Deep by Rivers
Release Date: Early Dec
The new novella from Rivers Solomon has an interesting provenance. It was inspired by the song of the same name by the experimental hip hop band Clipping, which was used in an episode of the This American Life podcast. The story takes something familiar, aquatic people, and takes it in a stunningly original direction. In the deep ocean is an idyllic society of water breathing people. They are the descendants of the unborn children of African women tossed overboard by slave ships, though most have no real awareness of this. Only one person holds the racial memory for these people, she is called the Historian, and at the time of the story her name is Yetu. Unable to bear the awful truth of the knowledge she carries and the responsibilities it brings, she flees to the surface and discovers the world of her ancestors. What she sees and learns will force a role and task on her that is far greater than the one she fled, and will decide the fate of her home. Don’t be fooled by this one, it may only be novella sized, but short or not there’s a lot to unpack. I really liked her first novel An Unkindness of Ghosts and I’m really looking forward to this one.
Blood of Empire by Brian McClellan
Release Date: Mid Dec
There are a lot of great books that have recently arrived or are about to, but I must confess to a certain desperation to read this one. Brian McClellan‘s first series, the Powder Mage trilogy is one of my favourite examples of fantasy moved away from the traditional faux medieval era. It has all the trappings of 18th century Europe, but is a separate fantasy world with everything that implies. Gods, magic, heroes, villains epic battles and the fate of the world, it’s all here. Blood of Empire is the third book in the second series, which returned to the world ten years later. It’s got a mix of new and old characters, is as good as the first series and left readers with an OMG moment at the end of book two. At this stage I can’t actually tell you what’s in it because I don’t know. But I think that it’s a safe bet that it’s going to be an epic conclusion to the series. If you’re a fantasy fan who doesn’t mind swapping a sword for a musket then this is for you, but start with the first series. If you’ve read the others like me, then all I can say is ‘get ready for the mad lancers, their armour returned. Now we’ll see why they’re the stuff of legend’.
Boy of Fire and Earth by Sami Shah
Release Date: Early Sept
This is an omnibus edition of Sami Shah‘s 2016 and 20017 young adult books Fire Boy and Earth Boy. An urban fantasy adventure set in Karachi, in modern-day Pakistan, it draws on the rich mythic tradition of the Islamic world. Our guide is Wahid, a boy struggling with the same issues any teen would have. Young love and crushes, worries about school and career, finding time to hang with his friends and generally making his way to adulthood in a dynamic city with its own problems. One issue he has that is not typical is that he can see the Djinn, magical creatures of flame and shadow that most people regard as no more than old stories. When his best friend is killed in a car accident and the Djinn steal his girlfriends’ soul, Wahid knows he has to do something. That ‘something’ will lead him to allies and enemies, fear and courage and will require a very unlikely alliance. This is a fun and fast paced urban fantasy adventure that also offers a peek at life in Pakistan. It is at what I would call the top end of young adult though, and there are a few bits that while fine for a 15-16 year old, might not be what parents see as appropriate for readers younger than that.
On the Beach by Nevil Shute
Release Date: Early Dec
While I don’t think I’ve got even close to a pessimistic disposition, I do seem to order quite a lot of dystopian and apocalyptic fiction. I guess this is one more for the list, but it’s a special one. Originally published in 1957, in the middle of cold war, at a time of constant fear of nuclear armageddon. Following the science of the period, after a brief nuclear bomb exchange in the northern hemisphere, those in Australia wait for the inevitable arrival of the deadly clouds of radiation working their way into the southern wind systems. It has mix of characters, military and civilian, who each deal with what is about to happen in different ways. The book also explores how society and government deal with the fact that when the radiation arrives, everyone will die. It’s introspective rather than suspenseful and there’s no last minute turnaround. This is about the end, and how people behave in the face of it. It’s a powerful book and, despite being more than sixty years old, still has something to say.
