New Graphic Novels featuring revolutionary writer & artist Andrea Pazienza

Image from Syndetics

This month’s selection of new graphic novels includes a collection of stories by the late Italian writer and artist Andrea Pazienza. Although he died in 1988, his art work was innovative and he was considered revolutionary, his stories tell of the problems faced by the lost generation of 1970/1980’s teenagers. Also included are the first volumes of two new series, Starslayer by Mike Grell and Romulus by Brian Hill.

Syndetics book coverThe last contract / written & lettered by Ed Brisson ; illustrated by Lisandro Estherren.
“After a lifetime spent as a gun-for-hire, a retired hitman known only as “The Man” has finally found a sense of peace. But when a list of his kills is leaked by a mysterious blackmailer, making targets of anyone associated with one of The Man’s previous jobs, he’s forced back into the game he left behind. As he fights to protect those exposed by the list, The Man sets off to uncover the identity of the blackmailer, unaware of the consequences the truth he’s chasing may hold.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe cross-eyed mutt / a story written and drawn by Étienne Davodeau ; translation by Joe Johnson.
“Fabian is supervisor at the Louvre. He loves his job. He also loves Mathilde. After some time, she presents him to her family in their vast country house and not without some apprehension, as the Benion clan is a bit special. When they find a peculiar painting of a cross-eyed mutt by an ancestor from the nineteenth century, they decide that it’s a masterpiece. Fabian hopes the delusion will go away, until the two brothers show up at the Louvre. Getting the Cross-Eyed Mutt into the Louvre would demonstrate his commitment to becoming a member of the Benion family!” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverStarslayer [1] : the log of the Jolly Roger / script and art, Mike Grell ; created by Mike Grell.
“A Celtic warrior from the days of the Roman Empire is transported into the distant future by his wife’s descendant and compelled to join the crew of the spaceship Jolly Roger in their resistance to totalitarian rule on Earth.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRomulus. Volume 1 / Bryan Hill, writer ; Nelson Blake II, artist ; created by Bryan Hill & Nelson Blake.
“Our world isn’t free. All of us, for generations, have lived under the secret control of The Ancient Order of Romulus. One young woman, raised by them, trained and betrayed by them, must push through her fear to take a stand against the silent evil that masters our world. Her name is Ashlar, and her war begins with the brutal first chapter of this new series.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSombra / created by Justin Jordan & Raúl Treviño ; written by Justin Jordan ; illustrated by Raúl Treviño.
“Conrad Marlowe was a respected DEA agent when he disappeared in Mexico while investigating the ruthless drug cartels. Years later he has resurfaced as a cult leader who has made it his mission to out-brutalize the cartels terrorizing the country. The only DEA agent willing to follow his trail of violence is his own daughter, and with the help of a journalist on the ground, she’ll have to face the horrors of what her father has become if she wants to survive and bring him to justice.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHerman by trade / Chris W. Kim.
“Herman is a reclusive, straight-laced street cleaner,or so it seems to those he works with on the city’s waterfront. But he has an extraordinary hidden talent: the ability to transform his appearance at will. On the fourth day, Herman joins a queue of people at an open audition for a new movie. As he waits, swept up in the frenzy of creative ambition that has overcome the city, his past life becomes increasingly remote. By the time he enters the audition room, he might have lost his job, but his talent remains. Dazzled by Herman’s ability to adapt to any role, the director deems the rest of the cast redundant, sparking a furious outcry. When the cult director’s new film premieres, with Herman performing every role, it doesn’t get the reaction she expects.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHenry & Glenn forever & ever / by Tom Neely & friends.
“The greatest love story ever told has finally been released in graphic novel form, featuring 20 short stories about the domestic life of “Henry” and “Glenn” and sometimes their neighbors “Daryl” and “John.” Glenn deals with issues with his mother while Henry, “a loud guy with a good work ethic,” shows his darker side and indifference to a fan as he drinks black coffee and bonds with Glenn over their distaste for their own bands. These are two men who truly suffer best together.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHaddon Hall : when David invented Bowie / written and illustrated by Néjib; translated from the French by Edward Gauvin.
“Charting Bowie’s personal life, the development of his music, and the transformation of his image, Haddon Hall is an evocative portrait of a young artist presiding over a musical revolution.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverZanardi / Andrea Pazienza.
“A true visionary, with a fluid line and an uncanny sense of color and composition, Pazienza’s innovative graphic style served up stories that were iconoclastic, outrageous, humorous, and deeply personal, often based on himself and his microcosm of friends and collaborators. Pazienza was a revolutionary cartoonist who ushered an underground sensibility to Italian and European comics.”
(Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDriving short distances / by Joff Winterhart.
“Sam is 27 and needs to get a job. Keith, who claims to be a second cousin of his (absent) father, offers him one. On Keith’s card it says he does ‘distribution and delivery’, which seems to consist of ‘a lot of driving around, getting out of the car for a few minutes and then getting back in’, Sam tells his mother, and so the days go by, Keith driving while telling Sam stories about his first boss, Geoff Crozier, his mentor in distribution and delivery. As the weeks pass, Sam gets to know Keith’s friends, flirty Hazel-Claire from whom they buy two pasties every day at lunchtime, a variety of receptionists, and a few tantalizing secrets from Keith’s past.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Veteran feminist writer Beryl Fletcher has died

Syndetics book coverThe accomplished feminist New Zealand writer Beryl Fletcher has died aged 80.
She graduated from Waikato University in 1979 with a master’s degree in Sociology. She went on to study and lecture, until her first short story was published in 1964, and she decided to become a fiction writer. Her first novel The Word Burners, published in 1991 won the 1992 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, Best First Book, Asia/Pacific region. Four other novels followed, her last published in 1999 titled The Bloodwood Clan. She spent many years as writer in residence in universities located in Waikato, New York, and Wellington. She also taught memoir at Humboldt University in Germany. She believed the role of a feminist writer was to open and expand ideas by exploring older texts, situations or opinions.

