This list may sound familiar if you’ve listened to this week’s edition of The Readers (to be fair it’s probably only just gone up) and enjoyed Simon and I sharing our lists after talking about book based New Year’s resolutions.

It’s not quite the same list as I thought that 12 books was a better number than 15* we mentioned but it’s ended up as 13 as I can’t cut this list back any more than I have. I hope you find some books in here that you’re going to look forward to:


Dark Eden

Dark Eden by Chris Beckett

“You live in Eden. You are a member of the Family, one of 532 descendants of Angela and Tommy. You shelter beneath the light and warmth of the Forest’s lantern trees, hunting woollybuck and harvesting tree candy. Beyond the forest lie the treeless mountains of the Snowy Dark and a cold so bitter and a night so profound that no man has ever crossed it. The Oldest among you recount legends of a world where light came from the sky, where men and women made boats that could cross between worlds. One day, the Oldest say, they will come back for you. You live in Eden. You are a member of the Family, one of 532 descendants of two marooned explorers. You huddle, slowly starving, beneath the light and warmth of geothermal trees, confined to one barely habitable valley of a startlingly alien, sunless world. After 163 years and six generations of incestuous inbreeding, the Family is riddled with deformity and feeblemindedness. Your culture is a infantile stew of half-remembered fact and devolved ritual that stifles innovation and punishes independent thought. You are John Redlantern. You will break the laws of Eden, shatter the Family and change history. You will be the first to abandon hope, the first to abandon the old ways, the first to kill another, the first to venture in to the Dark, and the first to discover the truth about Eden.”


Diving Belles cover

Diving Belles by Lucy Wood

Straying husbands lured into the sea can be fetched back, for a fee. Magpies whisper to lonely drivers late at night. Trees can make wishes come true – provided you know how to wish properly first. Houses creak, fill with water and keep a fretful watch on their inhabitants, straightening shower curtains and worrying about frayed carpets. A teenager’s growing pains are sometimes even bigger than him. And, on a windy beach, a small boy and his grandmother keep despair at bay with an old white door. In these stories, Cornish folklore slips into everyday life. Hopes, regrets and memories are entangled with catfish, wrecker’s lamps, standing stones and baying hounds, and relationships wax and wane in the glow of a moonlit sea. This luminous, startling and utterly spellbinding debut collection introduces in Lucy Wood a spectacular new voice in contemporary British fiction.



The Secret Book of Sacred Things by Torsten Krol

The coming of the Great Stone to Earth has erased almost everything that used to be. But in one isolated valley, the Church of Selene has found its way back from destruction. Sister Luka and her female converts offer sacrifices to the scarred (and very close) moon that hangs over their convent. It has been this way since the meteor hit. Among the Little Sisters of Selene is twelve year-old Aurora, respected Scribe of the church. She endlessly writes down the name of the moon to keep her in the sky where she belongs. But Rory has a secret book she keeps hidden in her Scribe’s chamber and into this diary she pours out her hopes and desires. Upsetting this fragile equilibrium is Willa, a young tomboy whose flamboyant arrival threatens the hard-won status quo of the sisters’ community. As Rory and Willa inch toward friendship, insurrection grows. But when an unexpected marvel occurs in the sky, it is clear that Rory’s work as the Scribe has failed. The moon is threatening to remake the world all over again…This is The Secret Book of Sacred Things, this is Rory’s story.


Advent by James Treadwell

Warded from earth, air, water, fire, spirits, thought and sight.

But now magic is rising to the world once more.

And a boy called Gavin, who thinks only that he is a city kid with parents who hate him, and knows only that he sees things no one else will believe, is boarding a train, alone, to Cornwall. No one will be there to meet him.


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Whispers Underground by Ben Aaronovitch’s

Peter Grant is learning magic fast. And its just as well – he’s already had run ins with the deadly supernatural children of the Thames and a terrifying killer in Soho. Progression in the Police Force is less easy. Especially when you work in a department of two. A department that doesn’t even officially exist. A department that if you did describe it to most people would get you laughed at. And then there’s his love life. The last person he fell for ended up seriously dead. It wasn’t his fault, but still. Now something horrible is happening in the labyrinth of tunnels that make up the tube system that honeycombs the ancient foundations of London. And delays on the Northern line is the very least of it. Time to call in the Met’s Economic and Specialist Crime Unit 9, aka ‘The Folly’. Time to call in PC Peter Grant, Britains Last Wizard.


Hide Me Among The Graves

Hide Me Among the Graves by Tim Powers

“An ancient evil patrols the skies above the Thames, the Romantic poets unite in battle against the Muses, and a parallel world of magic exists in the London streets…Awoken by the poet Christina Rosetti, the vampire Polidori is awake once more. Fiercely protective of his beloved Christina, he bestows upon her the gift of divine poetry…but ensures the violent death of any potential rival for his affections. Trapped by her connection to the undead creature – poised between love, and horror for her immortal soul – Rosetti shuts herself away from the world. But Polidori’s abduction of another young girl compels her to join forces against him. With the aid of her brothers, Gabriel and William, and her sister Maria, she enters London’s unseen underworld. It is a realm of magically protected human familiars, jealous supernatural beings, and hungry ghosts.”

Fated by Benedict Jacka

Fated: An Alex Verus Novel by Benedict Jacka

Camden, North London. A tangled, mangled junction of train lines, roads and the canal. Where minor celebrities hang out with minor criminals, where tourists and moody teenagers mingle, and where you can get your ears pierced and your shoulder tattooed while eating sushi washed down with a can of super strength beer. In the heart of Camden, where rail meets road meets leyline, you might find the Arcana Emporium, run by one Alex Verus. He won’t sell you a wand or mix you a potion, but if you know what you’re looking for, he might just be able to help. That’s if he’s not too busy avoiding his apprentice, foiling the Dark, outwitting the Light, and investigating a highly toxic Relic that has just turned up at the British Museum.


TheAlchemistOfSoulsThe Alchemist of Souls by Anne Lyle

When Tudor explorers returned from the New World, they brought back a name out of half-forgotten Viking legend: skraylings. Red-sailed ships followed in the explorers’ wake, bringing Native American goods–and a skrayling ambassador–to London. But what do these seemingly magical beings really want in Elizabeth I’s capital?

