Vengeful Gods, Deadly Monsters, and Secrets: God of Broken Things by Cameron Johnston

Monday, June 17th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Cameron Johnston’s The Traitor God was one of the big fantasy debuts of last year, so I was delighted to find the sequel on the shelves during my regular trek to Barnes & Noble this weekend. In his weekly roundup of the best new SF & fantasy at The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog last Tuesday, Joel Cunningham waxed enthusiastic:

Outcast mage Edrin Walker has saved the world, but at great cost: he’s defeated the monster unleashed by his enemies, but it has already infected the leaders of his city with mind-controlling parasites…. and an [army] of invaders in marching on the city. Edrin gathers a band of anti-heroes to head them off in the mountains, but there also lie difficult trials: vengeful gods, deadly monsters, and secrets Edrin would rather stay buried. A wicked sense of humor and a cast of flawed but striving-for-good characters keeps this mid-series entry from getting too grimdark.

I never got around to reading The Traitor God last year, but the addition of God of Broken Things to the series makes it a lot more irresistible. They look damn good in my TBR pile, anyway. Here’s the publisher’s description for the sequel.

Tyrant magus Edrin Walker destroyed the monster sent by the Skallgrim, but not before it laid waste to Setharis, and infested their magical elite with mind-controlling parasites. Edrin’s own Gift to seize the minds of others was cracked by the strain of battle, and he barely survives the interrogation of a captured magus. There’s no time for recovery though: a Skallgrim army is marching on the mountain passes of the Clanhold. Edrin and a coterie of villains race to stop them, but the mountains are filled with gods, daemons, magic, and his hideous past. Walker must stop at nothing to win, even if that means losing his mind. Or worse…

God of Broken Things was published by Angry Robot on June 11, 2019. It is 432 pages, priced at $12.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Jan Weßbecher. Read an excerpt at the Angry Robot website.

Sentient Mining Robots, Interstellar Warfare, and an A.I. Revolution: The Corporation Wars by Ken MacLeod

Wednesday, June 12th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Corporation Wars Trilogy-smallScottish writer Ken MacLeod is the author of Cosmonaut Keep, The Cassini Division, Newton’s Wake, and roughly a dozen other science fiction novels. His books have been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, Clarke, and British Science Fiction Awards. His Corporation Wars trilogy (Dissidence, Insurgence, and Emergence) is a fast-paced space opera told against a backdrop of interstellar drone warfare, virtual reality, and an A.I. revolution. In his review of the second volume at Locus Online, Russell Letson said:

MacLeod manages big Ideas (po­litical and futurological) and propulsive action without short-changing either side of that classic science-fictional tension-of-opposites, a trait he shares with Iain M. Banks and Charles Stross. I’m going add one more name and then duck be­hind the sofa: Heinlein.

I was sloppy about picking up the originals when they first appeared; that usually means I have to painstakingly track down out-of-print copies. But not this time! Orbit came to my rescue with a gorgeous (and gorgeously economical) 879-page omnibus brick: The Corporation Wars Trilogy. If you’re interested in an acclaimed space opera from a modern master, this is an excellent gift for yourself. Here’s the description.

In deep space, ruthless corporations vie for control of scattered mining colonies, and war is an ever-present threat.

Led by Seba, a newly sentient mining robot, an AI revolution grows. Fighting them is Carlos, a grunt who is reincarnated over and over again to keep the “freeboots” in check. But he’s not sure whether he’s on the right side.

Against a backdrop of interstellar drone combat Carlos and Seba must either find a way to rise above the games their masters are playing or die. And even dying might not be the end of it.

The Corporation Wars was published by Orbit on December 11, 2018. It is 896 pages, priced at $19.99 in trade paperback and $13.99 in digital formats. The cover was designed by Lisa Marie Pompilio.

If you’re in the market for fine value in reading, check out our recent coverage of fat omnibus editions here.

A Series that Embodies Delicious Steampunk Mystery: Newbury & Hobbes Investigation by George Mann

Friday, June 7th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Affinity Bridge-small The Osiris Ritual-small The Immorality Engine A Newbury & Hobbes Investigation-small The Executioner's Heart A Newbury & Hobbes Investigation-small The Revenant Express A Newbury & Hobbes Investigation-small

The Newbury & Hobbes novels. Cover art by Viktor Koen

George Mann’s Newbury & Hobbes Investigations are a highly acclaimed steampunk mystery series. amNewYork called the opening volume “A riveting page-turned that mixes the society of manners in turn-of-the-century London with a gritty and brutal murder mystery,” and Entertainment Weekly says the books bring “industrial London to life like a Jerry Bruckheimer movie in book form.” Damn — I’m still not sure what these books are about, but I definitely want to read them.

There have been five so far.

#1: The Affinity Bridge (April 2010)
#2: The Osirus Ritual (June 2011)
#3: The Immortality Engine (July 2012)
#4: The Executioner’s Heart (July 2014)
#5: The Revenant Express (February 2019)

The most recent, The Revenant Express, arrived in February this year from Tor. Like the others, it’s a quick read, 237 pages, and available in both hardcover and digital formats. Here’s the description.

