The book world has some treats in store for you this month — including a brand new novel in Stephen King's Dark Tower universe, and the first book of Neal Stephenson and Greg Bear's Mongoliad. John Shirley revises and updates his groundbreaking cyberpunk trilogy. There are more jazz-age vampires and Regency magicians, and alien-killers learning diplomacy. Plus a magic wishing ring that comes with a duplicate of your own dead body.
Here's everything that'll be thrilling your bookshelf in April!
Top image: Alt Cover of Stephen King's The Wind Through The Keyhole.
Fusing historical events with a gripping fictional narrative, this first book in the Mongoliad trilogy reveals a secret history of Europe in the thirteenth century. As the Mongols swept across Asia and were poised to invade Europe in 1241, a small band of warriors, inheritors of an ancient secret tradition, conceived a desperate plan to stop the attack. They must kill the Khan of Khans; if they fail, all of Christendom will be destroyed. In the late nineteenth century a mysterious group of English martial arts aficionados provided Sir Richard F. Burton, well-known expert on exotic languages and historical swordsmanship, a collection of long-lost manuscripts to translate - the lost chronicles of this desperate fight to save Europe. Burton's translations were lost, until a team of amateur archaeologists discovered them in the ruins of a mansion in Trieste. From the translations and from the original source material, the epic tale of The Mongoliad was recreated.
The Outlook: The first book to come out of the app that Stephenson and friends created in 2010, this off-beat alternate history of Eurasia could be your new obsession.
Immobility by Brian Evenson
When you open your eyes things already seem to be happening without you. You don't know who you are and you don't remember where you've been. You know the world has changed, that a catastrophe has destroyed what used to exist before, but you can't remember exactly what did exist before. And you're paralyzed from the waist down apparently, but you don't remember that either.
A man claiming to be your friend tells you your services are required. Something crucial has been stolen, but what he tells you about it doesn't quite add up. You've got to get it back or something bad is going to happen. And you've got to get it back fast, so they can freeze you again before your own time runs out.
Before you know it, you're being carried through a ruined landscape on the backs of two men in hazard suits who don't seem anything like you at all, heading toward something you don't understand that may well end up being the death of you.
Welcome to the life of Josef Horkai….
The Outlook: Evenson is the author of literary tomes like 2009's acclaimed Fugue State and Altmann's Tongue. But he's also the author of some Dead Space and Alien tie-in books. That could mean we're in for an interesting ride here.
Wicked City: A Zephyr Hollis Novel by Alaya Johnson
In this page-turning follow up to Moonshine, it's summer in the city and most vampires are drunk on the blood-based intoxicant Faust. The mayor has tied his political fortunes to legalizing the brew, but Zephyr Hollis has dedicated herself to the cause of Faust prohibition—at least when she isn't knocking back sidecars in speakeasies.
But the game changes when dozens of vampires end up in the city morgue after drinking Faust. Are they succumbing to natural causes, or have they been deliberately poisoned? When an anonymous tip convinces the police of her guilt, Zephyr has to save her reputation, her freedom and possibly her life. Someone is after her blood—and this time it isn't a vampire.
The Outlook: We quite liked the first book in this series, even in spite of our vampire fatigue. We wrote: This one's more True Blood than Twilight, and it's perfect if you've run out of Sookie Stackhouse books. Personally, I think I've found a new favorite urban fantasy series.
Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith
From the author of the New York Times bestselling Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, comes UNHOLY NIGHT, the next evolution in dark historical revisionism.
They're an iconic part of history's most celebrated birth. But what do we really know about the Three Kings of the Nativity, besides the fact that they followed a star to Bethlehem bearing strange gifts? The Bible has little to say about this enigmatic trio. But leave it to Seth Grahame-Smith, the brilliant and twisted mind behind Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to take a little mystery, bend a little history, and weave an epic tale.
In Grahame-Smith's telling, the so-called "Three Wise Men" are infamous thieves, led by the dark, murderous Balthazar. After a daring escape from Herod's prison, they stumble upon the famous manger and its newborn king. The last thing Balthazar needs is to be slowed down by young Joseph, Mary and their infant. But when Herod's men begin to slaughter the first born in Judea, he has no choice but to help them escape to Egypt.
It's the beginning of an adventure that will see them fight the last magical creatures of the Old Testament; cross paths with biblical figures like Pontius Pilate and John the Baptist; and finally deliver them to Egypt. It may just be the greatest story never told.
