From the fold of the British Genre Fiction Focus comes the British Genre Fiction Hitlist: your biweekly breakdown of the most notable new releases out of the United Kingdom’s thriving speculative fiction industry.
How the hell can it be September already? Tell you what: if I figure it out first, I’ll let you know. You’d do the same for me, I’m sure.
In the interim, do you like books? You do? Good, because I have a fair few for you to take a look at today, not least exciting new series by Rod Duncan, James Lovegrove, Karen Miller and Tom Fletcher; several standalones, like The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell—longlisted of late for the Man Booker Prize; and stay tuned, too, for a couple of conclusions: of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach series and Tad Williams’ Bobby Dollar novels.
This edition of the Hitlist also features new books by Angus Watson, Benedict Jacka, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Elizabeth Cody Kimmel, Charlie Higson, Malinda Lo, Drew Karpyshyn, Robert Aickman, Mercedes Lackey, Terry Pratchett, Gary Gibson, Richard Kadrey, Sarah J. Maas, Brian Herbert, Daniel H. Wilson, Holly Black, Cassandra Clare, Kate Mosse and Rachel Urquhart.
Acceptance (Southern Reach #3)—Jeff VanderMeer (September 2, Fourth Estate)
It is winter in Area X. A new team embarks across the border, on a mission to find a member of a previous expedition who may have been left behind. As they press deeper into the unknown—navigating new terrain and new challenges—the threat to the outside world becomes only more daunting.
In this last instalment of the Southern Reach trilogy, the mysteries of Area X may have been solved, but their consequences and implications are no less profound… or terrifying.
The Age of Iron (Iron Age #1)—Angus Watson (September 2, Orbit)
Dug Sealskinner is a down-on-his-luck mercenary travelling south to join up with King Zadar’s army. But he keeps rescuing the wrong people.
First, Spring, a child he finds scavenging on the battlefield, and then Lowa, one of Zadar’s most fearsome warriors, who’s vowed revenge on the king for her sister’s execution.
Now Dug’s on the wrong side of that thousands-strong army he hoped to join—and worse, Zadar has bloodthirsty druid magic on his side. All Dug has is his war hammer, one rescued child and one unpredictable, highly-trained warrior with a lust for revenge that’s going to get them all killed…
It’s a glorious day to die.
The Bone Clocks—David Mitchell(September 2, Sceptre)
One drowsy summer’s day in 1984, teenage runaway Holly Sykes encounters a strange woman who offers a small kindness in exchange for asylum. Decades will pass before Holly understands exactly what sort of asylum the woman was seeking…
The Bone Clocks follows the twists and turns of Holly’s life from a scarred adolescence in Gravesend to old age on Ireland’s Atlantic coast as Europe’s oil supply dries up—a life not so far out of the ordinary, yet punctuated by flashes of precognition, visits from people who emerge from thin air and brief lapses in the laws of reality. For Holly Sykes—daughter, sister, mother, guardian—is also an unwitting player in a murderous feud played out in the shadows and margins of our world, and may prove to be its decisive weapon.
Metaphysical thriller, meditation on mortality and chronicle of our self-devouring times, this kaleidoscopic novel crackles with the invention and wit that have made David Mitchell one of the most celebrated writers of his generation. Here is fiction at its most spellbinding and memorable best.
Hidden (Alex Verus #5)—Benedict Jacka (September 2, Orbit)
Alex Verus is a diviner who can see probable futures—a talent that’s gotten him and his friends out of many a tough scrape. But what happens when someone doesn’t want Alex’s help?
Alex’s friend, the life mage Anne, distanced herself from him when she found out about his past as a Dark apprentice. Now she’s in serious trouble, but wants nothing to do with him. Alex has to start wondering if Anne’s problem is really with him—or if there’s a secret she’s trying to hide.
On top of that, rumours are swirling around London that Alex’s former master may be back in town. Alex has no idea what his agenda may be, or who it involves…
Son of No One (Dark-Hunter World #24)—Sherrilyn Kenyon (September 2, Piatkus)
It’s not easy being life’s own personal joke, but Josette Landry has made an unstable peace with the beast. Down on her luck, Josette takes a job with a local paranormal group as a photographer and camerawoman. Yeah, they’re even crazier than she is. But when something truly evil is released into the world, they are forced to call in reinforcements.
