An Easy Death by Charlaine Harris
Release Date: Early Oct
Charlaine Harris is probably best known for her Sookie Stackhouse series of urban fantasy books that were the basis for the HBO series True Blood. She’s also written some other crime/thriller and supernatural titles which is kind what this new book is, but with some new elements I don’t think I’ve seen from her before. It’s set in an alternate America, in a version of the Wild West era where magic is real and a lady gunslinger can make a name for herself if she’s fast enough and tough enough. Lisbeth ‘Gunnie’ Rose is both and so finds herself offered a job by two Russian wizards. All she has to do is escort them across the nation-state of Texoma, and help them find a descendant of the infamous Grigori Rasputin. When they find said long lost scion, all they need to do is convince them to hand over some of their blood. It sounds like there could be a few problems with that plan, but luckily Gunnie doesn’t have to worry about them just yet. That’s because there are people more than happy to kill her and the wizards long before they get anywhere near their target. Magic, cowboys, six-guns, chases and shootouts in a fractured version of America than never was.
The Books of Earthsea Complete Illustrated Edition by Ursula Le Guin
Release Date: Late Oct
Though she never got to see this released, it was already being worked on before she passed away earlier this year and Ursula had commented on how happy she was to give an artist like Charles Vess a free hand to express his own vision of Earthsea. As it happens, Vess was much more interested in a collaborative process, and the two corresponded extensively as he prepared the artwork for this book. And this book is the must-have for any Le Guin fan. Inside is the original 1970s’ Earthsea Trilogy, the 1990 book Tehanu, the 2001 books Tales from Earthsea and The Other Wind as well as four related short stories (some previously unpublished) and the transcript of a lecture given at Oxford University about reconciling the classic hero archetype in her fantasy stories. Beginning with the new introduction she wrote specially for the edition readers have over a thousand pages to explore or rediscover the wonder that is Earthsea. Then there are the fifty plus illustrations and colour panels that bring their shared vision of what the world of Earthsea looks like to life. I’ve wanted a hardcover Earthsea omnibus edition personally and professionally for years, but this is so much more than I ever expected. In fact, I’m so excited about this that I’m probably going to break my usual rule, and this time the first one out of the box is for me.
A Hero Born by Jin Yong
Release Date: Late Oct
I’ll start this with a confession. I’m a massive fan of the wire-work, kung-fu action movies known as wuxia. It’s basically Chinese martial arts fantasy and in China it’s a genre of books as well as movies. A Hero Born is a new translation of the first volume of the Legends of the Condor Heroes, which is a series of twelve books broken into three quartets. Comparing a fantasy novel to The Lord of the Rings is so commonplace that it’s become almost meaningless, but in this case it’s the only thing you could compare it to. Jin Yong is one of China’s bestselling authors with over 100 million sales worldwide and has been adapted dozens of times into every possible medium. The story begins with Guo Jing, a young man who has grown up far from his homeland. His father was killed when the Jurchin Jin invaded the Song Empire and his mother was forced to flee and deliver him in exile. But his destiny is to one day return. With his companions, talented martial artists known as The Seven Heroes of the South he must face an enemy with power, privilege, and a near perfect mastery of martial arts if he expects to reclaim his homeland. The Guo who sets out is certainly not sufficient to this task, but the road is long and who can say what manner of man he may be when he arrives. Evil empires, powerful villains, revenge, martial arts, brave companions facing impossible odds and a young man who must find the hero inside himself. This is classic adventure fantasy, but not as you know it.
The City Of Brass by R A Chakraborty
Release Date: Late Sept
This one actually arrived late last month, and while it was a feature cover in the last newsletter I didn’t say anything about the paperback release and I’m feeling that perhaps I should have given it a bit more attention. The reasons will probably become apparent shortly. The City of Brass is an urban fantasy novel set in 18th century Cairo, which is already about as exotic as you can get even before adding a layer of Middle-Eastern mythology. Ottomans and European traders, smugglers and thieves, the beautiful, the exotic and the mysterious can all be found in this magical city. Speaking of magic, best not to forget the Djinn and Afrit and other spirits and creatures, whose stories are woven into the very fabric of every alley and sook. But Nahiri has forgotten, and while she ekes out a life in the poorest parts of town she has come to think of the small magics that happen around her as ‘tricks’ and doesn’t really dwell on them. She longs one day to leave the city and perhaps by wishing, or her own little bit of magic she attracts the attention of those who can fulfil her wish. But as the legends teach, wishing can be a dangerous business since those who grant them are always looking for a way to turn the wishers words against them. This is a fun read that pulls together the wonder of 18th century Cairo and regional mythology. If you like urban fantasy or modern takes on folk lore and you’re looking for something a bit different this is definitely for you. There’s also a sequel due early in 2019.
The Hopkins Manuscript by R C Sheriff
Release Date: Early Oct
Maybe it’s coincidence, or something in the way people have been thinking lately, but there have been quite a few re-issue editions of classic dystopian and apocalyptic fiction. This month we add another to the list in the form of The Hopkins Manuscript by R C Sheriff. Written in 1939, the book is presented as the recorded observations of a retired teacher named Edgar Hopkins, of the year preceding an apocalyptic disaster in the form of the Moon moving close to the Earth. Though the disaster is a natural one rather than an act of war, the timing of the book certainly reflects the anxieties of people who were living in a tension filled Europe. One of the interesting things is that the book is about the events leading up to the cataclysm and in this regard is somewhat similar to Nevil Shute‘s 1957 book On the Beach. Day by day Hopkins records the changes going on around him as people try to come to grips with what is going to happen. Over time he finds himself more and more isolated as the world starts to change in ways he can’t cope with. This is not your traditional apocalyptic story, but rather a book about people in crisis and written at a time when there were many who believed that the end of everything they cared about could well happen in their lifetimes. If you’re a fan of classic apocalyptic fiction, or a fan of Wells or Wyndham then this is one you’ll enjoy.
Destroy All Monsters by Jeff Jackson
Release Date: Mid Oct
This is odd on multiple levels, which is obviously why I had to have some. It’s a horror / thriller about a strange phenomenon where audience members start rushing on stage to murder musicians in the middle of performances. There seem to be no connections between the bands, so are later killings just copycats or is there something more subtle and disturbing going on? The book offers two responses in the form of two narratives, an ‘A’ and ‘B’ side each told from a different perspective and even changing the details a little, almost like an alternate version of the story rather than a companion or sequel. There are thriller and supernatural elements here, as well as a commentary on music and the creative process in world where ubiquity and short attention spans are the rule. That would be enough, but there’s more. The book also engages with the United States’ attitude to violence, especially mass shootings in public places. In keeping with the music inspired ideas and structure the book can be read from either end since it’s basically two books back to back. It also has no set order, so I’m wondering if the order you read them in has an effect on the reading experience. I really like off-beat ideas for these for books so I’m quite looking forward to reading a copy.