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The Tindalos Asset

Caitlín R. Kiernan. Tor.com, $14.99 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-1-250-19115-1

The exceptional third supernatural thriller in Kiernan’s Tin Foil Dossier series (after Black Helicopters) evokes Frank Belknap Long’s 1929 story “The Hound of Tindalos” (regarded as the first contribution by another writer to H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos) to deliver an audacious tale of earthshaking cosmic espionage. Los Angeles-based “occult assassin” Ellison Nicodemo has become a dysfunctional drug addict after harrowing experiences in the field. Still, the Signalman, an enigmatic officer of a shadow government security agency, taps Ellison to take on Jehosheba Talog, a Welsh woman with prodigious supernatural powers. Kiernan builds on the cosmic horrors of previous installments as Jehosheba’s activities on behalf of the monstrous Mother Hydra unleash a tidal wave of uncanny phenomena that tears at the very fabric of reality. Ellison’s episodic attempts to stop this tide provide tantalizing glimpses into a deliciously dark world, inviting the reader to envision the broader, more terrifying context in which the events of the story unfold. With this chilling work, Kiernan again proves her mastery of the genre. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/28/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Ink

Jonathan Maberry. Griffin, $17.99 trade paper (464p) ISBN 978-1-250-76588-8

Maberry sends the hard-boiled skip tracer Monk Addison, who first appeared in 2018’s Glimpse, to the creepy small-town setting of his Pine Deep trilogy for a disquieting standalone adventure. Upon arriving in Pine Deep, Pa., the “most haunted town in America,” Monk immediately runs into trouble; one of his oldest friends, tattoo artist Patty Cakes, is attacked by a mysterious force that eats away at one of her most significant tattoos and steals the memories associated with it. Local psychic Dianna Agbala experiences something similar: a tattoo representing her core essence begins to fade, and with it her understanding of herself. The culprit is a man who calls himself the Lord of the Flies and feeds off memories—and it’s up to Monk and his allies to stop him. Moments of gruesome violence and abuse mark this as not for the faint of heart, though Maberry’s focus on the strength and resilience of his heroes offers a glimmer of light in the darkness. The unhinged and unrepentant Lord of the Flies is a striking villain who will haunt readers long after the book is through. Horror fans should take note. Agent: Sara Crowe, Pippin Properties. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 08/28/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Grave War

Kalayna Price. Ace, $7.99 mass market (416p) ISBN 978-1-984805-95-9

Price concludes the Alex Craft urban fantasy series (after Grave Destiny) with a heaping serving of chills, adventure, and romance. Alex Craft, a grave witch, has been through the wringer, what with discovering her fae side and reluctantly spending time in faerie land, helping to solve supernatural murders, and seeing her love interest Falin Andrews ascend to the throne of the winter court. Along the way, she’s picked up a few enemies—most notably the maniacal Ryese, nephew of the late winter queen. Alex, now the lead investigator of the Fae Investigation Bureau, is thrown even deeper into the magical world she’s been trying to avoid after Ryese destroys the doors to faerie land, stranding fae courtiers and independents alike in the mortal world. Now Alex must unravel deceptions and vanquish her enemies before faerie land is lost forever. Price provides a satisfying, slightly melancholy end to the series that serves as a jam-packed adventure in its own right while gracefully wrapping up most of the series’ ongoing story lines. Fans will not be disappointed. Agent: Lucienne Diver, the Knight Agency. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 08/28/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Way Out

Armond Boudreaux. Uproar, $16.95 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-949671-08-7

Boudreaux (That He May Raise) lays out a dystopian vision of the near future in this dramatic, fast-paced outing. After a virus impacts humanity’s reproductive capabilities, the world’s governments put into place the Safe Reproductive Practices, which prevent fetuses from being carried to term via natural pregnancy. Instead, scientists devise artificial wombs to ensure healthy infants. It’s a divisive move: many protest the mandatory birth control implants forced on women; others embrace the implants as a promise of sexual and reproductive freedom. Spouses Valerie and Kimiya Hara are firmly in the first camp, and after surgeon Kim removes Val’s implant and Val carries their child, Braden, to term, the couple raises him in secret. Twelve years later, Braden, who has developed unusual abilities, is discovered, sending the family’s life into chaos. Meanwhile, reporter Jessica Brantley uncovers dangerous information while investigating artificial reproduction and cloned children, and Dr. Richard Bowen, who works with Anomalies, individuals who display telepathic abilities, is recruited to Project Eris, a government plan to train Anomalies as spies. Boudreaux raises the stakes to a fever pitch as the three stories draw together and the characters circle closer to understanding the origin of the virus. Eerily relevant and unrelenting, this is sure to thrill fans of politically focused science fiction. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/28/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Elusive Shadows

Brian Stableford. Snuggly, $15.95 trade paper (252p) ISBN 978-1-64525-051-7

Stableford (The Revolutions of Time and Space) weaves a literary exploration of color science through this intelligent if unevenly paced tale about the intersection of art and the occult. Adrian Stamford, a “biogeek” and PhD engineering student with a genetically enhanced sensitivity to color, abandons his studies to meet with his idol, Jason Jarndyke, a high-profile industrial textiles magnate based in Yorkshire. Jarndyke, who has caused “a revolution in the textile industry by growing fabrics from tissue cultures,” seeks to manufacture the Golden Fleece of Ancient Greek mythology using genetically determined pigmentation. But to succeed he’ll need Adrian’s unique skill set. Meanwhile, Jarndyke’s villainous wife, Angelica, a standout character who shares Adrian’s color sensitivity and possesses some unusual artistic talents of her own, descends into madness—threatening Jarndyke’s entire project. Stableford devotes more time to philosophizing than plot development, leading the tale to drag in places, but the fascinating ideas and complex characterizations will keep readers hooked. Invoking biology, psychology, and mythology, this innovative work will impress art lovers and science fiction fans alike. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/21/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Infernal

