by: Janea A. Schimmel
ed. by: Gayle Cottrill
As I’ve started compiling these monthly release lists, I do notice trends from month to month. This month’s trend is anthologies. While I always try and keep at least one anthology on my monthly list, you’ll find a few more here this month, and that’s with me being picky! Other than that, it’s a somewhat slow month without a lot of ‘just-take-my-money’ books, but with a lot of lesser known titles that look fascinating. Onwards!
Mercy Thompson’s world just got a whole lot bigger…
A collection of all-new and previously published short stories featuring Mercy Thompson, “one of the best heroines in the urban fantasy genre today” (Fiction Vixen Book Reviews), and the characters she calls friends…
The living dead are more alive than ever! Zombies have become more than an iconic monster for the twenty-first century: they are now a phenomenon constantly revealing as much about ourselves - and our fascination with death, resurrection, and survival - as our love for the supernatural or post-apocalyptic speculation. Our most imaginative literary minds have been devoured by these incredible creatures and produced exciting, insightful, and unflinching new works of zombie fiction. We've again dug up the best stories published in the last few years and compiled them into an anthology to feed your insatiable hunger…
Years ago, the city of Bulikov wielded the powers of the Gods to conquer the world. But after its divine protectors were mysteriously killed, the conqueror has become the conquered; the city's proud history has been erased and censored, progress has left it behind, and it is just another colonial outpost of the world's new geopolitical power. Into this musty, backward city steps Shara Divani. Officially, the quiet mousy woman is just another lowly diplomat sent by Bulikov's oppressors. Unofficially, Shara is one of her country's most accomplished spymasters-dispatched to investigate the brutal murder of a seemingly harmless historian. As Shara pursues the mystery through the ever-shifting physical and political geography of the city, she begins to suspect that the beings who once protected Bulikov may not be as dead as they seem-and that her own abilities might be touched by the divine as well.
In the distant past, the Kingdom of Harcia was torn apart by royal brothers who could not accept a lesser inheritance. Now, the consequences of their actions are coming to light.
Balfre, son of Aimery, Duke of Harcia, is his father's heir. But he has dreams of a crown, not a coronet. He dreams himself the king of a Harcia re-united, but his brother Grefin, their father's favorite, stands in his way.
Harald, debauched Duke of neighboring Clemen, is feared and despised by his nobles. He thinks he can trust his bastard-born cousin Ederic ... but Ederic fears for the duchy and will do what he must to save it.
And caught between dangers is Harald's infant son, Liam. Stolen by his nurse, vanished into the lawless Marches, he is the spark that will grow to set the world on fire.
An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.
One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.
Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten’s arm is a line from Star Trek: “Because survival is insufficient.” But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.
Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.
Rachel Morgan's come a long way from the clutzy runner of Dead Witch Walking. She's faced vampires and werewolves, banshees, witches, and soul-eating demons. She's crossed worlds, channeled gods, and accepted her place as a day-walking demon. She's lost friends and lovers and family, and an old enemy has become something much more.
But power demands responsibility, and world-changers must always pay a price. That time is now.
To save Ivy's soul and the rest of the living vampires, to keep the demonic ever after and our own world from destruction, Rachel Morgan will risk everything.
Last Plane to Heaven is the final and definitive short story collection of award-winning SF author Jay Lake, author of Green, Endurance, and Kalimpura.
Long before he was a novelist, SF writer Jay Lake was an acclaimed writer of short stories. In Last Plane to Heaven, Lake has assembled thirty-two of the best of them. Aliens and angels fill these pages, from the title story, a hard-edged and breathtaking look at how a real alien visitor might be received, to the savage truth of “The Cancer Catechisms.” Here are more than thirty short stories written by a master of the form, science fiction and fantasy both.
This collection features an original introduction by Gene Wolfe.
Something is rotten in the state of Wisconsin.
Werewolf packs are being united and absorbed into an army of super soldiers by a mysterious figure who speaks like an angel and fights like a demon. And every Knight Templar—keepers of the magical peace between mankind and magickind—who tries to get close to this big bad wolf winds up dead. No knight can infiltrate a group whose members can smell a human from a mile away… no knight except one.