Mal Catlyn, a down-at-heel swordsman, is seconded to the ambassador’s bodyguard, but assassination attempts are the least of his problems. What he learns about the skraylings and their unholy powers could cost England her new ally–and Mal his soul.


QuestionmarkRailsea by China Mieville

Sham Yes ap Soorap, young doctor’s assistant, is in search of life’s purpose aboard a diesel locomotive on the hunt for the great elusive moldywarpe, Mocker-Jack. But on an old train wreck at the outskirts of the world, Sham discovers an astonishing secret that changes everything: evidence of an impossible journey. A journey left unfinished…which Sham takes it on himself to complete. It’s a decision that might cost him his life.

BlackbirdsBlackbirds by Chuck Wendig

Miriam Black knows when you will die. Still in her early twenties, she’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, suicides, and slow deaths by cancer. But when Miriam hitches a ride with truck driver Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be gruesomely murdered while he calls her name. Miriam has given up trying to save people; that only makes their deaths happen. But Louis will die because he met her, and she will be the next victim. No matter what she does she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try.


2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

The year is 2312. Scientific advances have opened gateways to an extraordinary future. Earth is no longer our only home; new habitats have been created throughout the solar system, on moons, planets, and in between. But in 2312, a sequence of events will force humanity to confront our past, present, and future. The first event takes place on Mercury, in the city of Terminator, itself a miracle of engineering on an unprecedented scale. For Swan Er Hong, it will change her life. Once a designer of worlds, now Swan will be led into a plot to destroy them. 2312 is a bold vision of humanity’s future and a compelling portrait of those individuals who will shape its events.



The City’s Son (The Skyscraper Throne) by Tom Pollock

Expelled from school, betrayed by her best friend and virtually ignored by her dad, who’s never recovered from the death of her mum, Beth Bradley retreats to the sanctuary of the streets, looking for a new home. What she finds is Filius Viae, the ragged and cocky crown prince of London, who opens her eyes to the place she’s never truly seen. But the hidden London is on the brink of destruction. Reach, the King of the Cranes, is a malign god of demolition, and he wants Filius dead. In the absence of the Lady of the Streets, Filius’ goddess mother, Beth rouses Filius to raise an alleyway army, to reclaim London’s skyscraper throne for the mother he’s never known. Beth has almost forgotten her old life – until her best friend and her father come searching for her, and she must choose between the streets and the life she left behind. This is the first of a series, an urban fable about friends, family and monsters, and how you can’t always tell which is which.


The Long Earth by Sir Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

2015: Madison, Wisconsin. Junior cop Sally Jansson is called out to the house of Willis Lynsey, a reclusive scientist, for an animal-cruelty complaint: the man was seen forcing a horse in through the door of his home. Inside there is no horse. But Sally finds a kind of home-made utility belt. She straps this on – and ‘steps’ sideways into an America covered with virgin forest. Willis came here with equipment and animals, meaning to explore and colonise. And when Sally gets back, she finds Willis has put the secret of the belt on the internet. The great migration has begun…

The Long Earth: our Earth is but one of a chain of parallel worlds, lying side by side in a higher space of possibilities, each differing from its neighbours by a little (or a lot): an infinite landscape of infinite possibilities. And the further away you travel, the stranger the worlds get. The sun and moon always shine, the basic laws of physics are the same. However, the chance events which have shaped our particular version of Earth, such as the dinosaur-killer asteroid impact, might not have happened and things may well have turned out rather differently.

On reflection this is a very SFF-centric list. I guess under pressure of selection I go back to familiar territory. Though in my notes I have 50-odd books that I’d love to read that are coming out in the next six-months from all sections. Maybe I just wasn’t confident enough to list them here I was I wasn’t sure of them myself…

What would you have chosen? Have you got any books that you are forthcoming that you can’t wait to read?


*The two missing books compared with “The Readers” are “The Devil’s Beat” by Robert Edric &  “Half Sick Of Shadows” by David Logan




To celebrate the imminent release of Dead Streets, the second book featuring Matt Ritcher Zombie Private Eye, Angry Robot Books has released a short story set in the same universe, The Midnight Watch.

