I gave up. I couldn't do it. Instead, I've been delving through publisher catalogues, online booksellers, tweets, author sites and drawing up a list of stuff I know is coming to put together some recommendations for the first(ish) half of 2017.
Like many, I found much that happened in 2016 not exactly to my taste. I wrote a bit about that here and here. But - something to set against the rest - in book terms it was a very good year. And looking forward (I'm about the future not the past!) 2017 looks set to be even better for books. I hope it will be in other ways as well - but in any case, there's consolation in books and here are some to think about.
Usual caveats apply: dates may change, things may not appear at all and, most obviously, other great books certainly WILL be there too.
Any errors below mine, not the publishers': cover images and descriptions taken from publisher or author websites.
NB I mostly read print books so where the ebook and pbook dates are different I've generally gone for print. But some of these books may be available earlier in e if that's your thing.
Phil Rickman | All of a Winter's Night | Corvus | 5 January
I'm married to a vicar, I love reading fantasy and horror, how could I not be drawn to these stories of Merrily Watkins, redoutable diocesan deliverance consultant for the Hereford Diocese (please, NOT 'exorcist'. NEVER 'exorcist'.)
Written to preserve a spark of doubt about the nature of the evils Merrily confronts, which as as much social as supernatural, these are cracking stories with - by now - a much loved regular cast and read as much as commentary on modern country life as traditional horror. A new instalment is always a treat in store.
Steph Broadribb | Deep Down Dead | Orenda Books | 5 January
Steph has built up an enthusiastic following as @crimethrillgirl and this, her debut novel, is compelling - just pick it up and read the first paragraph and I defy you to be able to put it down again. Review coming in January as part of the Orenda blog tour.
"Lori Anderson is as tough as they come, managing to keep her career as a fearless Florida bounty hunter separate from her role as single mother to nine-year-old Dakota, who suffers from leukaemia. But when the hospital bills start to rack up, she has no choice but to take her daughter along on a job that will make her a fast buck. And that’s when things start to go wrong."
M R Hall | A Life to Kill | Mantle | 12 January
Another series I snap up as soon as they're out, the Coroner Jenny Cooper series features a brilliant, kick-ass character and wonderfully realised, tense stories. Like Rickman's books these document something of the state of the nation, here represented by Cooper's desire to unearth the truth, however inconvenient that may be for the powerful...
Adam Nevill | Under a Watchful Eye | Macmillan | 12 January
"Seb Logan is being watched. He just doesn't know by whom. When the sudden appearance of a dark figure shatters his idyllic coastal life, he soon realizes that the murky past he thought he'd left behind has far from forgotten him. What's more unsettling is the strange atmosphere that engulfs him at every sighting, plunging his mind into a terrifying paranoia. To be a victim without knowing the tormentor. To be despised without knowing the offence caused. To be seen by what nobody else can see. These are the thoughts which plague his every waking moment. Imprisoned by despair, Seb fears his stalker is not working alone, but rather is involved in a wider conspiracy that threatens everything he has worked for. For there are doors in this world that open into unknown places. Places used by the worst kind of people to achieve their own ends. And once his investigation leads him to stray across the line and into mortal danger, he risks becoming another fatality in a long line of victims..."
I adore Nevill's horror, which crosses the line from the merely supernatural to confront everyday danger, whether driven by festering male violence, climate change or a will to cling to the past. He's a master at making the small, squalid details of life - stained plastic bags, sticky dust, an over vivid 70s carpet - downright scary. So I'm looking forward to this (and I've got a NetGalley!).
Defender | GX Todd | Headline | 12 January
"What if the voice in your head didn’t belong to you?
What if it had a purpose of its own? And if it asked you to kill.
This first book from Todd looks like a winner. I have an advance copy and will be reviewing soon!
Rupture | Ragnar Jónasson | Orenda Books | 15 January
"1955. Two young couples move to the uninhabited, isolated fjord of Hedinsfjörður. Their stay ends abruptly when one of the women meets her death in mysterious circumstances. The case is never solved.
Fifty years later an old photograph comes to light, and it becomes clear that the couples may not have been alone on the fjord after all… In nearby Siglufjörður, young policeman Ari Thór tries to piece together what really happened that fateful night, in a town where no one wants to know, where secrets are a way of life. He’s assisted by Ísrún, a news reporter in Reykjavik, who is investigating an increasingly chilling case of her own. Things take a sinister turn when a child goes missing in broad daylight. With a stalker on the loose, and the town of Siglufjörður in quarantine, the past might just come back to haunt them."
