Publicity: A Closed and Common Orbit – Becky Chambers

Chambers’ sequel to A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet has been nominated for the 2017 Hugo Award for Best Novel. (Sci fi fans will remember that Long Way was nominated for a James Tiptree Award.) So for stores trying to cultivate a fiction forward sci fi collection, Chambers is looking more and more like someone you don’t want to skip.

Couched in a space opera plot, with a voice that sometimes limns Douglas Adams, there’s a lot more under the hood here. These books are slyly issues-oriented, showing species co-inhabitating and celebrating their differences while also addressing cultural xenophobia and racism. As the Guardian noted of the first book, Chambers writes “[a] quietly profound, humane tour de force that tackles politics and gender issues with refreshing optimism.”

“As with her amazing debut, the power of Chamber’s second space opera is in her appealing characters […] Her protagonists might not all be human, but they possess more humanity than most”
Library Journal (starred review)

A Closed and Common Orbit (9780062569400) by Becky Chambers. $16.99 trade paper original 3/14/17 on sale.

Fiction Short Take: The Wrong Dead Guy – Richard Kadrey

This is volume two in Kadrey’s new series and takes this acclaimed urban fantasist into Christopher Moore territory. In fact, Moore himself called the first volume, The Everything Box, “A rolling bouncy-house of a caper tale…quick-witted characters, snarky dialogue, and surreal analogies. If you haven’t sampled Richard Kadrey’s take on fantasy yet, this is a great place to start.”

“[I]nveterate thief Coop is a fast-talking criminal making his way through a supernatural substratum of society. Last time around, he saved the world and has now reluctantly been seconded to the Department of Peculiar Science….Coop’s boss, Woolrich, orders his team on a new mission: ‘A simple theft. A local museum has a mummy on display. We’d like to have it instead of them.’ What sounds like a simple heist quickly becomes mortal danger when they accidentally awaken Harkhuf, an evil mummy imbued with dark magic, which is totally the worst kind of magic, apparently….A goofy, flamboyant, and breathless horror adventure by one of the genre’s sharpest creators.”

“Cross Donald Westlake’s John Dortmunder with Lawrence Block’s Bernie Rhodenbarr, add a layer of supernatural shenanigans, and if you are as talented a writer as Richard Kadrey, you end up with Coop, thief protagonist of The Everything Box….Richard Kadrey is a master of paranormal suspense and relatable antiheroes with a strong dose of dark humor, and The Wrong Dead Guy is a delight from beginning to end. Highly recommended.”
— Carol Schneck Varner, Schuler Books & Music, Okemos, MI

The Wrong Dead Guy (9780062389572) by Richard Kadrey. $24.99 hardcover. 2/28/17 on sale.

Fiction Short Take: Lost Gods – Brom

Finished copies of this were done in time for the Mountains and Plains Discovery Show last weekend and Boulder Book Store’s April Gosling reminded me of Brom’s enduring cult appeal as we were flipping through looking at the stunning illustrations. In previous books, Brom has delivered dark, lushly illustrated stories based on classic myths. Lost Gods takes a slightly new direction creating a quest story in a world of his own making but informed by mythology. Fans will not be disappointed.

Lost Gods is another solid twist of a mythological novel by Brom. Chet has sworn to do good by his girlfriend and their child. Even death can’t stop him. But when he reaches purgatory, he finds it in the middle of a war. And the key to getting back to life is in the hands of his grandfather, who is on the other side. Brom is a smart fill in for those American Gods fans as well as those who like Galilee by Clive Barker. I will always appreciate how he weaves unrelated mythologies together pretty damn seamlessly.”
–April Dawn Gosling, Boulder Book Store, Boulder, CO

“Chet must descend to purgatory, where, he will learn, nothing is what it seems and some things are much worse than being dead. Chet’s exciting adventures occur in an inventive hodgepodge of mythical and literary netherworlds…[F]ans of Brom’s weirdly offbeat imagination will find much to admire.”
Kirkus Reviews

Lost Gods (9780062095688) by Brom. $27.99 hardcover. 10/25/16 on sale.

