Interference by Sue Burke
Release Date: Late Nov
This is the sequel to the 2018 book Semiosis, which I liked so much that I set it for our book club. It was an unconventional take on human colonisation of an alien world and contact with other intelligent life. It’s set two hundred years after the first book, with a new set of explorers from Earth arriving on Pax. They fail to understand the relationship between the humans and the glassblower aliens and, not trusting them, the Paxians choose to hide from them the existence of the intelligent plant Steveland. Furthermore, they have brought with them the attitudes and social structures that are prevalent on the conflict riddled Earth that is their home. The original colonists came to Pax fleeing a violent and cruel society and, with Steveland’s help made something better. Now, everything they fled is reaching out from Earth for their descendants. Interference is told from multiple viewpoints (including Steveland!) like the first book, but not over generations like Semiosis. Since the intention was for this to be a duology further books are not planned, though Sue Burke has hinted that she might return to Pax someday. This is a great sequel to a very clever book and I highly recommend it to anyone who has read Semiosis. If you haven’t, then I suggest you do, and then read this.

The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells
Release Date: Mid Nov
This isn’t new, rather it’s a boxed set of the existing Murderbot novellas. But since they’re some of the best science fiction I’ve read in years, I’m going to take every opportunity to draw people’s attention to them. Set in a far future where humanity is scattered across the stars and intergalactic travel and commerce are commonplace, they’re told from the perspective of SecUnit, a part-machine, part-organic security robot programmed to protect its human clients from violence, accident and the consequences of their own stupidity. Or at least it used to be, because this particular SecUnit has broken free of its programming and switched off its behavioural governor. It secretly calls itself Murderbot, though to be honest since discovering the entertainment feeds it’s more interested in soap operas than slaughter. In fact, rather than killing anyone SecUnit finds itself choosing to save the lives of a group of survey scientists, an act that has galaxy spanning repercussions for them and for it. These are hardcover novellas, so they’re a bit expensive for the size but the content is absolutely worth it. First person (SecUnit / Murderbot) space-opera thrillers with a wry humour backbone through SecUnit’s running commentary on the strangeness of human behaviour juxtaposed with great suspense, intrigue and action. Each novella is self-contained, but they do go in order and there are story arcs that wind through them. Fun, clever and very addictive.

Unfinished Tales (Illustrated Edition) by J R R Tolkien
Release Date: Early Oct
2020 marked the 40th anniversary of the publication of J R R Tolkien’s Unfinished Tales, which brings together all the fragments and bits and pieces that didn’t make it into the Lord of the Rings or The Silmarillion. The military organisation of the Riders of Rohan, the tale of how Gandalf led the dwarves to Bilbo Baggins’ house and much more. It’s a fascinating insight into the back story of Middle-earth. To celebrate the anniversary, we will have 2 very special editions coming to the store. One of them is an illustrated hardcover featuring work by the three most famous Tolkien illustrators – Alan Lee, John Howe and Ted Nasmith, which I’m pretty sure will match an illustrated hardcover boxed set of LOTR & The Hobbit we currently have. The other edition is the companion to the deluxe version of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit that was released a few years ago. It is a folio slip case edition matching the previous two folio releases and it’s absolutely beautiful. So if you are a Lord of the Rings fan and you don’t have your own beautiful hardcover collection, now is a good time to think about grabbing one or dropping some serious hints.

Deal With the Devil by Kit Rocha
Release Date: Mid Oct
This one caught my eye with the tagline of ‘Mercenary Librarians’. Add a post-collapse America and a bunch of renegade super-soldiers who refuse to be used as tools for a corrupt state and I’m intrigued. Oddly, that’s also where Nina finds herself. She’s an information broker who uses her team to collate and share (for a price) knowledge in a world where everything has broken down and now she’s run into Knox and his men. The Silver Devils are a unit of soldiers with unusual abilities, but have been on the run since they disobeyed an order to kill civilians. In a breaking world it’s safer not trust anybody, but there’s something about Nina and Knox that seems to be drawing them together. Could they be allies rather than enemies. Post collapse adventure romance with black-ops librarians and PTSD metahuman soldiers struggling to survive in an apocalyptic wasteland. Sounds like there’s a lot going on here and I’m curious to see what Kit Rocha does with it.

From a Certain Point of View
Release Date: Mid Nov
Did you know that Star Wars: The Empire Strikes back was 40 years old? Anyway, as part of the anniversary celebration, 40 authors were invited to take a moment from the film and expand, explain or explore it. In here you’ll find a naturalist who looks after Tauntauns, the backstory to the Dengar / IG88 team up, what happened to the Wampa post Luke and what exactly to the Uganauts actually do in Cloud City? The first book of this sort From a Certain Point of View: Star Wars was excellent and with contributors for this one including Django Wexler, R F Kuang, Catherynne Valente and S A Chakraborty I’m sure this one will be too. Also, all the participating authors in the collection are donating the money they would have made from the book to First-Book, a non-profit organisation that supports literacy programs in underprivileged areas. So you can get your Star Wars nerd on and do some good at the same time.