Thrillers feature in this month’s novels from other genres

Featuring this month in our ‘other genre’ category we have selected fiction from the thriller genre. These are guaranteed reading for ardent fans of tension and suspense, and at times not for the faint hearted. Highly recommend is The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn.

Syndetics book coverEighteen below / Stefan Ahnhem ; translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles.
“On a hot summer’s day the police chase a speeding car through the streets of Helsingborg. When they reach the quay, the driver keeps going, straight into the cold, dark water. The body recovered from the wreck is Peter Brise, a wealthy tech entrepreneur. Fabian Risk and his team are confident this is a suicide. Young, rich, successful, Brise just didn’t know how to ask for help. But then the autopsy reveals something unexpected. Brise was already dead when his car crashed. He’d been brutally murdered two months ago. His body was frozen in perfect condition, at eighteen degrees below zero.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRobicheaux : a novel / James Lee Burke.
“Dave Robicheaux is a haunted man. From the acts he committed in Vietnam, to his battles with alcoholism, to the sudden loss of his beloved wife, Molly, his thoughts drift from one irreconcilable memory to the next. Images of ghosts pepper his reality. Robicheaux’s only beacon remains serving as a detective in New Iberia, Louisiana With the sudden death of T.J. Dartez, the New Iberian local responsible for Molly’s death, Robicheaux’s colleague, Spade Labiche, thinks Robicheaux had something to do with it. Robicheaux’s determined to clear his name. He’s not alone; his daughter, Alafair, along with his old friend, Clete Purcel is right by Robicheaux’s side as he searches for the killer, where a shocking discovery awaits.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverI know my name / C.J. Cooke.
“A woman is washed up on a remote Greek island with no recollection of who she is or how she got there. Potter’s Lane, Twickenham, London: Eloise Shelley is officially missing. Lochlan’s wife has vanished into thin air, leaving their toddler and twelve-week-old baby alone. Her money, car and passport are all in the house, with no signs of foul play. Every clue the police turn up means someone has told a lie, does a husband ever truly know his wife or a wife her husband?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe woman in the window / A.J. Finn.
“Anna Fox lives alone, a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times and spying on her neighbors. Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son, the perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble and its shocking secrets are laid bare. What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverArarat / Christopher Golden.
“When an earthquake reveals a secret cave hidden inside Mount Ararat in Turkey, a daring, newly-engaged couple are determined to be the first ones inside and what they discover will change everything. The cave is actually an ancient, buried ship that many quickly come to believe is really Noah’s Ark. When a team of scholars, archaeologists, and filmmakers make it inside the ark, they discover an elaborate coffin in its recesses. Inside the coffin they find an ugly, misshapen cadaver, not the holy man they expected, but a hideous creature with horns. Shock and fear turn to horror when a massive blizzard arrives; they are all trapped thousands of meters up the side of a remote mountain. All they can do is pray for safety. But something wicked is listening to their prayers and it wants to answer.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverIf I die before I wake / Emily Koch.
“Everyone believes Alex is in a coma, unlikely to ever wake up. As his family debate withdrawing life support, and his friends talk about how his girlfriend Bea needs to move on, he can only listen. But Alex soon begins to suspect that the accident that put him here wasn’t really an accident. Even worse, the perpetrator is still out there and Alex is not the only one in danger. As he goes over a series of clues from his past, Alex must use his remaining senses to solve the mystery of who tried to kill him, and try to protect those he loves, before they decide to let him go.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDistrict VIII / Adam LeBor.
“Life’s tough for a Gypsy cop in Budapest. The cops don’t trust you because you’re a Gypsy. Your fellow Gypsies, even your own family, shun you because you’re a cop. The dead, however, don’t care. So when Balthazar Kovacs, a detective in the city’s murder squad, gets a mysterious message on his phone from a blocked number he grabs his police ID and goes to work. Danube Blues reveals an underworld that Budapest visitors never get to see: the gritty back-alleys of District VIII; the endemic corruption that reaches deep into the government as officials and their business allies plunder state coffers at will; a rule of law bent to serve the interests of the rich, well-connected and powerful; the rising power of international organized crime gangs who use the Hungarian capital as a springboard for their European operations; and the ghosts of Communism and Nazism that still haunt Hungary.” (Adapted from Syndetic summary)

Syndetics book coverThe house / Simon Lelic.
“Lndoners Jack and Syd moved into the house a year ago. It seemed like their dream home: tons of space, the perfect location, and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it. So when they made a grisly discovery in the attic, Jack and Syd chose to ignore it. That was a mistake, because someone has just been murdered, right outside their back door. And now the police are watching them.” (Adapted from Syndetic summary)