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When Surviving the Apocalypse is Only the Beginning: The Road to Nowhere Trilogy by Meg Elison

Wednesday, June 5th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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It’s good to see Meg Elison, who made such an impressive splash with her debut novel The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, finally start to connect with wider audiences.

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (2014) won the 2014 Philip K. Dick award and was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2016. The second novel in The Road to Nowhere Trilogy, The Book of Etta (2017) was also a finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award. And in April of this year the highly anticipated third volume, The Book of Flora, was published in paperback by 47 North. As each book has arrived the acclaim and recognition for the series has grown, and when I checked tonight I was surprised and delighted to discover that the first book in the series had reached the #3 position in Amazon Kindle Best Sellers in Science Fiction.

Back in 2016, Slate called The Book of the Unnamed Midwife the 2014 Sci-Fi Novel that Eerily Anticipated the Zika Crisis. More germane to those of us looking for a good story, Sci-Fi Scary labeled it “moving and intelligent work. Brutal and chilling at times, but also hopeful and very human. It immersed me right from the start and kept me gripped to the last page.” Now that the series is a proper trilogy, we’ll get to work baking it a cake.

All three volumes are available in trade paperback from 47 North. Click the images above for apocalypse-sized versions.

New Treasures: The Outlaw and the Upstart King, Book 2 of The Map of Unknown Things by Rod Duncan

Thursday, May 30th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The-Queen-of-All-Crows-medium The Outlaw and the Upstart King-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.

His next project is The Map of Unknown Things, a new series set in the same world that follows the continuing adventures of Elizabeth. It began with Queen of all Crows (2018), which was warmly reviewed by several of my favorite review sites. Sydney Shields at The British Fantasy Society said “Duncan’s Gas-lit Empire reads and feels like the world of a Victorian detective adventure (think Sherlock Holmes, the Blake & Avery Mysteries, Charles Dickens) but the twist is that the year is actually 2012… Definitely recommend.” And The Speculative Shelf gave it an enthusiastic write-up:

Fresh off her battle with the International Patent Court, Elizabeth Barnabus finds herself working on behalf of that very organization that brought her so much trouble in the past. She sets sail to investigate the disappearance of an airship that went down in the Atlantic.

The concept of the worldwide alliance that maintains world peace at the cost of technological advancement continues to be a fascinating one…Duncan has crafted a solid adventure story that featured some superb scenes and passages. I remain impressed by Duncan’s skills as a writer. His prose is clean, readable, and rich. There’s a great theatricality infused into his stories that make the mundane seem grand… this is another enjoyable adventure featuring a great protagonist and set of side characters.

The second volume in the series, The Outlaw and the Upstart King, was published by Angry Robot earlier this year. Here’s a scan of both back covers.

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There’s a Lifetime of Reading in DAW Omnibus Volumes

Sunday, May 26th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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DAW Books was founded in 1971 by uber-editor Donald A. Wollheim after he left Ace Books. In the last five decades it’s published almost two thousand science fiction and fantasy novels (W. Michael Gear’s Pariah, released on May 14, is Daw Book #1823), and it has launched the careers of hundreds of writers, including C. J. Cherryh, Julie E. Czerneda, Patrick Rothfuss, Tad Williams, Kristen Britain, Melanie Rawn, Violette Malan, and Tanith Lee.

Right. So there’s lots of reasons to love DAW Books. But here’s another one you may not be aware of: it has a fascinating tradition of re-releasing much of its most popular SF and fantasy in compact and affordable paperback omnibus editions. In fact, of those 1800 DAW titles released since 1971, nearly a hundred are omnibus editions, many of which are still in print.

Hard to believe? I didn’t believe it myself until I found all three of the omnibus collections above in a recent trip to my local B&N and, after I brought them home, began to poke around to see just how many others were still available. I counted well over 50 without even trying. Here they are.

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Future Treasures: Time’s Demon, Book 2 of the Islevale Cycle by D. B. Jackson

Thursday, May 23rd, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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D. B. Jackson is the author of four novels in the popular Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy set in pre-Revolutionary Boston, and the collection Tales of the Thieftaker, which Fletcher Vredenburgh called “tense… the mysteries [are] good, the characters well-drawn… is a brisk read with an engaging lead, a colorful supporting cast, and a nicely detailed setting.” ‘D.B. Jackson’ also happens to be Black Gate contributor David B. Coe, whose blog posts here have covered topics as diverse as World Building and Nicola Griffith’s 90s classic Slow River.

David’s 2018 novel Time’s Children was the opening novel in the Islevale series. It related the adventures of Tobias Doljan, time-traveling agent of the court of Daerjen. In her Black Gate review Margaret S. McGraw said:

This is an epic fantasy with magic, sword fighting, political intrigue, demons, assassins, and budding romance. Plus time travel! And well done time travel at that. I’m a sucker for time travel stories, but I’m often disappointed by their simplistic delivery or avoidance of temporal paradox — that’s not the case here at all. Jackson created an entirely believable world of Travelers and other magical beings… I look forward to Time’s Demon — where I hope we will learn more about Droë, as well as the continued adventures of Tobias, Mara, and Sofya.

