From the fold of the British Genre Fiction Focus comes the British Genre Fiction Hitlist: your bi-weekly breakdown of the most notable new releases out of the United Kingdom’s thriving speculative fiction industry.
With half of September ahead of us yet, the raft of new genre-related releases seen in recent weeks shows no sign of slowing down. As a matter of fact, this is the biggest (not to mention the bestest) edition of the Hitlist I’ve ever put together.
We begin today with Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell, and end with Steelheart by Superbrandon Sanderson. Two must-buy books for yours truly, and that’s hardly the half of all the awesome new novels due to be released here in the next two weeks. There are new series by Stephen Baxter and John Connolly in the offing, meanwhile Elizabeth May makes her debut. Stay tuned for a selection of collections, several stalwart standalones, plus a fair few conclusions, including the third of three adventures with Easie Damasco and the very final tale of the Ketty Jay.
Fortunately, the Milk—Neil Gaiman & Chris Riddell (September 17, Bloomsbury Children)
You know what it’s like when your mum goes away on a business trip and Dad’s in charge. She leaves a really, really long list of what he’s got to do. And the most important thing is DON’T FORGET TO GET THE MILK.
Unfortunately, Dad forgets. So the next morning, before breakfast, he has to go to the corner shop, and this is the story of why it takes him a very, very long time to get back.
Fortunately, the Milk features Professor Steg (a time-travelling dinosaur), some green globby things, the Queen of the Pirates, the famed jewel that is the Eye of Splod, some wumpires, and one perfectly normal but very important carton of milk.
The Rose and the Thorn (Ririya Chronicles #2)—Michael J. Sullivan (September 17, Orbit)
For more than a year, Royce Melborn has tried to forget Gwen DeLancy, the woman who saved him and his partner Hadrian Blackwater when all other doors were closed against them. Unable to stay away any longer, they return to Medford to a very different reception—she refuses to see them.
Once more she is shielding them, this time from the powerful noble who abused her. She was right to suspect Royce wouldn’t care about rank and privilege or fear any repercussions from reprisal. What she didn’t realise is what he was capable of… until now.
The Ace of Skulls (Tales of the Ketty Jay #4)—Chris Wooding (September 19, Gollancz)
All good things come to an end. And this is it: the last stand of the Ketty Jay and her intrepid crew.
They’ve been shot down, set up, double-crossed and ripped off. They’ve stolen priceless treasures, destroyed a ten-thousand-year-old Azryx city and sort-of-accidentally blew up the son of the Archduke. Now they’ve gone and started a civil war. This time, they’re really in trouble.
As Vardia descends into chaos, Captain Frey is doing his best to keep his crew out of it. He’s got his mind on other things, not least the fate of Trinica Dracken. But wars have a way of dragging people in, and sooner or later they’re going to have to pick a side. It’s a choice they’ll be staking their lives on. Cities fall and daemons rise. Old secrets are uncovered and new threats revealed.
When the smoke clears, who will be left standing?
The Bitter Kingdom (Fire & Thorns #3)—Rae Carson (September 19, Gollancz)
In the final volume of Rae Carson’s trilogy, a 17-year-old sorcerer-queen will travel into the unknown realm of the enemy to win back her true love, save her country, and uncover the final secrets of her destiny.
Elisa is a fugitive in her own country. Her enemies have stolen the man she loves in order to lure her to the gate of darkness. As she and her daring companions take one last quest into unknown enemy territory to save Hector, Elisa will face hardships she’s never imagined. And she will discover secrets about herself and her world that could change the course of history. She must rise up as champion—a champion to those who have hated her most.
Riveting, surprising, and achingly romantic, Rae Carson has spun a bold and powerful conclusion to her extraordinary trilogy.
The Clown Service—Guy Adams (September 19, Del Rey UK)
Toby Greene has been reassigned.
The Department: Section 37 Station Office, Wood Green.
The Boss: August Shining, an ex-Cambridge, Cold War-era spy.
The Mission: Charged with protecting Great Britain and its interests from paranormal terrorism.
The Threat: An old enemy has returned, and with him Operation Black Earth, a Soviet plan to create the ultimate insurgents by re-animating the dead.
The Mammoth Book of Best New SF 26—ed. Gardner Dozois (September 19, Robinson)
For nearly three decades, Gardner Dozois has been presenting his weighty and eclectic annual selection of short science fiction that deserves to be better known to a wider audience. It has been voted Year’s Best Anthology by the readers of Locus magazine more often than any other anthology.
