Welcome to Smugglivus – Day 28!
Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2009, and looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2010.
Today’s Guest: Gav of the speculative fiction blog NextRead. Gav is an avid reader and blogger, and even on occasion reviews books here for us at The Book Smugglers! Of course, we had to have him over for Smugglivus.
Please give a warm welcome to Gav, folks!
I’ve been struggling writing this post as I’ve suffering a little book burnout over the last few weeks. It’s an occupational hazard with blogging I guess that you end up being made aware of more books than anyone (including you) is going to be able to read in a lifetime never mind a year! And when you love reading Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Crime, and Lit Fic and their various sub-genres you end up having to filter through a rather scary volume of books.
I am getting back to form now. I think I just needed a bit of a rest from new books and a bit of comfort reading. So I’ve been reading Terry Pratchett, the man that lit this fire in me and Jim Butcher one of my favourite Urban Fantasy withers.
What always makes choices of books difficult is how do you choose what to read? I could spend all my time comfort reading, by that I mean reading authors that I know and love and I know I’m going to enjoy, or I could push myself and try to read someone new.
And that’s mostly what I’ve done on my blog, NextRead. I’ve read around 70 authors and reviewed 100-odd books. I have a soft spot for debut authors and try to feature as many debuts as I can. It’s a trend I want to continue in 2010.
So here are three debuts I’m looking forward to in 2010:
Mr Shivers by Robert Jackson Bennett
It is the time of the Great Depression. The dustbowl has turned the western skies red and thousands leave their homes seeking a better life. Marcus Connelly seeks not a new life, but a death – a death for the mysterious scarred man who murdered his daughter. And soon he learns that he is not alone. Countless others have lost someone to the scarred man. They band together to track him, but as they get closer, Connelly begins to suspect that the man they are hunting is more than human. As the pursuit becomes increasingly desperate, Connelly must decide just how much he is willing to sacrifice to get his revenge.
Tome of the Undergates by Sam Sykes
Lenk can barely keep control of his mismatched adventurer band at the best of times (Gariath the dragon man sees humans as little more than prey, Kataria the shict despises most humans and the humans in the band are little better). When they’re not insulting each other’s religions they’re arguing about pay and conditions. So when the ship they are travelling on is attacked by pirates things don’t go very well. They go a whole lot worse when an invincible demon joins the fray. The demon steals the Tome of the Undergates – a manuscript that contains all you need to open the undergates. And whichever god you believe in you don’t want the undergates open. On the other side are countless more invincible demons, the manifestation of all the evil of the gods, and they want out. Full of razor-sharp wit, characters who leap off the page (and into trouble) and plunging the reader into a vivid world of adventure this is a fantasy that kicks off a series that could dominate the second decade of the century
Spellwright by Blake Charlton
Nicodemus is a young, gifted wizard with a problem. Magic in his world requires the caster to create spells by writing out the text . . . but he has always been dyslexic, and thus has trouble casting even the simplest of spells. And his misspells could prove dangerous, even deadly, should he make a mistake in an important incantation.
Yet he has always felt that he is destined to be something more than a failed wizard. When a powerful, ancient evil begins a campaign of murder and disruption, Nicodemus starts to have disturbing dreams that lead him to believe that his misspelling could be the result of a curse. But before he can discover the truth about himself, he is attacked by an evil which has already claimed the lives of fellow wizards and has cast suspicion on his mentor. He must flee for his own life if he’s to find the true villain.
But more is at stake than his abilities. For the evil that has awakened is a power so dread and vast that if unleashed it will destroy Nicodemus… and the world.
And some seconds novels I’m excited by:
Horns – Joe Hill
Ignatius Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke up the next morning with one hell of a hangover, a raging headache . . . and a pair of horns growing from his temples. Once, Ig lived the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned American musician, and the younger brother of a rising late-night TV star, Ig had security and wealth and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more – he had the love of Merrin Williams, a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic. Then beautiful, vivacious Merrin was gone – raped and murdered, under inexplicable circumstances – with Ig the only suspect. He was never tried for the crime, but in the court of public opinion, Ig was and always would be guilty. Now Ig is possessed with a terrible new power to go with his terrible new look, and he means to use it to find the man who killed Merrin and destroyed his life. Being good and praying for the best got him nowhere. It’s time for a little revenge; it’s time the devil had his due. HORNS: It’s moving, sad, often funny, redemptive, and filled with hope.