And here it is…


The Midnight Watch

“You’re really thinking about doing this, aren’t you?”
           Devona didn’t answer me right away, and I took that as a bad sign. I knew she heard me. We’d only been together a couple of months, but in that time I’d learned that not only was her half-vampire hearing sharp as hell, she rarely missed anything that went on around her. So if she wasn’t answering me, it could only mean one of two things: I’d asked the wrong question or she was afraid I wasn’t going to like her answer. This time, it turned out to be both.
           We were standing on the sidewalk in front of a squat stone building that put me in mind of a giant toad that had looked a gorgon straight in the eye. Thick tendrils of leech vine covered most of the surface, and the stone that we could see was pitted and cracked. I wouldn’t have been surprised if the damned vine was the only thing holding the ancient structure together. The building was located in the Sprawl, not all that far from my apartment… make that our apartment. Devona had moved in not long after we met, but I still sometimes had trouble wrapping my undead brain around the concept that I was part of a couple again. I’d been married back on Earth, but that was a while ago. I’d long since divorced and traveled to the other-dimensional city of Nekropolis where I’d died and been resurrected as a self-willed zombie. After that, I figured my dating days were over. I mean, really, would you want to go out with someone who’s perpetually decaying? But Devona was a broad-minded woman, even for Nekropolis, and I regularly visited my houngan for periodic applications of the preservative spells that prevented me from completely rotting away to dust.
           I was fairly fresh that day, with only a slight grayish-green tinge to my flesh. I wore my usual gray suit and my tie displayed images of Dahli’s famous melting clocks draped limply over tree branches. If you looked closely, you could see the fabric hands of the clocks move and hear the soft ticking of gears at work. Devona wore a form-fitting black leather outfit, as she often did, and it looked damned good on her. She was a petite blonde who appeared to be in her twenties, but in truth was in her seventies. She might have been only half vampire, but that was enough to significantly slow down her aging process.
           This was a relatively sedate part of the Sprawl – one of the reasons why I’d chosen to rent an apartment there – but the emphasis was most definitely on relatively. The Sprawl is the Dominion of the Demon Queen Varvara, and she believes in absolute freedom. It’s rumored that the old Beast Alistair Crowley stole his infamous satanic commandant from her: Do as Thou Wilt. I wouldn’t be surprised. If the Sprawl doesn’t exist in a state of total anarchy, it’ll do until the real thing shows up. But like I said, this neighborhood was quiet enough, with pedestrians going about their business searching for prey or trying to avoid becoming prey – often at the same time – and vehicles of various makes, models, and degrees of sentience rolling, crawling, and scuttling down the street. To the right of the stone toad building was a misfortuneteller’s establishment, and on the left was a head shop (new and used, all species, original size and shrunken). Not exactly the most glamorous of neighbors, but they seemed… well, not normal, but harmless enough.
           Devona finally decided to respond to my question. “Not thinking…”
           A sinking feeling hit me. “Please tell me you haven’t bought the place. Sight unseen, no less.”
           She shrugged. “All right, I won’t tell you.”
           I suppressed a sigh. Devona was the half-human daughter of the Darklord Galm, and she’d spent most of her life living in his stronghold and serving as the caretaker of his collection of rare and powerful artifacts. So while she was chronologically older than me by several decades, in terms of actual life experience, she could be a bit naïve at times. And, as I’d been learning over the last couple months, a trifle impulsive.
           “We talked about how it’s not a good idea to buy real estate without a thorough inspection first, remember?”
           Devona turned to me, eyes narrowed and lips pursed. I’d seen that expression before. It meant Stop patronizing me, Matt. “I remember it quite well, and perhaps you’ll recall that my main motivation for purchasing the building was to acquire the name of the business associated with it more than the actual structure itself.” She smiled. “Of course, now that we’re here, I suppose we should go in and take a look around.”
           This time I didn’t bother to suppress my sigh. I don’t need to breathe, but I have to take in air to talk, and while strictly speaking, I don’t have to sigh, sometimes a sigh can communicate more than a dozen well-chosen words.
           “Couldn’t you have bought the name by itself?” I didn’t ask why she wanted it so badly. That was another discussion we’d already had.
          The Midnight Watch was the security firm back in its day, Devona had said. Long before your arrival in Nekropolis, Matt. If you wanted something or someone protected, you hired the Watch. Even the Darklords were known to employ its services from time to time. If I’m going to go into business on my own, that kind of name recognition will help get me established. Besides, I was caretaker of Father’s collection for many years. I like things with a little history behind them.
           I’d met Devona when she’d hired me to help her recover an artifact that had been stolen from Galm’s collection. In the process, we’d not only found the
t and saved the city from total annihilation, we’d also fallen in love. Makes for a great first date story, don’t you think? Unfortunately, Galm cast out Devona for losing the artifact in the first place – even though another of his children had been responsible for the theft – and so jobless and homeless, she’d moved in with me. She’d been helping me with cases ever since, and I thought we made a good team, professionally as well as personally, but Devona eventually decided she wanted to work for herself.
           Please don’t take this the wrong way, Matt, she’d told me. I’ve loved working with you, but I served my father all my adult life… lived in his home, tended his property… I’ve never had anything of my own. Never had to make my own way in the world. I want to see if I can. I hope you’ll understand.
           Of course I did. You don’t get to be the only private detective in a city full of monsters, demons, and witches without having a strong independent streak. I told her I loved her and admired her for wanting to start her own business – which was true, though I knew I’d miss her working with me. The mean streets of Nekropolis would seem a little lonelier without her by my side.
           When I asked her what business she wanted to go into, she said, I was thinking security. A big part of my job for father consisted of overseeing the protections – both magical and mundane – on his collection. I could put that experience to good use in my own security firm. And if I advertise that I used to do security work for a Darklord…
           I had to admit, it sounded like my love had a head for business. If things kept going this way, I might well end up working for her one day.
           Devona turned back to examine the building once more. “I did check into buying the name. When the original owner died, the property defaulted into Varvara’s hands, and when I asked her if I could simply purchase the name Midnight Watch, she told me the name went with the property, and I couldn’t have one without the other.”
           “I don’t suppose she gave you a reason.”
           Devona looked at me as if I’d just said something incredibly stupid, and on reflection, I didn’t blame her. The Demon Queen did what she did solely for her own pleasure.
           “All right, then tell me this: did she smile when she told you that?”
           Devona’s face is normally pale – she is half Bloodborn, after all – but it went chalk white as the implications of my question hit her.
           “I was afraid of that.” If Varvara finds something amusing, it’s usually bad news – especially if what she finds amusing is you. “So there’s something wrong with the building… probably very wrong. All right, let’s go find out what it is.”
           I stuck my hands in my jacket pockets and started toward the building’s entrance.
           Devona put a hand on my shoulder to stop me, and stop me she did, dead – if you’ll pardon the expression – in my tracks. She’s petite, but her vampiric heritage gives her greater strength than a human. I couldn’t have gone anywhere if I’d wanted to.
           “No, Matt. If it’s going to be dangerous…”
           I turned back to look at her. “I appreciate the concern, but this is Nekropolis. Everything is dangerous here: the only question is how dangerous. Besides, if you really want to set yourself up in business as the revived Midnight Watch, you’ll need to use this building, right?”
           “That’s very sweet of you.”
           She leaned forward and gave me a hard kiss on the lips. Devon knows I can only feel the pressure of her kisses, so she always makes sure there’s enough for me to feel. When she pulled back, she gave me a wry smile.
           “And this gallantry of yours has nothing to do with your irritation over the fact that Varvara knew you’d come here with me to check the place out and was amused at the notion of you tangling with whatever lies inside.”
           “Not in the goddamned slightest,” I said. “C’mon, let’s go.”
           As we walked toward the door, I warned Devona to stay clear of the leech vines. The bloodsucking vegetation wouldn’t bother me – no blood – but Devona had plenty of the red stuff coursing through her veins, and it was half vampire. Leech vine loves vampire blood best of all. It’s like the finest of wines to the plant. Me, I find it poetic justice that one of the city’s greatest predators has a blood-thirsty nemesis that desires to feed on its liquid life essence, but the vampires don’t see it that way. That’s why the best leech vine exterminators in the city are Bloodborn.
           The door was covered with leech vine, but since I’d known the building had been abandoned for years and had likely fallen prey to the vine, I’d come prepared. I took my right hand out of my jacket pocket and aimed the object I’d removed – a tiny figurine resembling a white ape – at the door. I spoke a single activating word and the ape’s mouth opened, unleashing a torrent of frigid air. The leech vine covering the door instantly turned black and fell to the ground. When the figurine was finished, I tucked it back in my pocket.
           “What in the nine hells was that?” Devona demanded. “The stench is awful!”
           “Yeti’s Breath,” I said. “It’s a great spell for killing leech vine.” I smiled. “Especially when your sense of smell is as dead as the rest of you.”
           Devona looked as if she was desperately trying to keep the contents of her stomach where they belonged. “Give a girl some warning next time, all right?”
           “Sorry.” Embarrassed, I turned away from her. When you’re dead, it’s easy to forget the strong impact that sensory input can have on others. Maybe, I thought, it’ll be better for Devona when she doesn’t have to work with me anymore.
           I examined the door. It was covered with frost that was already starting to melt, but beneath it I could make out a metal plaque with these words engraved upon it:
           The Midnight Watch: Guarding All Workhouses and Institutions Against Intruders and Meddling. Savage Beasts Employed.
           “Catchy,” I said. I turned back to Devona. “Sense anything?”