Unfailingly, Dozois’s selection offers the very best stories of the year, showcasing outstanding new talents alongside acknowledged masters of the genre, and this year’s collection is no exception, including the work of over 30 writers, including: Robert Reed, Alastair Reynolds, Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear, Paul McAuley, Linda Nagata, Indrapreamit Das, Pat Cadigan, Andy Duncan, Brit Mandelo, Carrie Vaughn and many more, in addition to Dozois’ magisterial summation of 2012 in SF.
Elves War Fighting Manual—Den Patrick (September 19, Gollancz)
A manual, complete with illustrations, that looks at the Elvish race and the way they fight war. With a history of the race, an assessment on how they, as immortals, face death, and accounts of famous engagements, this is the perfect companion for any fantasy wargamer or roleplayer, as well as being a door into a wonderful and original fantasy world.
Proxima—Stephen Baxter (September 19, Gollancz)
The very far future: The Galaxy is a drifting wreck of black holes, neutron stars, chill white dwarfs. The age of star formation is long past. Yet there is life here, feeding off the energies of the stellar remnants, and there is mind, a tremendous Galaxy-spanning intelligence each of whose thoughts lasts a hundred thousand years. And this mind cradles memories of a long-gone age when a more compact universe was full of light…
The 27th century: Proxima Centauri, an undistinguished red dwarf star, is the nearest star to our sun—and (in this fiction), the nearest to host a world, Proxima IV, habitable by humans. But Proxima IV is unlike Earth in many ways. Huddling close to the warmth, orbiting in weeks, it keeps one face to its parent star at all times. The ’substellar point’, with the star forever overhead, is a blasted desert, and the ’antistellar point’ on the far side is under an ice cap in perpetual darkness. How would it be to live on such a world?
Needle ships fall from Proxima IV’s sky. Yuri Jones, with 1000 others, is about to find out…
Doctor Sleep (The Shining #2)—Stephen King (September 23, Hodder & Stoughton)
On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless—mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and tween Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the ’steam’ that children with the ’shining’ produce when they are slowly tortured to death.
Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him and a job at a nursing home where his remnant ’shining’ power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes ’Doctor Sleep.’
Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival…
Empire of the Blood Omnibus—Gav Thorpe (September 24, Angry Robot)
He had brought his master’s Empire to the furthest reaches of the world. All had fallen before him.
Now he longs for home.
But home isn’t what it was. Could it be that everything he’s fought for all those years has been a lie?
A sweeping fantasy of immense battles, demonic magic and dark politics.
This omnibus edition of Gav Thorpe’s epic trilogy brings together The Crown of the Blood, The Crown of the Conqueror and The Crown of the Usurper under one cover for the first time.
Prince Thief (Tales of Easie Damasco #3)—David Tallerman (September 24, Angry Robot)
Altapasaeda, capital of the Castoval, is about to be besieged by its own king—and where else would luckless, somewhat reformed thief Easie Damasco be but trapped within the city’s walls? Faced with a war they can’t win and a populace too busy fighting amongst itself to even try, the Castovalian defenders are left with one desperate option. Far in the northern lands of Shoan, rebels have set up the young prince Malekrin as a figurehead in their own quest to throw off the king’s tyrannical rule. One way or another, the prince must be persuaded to join forces.
Once again, all hope lies with Damasco and his sticky-fingered approach to problem solving, along with his long suffering partner, the gentle giant Saltlick. But this time it’s a human being that needs stealing, with his own desires and opinions, and events only grow more complicated as Damasco realises that he and the rebellious young prince have more in common that either would admit.
The Chaos of Stars—Kiersten White (September 25, HarperCollins Teen)
All good stories have a few false starts…
Myth: The children of immortal gods are immortal, too. Reality: Isadora isn’t going to be around forever—and her parents barely seem to notice she’s alive right now.
Myth: Once a god, always a god—that kind of power never fades away. Reality: These days, Isadora’s relatives are clinging to the little bit of power they have left. And some of them would do anything to take it all.
Myth: Every teenage girl dreams of falling in love. Reality: From what Isadora’s seen, love is a painful mess. All she dreams of is a normal life away from her crazy family-minus any romantic drama.
