British Fiction Focus

British Fiction Hitlist: Late February New Releases

February’s surprisingly substantial showing shows no sign of slowing down in the next fortnight, folks. Low Town’s Daniel Polansky has the first volume of a double-edged new duology on the docket in Those Above, and Claire North—aka Catherine Webb—has a new book out too. Here’s hoping Touch proves as powerful as 2014’s The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August.

Stay tuned, too, for the conclusion of The 100 in Homecoming by Cass Morgan, and my personal pick of the period: a collection of the late, great Iain Banks’ unpublished poetry selected by his friend and fellow Scot Ken MacLeod and called, of course, Poems.

This edition of the Hitlist also features new books by Malorie Blackman, Helena Coggan, Paul McAuley, George R. R. Martin & Lisa Tuttle, Sam Stone, D. J. Molles, James Treadwell, Sarah Pinborough, Francesca Haig, Kevin Hearne, William Giraldi, Jen Williams, Alice Hoffman, Claire Fuller, Kameron Hurley, Jennifer L. Armentraut, Brandon Sanderson, Cixin Liu, V. E. Schwab and Adam Christopher.

Robot Girl—Malorie Blackman (February 15, Barrington Stoke)

Claire is keen to find out what her dad has been working on in his lab. He’s been really excited about it and Claire knows it must be something that will make him even more famous.

But the big reveal isn’t at all what she expected and now Claire has a dilemma on her hands: what do you do when your dad has created a monster?

PoemsIain Banks & Ken MacLeod (February 16, Little Brown)

Iain Banks the literary novelist and Iain M. Banks the science fiction writer are too well known to need introduction, but Iain Banks the poet has hitherto been almost undetected: a single poem was published in a magazine and three short pieces within the novels. But he took his poetry seriously and worked on it carefully, though he shared the results mainly with friends.

Readers of Iain’s novels will find in these poems many aspects of his writing with which they’re already familiar: a humane and materialist sensibility, an unflinching stare at the damage people can do to each other, a warm appreciation of the joy they can give to each other, a revel in language, a geologically informed gaze on land and sea, a continued meditation on what it means for us to be mortal embodied minds with a fleeting but consequent existence between abysses of deep time.

Ken MacLeod, Iain’s long-time friend and collaborator, has collected his poems according to his wishes, and they are published here—most for the first time—alongside a selection of Ken’s own poetry.

The CatalystHelena Coggan (February 19, Hodder)

Rose Elmsworth has a secret. For eighteen years, the world has been divided into the magically Gifted and the non-magical Ashkind, but Rose’s identity is far more dangerous…

At fifteen, she has earned herself a place alongside her father in the Department, a brutal law-enforcement organisation run by the Gifted to control the Ashkind. But now an old enemy is threatening to start a catastrophic war, and Rose faces a challenging test of her loyalties.

How much does she really know about her father’s past? How far is the Department willing to go to keep the peace? And, if the time comes, will Rose choose to protect her secret, or the people she loves?

Something Coming ThroughPaul McAuley (February 19, Gollancz)

In the extraordinary new project from one of the country’s most acclaimed and consistently brilliantly SF novelists of the last 30 years, the aliens are here… and they want to help.

The Jackaroo have given humanity 15 worlds and the means to reach them. They’re a chance to start over, but they’re also littered with ruins and artifacts left by the Jackaroo’s previous clients.

Miracles that could reverse the damage caused by war, climate change, and rising sea levels. Nightmares that could for ever alter humanity—or even destroy it.

Chloe Millar works in London, mapping changes caused by imported scraps of alien technology. When she stumbles across a pair of orphaned kids possessed by an ancient ghost, she must decide whether to help them or to hand them over to the authorities. Authorities who believe that their visions point towards a new kind of danger.

And on one of the Jackaroo’s gift-worlds, the murder of a man who has just arrived from Earth leads policeman Vic Gayle to a war between rival gangs over possession of a remote excavation site.

