New Releases, Week of January 16th, 2011

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Here’s a list of all the fantasy, sci-fi, and horror books coming out this week.

Released Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Home Fires, by Gene Wolf

In a future North America not quite crumbling but somewhat less than utopian, Skip and Chelle meet and marry in college. But Chelle has to do her term of military service against aliens many light-years away. Twenty-five years later, thanks to the time-dilation effect, she is a still-young but convalescent combat veteran. Skip is a wealthy businessman. And they are still in love. Unfortunately, when they take a Caribbean cruise to celebrate, they run into pirates, politics, aliens, and Murphy’s Law running wild. The ending may not please readers who have come to care for the couple, as over the years it has been easy to care for most of Wolfe’s characters. But they will be pleased by this latest display of all the gifts of one of sf’s authentic all-time masters, including original and balanced characterization, masterly world building, and an ethical sensibility of the highest degree.

Farlander, by Col Buchanan

With his debut novel, Buchanan fashions a fantasy-based realm called The Heart of the World, which relies less on the genre’s usual staple of sorcery and curious creatures than on the author’s impressive skill at fleshing out characters. Nico is a street urchin living hand to mouth in the tyrannical Empire of Mann’s capital city when he’s caught stealing red-handed and then given a hard-to-refuse opportunity to redress his crimes by becoming an apprentice. His alternately terrifying and exhilarating new trade, however, is that of a Roshun, or assassin, and his mentor is an aging warrior named Ash, who’s approaching the end of his life and career. When the Prince of Mann murders a woman who falls under the Roshun order’s protection, it falls to Nico and Ash to carry out a morally dubious and death-defying vendetta. While Buchanan’s inexperience is visible with a sagging midsection and inconsistent pacing, the tale ends with some rousing action and a startling plot twist that cleverly hooks the reader for the author’s planned sequel.

Never Knew Another, by J. M McDermott

Fugitive Rachel Nolander is a newcomer to the city of Dogsland, where the rich throw parties and the poor just do whatever they can to scrape by. Supported by her brother Djoss, she hides out in their squalid apartment, living in fear that someday, someone will find out that she is the child of a demon. Corporal Jona Lord Joni is a demon’s child too, but instead of living in fear, he keeps his secret and goes about his life as a cocky, self-assured man of the law. The first book in the Dogsland Trilogy, Never Knew Another is the story of how these two outcasts meet.

God’s War, by Kameron Hurley

Readers will be fascinated by the setting of this slow-starting but compelling far-future debut. On a planet settled by Muslims and ravaged by constant war and pollution, Nyx, a former government-sponsored assassin or “bel dame,” gets by as a bounty hunter. Her assistant is the foreign magician Rhys, who can control the ubiquitous insects that drive the planet’s technology. When the government asks them to hunt down an off-worlder who possesses technology that could end the war, they find themselves facing off against foreign agents and their fellow bel dames. Hurley’s world-building is phenomenal, with casual references to insectile technology and the world’s history that provide atmosphere without info dumps. Far too many pages are spent introducing the characters, but the story is highly engaging once it starts, and Hurley smoothly handles tricky themes such as race, class, religion, and gender without sacrificing action.

Pack of Lies, by Laura Anne Gilman

My name is Bonita Torres, and eight months ago I was an unemployed college graduate without a plan. Now I’m an investigator with the Private Unaffiliated Paranormal Investigations team of New York. Pretty awesome, right? The Cosa Nostradamus, the magical community, isn’t quick to give up its secrets, though. Not even to fellow members. Not even when it’s in their best interests. So we’ve been busting our tails, perfecting our forensic skills, working to gain acceptance. The team’s tight… but we have our quirks, too. And our Big Dog, Benjamin Venec…well, he’s a special case, all right. But we can’t give up. We’re needed, especially when a case comes along that threatens to pit human against fatae. But one wrong move could cost us everything we’ve worked for….

Mardock Scramble, by Tow Ubukata

Reads L to R (Western Style), for audiences. Why me? It was to be the last thought a young prostitute, Balot, would ever have…as a human anyway. Taken in by a devious gambler named Shell, she became a slave to his cruel desires and would have been killed by his hand if not for a private investigator and his self-aware Universal Tool, Oefcoque. Now a cyborg, Balot has not only physical powers, but the ability to disrupt social environments. She chases after Shell, his partner-in-crime Boiled, and faces down a variety of insane villains in this pulse-pounding cyberpunk noir adventure.

The Kensei: A Lawson Vampire Novel, by Jon F. Merz

After several years, Merz offers a new novel (following Syndicate, 2003) starring vampire secret agent Lawson. This time, Lawson is in Japan on vacation. But trouble arrives almost immediately—on the train from the airport—when an assassin tries to take down a young Japanese man and his girlfriend. Lawson’s interference is more than just annoying, as the assassin he kills was a member of the local Yakuza, the Kensei, and now the Mob wants vengeance. When Lawson’s former KGB agent girlfriend arrives with troubles of her own, his vacation is no longer the least bit relaxing. All this sounds like the setup for a typical action adventure or espionage novel, but, of course, Lawson is a vampire who works for the vampire governing council, specializing in keeping vampires secret and fixing their problems. Other than being crazy strong and very quick to heal (excellent attributes for a secret agent), Lawson is more like Jason Bourne than Dracula, making this a vampire mystery with broad appeal.

