From the fold of the British Genre Fiction Focus comes the British Genre Fiction Hitlist: your by and large bi-weekly breakdown of the most notable new releases out of the United Kingdom’s thriving speculative fiction industry.
As of today, I think it’s fair to say that Christmas... is coming!
Admittedly not for another three weeks or so, no, but I for one will be decorating my tree later today—complete with wintry jingles, mulled wine and a mound of mince pies—because the sooner that’s done, the better the season’s begun.
Since it’s the season to be jolly and all, I’ve folded the whole of December together into a single special festive edition of the Hitlist—and like a stocking it’s stuffed full of goodly books, not least new George R. R. Martin, Joe Abercrombie, Brandon Sanderson and Jim Butcher in the British edition of Dangerous Women; grandmaster Brian Aldiss’ first full-on novel since Walcot; a life-affirming meditation on death by Sarah Pinborough; and a clutch of conclusions, including to the Ragnarok Saga, the Shadowdance Trilogy, the Hyddenworld Quartet, and The Books of the Shaper, to boot.
Then Will the Great Ocean Wash Deep Above (Apollo Quartet #3)—Ian Sales (December 1, Whippleshield)
It is April 1962. The Korean War has escalated and the US is struggling to keep the Russians and Chinese north of the 38th parallel. All the men are away fighting, but that doesn’t mean the Space Race is lost. NASA decides to look elsewhere for its astronauts: the thirteen women pilots who passed the same tests as the original male candidates. These are the Mercury 13: Jerrie Cobb, Janey Hart, Myrtle Cagle, Jerri Sloan, Jan Dietrich, Marion Dietrich, Bernice Steadman, Wally Funk, Sarah Gorelick, Gene Nora Stumbough, Jean Hixson, Rhea Hurrle and Irene Leverton. One of these women will be the first American in space. Another will be the first American to spacewalk. Perhaps one will even be the first human being to walk on the Moon.
Beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, deep in the Puerto Rico Trench north of San Juan, lies a film bucket from a KH-4 Corona spy satellite. It should have been caught in mid-air by a C-130 from the 6549th Test Group. That didn’t happen. So the US Navy bathyscaphe Trieste II must descend twenty thousand feet to retrieve the bucket, down where light has never reached and the pressure is four tons per square inch. But there is more in the depths than anyone had expected, much more.
This is not our world. But it very nearly was.
A Dance of Mirrors (Shadowdance #3)—David Dalglish (December 3, Orbit)
One has conquered a city. The other covets an entire nation.
Haern is the King’s Watcher, protector against thieves and nobles who would fill the night with blood. Yet hundreds of miles away, an assassin known as the Wraith has begun slaughtering those in power, leaving the symbol of the Watcher in mockery. When Haern travels south to confront this copycat, he finds a city ruled by the corrupt, the greedy and the dangerous. Rioters fill the streets, and the threat of war hangs over everything. To forge peace, Haern must confront the deadly Wraith, a killer who would shape the kingdom’s future with the blade of his sword.
Man or God... what happens when the lines are blurred?
Dangerous Women—ed. George R. R. Martin & Gardner Dozois (December 3, Harper Voyager)
George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois have put together a towering anthology of specially-commissioned stories from the most stellar names in the genre, set in a number of readers’ favourite fantasy worlds.
The centrepiece of the collection is a new and unpublished novella by George R. R. Martin set in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire. Entitled ‘The Princess and the Queen,’ the tale will reveal the origins of the Targaryen Civil War, otherwise known as ’The Dance of the Dragons’: a war that split the then-fledgling Westeros in two, pitting Targaryen against Targaryen and dragon against dragon.
Dangerous Women also contains contributions from the following worldwide bestselling authors: Joe Abercrombie, Cecelia Holland, Jim Butcher, Joe R. Lansdale, Megan Lindholm (who also writes as Robin Hobb), Brandon Sanderson, Sharon Kay Penman, Lev Grossman and Diana Gabaldon.
End of the Road—ed. Jonathan Oliver (December 5, Solaris)
The critically acclaimed editor of Magic, The End of The Line and House of Fear has brought together the contemporary masters and mistresses of the weird from around the globe in an anthology of travel tales like no other. Strap on your seatbelt, or shoulder your backpack, and wait for that next ride... into darkness.
