New Treasures: Straight Outta Deadwood, edited by David Boop

Saturday, October 5th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Cover art by Dominic Harman

I was impressed with David Boop’s 2017 anthology Straight Outta Tombstone, one of the better Weird Western volumes of the last few years. So I was excited to see the sequel, Straight Outta Deadwood, arrive this week from Bean. Boop gives us a taste of what to expect in his Foreword, “Histories Mysteries.”

My directive to all the authors in these anthologies [was] to give me the Old West the way it really was, where applicable. I wanted the history within to be accurate, the voices authentic… But I also asked them to give me, and you the readers, the world we wished to see: dragons flying overhead, or the ability to drink with dwarves, or hear how grandpappy fought off zombies in Deadwood…

For those of you who read read Straight Outta Tombstone, this second anthology is my Empire Strikes Back. It’s darker, and include a couple pieces that left me shaken afterward… Don’t worry if you get scared easily, though. I have broken the narrative up with humor, victories over evil, and gunfights.

Lots of gunfights.

There’s been a distinct lack of decent Weird Western recently, and Straight Outta Deadwood addresses that nicely. It contains brand new short fiction by Steve Rasnic Tem, Charlaine Harris, Stephen Graham Jones, Lacy Hensley, Jane Lindskold, Cliff Winnig, D.J. Butler, and many others. Here’s the complete table of contents.

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Space Opera for Today: The Axiom by Tim Pratt

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Tim Pratt’s Axiom series began with The Wrong Stars (2017). That was quickly followed by The Dreaming Stars (2018), and Angry Robot will release the highly anticipated third book, The Forbidden Stars, next week. The Axiom is one of the more successful modern space opera series; and I think Sam Reader at the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog nicely captured its appeal with his fine review of the opening volume.

The Wrong Stars... is a work every bit as vast as you expect from space operas, but with a character-focused touch that keeps the action feeling intimate.

On a routine mission, Captain Kalea “Callie” Machedo and the borderline-shady crew of the salvage vessel White Raven find a “Goldilocks ship” — an undisturbed generation ship from 500 years in Earth’s past. Looking for parts from this priceless relic of a bygone era to strip and sell for a profit, Callie stumbles upon two things: a perfectly preserved scientist still in suspended animation within a cryo-pod, and a strange wormhole-generating black box patched into the ship’s propulsion system. When the cryo-pod’s inhabitant, Doctor Elena Oh, wakes up, she warns the crew of immanent first contact with sapient life… only to be told that humanity actually made contact with a race of body-modifying octopus traders known as “Liars” three centuries earlier. But Elena’s descriptions don’t match that of the Liars, and when an indescrible something begins following the White Raven, leaving a trail of death and destruction in its wake — along with a single clue: the name “Axiom” — the crew realizes what Elena’s brought them might be something far older and and far more alien, something that has been waiting for the right time to wake up…

Through his wit, dialogue, and vast, varied cast, Tim Pratt has created a space opera for today — one filled with diverse characters and cultures that feel nuanced enough to be real — while still delivering the sense of wonder that made you love the genre in the first place.

Tim Pratt has been nominated for the Nebula, World Fantasy, Sturgeon, Stoker, and Mythopoeic Awards, and won the Hugo Award for his short story “Impossible Dreams.” His novels include The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl, and the Pathfinder Tales novels Liar’s Island and Liar’s BargainThe Forbidden Stars will be published by Angry Robot on October 8, 2019. It is 400 pages, priced at $8.99 in paperback and $7.99 in digital formats. See all our coverage of the best new SF and fantasy series here.


A Mysterious, Whirling Fantasy: Anaïs Nin at the Grand Guignol by Robert Levy

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019 | Posted by Jeffrey Ford

Anaïs Nin at the Grand Guignol-small Anaïs Nin at the Grand Guignol-back-small

Anais Nin At The Grand Guignol
By Robert Levy
Lethe Press (170 pages, $13 in paperback, no digital edition?)

Read Robert Levy’s Anais Nin At The Grand Guignol from Lethe Press. Being a fan of Henry Miller and Anais Nin and the whole dynamic milieu of 1930’s Paris, when I saw this book I had to check it out and was not disappointed.

In the voice of Nin, it tells of her journey into the dark world of the Grand Guignol, a playhouse of horror themes and outre sketch drama where she finds a new passion beyond Miller and June and her husband. Someone thrilling and dangerous, Maxa, the most murdered woman in the world. To have Maxa she finds she must match wits against a monstrous creature of the night, Monsieur Guillard, in a surreal contest. The writing is really beautiful, from the descriptions of place, to the sex, to the macabre world of the bizarre theatre. A mysterious, whirling fantasy.

