cover image Red River Seven

Red River Seven

A.J. Ryan. Orbit, $18.99 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-0-316-51814-7

Bestseller Ryan (the Covenant of Steel series, as Anthony Ryan) demonstrates that his narrative gifts extend well beyond epic fantasy in this nail-biting postapocalyptic thriller. A man wakes up on a boat to the sound of a gunshot with no memory of who he is or why he’s there but with the word “Huxley” tattooed on one wrist. Huxley finds that the gun was fired by a man with a “Conrad” wrist tattoo, who shot himself. There are five additional people onboard the vessel, all with famous writers’ last names similarly tattooed on them and all with no personal memories, though they still retain some hyperspecific knowledge. (“The lung capacity of an average adult human male is six litres,” recalls a woman sporting a “Rhys” tattoo.) Their helplessness increases when they find that they can’t control the boat’s path. Their only direction comes from an anonymous female voice on a satellite phone, who offers a dire warning: “Any member of your crew who recalls personal memories must be considered a danger.” As the tension—and violence—ramps up, Ryan’s worldbuilding comes into focus and he makes it easy to suspend disbelief. With thoughtful characterization and an innovative variation on a familiar theme, this impressive horror tale wows. Agent: Paul Lucas, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Oct.)