Myth: If you go far enough, you can leave the past behind. Reality: Isadora moves halfway around the world to San Diego for a fresh start, but quickly finds that there’s no such thing as a clean break from family—and that leaving her old life may mean sacrificing more than she ever guessed.
Conquest (Chronicles of the Invaders #1)—John Connolly & Jennifer Ridyard (September 26, Headline)
Earth is no longer ours. It is ruled by the Illyri, a beautiful, civilised yet ruthless alien species. But humankind has not given up the fight, and Paul Kerr is one of a new generation of young Resistance leaders waging war on the invaders.
Syl Hellais is the first of the Illyri to be born on Earth. Trapped inside the walls of her father’s stronghold, hated by the humans, she longs to escape.
But on her sixteenth birthday, Syl’s life is about to change forever. She will become an outcast, an enemy of her people, for daring to save the life of one human: Paul Kerr. Only together do they have a chance of saving each other, and the planet they both call home.
For there is a greater darkness behind the Illyri conquest of Earth, and the real invasion has not yet even begun…
The Creeps (Samuel Johnson vs. the Devil #4)—John Connolly (September 26, Hodder & Stoughton)
Samuel Johnson is not in a happy place. He is dating the wrong girl, demons are occupying his spare room, and the town in which he lives appears to be cursed.
But there is some good news on the horizon. After years of neglect, the grand old building that once housed Wreckit & Sons is about to reopen as the greatest toyshop that Biddlecombe has ever seen, and Samuel and his faithful dachshund Boswell are to be guests of honour at the big event. A splendid time will be had by all, as long as they can ignore the sinister statue that keeps moving around the town, the Shadows that are slowly blocking out the stars, the murderous Christmas elves, and the fact that somewhere in Biddlecombe a rotten black heart is beating a rhythm of revenge.
A trap has been set. The Earth is doomed. The last hope for humanity lies with one young boy and the girl who’s secretly in love with him. Oh, and a dog, two demons, four dwarves and a very polite monster.
The Devil Delivered and Other Tales—Steven Erikson (September 26, Bantam Press)
Three stories from the award-winning author of The Malazan Book of the Fallen.
In the breakaway Lakota Nation, in the heart of a land blistered beneath an ozone hole the size of the Great Plains of North America, a lone anthropologist wanders the deadlands, recording observations that threaten to bring the world’s powers to their knees.
In the fictitious country of Canada, the arts scene is ruled by technocrats who thrive in a secret, nepotistic society of granting agencies, bursaries, and peer review boards, all designed to permit self-proclaimed artists to survive without an audience.
Last but not least, a children’s story of a boy tasked with a writing assignment becomes a stunning fantastical journey with his tale-spinning grandmother.
Dolly: A Ghost Story—Susan Hill (September 26, Profile Books)
The remoter parts of the English Fens are forlorn, lost and damp even in the height of summer. At Iyot Lock, a large decaying house, two young cousins, Leonora and Edward, are parked for the summer with their ageing spinster aunt and her cruel housekeeper.
At first the unpleasantness and petty meannesses appear simply spiteful, calculated to destroy Edward’s equanimity. But when spoilt Leonora is not given the birthday present of a specific dolly that she wants, affairs inexorably take a much darker turn with terrifying, life-destroying consequences for everyone.
The Falconer (Falconer #1)—Elizabeth May (September 26, Gollancz)
Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, was destined for a life carefully planned around Edinburgh’s social events—right up until when a faery killed her mother.
Now it’s the 1844 winter season and Aileana slaughters faeries in secret, in between the endless round of parties, tea and balls. Armed with modified percussion pistols and explosives, she sheds her aristocratic facade every night to go hunting. She’s determined to track down the faery who murdered her mother, and to destroy any who prey on humans in the city’s many dark alleyways.
But the balance between high society and her private war is a delicate one, and as the fae infiltrate the ballroom and Aileana’s father returns home, she has decisions to make. How much is she willing to lose—and just how far will Aileana go for revenge?
Fearie Tales: Stories of the Grimm and Gruesome—ed. Stephen Jones (September 26, Jo Fletcher)
Two hundred years ago two brothers, Jacob and Wilhelm, collected together a large selection of folk and fairy tales and published them as Kinder und Hausmärchen (Children’s and Household Tales). So successful was the first collection of 88 stories that they kept adding more to subsequent editions. Since then, the tales of the Brothers Grimm have been translated into upwards of a hundred different languages and are known and loved throughout the world.