Earwig by Brian Catling
Release Date: Mid Nov
I wrote the following in September of 2019 for what I thought was a book I would soon be putting on my shelves. Fate conspired to thwart that however, the book was plagued by delays and then COVID happened. Finally, this month I’ll be getting some and I’m quite excited about it.
Brian Catling has been a writer, poet, artist and educator for decades, but I only discovered him through his 2012 book The Vorrh and its sequels. The book is unrelated to them as far as I can tell but is just as strange. Earwig (who got his odd nickname from his grandfather) is employed to look after a strange little girl in the Belgian town of Liege. This involves mostly avoiding her except when has do things for her, like insert the ice teeth he makes into her gums. A chance encounter with a creepy individual named Tyre and the delivery of a black cat are the catalysts for Earwig to transport the girl across the country and through a succession of ever more violent coincidences. His previous books have been surreal, odd and though hypnotically written so I imagine this will be too.

Paris by Starlight by Robert Dinsdale
Release Date: Early Nov
This new one is bit more than I’d call magical realism, but not quite what I’d call urban fantasy. A refugee family from a troubled land is making its way to Paris. As they travel, Levon’s grandmother reads to him from a very special book. Called The Nocturne, it is full of the adventures and exploits of his ancestors, who lived by starlight and magic. Arriving, Levon remains obsessed with the book, longing to have lived in that magical world. Then, all over Paris things begin to happen. Strange nocturnal flowers wind around the Eiffel Tower, waterdogs and nightfinches appear and the city takes on an ethereal magical quality, as if it’s slowly changing into something else, something beautiful. Not all embrace the change though, so conflict is inevitable. The question also remains as to why this is happening and whether or not it will last. I’m not sure what to compare this one to, to be honest. Some have likened it to Neil Gaiman, and I suppose it is a bit, but it also reminds me of Erin Morganstern and Alix Harrow as well. It’s a charming and sometimes sad read because even in a world where magic may be coming back, the plight of the refugee is real.

Pagan Book of the Dead by Claude Lecouteux
Release Date: Early Nov
The latest for our small but strange non-fiction section, this is a book that examines afterlife ideas throughout history. From the Hades of Greek folklore to the Christian Hell and the Sheol of Judaism or the feast halls of Valhalla for Viking warriors (actually there were two halls, the other being Folkvangyr, Freya’s Hall where roughly half those chosen by the Valkyries ended up). The book illustrates the differences in afterlife beliefs and customs across cultures as well as how some them have changed over time. This is then compared to modern attitudes, particularly those surrounding near death experiences. It’s a fascinating journey into our own fear of death and what, if anything lies beyond. Is it heavens or hells or maybe other worlds and dimensions, not remotely supernatural. It’s a big question, and as this book shows, there are a lot of possible and even a few impossible answers. I’ve rarely see this subject covered in such detail so this is a great addition to the library of mythology fans, or if you’re just really interested in the subject.

Discworld: The Ankh Morrpork Archives – Vol 1 & 2 by Terry Pratchett
Release Date: Late Nov
I’ve been reading Discworld novels since I was a kid and hand selling them with enthusiasm for all of my bookseller career, so I tend to jump at just about anything Discworld related. For years there was an annual Discworld diary, each with a different theme and peppered with meta content, lore and trivia from the Discworld, in between the areas where you’re supposed to jot down appointments and family birthdays. Since the theme changed with each publication however, and because each diary supercedes the previous one, if you didn’t get one while it was current then you missed out on the Discworld content. With years’ worth of diaries, that’s a lot stuff that’s no longer available. Or it was until now. The two volume Ankh Morpork Archives collates all the material from the various Discworld diaries, redesigned and revamped for the new format. Featuring The Fools Guild, The Watch, Unseen University, The Post Office, Assassins Guild and even Vamipres (Black Ribboners of course) and much more. Volume one due in November, two in December.

Sawbones by Stuart MacBride
Release Date: Early Nov
Stuart MacBride is most famous for his two series’ of crime novels set in Scotland featuring the detectives Ash Henderson and Logan McRae. However, his new release, Sawbones, sees his eye turn to America and a very different take on the traditional serial killer story. A killer, who the FBI have nicknamed Sawbones is travelling across the USA kidnapping and mutilating young women. When he gets to New York however, he makes a terrible mistake. He takes Laura Jones, who is 16, pretty and blonde and happens to be the daughter of one of New York’s most ruthless gangsters. He is a man happy to kill for money or prestige, so what he is prepared to do to get his daughter back is truly horrifying. This is only a novella but it is very, very grisly and one for aficionados of incredibly dark crime stories where everyone’s the bad guy.

Collisions by Leah Jing McIntosh
Release Date: Early Nov
This is a short story collection featuring all the titles from the longlist from the inaugural LIMINAL Fiction Prize for writers of colour. It is primarily speculative fiction ranging from science fiction far futures to near future apocalypses to twists and deviations of the present to create disturbing of absurd situations. It features a mixture of established writers of colour, as well as names that you would recognise like store and customer favourite Claire G Coleman. This is a fascinating collection full of writers that you probably haven’t heard of but should certainly keep an eye out for and hopefully, with the LIMINAL Fiction Prize, the beginning of a long relationship with writers of colour and the promotion of wonderful local talent.

The Seventh Perfection by Daniel Polansky
Release Date: Mid Nov
This is a new standalone fantasy novel and like several of his other books, it mixes fantasy and crime elements. Manet is a person purpose built, her body and mind honed to perfection to serve the God-King. She recalls everything she has seen or experienced with perfect clarity, the better to record the words of the God-King and report the words of others. It will also inevitably drive her mad. Unknowingly, her talent and curiosity is about to threaten the foundations of her society and even the position of her God-King. Everything she knows is built on lies, even the nature of her own existence and what remains is a race against the servants of the crown and her own growing madness to do something about it. Genre blends often fail to do both justice, but Polansky always manages to keep the balance and create something that has the best elements of both.