John Charming. Ex knight. Current werewolf. Hunted by the men who trained him, he now might be their only salvation. But animal instincts are rising up to claim John more powerfully than ever before, and he must decide if this new leader of wolves is a madman… or a messiah.
Daring is the second novel in an urban fantasy series which gives a new twist to the Prince Charming tale.
Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring wardrobes, shattered Brooka glassware, and vandalized Liripip sofa beds—clearly, someone or something is up to no good. To unravel the mystery, five young employees volunteer for a long dusk-till-dawn shift—and they encounter horrors that defy imagination. Along the way, author Grady Hendrix infuses sly social commentary on the nature of work in the new twenty-first century economy.
A traditional haunted house story in a contemporary setting (and full of current fears), Horrorstör comes conveniently packaged in the form of a retail catalog, complete with illustrations of ready-to-assemble furniture and other, more sinister accessories. We promise you’ve never seen anything quite like it!
In The Falling World, Jade, ruler of the Indigo Cloud Court, has travelled with Chime and Balm to another Raksuran court. When she fails to return, her consort Moon, along with Stone and a party of warriors and hunters, must track them down. Finding them turns out to be the easy part; freeing them from an ancient trap hidden in the depths of the Reaches is much more difficult.
The Tale of Indigo and Cloud explores the history of the Indigo Cloud Court, long before Moon came to Court. In the distant past, Indigo stole Cloud from Emerald Twilight. But in doing so, the reigning Queen Cerise and Indigo are now poised for a conflict that could ruin everything.
Stories of Moon and the shape changers of Raksura have delighted readers for years. This world is a dangerous place full of strange mysteries, where the future can never be taken for granted, and must always be fought for with wits and ingenuity, and often tooth and claw. With two brand-new novellas, Martha Wells shows that the world of Raksura has many more stories to tell…
Orphaned as a child, Octavia Leander was doomed to grow up on the streets until Miss Percival saved her and taught her to become a medician. Gifted with incredible powers, the young healer is about to embark on her first mission, visiting suffering cities in the far reaches of the war-scarred realm. But the airship on which she is traveling is plagued by a series of strange and disturbing occurrences, including murder, and Octavia herself is threatened.
Suddenly, she is caught up in a flurry of intrigue: the dashingly attractive steward may be one of the infamous Clockwork Daggers—the Queen’s spies and assassins—and her cabin-mate harbors disturbing secrets. But the danger is only beginning, for Octavia discovers that the deadly conspiracy aboard the airship may reach the crown itself.
Of all those in the King of Alden’s retinue, the bloodbinders are the most prized. The magic they wield can forge invaluable weapons, ones that make soldiers like Lady Alix Black unerringly lethal. However, the bloodbinders’ powers can do so much more—and so much worse…
A cunning and impetuous scout, Alix only wishes to serve quietly on the edges of the action. But when the king is betrayed by his own brother and left to die at the hands of attacking Oridian forces, she winds up single-handedly saving her sovereign.
Suddenly, she is head of the king’s personal guard, an honor made all the more dubious by the king’s exile from his own court. Surrounded by enemies, Alix must help him reclaim his crown, all the while attempting to repel the relentless tide of invaders led by the Priest, most feared of Oridia’s lords.
But while Alix’s king commands her duty, both he and a fellow scout lay claim to her heart. And when the time comes, she may need to choose between the two men who need her most…
Author: Timothy S. Johnston
Series: The Tanner Sequence #2
Subgenre: Science Fiction
The Freezer is the second in a series of science-fiction mystery/thrillers starring Lt Kyle Tanner. Trying to solve a murder while racing against the clock of your own impending death makes for a tense and thrilling experience, but that can only do so much with a shallow cast of characters, unbelievable plot, and somersaulting story contrivances to bring it all home to roost. A book that started off with a lot of potential, and then devolved into heavy-handed social commentary and nearly arbitrary plot developments. Component, but nothing to radio back Earth about.
CCF homicide investigator Kyle Tanner and his girlfriend are on their way to Pluto, en route to a new life together. Just one little death to check out in the asteroid belt first. But when you're as tangled up in conspiracy as Tanner is, a few hours on a case can change your life. Or end it.
