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.
The first half of January got 2014 off to a strong start thanks to an impressive collection of heavy-hitters like The Girl With all the Gifts and The Emperor’s Blades—a tremendous trend which continues in this edition of the British Genre Fiction Hitlist. Because the next fortnight? Pretty awesome.
The fun begins with James Smythe’s superb sequel to The Explorer before coming to a close right around the release of Pierce Brown’s riotous Red Rising. In the interim, serious sequels like Breach Zone by Myke Cole, Pandemic by Scott Sigler and The Fell Sword by Miles Cameron; plus a whole load of interesting standalone (so far) stuff, including Wolves by Simon Ings, Arcanum by Simon Morden and Twenty Trillion Leagues Under the Sea by Adam Roberts & Mahendra Singh.
Last but not least in the latest Hitlist: a collection of some of the best of the essays our very own Jo Walton has published on Tor.com! Take this opportunity to show your support, folks.
The Echo (Anomaly Quartet #2)—James Smythe (January 16, Harper Voyager)
Twenty years following the disappearance of the infamous Ishiguro—the first manned spacecraft to travel deeper into space than ever before—humanity are setting their sights on the heavens once more.
Under the direction of two of the most brilliant minds science has ever seen—that of identical twin brothers Tomas and Mirakel Hyvönen—this space craft has a bold mission: to study what is being called the anomaly—a vast blackness of space into which the Ishiguro disappeared. Between them Tomas (on the ground, guiding the mission from the command centre) and Mira (on the ship, with the rest of the hand-picked crew) are leaving nothing to chance.
But soon these two scientists are to learn that there are some things in space beyond our understanding. As the anomaly begins to test the limits of Mira’s comprehension—and his sanity—will Tomas be able to save his brother from being lost in space too?
Flame (Sky Chasers #3)—Amy Kathleen Ryan (January 16, Macmillan Children’s)
Waverly and the other members of the Empyrean have been scattered, and their home ship destroyed. The mission to rescue their parents didn’t go quite as planned, and now they’re at an even greater disadvantage: trapped with their enemies on the New Horizon, trying to find a way to survive.
Will Seth’s health hold out long enough to help Waverly topple their enemy? And will Waverly find a way to unite her friends before the final battle? Nothing is certain and every second is a risk in this fiery finale to the Sky Chasers series.
Snowblind—Christopher Golden (January 16, Headline)
Twelve years ago the small town of Coventry, Massachusetts was in the grasp of a particularly brutal winter. And then came the Great Storm.
It hit hard. Not everyone saw the spring. Today the families, friends and lovers of the victims are still haunted by the ghosts of those they lost so suddenly. If only they could see them one more time, hold them close, tell them they love them.
It was the deadliest winter in living memory. Until now…
When a new storm strikes, it doesn’t just bring snow and ice, it brings the people of Coventry exactly what they’ve been wishing for. And the realisation their nightmare is only beginning.
Twenty Trillion Leagues Under the Sea—Adam Roberts & Mahendra Singh (January 16, Gollancz)
It is 1958 and France’s first nuclear submarine, Plongeur, leaves port for the first of its sea trials. On board, gathered together for the first time, one of the navy’s most experienced captains and a tiny skeleton crew of sailors, engineers and scientists.
The Plongeur makes her first dive and goes down, and down and down…
Out of control, the submarine plummets to a depth where the pressure will crush her hull, killing everyone on board, and beyond. The pressure builds, the hull protests, the crew prepare for death, the boat reaches the bottom of the sea and finds… nothing.
Her final dive continues, the pressure begins to relent, but the depth gauge is useless. They have gone miles down. Hundreds of miles, thousands. And so it goes on. And on board the crew succumb to madness, betrayal, religious mania and murder. Has the Plongeur left the limits of our world and gone elsewhere?
The Unremembered Empire (Horus Heresy #27)—Dan Abnett (January 16, The Black Library)
The unthinkable has happened: Terra has fallen to the traitor forces of Warmaster Horus! Nothing else could explain the sudden disappearance of the Astronomican’s guiding light at the heart of the Imperium, or so Roboute Guilliman would believe…
Ever the pragmatist, he has drawn all his forces to Ultramar and begun construction of the new empire known as Imperium Secundus. Even with many of his primarch brothers at his side, he still faces war from without and intrigue from within—with the best of intentions, were the full truth to be known it would likely damn them all as traitors for all eternity.
