From the fold of the British Fiction Focus springs the British Fiction Hitlist: your biweekly breakdown of the most notable new releases out of the United Kingdom’s thriving speculative fiction industry.
Halloween might be behind us, but evidently, early November didn’t get the message. Revival is reputed to be a “rich and disturbing novel [spanning] five decades on its way to the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written,” the next volume of The Walkin’—David Towsey’s godforsaken zombie apocalypse series—is hot on its heels, and quite aside from being a very fine standalone fantasy, Riding the Unicorn by Paul Kearney is desperately distressing.
Last but not least, if you’re looking for a little light relief, keep your eyes peeled for my final pick of the period: Willful Child by Steven Erikson sounds like such fun, doesn’t it?
This edition of the Hitlist also features new books by John Shirley, Gail Carriger, Ally Condie, S. J. Kincaid, Carol Anne Duffy, Michael Carroll, Al Ewing, Matt Smith, Chris Priestly, Tom Hoyle, James Luceno, Neal Shusterman, Liz de Jager, Stephen Gregory, Lauren Kate, Stephen Lloyd Jones and David Dalglish.
Halo: Broken Circle—John Shirley (November 4, Simon & Schuster)
Humanity has been forced to the brink of extinction. Even as we take our first steps into space, civil strife, the enigmatic legacy of an ancient civilization, and a fanatical covenant of alien races each threaten to destroy us. All eyes turn to the Spartan super-soldiers to save us, and in particular to their symbol and leader, Master Chief John-117. Once a legendary instrument of death, he has now become an unlikely symbol of hope. If we can emerge from the chaos of war and reclaim the ancient mantle of stewardship over a troubled galaxy, we may find the secret to our ultimate evolution.
Waistcoats & Weaponry (Finishing School #3)—Gail Carriger (November 4, Atom)
It’s one thing to waltz properly; it’s quite another to waltz properly with a bladed fan stitched into one’s corset.
Sophronia continues finishing school in style—with a range of deadly defences secreted in the folds of her ball gown, of course. Her fashionable choice of weapons comes in handy when Sophronia, her best friend Dimity, sweet sootie Soap and the charming Lord Felix Mersey hijack a suspiciously empty train to return their chum Sidheag to her werewolf pack in Scotland.
But when Sophronia discovers they are being trailed by a dirigible of Picklemen and flywaymen, she unearths a plot that threatens to throw all of London into chaos. With her friends in mortal danger, Sophronia must sacrifice what she holds most dear: her freedom.
Atlantia—Ally Condie (November 6, Penguin)
Set within a civilization that lives deep beneath the sea, twin sisters, Rio and Bay, are about to make the most important decision of their lives.
Will they choose to stay Below, sacrificing their soul but living in happiness, or to go Above, keeping their soul but living in weakness and misery?
No one could have predicted their choice.
Catalyst (Insignia #3)—S. J. Kincaid (November 6, Hot Key)
Tom Raines and his friends return to the Pentagonal Spire for a new year, eager to continue their training for the elite Intrasolar Forces. But they soon discover troubling changes: strict new regulations, suspicious agents in positions of power and the revelation that the Spire is under military control. The trainees are now cadets.
What begins as an irritating adjustment soon reveals a dangerous shift in reality. Those in control have a ruthless agenda. And when the military academy begins welcoming suspicious new cadets, they reveal a plan with horrifying worldwide ramifications. Tom is desperate to stop it, and it seems he is not alone. But when the enemy comes for Tom, how much can he endure in the battle to save himself?
Faery Tales—Carol Anne Duffy (November 6, Faber & Faber)
Disappear to faraway lands of wicked witches, evil monsters and brave heroines in Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy’s stunning collection of fairy tales. Including her beautiful and haunting retellings of the Grimm classics Hansel and Gretel, Snow White and the Pied Piper, as well as other tales from around the world, and new stories of her own, this book will make you think again about once upon a time….
Judge Dredd: Year One—Michael Carroll, Al Ewing & Matt Smith (November 6, Abaddon)
Three iconic Dredd writers are brought together for the first time in Judge Dredd: Year One, the first print omnibus collection in the new series from Abaddon Books.
In City Fathers by Matt Smith, the brutal murder of a Justice Department-sanctioned spy uncovers something new and dangerous in the sectors’ murky black market. Unless Dredd can stop it, chaos will be unleashed.
A savage killing spree results in the death of two highly-regarded Judges in Michael Carroll’s Cold Light of Day, and many consider Dredd to be responsible: a decision he made five years earlier—while he was still a cadet—has come back to haunt him.
And in the previously unpublished Wear Iron by Al Ewing, Paul Strader is a stick-up man, and a stoned cold professional. But when he gets in over his head, he has to risk everything on the word of a corrupt lawman, and break every rule he has. Every rule but one.
