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.
Well then, winter: what have you got?
Looks like… not a lot! But never fear, readers dear, for December does have its highlights, like Haruki Murakami’s new novella, The Strange Library, which I’m excited to read on the back of the aforementioned author’s return to form in Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage; and another genre novel of Japanese origin—Genocide of One by Kazuaki Takano—a kick-ass thriller about the survival of the fittest.
Beyond that, my nose will be buried in Nunslinger, the complete edition of which I’ve been raring to read for at least a year, and Jonathan Oliver’s latest anthology of speculative short stories, namely Dangerous Games.
This edition of the Hitlist also features new books by Laurell K. Hamilton, Kristen Painter, Jay Kristoff, Brian Aldiss, Stephen Blackmoore, Sara Raasch, N.K. Jemisin, and Nathan Hawke.
The Strange Library—Haruki Murakami (December 2, Harvill Secker)
“All I did was go to the library to borrow some books.”
On his way home from school, the young narrator of The Strange Library finds himself wondering how taxes were collected in the Ottoman Empire. He pops into the local library to see if it has a book on the subject. This is his first mistake.
Led to a special reading room in a maze under the library by a strange old man, he finds himself imprisoned with only a sheep man, who makes excellent donuts, and a girl, who can talk with her hands, for company. His mother will be worrying why he hasn’t returned in time for dinner, and the old man seems to have an appetite for eating small boy’s brains. How will he escape?
Jason (Anita Black, Vampire Hunter)—Laurell K. Hamilton (December 2, Headline)
“Enjoying pain with your pleasure is something you either get, or you don’t. If you get it, then you don’t really need it explained, because you know how good it feels, and if you don’t get it then no amount of talking is going to convince you it makes sense.”
But sometimes you have to explain the unexplainable, especially if the love of your life needs to understand, or she’ll leave you. Jason Schuyler is one of Anita Blake’s best friends and favorite werewolves, with benefits. J.J. is his lady love, an old flame from childhood who dances at one of the top ballet companies in New York. She’s accomplished, beautiful, and she’s crazy about him, too. Neither of them wants to be monogamous, so what could possibly go wrong?
City of Eternal Night (Crescent City #2)—Kristen Painter (December 4, Orbit)
Mardi Gras approaches, bringing with it hordes of tourists eager to see the real-life Faery Queen holding court atop her festival float. When the Queen is kidnapped, it’s up to Augustine, the fae-blooded Guardian of the city, to rescue her before time runs out.
But Augustine’s mystifying protégée, Harlow, complicates the task by unintentionally aiding the forces of evil, drawing danger closer with each step. The Queen might not be the first to die…
Dangerous Games—ed. Jonathan Oliver (December 4, Solaris)
In a world ruled by chance, one rash decision could bring down the house, one roll of the dice could bring untold wealth, or the end of everything. Now the players have gathered around the table, each to tell their story—often dark and always compelling. Within you will find tales of the players and the played, lives governed by games deadly, weird or downright bizarre.
Multi-award winning editor Jonathan Oliver (The End of the Line, House of Fear, Magic, End of the Road) brings together new stories featuring a diverse collection of voices. In Dangerous Games, you will find incredible new fiction by Chuck Wendig, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Lavie Tidhar, Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Paul Kearney, Libby McGugan, Yoon Ha Lee, Gary Northfield, Melanie Tem, Hillary Monahan, Tade Thompson, Rebecca Levene, Ivo Stourton, Gary McMahon, Robert Shearman, Nik Vincent, Helen Marshall, and Pat Cadigan.
Endsinger (Lotus War #3)—Jay Kristoff (December 4, Tor UK)
As civil war sweeps across the Shima Imperium, the Lotus Guild unleashes their deadliest creation: a mechanical goliath, intended to unite the shattered Empire under a yoke of fear.
Yukiko and Buruu are forced to take leadership of the rebellion, gathering new allies and old friends. But the ghosts of Buruu’s past stand between them and the army they need, and Kin’s betrayal has destroyed all trust among their allies. When a new foe joins the war, it will be all the pair can do to muster the strength to fight, let alone win.
And as the earth splits asunder, as armies destroy each other for rule over an empire of lifeless ash, and as the final secret about blood lotus is revealed, the people of Shima will learn one last, horrifying truth.
Genocide of One—Kazuaki Takano (December 4, Mulholland)
One bright morning in Washington, D.C., the U.S. President learns of a terrifying new threat to national security.
