer wrote:

Give me your Fangorns and your Lothloriens, your Green Hearts and your Elvandars. Evoke your Haunted Forest Beyond the Wall complete with creepy weirwoods, your Steddings and your Avendesoras. Send me pleasant dreams about Totoro’s Japanese Camphor and the Forest Spirit’s kodama-filled canopy. Or, y’know, tree cities full of Wookiees instead of elves. I will take them all!

Forests in speculative fiction novels have a special place in my heart. Especially tree-cities.

Now there’s a woman who talks my language. Tree cities! Haunted forests! Creepy weirwoods! Kodama-filled canopies!(Uh, what?) Whatever, just tell me Dyer has a more than casual interest in tree cities. Like a book trilogy or something?

Yeah, it’s a rhetorical question. I write a book blog; everybody I talk about has a book trilogy. Dyer’s is titled Titan’s Forest, in which trees loom large as skyscrapers, mortals can be reborn as gods, and a young man sets out on an epic woodland journey to unlock the great Forest’s hidden secrets. It opened with Crossroads of Canopy (Tor Books, 2017), her debut novel; Echoes of Understorey was published last year, and the third book Tides of the Titans arrived earlier this year.

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The Return of The Thing: Frozen Hell by John W. Campbell

Saturday, November 9th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Frozen Hell John W Campbell-back-small Frozen Hell John W Campbell-small

Cover by Bob Eggleton

Several years ago, while researching his groundbreaking book Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction (which Thomas Parker reviewed for us here), Alec Nevala-Lee found a yellowing letter from John W. Campbell that mentioned he’d donated his papers to Harvard Library. Alec tracked them down, and inside a carton in an offsite storage facility he made a major discovery: the original uncut version of “Who Goes There?”, which Alec calls “The greatest science fiction horror story of all time.” Last year John Gregory Betancourt of Wildside Press launched a hugely successful Kickstarter to publish it (raising $155,366 on a $1,000 goal), and the book appeared last month. Here’s John’s Kickstarter description.

In 1938, acclaimed science fiction author John W. Campbell published the novella “Who Goes There?,” about a team of scientists in Antarctica who discover and are terrorized by a monstrous, shape-shifting alien entity. The story would later be adapted into John Carpenter’s iconic movie The Thing (following an earlier film adaptation in 1951). The published novella was actually an abridged version of Campbell’s original story, called “Frozen Hell,” which had to be shortened for publication. The “Frozen Hell” manuscript remained unknown and unpublished for decades, and it was only recently rediscovered. “Frozen Hell” expands the Thing story dramatically, giving vital backstory and context to an already incredible tale. We are pleased and honored to offer Frozen Hell to you now, as Campbell intended it.

Frozen Hell will include a preface written by Alec Nevala-Lee, who rediscovered the “Frozen Hell” manuscript while doing research for his upcoming book Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction (Dey Street Books).

This is a highly anticipated book, and for good reason. I don’t know if the post-Worldcon negative publicity around John W. Campbell will impact sales at all, but I’m certainly still interested, and I know I’m not the only one. Frozen Hell was published by Wildside Press on October 8, 2019. It is 158 pages, priced at $15 in trade paperback and $6.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Bob Eggleton.

See all of our recent New Treasures here.

Bleak Creek overflows with Universal Truths

Friday, November 8th, 2019 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

Bleak CreekThe Lost Causes of Bleak Creak is not a novel I expected to be reviewing for Black Gate. It is a compelling thriller with a preternatural undercurrent that I heartily recommend, but that’s not what one would have expected from its authors. Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal have carved their own successful niche with Good Mythical Morning, a YouTube talk show/comedy show which seems to have successfully updated Ernie Kovacs’ format for the hipster generation. While that may be an accurate description on the surface, it belies the expansiveness of their burgeoning Mythical Entertainment media empire and its audience demographic composed of 20 million subscribers across their platform.

These two childhood friends from a small town in North Carolina have written two bestsellers; made their own critically-acclaimed, incredibly bizarre, but consistently funny streaming sitcom, Buddy System; hosted a trainwreck fascinating, but frequently funny IFC reality show, Commercial Kings; made an award-winning feature-length documentary about the search for their First Grade teacher, Looking for Ms. Locklear; released comedy albums; performed sold-out comedy concert tours on several continents; put together their own stage show to tie-in with their first book; and are currently undertaking a book tour in theaters around the country to promote their first novel. Regulars on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show where they provide a reminder of what late night comedy meant for those old enough to remember Carson or at least Letterman in his prime, they may be the two most ambitious and successful cult figures in the U.S. at present.

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A Four-Way Road to Darkness: The Pale Illuminations, edited by Robert Morgan

Thursday, November 7th, 2019 | Posted by Mario Guslandi

The Pale Illuminations-small

Dust Jacket Art by Paul Lowe

The Pale Illuminations
Edited by Robert Morgan
Sarob Press (145 pages, £35/$60 for a limited edition hardcover, September 2019)
Cover by Paul Lowe

Following up its long lasting tradition of providing elegantly produced volumes collecting old and new dark and supernatural stories, the excellent small imprint Sarob Press ( formerly based in the UK, then relocated in France) has just published a new anthology entitled The Pale Illuminations.