Levy really captures Nin’s writing voice and sensibility as well as her times. This is an instance of a writer doing more with less. A short novel that creates a complete reading experience. Check it out.


October 1 New Releases: Aurora Blazing by Jessie Mihalik, The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl by Theodora Goss, and Hex Life, edited by Christopher Golden and Rachel Autumn Deering

Tuesday, October 1st, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Aurora Blazing-small The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl-small Hex Life Wicked New Tales of Witchery-small

Welcome to October! It’s Release Day for a trio of terrific books, and I couldn’t decide which one to feature, so I’m going to cover them all. You’re welcome.

Let’s get right to it. The first one is the sequel to Jessie Mihalik’s debut novel, the space opera-romance Polaris Rising, which we covered back in February. Aurora Blazing (Harper Voyager, 400 pages, $16.99 trade paperback/$11.99 digital, October 1, 2019) is the second novel in The Consortium Rebellion.

As the dutiful daughter of High House von Hasenberg, Bianca set aside her personal feelings and agreed to a political match arranged by her family, only to end up trapped in a loveless, miserable marriage. When her husband unexpectedly dies, Bianca vows never to wed again. Newly independent, she secretly uses her wealth and influence to save other women stuck in dire circumstances. Information is power and Bianca has a network of allies and spies that would be the envy of the ’verse — if anyone knew about it.

When her family’s House is mysteriously attacked, Bianca’s oldest brother, the heir to House von Hasenberg, disappears. Fearful for her brother’s life, the headstrong Bianca defies her father and leaves Earth to save him. Ian Bishop, the director of House von Hasenberg security — and Bianca’s first love — is ordered to find and retrieve the rebellious woman.

Ian is the last man Bianca wants to see. To evade capture, she leads him on a merry chase across the universe. But when their paths finally collide, she knows she must persuade him to help her. Bianca will do anything to save her sibling, even if it means spending time alone on a small ship with the handsome, infuriating man who once broke her heart.

As the search takes them deep into rival House Rockhurst territory, Bianca must decide if she can trust Ian with the one piece of information that could destroy her completely…

The third book in the series, Chaos Reigning, is tentatively scheduled for May 2020. Read the opening three chapters of the first volume here.

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Airships in a Floating World: The Peridot Shift by R J Theodore

Sunday, September 29th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Covers by Julie Dillon

I don’t get enough steampunk in my diet these days. Once the industry was awash with it; that’s not true so much any more, although there are still a few publishers catering to readers like me. Parvus Press is one of the better ones, and their flagship steampunk series is R J Theodore’s Peridot Shift. The first, Flotsam, was published last year, and the sequel Salvage just arrived earlier this month. The novels deftly blend First Contact, Magic, and Steampunk, in a floating world where religion meets alchemy and the gods are not what they seem.

I was hooked from the moment I read the description for Flotsam last year.

Captain Talis just wants to keep her airship crew from starving, and maybe scrape up enough cash for some badly needed repairs. When an anonymous client offers a small fortune to root through a pile of atmospheric wreckage, it seems like an easy payday. The job yields an ancient ring, a forbidden secret, and a host of deadly enemies.

Now on the run from cultists with powerful allies, Talis needs to unload the ring as quickly as possible. Her desperate search for a buyer and the fallout from her discovery leads to a planetary battle between a secret society, alien forces, and even the gods themselves.

Talis and her crew have just one desperate chance to make things right before their potential big score destroys them all.

R J Theodore continues to explore her imaginative setting; the next title in the series, the novella Hunter and the Green, arrives on October 22 from Theodore’s creator-owned press Creative Jay.

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Future Treasures: Nebula Awards Showcase 2019 edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Friday, September 27th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Cover art by Tiffany Dae

The Nebula Awards Showcase is one of the most prestigious and honored anthologies in Science Fiction. It has appeared every year since 1966, and been published by Pyr since 2012. Pyr’s once considerable output has slowed in the last year, and I was very pleased to see the 2019 Showcase volume picked up by one of the best of the new small press publishers, Parvus Press. It’s a significant coup for them, and I hope it’s a sign of even greater things to come.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s introduction is one of the most powerful non-fiction pieces I’ve read in a Nebula anthology in a long time, both a celebration of the increasing diversity in our field, and a bald statement about why it’s so vitally important.

