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Take a trip across time and space with the latest Sci-Fi titles; head to another universe with the latest and greatest Fantasy novels and get your heart pumping with a brilliant selection of Horror.
A powerful, provocative and quite wonderful modern literary fairy tale, but if you enter expecting ‘happily ever after’ you’ll be sorely disappointed. Rather than sugar and spice and all things nice, you’ll instead find a novel brimming with exquisitely sharp and pointed attitude. Thirteen and a half years after Cinderella married the man of her dreams and she’s had enough, she wants out. The prologue pierces love, and binds hate, firmly setting the tone, yet wicked humour and gentle observations also tickle the page. The echoes of well known fairy tales make themselves felt, adding to the enchantment. There is much to take delight in, yet beware, all magic is paid for and you’ll need to be on the look out for hidden snares. I adore the tale that runs alongside the main story, of the two mice that accompanied Cinderella and live in a world circling through an entire civilisation. How easy it is to view what you want to see, rather than what is actually there. As the fairy tale splinters and a shimmer of reality breaks through, I found my thoughts tossed high in the air, and where they will land, I still don’t know. So bright, so clever, and thought-provoking this just had to sit as a Liz Pick of the Month. I danced through the deep dark magic of The Charmed Wife, long live the fairy tale that lives beyond 'happily ever after'.
An absolute whammy of a read, and a must for anyone who enjoys a smart, fast-paced, hugely entertaining blast of speculative fiction. When Jimmy agrees to smuggle data in his headspace, he really didn’t expect it to start talking to him. Honey the bioform bear needs to make contact with an entity on Mars, and Jimmy finds himself an unwitting accessory. While you could definitely read this as a standalone, I really do recommend reading Dogs of War, in which Honey also appears, as an introduction to this fabulous bioform world. Arthur C Clarke Award winning Adrian Tchaikovsky has successfully combined weighty, thought-provoking moments, with a Trump-like baddie, full-on action and smirky humour. And oh, how I smirked, Jimmy acts as a beautifully timed foil to the powerfully intense Honey. This is one of those books where you can just throw yourself and abandon yourself to a fabulous story, knowing you will be entertained throughout. A LoveReading Star Book and Liz Pick of the Month, Bear Head comes with a colossal thumbs up from me.
This high-octane, smart, whip-sharp novel is one heck of a reality and fantasy clash. It perhaps shouldn’t work, but it does, it really really does and has popped itself on my list of favourite reads. Meet Vern, he is currently hiding out in a Louisiana swamp, he doesn’t trust anyone, loves his vodka, has a thing for Flashdance, oh, and he’s a dragon. Having lived a few thousand years he really doesn’t need the escalating feud between Squib Moreau and crooked Officer Hooke to spoil his peace and quiet. This is the first novel for adults from the bestselling author of the Artemis Fowl series, Eoin Colfer. I feel as though Highfire has been waiting for me, to welcome it to my bookshelves. The balance between the different genres is beautifully done. Different emotions skittered through me as I read, there’s violence aplenty, and some wicked smirks waiting to be found too. Highly entertaining and exciting, Highfire is my kind of book, in fact if you could marry books, I’d be Mrs Highfire in no time!
Iatrogenesis is a thrilling science fiction centered around a pandemic, when faulty upgrades of microscopic medical robots, nanodocs, leads to mass mayhem and many lives on the line. I really enjoyed this book and I think it’s a great afternoon read. I would guess that the idea for this book was in part inspired by the events of 2020, and there’s some familiar measures mentioned as ways to stop the spread both before and after the cause of death and illness has been explained. The book starts with an intriguing prologue, and the “what could go wrong” stance immediately lets the reader in on what is exactly about to go wrong. We are then introduced to Dr. “TJ” Short, a doctor in a time where microscopic robots implanted in the blood cure most ailments, who is present as the devastating effects of the upgrades become apparent and becomes central in the fight to stop the spread. I found both the science-fiction and the medical language throughout this book believable and I think the author has done a lot of research to create a believable and well-rounded world that I was eager to learn more about and didn’t want to put down until I found out how it ended. There’s also a bit of a relationship story towards the end too. This is a short Sci-fi thriller that I think is well worth the read.
