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.
Are you ready for the biggest Hitlist since well before Christmas? Well, you’d better be...
It begins with the continuation of a real under the radar fantasy saga: Words of Radiance is nearly here, readers! And there’s so much more to come in this edition, including Jeff VanderMeer’s first new novel since Finch, the latest from Ken MacLeod, Mur Lafferty’s second Shambling Guide—she’s heading to New Orleans next—alongside Sebastien de Castell’s endearing debut, the conclusion of The Book of the Crowman, and Black Moon too.
Annihilation (Southern Reach #1)—Jeff VanderMeer (March 2, Fourth Estate)
For thirty years, Area X has remained mysterious, remote, and concealed by the government as an environmental disaster zone even though it is to all appearances pristine wilderness. For thirty years, too, the secret agency known as the Southern Reach has monitored Area X and sent in expeditions to try to discover the truth. Some expeditions have suffered terrible consequences. Others have reported nothing out of the ordinary. Now, as Area X seems to be changing and perhaps expanding, the next expedition will attempt to succeed where all others have failed. What is happening in Area X? What is the true nature of the invisible border that surrounds it?
Annihilation tells the story of the twelfth expedition through the narration of a nameless biologist attached to the mission. A reticent, solitary woman, the biologist brings her own personal secrets with her. She is accompanied by a psychologist, anthropologist, and surveyor, their stated mission to chart the wilderness, take samples, and expand the Southern Reach’s understanding of Area X.
But they soon find out that the information given to them about Area X is incomplete or inaccurate, and that they are being manipulated by forces both strange and all too familiar. The old abandoned lighthouse on the coast is more than it seems. A moaning in the distance at dusk appears to have no natural cause. A tunnel plunging into the ground isn’t on any map.
In Area X, they will all find out what it truly means to face the unknown. Adapt or die.
Panic—Lauren Oliver (March 3, Hodder & Stoughton)
Panic began as so many things do in Carp: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.
Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.
The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare (Alex Wayfare #1)—M. G. Buehrlen (March 6, Strange Chemistry)
For as long as 17-year-old Alex Wayfare can remember, she has had visions of the past. Visions that make her feel like she's really on a ship bound for America, living in Jamestown during the Starving Time, or riding the original Ferris wheel at the World's Fair.
But these brushes with history pull her from her daily life without warning, sometimes leaving her with strange lasting effects and wounds she can't explain. Trying to excuse away the aftereffects has booked her more time in the principal's office than in any of her classes and a permanent place at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Alex is desperate to find out what her visions mean and get rid of them.
It isn't until she meets Porter, a stranger who knows more than should be possible about her, that she learns the truth: her visions aren't really visions. Alex is a Descender—capable of traveling back in time by accessing Limbo, the space between Life and Afterlife. Alex is one soul with fifty-six past lives, fifty-six histories.
Fifty-six lifetimes to explore: the prospect is irresistible to Alex, especially when the same mysterious boy with soulful blue eyes keeps showing up in each of them. But the more she descends, the more it becomes apparent that someone doesn't want Alex to travel again. Ever. And this someone will stop at nothing to make this life her last...
Allies and Assassins (Enemies of the Prince #1)—Justin Somper (March 6, Atom)
They killed his brother. Now they’re coming for him...
As the second prince of Archenfield, Jared didn’t expect to rule. But behind the walls of the castle is a dark and dangerous court where murder and intrigue are never far below the surface.
Now his older brother is dead. The kingdom is his. And the target is on his back. Can he find the assassin before the assassin finds him?
Black Moon—Kenneth Calhoun (March 6, Hogarth)
The world has stopped sleeping. Restless nights have grown into days of panic, delirium and, eventually, desperation. But few and far between, sleepers can still be found - a gift they quickly learn to hide. For those still with the ability to dream are about to enter a waking nightmare.