The Outlook: Grahame-Smith continues his move away from literary pastiche towards alt-history romps with this book, and this sounds suitably tongue-in-cheek and fun.
Blackbirds 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.
The Outlook: Sounds like a neat concept, and we love the idea of combining the touch of death with the person who knows how/when you'll die.
A quest of epic reach spans the globe under the mythologies of five great cultures
After a long journey across the ages, Jack Churchill has returned to the modern world, only to find it in the grip of a terrible, dark force. The population is unaware, mesmerized by the Mundane Spell that keeps them in thrall. With a small group of trusted allies, Jack sets out to find the two "keys" that can shatter the spell.
But the keys are people-one with the power of creation, one the power of destruction-and they are hidden somewhere among the world's billions. As the search fans out across the globe, ancient powers begin to stir. In the bleak north, in Egypt, in Greece, in all the Great Dominions, the old gods are returning to stake their claim. The odds appear insurmountable, the need desperate.... This is a time for heroes.
The Outlook: Chadbourn has worked for the BBC in England, and has written a lot of popular fantasy series in the past, including the Age of Misrule series and The Dark Age. Now, at last, the United States is getting his series about Jack Churchill, who travels from the present day back to the distant past — and then returns to the present only to find everything in jeopardy.
Winter's Dreams by Glen Cook
Glen Cook is, of course, best known for his enormously popular series fiction, which includes the Garrett P.I. and Dread Empire sequences, as well as the internationally acclaimed Chronicles of the Black Company. Readers familiar only with this aspect of Cook's career will find a great many pleasures—and an equal number of surprises—in his vibrant new collection, Winter's Dreams.
The fourteen standalone stories in Winter's Dreams range in length from vignettes ('Appointment in Samarkand') to novellas ('In the Wind'). Together, they encompass an astonishing variety of themes, tones, styles, and settings. Not one of these stories bears the slightest resemblance to the others. Each one manages to enchant, illuminate, and entertain in its own distinctive fashion.
In the near future America of 'Song from a Forgotten Hill,' the nations' tragic racial history replays itself in an all too familiar form.
'The Seventh Fool' recounts the comic misadventures of a charming con man who outsmarts both his gullible target—and himself.
'The Waiting Sea' encapsulates the entire life history of a navy veteran haunted by the sea — and by the faceless voices only he can hear.
In 'Ponce,' a poverty stricken St. Louis family encounters a mysterious blue-eyed dog—a dog that serves as a conduit to the undisclosed secrets of the universe.
'The Recruiter' presents a powerfully disturbing portrait of an ultra-violent future and asks the question: How far will a man go in order to survive?
Equally suitable both for newcomers and for long-time Glen Cook fans, Winter's Dreams is something special, a consistently enthralling volume that claims new imaginative territory at every turn.
The Outlook: If you've been hearing a lot about Glen Cook and have been wanting to see what he's all about, this story collection seems like a great way to dive in.
The Best of Kage Baker
Kage Baker's death in 2010 silenced one of the most distinctive, consistently engaging voices in contemporary fiction. A late starter, Baker published her first short stories in 1997, at the age of forty-five. From then until the end of her life, she wrote prolifically and well, leaving an astonishing body of work behind.
The Best of Kage Baker is a treasure trove that gathers together twenty stories and novellas, eleven of which have never been collected anywhere. The volume is bookended by a pair of tales from her best known and best loved creation: The Company, with its vivid cast of time traveling immortals. In 'Noble Mold,' Mendoza the botanist and Joseph, the ancient 'facilitator,' find themselves in 19th century California, where a straightforward acquisition grows unexpectedly complex, requiring, in the end, a carefully engineered 'miracle.' In 'The Carpet Beds of Sutro Park,' an autistic Company operative named Ezra encounters a lost soul named Kristy Ann, and finds a way to give her back the world that she has lost.
Among the volume's many other highlights are a pair of brilliant Company novellas: the Hugo Award-nominated 'Son, Observe the Time' and 'Welcome to Olympos, Mr. Hearst,' a tour de force set in the Hollywood of the 1930s and featuring an encounter with legendary newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst. There is also a generous assortment of equally brilliant standalone tales, including 'Calamari Curls,' the account of a faded resort town that takes a surprising turn into Lovecraftian terrain, and the World Fantasy Award-nominated 'Caverns of Mystery,' in which ancient stories play themselves out repeatedly, shaping and altering the world around them.