Matthew William Frend's Life Before Death is a book of two halves for me, one half of which I enjoyed, the other not so much. I thought the author's remit was too ambitious but then, had he chosen to write two separate books, would I have wanted to read the second one and would I have missed out? The majority of the book follows a group of four young Australians in the 1990s who, frustrated by government policies restricting their chosen lifestyle, decide to plant a cannabis farm in the outback. Their road trip to the chosen site, the narrow escapes from both the weather and the authorities and what they do while waiting at a 'safe' distance for harvest-time all make exciting, informative and dramatic reading. The suspense the author builds is incredible and the detailed descriptions of the Red Centre and the wilds of the Northern Territory are amazing, as they're based on the personal experiences of the author when he lived in Oz himself. However, I suppose a story about a group living, sometimes only just surviving, on the edge of 'normal' society, a counterculture, has to go into their reasoning and motivation, their search for the meaning of life. There are surreal descriptions of the mind expansion that takes place when using drugs and experiences that border on the paranormal. The lessons the reader should surely take from this book are to try to live in the moment, be mindful of your surroundings, to truly live before you die, though I doubt that you need drugs to do all that.
Cycles of the Phoenix is a collection of shorter stories previously published separately by C. A Nicholas compiled together for one epic read. Within this book you will find ‘Sanity’s War’ ‘Strange’ and ‘Kaya: Where Have You Gone?’ of the Interlaced Souls series. Cycles of the Phoenix remains within the realm of fantasy while it explores a wide range of topics and themes from war, to Anxiety and PTSD. I thought that this book was very well written, there is a good degree of word-building and I enjoyed the imaginative ways that the author manages to turn both mental and physical struggles into fantastical demons for the characters to face. The most poignant to me are the events in the final pages, but I shan’t risk spoilers by sharing any more. As I’ve said this book does focus on a number of themes, with references to violence and sexual abuse throughout the different stories. I liked how the author used events in the stories to demonstrate that actions can have a long term emotional impact. I enjoyed the author’s style of writing. I found it quite traditional, it reminded me slightly of a style used to tell a story of old knights, which added to the fantasy atmosphere to me. Cycles of the Phoenix is mighty, but I think that it could be enjoyed as one epic tale or by enjoying each of the Interlaced Souls books in turn. This is a book for readers looking for something to think deeply about an analyse.
Firstly I’d like to say I love the play on words with this title. This Soul’d World is presented as a new interpretation on old practices, in terms of looking both outwards and inwards to answer philosophical/ spiritual questions about life with a sci-fi twist. A science fiction adventure that crosses dimensions and themes. I liked that this book uses science fiction tropes to explore philosophical questions. The chapters are short and easy to read, and you find yourself reading “just one more” to progress further in the story. Interestingly, the main character of this story is Callison Trebla, a man about to retire, not a character at the start of a career embarking on an adventure. I liked this characterisation, I think it adds a sense of honest reflection to the more spiritual themes in this book. I was drawn in to this story early on and Callison early on and I was interested to see how the story progressed and in which ways the science fiction elements would be incorporated. I think that this book has a bit of something for everyone, there’s science fiction, spirituality and exploration into people and behaviour with a family that has endured a tragedy. As well as an entertaining story with endearing characters, this is a thought-provoking read that I would recommend for anyone looking for a multi-dimensional book.
Part hard SF thriller, part interstellar adventure, part noirromance, CENTURY RAIN is the new bestseller from Al ReynoldsComparison: Philip K Dick, Kim Stanley Robinson. Similar this month: None.
A Maxim Jakubowski selected title. THE BEAUTY OF MURDER, the debut novel by Hastings-based performer Alexandra Benedict, was a memorable cross-time Oxford-set crime thriller with strong supernatural overtones and her follow-up contemporary thriller is equally evocative and colourful and confirms her voice as quite unique: florid, wide-screened, and masterful in the way she builds up wonderful, truly original characters and the most unsettling of protagonists. A once-blind researcher who despite a successful operation insists on still not seeing is the target of a sinister serial killer and troubled London cop Jonathan Dark, who has the power to see ghosts, is caught in the web of murder and intrigue that surrounds them like an evil fog. Add revengeful ghosts helping and hindering the living, loving evocations of London's river and dark side, conspiracies by the handful and characters quite unlike those encountered in your average modern British crime novel and you have a potent cocktail that will linger in your mind and nightmares for ages.