60; In response, Devona closed her eyes and concentrated. Not only was she highly skilled at detecting wardspells, as a vampire-human hybrid, she possessed certain psychic abilities that most Bloodborn did not.
           “Yes, I…” She broke off, frowning. Then she opened her eyes. “I thought I sensed something there for a moment, almost as if there was someone inside the building, but the feeling faded quickly. Most likely I was picking up psychic impressions from the businesses on either side.”
           “Maybe.” But I didn’t believe it. I’d lived – or maybe I should say existed – in Nekropolis too long. Besides, if Varvara was amused at the idea of the two of us entering the building, there was definitely something Bad inside.
           I pointed to the door knob. “How about that?”
           Devona waved her hand over the knob several times and then bent down and examined it visually. She straightened.
           “Clean. No traps, mystical or otherwise.”
           I hmpfed. “For a security firm, it seems they weren’t too concerned with folks breaking in.”
           “Wardspells are intricate to construct and require constant maintenance,” Devona said. “It’s been at least fifty years since the building’s been occupied Any wardspells on the door would’ve lost their potency and deactivated long ago.”
           “Fifty years, and no one’s bought the building in all that time? Or at least tried squatting in it? I find that hard to believe.” And considering the kinds of things I’d had to learn to believe in since coming to Nekropolis, that was saying something. “This might not be the most prime location in the Sprawl, but real estate here is always in high demand. After all, it’s sin central for the entire city, and that means there’s a hell of a lot of darkgems to be made here. What would keep a building in the Sprawl vacant for so many years? Wait – let me guess. It’s supposed to be haunted. And not just regular haunted, with a few ghosts flitting about the rooms to lend the place some gloomy atmosphere. It’s haunted with a capital H, by some kind of unknown and incredibly deadly force that will shatter our minds, mutilate our bodies, and ravage our souls, right?”
           “As a matter of fact…”
           I didn’t sigh this time. I was too depressed to bother.
           “This probably isn’t the time or place for this, Devona, but I think you and I really need to work on our communication skills.”
           I tried the knob and wasn’t surprised in the slightest to find it unlocked. I turned it (far too easily, I might add), pushed the door open (it didn’t even have the good grace to creak), and we went inside.
           It was dark, of course. Any windows were completely covered by leech vine, but since Nekropolis is shrouded in the perpetual dusk created by Umbriel the Shadowsun, it would’ve been dark inside even if the windows were clear and left wide open. Devona’s hybrid eyes could see in the dark far better than my undead ones, so while I took a flashlight out of my jacket pocket, I didn’t turn it on right away.
           After several moments, she said, “We’re in a foyer, but I don’t see anything special. You might as well go ahead and turn your light on, Matt.”
           I flicked the flashlight’s switch and played its beam around to get my bearings. It was just as Devona had said: a foyer with stone walls and ceiling and a marble tiled floor. Nice enough, in a cold, Spartan way, but nothing to e-mail home about. There were sconces on the walls where greenfire torches had undoubtedly once burned to light the place, but the mystic flames had died away decades ago, and without an Arcane torchlighter to rekindle them, it looked like we were stuck with my flashlight.
           As we started slowly down the foyer, I said, “So, are you going to tell me why this place is supposed to be haunted?”
           “The original owner and founder of the Midnight Watch was a warlock named Leander Crosswise. He was reputed to be a genius when it came to devising new and innovative wardspells and was also known for breeding some of the fiercest and most intelligent guard animals the city has ever seen. He ran the Midnight Watch very successfully for nearly a century before he finally decided to retire. But before he could, he was murdered, right here in the building, doors locked, wardspells in place. When one of his employees arrived for work the next day, Leander was found lying facedown on the floor of his office, a Dire Blade sticking out of his back.”
           Nasty things, Dire Blades. Obsidian daggers with mystic runes carved into the surface, absolutely deadly to supernatural creatures, the Arcane included. They’re the favored weapons of the Dominari, Nekropolis’ version of the Mafia, but other criminals use them as well, provided they can scrounge up enough darkgems to purchase one of the things. They’re damned expensive, and a good thing, too, or else every low life in the city would have one.
           By this time Devona and I had left the foyer and entered a large room that looked something like a den – dilapidated furniture, stone fireplace filled with cobwebs, musty old paintings on the walls, rotting wooden beams overhead. I assumed the room had been used as a place to meet clients and was likely impressive enough, in its time. There was no sign of anything out of place, and certainly no ghosts leaping out from behind the moldy couch or the cracked leather chairs, so Devona and I left to continue our exploration of the building. As we walked, I asked Devona some questions about the story she’d just told me.
           “Was the murderer ever caught?”
           “No. Leander was a prominent citizen in the Sprawl, so Varvara sent her best Inquisitors and Hellhounds to investigate, but they turned up nothing. She even asked Talaith to send some Arcane investigators, but their magic failed to locate a single clue, let alone reveal the identity of Leander’s killer.”
           So the warlock’s employees were cleared and, while it was possible, if not likely, that Crosswise had enemies or even disgruntled clients who wished him ill, it seemed none of them had been implicated either.
           “Did the investigators have any luck tracing the Dire Blade?”
           Devona and I were walking down a hallway now. When we came to a door, we’d stop, Devona would check for wardspells or booby traps, and when she gave the all-clear, I’d open the door and shine my flashlight inside. All we found was office furniture: desks, chairs, filing cabinets and t

