The Very Best of the Best by Gardner Dozois
Release Date: Early Mar
The passing of Gardner Dozois in May of last year marked the end of an era. Though he wrote some science fiction of his own in the seventies, it is for his work as an anthologist that he will be remembered. For thirty-five years he compiled an annual anthology that put together in a single volume what he thought were the best short science fiction stories of the year. Year after year readers agreed with him and his collections became one of the standards by which science fiction anthologies were judged. The 2018 release was the thirty fifth years best collection, but was not his last project. This month we’re getting another new anthology that is a retrospective that draws on the last thirty-five years and offers 38 stories he regards as the best over that time. With contributors like Alastair Reynolds, Charles Stross, Greg Egan, Kage Baker, Elizabeth Bear, Pat Cadigan and James A S Corey this is a must for fans of the short form.
Relic by Alan Dean Foster
Release Date: Late Mar
I’ve been reading Alan Dean Foster books since I was a kid, and with 45 years and over a hundred books to his name he is still writing. His latest release is set long after humanity has mastered interstellar travel and colonised the galaxy. Encountering no other life, humanity did what it always does and found divisions within itself to fight about. Eventually technology and our own self destructive nature converged in the form of an engineered super virus that has wiped out all of humanity, save one man saved by the arrival and intervention of an alien race. As the last human Ruslan is a scientific oddity, of interest to the alien Myssari but personally given over to despair. He is ready to die and have humanity vanish forever but the Myssari want to use his DNA to restore the human race. To secure his cooperation the Myssari offer to do something thought near impossible. Locate the ancient, lost home-world of humanity, Earth. A stand alone book about hope and despair from one of the great modern science fiction writers.
Hunter by Jack Heath
Release Date: Early Mar
This is the sequel to last year’s crime / thriller, Hangman. Timothy Blake is again the protagonist though still a very sordid one. Currently he’s helping a local crime lord dispose of bodies, but it’s not long till his two worlds collide when he’s brought in to consult on a missing person that he just happens to have in his freezer. He’s not responsible for the man’s death, but there’s no way anyone would believe that and as the bodies mount, so does the pressure on Blake to find the killer before he finds himself on the top on the suspects list. One step behind the killer and one in front of the police, his search will take him from a sex-doll factory to a remote cabin in the woods with the constant risk that the FBI may find out more about him than he can afford about his own dark past. If you’re a fan of complex and morally ambiguous characters and good bad-guys like Dexter and Hannibal then this is one for you.
The Devil Aspect by Craig Russell
Release Date: Mid Mar
My first introduction to Scottish crime writer Craig Russell‘s work was his Lennox series set in 1950s’ Glasgow. It was a gritty, noir style private detective story and I loved it. With his new book he’s gone for a fusion of crime and horror, and I think I like this one even more. It’s 1935, and as Europe staggers inevitably to war a young psychiatrist begins work in a remote asylum in Czechoslovakia. Dr Viktor Kosarek will be working with the most and dangerous inmates, called collectively ‘The Devil’s Six’. Six deeply disturbed psychopaths, each with their own distinctive murderous pathology and nicknames like The Woodcutter, The Glass Collector and The Demon. Victor is tasked with using new psychiatric techniques to unlock their secrets, both for science and the authorities. At the same time, news comes from Prague of a brutal killer who stalks the city. Known as ‘Leather Apron’ his crimes are extreme, even compared to the Devils Six, and he continues to elude police. There seems to Victor’s mind to be some kind of connection between Leather Apron and the asylum inmates. Is it just that they are the same, or something more? In Prague, police investigator Lukas Smolak is asking himself the same question as well as why Leather Apron has chosen to copy the style of the most famous killer in history, Jack the Ripper. Science, madness and superstition collide in a thriller that is for horror and crime readers alike.
Beautiful Death by Fiona McIntosh
Release Date: Early Mar
This the second of the DCI Jack Hawksworth crime novels originally released in 2009. Last month I mentioned the re-issue of the first book Bye Bye Baby, and I’m equally pleased to have a Beautiful Death re-issue on the way too. There is a lot of crime on the market at the moment, and from all sorts of perspectives, but these two still stand out for me despite being ten years old. Oddly, it’s for the same reason that some recent books have also caught my eye. It’s because of the things that these books don’t do that I really enjoy them. McIntosh‘s police don’t fight amongst themselves or deliberately sabotage cases. They don’t charge in without thinking and when something happens in the book that the reader thinks sounds a strange or suspicious it’s generally only a page or two before one of the characters makes the same observation. It’s still a ‘hunt the serial killer’ thriller with everything folks like about that, you just won’t find yourself shouting at the characters to wait for backup or check upstairs. Because it’s a serial killer case with side adventures into organ farms and other medical strangeness, some parts are a bit gruesome though not excessive and nowhere near the body-horror of some other contemporary crime. It reads fine on its own, but I’d still recommend reading Bye Bye Baby first.
Wicked and the Damnedby Josh Reynolds
Release Date: Late Mar
I generally don’t carry a lot of game tie-in books, not because I have a particular issue with them, but just because there are so many other books that I want to have in the store and the gaming series tend to run to a lot of volumes. The irony that one that I have recently added to my ordering also has one of the largest backlists is not lost on me. Nevertheless, I’ve been eyeing these off for a while and thought now as the time to start experimenting. The cover of this one doesn’t really give it away, but I’m talking about Games Workshop‘s Black Library. Over the next few months you’ll see more books from their Warhammer 40k range and others making their way to our shelves. That said, The Wicked and the Damned is not a typical Black Library book. It is set in the Warhammer 40k dark science fiction universe, but it’s really a collection of three horror stories. On a shrouded world covered in cemeteries three strangers find themselves stuck together by happenstance. Each has a strange tale of how they came to be here and their own brush with death. With the sounds of funerals in the distance and the near silent shuffling of the cemetery servitors as backdrop, one by one they speak and listen. In the dark void of space all things may be possible, but not all stories may be true. Listen and decide for yourself. A trio of linked horror novellas that will particularly appeal to Black Library fans, but will also be fun for someone who wants to read something creepy from a uniquely grim science fiction setting.