Darkness for Light by Emma Viskic
Release Date: Early Dec
This is the third book featuring deaf PI / insurance investigator Caleb Zelic. In the physical and emotional aftermath of the previous novels, Caleb has reconciled with his estranged wife, reconnected with the deaf community and is in therapy. The events of the past few years had nearly destroyed him and his journey of recovery has only just begun. Now is the worst possible time to open old wounds but his ex partner Frankie, who once double-crossed and betrayed him needs his help to find her kidnapped niece. But Caleb’s cases are never simple and despite agreeing to help, he knows that Frankie cannot be trusted. What follows is a journey into darkness that could get him killed or even worse, destroy everything he holds dear and leave him alive. A tense and powerful crime series by and Australian and set in Australia. Definitely read Resurrection Bay as well as And Fire Came Down first though.
Pirata by Simon
Release Date: Late Dec
I’m a big fan of Simon Scarrow‘s historical fiction, particularly the Eagles of the Empire series set in ancient Rome. That’s an 18 book series so far, so it’s quite an undertaking. This new book, Pirata is also set in ancient Rome, but is single novel. As the title suggests it’s about pirates, of the kind that stalked the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas around AD25. Young Telemachus is pleased to be able to escape a hard life on the streets of Piraeus by joining the crew of a merchant ship, but his happiness is short lived. Captured by pirates, he takes the offer to join them over death and ends up in a world even more dangerous than the slums of his home. But he’s smart and resourceful, and among the pirates a man like that can rise. With the Imperial fleet hunting them and murder or mutiny a regular occurrence a clever and ruthless man could become almost anything. Perhaps even a leader who could challenge Rome. Great historical fiction, previously published online as e-book novellas.
This Alien Shore by C S Friedman
Release Date: Mid Nov
This is a re-issue of a stand-alone science fiction book from 1998. It was very popular at the time, and still gets talked about by folks who’ve read it. It hovers between space opera and cyberpunk in my opinion, so I recommend it to fans of either. It’s set in a future where mutant star pilots have a monopoly of space travel, corporations run planets and almost everyone has a small computer embedded in their brains. This means that people are not only vulnerable to computer viruses, but to another technological problem, obsolescence. The surgery is complex, and once completed the device cannot be safely changed or updated. Jamisa is a young girl adrift in this world. After surviving the destruction of her home colony and harassed by computer or trauma induced internal voices she finds herself hunted by those who destroyed her home with no idea why. As she stumbles through dangerous situations and uneasy alliances, a computer virus wreaks havoc across the galaxy. It’s a crisis for all of humanity and Jamisa may hold the key. A classic science fiction adventure that is making a well deserved return to the shelves.
The Deathworld Omnibus by Harry Harrison
Release Date: Mid Nov
I don’t know if Harry Harrison coined the term ‘Deathworld’ as a term for a habitable, but dangerously inhospitable planet, but this series was certainly my first encounter with the term. This edition collects the three Deathworld books into a single volume, all featuring interstellar gambler and con-man Jason dinAlt. The first has him crash on a mineral rich world where the local flora and fauna are slowly wiping out the human inhabitants. The second sees him stranded on a planet where the colonists have regressed to barbarism and the third has him take settlers from the first book to a new world where the survival skills their brutal home has taught them will come in very handy. In each case, the story explores dangerous environments both man-made and natural, and strategies for overcoming them. They’ve also got plenty of action and some imaginatively nasty beasties. The first book was originally serialised in Astounding Science Fiction magazine in 1960, and the series is being reprinted as part of Gollancz’s SF Masterworks Golden Age series. This is classic, old school science fiction adventure, but because it’s Harrison there’s also stuff to think about.
Broken Stars by Ken Liu
Release Date: Late Dec
In the aftermath of the success of The Three Body trilogy by Cixin Liu, there was talk of a short story collection featuring other Chinese science fiction writers. The book was called Invisible Planets and Ken Liu was slated as the translator. It was a very good collection and quite popular. So popular in fact that Ken has done another one. This collection of fourteen stories and three essays features all of the contributors from Invisible Planets as well as new authors. The stories feature such ideas as a man confronted by future versions of himself trying to avert the destruction of their respective worlds to the mystery of a train that vanishes into space with all 1500 passengers as well as the title story, Broken Stars which offers a new twist on the stars being able to foretell the future. The essays discuss the history of Chinese science fiction as well as the recent attention and the effect that has had on writers and audiences both inside China and the rest of the world. This is not only a great science fiction read, but also a fascinating insight into what it means to different people.