Shadowfever, by Karen Marie Moning

MacKayla Lane was just a child when she and her sister, Alina, were given up for adoption and banished from Ireland forever. Twenty years later, Alina is dead and Mac has returned to the country that expelled them to hunt her sister’s murderer. But after discovering that she descends from a bloodline both gifted and cursed, Mac is plunged into a secret history: an ancient conflict between humans and immortals who have lived concealed among us for thousands of years. What follows is a shocking chain of events with devastating consequences, and now Mac struggles to cope with grief while continuing her mission to acquire and control the Sinsar Dubh—a book of dark, forbidden magic scribed by the mythical Unseelie King, containing the power to create and destroy worlds. In an epic battle between humans and Fae, the hunter becomes the hunted when the Sinsar Dubh turns on Mac and begins mowing a deadly path through those she loves. Who can she turn to? Who can she trust? Who is the woman haunting her dreams? More important, who is Mac herself and what is the destiny she glimpses in the black and crimson designs of an ancient tarot card? From the luxury of the Lord Master’s penthouse to the sordid depths of an Unseelie nightclub, from the erotic bed of her lover to the terrifying bed of the Unseelie King, Mac’s journey will force her to face the truth of her exile, and to make a choice that will either save the world . . . or destroy it.

Among Others, by Jo Walton

With a deft hand and a blazing imagination, fantasy writer Walton mixes genres to great effect. Elements of fantasy, science fiction, and coming-of-age novels combine into one superlative literary package that will appeal to a variety of readers across age levels. After engaging in a classic good-magic-versus-bad-magic battle with her mother that fatally wounds her twin sister, 15-year-old Morwenna leaves Wales and attempts to reconnect with her estranged father. She was sent to boarding school in England, and her riveting backstory unfolds gradually as she records her thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a series of journal entries. An ominous sense of disquiet permeates the nonlinear plot as Morwenna attempts to avoid a final clash with her mother. In addition to casting an irresistible narrative spell, Walton also pays tribute to a host of science-fiction masters as she peppers Morwenna’s journal with the titles of the novels she devours in her book-fueled quest for self-discovery.

Allison Hewitt is Trapped: A Zombie Novel, by Madeline Roux

Roux’s debut tells the story of a zombie apocalypse through the eyes of Allison Hewitt, graduate student and bookstore employee. Allison is working in the bookstore when she sees one her regular customers have her head bitten off. It’s clear that something very bad has happened. Alison and the survivors lock themselves into the back rooms, hiding out from the relentless zombies. In an attempt to stave off her loneliness and connect with the outside world, Allison begins a blog (blog entries and comments from readers are included at the end of every chapter). The use of the blog as a storytelling device, drawing in additional characters and points of view, helps enliven what is otherwise an average zombie story, albeit one with plenty of action and a high body count. Suggest it to zombie fans who enjoyed Ben Tripp’s Rise Again (2010) or Charlie Huston’s Sleepless.

The Children of the Lost (The Agora Trilogy), by David Whitley

Cast out of the city of Agora where they were left at the end of The Midnight Charter, Mark and Lily must now survive in a dense forest. The strange villages, terrifying nightmares, and powerful witches they find there are even more frightening than Agora with all its slums and secrets. In an adventure that expands with every turn of the page, David Whitley delivers a novel as thrilling and horrifying as his characters’ darkest dreams.

Here Lies Bridget, by Paige Harbison

Bridget Duke is the uncontested ruler of her school. The meanest girl with the biggest secret insecurities. And when new girl Anna Judge arrives, things start to fall apart for Bridget: friends don’t worship as attentively, teachers don’t fall for her wide-eyed “who me?” look, expulsion looms ahead and the one boy she’s always loved—Liam Ward—can barely even look at her anymore. When a desperate Bridget drives too fast and crashes her car, she ends up in limbo, facing everyone she’s wronged and walking a few uncomfortable miles in their shoes. Now she has only one chance to make a last impression. Though she might end up dead, she has one last shot at redemption and the chance to right the wrongs she’s inflicted on the people who mean the most to her. And Bridget’s about to learn that, sometimes, saying you’re sorry just isn’t enough….

Warrior (Dragons of Starlight), by Bryan Davis

The Dragon Prince Has Hatched In book two of the Dragons of Starlight series, the stakes are raised when the foretold prince is crowned. While Koren and Jason race to the Northlands of Starlight to find the one person who can help them free the human slaves, Elyssa and Wallace strive to convince the captives that freedom is possible. Soon, all four discover that the secrets of Starlight extend much further than they had imagined. Meanwhile, Randall and Tybalt have returned to Major Four and struggle against the dragon Magnar, who has arrived to manipulate the governor. No one knows how the prophecy will be fulfilled, but one thing is clear: more than ever, the survival of the dragons depends on humankind, and they will do anything to prevent the slaves from escaping.

List from Borders.com and descriptions/reviews from Amazon.com

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