Five, successful but seemingly unconnected people around the world die suddenly. Although all are ruled as natural deaths an intelligence analyst and his journalist girlfriend think something else is happening and strive to uncover the truth. Fatal longevity is an interesting concept. The idea that the search for a long life could end with an early demise is an entertaining dichotomy. A crime mystery with a medical almost sci-fi twist set in a range of locations around the world. An interesting plot with a lot of thought behind it and at 277 pages, it’s a relatively quick, entertaining read with an intriguing plot.
A Maxim Jakubowski selected title. This first in a planned ‘LA Trilogy’, this is a romp and a half. Set anachronistically in the 1960s in the California city of angels, it features a Raymond Chandler avatar of a robot who always has the right quip on the tip of his tongue as he navigates the muddy waters of some untold conspiracy. Ray is the perfect detective –tireless, logical and efficient- but he’s also the last robot on the planet and finds that no one actually likes him very much. Add Ada, his office gal and supercomputer and you have the classic detective noir setting for a crazy plot which begins, naturally, with a Cleopatra lookalike knocking at his door, asking him to find a missing person and offering to pay in gold, the only currency Ray accepts. The investigation will take him into the heart of an alternate version of Hollywood which is much more fun than the real one. Laughs and fights and chases. What more could you ask for? ~ Maxim Jakubowski
The night watchman of an upmarket London block is drawn to an apartment that’s seemingly been empty for over 50 years but in which he hears curious noises. In parallel a young American woman inherits a property in the same building. Chaos is soon unleashed and efforts to avert it are literally breathless. An impeccable slice of modern horror with a traditional sense of dread and unerring ‘keep the light on’ suspense. A new British horror star is forcefully born!
Nevill is a young British author who, following a decade or so in the editorial publishing ranks, is now writing full-time. In the tradition of M.R. James' ghost stories and the tradition of the British weird tale he writes about the contemporary world and the insidious way in which fear and dread can infiltrate it. His breakthrough was last year's APARTMENT 16 and his new novel takes a group of university friends into the Arctic wilderness where they stumble upon an old habitation. Enter the horror.
A Maxim Jakubowski selected title. After years in the galleys of erotica editing and pseudonymous writing, Nevill has now firmly put himself in the driving seat of contemporary horror and is spearheading its revival and scooping the genre's awards. His fith novel is a creepy tale involving seemingly haunted houses, macabre puppets, stuffed animals and eerie dolls. Individually all the elements on display have been seen before in countless Hammer movies but Nevill knits his ingredients together with forensic skill and brings the shadowy world of fear to life with uncanny effect and almost sadistic detachment and glee. Read this one under the covers and with the lights on.
Darkness lives within ...Cash-strapped, working for agencies and living in shared accommodation, Stephanie Booth feels she can fall no further. So when she takes a new room at the right price, she believes her luck has finally turned. But 82 Edgware Road is not what it appears to be. It's not only the eerie atmosphere of the vast, neglected house, or the disturbing attitude of her new landlord, Knacker McGuire, that makes her uneasy - it's the whispers behind the fireplace, the scratching beneath floors, the footsteps in the dark, and the young women weeping in neighbouring rooms. And when Knacker's cousin Fergal arrives, the danger goes vertical. But this is merely a beginning, a gateway to horrors beyond Stephanie's worst nightmares. And in a house where no one listens to the screams, will she ever get out alive?
Shortlisted for the Best Horror Novel at the British Fantasy Awards 2016. A Maxim Jakubowski selected title. Post apocalypse worlds are very much in vogue and in danger of engulfing the bookshelves, but Neville's approach is innovative and seriously scary, which comes as no surprise as he is fast establishing himself as one the horror field's rising talents with a bang. In a crumbling post-pandemic world, anarchy reigns and a grieving father goes in search of the four-year old daughter who was snatched from his garden. In a world of terrible floods, marauding gangs and unpredictable hurricanes, what remains of the police doesn't care and the father plunges into a panorama of madness on his frenzied quest. With an assured narrative flow and a background sometimes reminiscent of Stephen King in his talent for mapping desolation, Nevill confirms he is one scary, serious dude to watch out for. ~ Maxim Jakubowski
A parody was inevitable and so in six chapters all six of the Star War films are chewed up, ridiculed, digested and spat out. All very inventive.Comparison: The others in the series: The Soddit, The McAtrix Derided, The Sellamillion.Similar this month: None.