Syndetics book coverThe boy made of snow / Chloë Mayer.
“In a sleepy English village in 1944, Annabel and her son Daniel live in the shadow of war. With her husband away, an increasingly isolated Annabel begins to lose her grip on reality. When mother and son befriend Hans, a German PoW consigned to a nearby farm, their lives are suddenly filled with thrilling secrets. To Annabel, Hans is an awakening from the darkness that has engulfed her since Daniel’s birth. To her son, a solitary boy caught up in the magical world of fairy tales, he is perhaps a prince in disguise. But Hans has plans of his own and will soon set them into motion with devastating consequences.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPoison / Galt Niederhoffer.
“Cass and Ryan Connor have achieved family nirvana. With three kids between them, a cat and a yard, a home they built and feathered, they seem to have the Modern Family dream. Their family, including Cass’s two children from previous relationships, has recently moved to Portland, a new start for their new lives. Cass and Ryan have stable, successful careers, and they are happy. But trouble begins almost imperceptibly, first with small omissions and white lies that happen daily in any marital bedroom. They seem insignificant, but they are quickly followed by a series of denials and feints that mushroom and then cyclone in menace. With life-or-death stakes and irreversible consequences, Poison is a chilling and irresistible reminder that the closest bond designed to protect and provide for each other and for children can change in a minute.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Be transported by these new mystery novels!

Mystery novel fans will again be transported to far parts of the world with his month’s selection of new mysteries. From Thailand to Norway, India to Ireland, Norway to Germany, all will provide hours of gripping reading.

Syndetics book coverThe emerald lie / Ken Bruen.
“Jack Taylor, an ex-cop who is as addicted to trouble as he is to Jameson, pills, and pop culture. Jack is approached by a grieving father with a pocketful of cash on offer if Jack will help exact revenge on those responsible for his daughter’s brutal rape and murder. Though hesitant to get involved, Jack agrees to get a read on the likely perpetrators. But Jack is soon derailed by the reappearance of Emily (previous alias: Emerald), the chameleon-like young woman who joined forces with Jack to take down her pedophile father in Green Hell and who remains passionate, clever, and utterly homicidal. She will use any sort of coercion to get Jack to conspire with her against the serial killer the Garda have nicknamed “the Grammarian,” but her most destructive obsession just might be Jack himself.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe missing guests of the Magic Grove hotel : an Ethical Chiang Mai Detective Agency novel / David Casarett.
“As a nurse ethicist, Ladarat Patalung works to save the lives of her patients, and to make sure the ones she can’t save have at least the dignity of a “good death’. Detective Wiriya Mookjai fears that a killer is at large when wealthy foreign travelers start to go missing all across Thailand, and turns to Ladarat for help. The travelers have nothing in common, except for brief stays at a mysterious resort, known as the Magic Grove Hotel.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHead Count / Judith Cutler.
“A head teacher’s work is never done, especially if, like Jane Cowan, you’re a victim of your own success. Having done well with Wrayford Primary, she’s now expected to bring other neighbouring schools up to scratch as well. And all these responsibilities are compounded by an influx of children, most of whom do not speak English, following their families supplying cheap labour to surrounding farms. Jane can’t turn a blind eye to the conditions in which many of these families are living, even more so when some children simply disappear. When everything points to the shadowy dealings of people smugglers in the area, she has her work cut out for her seeing justice done and that’s before a threat far closer to home rears his head.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFaithless / Kjell Ola Dahl ; translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett.
