British Fiction Focus

Cover Art Extravaganza

Welcome back to the British Genre Fiction Focus,’s regular round-up of book news from the United Kingdom’s thriving speculative fiction industry.

Having taken a bit of a backseat in recent weeks, Cover Art Corner returns in full force today. In fact, the column to come is something of a cover art extravaganza, with looks at new books by Nick Harkaway, Stephen King and Haruki Murakami. I predict readers with a penchant for pretty pictures will be well pleased.

Stay tuned for some proper news, too, featuring a folio of poetry in part by Iain Banks, one consequence of the surprising success of True Detective and the delay of N. K. Jemisin’s next novel. Meanwhile, Waterstones have been behaving badly, and it looks like local libraries are getting it again… again.

I, Tigerman

Let’s begin this blowout with a look Nick Harkaway’s new book:

Lester Ferris, sergeant of the British Army, is a good man in need of a rest. He’s spent a lot of his life being shot at, and Afghanistan was the last stop on his road to exhaustion. He has no family, he’s nearly forty and burned out and about to be retired.

The island of Mancreu is the ideal place for Lester to serve out his time. It’s a former British colony in legal limbo, soon to be destroyed because of its very special version of toxic pollution—a down-at-heel, mildly larcenous backwater. Of course, that also makes Mancreu perfect for shady business, hence the Black Fleet of illicit ships lurking in the bay: listening stations, offshore hospitals, money laundering operations, drug factories and deniable torture centres. None of which should be a problem, because Lester’s brief is to sit tight and turn a blind eye.

But Lester Ferris has made a friend: a brilliant, Internet-addled street kid with a comic book fixation who will need a home when the island dies—who might, Lester hopes, become an adopted son. Now, as Mancreu’s small society tumbles into violence, the boy needs Lester to be more than just an observer.

In the name of paternal love, Lester Ferris will do almost anything. And he’s a soldier with a knack for bad places: “almost anything” could be a very great deal—even becoming some sort of hero. But this is Mancreu, and everything here is upside down. Just exactly what sort of hero will the boy need?

The cover art is by Glenn O’Neill & Co., and Harkaway himself is a fan, apparently:

This is a slightly different book from the first two, and the design reflects that. You’ll still feel the continuity from my other books, but at the same time there are, y’know. Shades and tints. Not everything is primary colours, not all problems can be solved with a magic beehive.

Which is not to say that you shouldn’t try.

I like it too. You?

Tigerman will published by William Heinemann in the UK this May.


Benz or Bust

Stephen King Mr Mercedes

Just a month after the arrival of Tigerman, the publication of the first of the two new books Stephen King plans to release this year.

Mr Mercedes is said to be “a riveting cat-and-mouse suspense thriller about a retired cop and a couple of unlikely allies who race against time to stop a lone killer intent on blowing up thousands,” and to ensure fans of the man feel fittingly fervent for it, Hodder & Stoughton treated us last week to an animated GIF adapted from the stark cover art.

Here’s a bit about the book, too. Be aware that it’s fairly straight:

Retired homicide detective Bill Hodges is haunted by the few cases he left open, and by one in particular: in the pre-dawn hours, hundreds of desperate unemployed people were lined up for a spot at a job fair in a distressed Midwestern city. Without warning, a lone driver ploughed through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes. Eight people were killed, fifteen wounded. The killer escaped.

Months later, on the other side of the city, Bill Hodges gets a letter in the mail, from a man claiming to be the perpetrator. He taunts Hodges with the notion that he will strike again. Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing that from happening. Brady Hartfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. And he is indeed preparing to kill again.

Hodges, with a couple of misfit friends, must apprehend the killer in this high-stakes race against time. Because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim hundreds, even thousands. Mr Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable.

Mr Mercedes is due in June. It’s all happening so soon!