The Midnight Mayor Kate Griffin
It’s said that if the ravens ever leave the Tower of London, then the Tower will crumble and the kingdom will fall. As it happens, that’s not so far from the truth …One by one, the magical wards that guard the city are failing: the London Wall defiled with cryptic graffiti, the ravens found dead at the Tower, the London Stone destroyed. This is not good news. This array of supernatural defences – a mix of international tourist attractions and forgotten urban legends – formed a formidable magical shield. Protection for the City of London against …well, that’s the question, isn’t it? What could be so dangerous as to threaten an entire city? Against his better judgement, resurrected sorcerer Matthew Swift is about to find out. And if he’s lucky, he might just live long enough to do something about it …
City of Ruin by Mark Charan Newton
Viliren: a city of sin that is being torn apart from the inside. Hybrid creatures shamble through shadows and barely human gangs fight turf wars for control of the streets.
Amidst this chaos, Commander Brynd Adaol, commander of the Night Guard, must plan the defence of Viliren against a race that has broken through from some other realm and already slaughtered hundreds of thousands of the Empire’s people.
When a Night Guard soldier goes missing, Brynd requests help from the recently arrived Inqusitor Jeryd. He discovers this is not the only disapearance the streets of Viliren. It seems that a serial killer of the most horrific kind is on the loose, taking hundreds of people from their own homes. A killer that cannot possibly be human.
The entire population of Viliren must unite to face an impossible surge of violent and unnatural enemies or the city will fall. But how can anyone save a city that is already a ruin?
And a few more on my I gotta read list:
The adventure of a lifetime is just beginning . . .
It has lain lost and forgotten for fifteen hundred years in the ancient heartland of England Ð a scrap of glass and metal melded by fierce fire. It is the lost core of a flawless Sphere made by the greatest of the Anglo-Saxon CraeftLords in memory of the one he loved. Her name was Spring and contained in the very heart of this work is a spark from the Fires of Creation.
But while humans have lost their belief in such things, the Hydden Ð little people existing on the borders of our world Ð have not. Breaking the silence of centuries they send one of their own, a young boy, Jack, to live among humans in the hope that he may one day find what has been lost for so long. His journey leads him to Katherine, a girl he rescues from a tragic accident ÂÐ it’s a meeting that will change everything. It is only through their voyage into the dangerous Hyddenworld that they will realize their destiny, find love and complete the great quest that will save both their worlds from destruction.
Their journey begins with Spring . . .
Wolfsangel M D Lachlan
The Viking King Authun leads his men on a raid against an Anglo-Saxon village. Men and women are killed indiscriminately but Authun demands that no child be touched. He is acting on prophecy. A prophecy that tells him that the Saxons have stolen a child from the Gods. If Authun, in turn, takes the child and raises him as an heir, the child will lead his people to glory. But Authun discovers not one child, but twin baby boys. Ensuring that his faithful warriors, witness to what has happened, die during the raid Authun takes the children and their mother home, back to the witches who live on the troll wall. And he places his destiny in their hands. And so begins a stunning multi-volume fantasy epic that will take a werewolf from his beginnings as the heir to a brutal viking king, down through the ages. It is a journey that will see him hunt for his lost love through centuries and lives, and see the endless battle between the wolf, Odin and Loki – the eternal trickster – spill over into countless bloody conflicts from our history, and over into our lives. This is the myth of the werewolf as it has never been told before and marks the beginning of an extraordinary new fantasy series from Gollancz.
The Fuller Memorandum by Charles Stross
Bob Howard is an IT specialist and field agent for The Laundry, the branch of Her Majesty’s secret service that deals with occult threats. Overworked and underpaid, Bob is used to his two jobs overflowing from a strict 9 to 5 and, since his wife Mo has a very similar job description, he understands that work will sometimes follow her home, too. But when ‘work’ involves zombie assassins and minions of a mad god’s cult, he realizes things are spinning out of control. When a top secret dossier goes missing and his boss Angleton is implicated, Bob must contend with suspiciously helpful Russian intelligence operatives and an unscrupulous apocalyptic cult before confronting the decades-old secret that lies at the heart of The Laundry: what is so important about the missing Fuller Memorandum? And why are all the people who know dying …?