What Makes This Book So Great—Jo Walton (January 16, Corsair)
Jo Walton is an award-winning author of, inveterate reader of, and chronic rereader of science fiction and fantasy books. What Makes This Book So Great is a selection of the very best of her musings about her prodigious reading habit.
Walton’s many subjects range from acknowledged classics, to guilty pleasures, to forgotten oddities and gems. Among them, the Zones of Thought novels of Vernor Vinge; the question of what genre readers mean by “mainstream”; the under-appreciated SF adventures of C. J. Cherryh; the field’s many approaches to time travel; the masterful science fiction of Samuel R. Delany; Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children; the early Hainish novels of Ursula K. Le Guin; and a Robert A. Heinlein novel you have most certainly never read.
Over 130 essays in all, What Makes This Book So Great is an immensely engaging collection of provocative, opinionated thoughts about past and present-day fantasy and science fiction, from one of our best writers.
Wolves—Simon Ings (January 16, Gollancz)
Augmented Reality uses computing power to overlay a digital imagined reality over the real world. Whether it be adverts or imagined buildings and imagined people with Augmented Reality the world is no longer as it appears to you, it is as it is imagined by someone else.
Two friends are working at the cutting edge of this technology and when they are offered backing to take the idea and make it into the next global entertainment they realise that wolves hunt in this imagined world. And the wolves might be them.
A story about technology becomes a personal quest into a changed world and the pursuit of a secret from the past. A secret about a missing mother, a secret that could hide a murder. This is no dry analysis of how a technology might change us, it is a terrifying thriller, a picture of a dark tomorrow that is just around the corner.
Pandemic (Infected #3)—Scott Sigler (January 21, Hodder & Stoughton)
The alien intelligence that unleashed two horrific assaults on humanity has been destroyed. But before it was brought down in flames, it launched one last payload—a tiny soda-can-sized canister filled with germs engineered to wreak new forms of havoc on the human race. That harmless-looking canister has languished under thousands of feet of water for years, undisturbed and impotent… until now.
Days after the new disease is unleashed, a quarter of the human race is infected. Entire countries have fallen. And our planet’s fate now rests on a small group of unlikely heroes, racing to find a cure before the enemies surrounding them can close in.
Arcanum—Simon Morden (January 28, Orbit)
Carinthia: a kingdom of great influence, power—and formidable magic.
Long has the kingdom of Carinthia relied upon the spells of its Hexmasters to maintain its position of control. The great Prince Gerhard has ruled benignly over a kingdom that’s never had to change for a thousand years. But now there are signs that their magic is failing, and the kingdom lies vulnerable to attack from all sides.
Some Carinthians would do anything to see the magic return: any act, no matter how terrible, is justified, so long as the Hexmasters can still cast spells to protect their homeland.
The kingdom is poised between chaos and order—and the smallest push is the distance between disaster and triumph.
Breach Zone (Shadow Ops #3)—Myke Cole (January 28, Headline)
The Great Reawakening has left Latent people with a stark choice: either use their newfound magical powers in the service of the government, or choose the path of the Selfer, and be hunted down and killed by the Supernatural Operations Corps.
For Lieutenant Colonel Jan Thorsson—callsign Harlequin—the SOC is the closest thing to family he’s ever known. But when his efforts to save thousands of soldiers leads to the impeachment of the President, he’s suddenly cut off from the military and in the same position as his rival Oscar Britton, an outcast criminal who is leading the fight for Latent equality.
This latest schism is perfect for the walking weapon known as Scylla, who is slowly but surely building a vast and terrible army. The Selfers and the SOC will have to learn to work together if they are to have any chance of preventing a massacre. Because this time they won’t be facing her on a dusty battlefield far from home. This time, Scylla is bringing the fight to the streets of New York.