he like. Nothing of interest. At least nothing had jumped out of the shadows and tried to devour our faces – yet.
           “The Blade belonged to Leander. As you might imagine, he owned quite a few weapons, some mystical, some not. Some he’d purchased for the business, some he’d picked up on various jobs. The employees all testified that the Blade was Leander’s.”
           “And no fingerprints or DNA – or the magical equivalent – was found on the weapon,” I said. “Except for Crosswise’s.”
           “That’s right.”
           That didn’t necessarily mean anything. Nekropolis is lousy with beings who can manipulate objects magically or with the power of their mind. And a really good magic user could destroy any traces that they’d handled the weapon. But then again, two Darklords had sent their best investigators to look into Crosswise’s death, and even if a magic user had tried to remove any evidence they’d handled the weapon, investigators of that caliber would’ve found it.
           “You said Crosswise was going to retire.”
           “That’s right. He was killed on the night before he planned to officially retire, as a matter of fact.”
           “That’s interesting.”
           We’d just finished checking our third office and were headed toward our fourth. I was beginning to think that Varvara had been so amused at the thought of our coming here because she’d known the place would end up boring us to death.
           “It might speak to possible motive,” I said. “Maybe someone resented Leander retiring. Was he planning on selling the business or giving it to a successor?”
           “Neither,” Devona said. “He planned to close the business and sell the building. He wanted the Midnight Watch to end with him.”
           “Maybe someone didn’t want him to sell.”
           “Is that really enough motive to kill someone?”
           We reached the fourth door. None of them had any names on them, but this was nicer than the others, made of sturdy black oak that I imagined had once held a highly polished sheen. I had no doubt this was Crosswise’s office.
           “Back when I was homicide detective on Earth, I once arrested a man who killed his brother for changing the channel during his favorite sitcom. And it was a rerun.”
           “Point taken,” Devona said as she waved her hands in the air over the door. I figured she’d find nothing and proceed to visually examining the lock, but instead she stopped her hand waving and frowned. “Something’s strange here.”
           I can’t get cold chills anymore, but if I could’ve, I would’ve then.
           “I’m getting that feeling again, like I did outside. As if there’s something alive in the office, only… not. Something that’s almost there but not quite.”
           “You know, you still haven’t told me why people believe this building is haunted.” Although right at that moment, standing in a dark hallway before an ominous black door, I wasn’t sure I wanted to know.
           “People have tried to enter the building since Leander’s death. Some report a force like a strong wind shoving them back outside. Others…”
           “Go on,” I urged.
           “Others have died in some particularly horrible ways. Bodies turned inside out, blood boiled in their veins, that sort of thing.”
           “Lovely. And what distinguished those poor unfortunates from the lucky ones who were simply evicted?”
           “The ones who died…” Devona paused, and time seemed to slow to a crawl while I waited for her to finish her sentence. “Were those who intended to purchase the building.”
           “Once again, we so have to work on our communication skills! When were you planning on telling me this?”
           “I don’t know,” she said. “I was still trying to figure out the best way to tell you I’d already gone ahead and bought the damned building.”
           The instant the words left her mouth, the door burst open and a roaring wind filled the hallway. The force slammed Devona into the opposite wall and held her there. The wind – or whatever it was – grabbed hold of me with insubstantial hands and started dragging me away from her. I fought it, tried to tear myself free of its grip, but there was nothing I could do. I could feel the force holding me, but when I tried to touch it, to grab hold and dislodge myself, I couldn’t feel anything. I dropped the flashlight. It hit the floor, luckily without breaking, and rolled into a position where its beam illuminated Devona. Her face was contorted with agony and bright dots of red covered her skin. Whatever this unknown force was, it looked as if it was drawing the blood out of her body through her skin. Vampires – even half ones like Devona – can take a hell of a lot of punishment and heal, but one thing they can’t recover from is the loss of their blood supply. Their power is in their blood, and if they’re drained, they have no magic to draw upon in order to heal themselves. I knew if I didn’t do something fast, Devona would die, and she wouldn’t be coming back.
           I’d brought some other toys with me, various spells and such, but none of them would prove effective against the strange force attacking us. And with each passing second, the wind was pulling me farther from Devona. I had only seconds in which to act, and I had no weapons that I could use. Except the one weapon which has always served me best, whether I was alive or dead. My mind.
           I thought fast. What did I know about the Midnight Watch, Leander Crosswise, and how he died? Devona had told me he specialized in creating new and powerful wardspells, that he also developed new breeds of strong, intelligent guard animals, and he was killed on the eve of his retirement, after which he planned to close his business and sell the building. And he was killed by a Dire Blade that had apparently wielded itself. Or been wielded by something that didn’t need a physical hand to hold it.
           That’s when it came to me.
           I shouted to be heard ove