The Last of the Spirits—Chris Priestly (November 6, Bloomsbury Children’s)
Sam and Lizzie are freezing and hungry on the streets of Victorian London. When Sam asks a wealthy man for some coins, he is rudely turned away. Months of struggle suddenly find their focus as Sam resolves to kill the man.
Huddling in a graveyard for warmth, Sam and Lizzie are horrified to see the earth around one of the tombs begin to shift, shortly followed by the wraithlike figure of a ghostly man. He warns Sam about the future which awaits such a bitter heart, and so begins Sam’s journey led by terrifying spirits through the past, present and future, after which Sam must decide whether to take the man, Scrooge’s, life or not.
A perfectly layered, tense and supremely satisfying twist on one of Dickens’ most popular books, cleverly reinvented to entice a younger readership.
Riding the Unicorn (Different Kingdoms #3)—Paul Kearney (November 6, Solaris)
John Willoughby is being pulled between worlds. Or he is going mad, ’riding the unicorn’ as his prison officer colleagues would say. It’s clear to Willoughby it must be the latter. Disappearing in the middle of his prison shift from amongst convicts, appearing in a makeshift medieval encampment for minutes before tumbling back to the real world, Willoughby believes his mind is simply breaking apart.
He finds no solace at home, with a wife who has grown to dislike him and a daughter who can barely hide her disgust. He’s realised he isn’t worth anyone’s time, barely even his own, and falls into drinking and violence gauranteed to bring about his downfall. Except in this other world, in this winter land of first-settlers he is a man with a purpose, a man upon whom others must rely. Persuaded to kill a King so as to save a people, Willoughby finds that in another world, with a second chance he may be the kind of man he had always wanted to be after all.
Spiders (Thirteen #2)—Tom Hoyle (November 6, Macmillan Children’s)
Adam may have survived once, but a cult still has him in its sights, and this time he may not escape with his life.
Abbie’s dad is an undercover agent, tasked with exposing dangerous cults. He’s normally able to maintain his distance, but this time Abbie’s worried he’s in too deep.
Megan was sure she and Adam were safe, but now he’s gone missing on a school ski trip in Scotland and she’s the only one who can help him.
The web is closing in around them all…
Star Wars: Tarkin—James Luceno (November 6, Century)
He’s the scion of an honourable and revered family. A dedicated soldier and distinguished legislator. Loyal proponent of the Republic and trusted ally of the Jedi Order. Groomed by the ruthless politician and Sith Lord who would be Emperor, Governor Wilhuff Tarkin rises through the Imperial ranks, enforcing his authority ever more mercilessly… and zealously pursuing his destiny as the architect of absolute dominion.
Rule through the fear of force rather than force itself, he advises the Emperor. Under Tarkin’s guidance, an ultimate weapon of unparalleled destruction moves ever closer to becoming a terrifying reality. When the so-called Death Star is completed, Tarkin is confident that the galaxy’s lingering pockets of Separatist rebellion will be brought to heel—by intimidation or annihilation.
Until then, insurgency remains a genuine threat. Escalating guerrilla attacks by resistance forces and new-found evidence of a growing Separatist conspiracy are an immediate danger the Empire must meet with swift and brutal action. And to bring down a band of elusive freedom fighters, the Emperor turns to his most formidable agents: Darth Vader, the fearsome new Sith enforcer as remorseless as he is mysterious, and Tarkin—whose tactical cunning and cold-blooded efficiency will pave the way for the Empire’s supremacy… and its enemies’ extinction.
Undivided (Unwind #4)—Neal Shusterman (November 6, Simon & Schuster)
Proactive Citizenry, the company which created Cam from the parts of unwound teens, has a plan: to mass produce Rewound teens like Cam for military purposes. But below the surface is of that horror lies another shocking level of intrigue: Proactive Citizenry has been suppressing technology that could make unwinding completely unnecessary.
As Conner, Risa and Lev uncover these shocking secrets, enraged teens begin to march on Washington to demand justice and a better future. But more trouble is brewing. Starkey’s group of storked teens are growing more powerful and militant with each new recruit. And if they have their way, they’ll burn the harvest camps to the group, and put every adult in them before a firing squad-which could destroy any chance America has for a peaceful future.
Vowed (Blackheart Legacy #2)—Liz de Jager (November 6, Tor UK)
A Blackhart can see the supernatural behind everyday crimes. But some crimes hide even greater evils…
Kit Blackhart must investigate why children are disappearing from a London estate. Their parents, the police and Kit’s fae allies claim to know nothing. And as more children disappear, the pressure mounts. Luckily, or unluckily, government trainee Dante Alexander is helping Kit with the case. Yet just as her feelings towards him begin to thaw, his life falls apart. As Kit struggles to unravel Dante’s problems and solve their case, she meets fae Prince Thorn in her dreams—but their relationship is utterly forbidden.
Then Kit digs too deep, uncovering a mystery that’s been hidden for one thousand years. It’s a secret that could just tear down our world.