Fiction Short Take: The Queen of Blood – Sarah Beth Durst

The dark twist in this fantasy adventure is intriguing: the spirits in the natural world are out to kill the human inhabitants of their world. Only the queen of the kingdom can control a delicate balance between humankind and nature. Strong reviews for the start of a new fantasy series.

 [A] stellar and imaginative tale….Durst ably dispenses with tropes of the genre, zooming through the standard ‘young magician at the academy’ plot to focus on Daleina’s growth as both a person and a potential queen. In addition to a solid cast of characters and great political intrigue, Durst delivers some fascinating world building, and the spirits are malevolent, cunning, wild, and mysterious antagonists.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“[A] thrilling beginning to a sweeping series about searching for sovereignty and truth in order to save one’s land.”
Library Journal (starred review)

“What a great story! A truly wonderful fantasy novel which doubles as an allegory for our own earthly struggle between Man and Nature. Filled with fresh ideas and excitement, told with verve and heart. This book deserves a wide readership, and I think it will find one.”
— Terry Brooks

“I think my tagline for Queen of Blood is ‘What if nature could fight back?’ The entire idea nature having spirits was very intriguing….Daleina’s a great student, but she does not have the most power in controlling spirits and a few bad decisions quickly spiral out of control. I really enjoyed this book, I was hooked almost immediately….I will have fun recommending it to both groups.”
— Kate Schreffler, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Lexington, KY

The Queen of Blood, Book One of The Queens of Renthia (9780062413345) by Sarah Beth Durst. $19.99 hardcover. 9/20/16 on sale.

Fiction Short Take: Invasive – Chuck Wendig

This follow up to Zer0es is going to make fans of paranoid tech thrillers very, very happy. While not exactly a sequel to Zer0es, Invasive again features FBI agent Hollis Cooper trying not to freak out and to keep a lid on technology that that could threaten humankind’s very existence.

This time futurist Hannah Stander is also on board to help. The mystery starts with a flayed dead man surrounded in zillions of dead ants in a rural cabin. When we find out the killer ants were genetically engineered, this story goes all Michael Crichton. And that’s not a bad thing—especially when fed through the buzzsaw of Wendig’s imagination.

 “Wendig puts his own stamp on this propulsive techno-thriller with his signature action set pieces, a deeply damaged heroine, and a pervasive threat that will give all but the most hardened readers the creepy-crawlies. The book makes some very salient points about the ethics of genetic engineering but doesn’t forego action as the book culminates in a biological catastrophe, not to mention a deadly cat-and-mouse chase on the treacherous Kalalau Trail on the North Shore of Kauai. Hannah Stander is a standout heroine—raised by survivalists and gifted with an unparalleled ability for predictive analysis. Think Thomas Harris’ Will Graham and Clarice Starling rolled into one and pitched on the knife’s edge of a scenario that makes Jurassic Park look like a carnival ride. Another rip-roaring, deeply paranoid thriller about the reasons to fear the future.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Genetically engineered ants command center stage in Chuck Wendig’s enthralling science-fiction thriller Invasive…Wendig does an impeccable job blending fact and fiction as he describes invasive species and insects being used as biological weapons. This is a propulsive tale that also examines our interaction with — and ma­nipu­la­tion of — the natural world.”
— Washington Post

Invasive (9780062351579) by Chuck Wendig. $25.99 hardcover. 8/16/16 on sale.

Fiction Short Take: The Vagrant – Peter Newman

I have to think that the bad-ass cover of this book is what led a number of booksellers to pick up this dystopian fantasy epic which the Voyager team calls “Mad Max meets The Gunslinger and The Book of Eli.” (Definitely a case of “one picture is worth a thousand words”…)

The genre fiction buyer at Schuler Books & Music put it on my radar and I subsequently heard from other booksellers who enjoyed the ride.