Each step will lead you closer to your destination, but who, or what, can you expect to meet at journey’s end? Here are stories of misfits, spectral hitch-hikers, nightmare travel tales and the rogues, freaks and monsters to be found on the road. An incredible anthology of original short stories from an exciting list of writers including the best-selling Philip Reeve, the World Fantasy Award-winning Lavie Tidhar and the incredible talents of Sarah Lotz, Ian Whates, Jay Caselberg, Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Zen Cho, Sophia McDougall, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Anil Menon, Rio Youers, Vandana Singh, Paul Meloy, Adam Nevill and Helen Marshall.
The Goddess and the Thief—Essie Fox (December 5, Orion)
Uprooted from her home in India, Alice is raised by her aunt, a spiritualist medium in Windsor. When the mysterious Mr Tilsbury enters their lives, Alice is drawn into a plot to steal the priceless Koh-i-Noor diamond, claimed by the British Empire at the end of the Anglo-Sikh wars.
Said to be both blessed and cursed, the sacred Indian stone exerts its power over all who encounter it: a handsome deposed maharajah determined to claim his rightful throne, a man hell-bent on discovering the secrets of eternity, and a widowed queen who hopes the jewel can draw her husband’s spirit back. In the midst of all this madness, Alice must discover a way to regain control of her life and fate...
Magic Before Christmas (Drake Sisters Omnibus #1)—Christine Feehan (December 5, Piatkus)
This exclusive two-in-one Christmas edition contains both novels that began Feehan’s bestselling series The Drake Sisters: Magic in the Wind and The Twilight Before Christmas.
“Sarah Drake is coming home...”
Damon Wilder has heard the same breathless rumour pass the lips of nearly every local in the sleepy coastal town, and he can’t resist the primal urge that leads him to Sarah’s cliff-top home. But Sarah has her own secrets, and danger—as well as a desire more urgent than either has ever known—is just a whisper away...
The Language of Dying—Sarah Pinborough (December 5, Jo Fletcher)
Tonight is a special, terrible night.
A woman sits at her father’s bedside watching the clock tick away the last hours of his life. Her brothers and sisters—all traumatised in their own ways, their bonds fragile—have been there for the past week, but now she is alone.
And that’s always when it comes.
As the clock ticks in the darkness, she can only wait for it to find her...
Mindstar Rising (Greg Mandel #1)—Peter F. Hamilton (December 5, Macmillan)
Twenty years ago, Pan published Mindstar Rising, the first novel by Britain’s number one science fiction writer, Peter F. Hamilton. This special anniversary edition of his debut also includes a short story, ‘Family Matters,’ which is set in the same world as said.
It’s the 21st century and global warming is here to stay, so forget the way your country used to look. And get used to the free market, too—the companies possess all the best hardware, and they’re calling the shots now.
In a world like this, a man open to any offers can make out just fine. A man like Greg Mandel for instance, who’s psi-boosted, wired into the latest sensory equipment, carrying state-of-the-art weaponry—and late of the English Army’s Mindstar Battalion. As the cartels battle for control of a revolutionary new power source, and corporate greed outstrips national security, tension is mounting to boiling point—and Greg Mandel is about to face the ultimate test.
The Secret of the Nagas (Shiva Trilogy #2)—Amish (December 5, Jo Fletcher)
The hunt is on. Shiva, the man believed to be the prophesied Neelkanth—the destroyer of evil—will not rest until he finds his demonic adversary; the Naga warrior that killed his closest friend and now stalks his wife.
But the rise of evil is everywhere and Shiva’s own philosopher guides have betrayed his unquestioning faith by accepting aid from the dark side. Even the perfect empire of Meluha hides a terrible secret.
Shiva’s search for truth takes him across the length and breadth of ancient India: a land of deadly mysteries where nothing is what it seems.
Winter (Hyddenworld Quartet #4)—William Horwood (December 5, Macmillan)
Storms rage as the worst winter in living memory ravages the human and Hydden worlds. The prophesied End of Days is here and the universe is dying, yet only a few are even aware of the forces at work.
Jack and Katherine must help their friend Bedwyn Stort halt this chaos by locating the last gem of Winter, something only he can do. Then it must be returned to the Earth’s unwilling guardian, their daughter Judith. She will need it to try and reignite the fires of the universe.
Yet Stort is riddled with uncertainty. He yearns for Judith, as she does for him, but a love between mortal and immortal cannot be. To find the gem, he must solve this conundrum and vanquish death itself. But can he really lead mortalkind to salvation?
The Witch’s Daughter (Shadow Chronicles #1)—Paula Brackston (December 5, Corsair)
In the spring of 1628, young Bess Hawksmith watches her mother’s body swing limp from the Hanging Tree. She knows that only one man can save her from the same fate—Gideon Masters, the Warlock. She knows, too, that his help comes at a steep price.