Wakening the Crow—Stephen Gregory (November 6, Solaris)
On a freezing night in January bookshop owner Oliver Gooch and his small daughter Chloe come across the crow, a raggedy skeletal wretch of a bird, which takes up a persistent refuge in their new converted church home.
Oliver took the money for the church from his daughter’s accident insurance. Chloe, once a rambunctious and defiant child, is now a silently smiling companion to Oliver; both a gift and curse as Oliver balances his guilt over her accident with his preference for this new, easy-to-manage child.
As the crow begins to infiltrate their lives it changes something in Oliver and Chloe. How is the crow connected to the boyhood tooth of Edgar Allan Poe, a mysterious gift to Oliver from which his bookshop draws its name, and with what purpose does it haunt the gloomy, fire-lit vestry of Poe’s Tooth Books?
Waterfall (Teardrop #2)—Lauren Kate (November 6, Penguin Random House UK)
Eureka’s tears have flooded the earth, and now Atlantis is rising, bringing with it its evil king, Atlas. Eureka is the only one who can stop him, but first she must learn how to fight. She travels across the ocean with Cat, her family, and Ander, the gorgeous and mysterious Seedbearer who promises to help her find Solon, an enigmatic lost Seedbearer who knows how to defeat Atlas.
Once on land, Eureka is taunted by gossipwitches, a group of displaced Atlantean sorceresses, and ambushed by locals struggling to survive amid the destruction her tears have wrought. And she feels no closer to facing Atlas or saving the world when Solon lets slip that love is Ander’s weakness, and that any affection he feels toward her makes him age faster.
Trying to make sense of the dark world her sorrow has created, Eureka receives startling insight from an enchanted pond. Her bewildering reflection reveals a soul-crushing secret: if she’s strong enough, Eureka can draw on this knowledge to defeat Atlas—unless her broken heart is just what he needs to fuel his rising kingdom…
Willful Child—Steven Erikson (November 6, Bantam)
These are the voyages of the starship ASF Willful Child. Its ongoing mission: to seek out strange new worlds on which to plant the Terran flag, to subjugate and if necessary obliterate new life life-forms, to boldly blow the…
And so we join the not-terribly-bright but exceedingly cock-sure Captain Hadrian Sawback—a kind of James T. Kirk meets American Dad—and his motley crew on board the starship Willful Child for a series of devil-may-care, near-calamitous and downright chaotic adventures through the infinite vastness of interstellar space.
Written in the Blood—Stephen Lloyd Jones (November 6, Headline)
Leah Wilde and her family have been stalked across the centuries.
Their hunter? Jakab, outcast for his terrible crimes, a man who can change his appearance at will and hide behind the face of a beloved, poised to strike.
But now it seems Leah and Jakab are linked by more than fear. They share a rare bloodline that is under threat of extinction. That is, unless Leah and the remaining few are prepared to join up with their once deadly enemies.
Should the prey ever trust the predator? Is hope for future generations ever enough to wash away the sins of the past? With a new and terrifying danger stalking them all, and the survival of their society at stake, they may have little choice…
Your Servants and Your People (The Walkin’ #2)—David Towsey (November 11, Jo Fletcher)
Seven years after Thomas returned as a Walkin’, the McDermott family are looking for a new life and Thomas has set his heart on starting a farmstead near the remote outpost of Fort Wilson.
But the teachings of J.S. Barkley are not so easily forsaken—there are those who would see the sinners dead, and they are slowly closing in.
A Dance of Ghosts (Shadowdance #5)—David Dalglish (November 11, Orbit)
A night of fire and blood heralds Muzien the Darkhand’s arrival to the beleaguered city of Veldaren. With him comes the might of the Sun Guild, eager to spread their criminal empire to the east.
Left blind and vulnerable after being attacked by the Widow, Alyssa Gemcroft struggles to hold together the remnants of the Trifect as the Sun Guild’s arrival threatens to shatter whatever future her son might have left.
Veldaren’s only hope is in the Watcher, but Haern is no longer there. With his father, Thren Felhorn, he is traveling to the Stronghold, an ancient bastion of the dark paladins of Karak. Will they find the answers they seek? Or will the Stronghold be their final destination?
Revival—Stephen King (November 11, Hodder)
In a small New England town, in the early 60s, a shadow falls over a small boy playing with his toy soldiers. Jamie Morton looks up to see a striking man, the new minister, Charles Jacobs. Soon they forge a deep bond, based on their fascination with simple experiments in electricity.
Decades later, Jamie is living a nomadic lifestyle of bar-band rock and roll. Now an addict, he sees Jacobs again—a showman on stage, creating dazzling ’portraits in lightning’—and their meeting has profound consequences for both men. Their bond becomes a pact beyond even the Devil’s devising, and Jamie discovers that revival has many meanings.
A masterpiece in the great American tradition of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe, this rich and disturbing novel spans five decades on its way to the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written.
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.