From the author of Salt, one of the most significant of the new SF writers. He's definitely something different.
A Maxim Jakubowski selected title. It begins like a modern version of John Carpenter's sinister SF horror movie THE THING when two research scientists isolated in an Antarctic station stumble across unholy matters hitherto unknown to man and the ensuing catastrophe sees one fall into the clutches of lasting madness and illumination while the other is badly maimed both in body and soul. Decades later, the latter now a drunk and an abject failure is coopted by a mysterious institute to work for them and contact his former colleague now locked away in an asylum to revisit the theories that led to the polar mayhem, and his nightmare begins all over again. Involving PETA, a curious artificial intelligence, the Fermi paradox positing the existence of extraterrestrial life and the convoluted philosophical works of Kant, this complex novel of ideas fires wildly in all directions, with glances towards, of all people, James Joyce and Thomas de Quincey, in a serious attempt to elucidate the nature of reality. Mind-bending, ambitious but always a swift read, an important work of science fiction that will have you guessing all the way.
If you prefer your worlds dystopian, check out our Dystopian Fiction category too!
Whether you want to join Jonathan Strange on the magic-haunted streets of London or Jon Snow and the rest of the Night’s Watch on the wall Fantasy is the genre for you. Authors from Joe Abercrombie to Zen Cho have turned the modern fantasy genre into one of the most exciting and imaginative genres around. They’ve brought magic and wonder, heroes, heroines and people like you and me, together in stories that will delight, scare and mystify you. Whether you want the romance and deceit of court, the shadows of a great city’s alleyways, the clear air of a mountain range, the terrors of a bloody field let fantasy take you to new realities.
There are characters for everyone; Scott Lynch’s charming conmen, Liz William’s artful magicians. Fantasy has worlds for all; Ursula le Guin’s Earthsea, George RR Martin’s brutal Westeros, Ben Aaronovitch’s contemporary London, Naomi Novik’s dragon haunted version of our 19th century. And the genre has a style for each and every reader; whether the playful literary trickery of Angela Carter or the imaginative epic adventures of Peter Brett. Somewhere here there is a story for everyone, so follow us and let your imagination run wild.
Established names like Stephen King and new stars like Lauren Beukes alike have taken horror into the mainstream. And it’s no surprise why – we can’t help ourselves we love a good scare from the safety of our armchairs. But there are any number of authors out there ready and willing to confront you with your darkest fears and, if you’re lucky, take you through them and out into the light again.
There’s always a fresh take on whatever has scared us down through the years. Whether the dark thrills of the demons that haunt the paranormal romances of Cassandra Clare or the hunger of the vengeful ghosts and vampires of Joe Hill. Or the high concept terrors of Sarah Lotz’s work, the insidious chills of Adam Nevill’s urban horrors. Horror can be stealthy like the classic chills of Susan Hills’ ghost stories or screaming in your face like Max Brooks’ terrifying zombies. So step this way and let us put the frighteners on you; scares that are subtle and literary or full-on ‘slap the book shut and turn on all the lights’. Or scares of the best sort – where you don’t know WHAT to expect.
If you’ve ever dreamed about the world our grandchildren will live in, thought about how life could be different, looked at a star and wondered if there’s someone or something there looking at our sun you’ve been wondering about the same things as the great writers of Sci-Fi. Or perhaps you’ve simply wanted to share the excitement and danger of life on an alien world or in the harsh expanses of space? Maybe you’re so busy you wish you had a clone of yourself to do the work while you had the fun of exploring new places and experiences – how would that feel? For both of you?
Sci-Fi is all about these questions and thoughts. And it’s about things we can never experience, perhaps not even thought about yet. It’s about putting you at the centre of wonder and excitement. Whether the wide-screen excitements from the likes of Peter Hamilton and Suzanne Collins, or the noir thrills of cyberpunk by authors such as Pat Cadigan and William Gibson or the intricate speculations of authors like Ian McDonald and Nnedi Okorafor Sci-Fi really does have something for everyone and you’ll find the very best of it here.