From the moment Josette meets Cadegan, she knows something about him isn’t quite right. Mysterious and armed with lethal sarcasm, he seems a lot older than his age.
Centuries ago, Cadegan was viciously betrayed into an immortal prison by the only person he’d ever trusted. Forced against his will to do good, he hates everything in life. All he wants is a way out. But for the damned there is only eternal suffering. And yet there is something about Josette that intrigues him. Something he can’t seem to fight and the last time he felt this way about a woman, it cost him everything.
He knows he has to stay away from her, but the unleashed demon is hell-bent on consuming her soul. If one more innocent is taken, he will be sent back to an unimaginable prison that makes his current hell look like paradise. But how can he keep her safe when his being with her is the greatest threat of all?
The Boxtrolls—Elizabeth Cody Kimmel (September 4, OUP Oxford)
The Boxtrolls dwell in the vast and intricate caverns under the cobblestone streets of Cheesebridge. Human legend has it the creatures are carnivorous monsters. In reality, though, they’re just misunderstood oddballs who’ve raised an orphan boy named Eggs.
When Eggs discovers his true identity, he finds himself in the very centre of the ongoing struggle between his boxtroll family and cheese-loving fear-mongerers. In the end, it takes a privileged little girl named Winnie to teach both Eggs and the people of Cheesebridge what it means to be human.
The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter (The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire #1)—Rod Duncan (September 4, Angry Robot)
Elizabeth Barnabus lives a double life—as herself and as her brother, the private detective. She is trying to solve the mystery of a disappearing aristocrat and a hoard of arcane machines. In her way stand the rogues, freaks and self-proclaimed alchemists of a travelling circus.
But when she comes up against an agent of the all-powerful Patent Office, her life and the course of history will begin to change. And not necessarily for the better…
Gleam (The Factory #1)—Tom Fletcher (September 4, Jo Fletcher)
The gargantuan Factory of Gleam is an ancient, hulking edifice of stone, metal and glass ruled over by chaste alchemists and astronomer priests.
As millennia have passed, the population has decreased, and now only the central district is fully inhabited and operational; the outskirts have been left for the wilderness to reclaim. This decaying, lawless zone is the Discard; the home of Wild Alan.
Clever, arrogant, and perpetually angry, Wild Alan is both loved and loathed by the Discard’s misfits. He’s convinced that the Gleam authorities were behind the disaster that killed his parents and his ambition is to prove it. But he’s about to uncover more than he bargained for.
The Hunted (The Enemy #6)—Charlie Higson (September 4, Puffin)
The sickness struck everyone over fourteen. First it twisted their minds. Next it ravaged their bodies. Now they roam the streets, crazed and hungry.
The others had promised that the countryside would be safer than the city. They were wrong. Now Ella’s all-alone except for her silent rescuer, Scarface—and she’s not even sure if he’s a kid or a grown-up.
Back in London, Ed’s determined to find her. But getting out of town’s never been more dangerous- because coming in the other direction is every SICKO in the country. It’s like they’re being called towards the capital and nothing is going to stop them…
Inheritance (Adaptation #2)—Malinda Lo (September 4, Hodder Children’s)
David’s fingers squeezed hers, and through the connection that opened between them when they touched, Reese felt his emotions echoing her own. They both had that jittery, butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling that said: You’re about to do something that could either be a huge success or a crushing defeat.
Reese and David are different now. Surrounded by a web of conspiracies, Reece feels that she must choose between two worlds.
Her choices: David—or Amber? This world—or another? Should they tell the truth, and risk everything?
