New Releases Feed

Nineveh by Henrietta Rose-Innes

51zj-nLhlaL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_A flashback, as I reviewed Nineveh a few years ago - I'm a Nineveh hipster!

However, the topic is well worth revisiting, as this excellent book is now published in the US and UK. You can find it on Amazon [that American cover is amazing!] and in the UK through Belgravia Books (as well as other retailers).

Katya Grubbs is an exterminator - more a relocator, actually, as she’s a fundamental believer in vermin’s right to life. A swarm of mysterious beetles infests an idyllic suburb and Katya is hired to do her thing. Her investigation brings her in contact with pests of all shapes and sizes - including the suburb’s sleazy developer and her own wayward father.

Despite the lack of any SF/F elements, Nineveh is a contemporary urban fantasy classic, along the lines of Zoo City and King Rat; a tale about a hidden world and the people (or creatures) that live beneath our notice. Katya is an exterminator with a heart. Eschewing her father's brutal approach to the job, Katya tries to move the insects rather than killing them.

Her standards - ethical, moral, professional - are all put to the test when a wealthy developer hires her to clear his new suburb of a beetle infestation. This is where things get creepy, crawly and a little bit chilling. The beetles don't behave the way bugs should, the previous exterminator on the job was her (mysteriously absent) father, and the property itself is inherently disturbing: a surreal landscape of abandoned wealth and unfinished buildings.

Nineveh works excellently as a metaphor for gentrification and class structure, but, for me, the real strength was in Katya's own journey - an exploration of empathy and the tenuous impossibility of finding balance. Katya tries to travel between two worlds; she's a good soldier and a loyal daughter, but also attempting to adhere to a greater moral code. The resulting novel is a haunting mystery and a perceptive character study; an unsettling and gorgeous tale of what lies beneath.

[Editor's note: Londoners, there's a launch gig tonight at Gallic Books!


Prince: Stories from the Purple Underground

Prince-stories-from-the-purple-undergroundIn a few weeks it’ll be five months since Prince died.

It’s still not believable, still inconceivable, still a complete and utter shock to his fans worldwide. I haven't been able to write about him, but so many have, and so well. A great many people have started disclosing their personal stories about him - or so they claim, since some of these seem to be of the People magazine variety.

But the real ones, the authentic Prince stories are always, always a treat to hear. Even when he was alive, hearing a Prince story from someone - Matt Thorne, who wrote the seminal book on Prince music a few years ago and was flown in to Paisley Park only to have the great man listen to thanks but not talk, Kevin Smith’s long winded story about being hired to make music videos for Prince that never saw the light of day, the husband of a man I met at a Frankenstein symposium in Hermance telling me Ingrid Chavez left him for Prince… no matter what, or told by whom, stories about Prince have always, always made my day.

And so I can’t help but immediately fall in love with journalist Mobeen Azhar’s new book, Prince: Stories From the Purple Underground.

Continue reading "Prince: Stories from the Purple Underground" »


Friday Five: 5 Favourite Books of the Half Year

Sunlight PilgrimsSix month check-in! It has been a blissful productive year for reading, so I'm - of course - cheating this list with a lot of subcategories.

The only rule is that I've excluded rereads (which knocks out things like Neuromancer and Modesty Blaise, which, as we all know, are two of the bestest books ever).

Five Favourite 2016 Books So Far

Jenni Fagan's The Sunlight Pilgrims 

Glorious. Life and love and coming of age in a rural Scottish trailer park. While the world quietly dies. A lyrical book about apocalypses of all sizes and how people can be fragile - and strong - in so many different ways. (Tangent! Literally no one else agrees that the exquisite, brilliant, soul-shattering The Panopticon was SF. The setting of The Sunlight Pilgrims will definitely put an end to that. But, in the quest to annoy genre border-sentries of all shapes and sizes, I'm going to argue that TSP is Young Adult. Yes, that's wholly to do with one of the protagonists, Stella, being a kid, but,... it works. This is (or could be) 'issue YA', and Stella, who is mid-transition, is an inspiring, infuriating, inescapably charming character who steals the book.)

Continue reading "Friday Five: 5 Favourite Books of the Half Year" »


"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" by Adam Roberts

rey hanging with bb8

The most interesting thing about Star Wars: The Force Awakens has to do with the cultural moment into which it was received. I don’t mean that it has been greeted so rapturously by fans and cinema-goers, that it has already earned a shedload of money, that it is set fair to overtake Avatar as the highest grossing movie of all time—we could all see that coming a mile off. I mean the acute and often panicky paranoia about spoilers this release has occasioned. How angry people get! Spoiling Star Wars became suddenly one the worst things a person could do, just below genocide and just above admitting a fondness for Coldplay.

[Editor's note: ...which is probably the right time to say - "contains spoilers".]

Continue reading ""Star Wars: The Force Awakens" by Adam Roberts" »


Pygmalia: Photo Essay

Pleasure merchantThe following photo essay is a stand-in for this month's Pygmalia blog. Yes, I know you were looking forward to another rambling musing in re: Galateas and such, but instead, you can thrill at the sight of various locations from The Pleasure Merchant, out in paperback and ebook (Kindle and Nook) this month! 

The Pleasure Merchant; or, The Modern Pygmalion is a novel near and dear to my heart, and going around London looking first-hand for the first time at many of the set pieces was curious and intriguing. I actually teared up a bit at the sight of 12 Bloomsbury Square. I know! 

