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UK Books Received- 05/2011  Next Month / Last Month
In order to provide timely reviews, we prefer to receive Advance Reader Copies of books when possible. Send books to Gayle Surrette c/o SFRevu, 16440 Baden Westwood Road Brandywine, MD 20613

Abaddon Books

The Viking Dead (Tomes of the Dead) by Toby Venables (Abaddon Books 14 April 2011 / £7.99) - A new title in Abaddon's excellent Tomes of the Dead zombie franchise. Journalist and horror aficionado Tony Venables offers us a taste of Viking Dead.

"976 AD. Somewhere in Northern Europe. Bjólf Erlingsson and the viking crew of the ship Hrafn are having a bad day. A fruitless raid on an arse-end-of-nowhere village. A bone-crunching encounter with a rival crew. And, to top it all off, a bitter night on the open sea, fogbound and adrift.

But things are about to get much worse. Beyond the fog fog lies a bleak land where the dead rise up to feed upon the flesh of their kin, and the people are preyed upon by black ships that carry invincible, undead berserkers... Now, Bjólf and his men have but one choice if they are to escape the same curse: track the black ships to their strange island castle, strike at the dark heart of the pestilence - and reveal at last the ghastly secret of its origins"

Arrow

Star Wars: Clone Wars Gambit - Siege by Karen Miller (Arrow 26 May 2011 / £7.99) - It's easy for we self-appointed literati to be snotty about tie-ins and franchise fiction, but often these novels are a gateway into reading for folks who might otherwise spend their time just watching TV and playing games. It's almost comforting to know therefore that there are real quality authors at work in these areas - one such being Australian writer Karen Miller, who is perhaps best know of late for her Kingmaker, Kingbreaker fantasy novels and also the Rogue Agent fantasies, written under the name K.E. Mills. No stranger to franchise material, Miller has written in the universes of Stargate and Star Wars, and here returns to the latter with Clone Wars Gambit: Siege. Published by Arrow in paperback original.

Bantam

The Sword of Albion: The Sword of Albion Trilogy Book 1 by Mark Chadbourn (Bantam 28 April 2011 / £7.99) - The Elizabethan era is an attractive one to both writers and readers of genre. There's plenty of gold to mine whether it's the geography, the culture, the history or the folklore. In the hands of the ever-capable Mark Chadbourn it is the swash-buckling adventure of Elizabethan espionage that will not only delight his existing fans, but also doubtless win him a whole host of new ones. The Sword of Albion is now published in mass market paperback by Bantam.

"1588: The London of Elizabeth I is rocked by news of a daring raid on the Tower. The truth is known only to a select few: that, for twenty years, a legendary doomsday device, its power fabled for millennia, has been kept secret and, until now, safe in the Tower. But it has been stolen and Walsingham's spies believe it has been taken by the Enemy. This Enemy is not who we usually think of as our traditional opponent. No, this Enemy has waged a brutal war against mankind since time began, and with such a weapon they might take terrible toll upon England's green and pleasant land...And so it falls to Will Swyfte - swordsman, adventurer, scholar, rake, and the greatest of Walsingham's new breed of spy - to follow a trail of murder and devilry that leads deep into the dark, venomous world of the Faerie. As Philip of Spain prepares a naval assault on England, Will is caught up in a race against time in pursuit of this fiendish device... " (see review)

Bantam Press

The Scar-Crow Men: Sword of Albion 2 by Mark Chadbourn (Bantam Press 28 April 2011 / £12.99) - Mark Chadbourn's follow up to The Swords of Albion offers up further 'genre-bursting' Elizabethan spy adventures. A trade paperback from Bantam Press.

"1593. Queen Elizabeth’s trusted spymaster Walsingham has been dead for two years...

As plague sweeps through the streets and stews of London, so suspicion and mistrust sweep through the court and government. No one feels safe. Even the celebrated swordsman, adventurer and philanderer, Will Swyfte, must watch his back.

It is when his best friend and colleague, the playwright Christopher Marlowe, is killed in a pub brawl that Will decides he must act. The murder has all the hallmarks of an assassination. But in going in search of Kit's killer, he discovers that there are those in positions of power and influence who are not what they seem...

Against a backcloth of growing paranoia and terror, Will detects the malign machinations of England’s hidden enemy, the Unseelie Court. Now friendless and with these devils at his back, the country’s greatest spy may find that even his vaunted skills are no match for the supernatural powers arrayed against him. The choice is simple: uncover the true nature and intention of this vile conspiracy – or face the executioner’s axe..."