Matt Biggs is one of the few sleepers. His wife Carolyn however, no stranger to insomnia, is on the very brink of exhaustion. After six restless days and nights, Biggs wakes to find her gone. He stumbles out of the house in search of her to find a world awash with pandemonium, a rapidly collapsing reality. Sleep, it seems, is now the rarest and most precious commodity. Money can't buy it, no drug can touch it, and there are those who would kill to have it.
Kenneth Calhoun's dark, hallucinatory and brilliantly realised debut confronts one of our deepest needs—and fears—with style, vision and a very human heart.
Blades of the Old Empire (Majat Code #1)—Anna Kashina (March 6, Angry Robot)
Kara is a mercenary: a Diamond warrior—the best of the best—and part of the Majat Guild. When her tenure to Prince Kythar comes to an end, he wishes to retain her services, but must accompany her back to her Guild to negotiate her continued protection.
When they arrive they discover that the Prince's sworn enemy, the Kaddim, have already paid the Guild to engage her services: to capture and hand over the very Prince she’s been protecting.
A warrior brought up to respect both duty and honour, what happens when her sworn duty proves dishonourable?
The Book of the Crowman (Black Dawn #2)—Joseph D’Lacey (March 6, Angry Robot)
It is the Black Dawn: a time of environmental apocalypse, the earth wracked and dying.
It is the Bright Day: a time long generations hence, when a peace has descended across the world.
The search for the shadowy figure known only as the Crowman continues, as the Green Men prepare to rise up against the forces of the Ward. The world has been condemned. Only Gordon Black and The Crowman can redeem it.
Descent—Ken McLeod (March 6, Orbit)
How far would you go for the truth?
Ball lightning. Weather balloons. Secret government aircraft. Ryan knows all the justifications for UFO sightings. But when something falls out of the sky on the hills near his small Scottish town, he finds his cynicism can’t identify or explain the phenomenon.
And in a future where nothing is a secret, where everything is logged or recorded on CCTV or reported online, why can he find no evidence of the UFO, or anything to shed light on what occurred? Is it the political revolutionaries, is it the government or is it aliens themselves who are creating the cover-up?
Daughter of the Blood (Black Jewels #1)—Anne Bishop (March 6, Jo Fletcher)
The Darkness has had a Prince for a long, long time. Now the Queen is coming.
For years the realm of Terreille has been falling into corruption, as the powerful Queens who rule it have turned to cruelty.
But there is hope: a prophetic vision has revealed the coming of a Queen more powerful than any other. And once the foundations of her power — father, brother, lover — are in place, she will emerge from the darkness, bringing freedom.
For she is the living myth, dreams made flesh; not just any witch, but Witch.
Emilie and the Sky World (Adventures of Emilie #2)—Martha Wells (March 6, Strange Chemistry)
When Emilie and Daniel arrive in Silk Harbor, Professor Abindon, an old colleague of the Marlendes, warns them that she’s observed something strange and potentially deadly in the sky, a disruption in an upper air aether current. But as the Marlendes investigate further, they realize it’s a ship from another aetheric plane. It may be just a friendly explorer, or something far more sinister, but they will have to take an airship into the dangerous air currents to find out.
Emilie joins the expedition and finds herself deep in personal entanglements, with an angry uncle, an interfering brother, and an estranged mother to worry about—not to mention a lost family of explorers, the strange landscapes of the upper air, and the deadly menace that inhabits the sky world.
The Ghost Train to New Orleans (Shambling Guides #2)—Mur Lafferty (March 6, Orbit)
Could you find a museum for a monster? Or a jazz bar for a jabberwocky?
Zoe writes travel guides for the undead. And she’s good at it too—her new-found ability to talk to cities seems to help. After the success of The Shambling Guide to New York City, Zoe and her team are sent to New Orleans to write the sequel.
Her career isn’t all that brings her to New Orleans. The only person who can save Zoe’s boyfriend from zombism is rumoured to live in the city’s swamps, but she’s out of her element in the wilderness. With her supernatural colleagues waiting to see her fail, and rumours of a new threat hunting citytalkers, can Zoe stay alive long enough to finish her next book?