It's back to the start for Thór as we see earlier events in the life of the Snowblind and Nightblind hero.
Sarah Pinborough | Behind Her Eyes | HarperCollins | 26 January
Pinborough continues to tread the boundary between the creepy thriller and the thrillery supernatural. This book reads almost as a spiritual sequel to The Dead House and 13 Minutes and showcases her ability to create believable - yet monstrous - characters.
And, wow, that ending... I STRONGLY recommend this book. Book a few days off, hole up with your duvet and READ IT.
I was lucky enough to be sent a proof copy - review to follow soon!
And... yes... THAT ending...
And did I mention THE ENDING?
Charles Stross | Empire Games | Tor UK | 26 January
I loved Stross's multi-timeline Merchant Princes sequence (originally published as 6 books, reworked as 3) and this follows on - Merchant Princes: The Next Generation as you might put it.
In the first, the Department for Homeland Security is putting together a plan to pursue the Clan. In the latter, Miriam has risen to a high position in the revolutionary government.
The players are ready. The board is laid out. The Empire Games begin...
I have a NetGalley: review to follow soon.
Eric Scott Fischl | Dr. Potter’s Medicine Show | Angry Robot | 7 February
"Dr. Alexander Potter, disgraced Civil War surgeon, now huckster and seller of snake-oil, travels the wet roads of the Pacific Northwest with a disheartened company of strongmen, illusionists, fortunetellers, and musical whores. Under the quiet command of the mysterious, merciless, and murderous Lyman Rhoades, they entertain the masses while hawking the Chock-a-saw Sagwa Tonic, a vital elixir touted to cure all ills both physical and spiritual… although, for a few unfortunate customers, the Sagwa offers something much, much worse.
For drunken dentist Josiah McDaniel, the Sagwa has taken everything from him; in the hired company of two accidental outlaws, the bickering brothers Solomon Parker and Agamemnon Rideout, he looks to revenge himself on the Elixir’s creator: Dr. Morrison Hedwith, businessman, body-thief, and secret alchemist, a man who is running out of time."
I have this from NetGalley - review to follow soon.
UBO | Steve Rasnic Tem | Solaris | 9 February 2017
"Daniel is trapped in Ubo. He has no idea how long he has been imprisoned there by the roaches.
Every resident has a similar memory of the journey to Ubo: a dream of dry, chitinous wings crossing the moon, the gigantic insects dropping swiftly over the houses of the neighborhood, passing through walls and windows as if by magic, or science. The creatures, like a deck of baroquely ornamented cards, fanning themselves from one hidden world into the next.
And now each day they force Daniel to play a different figure from humanity’s violent history, from a frenzied Jack the Ripper to a stumbling and confused Stalin to a self-proclaimed god executing survivors atop the ruins of the world. The scenarios mutate day after day in this camp somewhere beyond the rules of time. As skies burn and prisoners go mad, identities dissolve as the experiments evolve, and no one can foretell their mysterious end."
After Deadfall Hotel and Blood Kin, I have to read this. And it so happens I have an e-copy from Solaris, so will be reviewing soon.
Mick Herron | Spook Street (Jackson Lamb No 4) | John Murray | 9 February
Radioactive secrets and unfinished business go with the territory on Spook Street: he's always known there would be an accounting. And he's not as defenceless as they might think.
Jackson Lamb worked with Cartwright back in the day. He knows better than most that this is no vulnerable old man. 'Nasty old spook with blood on his hands' would be a more accurate description.
'The old bastard' has raised his grandson with a head full of guts and glory. But far from joining the myths and legends of Spook Street, River Cartwright is consigned to Lamb's team of pen-pushing no-hopers at Slough House.
So it's Lamb they call to identify the body when Cartwright's panic button raises the alarm at Service HQ.
And Lamb who will do whatever he thinks necessary, to protect an agent in peril..."
A Conjuring of Light | VE Schwab | Titan Books | 21 February
Much anticipated conclusion to the ADSOM trilogy.
A Conjuring of Light | VE Schwab | Titan Books | 21 February
Much anticipated conclusion to the ADSOM trilogy.
China Mieville | The Last Days of New Paris | Picador | 23 February
OK, a new China Mieville? Put me down for this, that's all. Every book of his seems different from the last: you can't categorise him, or predict what he'll do next, except that it's be superb.