The Watchers by Jon Steele (Bantam Press 09 June 2011 / £12.99) - Uncorrected Proof Copy: Jon Steel's debut novel The Watchers gives us a good idea of where the crossover market is right now. Released in hardcover by Bantam Press it will certainly appeal to genre reader who will be familar with the tropes and elements therein, but the 'otherness' of this book is clearly intended to also catch mainstream readers, given that it is being pitched as 'Imagine The Bourne Identity written by Neil Gaiman'. Due in June.

"Lausanne, Switzerland.

In the cathedral tower lives a strange boy with a limp who talks to the bells.

In a luxury penthouse lives a high-class prostitute who's in mortal danger.

And in a low-rent hotel lives a private investigator who has no idea how he got there.

Jay Harper finds himself in Switzerland on the trail of a missing Olympic athlete. A hard drinker, he can barely remember how he got home last night, let alone why he accepted this job. When he meets the stunning but aloof Katherine in a hotel bar, he quickly realises that he's not the only one in town who's for hire. She's a high-class hooker who can't believe her luck. Which is about to change. For the worse.

In the meantime, Marc Rochat spends his time in the belfry talking to the statues, his cat and the occasional ghost. His job is to watch over Lausanne at night and to wait for the angel his mother told him he'd one day have to save. When he sees Katherine, he thinks his moment has come. Which indeed it has. But not in a good way..."

Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

Nightmare Movies: Horror on Screen Since the 1960s by Kim Newman (Bloomsbury Publishing PLC 18 April 2011 / £30.00) - Kim Newman's seminal work covering the history of modern horror film, first seen in 1988 has been updated by the author and is now reissued by Bloomsbury.

"Now over twenty years old, the original edition of Nightmare Movies has retained its place as a true classic of cult film criticism. In this new edition, Kim Newman brings his seminal work completely up to date, both reassessing his earlier evaluations and adding a second part that analyses the last two decades of horror films with all the wit, intelligence and insight for which he is known. Since the publication of the first edition, horror has been on a gradual upswing and has gained a new and stronger hold over the film industry. Newman negotiates his way through a vast back catalogue of horror and charts the on-screen progress of our collective fears and bogeymen, from the low-budget slasher movies of the 1960s, through to the slick releases of the 2000s. Nightmare Movies is an invaluable companion that not only provides a newly updated history of the darker side of film but also acts as a truly entertaining guide with which to explore the less well-trodden paths of horror and rediscover the classics with a newly instructed eye."

Gollancz

Magus of Stonewylde (Stonewylde: Book 1) by Kit Berry (Gollancz 05 May 2011 / £7.99) - Kit Berry's Stonwylde YA books have a large and faithful fanbase after they originally appeared as self-published novels supported by an excellent internet presence. Gollancz now publish the first Magus of Stonwylde in a mass market edition - a limited hardcover edition is also being produced.

"Sylvie is dying. A victim of crippling allergies, poisoned by the pollution and chemicals of modern life, Sylvie is trapped in a hospital bed while her mother and doctors watch her life slipping away. But one of them offers her a chance. There's an alternative community - Stonewylde - hidden away behind high boundary walls in a corner of Dorset. If their leader, the charismatic Magus, would let Sylvie visit then perhaps the clean air and green lifestyle may restore her vitality. Or at least give her some measure of peace before she dies. It's a chance, and when Sylvie and her mother take it, they find themselves in a haven of tranquillity and beauty. But it's not all idyllic. The Magus sends a moody, secretive Village boy to work in their garden as a punishment. He warns them to stay away from him - he's rebellious and in deep trouble. But Sylvie is curious about Yul and, as their forbidden friendship grows, she sees that all is not quite as it seems at Stonewylde. Why was she told to keep away from Yul - and why are she and her mother so drawn to the Magus? Is the crone on the hill really a powerful wise-woman, or just a crazed old hag bent on destroying the peace with her wild prophecies? And what exactly is the magical secret at the heart of this seemingly perfect community? "

Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch (Gollancz 21 April 2011 / £12.99) - The second Peter Grant novel from Ben Aaronovitch, and the follow up to hugely successful, best-selling Rivers of London. Moon Over Soho is published in hardcover by Gollancz and sees our hero dragged into the seedy history of Soho's jazz scene - highly recommended urban fantasy. (The US edition was reviewed last month by Drew Bittner.)