“When the body of a woman turns up in a dumpster, scalded and wrapped in plastic, Inspector Frank Frolich is shocked to discover that he knows her and their recent meetings may hold the clue to her murder. As he begins to look deeper into the tragic events surrounding her death, Frolich’s colleague Gunnarstranda finds another body, and things take a more sinister turn. With a cold case involving the murder of a young girl in northern Norway casting a shadow, and an unsettling number of coincidences clouding the plot, Frolich is forced to look into his own past to find the answers and the killer, before he strikes again.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAn English murder / Cyril Hare.
“The snow is thick, the phone line is down, and no one is getting in or out of Warbeck Hall. With friends and family gathered round the fire, all should be set for a perfect Christmas, but as the bells chime midnight, a mysterious murder takes place. Who can be responsible, the scorned young lover, or the lord’s passed-over cousin, the social climbing politician’s wife, or the Czech history professor, maybe the obsequious butler? But perhaps the real question is: can any of them survive long enough to tell the tale?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverIn dust and ashes / Anne Holt ; translated from the Norwegian by Anne Bruce.
“In 2001, three year old Dina is killed in a tragic car accident. Not long thereafter Dina’s mother dies under mysterious circumstances, and Dina’s father Jonas is convicted of her murder. In 2016, the cold case ends up on the desk of Detective Henrik Holme, who tries to convince his mentor Hanne Wilhelmsen that the father might have been wrongly convicted. Holme and Wilhelmsen discover that the case could be connected to the suicide of an eccentric blogger as well as the kidnapping of the grandson of a Euro-Jackpot millionaire.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverUnder attack / Edward Marston.
“June, 1917. While another daylight air raid batters London, the body of respected businessman and devoted family man Gilbert Donohoe is fished from the Thames, the victim of strangulation. Inspector Marmion struggles with the case alongside his anxieties for his now-missing son, Paul, but the pressure increases when the Metropolitan Police are the target of a series of vicious press attacks. As Marmion is pilloried in the press, he uncovers a seedy path through London which will lead him towards the killer.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBabylon Berlin / Volker Kutscher ; translated by Niall Sellar.
“Berlin, 1929. Detective Inspector Rath, was a successful career officer in the Cologne Homicide Division before a shooting incident in which he inadvertently killed a man. He has been transferred to the Vice Squad in Berlin, a job he detests, even though he finds a new friend in his boss, Chief Inspector Wolter. There is seething unrest in the city and the Commissioner of Police has ordered the Vice Squad to ruthlessly enforce the ban on May Day demonstrations. The result is catastrophic with many dead and injured, and a state of emergency is declared in the Communist strongholds of the city. When a car is hauled out of Berlin’s Landwehr Canal with a mutilated corpse inside the Commissioner decides to use this mystery to divert the attention of press and public from the casualties of the demonstrations. The biggest problem is that the corpse cannot be identified.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe widows of Malabar Hill / Sujata Massey.
“1920s India: Perveen Mistry, Bombay’s first female lawyer, with a legal education from Oxford, has a tragic personal history that makes women’s legal rights especially important to her. She has just joined her father’s law firm, which has been appointed to execute the will of Mr. Omar Farid, a wealthy Muslim mill owner who has left three widows behind. But as Perveen examines the paperwork, she notices something strange: all three of the wives have signed over their full inheritance to a charity. What will they live on? The Farid widows live in full purdah, in strict seclusion, never leaving the women’s quarters or speaking to any men. Perveen tries to investigate, and realizes her instincts were correct when tensions escalate to murder. Now it is her responsibility to figure out what really happened on Malabar Hill, and to ensure that no innocent women or children are in further danger.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDry bones / Sally Spencer.
“When human bones are discovered in the cellars beneath St Luke’s College, two bodies, buried thirty years apart, the bursar, Charlie Swift, hires Jennie Redhead to investigate. As she uncovers a series of scandals stretching back sixty years, Jennie wonders how well she really knows her old friend Charlie and whether she can trust him.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

