August 2014 Book Releases

by: Janea A. Schimmel

ed. by: Marnie Peterson & Gayle Cottrill

Holy crap, Batman, this is a hard-hitting month. With new releases from Lev Grossman, Robin Hobb, Brent Weeks, and John Scalzi, we have our reading cut out for us, and I can’t quite figure out which one I’m most excited for. On the other hand, there are not a whole lot of debuts this month (we’re only featuring one), which does make things a bit easier.

Big Releases:


Big Releases:

1. The House of Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory

Release Date: August 5th, 2014
Series: One Dozen Daughters #1
Genre: High Fantasy

The rulers of tiny, impoverished Swansgaard have twelve daughters and one son. While the prince’s future is assured, his twelve sisters must find their own fortunes.

Disguising herself as Clarence, a sailor, Princess Clarice intends to work her way to the New World. When the crew rebels, Clarice/Clarence, an expert with rapier and dagger, sides with the handsome navigator, Dominick, and kills the cruel captain.

Dominick leads the now-outlawed crew in search of treasure in the secret pirate haven known as The House of Four Winds. They encounter the sorceress Shamal, who claims Dominick for her own—but Clarice has fallen hard for Dominick and won’t give him up without a fight.

Full of swashbuckling adventure, buoyant magic, and irrepressible charm, The House of the Four Winds is a lighthearted fantasy romp by a pair of bestselling writers.

2. The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman

Release Date: August 5th, 2014
Series: The Magicians #3
Genre: Urban Fantasy

In The Magician’s Land, the stunning conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Magicians Trilogy, Quentin Coldwater has been cast out of Fillory, the secret magical land of his childhood dreams. With nothing left to lose he returns to where his story be­gan, the Brakebills Preparatory College of Magic. But he can’t hide from his past, and it’s not long before it comes looking for him.

Along with Plum, a brilliant young under­graduate with a dark secret of her own, Quentin sets out on a crooked path through a magical demi­monde of gray magic and desperate characters. But all roads lead back to Fillory, and his new life takes him to old haunts, like Antarctica, and to buried secrets and old friends he thought were lost for­ever. He uncovers the key to a sorcery masterwork, a spell that could create magical utopia, a new Fillory—but casting it will set in motion a chain of events that will bring Earth and Fillory crashing together. To save them he will have to risk sacrific­ing everything.

The Magician’s Land is an intricate thriller, a fantastical epic, and an epic of love and redemp­tion that brings the Magicians Trilogy to a magnifi­cent conclusion, confirming it as one of the great achievements in modern fantasy. It’s the story of a boy becoming a man, an apprentice becoming a master, and a broken land finally becoming whole.

3. Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb

Release Date: August 12th, 2014
Series: The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy #1, Realms of the Elderlings #14
Genre: High Fantasy, Epic Fantasy

Tom Badgerlock has been living peaceably in the manor house at Withywoods with his beloved wife Molly these many years, the estate a reward to his family for loyal service to the crown.

But behind the facade of respectable middle-age lies a turbulent and violent past. For Tom Badgerlock is actually FitzChivalry Farseer, bastard scion of the Farseer line, convicted user of Beast-magic, and assassin. A man who has risked much for his king and lost more…

On a shelf in his den sits a triptych carved in memory stone of a man, a wolf and a fool. Once, these three were inseparable friends: Fitz, Nighteyes and the Fool. But one is long dead, and one long-missing.

Then one Winterfest night a messenger arrives to seek out Fitz, but mysteriously disappears, leaving nothing but a blood-trail. What was the message? Who was the sender? And what has happened to the messenger?

Suddenly Fitz's violent old life erupts into the peace of his new world, and nothing and no one is safe.

4. The Ultra Thin Man by Patrick Swenson

Release Date: August 12th, 2014
Genre: Science Fiction

In the twenty-second century, a future in which mortaline wire controls the weather on the settled planets and entire refugee camps drowse in drug-induced slumber, no one—alive or dead, human or alien—is quite what they seem. When terrorists manage to crash Coral, the moon, into its home planet of Ribon, forcing evacuation, it’s up to Dave Crowell and Alan Brindos, contract detectives for the Network Intelligence Organization, to solve a case of interplanetary consequences. Crowell and Brindos’s investigation plunges them neck-deep into a conspiracy much more dangerous than anything they could have imagined.

The two detectives soon find themselves separated, chasing opposite leads: Brindos has to hunt down the massive Helk alien Terl Plenko, shadow leader of the terrorist Movement of Worlds. Crowell, meanwhile, runs into something far more sinister—an elaborate frame job that puts our heroes on the hook for treason.

Crowell and Brindos are forced to fight through the intrigue to discover the depths of an interstellar conspiracy. And to answer the all-important question: Who, and what, is the Ultra Thin Man?