In present-day England, Elizabeth has built a quiet life for herself. She has spent the centuries in solitude, moving from place to place, surviving plagues, wars and the heartbreak that comes with immortality. Her loneliness comes to an abrupt end when she is befriended by a teenage girl called Tegan. Against her better judgment, Elizabeth opens her heart to Tegan and begins teaching her the ways of the Hedge Witch.
But Gideon is hunting her still. He will stop at nothing, determined even after centuries to claim her soul. And now, Bess is not fighting to save herself alone: now, she must protect the girl she has grown to love like a daughter.
December—Phil Rickman (December 10, Corvus)
In the ruins of a medieval abbey on the Welsh border, four young musicians start work on an album influenced by the site’s bloody history. It’s December 1980: the night John Lennon will be murdered in New York. And there’ll be more horror before the sun rises and the session tapes are burned. Or are they?
Years later, Dave, Tom and Simon are persuaded to return to the abbey to complete the recording they thought had been destroyed. But the old tapes—and all the darkness they contain—have been restored.
And it’s December again...
Seven Sorcerers (Books of the Shaper #3)—John R. Fultz (December 10, Orbit)
Ancient power. Immortal blood. Eternal foes.
The Almighty Zyung drives his massive armies across the world to invade the Land of the Five Cities. So begins the final struggle between freedom and tyranny.
The Southern Kings D’zan and Undutu lead a fleet of warships to meet Zyung’s aerial armada. Vireon the Slayer and Tyro the Sword King lead Men and Giants to defend the free world. So begins the great slaughter of the age.
lardu the Shaper and Sharadza Vodsdaughter must awaken the Old Breed to face Zyung’s legion of sorcerers. So begins a desperate quest beyond the material world into strange realms of magic and mystery.
Yet already it may be too late...
When It’s A Jar—Tom Holt (December 17, Orbit)
Maurice has just killed a dragon with a breadknife. And had his destiny foretold... and had his true love spirited away. That’s precisely the sort of stuff that’d bring out the latent heroism in anyone. Unfortunately, Maurice is pretty sure he hasn’t got any latent heroism.
Meanwhile, a man wakes up in a jar in a different kind of pickle (figuratively speaking). He can’t get out, of course, but neither can he remember his name, or what gravity is, or what those things on the ends on his legs are called... and every time he starts working it all out, someone makes him forget again. Forget everything.
Only one thing might help him. The answer to the most baffling question of all.
When is a door not a door?
Comfort Zone—Brian Aldiss (December 19, The Friday Project)
A new novel from one of Britain’s best-loved writers, Brian Aldiss OBE, set in and around his home-town of Oxford.
This incisive novel charts the breakdown of a community. A new mosque is to be built—on the site of a derelict pub—and gradually, half-hidden prejudices begin to surface, and relationships between the residents start to sour.
Drawing closely on current affairs, this novel investigates what it means to live in a post 7/7 world, where paranoia, prejudice and fear compete with tolerance and diversity.
The Fell Sword (Red Knight #2)—Miles Cameron (December 19, Gollancz)
Loyalty costs money. Betrayal, on the other hand, is free
When the Emperor is taken hostage, the Red Knight and his men find their services in high demand—and themselves surrounded by enemies. The country is in revolt, the capital city is besieged and any victory will be hard won. But the Red Knight has a plan.
The question is, can he negotiate the political, magical, real and romantic battlefields at the same time—especially when intends to be victorious on them all?
Forest Ghost—Graham Masterton (December 19, Severn House)
In modern-day America, fifteen Boy Scouts and their adult leaders are found to have committed suicide in the forest of a scout reservation. One of the dead boys is a friend of Sparky Wallace, whose father Jack investigates the suicides—and discovers a connection with his own grandfather, who killed himself in a Polish forest during World War II.
Forest Ghost is a bone-chilling tale of horror and suspense from a master of the genre.
Resonance (Ragnarok #3)—John Meaney (December 19, Gollancz)
From the leader of a Norse raiding party in 7th-century England to a young symbiotically bonded Pilot-and-Ship in the far future. From a female German scientist during the Second World War to a member of an alien race who communicates by smell. From the past to the future, war is coming. And only a few can see the darkness.
Hidden at the centre of the Universe, the darkness spreads its tendrils throughout space and time. Those it touches become puppets, dedicated to slowing down the improvement of the human race and preventing it from reaching its true potential. For the darkness knows that when it makes its final invasion of our space, humanity will stand against it.
And in the far, far future, knowing that they are the last hope for the galaxy, the Ragnarok council is forming...
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.