Soon afterwards, American mercenary Jonathan Yeager is asked to lead a team into the Congo to eliminate a mysterious enemy—a job which will help him pay for treatment for his dying son.
But when they reach Africa, the threat turns out to be a three-year-old child named Akili: the next step in human evolution. The soldiers are under orders to kill the boy before his full potential can be realised. Yet Akili’s advanced knowledge might be the only hope Yeager has to save his son’s life…
With time running out to choose a side, Yeager must decide whether to follow his orders or to save a creature who may not be as harmless or innocent as he appears. Akili is already the smartest being on the planet, with the power to either save humanity—or destroy it.
Jocasta—Brian Aldiss (December 4, The Friday Project)
A Theban adventure from the master of science fiction, here proving himself adept at imagining historical worlds.
In Jocasta, Aldiss brings vividly to life the ancient world of dreaming Thebes: a world of sun-drenched landscapes, golden dust, sphynxes, Furies, hermaphroditic philosophers, ghostly apparitions, and ambivalent gods. Jocasta is also a strikingly effective contemplation of an older world order where the human mind is still struggling to understand itself and the nature of the world around it.
Myth Breaker (Gods and Monsters)—Stephen Blackmoore (December 4, Abaddon)
Growing up an orphan, Louie had conversations with invisible friends and could see patterns in the world that no one else could see. In other eras, he would have been a prophet—someone to make people believe in the gods—but he grew out of the visions, and grew into crime.
Now thirty-five and burnt out, he’s had enough. With access to the mob’s money, he plans to go out in a big way. Only he can’t. A broken-down car, a missed flight; it’s bad enough being hunted by the mob, but the gods—kicked out of the Heavens, stuck on Earth without worshippers—need someone who can tell their stories, and they aren’t letting him go.
And there are new gods on the scene, gods of finance and technology, who want him, too. Caught between the mob and two sets of rival gods, Louie hatches a plan that will probably get him killed if it doesn’t get him out.
Nunslinger: The Complete Series—Stark Holborn (December 4, Hodder)
The year is 1864. Sister Thomas Josephine, an innocent Visitantine nun from St Louis, Missouri, is making her way west to the promise of a new life in Sacramento, California. When an attack on her wagon train leaves her stranded in Wyoming, Thomas Josephine finds her faith tested and her heart torn between Lt. Theodore F. Carthy, a man too beautiful to be true, and the mysterious grifter Abraham C. Muir.
Falsely accused of murder, she goes on the run, all the while being hunted by a man who has become dangerously obsessed with her. Her journey will take her from the most forbidding mountain peaks to the hottest, most hostile desert on earth, from Nevada to Mexico to Texas, and her faith will be tested in ways she could never imagine.
Nunslinger is the true tale of Sister Thomas Josephine, a woman whose desire to do good in the world leads her on an incredible adventure that pits her faith, her feelings, and her very life against inhospitable elements, the armies of the North and South, and the most dangerous creature of all: man.
Snow Like Ashes—Sara Raasch (December 4, Balzer + Bray)
Sixteen years ago, the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. The Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been searching for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild their kingdom ever since.
Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, Winter’s future king—she would do anything to help Winter rise to power again. So when scouts discover the location of half of the ancient locket that can restore their magic, Meira decides to go after it herself—only to find herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics, and to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.
The Inheritance Trilogy—N.K. Jemisin (December 9, Orbit)
Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle.
The Inheritance Trilogy omnibus includes the The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Broken Kingdoms, and The Kingdom of Gods, in addition to The Awakened Kingdom, a brand new novella about the first new godling born in many millennia: Sieh’s hier Shill.
Gallow: The Fateguard Trilogy—Nathan Hawke (December 11, Gollancz)
“I have been Truesword to my friends, Griefbringer to my enemies. To most of you I am just another Northlander bastard here to take your women and drink your mead, but to those who know me, my name is Gallow. I fought for my king for seven long years. I have served lords and held my shield beside common men. I have fled in defeat and I have tasted victory and I will tell you which is sweeter. Despise me then, for I have slain more of your kin than I can count, though I remember every single face.”
Gallow is an honest man, but not one you would want to cross. Left behind in a country that despises him, all he wants is to live a peaceful life. But the return of his countrymen on another invasion puts paid to his dreams. And when he is called upon, he will fight.
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.