New Contemporary Fiction

In this selection of new contemporary fiction there are debut novels by three very talented writers. One is set in Korea during the Japanese occupation in WWII, another set on an English country estate in the winter of 1969, and the third is set in Paris and Puerto Rico. These, with the other novels in this selection will provide many hours of entertaining and thought provoking reading.

Syndetics book coverWhite chrysanthemum / Mary Lynn Bracht.
“Hana and her little sister Emi are part of an island community of haenyeo, women who make their living from diving deep into the sea off the southernmost tip of Korea. One day Hana sees a Japanese soldier heading for where Emi is guarding the day’s catch on the beach. Her mother has told her again and again never to be caught alone with one. Terrified for her sister, Hana swims as hard as she can for the shore. So begins the story of two sisters suddenly and violently separated by war. Switch-backing between Hana in 1943 and Emi as an old woman today, White Chrysanthemum takes us into a dark and devastating corner of history. But pulling us back into the light are two women whose love for one another is strong enough to triumph over the evils of war.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverYear of the drought / Roland Buti ; translated by Charlotte Mandell.
“Europe is in the grip of the worst drought in living memory. The Sutter household teeters on the brink of ruin. The farmer and father of the family has invested his entire fortune in 10,000 chickens and a modern barn. But the barn’s cooling systems are failing, and the chicks are dying off in the heat. Meanwhile his wife invites the mysterious Cecile to stay at the farm. Their son, 13-year-old Gus, observes helplessly as both his family and his carefree childhood dissolve in the heat.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAfter the snow / Susannah Constantine.
“Christmas morning, 1969. All eleven-year-old Esme Munroe wants for Christmas is for her mother to be on one of her ‘good’ days and, secretly, for a velvet riding hat. So when she finds an assortment of wet towels and dirty plates in her stocking, she’s just relieved Father Christmas remembered to stop at The Lodge this year. But later that day Esme’s mother disappears in the heavy snow. Even more mysteriously, only the Earl of Culcairn seems to know where she might have gone. Torn between protecting her mother and uncovering the secrets tumbling out of Culcairn Castle’s ornate closets, Esme realises that life will never be the same again after the snow.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe girl who lied / Sue Fortin.
“Erin and Roisin were once friends until a fatal accident ruined both their lives. Now, Roisin has discovered a secret, one Erin has kept for over a decade, and she’s determined to make Erin pay for her lies. When Roisin suddenly disappears, suspicion soon lands on Erin. She would do anything to protect her family, but just how far is she willing to go when time is running out?.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMary Rose / Geoffrey Girard.
“Mary Rose Moreland and Simon Blake are the perfect couple: successful young professionals in Philadelphia, attractive, madly in love, and ready to start a life together. When they travel to England for Simon to ask her parents’ permission to marry Mary Rose, he learns an unsettling secret: Mary Rose disappeared when she was a little girl while the family was vacationing on a remote Scottish island. She reappeared mysteriously thirty-three days later in the exact same spot without a scratch on her and no memory of what had happened. After Simon hears about this disturbing episode in Mary Rose’s childhood, he becomes obsessed with finding out what happened. He proceeds to launch his own investigation and arranges during their honeymoon for them to visit the island where she disappeared. But as Mary Rose’s behavior gets stranger after their engagement, the need for Simon to unlock the truth about her past grows even more urgent. What he uncovers is beyond his most terrifying fears.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHistories / Sam Guglani.
“Histories” is a hypnotic portrait of life in one hospital, over one week. In the corridors and consulting rooms, by the bedside, through the open curtain, we witness charged encounters within the emotional and physical world of medicine. Old insecurities surface as junior doctors try to save a man from dying; an enraged chaplain picks a fight with a consultant; a porter waxes lyrical on his invisibility. These are only some of the stories that so seamlessly connect, collide and create an unforgettable panorama of being.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA field guide to the North American family : concerning chiefly the Hungates and Harrisons, with accounts of their habits, nesting, dispersion, etc., and full description of the plumage of both adult and young, within a taxonomic survey of several aspects of domestic life / by Garth Risk Hallberg ; with sixty-three illustrations done by various artists.
“For years, the Hungates and the Harrisons have coexisted peacefully in the same Long Island neighborhood, enjoying the pleasures and weathering the pitfalls of their suburban habitat. But when the patriarch of one family dies unexpectedly, the survivors face a stark imperative: adapt or face extinction. In sixty-three interlinked vignettes and striking accompanying photographs, the novella cuts multiple paths–which can be reconstructed in any order, through the lives of its richly imagined characters.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverUselessness : a novel / Eduardo Lalo ; translated by Suzanne Jill Levine.
“The streets of Paris at night are pathways coursing with light and shadow, channels along which identity may be formed and lost, where the grand inflow of history, art, language, and thought, and of love, can both inspire and enfeeble. For the narrator of Eduardo Lalo’s Uselessness, it is a world long desired. But as this young aspiring writer discovers upon leaving his home in San Juan to study, to live and be reborn in the city of his dreams, Paris’s twinned influences can rip you apart.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Reservoir Tapes / Jon McGregor.
“Midwinter in the early years of this century. A teenage girl on holiday has gone missing in the hills at the heart of England. The villagers are called up to join the search, fanning out across the moors as the police set up roadblocks and a crowd of news reporters descends on their usually quiet home. But the aftershocks of Becky Shaw’s disappearance have origins long before then, and those in the village have losses, and secrets, and stories of their own. Fresh hurts open old wounds; salvation comes from unexpected quarters and chance encounters release long-buried memories.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe miranda : a novel / Geoff Nicholson.
“Joe’s got a lot to think about, and time on his hands to do it, since divorcing his wife and quitting his job training volunteers for a shadowy government agency. The otherwise nondescript house he’s just moved into boasts one key feature: a circular path in an overgrown backyard, on which Joe plans to walk twenty-five miles a day for a thousand days. Joe figures that walking the circumference of the Earth, safely on his own patch of territory, might just be the thing he needs to move on with his life. But curious neighbours keep sharing their troubles and preoccupations, looping Joe into mundane intrigues, and unwittingly triggering Joe to use the unique problem-solving skills he learned on his old job.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Mimi Pond and more: New graphic novels

There is a wonderful variation of theme in this month’s selection of new graphic novels. Included is The Customer is Always Wrong, a semi-autobiographical graphic novel from Mimi Pond, who will be in Wellington for the 2018 Writers & Readers. Also highly recommended is our own Brent Williams’s Out of the Woods: a journey through depression and anxiety.