The Swords of Albion: Bk. 1 by Mark Chadbourn
1588: The London of Elizabeth I is rocked by news of a daring raid on the Tower. The truth is known only to a select few: that, for twenty years, a legendary doomsday device, its power fabled for millennia, has been kept secret and, until now, safe in the Tower. But it has been stolen and Walsingham’s spies believe it has been taken by the Enemy. This Enemy is not who we usually think of as our traditional opponent. No, this Enemy has waged a brutal war against mankind since time began, and with such a weapon they might take terrible toll upon England’s green and pleasant land…And so it falls to Will Swyfte – swordsman, adventurer, scholar, rake, and the greatest of Walsingham’s new breed of spy – to follow a trail of murder and devilry that leads deep into the dark, venomous world of the Faerie. As Philip of Spain prepares a naval assault on England, Will is caught up in a race against time in pursuit of this fiendish device…
The Restoration Game – Ken Macleod
There is no such place as Krassnia. Lucy Stone should know – she was born there. In that tiny, troubled region of the former Soviet Union, revolution is brewing. Its organisers need a safe place to meet, and where better than the virtual spaces of an online game? Lucy, who works for a start-up games company in Edinburgh, has a project that almost seems made for the job: a game inspired by The Krassniad: an epic folk tale concocted by Lucy’s mother Amanda, who studied there in the 1980s. Lucy knows Amanda is a spook. She knows her great-grandmother Eugenie also visited the country in the ’30s, and met the man who originally collected Krassnian folklore, and who perished in Stalin’s terror. As Lucy digs up details about her birthplace to slot into the game, she finds the open secrets of her family’s past, the darker secrets of Krassnia’s past – and hints about the crucial role she is destined to play in The Restoration Game …
Empire of Light by Gary Gibson
The nova war has begun to spread as the Emissaries wage a fierce and reckless campaign, encroaching on the area of space occupied by humanity and forcing the Shoal into a desperate retreat. While Dakota goes in search of the entity responsible for creating the Maker caches, Corso, left in charge of a fleet of human-piloted Magi ships, finds his authority crumbling in the face of assassination attempts and politically-motivated sabotage.
If any hope exists at all, it lies in an abandoned asteroid a thousand light-years beyond the Consortium’s borders, and with Ty Whitecloud, the only man alive with the skill to decipher the messages left behind by an ancient race of star travellers. Unfortunately Whitecloud is locked in a prison cell aboard a dying coreship adrift in space, awaiting execution for war crimes against Corso’s own people. But if humanity has any hope of survival, Corso is going to have to find some way to keep him alive – and that’s only if Dakota doesn’t kill him first …
Kraken by China Mieville
Deep in the research wing of the Natural History Museum is a prize specimen, something that comes along much less often than once in a
lifetime: a perfect, and perfectly preserved, giant squid. But what does it mean when the creature suddenly and impossibly disappears?
For curator Billy Harrow it’s the start of a headlong pitch into a London of warring cults, surreal magic, apostates and assassins. It might just be that the creature he’s been preserving is more than a biological rarity: there are those who are sure it’s a god.
A god that someone is hoping will end the world.
And as I’m always behind a few books that I haven’t managed to read from 2009 and earlier:
The Darkest Room by Johan Theorin
‘For several hours I believed that my daughter had drowned and my wife as alive, when in fact the reverse was true’. It is bitter mid-winter when Katrine and Joakim Westin move with their children into the old manor house at Eel Point on the Swedish island of Oland. But their new home is no remote idyll. Just days later, Katrine is found drowned off the rocks nearby. While Joakim struggles to keep his sanity, Tilda Davidsson – a young policewoman fresh out of college- becomes convinced that Katrine was murdered. Then, on Christmas Eve, a blizzard hits Eel Point. Isolated by the snow, Joakim does not know that visitors – as unwelcome as they are terrifying – are making their way towards him. For this is the darkest night of the year, and the night when the living meet the dead.
Waters Edge by Karin Fossum
Walking through the woods one warm September day, Reinhardt and Kristine Ris pass a man who is in a state of agitation. Unusually in a small town, he does not return Kristine’s smile and drives off in a hurry. Near the end of their walk they make a terrible discovery: lying in a cluster of trees is the lifeless body of a young boy. It is a moment that will change their lives for ever. Inspector Sejer is called to the scene, but can find no immediate cause of death. As the weeks go by, the appeal for the man seen in the woods to come forward remains unanswered. A once peaceful community is deeply shaken and the children lose the sense of complete freedom they had enjoyed. Then a second boy goes missing.
The Preacher by Camilla Lackberg
For the first time in English, the second psychological thriller from No 1 bestselling Swedish crime sensation Camilla Lackberg. In the fishing community of Fjallbacka, life is remote, peaceful — and for some, tragically short. Foul play was always suspected in the disappearance twenty years ago of two young holidaymakers in the area. Now a young boy out playing has confirmed this grim truth. Their remains, discovered with those of a fresh victim, send the town into shock. Local detective Patrik Hedstrom, expecting a baby with his girlfriend Erica, can only imagine what it is like to lose a child. When a second young girl goes missing, Hedstrom’s attention focuses on the Hults, a feuding clan of misfits, relgious fanatics and criminals. The suspect list is long but time is short — which of this family’s dark secrets will provide the vital clue?