r the roar of the wind. “She did buy the building, it’s true, but she did so in order to resurrect the Midnight Watch!”
           It might have been my imagination, but I thought I felt the wind’s grip on me lessen, and it seemed I was no longer traveling so swiftly down the hallway away from Devona. Encouraged, I continued.
           “Her name’s Devona Kanti, and she hopes to start her own security business right here, in this very building, and she plans to use the name Midnight Watch! It’s a proud, noble name, one she’s honored to be associated with!”
           Blood had begun trickling in rivulets from Devona’s pores, and while she was obviously in pain, she still possessed enough presence of mind to pick up on what I was doing.
           “It’s true! I love the history associated with this place, and all I want to do is make the name Midnight Watch mean something in the city again!”
           The wind’s roar subsided to a mere whisper, and I was no longer being dragged away from Devona. I started toward her just as she slumped to the floor. By the time I reached her, the wind had died away completely and the hallway was silent again, save for the sound of her pained breathing.
           I knelt beside her and took her hand. “Are you going to be all right?”
           “I… I think so. It hurt like hell, but I didn’t lose too much blood.” She managed a weak smile. “You’re going to have to take me out for a big meal tonight, though.”
           “You’ve got it.”
           She tried to stand, but I encouraged her to sit for a few more moments to give her metabolism time to counter her blood loss.
           “So, are you going to tell me what you figured out,” she asked, “or are you going to make me guess?”
           “Once the wind – or whatever it was – attacked us, it seemed obvious to me that it must’ve wielded the Dire Blade that killed Crosswise. And that it was the force responsible for killing anyone who tried to purchase the building in all the years following. This force was clearly here before Crosswise was killed, and since it’s remained here, that means it’s part of the structure. And if Crosswise was such a skilled warlock, I can’t believe there was any mystical force attached to the Midnight Watch that he didn’t know about. So the force was something he was aware of but thought he had no reason to fear. And evidently he didn’t: until he decided to retire and sell the building. When you told me what his specialties were –”
           Devona’s face lit up with sudden understanding. “It’s a wardspell, isn’t it? A supremely sophisticated one that Leander created!”
           I nodded. “But more than that. You said he also bred guard animals – highly intelligent ones. I think the force is both a wardspell and a guardian, and it’s smarter than Crosswise gave it credit for. When he planned to retire and sell the building –”
           “The ward creature would be sold to, for it’s tied to the structure. In a way, it’s the lifeforce of the building.”
           “Crosswise was going to sell the building, and it’s my guess any new owners wouldn’t want such a powerful being as part of their new property.”
           “So Leander planned to remove the spell, which meant the ward creature would cease to exist. So it was defending itself when it killed Leander.”
           “Yes, just as it believed it was doing every time a potential new owner entered the building. That’s why it only evicted others. The creature didn’t perceive them as threats. I hoped that if I could make it realize you weren’t a threat, it would break off its attack. Luckily, I was right.”
           Devona smiled. While streaks of blood remained on her face, neck, and hands, her color was less pale, and she seemed stronger. I stood, reached down, and helped her to her feet.
           “My hero.”
           She gave me another hard kiss on the lips, and though there was still a bit blood on her mouth, I didn’t mind at all. You come to expect that sort of thing when you’re in love with a vampire. She has it worse; she has to worry about whether one of my lips might fall off when we kiss.
           She took my hand and we started down the hallway back toward the front door.
           “So,” I said, “does this uh, revelation alter your plans any?” I was trying to be careful with my words. I didn’t want to rouse the ward creature’s ire again.
           Devona thought about it for a moment. “Well, I still want to run my business out of this building, and I think that with a little work, I’ll be able to make friends with the ward creature, and it’ll make a wonderful guardian for the place.” She paused, long enough for it to be a Meaningful Pause. “I’m not sure you’re aware of it, Matt, but we’ve taken an important step forward in our relationship today.”
           Like a lot of men, I’m not always as aware of relationship milestones as my partner, and I wracked my undead brain, trying to figure out what Devona was referring to.
           “Uh, you mean because you’ve officially established your independence?”
           She grinned and punched me on the arm.
           “No, silly. Because now we have a pet together.”
           We continued on down the hallway, hand in hand.



Thanks to Angry Robot for letting me share. I hope you enjoyed!


Title: The Bookman
Author: Lavie Tidhar
Pages: 395 plus extract from Camera Obscura
Genre: Streampunk
Standalone/Series: Series
Release: Out Now in Paperback UK and October 2010 US
Publisher: Angry Robot Books


When his beloved is killed in a terrorist atrocity committed by the sinister Bookman, young poet Orphan becomes enmeshed in a web of secrets and lies. His quest to uncover the truth takes him from the hidden catacombs of a London on the brink of revolution, through pirate-infested seas, to the mysterious island that may hold the secret to the origin, not only of the shadowy Bookman, but of Orphan himself…


I’m slowing entering into the world of Steampunk and I like it. I’m not sure what it is about the genre but it’s getting a small space in my heart.

And as an exercise in world building The Bookman is an amazing patchwork of sources all weaved together into something that is something unique. You have Lizards ruling the empire. Jules Verne living out his own adventures. Automatons. Martian probes. Airships. Pirates. And books. A lot of books and literary references. It’s not called The Bookman for nothing.

Poetry is of high importance and books are so plentiful they are almost worthless. Who wouldn’t want to live in a world like that? Not me. I’m not too keen on the Les Lizards co-ruled Empire.

It seems that the Lizards who rule with the Queen originate from an ancient island but as Orphan and the reader find out it’s not quite that simple  it takes a trip to the Island to find this out.

There are lots of gems in the details like the choices of poetry that start each chapter. The bringing together of several fictional and historical characters to play their part in Orphans story. The nature of The Bookman is also fascinating. As is the players around the story. There are lots of pieces on this chessboard. And Tidhar does well to keep them all moving.

As much as I love the ideas at play there is something a little off-centre about The Bookman. It’s starts with Orphan and his motivation. His beloved is killed quite violently and even though it should cripple him it doesn’t. It feels like a necessary plot point to have her dead so that other points in the story work out as they need to. But I didn’t feel the history between or see a deep enough connection.

And that’s my main issue with The Bookman. The main character. He seems like a vessel for the rest of the story to be told rather than the story being told from him. And as you read along he is a vessel more or less for everything that happens. A pawn in the game if you like.

And because to reacts rather than initiates events it’s hard to see him make of the choices that most other main characters make. He doesn’t seem to be in danger even when he is and his emotional outbursts feel forced and necessary rather than a release of something bubbling inside him.

There are also some strange gaps or at least some parts that feel like they could have been expanded or at least explained better like towards the end where the danger and the consequences really should be kicking in what’s at stake doesn’t seem to have the value it once did.

But saying all that with the tapestry of imagery and imagination that Tidhar is weaving through the story I was more than happy to go along with the mystery of the The Bookman and Les Lizards and they’re mysterious origins. There is also a brilliant examination of the nature of life from Orphan and the automatons he encounters along the way.

And as you get to the end and the world changes you can tell that Tidhar has a lot more about the world of The Bookman that needs to be explored and hopefully will be explored in Camera Obscura.

I definitely want to go back and see what’s changed.


An awesome world patched together from a treasure trove of sources all tied together with the story of one man’s exploration of his own origins. But let down by the details overshadowing the motivations of Orphan so it seems a little too safe and controlled. So an exploration of the power of Steampunk in creating a backdrop to a story though in this case it does overpower the story itself.

Now the world building is out of the way and the boundaries are more firmly established I can see Tidhar hopefully having more time to focus on the character building and the connection between the character and the reader.

Well worth reading for the ideas alone.