These are only a few of the pleasures waiting within this book. The Best of Kage Baker is exactly what the title proclaims: the best short work of a gifted and irreplaceable writer. Anyone with an interest in first-rate imaginative fiction—anyone with an interest in lovingly crafted fiction of any kind—needs to read this book.
The Outlook: Kage Baker's passing was a huge loss, and this looks like a gorgeous collection of some of her best work — including some stuff you won't find anywhere else. If you only know her from her Company novels, then this is a chance to see more sides of her.
Fair Coin by E.C. Myers
The coin changed Ephraim's life. But how can he change it back?
Sixteen-year-old Ephraim Scott is horrified when he comes home from school and finds his mother unconscious at the kitchen table, clutching a bottle of pills. The reason for her suicide attempt is even more disturbing: she thought she'd identified Ephraim's body at the hospital that day.
Among his dead double's belongings, Ephraim finds a strange coin—a coin that grants wishes when he flips it. With a flick of his thumb, he can turn his alcoholic mother into a model parent and catch the eye of the girl he's liked since second grade. But the coin doesn't always change things for the better. And a bad flip can destroy other people's lives as easily as it rebuilds his own.
The coin could give Ephraim everything he's ever wanted—if he learns to control its power before his luck runs out.
The Outlook: Myers' short stories have gotten a lot of attention lately, and now his novel debut sounds like a marvelous fable bout a wish-granting coin. We're dying to read this one.
Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal
Mary Robinette Kowal stunned readers with her charming first novel Shades of Milk and Honey, a loving tribute to the works of Jane Austen in a world where magic is an everyday occurrence. This magic comes in the form of glamour, which allows talented users to form practically any illusion they can imagine. Shades debuted to great acclaim and left readers eagerly awaiting its sequel. Glamour in Glass continues following the lives of beloved main characters Jane and Vincent, with a much deeper vein of drama and intrigue.
In the tumultuous months after Napoleon abdicates his throne, Jane and Vincent go to Belgium for their honeymoon. While there, the deposed emperor escapes his exile in Elba, throwing the continent into turmoil. With no easy way back to England, Jane and Vincent's concerns turn from enjoying their honeymoon…to escaping it.
Left with no outward salvation, Jane must persevere over her trying personal circumstances and use her glamour to rescue her husband from prison . . . and hopefully prevent her newly built marriage from getting stranded on the shoals of another country's war.
The Outlook: Judging from the interview we ran with Kowal a while back, this is going to be a fascinating look at the Napoleonic War, through the lens of a world full of magic. And hopefully, a worthy followup to her acclaimed debut Milk and Honey.
Nocturnal by Scott Sigler
Homicide detective Bryan Clauser is losing his mind.
How else to explain the dreams he keeps having-dreams that mirror, with impossible accuracy, the gruesome serial murders taking place all over San Francisco? How else to explain the feelings these dreams provoke in him-not disgust, not horror, but excitement?
As Bryan and his longtime partner, Lawrence "Pookie" Chang, investigate the murders, they learn that things are even stranger than they at first seem. For the victims are all enemies of a seemingly ordinary young boy-a boy who is gripped by the same dreams that haunt Bryan. Meanwhile, a shadowy vigilante, seemingly armed with superhuman powers, is out there killing the killers. And Bryan and Pookie's superiors-from the mayor on down-seem strangely eager to keep the detectives from discovering the truth.
Doubting his own sanity and stripped of his badge, Bryan begins to suspect that he's stumbled into the crosshairs of a shadow war that has gripped his city for more than a century-a war waged by a race of killers living in San Francisco's unknown, underground ruins, emerging at night to feed on those who will not be missed.
And as Bryan learns the truth about his own intimate connections to the killings, he discovers that those who matter most to him are in mortal danger…and that he may be the only man gifted-or cursed-with the power to do battle with the nocturnals.
Featuring a dazzlingly plotted mystery and a terrifying descent into a nightmarish underworld-along with some of the most incredible action scenes ever put to paper, and an explosive, gut-wrenching conclusion you won't soon forget-Nocturnal is the most spectacular outing to date from one of the genre's brightest stars.
The Outlook: Through his novels and his podcasts, Sigler has become synonymous with addictive thrillers, and now he's moving into urban fantasy, with copious amounts of blood and grimness along the way.