The Scorched Earth (Children of Fire #2)—Drew Karpyshyn (September 4, Del Rey UK)
The Children of Fire—four mortals touched by the power of Chaos, each embodying one aspect of a banished and fallen immortal champion: Keegan, the wizard; Scythe, the warrior; Cassandra, the prophet; Vaaler, the king. Now grown to adulthood, three of the Children—Keegan, Scythe and Vaaler—have joined forces with the heretical monk Jerrod in his quest to find the ancient Talismans that can stop the return of Daemron the Slayer, ancient enemy of the Old Gods. But in acquiring Daemron’s Ring, they’ve left in their wake death, destruction and a Queen bent on revenge.
Cassandra, last of the four Children, is still hunted by the monstrous servants of the Slayer, who seek the Crown she carries for their dark master. Forced to bear the burden alone, she must also hide from the fanatical Inquisitors of the Order she once served, as the new Pontiff has unleashed a bloody religious Purge to rid the Southland kingdoms of all Chaos magic.
The other Children, unaware of Cassandra’s fate, seek sanctuary with the barbarian Clans of the Frozen East, pursued by the massive armies of the Danaan Queen and the dark forces of Chaos she has allied with to get her revenge. Beset on all sides by both mortal and supernatural enemies, they race to find Daemron’s Sword, the last of the ancient Talismans, before the entire mortal world is engulfed in the flames of war and Chaos that will herald the Slayer’s return.
The Unsettled Dust—Robert Aickman (September 4, Faber & Faber)
Robert Aickman, the supreme master of the supernatural, brings together eight stories where strange things happen that the reader is unable to predict. His characters are often lonely and middle-aged but all have the same thing in common: they are all brought to the brink of an abyss that shows how terrifyingly fragile our piece of mind actually is.
‘The Next Glade,’ ‘Bind Your Hair’ and British Fantasy Award winner ‘The Stains’ appeared together in The Wine-Dark Sea in 1988. ‘The Unsettled Dust,’ ‘The House of the Russians,’ ‘No Stronger than a Flower,’ ‘The Cicerones’ and ‘Ravissante’ first appeared in Sub Rosa in 1968. The stories were published together as The Unsettled Dust in 1990.
The Heralds of Valdemar (Valdemar Omnibus #1)—Mercedes Lackey (September 5, Titan)
Thirteen-year-old Talia longs for a better life, far away from her repressive stepmothers and the village of Sensholding, where books chronicling the adventures of the Heralds of Valdemar and their Companions provide her only escape. But when her family decide she is to be married, Talia flees, and stumbles upon one of the very Companions of legend, a magical steed with incredible powers.
Talia soon discovers she has powers of her own, and, together with her new Companion, she arrives at the Collegium to fulfil her dreams and train as a Herald. But as Talia struggles to master her unique abilities, she unearths a deadly plot that could destroy both Queen and kingdom.
The Heralds of Valdemar sees Talia grow from teenage runaway to a Herald whose powers will affect the future of the entire realm.
The Falcon Throne (The Tarnished Crown #1)—Karen Miller (September 9, Orbit)
In a divided Kingdom, some will do anything to seize the crown.
A bastard lord, rising up against his tyrant cousin, sheds more blood than he bargained for. A royal child, believed dead, sets his eyes on regaining his father’s stolen throne. A Duke’s widow, defending her daughter, defies the ambitious lord who’d control them both. And two brothers, divided by ambition, will learn the true meaning of treachery.
All of this will come to pass, and nothing will remain as it once was. Royal houses will fall, empires will be reborn, and those who seek the Falcon Throne will pay for it in blood.
Dragons at Crumbling Castle—Terry Pratchett (September 11, Doubleday Children’s)
Dragons have invaded Crumbling Castle, and all of King Arthur’s knights are either on holiday or visiting their grannies. It’s a disaster!
Luckily, there’s a spare suit of armour and a very small boy called Ralph who’s willing to fill it. Together with Fortnight the Friday knight and Fossfiddle the wizard, Ralph sets out to defeat the fearsome fire-breathers.
But there’s a teeny weeny surprise in store…
Fourteen fantastically funny stories from master storyteller Sir Terry Pratchett, full of time travel and tortoises, monsters and mayhem!
