cover gunsNovember’s various duties have been put behind me – thanks to everyone who turned up at the WS events. Also a huge thank you to the organisers of Novacon, where I was treated royally. It’s a great convention (longest running local con I think) and there was some excellent programming, including a fascinating lecture on exoplanets that came at a useful point in the current WIP.

Second up: the audiobook for Guns of the Dawn is now available via Amazon. This is read by the incomparable Emma Newman (also one of the book’s greatest cheerleaders), and I’m literally listening to her reading of it as I type. She’s done a really good job, and if audiobooks are your thing then this is definitely one to grab.

Finally, I have read a remarkable number of books in the last few weeks, really far more than I would usually manage, and most of them excellent reads. I should say a word about me and book recommendations and impartiality. I don’t really review, per se. I am not a great critical assessor of books. All I can do is enthuse about books I’ve enjoyed and which I think have merit. I know a lot of the authors whose books I mention, because I tend to grab books by people I know, or else get offered copies of them. I do not, I hope, simply cheer on a book just because I know the author, but my sample is definitely skewed. Anyway, though, on with the recs:

covers emberFirstly, I have had the benefit of a couple of truly top notch space operas recently. Embers of War is by Gareth Powell of Ack-Ack Macaque fame, telling the story of a mid-far future universe where humanity jostles elbows with alien civilisations in an universe littered with curios and ruins of elder cultures. The story takes place after a war that ended in a genocidal atrocity, and follows the perpetrator – not (only) the human who gave the order, but the AI ship that enacted it, which has since become a rescue vessel, trying to escape the knowledge of what it did. It’s a splendid story, and the emphasis on space rescue rather than space war is a particularly nice touch. Embers is out early next year. cover bastardMeanwhile, Gavin Smith’s The Bastard Legion is out now and set in a universe that is… less well intentioned, let’s say. The lead here has stolen a prison barge complete with prisoners, slaved them with explosive collars and is using them as her private mercenary army. So far, so merciless, except there’s a whole hell of a lot going on with the protagonist and her prisoners than initially meets the eye. The characters are well drawn, the action fluid, fast, and excellently written. Both books are cracking reads, and if spaceship level SF is your thing then you should probably snap up both.

cover city liesAnother early proof I’ve had a look at is City of Lies, a debut novel (I think) from Sam Hawke coming out in mid-2018. This is a political fantasy full of intrigue and poison, not always my cup of tea, but in this case I was absolutely engrossed. The chapter headings start with descriptions of toxins and their effects, but rather than an assassin, our first lead is a poison proofer, dedicated to protect his close friend and noble superior from gustatory murder. Unusually for a book concerned with nobles and the machinations of the rich, there’s a whole hell of a lot of examining power structures and injustice, and the society presented is most certainly not the whitewashed and sanitised pseudo-history that fantasy cities can devolve into. I ate this one up in a couple of days despite a respectable page count. All good stuff.

cover pendulumUnder the Pendulum Sun by Jeanette Ng comes next, another debut by an author I used to Larp with (in fact there seem to have been a disproportionate number of authors-in-waiting in that company). I was delighted to hear she had signed on with Angry Robot, and her first novel is elegantly written and of an intriguing subject matter: it is the story of a Victorian missionary’s sister, joining her brother as he strives to convert the natives of… Arcadia, as in fairyland. And these are the bad old fairies, the cruel, the random, the baffling, and the siblings Helstone are beset on all sides by lies, and sometimes by even worse truths. It’s a story of cruelty, theology and some truly great characters (although I couldn’t not see Benjamin the gnome as Hoggle from Labyrinth.)

cover adaNow some more SF, and a couple of books you might not come across under normal circumstances, but which you should definitely look out. I owe fellow author Allen Stroud a big debt for introducing me to EM Faulds’ Ada King, which is currently self-published, but available in print through Amazon. This is a mid-near future of monolithic repressive states that maintain no civilian communications, each one indoctrinating its citizens with its own version of global truth. Ada King is an unorthodox genius, from her childhood haunted by companions that only she can see, but which serve as visual markers for her intuition and understanding. Fleeing the oppression of her birth-state she ends up on a floating free city despised by all the states, and on the brink of a triumph that could bring the world down. This is a fantastic read, full of solid SF and with a number of nice twists and turns before the end.

cover origamyThe other book that really got me fired up is Rachel Armstrong’s Origamy, to be released next year by Newcon Press. This is… a hard book to do justice to, to be honest. The narrator is a member of an extended circus family of acrobats and space-time weavers, and their point of view deals with familial squabbles (with their innumerable siblings and her impossible (literally) parents), physical contortions and high level physics in the same off-the-cuff tongue-in-cheek way, not really drawing much distinction between eating a sandwich or skipping across the threads of the universe. It reminds me a little of Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius and his other weird stuff, but mostly it is its own brand of weirdness, which is at the same time entirely accessible (and I am by no means a physicist). It’s one of the most engaging and astonishing books I’ve read, really eye-opening and utterly different.

cover dreadFinally, another fantasy: I had an advance copy of John Gwynne’s A Time of Dread, which is out very soon. This is a real David Gemmell-style epic fantasy, the start of a new series linked to John’s previous work, but readily consumable on its own. The story follows a number of characters in a world “saved” by angelic beings who are still hunting their fallen kin across the world, and insisting everyone else sheds blood in their cause as well. The fallen angel types are definitely bad news, but so are the regular kind in a different way, and the humans and giants are stuck in the middle. Gwynne is one of the very best out there for this kind of high action fantasy, and his love of history and period warfare also shines through – he’s someone who really knows what he’s talking about and builds a really solid world.



Ada King

Under the Pendulum Sun


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