of the Dark Crystal by J J Llewellyn
Release Date: Early Jan
Originally published in the early eighties to coincide with the film, this book collects concept and production drawings for Jim Henson‘s film The Dark Crystal. A hugely popular book at the time, it has often been out of print in the years since, though there was a brief re-issue with some new material in 2003. With the release of the new series it’s been reprinted. This edition has everything from the original, plus the 2003 extra content as well as small booklet of images drawn by Brian Froud that were part of the pitch package that Jim Henson presented to prospective investors. Return to the world of Thra with these amazing images of its inhabitants and places. Also included are some of Brian Froud‘s thoughts on the lore of the world that he and Henson were creating a behind-the-scenes look at the creative processes and decisions that became a film that has bewitched audiences for nearly forty years
Value by Ben Aaronovitch
Release Date: Late Feb
The Rivers of London books are an international best seller and store favourite, so this bit is more informational than promotional. False Value is the eighth book in the series and returns to Peter Grant and Beverly Brook, river goddess, as they face the prospect of becoming parents. As part of this push into a level of adulthood that Peter wasn’t expecting he finds himself taking a job with the London start-up of a tech genius. Of course you can’t just walk away from magical London, and Peter is as much a part of that world as ever, which is going to come in handy because there’s something decidedly not right about his new employer. Officially they’re working on new breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, but at the heart of the operation is something very old that dates back to Babbage and Lovelace. Something that mixes magic and technology and is very, very dangerous.
Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
Release Date: Late Jan
This is the first in a new science fiction series. It’s got a crime-mystery plot but is also about meeting and exploring an alien culture. Mahit Dzmare has always been obsessed with the vast Teixcalaanli Empire, and now she’s being sent to their capital as an ambassador. When she arrives she learns that her predecessor was murdered and not only does she have to take up his role, but also investigate his death. Armed with a computer generated version of the previous ambassador that she hears as a voice inside her head she must enter the byzantine web of Teixcalaanli politics and diplomacy to continue the task of her predecessor, to stop the Empire from swallowing her home. This one’s a slow burn and more intrigue and exposition than action, with the focus on the protagonist’s exploration of the Teixcalaanli culture. This is one for fans of C J Cherryh‘s Foreigner series or Ursula K Le Guin‘s Hainish Cycle.
Qualityland by Marc-Uwe Kling
Release Date: Mid Jan
This book manages to be a mix of disturbing and amusing that I would not have thought possible. It’s set in a dystopian future built on marketing principals and the ultimate expression of totally pervasive social media. Qualityland isn’t a part of a dark future, but a bright and shining one where everyone knows what to do, where to be, what to buy, how to look and think, and exactly what to expect from life. It’s the best of all possible worlds, and it’s the law that you say so! Against the backdrop of Qualityland we follow Peter Jobless (in Qualityland your parents job is your surname) as he strives to push against the system after noticing some serious issues with the robot population. Issues like a drone afraid of flying and a sex-bot with erectile dysfunction. Tasked with destroying these ‘defectives’ , he starts to wonder what else in Qualityland may not be performing the way it’s supposed to. This is a darkly funny satire on the modern world, it’s technology, culture and politics. It’s Orwell’s 1984, but run by algorithms, influencers and app designers.
Agency by William Gibson
Release Date: Early Feb
This is the sequel to Gibson‘s 2014 book The Peripheral and returns to a world of pocket mini realities, alternate history, social and cultural observation and time travel. In the 2130s quantum related technologies enabled the creation and exploration of ‘stubs’ pocket versions of the world in different times where other possibilities played out. In one of these, in a 2016 very different from ours and even closer to nuclear war, an ‘app tester’ named Verity finds herself assessing whether an AI is real, though it seems real enough to interfere in her life. Meanwhile, from 2136 observers watch this and others stubs and sometimes do more than watch. But that’s only a single thread in the weave of the book. It also features pop-culture, counter-culture and the iconography of consumerism as well as flashes of steampunk and cyberpunk mashed together like a bohemian party in a Michael Moorcock novel. It’s clever and complex and you have to pay attention while reading, but it’s absolutely worth the effort.