Mark De Jager. Solaris, $11.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-1-78108-817-3

De Jager’s dark, suspenseful debut fantasy gets his Chronicles of Stratus series off to an impressive start. Sorcerer Stratus wakes up in a meadow having lost his memory, but aware of a “beastly thing” inside his head that makes him worry he might be a demon. His search for identity brings him to Krandin, a kingdom in the midst of war with the Penullin Empire. There he meets the kingdom’s champion, Tatyana Henkman, and together they unearth secrets about the nature of Stratus’s demon from a crypt beneath the city. Meanwhile, the wizards of the Penullin Empire, led by Navar Louw, the Worm Lord, devise a sinister plot to infiltrate Krandin. Stratus must fight the battle within his mind and the one against the agents of Penullin—who just might possess the answers he seeks. De Jager takes his time with the mystery of Stratus’s identity, punctuating the internal conflict with adrenaline-fueled action sequences that notch up the tension and suspense. This promising series launch brings the goods. Agent: Harry Illingworth, D H H Literary. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 08/21/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Strange Labour

Robert G. Penner. Radiant, $22 trade paper (220p) ISBN 978-1-989274-35-4

With this brilliant debut, Penner thoughtfully upends the tropes of postapocalyptic fiction. Miranda is working as a New York City accountant when all the world’s neurotypical adults are mysteriously compelled to abandon their lives and devote themselves to the creation of massive labyrinthine earthworks called “the diggings.” Only the neurodivergent are immune to the impulse, Miranda among them. Now traveling to Minnesota to find her parents, Miranda and ex-union organizer Dave, who has epilepsy, traverse a dystopian landscape marked not with violence but with frayed human relationships and abandoned children. Along the way, they encounter dementia nurses and educators struggling to adjust to the new world; an affluent, heartless Toledo commune; and the silent diggers themselves. Penner’s exquisite prose illumines a wild landscape, blurring the boundaries of the natural and industrial and finding beauty in the ruins of the world. With its focus on a neurodiverse and disabled cast, probing exploration of caregiving and its tensions, and depiction of the determination to find joy and meaningful work in the aftermath of disaster, Penner’s hopeful postapocalyptic vision pushes the subgenre forward. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/21/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Bright and Breaking Sea

Chloe Neill. Berkley, $16 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-1-984806-68-0

Neill (the Chicagoland Vampires series) introduces readers to the capable and courageous Captain Kit Brightling in this romantic, rambunctious high-seas adventure and series launch. In 1815, only one year after the end of the Continental Wars, Queen Charlotte’s spies bring word to the Saxon Isles that vanquished emperor Gerard Rousseau plans to harness the magic of sea and land to return from exile. When one of these spies is kidnapped, the Queen orders Captain Kit Brightling, an often overlooked member of the elite Crown Command due to her gender and relative youth, to lead the search and rescue along with veteran Colonel Rian Grant. Kit, who started life as a foundling, disdains the elite beau monde from which Grant hails, but, as the two work together to uncover a network of traitors in the Queen’s inner circle, they realize that trusting each other may be their only hope of survival. Neill’s creative reinterpretation of the Napoleonic Wars is diverse and gripping, and the growing bond between the well-matched Kit and Grant is sure to conquer readers’ hearts. Readers will be eager to see where Kit’s next adventure will lead. Agent: Lucienne Diver, the Knight Agency. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 08/21/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Don’t Move

James S. Murray and Darren Wearmouth. Blackstone, $26.99 (226p) ISBN 978-1-982678-32-6

This half-baked horror novel from Murray and Wearmouth (who previously collaborated on the Awakened series) delivers some solid scares but fails to offer readers a reason to care. Megan Forrester, wracked with grief over the death of her husband and son, hopes to find some solace in her church group’s annual camping trip. The group members, already at each other’s throats, make a critical mistake on their way to Davies Canyon, leading them into the uncharted depths of the West Virginian forest, where they begin to be picked off at an alarming rate. They soon discover they are being hunted by a prehistoric arachnid. With horrors closing in on all sides, it becomes a race against time to outwit the monster and escape the forest alive. Though this is a gleeful creature feature, the arachnid’s origins remain mysterious, making its attacks—and very existence—feel random and unexplained. Each character’s death feels like a foregone conclusion, leaving little room for surprise. Murray and Wearmouth succeed at creating a creepy atmosphere, but the story remains frustratingly muddled. Fans of monster horror can skip this one. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/21/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Heart of Vengeance

Lisa Edmunds. City Owl, $4.99 e-book (482p) ISBN 978-1-6489801-90

The thrilling sixth urban fantasy in Edmunds’s Alice Worth series (after Heart of Shadows) finds the mage private investigator struggling to master her newfound powers of black magic and reuniting with her long-lost father. Alice’s life grows more complicated when she is sent on a mission to the underworld to stop the vampire Mariela from unleashing the Furies into the living world, testing her alliance with the Vampire Court and putting a strain on her relationship with her werewolf boyfriend, Sean Maclin. It’s up to Alice, together with a few unlikely allies and her ghost sidekick, Malcolm, to save the world. Writing with her characteristic verve, Edmunds underscores Alice’s adventure with delightfully dry wit. Though a clumsy subplot about supernatural race relations rings hollow, Edmunds’s imaginative description of the underworld is as fun as it is fascinating, and the twists and turns along the way will keep readers hooked. Series fans will be pleased to find it’s still going strong. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/21/2020 | Details & Permalink

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