The book assembles four new stories ( one actually a novella) by four well respected authors of dark fiction, exploring the supernatural side of different geographical environments, where eerie mysteries are still lurking.

Peter Bell, a renowned author of refined modern ghostly tales, contributes “Labyrinth,” a complex, atmospheric novella set in the wilderness of the Peak District, where ancient worship, Roman old secrets and modern romance blend in a very disturbing, fascinating tableau.

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New Treasures: The Monsters Know What They’re Doing by Keith Ammann

Sunday, November 3rd, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Monsters Know What They're Doing-small The Monsters Know What They're Doing-back-small

Cover by Lily Pressland

I’m enjoying watching role-playing seep into popular culture. It’s happening in casual and insidious ways. Like with self-help books for Dungeon Masters, a section in the bookstore that I couldn’t even imagine when I was gaming in the basement with my friends 30 years ago. Every time I see a book like Keith Ammann’s The Monsters Know What They’re Doing, I grin a little. Okay, more than a little.

The Monsters Know What They’re Doing makes for some light and entertaining reading.It’s essentially an alphabetical listing of over a hundred different giants, undead, humanoids, NPCs, and other monster types, with a 2-4 pages essay on combat tactics and “villainous battle plans” for each. Much of it is drawn from Ammann’s popular blog The Monsters Know What They’re Doing, and it’s an insightful and lively read throughout.

Personally I might have liked more in-depth pieces on fewer monsters. These essays are useful, but not in the ways I found the Third Edition Savage Species book useful. That one looked at how monsters could level up, acquire spells, familiars and special weapons and spells, and was a fantastic resource for creating that unique Orc shaman or kitted-out Kobold prince. To be honest, I don’t know how much I’d actually use The Monsters Know What They’re Doing, but it sure made fun reading. Here’s the description.

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A Wide Range of Stories: John DeNardo on the Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books in October

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Half Way Home by Hugh Howey-small How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse-small Salvation Lost Peter F. Hamilton-small

In his intro to his book roundup for October over at Kirkus Reviews, John DeNardo says:

I’m constantly surprised at the wide range of stories offered within the science fiction and fantasy genres. Just take a look at this month’s top science fiction and fantasy picks and you’ll see what I mean.

He’s certainly got a point. SF and fantasy fans are constantly making up new sub-genres and sub-sub-genres to categorize just what the hell we read every month (Weird Western, Urban Fantasy, Sword-and-Planet, Space Opera, Steampunk, Cyberpunk, Ghostpunk, Elfpunk…), and it still seems that half the new stuff is just flat-out uncategorizable.

October’s new SF & Fantasy is no different. Over at the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog Jeff Somers catalogs 29 October titles by Tade Thompson, Cixin Liu, Tim Pratt, Theodora Goss, and our very own Derek Künsken, but John takes a different tack, narrowing his focus to The 7 Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books to Read This October. Here’s a few highlights from his suggestions.

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Future Treasures: The Best of Jerry Pournelle edited by John F. Carr

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Best of Jerry Pournelle-smallJerry Pournelle was the author of the Falkenberg’s Legion series, including one of my favorite military SF novels, West of Honor (1976), as well as Janissaries, and dozens of other novels. He’s perhaps best remembered for his bestselling collaborations with Larry Niven, including The Mote in God’s Eye (1974), Lucifer’s Hammer (1977), and Footfall (1985), which contains a barely-disguised Robert A. Heinlein as a character. He died in 2017.

Pournelle was a controversial figure in SF. He was one of the writers who paid to have a pro-Vietnam War proclamation in Galaxy Science Fiction in 1968, and he described his politics as “somewhere to the right of Genghis Khan.” His novels, like The Legacy of Heorot (1987, written with Steven Barnes and Larry Niven) contain heroes who stroke their rifle lovingly, noting that they’ve never cared for a woman as much as they care for their guns. They contain lines that will make you drop the book on your foot.

Still, he was a tireless editor and short story writer. His anthologies include 2020 Vision (1974), a book that looked 46 years into the future, at the distant year 2020; Black Holes (1978), still one of the best introductions to the enigma of black holes in SF; the long-running Far Frontiers series (seven volumes, edited with Jim Baen), and ten volumes of a gonzo series that looked forward to future conflicts with near-sexual desire, There Will Be War (1983-2015).

Pournelle is not for everyone. Obviously. But he did produce some fine short fiction, much of it still worth a look today. Baen Books will release The Best of Jerry Pournelle next week, a fat 576-page collection gathering 15 stories — including a 162-page novella previously only available as an e-book, The Secret of Black Ship Island (2012, written with his long-time collaborators Steven Barnes & Larry Niven), and two previously unpublished stories.

It also contains some of Pournelle’s non-fiction (the preface to There Will be War, Volume I), and tributes by Larry King, David Gerrold, Larry Niven, Steven Barnes, and Robert Gleason.

Here’s the description, and the complete Table of Contents.