At Angry Robot we have always attempted to push boundaries with our fiction, and now we’re doing the same with both the content and delivery methods!

When Kaaron Warren told us she wanted to re-write her next book Walking the Tree as a 20,000 word novella from the point of view of one of the book’s minor characters, we thought she was mad! But we’ve always encouraged creative madness.

Kaaron says:

My eleven year old son loves reading as much as I do. Often we’ll sit together, immersed in our books. I’ll ask him about his, he’ll ask me about mine, and we’ll share the good bits.

As I was writing Walking the Tree, with its strong adult and child characters, it struck me that it would be a wonderful thing if my son and I could be reading the same book but in appropriate versions. We could discuss the events and the people, but he wouldn’t have to plough through all the ‘boy-girl’ stuff, as my daughter calls the relationship bits in movies.

As I wrote the adult version I kept notes of the important plot points and the moments I thought a child would find interesting. Then I wrote Morace, the child’s point of view version of Walking the Tree.

My son did the first edit on it. What a proud, wonderful moment that was. He’s a critical reader. He says that the Harry Potter books are far too long, with too much description. He finds irritating errors in other books and he talks about how a book should have ended.

He did a very honest edit of Morace. The bits he didn’t understand I made clearer, and he picked up sections where I used too many words or, used one word he didn’t understand.

My idea is that every parent can share the reading of Walking the Tree with their child. Sit there, together, reading the same book.

Our only concern was how to fit an additional 20,000 words into an already-hefty book. The answer was so obvious we wondered why everyone else wasn’t already doing it!

The first two chapters of Morace’s Story are included at the back of Walking the Tree along with a secret DVD-style download link and password that allows you to read the entire novella online or on your eBook reader. And if you buy the eBook edition you get the whole thing as an added extra.


Now I’d say this was a brilliant example of both a publisher and an author thinking differently. Not only do you get extra bonus content from both the ebook and the paperback, you can get a different take on a story. I have a feeling that even if you don’t have kids you might end up reading both.

What do you think? Would it be more a happy bonus? Or would it sway your reading choices? I love the cover BTW. Angry Robot have some great designers/artists working for them.

I was in London on Thursday as Forbidden Planet had another of their mega signings bringing together five Gollancz authors: David Devereux, Paul McAuley, Justina Robson, Adam Roberts, Chris Wooding all there signing their new books.

Eagle RisingGARDENS OF THE SUN HBK AW PFP CS3.inddChasing the DragonI am Scrooge A Zombie Story for Christmas Retribution Falls

Strangely I only spoke to Adam Roberts and Chris Wooding. I was too shy to speak to Paul McAuley as I’m stuck on a detail in The Quiet War and didn’t want to look like an idiot by having to ask him about it… David Devereux was being amazingly charming and Karen was having a big fangirl moment with Justina.

I had my own fanboy moment asking Adam Roberts to sign a copy of Stone, it has the best narrator and central character ever. He talks to a rock. And the tale he tells is amazing. I also got him to sign a copy of I Am Scrooge: A Zombie Story For Christmas, which he promised would enhance my sense of the joy of Christmas no end.

I also got a copy of Retribution  Falls signed. And after I told him that Liz had been bigging him up and this is what he wrote:

Chris Wooding Sig

I love it!

I also had a good chat about dragons with Stephen Deas as well as talking maps, bitch fights and the King of Crags (I think that a fight could have broken out over the only proof of that in the pub afterward…)

There was also some discussion of covers… but that’s getting a little old to go into again…

It was great to meet everyone and if I start naming them I’m going to forget people and that’ll just make me feel bad. If you can go to any signing in Forbidden Planet they are usually, though there is the Del Toro effect, small enough to be intimate but not quiet.

That’s enough with the Gollancz promo me thinks as exciting as it was.

I was late to the event as I grabbed some time with one of the lovely people from Orbit before I went.

Every Last Drop Joe Pitt novel Charlie Huston Deep Water

So they have some fab books out around now too like the final books in both Charlie Huston Joe Pitt and Pamela Freeman’s Casting Trilogy series. I’m guilty to be being one book behind on both.

I got an ARC copy of Mr Shiver:


What’s it about?

It is the time of the Great Depression. The dustbowl has turned the western skies red and thousands leave their homes seeking a better life. Marcus Connelly seeks not a new life, but a death – a death for the mysterious scarred man who murdered his daughter. And soon he learns that he is not alone. Countless others have lost someone to the scarred man. They band together to track him, but as they get closer, Connelly begins to suspect that the man they are hunting is more than human. As the pursuit becomes increasingly desperate, Connelly must decide just how much he is willing to sacrifice to get his revenge.

How cool does that sound?

Something that’s very brutal is a book I was reading on the way up:


It’s been getting plenty of good reviews but what I didn’t realise was that it was a very well researched story as well. Loved the opening. It’s looking good.

If you’re on Twitter you’d hopefully have seen some cool stuff coming out of the offices of Tor UK. Here is a sample:


Nights of Villjamur

An ARC that was just amazing when it arrived was:


Hyddenworld: Spring is by William Horwood. Now I’m going to show ignorance but  I couldn’t see what was so exciting about it until I chatted to Graeme (of Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review – that’s a link to his post on the above event BTW)

Now a look at Angry Robot Books , who have a great trailer for Servant of the Underworld by Aliette De Bodard.


Year One-Knife, Tenochtitlan – the capital of the Aztecs. The end of the world is kept at bay only by the magic of human sacrifice. A priestess disappears from an empty room drenched in blood. Acatl, high priest, must find her, or break the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead. But how do you find someone, living or dead, in a world where blood sacrifices are an everyday occurrence and the very gods stalk the streets?

And I’ve just seen this fabulous cover for The Bookman by Lavie Tidhar


A brilliant criminal stalks the streets of London. Scotland Yard is on his trail. But how can the city remain safe when every book is a potential weapon?

Yay steampunk!

And  finally fabulous cover for the new new book from my favorite writer of the last ten years. The Sword of Avalon by Mark Chadbourn (via Speculative Horizons):


Now there is some interesting stuff behind this one. I’m a big Chadbourn fan so I had a dilemma as the US version called (The Silver Skull) is out first and out now. But Mark is asking his UK fans to wait for the UK version. So I am. Doesn’t stop me showing off the cover. The book is out in the UK 1 April 2010.