"I was my dad's vinyl-wallah: I changed his records while he lounged around drinking tea, and that's how I know my Argo from my Tempo. And it's why, when Dr Walid called me to the morgue to listen to a corpse, I recognised the tune it was playing. Something violently supernatural had happened to the victim, strong enough to leave its imprint like a wax cylinder recording. Cyrus Wilkinson, part-time jazz saxophonist and full-time accountant, had apparently dropped dead of a heart attack just after finishing a gig in a Soho jazz club. He wasn't the first. No one was going to let me exhume corpses to see if they were playing my tune, so it was back to old-fashioned legwork, starting in Soho, the heart of the scene. I didn't trust the lovely Simone, Cyrus' ex-lover, professional jazz kitten and as inviting as a Rubens' portrait, but I needed her help: there were monsters stalking Soho, creatures feeding off that special gift that separates the great musician from someone who can raise a decent tune. What they take is beauty. What they leave behind is sickness, failure and broken lives. And as I hunted them, my investigation got tangled up in another story: a brilliant trumpet player, Richard 'Lord' Grant - my father - who managed to destroy his own career, twice. That's the thing about policing: most of the time you're doing it to maintain public order. Occasionally you're doing it for justice. And maybe once in a career, you're doing it for revenge."

Harper Voyager

A Game of Thrones: Book 1 of A Song of Ice and Fire (Song of Ice & Fire) by George R. R. Martin (Harper Voyager 31 March 2011 / £8.99) - Winter is finally here, at long, long last, and already the interwubs are alive with reaction to the chilly review that appeared in the New York Times. Doubtless those of us for whom George R.R. Martin's books have been such a key part of our formative reading will shake our heads at those who simply don't 'get fantasy' just as those who don't get it will think us all nerdy dwarf tosser. The argument will doubtless run and run - let's hope the TV series does too!

This tie in edition of Game of Thrones shows Sean Bean sat on a very uncomfortable looking throne and is published in B format by Harper Voyager.

Orbit

Ember and Ash by Pamela Freeman (Orbit 05 May 2011 / £9.99) - A new stand alone novel set in the world of award-winning Australian writer Pamela Freeman's, Casting's Trilogy.

Featuring a fantastic cover image by David Frankland, Ember and Ash is a B format release from Orbit.

"Two peoples have been fighting over the same land for a thousand years. Invaders crushed the original inhabitants, and ancient powers have reluctantly given way to newer magics. But Ember was to change all this with a wedding to bind these warring people together - until her future goes up in flames. Ember's husband-to-be is murdered by a vengeful elemental god, who sees peace as a breach of faith. Set on retribution, she enlists the help of Ash, son of a seer. Together they will pit themselves against elementals of fire and ice in a last attempt to end the conflicts that have scarred their past. They must look to the present, as old furies are waking to violence and are eager to reclaim their people."

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sausages by Tom Holt (Orbit 02 June 2011 / £12.99) - Orbit's top tier comic fantasy author, the amazingly prolific Tom Holt brings us his latest novel, the title of which shouldn't surprises us, really, given some of the others he's got away with over the years! Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sausages is released in trade paperback in early June by Orbit.

"Polly, an average, completely ordinary property lawyer, is convinced she's losing her mind. Someone keeps drinking her coffee. And talking to her clients. And doing her job. And when she goes to the dry cleaner's to pick up her dress for the party, it's not there. Not the dress - the dry cleaner's. And then there are the chickens who think they are people. Something strange is definitely going on - and it's going to take more than a magical ring to sort it out."

The Rogue: The Traitor Spy Trilogy, Book 2 by Trudi Canavan (Orbit 05 May 2011 / £17.99) - Trudi Canavan's brand new novel is the second in a sequel series to her mega-selling Black Magician trilogy. Commercial fantasy at it's very best. The Rogue is a follow-up to last years novel The Ambassador's Mission and is released as a very smart looking royal hard cover by Orbit. Note that Canavan will be touring the UK in support of this release.

"Living among the Sachakan rebels, Lorkin does his best to learn about them and their unique magic. But the Traitors are reluctant to trade their knowledge for the Healing they so desperately want and, while he assumes they fear revealing their existence to the world, there are hints they have bigger plans. Sonea searches for the rogue, knowing that Cery cannot avoid assassination for ever, but the rogue's influence over the city's underworld is far greater than she feared. His only weakness is the loss of his mother, now locked away in the Lookout. In Sachaka, Dannyl has lost the respect of the Sachakan elite for letting Lorkin join the Traitors. The Ashaki's attention has shifted, instead, to the new Elyne Ambassador, a man Dannyl knows all too well. And in the University, two female novices are about to remind the Guild that sometimes their greatest enemy is found within. "

The White Luck Warrior (Aspect-Emperor) by R. Scott Bakker (Orbit 05 May 2011 / £13.99) - The second novel in the Aspect-Emperor series by the acclaimed Canadian fantasy author R. Scott Bakker. The White Luck Warrior is the follow-up to The Judging Eye and is a trade paperback release from Orbit.

"A score of years after he first walked into the histories of men, Anasurimbor Kellhus rules all the three seas, the first true aspect-emperor in a thousand years. As Kellhus and his Great Ordeal march ever farther into the perilous wastes of the Ancient North, Esmenet finds herself at war with not only the Gods, but her own family as well. Achamian, meanwhile, leads his own ragtag expedition to the legendary ruins of Sauglish, and to a truth he can scarce survive, let alone comprehend. Into this tumult walks the White Luck Warrior, assassin and messiah both, executing a mission as old as the World's making ..."