The Red Wolf Conspiracy by Robert V.S. Redick
The Chathrand – The Great Ship, The Wind-Palace, His Supremacy’s First Fancy – is the last of her kind – built 600 years ago she dwarves all the ships around her. The secrets of her construction are long lost. She was the pride of the Empire. The natural choice for the great diplomatic voyage to seal the peace with the last of the Emperor’s last enemies. 700 souls boarded her. Her sadistic Captain Nilus Rose, the Emperor’s Ambassador and Thasha, the daughter he plans to marry off to seal the treaty, a spy master and six assassins, one hunderd imperial marines, Pazel the tarboy gifted and cursed by his mother’s spell and a small band of Ixchel. The Ixchel sneaked aboard and now hide below decks amongst the rats. Intent on their own mission. But there is treachery afoot. Behind the plans for peace lies the shadow of war and the fear that a dead king might live again. And now the Chathrand, having survived countless battles and centuries of typhoons has gone missing. This is her story.
The Rats of the Ruling Sea by Robert V.S. Redick
THE RATS AND THE RULING SEA begins where THE RED WOLF CONSPIRACY ended; Thasha’s wedding is hours away. It is a wedding that will both fulfil the promise of a mad god’s return and see her murdered. Pazel has thwarted the sorcerer who would bring back the god but both sides now face deadlock. Can Thasha be saved? Can the war between two Empires be stopped? THE RATS AND THE RULING SEA is, once again, focused on the giant ancient ship, the CHATHRAND, but now she must brave the terrors of the uncharted seas; the massive storms and the ship swallowing whirlpools and explore lands forgotten by the Northern world, all the time involved in a vicious running battle with a ship half her size but nearly her match. Robert Redick’s new novel takes the reader further into the labyrinthine plots and betrayals that have underscored the trilogy from the beginning. We learn more about the Ixchel as they fight for survival against the Chathrand’s rats, discover more about the true motives of conspirators, live with Thasha and Pazel as they face death and deceit, and as the Chathrand sails into the infamous Ruling Sea. Robert Redick’s sequel to the acclaimed THE RED WOLF CONSPIRACY is a masterpiece of plotting and adventure. As each page turns the reader shares with the characters the dawning realisation that nothing is at it seems.
Destroyer of Worlds by Mark Chadbourn
It is the beginning of the end . . . The end of the axe-age, the sword-age, leading to the passing of gods and men from the universe. As all the ancient prophecies fall into place, the final battle rages, on Earth, across Faerie, and into the land of the dead. Jack Churchill, Champion of Existence, must lead the Brothers and Sisters of Dragons in a last, desperate assault on the Fortress of the Enemy, to confront the ultimate incarnation of destruction: the Burning Man. It is humanity’s only chance to avert the coming extinction. At his back is an army of gods culled from the world’s great mythologies – Greek, Norse, Chinese, Aztec, and more. But will even that be enough? Driven to the brink by betrayal, sacrifice and death, his allies fear Jack may instead bring about the very devastation he is trying to prevent . . .
Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link
Blending fairytale, fantasy, horror, myth and mischief in a delicious cocktail, Kelly Link creates a world like no other, where ghosts of girlfriends past rub up against Scrabble-loving grandmothers with terrifying magic handbags, wizards sit alongside morbid babysitters, and we encounter a people-eating monster who claims to have a sense of humour. With more than a pinch of macabre humour, this is writing to come back from the dead for.
Tender Morsels by Margo Langan
Liga endures unspeakable cruelties at the hands of her father, before being magically granted her own personal heaven, a safe haven from the real world. She raises her two daughters in this alternate reality, and they grow up protected from the violence that once harmed their mother. But the real world cannot be denied forever …Magicked men and wild bears break down the borders of Liga’s refuge. Now, having known Heaven, how will these three women survive in a world where beauty and brutality lie side by side?
Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding
Frey is the captain of the Ketty Jay, leader of a small and highly dysfunctional band of layabouts. An inveterate womaniser and rogue, he and his gang make a living on the wrong side of the law, avoiding the heavily armed flying frigates of the Coalition Navy. With their trio of ragged fighter craft, they run contraband, rob airships and generally make a nuisance of themselves. So a hot tip on a cargo freighter loaded with valuables seems like a great prospect for an easy heist and a fast buck. Until the heist goes wrong, and the freighter explodes. Suddenly Frey isn’t just a nuisance anymore – he’s public enemy number one, with the Coalition Navy on his tail and contractors hired to take him down. But Frey knows something they don’t. That freighter was rigged to blow, and Frey has been framed to take the fall. If he wants to prove it, he’s going to have to catch the real culprit. He must face liars and lovers, dogfights and gunfights, Dukes and daemons. It’s going to take all his criminal talents to prove he’s not the criminal they think he is …
Seeds of Earth by Michael Cobley
The first intelligent species to encounter mankind attacked without warning. Merciless. Relentless. Unstoppable. With little hope of halting the invasion, Earth’s last roll of the dice was to dispatch three colony ships, seeds of Earth, to different parts of the galaxy. The human race would live on …somewhere. 150 years later, the planet Darien hosts a thriving human settlement, which enjoys a peaceful relationship with an indigenous race, the scholarly Uvovo. But there are secrets buried on Darien’s forest moon. Secrets that go back to an apocalyptic battle fought between ancient races at the dawn of galactic civilisation. Unknown to its colonists Darien is about to become the focus of an intergalactic power struggle, where the true stakes are beyond their comprehension. And what choices will the Uvovo make when their true nature is revealed and the skies grow dark with the enemy?
Every Last Drop by Charlie Huston
After a year hiding out in the Bronx, Joe Pitt is given an assignment he can’t refuse. One Clan needs Joe to inform on another, but he’s playing them both while keeping his eye on the main prize: his girl Evie is on the Island somewhere and he’ll do anything to get her back. And in this case, ‘anything’ means coming face to face with the horrendous secret that lies beneath the Vampyre world. It’s a quest that will drive him to the heart of the two most perplexing mysteries of the Vampyre community: how were the Clans originally formed, and where do the powerful ones get all that blood? The search for the answer takes Joe to a dark corner of Queens, puts him face to face with a mythic and savage Clan, and leaves him in possession of a vision he’ll never scrape off his retinas – as well as a bargaining chip that redefines his place in the Vampyre universe.
My Dead Body by Charlie Huston
As the concluding volume of this highly acclaimed series opens, Joe has spent a year splashing around in the city’s sewer system, protecting the perimeters of the ground on which his love, Evie, now lives. Above ground, Manhattan’s Vampyre clans have at last abandoned any claims on civility and have finally sprung fully for each others’ throats. But as Vampyre civil war rages, Joe is tracked down by an old acquaintance and pulled back to the surface. At last, the many questions that have driven him will be put to rest – and the many friends and foes who have defined his world will either be put in the ground or will claw their way to survival. The carefully maintained peace is forgotten. When the stakes are this high, there can be no neutrality – only winners and losers. But when the blood stops flowing, what side will Joe Pitt be on?
Deep Water by Pamela Freeman
As unrest stirs across the Eleven domains, subversive questions lead to unexpected answers. And ghosts of the dead walk in increasing numbers – for those few that can see. In a land where stonecasters foretell destinies for a fee and gods talk to those who can listen, the future is uncertain and is built on a bloodsoaked past. So what did happen one thousand years ago, when Acton’s people came across the mountains? Was Acton himself a hero and liberator, or a bloodthirsty invader and scourge of the travelling people? Wild magic gives Bramble some dangerous insights into a land’s disturbed history. And why did Ash’s Traveller father not teach him the secret songs of his people? The ultimate answers to all these questions are hidden in time, where perhaps they should stay.
Full Circle by Pamela Freeman
Saker has devoted himself to dark enchantments and desires nothing but vengeance. And vengeance he has in abundance. His ghost army is slaughtering those of the new blood, fuelled by an ancient wrong. But while Saker had thought revenge would be simple, he’s now plagued by voices foreshadowing a calamity beyond his comprehension. Ash and Bramble raise the warrior spirit of Acton, mighty in life and powerful in death. Only he can stop Saker’s rampage. But is Acton, Lord of War, murderer or saviour? And why would he help strangers protect a world he’s never known? Bramble has been marked as Saker’s nemesis, but will be challenged by deeper powers than Saker can command – as well as by her own feelings for Acton. As the living fight the dead, strange forces will shape an uncertain future from pain and suffering.
Well that’s 26-odd books already and seeing as I’m planning on reading 6 books a month in 2010 there’s 50 or so spaces left to fill. And that’s the exciting thing about the world blogs.
You never quite know what you’re going to find when you read them and you never quite know what is going to fall through the door and those are usually the most surprising ones.
I hope there is a couple of books on that list that your want to read as much as I do. Look for review sof a large chunk of them on NextRead in the first half of 2010.
Have a great 2010 and thanks to the Book Smugglers for inviting me to show off some old and new books that I’m looking forward to reading.
Next on Smugglivus: Carolyn Crane of The Thrillionth Page