Something is coming through. Something linked to the visions of Chloe’s orphans, and Vic Gayle’s murder investigation. Something that will challenge the limits of the Jackaroo’s benevolence…

WindhavenGeorge R. R. Martin & Lisa Tuttle (February 19, Gollancz)

Among the scattered islands that make up the water world of Windhaven, no one holds more prestige than the silver-winged flyers, romantic figures who cross treacherous oceans, braving shifting winds and sudden storms, to bring news, gossip, songs and stories to a waiting populace.

Maris of Amberly, a fisherman’s daughter, wants nothing more than to soar on the currents high above Windhaven. So she challenges tradition, demanding that flyers be chosen by merit rather than inheritance.

But even after winning that bitter battle, Maris finds that her troubles are only beginning. Now a revolution threatens to destroy the world she fought so hard to join—and force her to make the ultimate sacrifice…

This early collaborative novel from George R. R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle is a masterclass of fantasy and storytelling.

Jinx Town (Jinx Chronicles #1)Sam Stone (February 20, Telos)

Teacher Jasmine Regis’ world is turned upside down when an alien race attacks and devastates the Earth. The Jinx—named by soldiers who find that Human technology fails during attacks—are a race of savage warriors from elsewhere. They have one agenda: take the women and kill any male who stands in their way.

After saving Andrew, one of the children in her care, Jas has to find refuge in the remnants of the world she once knew. Humanity has almost been wiped out, and those who remain cannot always be trusted: some are feral, displaying savage and monstrous qualities, while others harbour brutal obsessions.

As the world changes around her, Jas soon learns she must disguise who and what she is in order to remain safe. But how can she so effectively turn from male to female? And what dark secret is being kept by the remaining military hiding in their underground base?

Homecoming (The 100 #3)Cass Morgan (February 24, Hodder)

Weeks after landing on Earth, the Hundred have managed to create a sense of order amidst their wild, chaotic surroundings. But their delicate balance comes crashing down with the arrival of new dropships from space.

These new arrivals are the lucky ones—back on the Colony, the oxygen is almost gone—but after making it safely to Earth, Glass’ luck seems to be running out. Clarke leads a rescue party to the crash site, ready to treat the wounded, but she can’t stop thinking about her parents who may still be alive.

Meanwhile, Wells struggles to maintain his authority despite the presence of the Vice Chancellor and his armed guards, and Bellamy must decide whether to face or flee the crimes he thought he’d left behind.

It’s time for the Hundred to come together and fight for the freedom they’ve found on Earth, or risk losing everything—and everyone—they love.

Allegiance (The Remaining #5)D. J. Molles (February 26, Orbit)

Through an overwhelming storm of pain and adversity Captain Lee Harden has fought and survived. But his mission continues.

Recovering from his wounds, mental and physical, he must rally his companions at Camp Ryder and push back against the still swarming hordes of the infected that threaten to extinguish an already devastated society.

Arcadia (Advent #3)James Treadwell (February 26, Hodder)

Magic has returned. Chaos has arisen. Now, ten-year-old Rory is the only boy left in the whole world.

In his world, at least, where home is an island where there is water on all sides, and the women who are left are coping as best they can with life as it must now be lived. Then a strange threesome arrive on the island, two of them men, and Rory is drawn with them to the Mainland, where it all started, and where Rory is going to find out that the magic and adventure he has wished for when reading his comics have a darker and much more terrifying side…

The Death HouseSarah Pinborough (February 26, Gollancz)

Toby’s life was perfectly normal… until it was unravelled by something as simple as a blood test.

Taken from his family, Toby now lives in the Death House; an out-of-time existence far from the modern world, where he, and the others who live there, are studied by Matron and her team of nurses. They’re looking for any sign of sickness. Any sign of their wards changing. Any sign that it’s time to take them to the sanatorium—and no one returns from the sanatorium.

Withdrawn from his house-mates and living in his memories of the past, Toby spends his days fighting his fear. But then a new arrival in the house shatters the fragile peace, and everything changes.

Because everybody dies. It’s how you choose to live that counts.

The Fire SermonFrancesca Haig (February 26, Voyager)

When Zach and I were born our parents must have counted and recounted: limbs, fingers, toes. The complete set. They would have been disbelieving—nobody dodged the split between Alpha and Omega. Nobody.

The Omegas live in segregation, cast out by their families as soon as their mutation becomes clear. Forced to live apart, they are ruthlessly oppressed by their Alpha counterparts.