Libriomancer (Magic Ex Libris #1)—Jim C. Hines (March 6, Del Rey UK)
Isaac Vainio is a Libriomancer, a member of a secret society founded five centuries ago by Johannes Gutenberg. As such, he is gifted with the magical ability to reach into books and draw forth objects.
But when Gutenberg vanishes without a trace, Isaac finds himself pitted against everything from vampires to a sinister, nameless foe who is bent on revealing magic to the world at large... and at any cost.
Traitor’s Blade (Greatcoats #1)—Sebastien de Castell (March 6, Jo Fletcher)
Falcio is the first Cantor of the Greatcoats. Trained in the fighting arts and the laws of Tristia, the Greatcoats are travelling Magisters upholding King’s Law. They are heroes. Or at least they were, until they stood aside while the Dukes took the kingdom, and impaled their King’s head on a spike.
Now Tristia is on the verge of collapse and the barbarians are sniffing at the borders. The Dukes bring chaos to the land, while the Greatcoats are scattered far and wide, reviled as traitors, their legendary coats in tatters. All they have left are the promises they made to King Paelis, to carry out one final mission.
But if they have any hope of fulfilling the King’s dream, the divided Greatcoats must reunite, or they will also have to stand aside as they watch their world burn...
The White Mountain (Chung Kuo Recast #8)—David Wingrove (March 6, Corvus)
The year is 2207. Currents of unrest and tides of innovation threaten to overwhelm Chung Kuo's stability. And some threats are beyond the immense city's control. When a lethal epidemic strikes the Seven's chief supporters, Li Yuan acts ruthlessly to wipe out the disease. But his actions incur far more fatal consequences for the rule of the Seven.
While the Seven splinters, Kwibesi, the detention camp for terrorists, continues to establish order. However, rebellion is brutally contained inside the camp and a growing sense of injustice stirs in its guard, Kao Chen, who begins to question his sense of duty.
The Seven are divided amongst themselves, and around them allegiances are shifting...
Words of Radiance (Stormlight Archive #2)—Brandon Sanderson (March 6, Gollancz)
The Knights Radiant must stand again.
The ancient oaths have at last been spoken; the spren return. Men seek that which was lost. I fear the struggle will destroy them.
It is the nature of the magic. A broken soul has cracks into which something else can be fit. Surgebindings, the powers of creation themselves. They can brace a broken soul; but they can also widen its fissures.
The Windrunner, lost in a shattered land, balanced upon the boundary between vengeance and honour. The Lightweaver, slowly being consumed by her past, searching for the lie that she must become. The Bondsmith, born in blood and death, striving to rebuild what was destroyed. The Explorer, straddling the fates of two peoples, forced to choose between slow death and a terrible betrayal of all she believes.
It is past time for them to awaken, for the Everstorm looms.
And the Assassin has arrived...
Wildwood Imperium (Wildwood Chronicles #3)—Colin Meloy & Carson Ellis (March 6, Canongate)
A young girl's midnight séance awakens a long-slumbering malevolent spirit...
A band of runaway orphans allies with an underground collective of saboteurs and plans a daring rescue of their friends, imprisoned in the belly of an industrial wasteland...
Two old friends draw closer to their goal of bringing together a pair of exiled toy makers in order to reanimate a mechanical boy prince...
...as the fate of Wildwood hangs in the balance.
Urban Outlaws (Urban Outlaws #1)—Peter Jay Black (March 6, Bloomsbury)
In a bunker hidden deep beneath London live five extraordinary kids: meet world-famous hacker Jack, gadget geek Charlie, free runner Slink, comms chief Obi and decoy diva Wren. They're not just friends... they're Urban Outlaws. They outsmart London's crime gangs and hand out their dirty money through RAKs, or Random Acts of Kindness.
Their latest mission—hacking the bank account of criminal mastermind Del Sarto—has landed them in serious trouble. Del Sarto is going head-to-head with MI5 for control of Proteus, an advanced quantum computer able to crack any code and steal top-secret documents in nanoseconds. It's down to the Urban Outlaws to use their guile, guts and skill to destroy Proteus, avert world domination... and stay alive.