Syndetics book coverAlone / Chabouté ; translation by Ivanka Hahnenberger.
“On a tiny lighthouse island far from the rest of the world, a lonely hermit lives out his existence. Every week a supply boat leaves provisions, its occupants never meeting him, never asking the obvious questions: Who are you? Why do you hide? Why do you never leave? What is it like to be so alone? Years spent on a deserted rock, a lifetime really; with imagination his sole companion has made the lighthouse keeper something more than alone, something else entirely. For him, what lies beyond the horizon might be nothing. And so, why not stay put? But one day, as a new boatman starts asking the questions all others have avoided, a chain of events unfolds that will irrevocably upend the hermit’s solitary life.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe can opener’s daughter / Rob Davis.
“In the British Comic Award-winning The Motherless Oven , Scarper Lee asked: “Who the hell is Vera Pike?” In the second part of Rob Davis’ trilogy, we get a chance to find out. This is Vera’s story. Grave Acre is a cruel world of opportunity and control. Vera’s mother is the Weather Clock, the omnipotent and megalomaniacal Prime Minister of Chance. Her father is a can opener. Charting Vera’s unsettling childhood, the book takes us from her home in Parliament to suicide school and from the Bear Park to the black woods that lie beyond. In the present day, Vera and Castro Smith are determined to see their friend Scarper again, but is he still alive? And if so, can they save him? Can anyone outlive their deathday?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe ladies-in-waiting / Santiago Garcia, Javier Olivares ; translation by Erica Mena.
“In 1656, Diego Velazquez, leading figure in the Spanish Golden Age of painting, created one of the most enigmatic works in the history of art: Las Meninas (The Ladies-in-Waiting). This graphic novel, written and drawn by two of Spain’s most sophisticated comics’ creators, examines its legacy as one of the first paintings to explore the relationship among the viewer, reality, and unreality.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverEducation / John Hankiewicz.
“A father and son go on a road trip to discover train station relics, a professor explains his intricate grading methods, and a pen-pal correspondence gets more suggestive and dangerous. These are all interconnected in John Hankiewicz’s Education through reveries, memories, and nostalgic abstraction to tell a story that only the medium of comics could do justice” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe magical twins / Alexandro Jodorowsky & Georges Bess ; Montana Kane, translator.
“When the King is taken prisoner by Tartarath, the ‘Dark Master’, twins Prince Aram and Princess Mara, set out to rescue their father and save the kingdom. But when the use of magic is forbidden, the twins have to find new ways to prove themselves worthy of restoring the throne.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Few / written by Sean Lewis ; art by Hayden Sherman.
“Hale is a US Palace Soldier who when witnessing a massacre while under cover, escapes through the forgotten American badlands with a gas mask wearing baby in tow. Now hunted by her country and the cult she was watching her life falls in the hands of two survivalist brothers. This edition collects issues 1 to 6.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverReborn. Book one / Mark Millar, writer ; Greg Capullo, penciller ; Jonathan Glapion, inker.
“Where do you go when you die? Not heaven or hell; somewhere else, somewhere you have to fight to survive. Somewhere the people from the past are waiting for you, the good and the bad.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe customer is always wrong / by Mimi Pond.
“This is the saga of a young naive artist named Madge working in a restaurant of charming drunks, junkies, thieves, and creeps. Oakland in the late seventies is a cheap and quirky haven for eccentrics and the tales of the fascinating sleaze-ball characters that surround young Madge into her workaday waitressing life unfold. Outrageous and loving tributes and takedowns of her co-workers and satellites of the Imperial Cafe create a snapshot of a time in Madge’s life where she encounters who she is, and who she is not.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFog over Tolbiac Bridge / adapted by Jacques Tardi from the novel by Léo Malet ; [translated by Kim Thompson].
“Paris, 1950s. Nestor Burma’s past comes knocking when Belita, a young woman, leads him to the Salpetriere hospital, where he discovers the recently deceased Abel Benoit, an old buddy from his anarchist days. While Burma has chosen to move onto the (more or less) straight and narrow as a private eye, his friend had stayed on the other side of the law as a counterfeiter and worse, until his own past caught up with him lethally. So now it’s up to Malet to avenge his friend, and hopefully unravel a mystery whose roots run far and deep back into the past.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverOut of the woods : a journey through depression and anxiety / Brent Williams ; illustrator, Korkut Öztekin.
“Out of the Woods is a book to help people understand and overcome depression and anxiety. It is the author’s own story told entirely through 700 beautifully hand drawn watercolor illustrations. It is an immensely practical guide for sufferers, their loved ones, and professionals working in the area too. The book’s graphic memoir format blends a compelling personal story with the latest medical research, ideal for people who are in the depths of depression and struggling to read and take on board information. The book doesn’t pretend there is a quick way out of these illnesses and instead encourages people to make small steps to slowly build their own lasting recoveries. This is an inspiring story that will give vital information and hope to many people.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Otherworldly new sci-fi and fantasy

In this selection of new science fiction and fantasy novel there are several novels that continue series, which will please many readers. Stephen R. Donaldson begins a promising new series titled Great Gods War, with the first novel titled Seventh decimate. Highly recommended is Rivers Solomon’s amazing debut novel titled An unkindness of ghosts.

Syndetics book coverThe bronze skies / by Catherine Asaro.
“Major Bhaajan achieved the impossible. Born to the Undercity, the slums below the City of Cries on the planet Raylicon, she broke free from crushing poverty and crime to become a military officer with Imperial Space Command. Now retired from military duty, she walks the mean streets of Undercity as a private investigator. And she is about to embark on her most challenging case yet. Summoned by no less than the Ruby Pharaoh herself, Major Bhaajan is tasked with finding a killer. But this is no ordinary murderer. The Ruby Pharaoh witnessed a Jagernaut cut down Assembly Councilor Tap Benton, which shouldn’t have been possible. The Jagernauts are the elite of the elite soldiers in the Imperial Space Command. What’s more, the spinal node implanted in all Jagernauts should have prevented the murder. But the Ruby Pharaoh is sure of what she saw, and she has reason to believe that the Jagernaut will kill again.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSurvival / Ben Bova.
“Book 4 of The Star Quest series. In Survival , a human team sent to scout a few hundred lightyears in front of the death wave encounters a civilization far in advance of our own, a civilization of machine intelligences. These sentient, intelligent machines have existed for eons, and have survived earlier “death waves,” gamma ray bursts from the core of the galaxy. They are totally self-sufficient, completely certain that the death wave cannot harm them, and utterly uninterested in helping to save other civilizations, organic or machine. But the humans have discovered them; they refuse to allow them to leave their planet, reasoning that other humans will inevitably follow if they learn of their existence.” (Adapted from Syndteics summary)