Tsukuru the Transparent

Haruki Murakami Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

Tigerman and Mr Mercedes are as good as gimmes for me, but the third of today’s three Cover Art Corners concerns a novel I’m not so sure about. As discussed in this edition of the Short Fiction Spotlight, my recent experiences with Haruki Murakami have been… let’s say lacking. My hope, however, is that his idiosyncratic brand of fantasy can still charm me.

That’s a question I’ll be able to answer more comprehensively come August, when Harvill Secker plan to publish Philip Gabriel’s translation of Murakami’s new book in the UK.

Now we don’t have a proper synopsis for Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage at this early stage, but by way of The Guardian, there is this outline:

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is the story of a man whose four best high school friends, Mr Red, Mr Blue, Miss White and Miss Black, ostracise him—he is colourless, because his name is the only one without a kanji symbol for a colour. It is, translator Gabriel told the Australian last year, “more tightly focused” than previous books by the author.

1Q84 was much more epic in scope, while Tsukuru Tazaki is more lapidary, more tightly focused on one person’s journey,” he said. Murakami’s UK publisher, Liz Foley at Harvill Secker, predicted the novel would “inspire a whole new raft of fans for his work.”

As regards the cover art, revealed here last week, what we’re looking at—striking as it is in my opinion—is just “stage one.” Designer Suzanne Dean explains:

Stage one of the cover reveals an elegant abstract design, representing the five main characters and close childhood friends Mr Red, Mr Blue, Miss White, Miss Black and Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki. Tsukuru means to make or build, and this is an integral part of the second stage of our cover to be revealed at a later date.

Weird. Could this be how cover art is launched going forward, piece by paltry piece? Can you imagine? This week, the colour scheme! Next time, the font! I hope not…

I’ve got one last tidbit about Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage before Cover Art Corner goes back into hibernation: an advance look at the very beginning of the book. Its first line, in fact: “From July of his sophomore year at college to January next year, Tsukuru Tazaki was living while mostly thinking about dying…”

That’s how it begins. We’ll see how it continues come August.


Odds and Sods

Iain M Banks

  • Some thought that The Quarry would be last book to bear Iain Banks’ name. Fortunately there’s one more to come: a folio of his poetry, collected and edited by his friend and fellow conspirator Ken MacLeod, will be released in February 2015.
  • In the process of putting together a booklet recommending the finest in genre fiction, Waterstones forgot to (or simply opted not to) include many authors of a female inclination. People seem surprised.
  • There’s still some uncertainty about Jo Fletcher Books’ future, but that hasn’t stopped the Quercus imprint in question from booking two new novels by the most excellent Robert Jackson Bennett. Due out sometime in September, The City of Stairs is “a sort-of spy novel set in a wonderfully dark and twisted world where the gods that once existed were all killed,” and the deal came complete with a sequel, namely The City of Blades.
  • According to the latest PS Publishing mailshot, Starship Seasons author Eric Brown is at work on the first novella in a new quartet due to be launched alongside books by Ian Watson and Jim Shields at EasterCon in late April.
  • The success of True Detective has led Gollancz to release a digital edition of The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers, which the HBO series has referenced repeatedly.
  • Sheffield City Council doesn’t believe in libraries, apparently. Similar shenanigans are planned in Lincolnshire.
  • Solaris have commissioned a new standalone fantasy by Paul Kearney, along the lines of his earliest efforts, for release sometime in 2015. The Wolf in the Attic “is set in very early 1930s Oxford, features Tolkien and Lewis as characters, and is told from the point of view of a lonely 11 year old girl.”
  • A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin is getting a new cover look in the UK soon. Fans of the series seem to agree that the refreshed art is rubbish… yet better than more blokes in cloaks.
  • N. K. Jemisin’s next book has been delayed of late into 2015. According to the author, this is because The Fifth Season is “the most challenging novel I’ve ever written,” and Orbit quite rightly wants the whole trilogy to be released on a tight timescale. Take all the time you need, Nora!

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 He’s been known to tweet, twoo.


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