Red Rising (Red Rising #1)—Pierce Brown (January 28, Hodder & Stoughton)
Darrow is a Helldiver, one of thousands of men and women living in the vast caves beneath the surface of Mars: a people who spend their lives toiling to mine the precious elements that will make the planet habitable.
Until the day Darrow learns that it is all a lie. That Mars has been inhabited for generations by a decadent ruling class of people known as the Golds, who view the workers beneath them as nothing more than as slave labour, to be exploited without a second thought.
With the help of a mysterious group of rebels, Darrow disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside.
But the command school is a battlefield—and Darrow isn’t the only student with an agenda…
Ripper—Isabel Allende (January 28, Fourth Estate)
For Amanda Martín and her friends, Ripper was all just a game. But when security guard Ed Staton is found dead in the middle of a school gym, the murder presents a mystery that baffles the San Francisco police, not least Amanda’s father, Deputy Chief Martín. Amanda goes online, offering ‘The Case of the Misplaced Baseball Bat’ to her fellow sleuths as a challenge to their real-life wits. And so begins a most dangerous obsession.
The murders begin to mount up but the Ripper players, free from any moral and legal restraints, are free to pursue any line of enquiry. As their unique power of intuition lead them ever closer to the truth, the case becomes all too personal when Amanda’s mother suddenly vanishes. Could her disappearance be linked to the serial killer? And will Amanda and her online accomplices solve the mystery before it’s too late?
Bird—Crystal Chan (January 30, Tamarind)
“Grandpa stopped speaking the day he killed my brother, John. His name was John until Grandpa said he looked more like a Bird with the way he kept jumping off things, and the name stuck. Bird’s thick, black hair poked out in every direction, just like the head feathers of the blackbirds, Grandpa said, and he bet that one day Bird would fly like one too. Grandpa kept talking like that, and no one paid him much notice until Bird jumped off a cliff, the cliff at the edge of the tallgrass prairie, the cliff that dropped a good couple hundred feet to a dried-up riverbed below. From that day on, Grandpa never spoke another word. Not one.
“The day that Bird tried to fly, the grown-ups were out looking for him—all of them except Mom and Granny. That’s because that very day, I was born.”
Twelve-year-old Jewel never knew her brother, but all her life she has lived in his shadow. Then one night, on her birthday, she finds a mysterious boy sitting in her oak tree. His name is John. And he changes everything.
The Fell Sword (Traitor Son Cycle #2)—Miles Cameron (January 30, 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?
Halo: Mortal Dictata (Kilo-Five #3)—Karen Traviss (January 30, Tor UK)
With the Covenant War over, the Office of Naval Intelligence faces old grievances rising again to threaten Earth. The angry, bitter colonies, still with scores to settle from the insurrection put on hold for thirty years, now want justice—and so does a man whose life was torn apart by ONI when his daughter was abducted for the SPARTAN-II program.
Black ops squad Kilo-Five find their loyalties tested beyond breaking point when the father of their Spartan comrade, still searching for the truth about her disappearance, prepares to glass Earth’s cities to get an answer. How far will Kilo-Five go to stop him? And will he be able to live with the truth when he finds it?
The painful answer lies with a man long dead, and a conscience that still survives in the most unlikely, undiscovered place.
Alien: Out of the Shadows—Tim Lebbon (January 31, Titan)
The massively acclaimed Alien franchise is one of the most successful of all time, beginning with the first film in 1979. In a dramatic twist, this novel now returns us to that time: to Ellen Ripley, and to never-before-revealed secrets of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation… secrets that lead into the events of the second film, Aliens, and beyond!
The Summoning (Shadow World #1)—F. G. Cottam (January 31, Severn House)
When student Adam Parker unearths a mysterious metal artefact during an archaeological dig in a Scottish forest, little does he realize that his life is about to change forever. For it is a sign that Adam has been summoned to fulfil his destiny, playing his part in an epic battle for supremacy that has been waged for centuries.
Introduced to a dark shadow world that exists alongside our own, a place of despair and wilful cruelty, Adam will be tested to the very limits of his endurance. For within that shadow world lurks Rabanus Bloor, the man who has sworn to seek out Adam and destroy him—whatever it takes.
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.