The book features Will Swyfte who if you’ve read Kingdom of the Spiders or Solaris Book of Fantasy you’ll have met before.

So two press releases dropped into the mailbox over the last couple of days. The first I’ve been following on Twitter from reading a tweet along the lines of ‘Im reading a Zombie novel’ to reading a Tweet a couple of weeks later saying. ‘I’ve bought a zombie novel’ to the actual press release:

Tor UK has signed a two book deal with Alden Bell.

The first title, The Reapers are The Angels, is due to be published in August 2010. “dark, literary zombie novel”. Described as, “Steinbeck but with ‘meatskins.’”

That’s a summary of the press release but coming from Tor UK it’s gonna have merit. And this might be the book that finally gets me into Zombies. More details and cover p0rn as and when I get it.

The other is my the rapidly expanding Angry Robot, who have:

The Dark Heavens Trilogy
Handsome young Hong Kong businessman John Chen employs Emma, a naïve young nanny, to care for his daughter. When she falls in love with her employer, however, Emma discovers he is being hunted by a powerful race of ancient demons, dragons and gods – and they all want him dead. Emma will soon discover it is she who has the power to save them all…

Not sure it’s gonna be my thing but, “Aussie author Kylie Chan’s Dark Heavens trilogy is “packed with Chinese mythology, kick-ass action and sexual tension” (As If Magazine).”

As all three have been out in Australia the trilogy is coming in rapid succession with the Book 1: White Tiger Book 2: Red Phoenix Book 3: Blue Dragon coming in April 2010 in one go in the UK and US/Canada getting them separately in May, June and July.

I’m just wanting a touch of Asia again and I’m missing Hong Kong. Maybe this will do something for the cravings?

There are loads of little things that I come across that I’m fairly naff at sharing at the time I find them. So this post is my attempt at catching up on a couple of them. I hope you find it useful.

Adrian has just signed with Tor for three more books in the Shadows of the Apt series. The fourth book is called SALUTE THE DARK – book three Blood of the Mantis is out on the 7th August.

Tor and SciFiNow are delighted to announce War of the Words, the search for the next Tor author! We’ll be offering one lucky reader a publishing contract. The competition kicks off in the May issue of SciFiNow; readers will be asked to submit a full synopsis together with the first three chapters by 20th August. A shortlist of six will then be drawn up before the winner is announced in November. Follow the search in each issue or catch up with exclusive news and updates on the SciFiNow website.

Colin Harvey is an Angry Robot

The Bristol-based author has signed up with Angry Robot Books for two novels, the first of which – WINTER SONG – will be appearing as soon as October this year, with the second to follow in May 2010.

Colin has for some years been an active contributor British small presses and blogs, and he is a regular reviewer for Strange Horizons,but these novels will mark his debut with a major publisher. His writing manages to combine solid action with a deeper, more reflective style that, when combined, delivers fabulous modern science fiction.

Book one, WINTER SONG, sees bio-engineered starship pilot Karl Allman crashing his craft onto a snowy planet inhabited by Viking-like tribes, the remnants of earlier colonisation efforts. As the natives help him find a way back to the stars, he comes to realise that they are far from primitive. That will be followed by DAMAGE TIME, a near-future thriller from a world where America is on its last legs (topical, us?) and being parcelled off between the Chinese and the Muslims. A policeman who specialises in reading the last memories of murder victims comes under suspicion himself…

nekropolis slights


Well here they are. The first two covers of the new imprint Angry Robot Books. Their mission: quite simply, is to publish the best in brand new genre fiction – SF, F and WTF?!

And these two Nekropolis and Slights seem  to be just that.

Both are eye catching. Slights is almost terror inducing and a great way of making someone pick it up and know that it can only be horrific.

Similarly, Nekroplis has a bone-made street light and a detective with an interesting skin complaint, again giving you a good idea of the contents.

Now I have to remember not to judge a book by it’s cover….

For more on the books themselves please check out an earlier post


HarperCollins have been teasing us with their new imprint for a little while now. I’ve been curious to see Angry Robot’s opening blast is going to be and well this is it:

Moxyland by Lauren Beukes (Science Fiction)

Moxyland is an ultra-smart thriller about technological progress, and the freedoms it removes. In the near future, four hip young things live in a world where your online identity is at least as important as your physical one. Getting disconnected is a punishment worse than imprisonment, but someone’s got to stand up to government inc., whatever the cost.

Slights by Kaaron Warren (Horror)

Stephanie is a killer. After an accident in which her mother dies, she has a near-death experience, and finds herself in a room full of people – everyone she’s ever pissed off. They clutch at her, scratch and tear at her. But she finds herself drawn back to this place, again and again, determined to unlock its secrets. Which means she has to die, again and again. And she starts to wonder whether other people see the same room… when they die.

Nekropolis by Tim Waggoner (Urban Fantasy)

Meet Matt Richter. Private eye. Zombie. His mean streets are the city of the dead, the shadowy realm known as Nekropolis. And in this first case, Richter must help a delectable half-vampire
named Devona recover a legendary artifact known as the Dawnstone, before it’s used to destroy Nekropolis itself. That is, if he can survive the myriad horrors that infest the city itself.

Book of Secrets by Chris Roberson (Modern Fantasy)

Reporter Spencer Finch is embroiled in the hunt for a missing book, encountering along the way cat burglars and mobsters, hackers and monks. At the same time, he’s trying to make sense of the legacy left him by his late grandfather, a chest of what appear to be magazines from the golden age of pulp fiction, and even earlier.
Following his nose, Finch gradually uncovers a mystery involving a lost Greek play, secret societies, generations of masked vigilantes… and an entire secret history of mankind.

Now for an imprint who specialises in SF, F and WTF?! I think that about covers it ;)

I’m most intrigued by Slights and Book of Secrets though I’m slightly concerned by the description of Slights as A Wasp Factory for the misery memoir generation. I’m really not a fan of that whole misery memoir explosion or should that be exploitation?

Apart from that a diverse and exciting start.

Now that complicated bit.

Moxyland and Slights are due out in the UK in July and Nekropolis and Book of Secrets are due in August with the rest of the world getting them in September but in a canny move the ebook editions will be available around the world at the same time as the UK physical release. Go ebooks.

You can find out more on

or follow them on twitter.

Let the invasion commence!