Syndetics book coverEmergence : a Foreigner novel / C.J. Cherryh.
“The nineteenth book in the Foreigner space opera series and the sequel to Convergence. Bren Cameron, acting as the representative of the atevi’s political leader, Tabini-aiji, as well as translator between humans and atevi, has undertaken a mission to the human enclave of Mospheira. Both his presence on the island and his absence from the continent have stirred old enemies to realize new opportunities. The space station on which the world increasingly relies is desperate to get more supplies up to orbit and to get a critical oversupply of human refugees down to the world below. Rationing is in force on the station, but the overpopulation problem has to be solved quickly and Bren’s mission on Mospheira has expanded to include preparation for that landing.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSeventh decimate / Stephen R. Donaldson.
“Fire. Wind, pestilence, earthquake, drought and lightning, these are the six Decimates, wielded by sorcerers for both good and evil. But a seventh Decimate exists, the most devastating one of all. For centuries, the realms of Belleger and Amika have been at war, with sorcerers from both sides harnessing the Decimates to rain blood and pain upon their enemy. But somehow, in some way, the Amikans have discovered and invoked a seventh Decimate, one that strips all lesser sorcery of its power, and now the Bellegerins stand defenseless. Prince Bifalt, eldest son of the Bellegerin King, would like to see the world wiped free of sorcerers. But it is he who is charged with finding the repository of all of their knowledge, to locate the book of the seventh Decimate and reverse the fate of his land.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBayou born / Hailey Edwards.
“Deep in the humid Mississippi bayou, a half-wild child is dragged from the murky waters. She has no memories, no family and is covered in mysterious markings. Adopted by the policeman who rescued her, Luce Boudreau follows him onto the force, determined to prove herself in the eyes of those who are still suspicious. However, there’s more of a battle ahead than Luce could possibly imagine. She may be an orphan without a past, but no one, including Luce herself could ever be prepared for the truth of her dark, powerful destiny.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAll those explosions were someone else’s fault / James Alan Gardner.
“Monsters are real, but so are heroes.Sparks are champions of weird science, boasting capes and costumes and amazing super-powers that only make sense if you don’t think about them too hard, they fight an eternal battle for truth and justice, mostly. Darklings are creatures of myth and magic: ghosts, vampires, were-beasts, and the like. Their very presence warps reality, doors creak at their approach and cobwebs gather where they linger. Kim Lam is an ordinary college student until a freak scientific accident transforms Kim and three housemates into Sparks and drafts them into the never-ending war between the Light and Dark. They struggle to master their new abilities and to design cool costumes and come up with great hero-names.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA war in crimson embers / Alex Marshall.
“The Crimson Empire trilogy concludes in this epic story of redemption. Zosia, the once-heroic warrior, now lives as an outcast, her former comrades-in-arms spread out around the world, and the world itself on the verge of destruction. But Zosia isn’t prepared to simply watch the world die. She has one last battle in her, but she can’t do it alone; she needs to rebuild her army and regain her sense of purpose.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe castle in Cassiopeia / by Mike Resnick.
“Book 3 in the Dead Enders series. Pretorius and his Dead Enders kidnapped the real General Michkag and substituted a clone who had been raised and trained in the Democracy. They find that the clone likes being the most powerful man in the hundred-world Traanskei Coalititon and having been raised on Earth, he knows how humans think and react. This becomes a many-layered problem for Pretorius and what is left of his Dead Enders. As the only humans on a totally militarized alien world, they must first find where the best-guarded member of the enemy’s military, Michkag, is hiding and how many aliens, or regiments, or divisions, are guarding him, and then they must find a way past all his lines of defense to kill or capture him.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBlood and tempest / Jon Skovron.
“This the third book and conclusion in the Empire of Storms series. Still reeling from the events at Dawn’s Light, Hope struggles to understand what it means to be a warrior who has vowed to never again take up a sword. Red is enjoying his new role as imperial spy, perhaps a bit too much. But his loyalties will be tested when his employer, Lady Hempist, relents and assigns him the one task he’s been begging for all along: recruiting Hope and Brigga Lin to help rid the empire of biomancery once and for all.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAn unkindness of ghosts / Rivers Solomon.
“Eccentric Aster was born into slavery on, and is trying to escape from, -a brutally segregated spaceship that for generations has been trying to escort the last humans from a dying planet to a Promised Land. When she discovers clues about the circumstances of her mother’s death, she also comes closer to disturbing truths about the ship and its journey. Aster lives in the lowdeck slums of the HSSMatilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South. For generations, Matilda has ferried the last of humanity to a mythical Promised Land. On its way, the ship’s leaders have imposed harsh moral restrictions and deep indignities on dark-skinned sharecroppers like Aster. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer, Aster learns there may be a way to improve her lot, -if she’s willing to sow the seeds of civil war.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

New fiction featuring New Zealand writers

New Zealand writers are the feature of this month’s ‘other genre’ category. Included are the most recent novels from Catherine Chidgey and Catherine Robertson. Also after many years there is a collection of short stories from Laura Solomon that proves to be well worth the wait.