The mystery is a strange one—one man dead, a cryptic message his dying breath. Still, Tanner's ready to wrap it up until another gruesome murder shakes him to his core. The discovery of a microscopic bomb near his own heart offers the first faint clue, but the clock is ticking. He has four days….
A desperate search for answers takes Tanner to The Freezer, an isolated facility on one of Jupiter's moons. With anti-CCF dissidents targeting the facility, a team of scientists conducting experiments the military would rather remain hidden, and a mysterious man in white hunting him on the ice, Tanner will have to choose his allies carefully. Putting his faith in the wrong person will leave him bleeding out in seconds.
by: Dan Ruffolo
ed. by: Marnie Peterson and Gayle Cottrill
A lot of the press I see about The Freezer on Amazon, and Mr Johnston’s website makes sure to tout the ‘claustrophobic’ feeling of the setting, and how this increases the tension. And sure, the titular ‘Freezer’ is a small base, and steps are taken to make sure it feels small. But the story doesn’t start there, or even especially develop its way there. Things are happening elsewhere and Tanner just up and decides ‘welp, better go check out this isolated claustrophobic place, nothing will go wrong there!’ which is the first of many times the story made me shake my head and wonder, if this was supposed to be all about that feeling, why not have the murder victim die there, or die in a way that read more realistically there? It felt forced when there was no reason to need to force it at all. There was also a pretty much needless ‘timer’ element happening presumably in the name of tension, which put a hard time limit on how long Tanner had to solve his case. There were, again, so many ways this element could have been included which would have been more effective, and even without that element, the story could have continued virtually exactly how it did.
The characters as well, were not exactly deep and well developed. Clocking in at just over 300 pages, there was plenty of time to work on the very small cast of a half dozen characters. Instead, they’re treated to an entirely superficial sentence or two once or twice throughout the story, and then a bit of blatant exposition from Tanner’s inner monologue thinking about reading their personnel files. The fact that the female characters were universally described within the context of Tanner’s attraction to them physically was pretty off putting as well. The man has a love of his life who has made him whole and complete, and even above that is under a great deal of emotional stress at the time he meets these characters, and they’re described as ‘beautiful’ ‘attractive’ and he spends some inner monologue time thinking about how he desires them sexually. Even having just finished this story yesterday, I’m hard pressed to tell you much of anything about what they look like, or are like, beyond the most basic sketches.
Not that Tanner is all that much better. He’s touted as the ‘top’ investigator of the CCF which is a hilariously Nazi-analogous party which runs Humanity with an Iron Fist. Tanner is supposed to be the leading edge of that fist, and he spends the entire story hemming and hawing about how he’s totally sympathetic to dissidents, despite the fact that even knowing about a dissident and not reporting it can be grounds for execution. I just refuse to believe any group that is in total control of the sociopolitical machine, to the point of there being a CCF representative on an isolated base with eight people in it, is going to miss that their ‘top’ man is a sympathizer. He also is happy to bypass multiple incidents which he thinks and even states are grounds for summary execution. He gets internally angry when somebody fails to call him ‘sir’ but is happy to just look the other way when somebody calls him a Nazi? He might be supposed to seem conflicted, but instead he just seems hypocritical. Equilibrium did this many times more effectively, to say nothing for 1984.
That said, the story wasn’t bad just extremely disappointing. The very baseline *shrug* feeling I have about the story is more a problem because of the comparatively high hopes I had as the tale began to develop. But the claustrophobia felt contrived at best, the characters flat, and the story needlessly convoluted. The hallmark of a good mystery/thriller is that the reader should be able to follow along with the investigation and have an idea about what is going on, and then at least have that idea be somewhere in the ballpark of the truth. I recently wrote an article called How Not to End Your Story and one of the entries therein was exactly this: Throwing an otherwise entirely untelegraphed curveball into the story just made it feel like I should stop bothering. Add all that in together, and you’re left with a story that can, sadly, stay on ice.
Dan was given an Advanced Review Copy of this book courtesy of Carina Press
© 2013 - 2014