Orion Childrens

The Hunting Ground by Cliff McNish (Orion Childrens 05 May 2011 / £8.99) - The new novel from the highly acclaimed author of Savannah Grey, Cliff McNish.

Born in Sunderland, McNish has spent most of his life in the southeast of England. His first book was The Doomspell, inspired by a story he told his young daughter. Since then he has published The Silver Sequence and the highly-acclaimed stand-alone supernatural thrillers, Breathe (winner of the Salford and Calderdale book awards) and Angel. His books have been translated into 17 languages, and are published to acclaim in the US. This new novel The Hunting Ground is now published in B format (with snazzy French flaps) by Orion Children's Books.

"When Elliott and his brother, Ben, move into the old and crumbling Glebe House they don't expect to find themselves sharing it with ghosts. But soon sinister events are unfolding. An old diary reveals glimpses of the mansion's past - and of a terrible tragedy. A mysterious woman talks to the dead. And evil lurks in the East Wing - a hideous labyrinth of passageways devised by a truly twisted mind. Can Elliott and his family escape the clutches of Glebe House? Or will they be trapped in the maze of corridors, forever hunted by the dead?"

Simon & Schuster Ltd

Waking Nightmares (The Shadow Saga) by Christopher Golden (Simon & Schuster Ltd 28 April 2011 / £12.99) - With this brand new volume in Christopher Golden's Shadow Saga, Simon & Schuster's British roll-out of this series finally brings UK readers in line with those in the US. Waking Nightmares is published in trade paperback.

"When chaos erupts in the small coastal town of Hawthorne, Massachusetts, former vampire-turned-mage Peter Octavian and earthwitch Keomany Shaw arrive to investigate. Years ago, Octavian helped expose the secret existence of vampires to the world, dismantling the Vatican's sorcery corps in order to save his fellow shadows from destruction. But without the Vatican sorcerers, the magical barriers they spent centuries constructing to keep the forces of darkness out of our world are beginning to fail, and things are slipping through. Now an ancient god of chaos is awakening in Hawthorne, its influence spreading...and it's Octavian's fault. If he can't stop it, the blood of all human kind will be on his hands."

Solaris

Dead of Veridon (Burn Cycle) by Tim Akers (Solaris 09 June 2011 / £7.99) - US author Tim Akers is a writer to watch - his Horns of Ruin (published by Pyr last year) impressed me greatly as did his previous novel Heart of Veridon, a steampunky adventure fantasy published by Solaris and set in a world that Akers had long been developing in a series of shorter works. Alas that Solaris book seemed to get a little lost, as it was released around the time the imprint got canned by owners Black Library and before its resurrection as an imprint of Rebellion. The new regime now published the follow-up, Dead of Veridon and fingers crossed it will fare better. It - and Akers - certainly deserve to.

"Trouble finds Jacob Burn: kicked out of his house, out of his comfortable life – out of everything that is familiar – even turned away from his circle of criminal friends and interesting enemies. Two years after he saved an ungrateful city from a mad angel, thwarting the plans of every powerful faction in Veridon, Jacob is still trying to pull his life together. And still trouble finds him. A bad job goes worse, and soon old enemies present themselves as allies, and former friends set themselves against Jacob as he tries to put the dead to rest and the living to justice. Things gets even harder when he’s appointed by the Council to investigate the rise of the cog-dead, while some hold him personally accountable, and others in the city work to use the chaos to their advantage."

Desdaemona by Ben Macallan (Solaris 01 June 2011 / £7.99) - A new urban fantasy penned by seasoned pro Chaz Brenchley under the pen name Ben Macallan. Desdaemona taps right into the Zeitgeist of such popular TV shows as Being Human and, according to acquiring Solaris editor Jon Oliver, " ...wise, witty and terrific fun..." and " ...does something different with the genre while still managing to be a ripping good yarn." - and you can't ask for more than that. Desdaemona is released as a paperback original in early June.

"Jordan helps kids on the run find their way back home. He’s good at that. He should be – he’s a runaway himself. Sometimes he helps the kids in other, stranger ways. He looks like a regular teenager, but he’s not. He acts like he’s not exactly human, but he is. He treads the line between mundane reality and the world of the supernatural, including the awesome Powers That Be.

Desdaemona also knows the non-human world far too well. She tracks Jordan down and enlists his aid in searching for her lost sister Fay, who did a Very Bad Thing involving an immortal. This may be a mistake – for both of them. Too many people are interested now, and some of them are not people at all!"

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