Year of the Orphan by Daniel Findlay
Release Date:  Late May
There’s a lot of post apocalyptic fiction on shelves at the moment and while I think we’re probably reaching saturation point, Year of the Orphan is definitely one worth reading before you turn to other genre pastures. In a desolate future where the Australia we recognise is a long forgotten memory, a small community of people eke out an existence in the desert. Most of them live in the walled town called The System. Orphan is one of the ‘scavs’ who ventures out to dig among the ruins. She has been in the System since she was a child, but as we see in flashbacks she knows something that no-one else does and is the only person who can stop the return of a horror from the old times. The writing style is unusual, in that the narrator is only partially literate and while the book is in the third person the grammar, punctuation and spelling are the way she would have written it. I found it added a sincerity to the story, though some readers may find it off-putting. This book reminds me a bit of Mad Max Fury Road, not just for the Australian-ness of the setting, but also the avoidance of problematic tropes. There are also hints of Z for Zachariah via Orphan’s philosophical introspection. Year of the Orphan is stylistically brave, with a protagonist you’ll care about almost instantly.
My Sister by Michelle Adams
Release Date:  Early May
One of the things I’m particularly enjoying about recent crime releases is the number of them that have moved away from the police procedural or the profiler-hunts-the-serial-killer structure. Normal and sometimes not so normal people caught up in dangerous and deadly situations make for a different sort of narrative which readers seem to be embracing. If you like that sort of thing too then My Sister by Michelle Adams is for you. Two sisters, Irini and Elle. Two very different lives. Irini was sent away to be raised by an Aunt while Elle stayed with their parents. Irini has never known why, and questions about her abandonment plague her and poison her relationships. Elle seems to be just as resentful about being kept, which Irini can’t really understand. When Elle contacts Irini to tell her that their mother is dead it begins a chain of events that draws Irini into an investigation of her own past and childhood. What she discovers casts doubt on everything she thought she knew about her family and herself. There is a terrible secret hidden in her childhood, the answer to the question of why she was abandoned. Irini thinks that she’s desperate to know, but the real desperation will happen after she finds out.
Brother’s Ruin by Emma Newman
Release Date:  Early May
This is one of the recent books that’s been tagged as gaslamp fantasy, which basically means it’s set in the 1800′s but with magic or supernatural or any other kind of thing that’s apparently not appropriate for a the steampunk label. This one is set in 1850 in a Great Britain where magic is real and those with aptitude, thanks to the Royal Society of the Esoteric Arts, can contribute to the greatness of the British Empire. Those with limited magical abilities fare rather worse and it’s widely known that having no magic at all is better that only having a little. This is the bind that Archie Gunn finds himself in. He’s not nearly as powerful as he has led the Royal Society to believe, and they deal with those who deceive them harshly. Luckily for him his sister Charlotte is everything that he is not and by masquerading as his servant she can maintain his charade, though at the cost of sacrificing her own prospects. It’s a dangerous line to walk, and made even worse when Charlotte uncovers a dangerous plot by the sinister Doctor Leadbetter. Saving the city without revealing her brother’s lie may be impossible, and even if she succeeds she will have abandoned any chance of a life of her own. What would you sacrifice for freedom? What would you give up for those you love?


Invisible Planets by Hannu Rajaniemi
Release Date:  Mid May
About seven years ago, Finnish author Hannu Rajaniemi introduced readers to post-human thief and conman Jean le Flambeur in his book The Quantum Thief. Two sequels set in the same high technology future followed, The Fractal Prince and The Causal Angel, and established Rajaniemi as an important new voice in science fiction. His new book gives readers the opportunity to see him work with another classic aspect of science fiction, the short story. Invisible Planets contains nineteen stories written between 2003 and 2015 and shows a stylistic depth that readers of his earlier books will appreciate. Fans will find plenty here that hits the same sweet spot as his novels, but he also demonstrates his ability to write in other styles as well. There are horror stories featuring ghost dogs and Satan’s typist, a couple that could only be called magical realism and of course a few more variations on the post-human and trans-human ideas that he’s already shown such an interest in. It’s a good collection and while I do enjoy his science fiction novels, I’m now intrigued to see what he could do with some of the ideas in it at novel length.
Rhyming Rings by David Gemmell
Release Date:  Mid May
If you’re an older fantasy fan or you’ve got a thing for older fantasy titles then you’ll know David Gemmell‘s work. His Drenai series is a fantasy classic and his Jon Shannow, Sipstrassi, Rigante and fantasy/history Lion of Macedon and Troy series’ all have big fandoms. After his death in 2006 a few incomplete projects were finished posthumously and that was it. Until now. Rhyming Rings is previously unpublished, but unlike his other books this one is a crime thriller with a hint of the supernatural. Before his career as a writer David Gemmell was, among other things, a journalist based in South London. Drawing on his own experiences he paints a powerful picture of poverty, violence and crime, while still ticking all the boxes for a great thriller. His protagonist, Jeremy Miller is an aspiring young journalist relegated to local pathos and psychic granny stories. The big story in London is the ambidextrous killer who is murdering women and leaving no evidence behind and Jeremy would give anything to be covering it. When his usual stories and the murders collide he’ll get his wish, after a fashion and discover that the things you take an interest in sometimes take an interest in you.