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New Treasures: Grave Importance, Book 3 of Dr. Greta Helsing, by Vivian Shaw

Tuesday, October 29th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Strange-Practice-Vivian-Shaw-smaller Dreadful-Company-Vivian-Shaw-smaller Grave Importance-small

Vivian Shaw’s debut fantasy novel was Strange Practice (2017). It introduced the world to Dr. Greta Helsing, doctor to the undead, and SFFWorld labeled it “a triumph.” The sequel, Dreadful Company, in which Dr. Helsing uncovers a coven of vampires underneath Paris, was released last year. Liz Bourke at raved, saying “Dreadful Company is fast, fun, and immensely readable… [and] laugh-out-loud funny… it’s delightful.”

I’ve been looking forward to the third volume of this witty fantasy adventure series, and it finally arrived last month. Here’s the description.

Oasis Natrun: a private, exclusive, highly secret luxury health spa for mummies, high in the hills above Marseille, equipped with the very latest in therapeutic innovations both magical and medical. To Dr. Greta Helsing, London’s de facto mummy specialist, it sounds like paradise. But when Greta is invited to spend four months there as the interim clinical director, it isn’t long before she finds herself faced with a medical mystery that will take all her diagnostic skill to solve.

A peculiar complaint is spreading among her mummy patients, one she’s never seen before. With help from her friends and colleagues — including Dr. Faust (yes, that Dr. Faust), a sleepy scribe-god, witches, demons, a British Museum curator, and the inimitable vampyre Sir Francis Varney — Greta must put a stop to this mysterious illness before anybody else crumbles to irreparable dust…

…and before the fabric of reality itself can undergo any more structural damage.

You can read the first four chapters of Strange Practice at the Orbit website, and get more details on the series hereGrave Importance was published by Orbit on September 24, 2019. It is 448 pages, priced at $15.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Will Staehle. See all our recent coverage of the best Series Fantasy here.

Intergalactic Wars, Ancient Gods, and Living Ships: New Novellas from

Sunday, October 27th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Undefeated Una McCormack-small The Border Keeper-small Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday-small Sisters of the Vast Black-small

The last novella I read was Desdemona and the Deep by C.S.E. Cooney, and it made me want to read a lot more. The prose (as one expects from Cooney) was delightful, but it was also the perfect length for a light-but-also-surprisingly-dark fae fantasy. It had exactly the right number of calories, and now I find myself looking around for something equally tasty and not too filling.

Fortunately the back catalog is deep and gorgeous. They started their handsome novella line almost exactly four years ago, in September 2015, and have kept up a semi-weekly (sorta-kinda weekly, sometimes bi-weekly) release schedule ever since. I haven’t counted but there must around 150 by by now.’s editors have produced something for every taste over the past four years. Space opera, weird fantasy, horror, urban fantasy, comedy, military science fiction, dark fantasy, alternate history love stories, and a whole lot more. Like all great editors, they’ve published award-winning fiction from top names (Martha Wells, Nnedi Okorafor, Seanan McGuire) and also mixed it up with some terrific debuts from stellar new talents. Looking over their recent releases, it’s clear the quality and drive at has not flagged at all. Here’s a look at some of their most interesting new titles.

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New Treasures: Salvaged by Madeleine Roux

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Salvaged Madeleine Roux-smallWhen you’ve been reading and reviewing long enough, you grow a little numb to book blurbs. At least, I thought you did. But that was before I came across Madeleine Roux’s new science fiction-horror novel Salvaged, which has blurbs that didn’t just get my attention. They grabbed me by my collar and made me spill latte all over my shirt.

Christopher Golden calls the book “A breathless, claustrophobic twist on the SF thriller, full of deep space dread, conspiracies, and malevolent alien spores… This is the Alien we need right now.” And Seanan McGuire says it’s “The prose equivalent of playing a survival horror game… Beautifully written.” And Jonathan Maberry raves “Salvaged scared the hell out of me, and I write horror for a living! … a brilliant novel that any fan of Alien will simply devour. Brava!”

See what I mean? Anything with ” deep space dread, conspiracies, and malevolent alien spores” and which draws multiple comparisons to Alien definitely deserves my attention. Here’s an excerpt from the starred review at Publisher’s Weekly.

In a spacefaring future, Rosalyn Devar is a xenobiologist who takes a job as a salvager — janitor of dead space crews — to get away from her father, his business, and the man who hurt her. When caught drinking on the job, she’s given one more chance: clean up the Brigantine, a research ship whose crew is dead. But they aren’t. Aboard the Brigantine, she meets Edison Aries, the captain, and his undead crew. They are infected with a mysterious fungus, Foxfire, that has taken root in their minds, convincing them that it is their mother and that Rosalyn needs to join them. Stranded aboard the Brigantine, Rosalyn and Edison try to outwit the other crew members and Mother, while looking for a way to stop Foxfire from spreading.. This entertaining, deeply disturbing, and clever story hits all the right notes for those who like a little horror with their SF.

Salvaged was published by Ace Books on October 15, 2019. It is 368 pages, priced at $16 in trade paperback and $9.99 in digital formats. The cover was designed by Faceout Studio/Jeff Miller.

See all our recent New Treasures here.

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