Extinction Game—Gary Gibson (September 11, Tor UK)
Jerry Beche should be dead. Instead, he’s rescued from a desolate Earth where he was the last man alive. He’s then trained for the toughest conditions imaginable and placed with a crack team of specialists. Every one of them is a survivor, as each withstood the violent ending of their own alternate Earth. And their new specialism? To retrieve weapons and data in missions to other apocalyptic worlds.
But what is ‘the Authority’, the shadowy organization that rescued Beche and his fellow survivors? How does it access other timelines? And why does it need these instruments of death?
As Jerry struggles to obey his new masters, he begins to distrust his new companions. A strange bunch, their motivations are less than clear, and accidents start plaguing their missions. Jerry suspects the Authority is feeding them lies, and team members are spying on him. As a dangerous situation spirals into catastrophe, is there anybody he can trust?
The Getaway God (Sandman Slim #6)—Richard Kadrey (September 11, Harper Voyager)
Being a half-human, half-angel nephilim with a bad rep and a worse attitude—not to mention temporarily playing Lucifer—James Stark, aka Sandman Slim, has made a few enemies. None, though, are as fearsome as the vindictive Angra Om Ya: the old gods. But their imminent invasion is only one of Stark’s problems right now. LA is descending into chaos, and a new evil—the Wildfire Ripper—is stalking the city.
No ordinary killer, The Ripper takes Stark deep into a conspiracy that stretches from Earth to Heaven and Hell. He’s also the only person alive who may know how to keep the world from going extinct. The trouble is, he’s also Stark’s worst enemy… the only man in existence Stark would enjoy killing twice.
Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3)—Sarah J. Maas (September 11, Bloomsbury)
Lost and broken, Celaena Sardothien’s only thought is to avenge the savage death of her dearest friend: as the King of Adarlan’s Assassin, she is bound to serve this tyrant, but he will pay for what he did. Any hope Celaena has of destroying the king lies in answers to be found in Wendlyn.
Sacrificing his future, Chaol, the Captain of the King’s Guard, has sent Celaena there to protect her, but her darkest demons lay in that same place. If she can overcome them, she will be Adarlan’s biggest threat—and his own toughest enemy.
While Celaena learns of her true destiny, and the eyes of Erilea are on Wendlyn, a brutal and beastly force is preparing to take to the skies. Will Celaena find the strength not only to win her own battles, but to fight a war that could pit her loyalties to her own people against those she has grown to love?
Inferno (Hellhole #2)—Brian Herbert (September 11, Simon & Schuster)
After the events of Awakening, the people of Hellhole and the shadow-Xayans scramble to rally against the threat from the still-living rogue Xayans.
Back on Sonjeera, the Monarchy is in an uproar after their surprising defeat and the breakaway of the Deep Zone planets. The dowager Queen decides to go to Hellhole on a diplomatic mission, hoping to keep her power. But after touring Hellhole, Queen Michella is shaken, and begins to realize that she can never have the old Monarchy back. Before the Queen can return to Sonjeera, she’s captured by the rogue Xayans and learns the reason for their attack: the orthodox Xayans had developed their minds to the point where they could evolve and, in so doing, trigger another Big Bang, wiping out everything.
The rogue Xayans thought they succeeded in stopping the ascension, but the orthodox Xayans on Hellhole are nearly ready. Now, twenty-two huge asteroids from the outer reaches of the solar system are bearing towards Hellhole, summoned by the rogue sect as a last resort. Can all these lives and the planet itself be saved?
The Iron Trial (Magisterium #1)—Holly Black & Cassandra Clare (September 11, Doubleday Children’s)
Most people would do anything to get into the Magisterium and pass the Iron Trial. Not Callum Hunt. His whole life, he’s been told that he should never trust a magician. So Call tries his best to do his worst—but fails at failing.
Now he must enter the Magisterium. It’s a place that’s both sensational and sinister. And Call realizes it has dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future.
The Iron Trial is just the beginning. Call’s biggest test is still to come…
Robogenesis (Robopocalyse #2)—Daniel H. Wilson (September 11, Simon & Schuster)
Humankind had triumphed over the machines. At the end of Robopocalypse, the modern world was largely devastated, humankind was pressed to the point of annihilation, and the earth was left in tatters… but the master artificial intelligence presence known as Archos had been killed.