Intensity by Dean Koontz
Release Date:  Mid May
This is another one that’s actually a reprint of something old that I think is still worth telling folks about. Dean Koontz is a prolific writer and his body of work ranges from contemporary thrillers right through to over the top supernatural urban fantasy. As a result there are those who’ve read one or two of his books and, thinking they’re all the same, not bothered with the others. Intensity is certainly my favourite Dean Koontz book and would be in the top half of any list I put together of my favourite thrillers. It’s a straight-up thriller with no magic or supernatural nasties but there are definitely monsters. It’s also aptly named since intense is the word I would use to describe the story. Taking place over 48 hours it begins when a young woman witnesses the murder of her friend and friend’s family and gets caught up in a desperate attempt to save the next victim. The thing that makes the novel work is the young woman, Chyna. There is something so visceral about her fear and determination that you can expect cold shivers and raised hairs on the back of your neck. Expect to read this in one or two sittings, because once you start you’re going to find it very hard to stop.


Spandex and the City by Jenny T Colgan
Release Date:  Mid May
I was sent a copy of Jenny Colgan‘s first book Resistance is Futile almost by accident. It was tagged as a kind of Bridget Jones Diary meets the X-Files kind of thing. True to that, it was a bit science fiction and a bit light romance. It was also a really fun read that I recommended to a bunch of people. This new book looks to be the same sort of thing, but with the superhero genre as the focus. I mean, what’s a woman to do when the handsome guy she just met turns out to be the famous super hero ‘Ultimate Man’? Publicist Holly Phillips doesn’t know. There could be a spark there, and he can’t be doing hero stuff all the time, right? There’s a man behind the mask and no-one is an island after all. Also, after a very public ‘rescue incident’ she seems to have attracted the attention of some very nasty characters so he’s her only hope. It’s time to find out the answers to some big questions. Can a superhero have a normal relationship, or an abnormal one for that matter and how do the women in comics mange to get swept up and saved without flashing their knickers to everyone on the ground.
Poison City by Paul Crilley
Release Date:  Mid May
This came out in trade paperback last July and I made quite a fuss about it then. I’ve got more subscribers and more customers since then and it’s a new format so I think mentioning it again is justified. This was one of my favourite reads of last year, and if you’re a fan of urban fantasy then it’s likely to be one of yours too. This is a gritty book that adds a magical dimension to South Africa’s infamous criminal underworld. Gideon Tau works for the Delphic Division, the occult investigative unit of the South African Police Service. He’s got a bit of magic, a spirit guide in the form of an alcoholic dog and a beat that’s got supernatural nasties from Africa, Europe and India all jockeying for power and space and mostly unconcerned with collateral damage. Gideon’s also got an obsession, to find the man who killed his daughter. After years of failure the man’s face turns up on the CCTV associated with the death of a minor supernatural entity. Gideon is on the case but it’s not the case his colleagues think. He’ll do anything to bring his daughter’s killer to justice and he’s wading into a world of dark magic and inhuman monsters where the cost of his revenge could turn him into something just as bad.
When We Have Wings by Claire Corbett
Release Date:  Early May
This is a book that I think is science fiction, but I suspect that it’s unlikely to be called that by other reviewers. Nevertheless this is a book that explores one of the concepts being wrestled with in trans-humanism. As our technology and biology merge, what things might be possible? We’re close to being able to ‘print’ new organs and bones and use tailored viruses to cure various diseases. How long before we can do other things, perhaps make radical changes to ourselves? This is possible in the world of When We Have Wings. Drugs, gene manipulation and radical surgery now allow one of humanity’s most primal aspirations to be realised, true flight. The process is so expensive that only the rich have access to it. The rich and maybe those who are willing to sacrifice everything. Would being able to fly just be a convenience or a pleasurable pastime? Or would it be something more? Would becoming a flying thing instead of a walking thing change how somebody thinks and feels. How much is our thought shaped by our earthbound nature? You won’t know until you fly, and by then you may have already sacrificed everything you loved on the ground.


The Fireman by Joe Hill
Release Date:  Mid May
Joe Hill is one of the major voices in contemporary horror, and while his new book has plenty that is disturbing and frightening, it’s enough of departure from his usual style that I don’t really consider it horror. What Hill has done with this book is to take a well worn idea, and then do his own version with a significant twist. At its simplest this is a book about a plague that spreads throughout the world, with the consequences we have seen so many times before. It’s the nature of the plague, and the characters reaction to it that make this book so interesting. It begins with gold flecks just under the skin that slowly grow and form vein-like patterns. From here the prognosis is the same for everyone. Eventually, some sooner than others, anyone marked with the golden veins will spontaneously combust, bursting into always lethal flames. There is no cure, vaccine or treatment. No safe place or way to prevent it. Anyone with the flecks is infected, and everyone who is infected burns. It’s one of the most instinctive fears brought to life and it colours the rest the book. As the small group of survivors that are the core of the story make their way across a devastated America, the usual end of the world tropes appear, and Hill is good at writing all of them, but it’s the primal nightmare-like nature of the disease that pushes the characters into an even darker space than we usually see in this sort of fiction. It’s a brave thing, to write another apocalyptic novel in a market saturated with them, but I think this earns its spot on the shelves and if you’re already a fan of this sort of fiction it’s well worth putting on your to-read list.