The Assassin’s Blade (Throne of Glass)—Sarah J. Maas (March 13, Bloomsbury)
Celaena Sardothien is Adarlan’s most feared assassin. As part of the Assassins' Guild, her allegiance is to her master, Arobynn Hamel, yet Celaena listens to no one and trusts only her fellow killer-for-hire, Sam.
In these five page-turning prequels—published in a single edition for the first time—Celaena embarks on five daring missions. They take her from remote islands to hostile deserts, where she fights to liberate slaves and seeks to avenge the tyrannous. But she is acting against Arobynn’s orders and could suffer an unimaginable punishment for such treachery...
Blood Kin—Steve Rasnic Tem (March 13, Solaris)
A dark Southern Gothic vision of ghosts, witchcraft, secret powers, snake-handling, Kudzu, Melungeons, and the Great Depression.
Michael Gibson has returned to the quiet home of his forebears and now takes care of his grandmother Sadie—old and sickly, but with an important story to tell about growing up poor and Melungeon (a mixed race group of mysterious origin) in the 1930s, while bedeviled by a snake-handling uncle and empathic powers she barely understands.
In a field not far from the Gibson family home lies an iron-bound crate within a small shack buried four feet deep under Kudzu vine. Michael somehow understands that hidden inside that crate is potentially his own death, his grandmother’s death, and perhaps the deaths of everyone in the valley if he does not come to understand her story well enough.
The Fall of the Governor, Part Two (Walking Dead #4)—Jay Bonansinga & Robert Kirkman (March 13, Tor UK)
In Rise of the Governor, über-villain Philip Blake journeyed from his humble beginnings directly into the dark heart of the zombie apocalypse, and became the self-proclaimed leader of a small town called Woodbury. In The Road to Woodbury, an innocent traveller named Lilly Caul wound up in the terrifying thrall of Phillip Blake’s twisted, violent dictatorship within Woodbury’s ever-tightening barricades.
InThe Fall of the Governor, Part One, classic characters from both the comic and television series, including Rick, Michonne, and Glenn, finally made their appearance in The Walking Dead novel series, only to discover that the Governor is a very dangerous enemy.
Now, after a pulse-pounding series of events, the Governor and Rick face off one last time. Only one of them will be left standing...
The Happier Dead—Ivo Stourton (March 13, Solaris)
The Great Spa sits on the edge of London, a structure visible from space. The power of Britain on the world stage rests in its monopoly on 'The Treatment' a medical procedure which can transform the richest and most powerful into a state of permanent physical youth. The Great Spa is the place where the newly young immortals go to revitalise their aged souls.
In this most important and secure of facilities, a murder of one of the guests threatens to destabilise the new order, and DCI Oates of the Metrolpolitan police is called in to investigate. In a single day Oates must unravel the secrets behind the Treatment and the long ago disappearance of its creator, passing through a London riven with disorder and corruption, where adverts are transmitted directly into the imagination.
As a night of widespread rioting takes hold of the city he moves towards a final climax which could lead to the destruction of the Great Spa, his own ruin, and the loss of everything he holds most dear.
Judge Dredd: The Compete Case Files 22—John Wagner, Dan Abnett, Grant Morrison et al. (March 13, 2000 AD)
On the mean streets of Mega-City One, the Judges are the law. Charged with executing justice in this futuristic metropolis, these individuals are the best of the best—battle-hardened warriors dedicated to their cause. Toughest of all is Judge Dredd—a lawman who doesn’t know how to quit!
In this volume of the bestselling Case Files series, Dredd travels back to 2001 New York City in order to destroy a deadly space parasite capable of wiping out all known life on Earth. And the alien action continues in Crusade, where Dredd competes with other Mega-City Judges to recover a long-lost Justice Department craft that has recently crash-landed in the South Pole.
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.