I love London. It's my favorite city in the world, and tramping around all over the place seeking various addresses in real life, rather than on Google Maps, was really just such a thrill. Many thanks to my hosts Jared and Anne for hosting me as I cavorted around, being overly excited about things like... well, like putting money on an Oyster card, fumbling through change, eating curry, saying "Sorry!" to everyone, and so on and so forth. Many thanks as well to Mark and Rachel Newton for allowing me to come to the country to impose on their hospitality, as well.

So, here we go on a trip into the heart of 18th century London - as much as we can by looking at pictures of modern London! Just imagine everyone is way sicker and instead of cars and Arc'teryx jackets everyone is in carriages and wearing frock coats. 

Continue reading "Pygmalia: Photo Essay" »


Slade House by David Mitchell

Slade HouseThrough a small, easy-to-miss door in the equally easy-to-miss Slade Alley, those who are invited, knowingly or unknowingly, can find the garden entrance to Slade House.

The house itself is large and imposing, perhaps past its prime, but always a surprise to find in the context of its surroundings. In fact, how does a house this big, with grounds this extensive, even fit in the apparently available space? Why is it impossible to find its front entrance? And why, on the last Saturday of October every nine years, is someone brought by circumstance to Slade House and never seen again?

I’ll confess that I’ve always found David Mitchell a difficult writer to get on with. Most of my past efforts to get through his books have foundered in the early stages, though for a variety of reasons, so it’s hard to make a definitive “I don’t like the way he writes X” statement. Slade House proved the exception, which it achieved largely by being pacy, intriguing, engaging and creepy in a way that draws in the reader - for the most part - pretty effectively.

Continue reading "Slade House by David Mitchell" »


Review Round-up: Flamesong, Sledgehammer and The Gameshouse

Gameshouse - PK

Three recent reads - a vintage fantasy, a terrific new trilogy and a particularly heavy-handed crime thriller.

Claire North's Gameshouse trilogy (2015), with apologies, as I did my frothing fanboy thing on Twitter, but, these are simply brilliant. The trilogy is comprised of three novelettes (novellas? long shorts? maxistories? minibooks?), each with a different narrator, setting and - wonderfully - tense. All three feature players in the enigmatic Gameshouse - a location/organisation for those that gamble, and gamble to win. The outer room is for the games we all know and love. The inner room is for the real players, the ones that manipulate lives and nations. 

Continue reading "Review Round-up: Flamesong, Sledgehammer and The Gameshouse" »


Review Round-up: Knitters, Pirates, Cops, Princesses and Priests

TheBig SinA quick-fire round-up of eight recent holiday reads - including some vintage mysteries, a brand new fantasy, a YA that'll have you in stitches (fnar) and a saucy pirate romance. Most of these were recommendations via Twitter, so thank you all for sending them my way!

Prologue Books are one of my go-to publishers - whomever is putting together this list of out-of-print fiction is doing a cracking job. (Also, they use Amazon well, so I can find their books by searching Prologue Crime or Prologue Western, which is really helpful.) Anyway, that baseline of praise established... Jack Webb's The Big Sin (1952) might be one of my favourites so far. Webb's story ticks all the right narrative boxes: a cop versus a Big City machine, a man framed for murder, criminals being forced to choose between doing 'bad' and doing 'evil', the works. And, beneath it all, he underpins everything with a discussion of faith.

Continue reading "Review Round-up: Knitters, Pirates, Cops, Princesses and Priests" »


Pompidou Posse by Sarah Lotz

Pompidou PosseFreedom's just another word for nothing to lose.

And with that, Janis Joplin captures the beautiful/painful dichotomy of Sarah Lotz's Pompidou Posse. Vicki and Sage are seventeen and practically drowning in freedom. After an incident (fire, building, art college), the two friends make the only 'rational' decision: they run away to Paris. Armed with Pet Semetary, some 2000AD comics, a few of their favourite sculptures and, of course, their boots, the duo head to the city of love to find themselves. They're young, they're artistic; they've got enough money for at least two bottles of cheap wine... and, plus, they're together. What else do they need?

As it turns out: quite a bit. 

Pompidou Posse oscillates between the joy and the agony of perpetual freedom. Vicki and Sage are responsible to no one and to nothing; their anarchic existence is purely about scraping together enough money for wine, shelter and the occasional shower. Any excess is spent on, well... more wine (or other addictions). This is freedom: they're making art, they're making friends, and they're living beholden to no one.

Continue reading "Pompidou Posse by Sarah Lotz" »


The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks

The-Broken-Eye-HCI'm reading and reviewing all ten finalists for the David Gemmell Legend Awards. You can follow along here. Voting has closed, but the awards aren't announced yet, so I'm plowing on...

The Broken Eye (2014) is the third in the four book Lightbringer series by Brent Weeks. The books take place in a world where light is power, with 'drafters' as the wizards able to wield said power. The Chromeria - an alliance of powerful drafters - has been (more or less) running the world, stewarding over a (more or less peaceful) sort of aristocracy. Although drafters are the top of the pecking order, there are checks and balances in place - largely involving noble families, the high church, a handful of military organisations and a seemingly-infinite number of secret conspiracies. 

Arguably the greatest 'check' is the cost of drafting - as the wizards use their power, it begins to change them. The immediate effect is an emotional one: drafting 'blue', for example, makes you more logical, while 'red' makes you angry. But there are long-term physical changes as well, with drafters eventually becoming more and more colour-infused, and eventually turning into 'wights' - colour-monsters. Although drafters can rule the world (and largely do), it is difficult for them to maintain that power. As a last nod to their humanity, for centuries drafters on the verge of 'going wight' (pun!) have willingly sacrificed themselves. They live fast, die young, and leave very colourful corpses.

Continue reading "The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks" »