The Alphas are the elite. Once their weaker twin has been cast aside, they’re free to live in privilege and safety, their Omega twin far from their thoughts.

Cass and Zach are both perfect on the outside: no missing limbs, no visible Omega mutation. But Cass has a secret: one that Zach will stop at nothing to expose.

The potential to change the world lies in both their hands. One will have to defeat the other to see their vision of the future come to pass, but if they’re not careful both will die in the struggle for power.

Heir to the Jedi (Star Wars)Kevin Hearne (February 26, Century)

The Galactic Civil War rages on after the destruction of the Death Star and Luke Skywalker struggles to learn more about the Force without the aid of Obi-Wan Kenobi—or indeed without any aid at all. But the few memories he has of Obi-Wan’s instruction point the way to a stronger control of the Force, and he is encouraged to pursue it by a new friend in the Alliance.

When Luke, R2-D2 and his new ally are tasked with liberating a valuable asset from the Empire and delivering her to a safe planet where she can aid the Alliance, their journey across the galaxy is fraught with peril—and opportunities for Luke to discover the mysteries of the Force…

Hold the DarkWilliam Giraldi (February 26, No Exit Press)

Wolves have come for the children of Keelut.

Three children have been taken from this isolated Alaskan village, including the six-year-old boy of Medora and Vernon Slone. Shattered by grief and seeking consolation, Medora contacts nature writer and wolf expert Russell Core.

Immersing himself in this settlement at the end of the world, he discovers the horrifying darkness at the heart of Medora Slone and learns of an unholy truth harboured by this village.

The Iron GhostJen Williams (February 26, Headline)

Wydrin of Crosshaven, Sir Sebastian and Lord Aaron Frith are experienced in the perils of stirring up the old gods. They are also familiar with defeating them, and the heroes of Baneswatch are now enjoying the perks of suddenly being very much in demand for their services.

When a job comes up in the distant city of Skaldshollow, it looks like easy coin: retrieve a stolen item, admire the views, get paid. But in a place twisted and haunted by ancient magic, with the most infamous mage of them all, Joah Demonsworn, making a reappearance, our heroes soon find themselves threatened by enemies on all sides, old and new. And in the frozen mountains, the stones are walking…

NightbirdAlice Hoffman (February 26, Simon & Schuster)

Twig lives in a remote area of town with her mysterious brother and her mother, baker of irresistible apple pies. A new girl in town might just be Twig’s first true friend and ally in vanquishing an ancient family curse.

A spellbinding tale of modern folklore set in the Berkshires, where rumours of a winged beast draw in as much tourism as the town’s famed apple orchards, Nightbird is a bewitching new tale from the bestselling author of Practical Magic.

Our Endless Numbered DaysClaire Fuller (February 26, Fig Tree)

1976: Peggy Hillcoat is eight. She spends her summer camping with her father, playing her beloved record of The Railway Children and listening to her mother’s grand piano, but her pretty life is about to change.

Her survivalist father, who has been stockpiling provisions for the end which is surely coming soon, takes her from London to a cabin in a remote European forest. There he tells Peggy the rest of the world has disappeared. Her life is reduced to a piano which makes music but no sound, a forest where all that grows is a means of survival. And a tiny wooden hut that is Everything.

Rapture (Bel Dame Apocrypha #3)Kameron Hurley (February 26, Del Rey UK)

After years in exile, Nyxnissa so Dasheem is back in action in service to the bel dames, a sisterhood of elite government assassins tasked with eliminating deserters and traitors. The end of a centuries-long holy war between her country, Nasheen, and neighboring Chenja has flooded the streets of Nasheen with unemployed—and unemployable—soldiers whose frustrations have brought the nation to the brink of civil war.

Not everyone likes this tenuous and unpredictable “peace,” however, and somebody has kidnapped a key politician whose death could trigger a bloody government takeover. With aliens in the sky and revolution on the ground, Nyx assembles a team of mad magicians, torturers and mutant shape-shifters for an epic journey across a flesh-eating desert in search of a man she’s not actually supposed to kill.

