The Cloven by Brian Catling
Release Date: Early Aug
This is one I’ve been eagerly anticipating, and it’s finally on the way though not without a few hiccups. The release announcement a few months ago featured a hard cover and large paperback version, but unfortunately only the hard cover was actually published. There will no doubt be a small paperback version in about twelve months, but for the time being it’s hard cover only. This is also a UK import, so I haven’t gone quite as hard with stock ordering as with some of the previous books. If you want to make sure get one in the first order wave please contact the store. Since we’ve done a book club night for each of the other books, it’s safe to assume that we’ll be doing one for this one too. Details will be announced in next month’s newsletter. As to what the book is about, I’ve no idea. These books are so much fun to read cold and anyway, I don’t think the finale to the Vorrh series could be summed up in a few lines. If you’re scratching your head about now, I should probably mention that this is the last in a trilogy of gloriously strange books. If you like really odd fiction then the place to start is with book one The Vorrh.
Heartbreaker by Claudia Dey
Release Date: Late Aug
This is another book that is so unusual that no-one is going to be sure how to take it or what genre it’s in. The Territory is a strangely remote isolated town. The year is 1985, at least it is in The Territory. Anywhere else, who knows? Billie Jean Fontaine fell in to town literally, seventeen years ago, out of a moving car and has been part of their community ever since. No-one ever leaves The Territory, so she married, had a child, made a life. Then in the middle of a sub-zero winter, barefoot, she walks out of her house, drives her husband’s truck into the wilderness, and vanishes. The aftermath of this event is told from the perspective of four characters; her husband, her daughter, a peculiar local boy, and her dog. There are secrets all over The Territory and now it’s time for some of them to come into the light. A stunningly strange debut novel that has an unexpected mix of light and dark moments and is for anyone who is feeling a bit jaded with their current reading material and is in the mood for something completely different. This is one I’m definitely eyeing off for a future book club book.
Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers
Release Date: Early Aug
Folks have been eagerly awaiting this new book in the ‘Wayfarers’ series, and like A Close and Common Orbit it’s tangentially related and not a sequel. This time we’re with Tessa, sister of Captain Ashby from the first book, who stayed behind when her brother left to find adventure among the stars. What she stayed on is the Exodus Fleet, the last great ships to leave Earth. With humanity embraced by the alien community, there is no need to stay on the aging ships but there are many that still do. Life in the fleet has stayed the same for generations, but there are those within who yearn for change and as tensions rise Tessa will have to think long and hard about what her loyalty to the fleet and her fellow Exodars actually means. Told from the point of view of multiple characters, this book manages to add more detail to the Wayfarers universe as well as exploring the generation ship trope in an interesting way. What happens if, by the time you get to where you’re going, everyone is so attached to ship life that they don’t want to leave?
Dogs of War by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Release Date: Early Aug
Adrian Tchaikovsky seems to be jumping all over the place with his books in recent years. Initially known for his epic ten-volume Shadows of the Apt series where all the varied human races or Kinden each had a connection to a type of insect and certain characteristics associated with it. Children of Time, which won the Arthur C Clarke Award was about inter-planetary colonisation and terraforming going horrifyingly wrong. His current fantasy series The Echoes of the Fall features tribes of lycanthropes, so it seems he’s moved away from insects to animals. Which is a segue of sorts to this new book. The protagonist of Dogs of War, is in fact a dog. Not an ordinary dog though, Rex is special. He’s a bio-engineered weapon on a future battlefield. He’s seven feet tall and bulletproof and fitted with heavy weaponry. His bark is overlain with subsonics and harmonics designed to instil fear. But he’s a Good Dog. He fights the bad things and loves his pack and his master. But now there’s trouble and people who say that his master is bad and a war criminal and that Rex and the others are Bad Dogs just because they exist. Now Rex has to decide who to kill and who to obey. Rex wants to be a Good Dog, but for the first time in his life he’s going to have to figure out what that means for himself.
CoDex 1962 by Sjon
Release Date: Early Aug
This is not really a new book, but rather a recent translation of a trilogy by Icelandic author Sjon. He’s something of a literary star in his native Iceland, famous for his unusual blends of contemporary and historical elements with magical realism and Icelandic folklore. His work also resonates with what many have called an Icelandic soul, with his characters relating to the reader much the way people of that country are said to, slowly revealing themselves and telling their stories in round about ways and metaphor. In this case we begin with a Jewish refugee in WWII who carries with him a lump of clay that he will shape into the form of a baby that will become his son, Josef. As a man, Josef will live, grow and suffer as people do, until he finds himself in the hands of a power-hungry geneticist. That’s actually a very poor description of what is a powerful and insightful book, since it’s what the characters think and feel as well as the way they express themselves that really pulls the reader in. It also covers many years, and a few lines don’t even come close to express how much happens in the book. It can be quite confronting though, and there are some disturbing scenes since this is a journey that starts in one of the darkest eras of modern history and doesn’t shy away from the worst in human behaviour. Honestly, I’m not really sure what genre this book goes in or if that even means anything in this context. What I do know is that this is an amazing piece of writing that breaks all sorts of rules and boundaries, and that’s something I’ll always take an interest in.
Ball Lightning by Cixin Liu
The new book from Cixin Liu is back to the smaller, planetary scale of the first of his Three-Body Problem books, although they are unrelated. The scale of his ideas are as ambitious as always though, and this book has plenty of the real science, speculation and philosophy that make him so popular. Chen, as a child sees his parents killed by ball lightning and resolves then and there to unlock the secret of the force that destroyed his childhood. His search will take him into the sky chasing storms and under the ground to secret laboratories. Gradually he begins to understand, and slowly develop a wholly new theory of particle physics. Chen has no interests in his life but his work, but still has to contend with a world where others would seek to use what he has discovered for their own end, unscrupulous colleagues, ambitious government officials and a ruthless military. His story is one not just of the possibilities we are now seeing on the frontiers of science, but also the new philosophies that may come with them. Like much of his work this book is set in China, so in addition to the science ideas (which are huge) and the complex characters there is an additional dimension of cultural difference which adds another fascinating layer to everything. This is a stand-alone novel and has been translated by Joel Martinsen, who previously translated the second of Cixin Liu‘s Three-Body books, The Dark Forest. This is interesting, clever, science fiction that walks a line between hard science and speculation, though with the current state of quantum and particle physics I’m not sure I can tell which is which. You’ll be thinking about this one long after you’ve put it down.