Time’s Demon finally arrives next week amid much anticipation. Here’s the description.

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Vintage Treasures: Davy by Edgar Pangborn

Thursday, May 16th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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1982 Ballantine paperback reprint; cover by Boris Vallejo

Edgar Pangborn died in 1976. His last book, the collection Still I Persist in Wondering, was published in 1978. The first Pangborn story I can recall reading was his splendid tale of the first landing on an alien world, and the majestic and deadly creatures found there, “The Red Hills of Summer,” in Gardner Dozois’ anthology Explorers (2000). It was enough to turn me into an instant fan.

I never read any Pangborn during my formative teen years, but he still managed to feature prominently in my early science fiction education. That’s chiefly because the reviewer I read most avidly at the time, Spider Robinson, was a late convert and a huge fan. In his column in the March 1976 Galaxy magazine, Spider raved:

I’ve only just discovered Edgar Pangborn. I haven’t been so delighted since (years ago, thank God) I discovered Theodore Sturgeon. In fact, the comparison is apt. I like Pangborn and Sturgeon for very similar reasons. Both are thoughtful, mature writers, and both remind me at times of [John] Brunner’s Chad Mulligan [the hero of Stand on Zanzibar], bitter drunk, crying at the world, “Goddammit, I love you all.” Both are bitterly disappointed in man’s evil, and both are hopelessly in love with man’s good. Both are addicted to creating and falling in love with warmly human, vibrantly alive characters, and making you love them too.

In the November 1976 issue of Galaxy, shortly after he learned of Pangborn’s death, Spider wrote a bitter rant of his own, lamenting the loss of a great writer and the fact that the world had stubbornly refused to acknowledge his achievements. He held up Pangborn’s 1964 novel Davy as a testament to what the field had lost. I’m not sure there’s a short story from 1976 that’s lived in my mind as vividly for the past four decades as Spider’s review of Davy. Here it is.

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Space Opera with Military Flair: A Chain Across the Dawn by Drew Williams

Tuesday, May 14th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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I’m still on a space opera kick, and Drew Williams’ The Stars Now Unclaimed was one of the books that got me started. It was published by Tor last August, and Liz Bourke at called it “Superpowered Space Opera… a strikingly entertaining debut novel, an enjoyable space opera with military flair.” I’ve been keeping my eye open for the sequel, but it still managed to sneak up on me last week. Here’s the description.

Drew Williams continues the Universe After series with A Chain Across the Dawn, an epic space opera chase across the galaxy with witty banter, fantastical planets, and a seemingly unbeatable foe.

It’s been three years since Esa left her backwater planet to join the ranks of the Justified. Together, she and fellow agent Jane Kamali have been traveling across the known universe, searching for children who share Esa’s supernatural gifts.

On a visit to a particularly remote planet, they learn that they’re not the only ones searching for gifted children. They find themselves on the tail of a mysterious being with impossible powers who will stop at nothing to get his hands on the very children that Esa and Jane are trying to save.

With their latest recruit in tow ― a young Wulf boy named Sho ― Esa and Jane must track their strange foe across the galaxy in search of answers. But the more they learn, the clearer it becomes ― their enemy may be harder to defeat than they ever could have imagined.

We covered the first volume here. A Chain Across the Dawn was published by Tor Books on May 7, 2019. It is 317 pages, priced at $18.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Fred Gambino. See all our recent coverage of the best new SF and Fantasy series titles here.

Kay Kenyon Wraps Up the Dark Talents Trilogy with Nest of the Monarch

Saturday, May 4th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Covers by Mike Heath

At the 2016 World Fantasy Convention I enjoyed a bunch of terrific readings, but my favorite — by a wide margin — was Kay Kenyon, who read from her  WWII spy novel At the Table of Wolves, the tale of a young English woman with superhuman abilities who stumbles on a chilling Nazi plan to invade England using superhuman agents. The sequel Serpent in the Heather arrived last year, and just last month the concluding volume in the trilogy, Nest of the Monarch, was published in hardcover by Saga Press. Kay’s Amazon bio has a nice summary of the entire series; here it is.

My trilogy, The Dark Talents novels finished in spring of 2019 with the publication of Nest of the Monarch. The series features Kim Tavistock, who deals with dark Talents, Nazi conspiracies, and espionage in 1936 England and Europe. Both Nest of the Monarch and At the Table of Wolves received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly.

In Book two, Serpent in the Heather, Kim must track down the Nazi assassin who is systematically killing young people with Talents. Kirkus called it “A unique concept that is superbly executed.” Book three brings Kim undercover in Berlin… I was inspired to write this series by the stories of the many women spies, radio operators and resistance fighters in the world wars. See my blog series, “Women spies in the World Wars” at

Kay offers a great teaser for the closing volume at her website.

I wanted to pull out all the stops for what Kim Tavistock is capable of, and place the events of the book in the scariest environment I could imagine, at least for a spy: 1936 Berlin and a secret SS outpost. The result is my richest story yet, I’m thinking

Here’s the full description for Nest of the Monarch.

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