In Robogenesis, we see that Archos has survived. Spread across the far reaches of the world, the machine code has fragmented into millions of pieces, hiding and regrouping. In a series of riveting narratives, Robogenesis explores the fates of characters new and old, robotic and human, as they fight to build a new world in the wake of a devastating war. Readers will bear witness as survivors find one another, form into groups, and react to a drastically different (and deadly) technological landscape. All the while, the remnants of Archos’ shattered intelligence are seeping deeper into new breeds of machines, mounting a war that will not allow for humans to win again.
Sleeping Late on Judgement Day (Bobby Dollar #3)—Tad Williams (September 11, Hodder)
Bobby Dollar thinks he’s seen it all—after all, he’s been to Hell and back again. Literally. But he has another think coming.
Sleeping Late on Judgement Day finds Bobby back in his adopted hometown of San Judas, California, trying to stay out of trouble… and failing. His love life is still a mess, there are one too many people who have it out for him, and drowning his sorrows in a nice glass of whisky won’t keep the demons at bay forever. Bobby’s going to have to pull himself together and make a few tough decisions before time runs out. The problem is, time could run out at any moment.
In the final Bobby Dollar novel in Tad Williams’ ground-breaking epic fantasy trilogy, fallen angel Bobby Dollar will finally be force to confront the one problem he can’t talk his way out of: his own.
The Taxidermist’s Daughter—Kate Mosse (September 11, Orion)
Sussex, 1912. In a churchyard, villagers gather on the night when the ghosts of those who will die in the coming year are thought to be seen. Here, where the estuary leads out to the sea, superstitions still hold sway. Standing alone is the taxidermist’s daughter.
At seventeen, Constantia Gifford lives with her father in a decaying house: it is all that is left of Gifford’s once world-famous museum of taxidermy. The stuffed animals that used to grace every parlour are out of fashion, leaving Gifford a disgraced and bitter man. The bell begins to toll and all eyes are fixed on the church. No one sees the gloved hand pick up a flint. As the last notes fade into the dark, a woman lies dead.
While the village braces itself against rising waters and the highest tide of the season, Connie struggles to discover who is responsible, but finds herself under suspicion. Is Constantia who she seems—is she the victim of circumstances or are more sinister forces at work? And what is the secret that lies at the heart of Gifford House, hidden among the bell jars of her father’s workshop?
The Visionist—Rachel Urquhart (September 11, Simon & Schuster)
It was years before a Visionist came to the City of Hope. How could I have fathomed that her presence in our small, remote sanctuary—as unforeseen to her as to anyone—would change everything?
Massachusetts, 1842. Fifteen-year-old Polly Kimball sets fire to her family farm, killing her abusive father. With his fiery ghost at her heels, Polly and her young brother seek refuge in a local Shaker community: the City of Hope. Polly has much to hide from this mysterious society of believers, with the local fire inspector on her trail and the ever-present daemons from her past. But when they hail her a “visionist,” the first their community has known, she is subject to overwhelming scrutiny.
Despite being fiercely protected by a young Shaker sister named Charity, a girl who has never known the outside world yet will stake her very soul on Polly’s purity, Polly finds herself in danger from forces both sides of the City’s walls. And in a world where faith and fear coexist, safety has a price…
World of Fire (Dev Harmer #1)—James Lovegrove (September 11, Solaris)
Dev Harmer, reluctant agent of Interstellar Security Solutions, wakes up in a newly cloned host body on the planet Alighieri, ready for action.
It’s an infernal world, so close to its sun that its surface is regularly baked to 1,000 C, hot enough to turn rock to lava. But deep underground there are networks of tunnels connecting colonies of miners who dig for the precious Helium-3.
Polis+, the AI race who are humankind’s great galactic rivals, want to claim the fiery planet’s mineral wealth for their own. All that stands between them and this goal is Dev. But as well as Polis+ agents, there are giant moleworms to contend with, and a spate of mysterious earthquakes, and the perils of the surface where a man can be burned to cinders if he gets caught unprotected on the day side…
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.