When I first harnessed the courage to start sending my stories out in 2006, it truly was a frightening prospect. I had never seen a Latina writer in any of the fantasy and science fiction magazines I read, nor at a bookstore… The science fiction and fantasy section was virtually devoid of people like me…

It’s easy to declare that diversity is a done deal, or even worse, that diversity is a trend, a fad, which has run its course. It is easy to churn lists that purport to contain the 10 Best Science Fiction Novels of all time and find out that the only woman who made the list was Mary Shelley. Or to find threads with people saying that women can’t write Lovecraftian fiction because women are able to give birth and therefore cannot understand cosmic horror (I am not making this comment up)…

What is hard is to build a better, more inclusive publishing community. It’s hard to read widely, to read beyond the things that you are used to, to organize events which feature a broad variety of guests, to write lists which go beyond the usual suspects. It’s hard, but it’s not impossible… We call speculative fiction the literature of the imagination, so why not imagine a future in which a young writer can find plenty of authors to emulate? A future in which that author is not silent and scared and feeling like she has no stories to tell, as I was 13 years ago when I began my writing journey.

This year’s volume contains some magnificent material, including “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience(TM)” by Rebecca Roanhorse, “A Human Stain” by Kelly Robson, and the complete text of Martha Wells’ Hugo and Nebula Award winning novella, All Systems Red, the first Murderbot tale. Here’s the complete tale of contents.

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New Treasures: A Choir of Lies by Alexandra Rowland

Thursday, September 26th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Alexandra Rowland’s first novel with Saga Press, A Conspiracy of Truths, was published just last year (and we covered it here). Publishers Weekly called it “An impressive and thoroughly entertaining fantasy,” and editor Navah Wolfe offered up this intriguing synopsis: “In a bleak, far-northern land, a wandering storyteller is arrested on charges of witchcraft… His only chance to save himself rests with the skills he has honed for decades — tell a good story, catch and hold their attention, or die.” The sequel A Choir of Lies was published earlier this month, and Paul Weimer at Tor.com gave it an enthusiastic review, saying:

In A Conspiracy of Truths, we are introduced to Chants, a self-selected group of people who travel the world, collecting and telling stories. Our main characters, Chant… and Ylfing, wind up in the country of Nuryevet, where Chant runs afoul of the law, winds up in prison, and — with the power of stories, and the help of a few people outside the prison — manages to overthrow a society…

In A Choir of Lies, the focus is on the former Ylfing, several years later… In Heyrland (a setting reminiscent of the heights of Early Modern Holland) he takes a job as a translator, helping to create a booming market for an odious but beautiful plant. And as the prices and money spent on these blooms increases and increases to the benefit of his employer, the dangers of a tulip-mania start to become painfully clear… But there is more going on than just that. The book, such as we have, is annotated, by someone who knows about Chants and who and what they are… Throughout the book, “Mistress Chant” extensively comments on what is written down, giving her own perspective, and criticism, and it is sometimes sharp indeed. And it challenges everything we think we know about Chants… My decision on whether I enjoy the metafictional, metatextual, cosmopolitan, erudite and engaging fantasy that Alex Rowland creates is clear – I most certainly do.

A Choir of Lies is a far cry from a typical fantasy, and that’s a huge part of its appeal (and a fantasy retelling of Holland’s infamous Tulip Mania of 1637 sounds fascinating). It was published by Saga Press on September 10, 2019. It is 464 pages, priced at $26.99 in hardcover, and $7.99 for the digital version. The cover is by Nick Sciacca (I think).

See all our recent New Treasures here.


New Treasures: Gamechanger by L.X. Beckett

Friday, September 20th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Gamechanger-smallCanadian writer A. M. Dellamonica has published a pair of fantasy series with Tor, Indigo Springs and the The Hidden Sea Tales trilogy. Her sixth novel Gamechanger is a significant departure, a near-future SF thriller that Publishers Weekly says “recalls the whiz-bang joy and gleeful innovation of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash,” and it’s being released under the pseudonym L.X. Beckett. Early notices have been terrific; here’s the enthusiastic coverage from Kirkus Reviews.

A cerebral fusion of science fiction, mystery, and apocalyptic thriller — masterfully seasoned throughout with provocative social commentary…

Set in the year 2101, in a world devastated by economic and ecological collapse (thanks in part to an American president known as He Who Could Not Be Named), the story largely revolves around Cherub “Rubi” Whiting, an internationally famous virtual reality gamer and fledgling lawyer. Her current client is Luciano Pox, an accused online terrorist who could be a mastermind hacker, a malware-infested AI, an elderly human who has somehow uploaded their consciousness, or an alien scout trying to destabilize humankind before the coming of a massive invasion fleet. Meeting with the elusive Pox proves dangerous… but the story’s real fuel comes from the author’s placement of backstory breadcrumbs throughout the novel. There is a lot to digest here, from humankind’s obsession with social media and their almost full immersion in cyber-reality to the brutal consequences of global warming to life extension advances to the mass consumption of printed protein as one of the only viable food sources left. A thought-provoking cautionary tale that will, hopefully, compel readers to see the condition of our civilization and our planet with more clarity and understanding.