Stranger of Tempest by Tom Lloyd
Release Date: Late May
This is the new book from Tom Lloyd who, despite having written ten novels in the last ten years, is still unknown to many fantasy readers. If that includes you, don’t worry because it’s the start of a new series and a pretty good introduction to his work. There is a familiar feel to it, but there’s plenty of cool ideas and elements that separate it from the pack. The story begins with an ex-soldier who finds himself somewhat unwittingly joining a mercenary unit, only to discover that they are caught up in something much more dangerous than they realise and that leaving is no longer an option. The mercenary unit is not a new trope, but I really like this one and it’s done with a bit of a twist. It’s structured based on a deck of playing cards, with each squad as a suit and the members as the numbered or face cards. The deck is not one we would recognise, but from the book you get the impression that it’s a bit like a tarot deck, in that there is a symbolic quality to it. This is transferred to the characters as each of them also seems to represent the ideas embodied by the card. There is plenty of magic in the book and even guns of a sort, but they’re still more magic than technology. This is definitely one of the better new fantasy titles and if you’re a fan of Anthony Ryan, Brian Staveley or Miles Cameron you should add this to your ‘to read list’.
le guin
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin  
Release Date:  Mid May
Ok, so obviously this book is not new. Ursula K Le Guin‘s 1969 book The Left Hand of Darkness is a science fiction classic. This is a new edition offered as part of Gollancz’s SF Masterworks, and as such will probably be appearing in stores and on shelves that it might not have otherwise. This was also one of the books that the store book club read back in 2013 and as I recall it was a bit tricky getting enough copies. From this month prospective readers won’t have that problem, and if you’re a fan of early or ground breaking science fiction you should definitely take advantage of the situation. The book is part of the loose Hainish Cycle which deals with a galactic level human diaspora and how the different offshoots of humanity develop and change. In this case an observer from the Ekumen, a confederation of human variant cultures and planets, is visiting the planet Gethen to try to persuade the inhabitants to join. Long isolated, the Gethen have changed in an unique way, They are an entirely androgynous population, with individuals able to manifest male or female biological characteristics as required though they spend most of their time in a state that could be considered neither. What this means for their society and how an ambassador from a binary gendered humanity struggles to reconcile this to his own ideas of identity is the core of the book. A speculation on the nature of gender and sexuality set against a backdrop of politics and intrigue.


Revenger by Alastair Reynolds
Release Date:  Mid May
I won’t write too much about this one since I made a pretty big fuss about it when it arrived last year in the large format. Suffice to say that it’s a swashbuckling space adventure that is as piratey as it is sciencey. It’s a much lighter book than we’ve previously seen from Reynolds, and if you’ve thought his other stuff was a bit complex for your tastes you’ll still probably enjoy this one. A stand-alone novel rather than a series it was probably one of my favourite reads of last year. Now’s the chance for the folks who prefer to wait for the small paperback to find out what the fuss was about. If you’d like to read the review I wrote when the large format came out, it’s on the website here.  
The Wandering Earth by Cixin Liu
Release Date:  Early May
It seemed to me that in his award winning Three Body Problem Trilogy Cixin Liu managed to try his hand at science fiction styles from the classical era as well as the modern. In this new book he demonstrates his skill at another science fiction standard, the short story. This collection features a novella and several Chinese Galaxy Award-winners. The title comes from a story of the same name where in order for humanity to survive the death of its sun the whole planet is turned into a kind of ship and sets off into a bleak universe to search for a new sun to orbit. True to that tone this is a collection centred around planet Earth. Its past and present and a variety of possible futures at the farthest reaches of our understanding. 
Beauty and the Beast Collection by Maria Tatar 
Release Date:  Early May
Since folk lore and mythology have become quite popular with a lot of my regulars in recent years, I make sure to keep an eye out for that sort of thing and I think this one is definitely going to be of interest. There is quite a lot being written in the media about the new live action Beauty and the Beast movie and what is and is not appropriate to do with the story. The truth is that like any classic folk tale, there are innumerable variations within and across cultures so the ‘authoritative’ version is really just the version you heard as a child. In this new book from Penguin you will find a selection of Beasts and Beauties in stories drawn from traditions all over the world. Star-crossed, tragic, or heroic these stories of boundary crossing or impossible love have been curated by famous folk lore scholar Maria Tatar and feature tales from ancient Greece, Europe, Asia, India and Africa. While there is a unifying theme to all the stories, what it means to be a beast or a beauty is not universal and the differences across cultures make for fascinating reading.