5. The Ripper Affair by Lilith Saintcrow

Release Date: August 19th, 2014
Series: Bannon and Clare #3
Genre: Steampunk, Alternative History

Sorcery. Treason. Madness. And, of course, murder most foul...

Archibald Clare, mentath in the service of Britannia, is about his usual business--solving crimes and restoring public order until a shattering accident places him in the care of Emma Bannon, sorceress Prime, who once served...and now simply remains at home, tending her solarium in reasonably quiet contentment. What Clare needs now is time to recover, and not so incidentally, a measure of calm to repair his faculties of Logic and Reason. Without them, he is not his best. One could even say that without them, he is not even properly a mentath at all.

Unfortunately, calm and rest will not be found. There is a killer hiding in the sorcerous steam-hells of Londinium, stalking the Eastron End and unseaming poor women of a certain reputation. A handful of drabs murdered on cold autumn nights would make no difference...but the killings echo in the highest circles possible, and threaten to bring the entire edifice of Empire down in smoking ruins.

Now Emma Bannon, once more, is pressed into service and Archibald Clare, once more, is determined to aid her. The secrets between these two old friends may give an ambitious sorcerer the means to bring down the Crown. And there is still no way to reliably find a hansom when one needs it most.

Britannia is threatened. Londinium quakes. Sorcery births an unholy monster.

The game is afoot…

6. The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks

Release Date: August 26, 2014
Series: The Lightbringer #3
Genre: High Fantasy, Epic Fantasy

As the old gods awaken and satrapies splinter, the Chromeria races to find its lost Prism, the only man who may be able to stop catastrophe. But Gavin Guile is enslaved on a pirate galley. Worse, Gavin no longer has the one thing that defined him -- the ability to draft.

Without the protection of his father, Kip Guile will have to face a master of shadows alone as his grandfather moves to choose a new Prism and put himself in power. With Teia and Karris, Kip will have to use all his wits to survive a secret war between noble houses, religious factions, rebels, and an ascendant order of hidden assassins, The Broken Eye.

7. The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter by Rod Duncan

Release Date: August 26, 2014
Series: The Fall of the Gas-lit Empire #1
Genre: Steampunk

Elizabeth Barnabus lives a double life—as herself and as her brother, the private detective. She is trying to solve the mystery of a disappearing aristocrat and a hoard of arcane machines. In her way stand the rogues, freaks, and self-proclaimed alchemists of a travelling circus. But when she comes up against an agent of the all-powerful Patent Office, her life and the course of history will begin to change. And not necessarily for the better…

8. The Getaway God by Richard Kadrey

Release Date: August 26, 2014
Series: Sandman Slim #6
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Sandman Slim must save himself--and the entire world--from the wrath of some enraged and vengeful ancient gods in this sixth high-octane adventure in the New York Times bestselling series

Being a half-human, half-angel nephilim with a bad rep and a worse attitude--not to mention temporarily playing Lucifer--James Stark aka Sandman Slim has made a few enemies. None, though, are as fearsome as the vindictive Angra Om Ya--the old gods. But their imminent invasion is only one of Stark's problems right now. LA is descending into chaos, and a new evil--the Wildfire Ripper--is stalking the city.

No ordinary killer, The Ripper takes Stark deep into a conspiracy that stretches from Earth to Heaven and Hell. He's also the only person alive who may know how to keep the world from going extinct. The trouble is, he's also Stark's worst enemy… the only man in existence Stark would enjoy killing twice.

9. Lock In by John Scalzi

Release Date: August 26, 2014
Genre: Near Future Science Fiction, Dystopia

Fifteen years from now, a new virus sweeps the globe. 95% of those afflicted experience nothing worse than fever and headaches. Four percent suffer acute meningitis, creating the largest medical crisis in history. And one percent find themselves “locked in”—fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus.

One per cent doesn't seem like a lot. But in the United States, that's 1.7 million people “locked in”... including the President's wife and daughter.

Spurred by grief and the sheer magnitude of the suffering, America undertakes a massive scientific initiative. Nothing can restore the ability to control their own bodies to the locked in. But then two new technologies emerge. One is a virtual-reality environment, “The Agora,” in which the locked-in can interact with other humans, both locked-in and not. The other is the discovery that a few rare individuals have brains that are receptive to being controlled by others, meaning that from time to time, those who are locked in can “ride” these people and use their bodies as if they were their own.

This skill is quickly regulated, licensed, bonded, and controlled. Nothing can go wrong. Certainly nobody would be tempted to misuse it, for murder, for political power, or worse…

10. The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley

Release Date: August 26, 2014
Series: Worldbreaker Saga #1
Genre: High Fantasy

On the eve of a recurring catastrophic event known to extinguish nations and reshape continents, a troubled orphan evades death and slavery to uncover her own bloody past… while a world goes to war with itself.