Trouble is, killing is the only thing Nyx is good at. And she already left this man to die…

The Return (Titan #1)Jennifer L. Armentraut (February 26, Hodder)

A year ago, Seth made a deal with the gods—and pledged his life to them. Now, Apollo has a task for Seth: one which sees him playing protector over a beautiful, feisty girl who’s strictly off-limits. And for someone who has a problem with restraint, this assignment might be Seth’s most challenging yet.

Josie has no idea what this crazy hot guy’s deal is, but he arrives in her life just as everything she’s ever known is turned upside down. Either she’s going insane, or a nightmare straight out of ancient myth is heading her way.

Josie can’t decide which is more dangerous: an angry Titan seeking vengeance? Or the golden-eyed, secretive Seth—and the white-hot attraction developing between them…

The RithmatistBrandon Sanderson (February 26, Tor UK)

Joel is fascinated by the magic of Rithmatics, but few have the gift and he is not one of them. Undaunted, he persuades Professor Fitch to teach him magical theory. Joel can’t infuse his protective lines and circles with power, or bring his chalk-drawn creatures to life, but he’s quick to master the underlying geometric principles. His unique skills will soon face an extraordinary test when top Rithmatist students are kidnapped from his Academy.

Since he’s not a magic user, Joel appears to be safe—but he’s desperate to investigate and prove himself. Then people start dying. However, can Joel really stop a killer alone? As even more students disappear, he realizes he’ll need the help of Rithmatist apprentice Melody. Together, they must race to find clues before the killer notices them… and takes them out too.

Those Above (The Empty Throne #1)Daniel Polansky (February 26, Hodder)

They enslaved humanity three thousand years ago. Tall, strong, perfect, superhuman and near immortal they rule from their glittering palaces in the eternal city in the centre of the world. They are called Those Above by their subjects. They enforce their will with fire and sword.

Twenty five years ago mankind mustered an army and rose up against them, only to be slaughtered in a terrible battle. Hope died that day, but hatred survived. Whispers of another revolt are beginning to stir in the hearts of the oppressed: a woman, widowed in the war, who has dedicated her life to revenge; the general, the only man to ever defeat one of Those Above in single combat, summoned forth to raise a new legion; and a boy killer who rises from the gutter to lead an uprising in the capital.

The Three-Body Problem (Three-Body #1)Cixin Liu (February 26, Head of Zeus)

1967: University student Ye Wenjie witnesses Red Guards beat her father to death during the Cultural Revolution. His crime? Failure to recant his belief in science. This singular event will shape not only the rest of her life but also the future of mankind.

Four decades later, after a spate of apparent suicides among elite scientists, Beijing police ask nanotech engineer Wang Miao to infiltrate a secretive cabal that styles itself the Frontiers of Science.

During the course of his investigation, Wang is inducted into a mysterious online game that immerses him in a virtual world ruled by the intractable and unpredictable interaction of its three suns.

This is the Three-Body Problem and it is the key to everything. The key to humanity’s place in the cosmos and the key to the extinction-level threat it now faces.

TouchClaire North (February 26, Orbit)

He tried to take my life. Instead I took his.

It was a long time ago. I remember it was dark, and I didn’t see my killer until it was too late. As I died, my hand touched his. That’s when the first switch took place.

Suddenly, I was looking through the eyes of my killer, and I was watching myself die.

Now switching is easy. I can jump from body to body, have any life, be anyone.

Some people touch lives. Others take them. I do both.

A Darker Shade of MagicV. E. Schwab (February 27, Titan)

Most people only know one London… but what if there were several?

Kell is one of the last Travelers: magicians with a rare ability to travel between parallel Londons. There is Grey London, dirty and crowded and without magic, home to the mad king George III. There is Red London, where life and magic are revered. Then there’s White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne.

But once upon a time, there was Black London…

Elementary: The Ghost LineAdam Christopher (February 27, Titan)

A summons to a body found riddled with bullets in a Hell’s Kitchen apartment is the start of a new case for Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson. The victim is a subway train driver with a strange Colombian connection and a mysterious stash of bank notes, but who would want to kill him? The search for the truth will lead the detectives into the hidden underground tunnels of New York City, where more bodies may well await them.


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.

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