Alien Diplomacy by Gini Koch
Being newlyweds and new parents is challenging enough. But Jeff and Kitty Martini are also giving up their roles as super-being exterminators and Commanders in Centaurion Division while mastering the political landscape as the new heads of Centaurion's Diplomatic Corps. Enter a shadowy assassination plot and a new set of anti-alien conspirators, and nothing will ever be the same...
The Outlook: The latest volume in Koch's Alien series, this sounds insanely fun, and we have a soft spot for stories about people who are trained to kill aliens having to learn to practice diplomacy instead. Plus newlyweds coping with alien intrigue.
A Song Called Youth by John Shirley
In a near-future dystopia, a limited nuclear strike has destroyed portions of Europe, bringing the remaining nation-cities under control of the Second Alliance, a frighteningly fundamentalist international security corporation with designs on world domination. The only defense against the Alliance's creeping totalitarianism is the New Resistance, a polyglot team of rebels that includes Rick Rickenharp, a retro-rocker whose artistic and political sensibilities intertwine, and John Swenson, a mole who has infiltrated the Alliance. As the fight continues and years progress, so does the technology and brutality of the Alliance... but ordinary people like the damaged visionary Smoke, Claire Rimpler on FirStep, and Dance Torrence and his fellow urban warriors on Earth are bound together by the truth and a single purpose: to keep the darkness from becoming humankind's Total Eclipse - or die trying! John Shirley was cyberpunk's patient zero, first locus of the virus, certifiably virulent."-William Gibson. An omnibus of all three novels-revised by the author-of the prophetic, still frighteningly relevant cyberpunk masterpieces: Eclipse, Eclipse Penumbra, and Eclipse Corona. With an introduction by Richard Kadrey and biographical note by Bruce Sterling.
The Outlook: Shirley's pioneering cyberpunk trilogy comes out in a nice new edition revised by the author — complete with "retro rockers" fighting against totalitarian governments. If you love cyberpunk, then this is a must-read.
Lost Everything by Brian Francis Slattery
From the author of the critically acclaimed literary SF novels Spaceman Blues and Liberation comes an incandescent and thrilling post-apocalyptic tale in the vein of 1984 or The Road.
In the not-distant-enough future, a man takes a boat trip up the Susquehanna River with his most trusted friend, intent on reuniting with his son. But the man is pursued by an army, and his own harrowing past; and the familiar American landscape has been savaged by war and climate change until it is nearly unrecognizable.
Lost Everything is a stunning novel about family and faith, what we are afraid may come to be, and how to wring hope from hopelessness.
The Outlook: We loved Slattery's first two books, Spaceman Blues and Liberation. So we're beyond excited to see him back again, with a novel that extends his dystopian, post-apocalyptic vision even further.
In The Wind Through the Keyhole, Stephen King returns to the rich landscape of Mid-World, the spectacular territory of the Dark Tower fantasy saga that stands as his most beguiling achievement.
Roland Deschain and his ka-tet-Jake, Susannah, Eddie, and Oy, the billy-bumbler-encounter a ferocious storm just after crossing the River Whye on their way to the Outer Baronies. As they shelter from the howling gale, Roland tells his friends not just one strange story but two . . . and in so doing, casts new light on his own troubled past.
In his early days as a gunslinger, in the guilt-ridden year following his mother's death, Roland is sent by his father to investigate evidence of a murderous shape-shifter, a "skin-man" preying upon the population around Debaria. Roland takes charge of Bill Streeter, the brave but terrified boy who is the sole surviving witness to the beast's most recent slaughter. Only a teenager himself, Roland calms the boy and prepares him for the following day's trials by reciting a story from the Magic Tales of the Eld that his mother often read to him at bedtime. "A person's never too old for stories," Roland says to Bill. "Man and boy, girl and woman, never too old. We live for them." And indeed, the tale that Roland unfolds, the legend of Tim Stoutheart, is a timeless treasure for all ages, a story that lives for us.
King began the Dark Tower series in 1974; it gained momentum in the 1980s; and he brought it to a thrilling conclusion when the last three novels were published in 2003 and 2004. The Wind Through the Keyhole is sure to fascinate avid fans of the Dark Tower epic. But this novel also stands on its own for all readers, an enchanting and haunting journey to Roland's world and testimony to the power of Stephen King's storytelling magic.
The Outlook: Fans of the Dark Tower series will be thrilled to see a long-awaited new volume, and maybe this book will sell well enough to light a fire under the studios to finish making the TV show and movies.