The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan Release Date: Late Feb
This is the third in the Cormac Reilly series, and since I’m going to try to sell a copy (and the first two if you don’t have them) to all my crime readers, I’m going to try and keep this as spoiler-free as possible. What you’re going to get in this one is trouble for Cormac, personal and professional and a different sort of trouble for Peter Fisher on the same two fronts. We’ll also be moving back a forth a bit in this one from major cities to the rural town of Roundstone. I can’t tell you why though, because that’s a pretty big OMG moment. What I can tell you is that corrupt cops, evil men and petty bureaucracy are still pushing back against Cormac, perhaps more than ever. This book is as gripping and intense as The Ruin and The Scholar and offers the bonus of two powerful story arcs, one for Cormac and one for Peter. There’s so much in this book, but I want folks to have the same experience I did and let Dervla tell the story. Also, since we’re hosting Dervla for an event at the end of March I’ll soon be able to let her tell you about it.
A Snake Lies Waiting by Jin Yong
Release Date: Late Jan
The third in the Legends of the Condor Heroes series. First published in Chinese some seventy years ago, the series has been described as the Chinese Lord of the Rings, which is apt for significance and popularity, but doesn’t convey the historical setting or cultural representation of the books. This is everything you’ve ever liked about Chinese historical dramas, kung-fu and Wu-xia movies, mostly because these books are part of the modern origins of the phenomenon. In this book, our hero Guo Jing and his diverse and many-skilled companions having thwarted Apothecary Huangs plans has won the right to marry his true love and Huang’s daughter, Lotus. But Huang still plots and schemes and seeks to trick Guo Jing and his friends into boarding an unseaworthy ship. Meanwhile the Jin Prince Wanyan Honglie searches for a set of lost ancient writings that the Jin could use to ensure victory over the Song Empire. With his life and the freedom of his Song countrymen at risk, the stakes and risks have never been higher. This is one of the world’s great epic fantasy series, available now for the first time in English. Highly recommended.
The Shadow Saint by Gareth Hanrahan
Release Date: Mid Jan
As a reader, I’m usually not thrilled to find that a series is going to be extended past its original length (though I’m often pleased as a bookseller). In the case of Gareth Hanrahan‘s Black Iron Legacy however, finding out that it’s going to be a three rather than two book series is very good news. I sold loads of book one, so I’m going to keep this spoiler-free (also, I haven’t started my copy yet). What I can say is that this one returns to the world in the aftermath of the first book, but spends more time with the minor characters like Eladora and that the Godswar that we’ve heard so much about is getting closer to Guerdon and its people. Also, the finale of the first book saw a whole new city arise interwoven with the Guerdon of old, and in this book we get to explore it. This is a tremendous series, full of dark magic that feels a bit like the cosmic horror of Lovecraft and others, as well as grim and vaguely steam-punky alchemy with a touch of body-horror. If you’re a fan of grimdark fantasy, then this (and book one The Gutter Prayer) should go on your must-read list.
Rider by John Brunner
Release Date: Mid Jan
The latest addition to Gollancz‘s SF Masterworks series was originally published in 1975, ten years before the term cyberpunk started bouncing around science fiction circles, but that’s what Shockwave Rider is. It’s set in a near future world where personal freedom has been handed over to technology and faceless bureaucracy and follows a fugitive computer genius named Nickie Haflinger. Nickie is an escapee from a program that seeks out genius and prodigy children to incorporate into a program that thoroughly indoctrinates them to the interests of the state so that their talents can be best exploited. It’s also the cover for even darker activities which sparks Nickie into seeking a way to bring about the downfall of the whole system. Despite being more than forty years old, there is a lot in this book that resonates with today, particularly the dual problem of information overload and technological dependence vs the desire to curtail the amount of information that governments and businesses have about the individual. This is an often overlooked progenitor to the cyberpunk movement and an absolute must-read if you’re a fan of the genre.