In the frozen kingdom of Saiduan, invaders from another realm are decimating whole cities, leaving behind nothing but ash and ruin.

As the dark star of the cataclysm rises, an illegitimate ruler is tasked with holding together a country fractured by civil war, a precocious young fighter is asked to betray his family and a half-Dhai general must choose between the eradication of her father’s people or loyalty to her alien Empress.

Through tense alliances and devastating betrayal, the Dhai and their allies attempt to hold against a seemingly unstoppable force as enemy nations prepare for a coming together of worlds as old as the universe itself.

In the end, one world will rise – and many will perish.

The Debuts:

1. The Wanderer by Timothy J. Jarvis

Release Date: August 26th, 2014
Genre: New Weird

After obscure author of strange stories, Simon Peterkin, vanishes in bizarre circumstances, a typescript, of a text entitled, “The Wanderer,” is found in his flat. “The Wanderer” is a weird document. On a dying Earth, in the far-flung future, a man, an immortal, types the tale of his aeon-long life as prey, as a hunted man; he tells of his quitting the Himalayas, his sanctuary for thousands of years, to return to his birthplace, London, to write the memoirs; and writes, also, of the night he learned he was cursed with life without cease, an evening in a pub in that city, early in the twenty-first century, a gathering to tell of eldritch experiences undergone. Is “The Wanderer” a fiction, perhaps Peterkin's last novel, or something far stranger? Perhaps more “account” than “story”?

Not Easy Being Green

Author: Susy Gage

Subgenre: Science Fiction

Not Easy Being Green is the second novel by an anonymous scientist publishing under the pen name Susy Gage. I’m assuming that the reason for the pen name is that the protagonist is inspired by herself, in which case, the volume of outright dangerous rules-violating science that gets done is reason enough to keep it secret. An enjoyable tale of science gone wrong, buffoons who care more about grant money than science, glowing rodents (and scientists), and the desperation for a miracle cure which makes one hope that the -real- reason Ms. Gage uses a pen name is that she doesn’t want any colleague to even consider that she could ever condone the kind of science in her book.

Finding a dead mouse in the lab is not usually such a big deal. But when the lab is a Biosafety Level-3 containment facility designed to keep things in and out, and when the mouse has a brain tumor that fluoresces under blue light, it’s time to start worrying.

When graduate students start glowing, then it’s time to panic. Especially when they could be spreading a mutant virus in ways you can only guess…

This academic thriller/satire focuses on gene therapy–how it works, how it can go wrong, and how unscrupulous clinics prey on everyone from the vain to the desperate.Written by a scientist in the trenches, the science is real and timely, and the issues compelling to anyone interested in bioethics.

The Speculative Post's Review




Writing Mechanics


At its heart, Not Easy Being Green is part whodunit, part science procedural, and part ‘As to science as Ally McBeal is to law.’ Lori is a great character. Well written, sympathetic, interesting. She avoids falling into most of the ’female protagonist’ and ‘lady scientist’ tropes that are usually the sign of the lazy or the male doing the writing. She has a good deal of depth and past for how quickly we lose the chance for backstory and jump right into events, and Gage does a good job working bits of character background into the narrative. The cast of supporting characters, as well, are well-formed and distinct. Gage conveys that even while their only interactions are around the main story, they have other things going on in their lives. That sense of the greater world behind the characters helps make them feel complete without having to spend a lot of time establishing them.

What she doesn’t do, presumably quite intentionally, is have her characters display any goddamn sense in their labs. The first scene of the story shows us Lori in a BSL-3 lab (these are the second most secure kinds of lab, and are where you have things like HIV, Rabies, and Yellow Fever kicking around) with a spray bottle of bleach and paper towels, in a filthy lab with discarded supplies all over the floor, presumably cleaning up what might actually be biohazardous waste. She leaves the lab without proper decontamination, goes into the lab without proper decontamination, and several of the other scientists do similarly terrible things. I’m willing to consider a certain element of either farce or a warning that even at high containment levels, some scientists are lazy or uncaring, but as a story about scientists doing science, I was rather expecting the science to be as accurate as possible. And if this is as accurate as possible, I’m suddenly substantially more worried about the kinds of things that might be happening in labs across the world.

As books of this type go, it was fairly enjoyable. The usual mystery tropes were not bad. I’m not a huge mystery buff myself, so I may be a poor judge of the handling of the whodunit and what-did-they-do part of the story, but I had fun reading it and would read other books by Gage along these lines. I could wish for a little more proper science to get done, but I still don’t know enough about what she’s trying to do to know if there’s an element of satire or even farce in the way the book characterizes researchers and lab work. Any biologist or chemist readers are going to be cringing throughout at the cavalier way very dangerous materials are handled, but for the general reading public, it’s an entertaining read.

Dan received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book from Bitingduck Press via NetGalley

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