 The mute protagonist of The Vagrant travels across a ruined landscape populated with demons and the remaining humans who will do anything they can to survive. With him is a baby, a goat, and a mystical sword he must return to the gods who virtually abandoned his world. Though he says nothing, in Peter Newman’s hands, The Vagrant is marvelously realized. There is enough horror and gore here to satisfy any fan of the Walking Dead, but the general reader will find enough humor and beauty to make this book well worth the read. Peter Newman is an author to watch.”
— Kim Fox, Schuler Books & Music, Grand Rapids, MI

The Vagrant was wild. I love that even though the main character doesn’t speak, you still care deeply for him and feel his emotions through his facial expressions and especially through is care for the baby.  Neither of them can speak, but the emotion is palpable. I liked the blend of post-apocalyptic wasteland and fantasy creatures. The descriptions are vivid and rather nightmare-inducing. I think fans of Stephen King will enjoy this, as well as the post-apocalyptic crowd.”
— Kate Schreffler, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Lexington, KY

The Vagrant (9780008163303) by Peter Newman. $16.99 trade paper original. 5/10/16 on sale.

New Fiction: The Everything Box – Richard Kadrey

Kadrey’s long-running Sandman Slim series has a devoted following that has, over time, put Kadrey on the bestseller lists, not to mention garnering one of my all-time favorite book endorsements:

“The best B movie I’ve read in at least twenty years. An addictively satisfying, deeply amusing, dirty-ass masterpiece…an LA noir spaghetti western grudge-war apocalypse, fought with magic, shotguns, occult artifacts, and (at one point) the broken wooden handle of a toilet plunger. Sweet.”
— William Gibson

For those of us with somewhat more delicate sensibilities, this time out Kadrey offers a gentler but no less inventive story–more Christopher Moore than Jim Butcher. In fact, Moore is a fan, saying, “A rolling bouncy-house of a caper tale, The Everything Box abounds with quick-witted characters, snarky dialogue, and surreal analogies.”

The plot? In 2000 B.C. and angel loses a small box that happens to be the engine of humanity’s destruction. In 2015, a thief delivers what he thinks is a simple, supernatural heirloom into the wrong hands. And the race to get hold of this doomsday box and save the world is on.

Advance reviews and bookseller praise suggest that Kadrey’s likely to expand his legion of fans with this one.

Coop is a thief whose immunity to magic lets him specialize in stealing magical objects – until he steals a box that could trigger the Apocalypse. Now fallen angels, supernatural law enforcement officials, rival doomsday cult leaders and just plain criminals all want the box, and expect Coop to get it for them. Can Coop keep himself and his friends alive – and will there still be a world left for them to live in if he does? Kadrey is a master of edgy humor, complex plotting, and nonstop action with a paranormal edge, and The Everything Box is an engagingly dark delight to read!
— Carol Schneck Varner, Schuler Books and Music. Okemos, MI

“Kadrey draws heavily on Gaiman and Pratchett’s classic novel, Good Omens, for inspiration, and in equal measure on Donald Westlake’s caper comedies. Kadrey’s plot doesn’t depend on magic; instead, magic is the broth bringing all manner of delicious ingredients together in this wonderful stew of a story. This unusual urban fantasy is a delight.”
Publishers Weekly

“A supernatural comic caper that reads like one of the late Donald Westlake’s Dortmunder novels sprinkled with some fairy dust.”

  “Thoroughly entertaining and hilarious… I was laughing all the way to the end. Speaking of the end, good endings are very important to me, and this one was particularly satisfying…I can easily recommend this to a casual fantasy reader, or someone looking for a good laugh.
–Kate Schreffler, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Lexington, KY

The Everything Box (9780062389541) by Richard Kadrey. $24.99 hardcover. 4/19/16 on sale.