Now award-winning editor Stephen Jones has tasked some of the brightest and best horror writers in Britain, America and Europe with reinterpreting some of the traditional Hausmärchen, putting a decidedly darker spin on the classic stories.
Fire and Ash (Rot & Ruin #4)—Jonathan Maberry (September 26, Simon & Schuster)
Benny Imura and his friends have made it to Sanctuary, they’ve found the jet and they’ve discovered that civilization is struggling to regain its foothold in the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse. Scientists are on the verge of finding a cure for the zombie plague.
It should be time for celebration, but it’s not. Benny’s best friend, Chong, has been infected by an arrow dipped in the flesh of a zombie and he hovers between life and death and Dr McReady, a researcher who may have the critical formula for a cure, has gone missing. So Benny convinces Captain Ledger to mount a search and rescue mission to find the doctor and help Chong. But with the Reapers still pursuing their plan to turn all zombies into super-fast shock troops even if they can save Chong, can they save themselves?
In the fourth book of the thrilling and emotionally charged Rot & Ruin series, the battle to end all battles is about to begin…
Jupiter War (Owner #3)—Neal Asher (September 26, Tor UK)
Alan Saul is now part-human and part-machine, and our solar system isn’t big enough to hold him. He craves the stars, but can’t leave yet. His sister Var is trapped on Mars, on the wrong side of a rebellion, and Saul’s human side won’t let her die. He must leave Argus Station to stage a dangerous rescue—but mutiny is brewing onboard, as Saul’s robots make his crew feel increasingly redundant.
Serene Galahad will do anything to prevent Saul’s escape. Earth’s ruthless dictator hides her crimes from a cowed populace as she readies new warships for pursuit. She aims to crush her enemy in a terrifying display of interstellar violence.
Meanwhile, The Scourge limps back to earth, its crew slaughtered, its mission to annihilate Saul a disaster. There are survivors, but while one seeks Galahad’s death, Clay Ruger will negotiate for his life. Events build to a climax as Ruger holds humanity’s greatest prize: seeds to rebuild a dying Earth. This stolen gene-bank data will come at a price, but what will Galahad pay for humanity’s future?
Marina—Carlos Ruiz Zafon (September 26, Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
“Fifteen years on, the remembrance of that day has returned to me. I have seen that boy wandering through the mist of the railway station, and the name of Marina has flared up again like a fresh wound. We all have a secret buried under lock and key in the attic of our soul. This is mine…”
In May 1980, 15-year-old Oscar Drai suddenly vanishes from his boarding school in the old quarter of Barcelona. For seven days and nights no one knows his whereabouts…
His story begins in the heart of old Barcelona, when he meets Marina and her father German Blau, a portrait painter. Marina takes Oscar to a cemetery to watch a macabre ritual that occurs on the fourth Sunday of each month. At 10AM precisely a coach pulled by black horses appears. From it descends a woman dressed in black, her face shrouded, wearing gloves, holding a single rose. She walks over to a gravestone that bears no name, only the mysterious emblem of a black butterfly with open wings.
When Oscar and Marina decide to follow her they begin a journey that will take them to the heights of a forgotten, post-war Barcelona, a world of aristocrats and actresses, inventors and tycoons; and a dark secret that lies waiting in the mysterious labyrinth beneath the city streets.
Steelheart (Reckoners #1)—Brandon Sanderson (September 26, Gollancz)
Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills.
Nobody fights the Epics… nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.
And David wants in. He wants Steelheart—the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David’s father. For years, like the Reckoners, David’s been studying, and planning—and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience: he’s seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.
The Casebook of Newbury & Hobbes (Newbury & Hobbes #5)—George Mann (September 27, Titan)
From the writer of The Ghost series of novels and audio scripts for the BBC’s Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes comes a collection of thrilling short stories set in the universe of George Mann’s popular Newbury & Hobbes series.
The casebook details the surprising and heart-warming steampunk adventures of the detective duo comprising Sir Maurice Newbury and Miss Veronica Hobbes in dark and dangerous Victorian London.
Along with Chief Inspector Bainbridge, Newbury and Hobbes will face plague revenants, murderous peers, mechanical bests, tentacle leviathans, reanimated pygmies, and an unlikely encounter with Sherlock Holmes himself.
Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative Scotsman, Strange Horizons, and Tor.com. He’s been known to tweet, twoo.