A visionary glimpse into the future — the narrative equivalent of a baseball bat to the skull.

Read the complete review here. Our previous coverage of A. M. Dellamonica includes:

Birthday Reviews: A.M. Dellamonica’s “A Key to the Illuminated Heretic”
Read A.M. Dellamonica’s “The Glass Galago” at Tor.com
A Daughter of No Nation

Gamechanger was published by Tor Books on September 17, 2019. It is 572 pages, priced at $26.99 in hardcover and $14.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Stephan Martiniere.

Read the complete (8-page) first chapter here, and see all our recent New Treasures here.


The Cost of Becoming Royalty: Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford

Thursday, September 19th, 2019 | Posted by Caitlin McAllister

Crown of Coral and Pearl-smallTwins Nor (coral) and Zadie (pearl) live in Varenia, a world built on stilts above the ocean. The floating village makes a living diving for and collecting rare pearls that have healing capabilities and trading them to Ilara, a distant kingdom.

In addition to pearls, Ilara also barters for queens. Once every generation, the most beautiful woman in Varenia is sent to land to become Ilara’s next lady sovereign.

Nor and Zadie have been preparing their entire lives to become royalty: protecting their skin and hair with ointments and treatments; not playing too hard to avoid accidents that might mar their complexions; and learning the etiquette expected of queens. Unfortunately, accidents aren’t entirely avoidable, and Nor’s cheek is ultimately scarred for life in a struggle with a fishing net while diving. After the accident any hope of being chosen as queen is smashed. Ironically, Nor is the more adventurous of the twins, and she has always yearned for more than what her tiny village can offer. Zadie is content in her small, floating world, in love with a local boy Sami and happy to live a life of the familiar.

However, a grave and tragic encounter with a sea jelly leaves Zadie unable to make the journey even after she’s chosen as the royal successor. In a dangerous plot, Nor disguises her scar and takes her twin’s place. The king doesn’t take kindly to imposters, and Nor is aware that Varenia’s entire fresh water supply was once cut off when a different woman was sent in place of the chosen one due to illness. Knowing the risk, Nor sets off on an adventure full of intrigue, politics and romance.

I could not put this book down and finished it in about a day. Rutherford has created a really interesting setting, and the world building is polished and sure. The floating world of Varenia is described incredibly well, and you’re immediately immersed in the salty sea breezes and vibrant colors of Nor and Zadie’s world — and, in contrast, the cold and dark of New Castle, where Nor settles into her new life on land. Nor is a fantastic protagonist with a very well-developed character – she’s everything you want a fierce female to be, yet with a soft and complex relationship with her sister. I enjoyed Nor’s story arc immensely.

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Ghostly Corners in a Fictional London: Where Shadows Gather by Michael Chislett

Monday, September 16th, 2019 | Posted by Mario Guslandi

WHERE SHADOWS GATHER ~ MICHAEL CHISLETT-smallWhere Shadows Gather
Michael Chislett
Sarob Press (224 pages, £33.95/$60.00 [including shipping], July 2019)
Cover by Paul Lowe

Following his previous, acclaimed Sarob Press collection In the City of Ghosts Michael Chislett provides another bunch of ghostly tales, mostly set in the fictional London borough of Milford and the suburb of Mabbs End. Five stories are brand new, whereas eight have previously appeared in genre magazines (especially the excellent Supernatural Tales).

Chislett has a knack for creating creepy urban atmospheres, depicting sinister encounters and eerie experiences. Although, in my opinion, not up to the level of his previous collection, the present volume confirms his ability to create elegantly written, disquieting stories.

Among my favorite pieces are: “In the Garden,” an unusual story of botanical horror, where an ordinary garden of a London suburban house becomes the venue for ancient pagan forces, “Downriver,” an atmospheric tale where a walk along the Thames turns into a veritable nightmare and “The Raggy Girl”, a modern, disturbing ghost story revolving around a frightening apparition among the ruins of an old apartment building now being demolished.

A couple of stories are actually taking place overseas, such as the gloomy “The Coast Guard” set on the Baltic shore, hosting strange foxes and other horrific creatures.

The two highlights of the book are  “Mara,” an excellent, dark tale of vampirism featuring a beautiful but deadly vixen and an equally dangerous gentleman, and the outstanding “Endor,”a powerful, intoxicating mix of witchcraft, eroticism and possession.

A warning to the potential reader: if you’re interested in this book hurry up and order a copy. As usual, Sarob Press volumes have a limited print run and become quickly unobtainable.

Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

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