Black Night Falling | Rod Reynolds | Faber | 2 March
"There’s a fine line between justice and revenge... Having left Texarkana for the safety of the West Coast, reporter Charlie Yates finds himself drawn back to the South, to Hot Springs, Arkansas, as an old acquaintance asks for his help. This time it’s less of a story Charlie’s chasing, more of a desperate attempt to do the right thing before it’s too late. Rod Reynolds’s exceptional second novel picks up just a few months on from The Dark Inside, and once again displays the feel for place, period and atmosphere which marked out his acclaimed debut."
Deadly Game | Matt Johnson | Orenda Books | 15 March 2017
"Reeling from the attempts on his life and that of his family, Police Inspector Robert Finlay returns to work to discover that any hope of a peaceful existence has been dashed. Assigned to investigate the Eastern European sex-slave industry just as a key witness is murdered. Finlay, along with his new partner Nina Brasov, finds himself facing a ruthless criminal gang, determined to keep control of the traffic of people into the UK. On the home front, Finlay’s efforts to protect his wife and child may have been in vain, as an MI5 protection officer uncovers a covert secret service operation that threatens them all… Picking up where the bestselling Wicked Game left off, Deadly Game sees Matt Johnson’s damaged hero fighting on two fronts. Aided by new allies, he must not only protect his family but save a colleague from an unseen enemy … and a shocking fate."
An ex Metropolitan Police officer, Johnson knows the world he writes about - and what it can do to those within it. His debut, Wicked Game, was an explosive, death-strewn thriller based on some very traumatic experiences. I'm keen to see what else Johnson can draw on for his protagonists.
Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods | Tania del Rio, Will Staehle | Quirk | 13 March
This looks great fun.
Warren the 13th is the lone bellhop, valet, waiter, groundskeeper, and errand boy of his family’s ancient hotel. It’s a strange, shadowy mansion full of crooked corridors and mysterious riddles.
In his first adventure, Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye, Warren had to decipher clues and find the treasure before his sinister Aunt Annaconda could beat him to it?
This sequel begins soon after the first book’s conclusion.
"Twelve-year-old Warren has learned that his beloved hotel can walk, and now it’s ferrying guests around the countryside, transporting tourists to strange and foreign destinations. But when an unexpected detour brings everyone into the dark and sinister Malwoods, Warren finds himself separated from his hotel and his friends—and racing after them on foot through a forest teeming with witches, snakes, talking trees, and mind-boggling riddles. Once again, you can expect stunning illustrations and gorgeous design from Will Staehle on every page—along with plenty of nonstop action and adventure!"
Where She Went | B E Jones | Constable | March
"She reports on murder cases – but now she finds herself the victim of one
TV journalist Melanie Black wakes up one morning in bed next to a man she doesn’t recognise. He ignores her, and when his wife walks in with a cup of tea to her horror, Melanie comes to realise that no one can see her or hear her – because she is dead.
Has she woken up next to her murderer? guest in a house she can't leave?
Why is she invisible?
As she begins to piece together the last days of her life it becomes clear she has to make a choice: bring her killer to justice, or punish the man who murdered her."
The sequel to Luna: New Moon which - to me - was Dune as Dune ought to have been. I appreciate that is near heresy in SFF but I repeat: this is BETTER THAN DUNE and I'm keenly awaiting it.
"Corta Helio, one of the five family corporations that rule the Moon, has fallen. Its riches are divided up among its many enemies, its survivors scattered. Eighteen months have passed.
The remaining Helio children, Lucasinho and Luna, are under the protection of the powerful Asamoahs, while Robson, still reeling from witnessing his parent’s violent deaths, is now a ward – virtually a hostage – of Mackenzie Metals. And the last appointed heir, Lucas, has vanished from the surface of the moon.
Only Lady Sun, dowager of Taiyang, suspects that Lucas Corta is not dead, and – more to the point – that he is still a major player in the game. After all, Lucas always was a schemer, and even in death, he would go to any lengths to take back everything and build a new Corta Helio, more powerful than before. But Corta Helio needs allies, and to find them, the fleeing son undertakes an audacious, impossible journey – to Earth.
In an unstable lunar environment, the shifting loyalties and political machinations of each family reach the zenith of their most fertile plots as outright war between the families erupts."
Part 2, covering April - June, to follow in a few days...