Syndetics book coverThe beat of the pendulum : a found novel / Catherine Chidgey.
The Beat of the Pendulum is the result of one year in which Chidgey drew upon the language she encountered on a daily basis, such as news stories, radio broadcasts, emails, social media, street signs, TV, and many conversations. As Chidgey filters and shapes the linguistic chaos of her recordings, a set of characters emerge, her family, including her young daughter, and her husband, mother and sister, her friends, and an extended family formed through surrogacy and donation. This is an exploration of human memory, how we acquire it, and how we lose it.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe benefactor / Sebastian Hampson.
“Magazine editor Henry Calder’s ordered life has unraveled. He’s just been ousted from the glamorous job that gave his life meaning, and he lost his wife, Martha, less than a year ago. Then he meets Maggie, a rebellious young artist working as a bartender. When Maggie is evicted, Henry offers her a place to stay. But there is something about the young woman and her work that disturbs him, and before long Henry is facing a crisis neither of them could ever have foreseen.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBeneath pale water / Thalia Henry.
“Set amidst the physical and psychological landscapes of New Zealand’s southern hills and grasslands, Beneath Pale Water is a social realist and expressionistic novel that follows a triangle of three damaged individuals, a sculptor, a vagrant and a model, who have grown calcified shells against the world.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAll our secrets / Jennifer Lane.
“A girl called Gracie. A small town called Coongahoola with the dark Bagooli River running through it. The Bleeders, hundreds of ‘Believers’ who set up on the banks of the river, who start to buy up the town and win souls. The River Children, born in the aftermath of the infamous River Picnic. They begin to go missing, one after another. Gracie Barrett is the naively savvy spokesperson for her chaotic family (promiscuous dad, angry mum, twins Lucky and Grub, Elijah the River Child and fervent, prayerful Grandma Bett), for the kids who are taken, for the lurking fear that locks down the town and puts everyone under suspicion. Gracie is funny and kind, bullied and anguished, and her life spirals out of control when she discovers she knows what no one else does: who is responsible for the missing children.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNavigator : a novel / Anne Moir.
Navigator is the story of Southlander Joe Hassen’s childhood and his service as a navigator in Bomber Command in World War 2. He returns to Dunedin but cannot settle till he solves a mystery about his past. Finally, down a remote back road on the Southland coast, Joe finds an answer that completes the puzzle.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGabriel’s Bay / Catherine Robertson.
“Kerry Macfarlane has run away from his wedding-that-wasn’t. He lands in coastal Gabriel’s Bay, which bills itself as ‘a well-appointed small town’ on its website (last updated two decades ago). Here Kerry hopes to prove he’s not a complete failure. Or, at least, give his most convincing impression. But Gabriel’s Bay has its own problems, low employment, no tourists, and a daunting hill road between it and civilisation. And Kerry must also run the gauntlet of its inhabitants, Sidney, single mother deserted by a feckless ex; Mac, the straight-shooting doctor’s receptionist; a team of nine-year-olds; a giant restaurateur; and the local progressive association, who’ll debate apostrophe placement until the crack of doom. Can Kerry win their respect, and perhaps even love? Will his brilliant plan to transform the town’s fortunes earn him a lasting welcome in Gabriel’s Bay?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTaking Wainui / Laura Solomon.
“Thirteen stories in this collection show the skill of this gifted playwright, novelist and poet. With much humour, and flight s of fantasy, the stories are imaginative and thought provoking. The main story in the collection Taking Wainui concerns a boy who is the son of a Black Mamba gang leader. It is assumed that he will follow in his father’s footsteps and become a gang member too. However, he meets a lady who works stopping young people getting into gangs. He is given an initiation project of stealing from this lady’s house. She stops him in his tracks and talks him into not stealing from her, but going home to face his father instead.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Nothing bad happens here / Nikki Crutchley.
“The body of missing tourist Bethany Haliwell is found in the small Coromandel town of Castle Bay, where nothing bad ever happens. News crews and journalists from all over the country descend on the small seaside town as old secrets are dragged up and gossip is taken as gospel. Among them is Miller Hatcher, a journalist battling her own demons, who arrives intent on gaining a promotion by covering the grisly murder. Following an anonymous tip, Miller begins to unravel the mystery of the small town. And when another woman goes missing, Miller finds herself getting closer to the truth. But at what cost?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Mysterious new mystery novels

We’ve got another thrilling selection of new mystery novels with several translated from French, Norwegian and Swedish. As always they are set in different parts of the world, from Inverness to South Africa, Amsterdam to Melbourne. All promise gripping reading late into the night.

Syndetics book coverThe Roma plot / Mario Bolduc ; translated by Jacob Homel.t
“Max O’Brien is in a race against time and someone else’s past is catching up with him. Max O’Brien may be a professional con man, but that doesn’t mean you can’t count on him in a bind. So when he hears that his old friend Kevin Dandurand is a wanted man over a seemingly racially motivated killing spree, he heads to Bucharest to try to make sense of what looks like an impossible situation. The buried truths he uncovers reach back to the Second World War, the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, and an entanglement between a Roma man and a German woman whose echoes pursue O’Brien and Dandurand into the present day. But if they can’t escape the long shadows of the past, the two will find their present cut all too short.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe accident on the A35 / Raymond Brunet ; translated and introduced by Graeme Macrae Burnet.
“The methodical but troubled Chief Inspector Georges Gorski visits the wife of a lawyer killed in a road accident, the accident on the A35. The case is unremarkable, the visit routine. Mme Barthelme, alluring and apparently unmoved by the news has a single question, where was her husband on the night of the accident? The answer might change nothing, but it could change everything. And Gorski sets a course for what can only be a painful truth. But the dead man’s reticent son is also looking for answers. And his search will have far more devastating consequences.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverUnder the cold bright lights / Garry Disher.
“The young detectives call Alan Auhl a retread, but that doesn’t faze him. He does things his own way and gets results. He still lives with his ex-wife, off and on, in a big house full of random boarders and hard-luck stories. And he’s still a cop, even though he retired from Homicide some years ago. He works cold cases now. Like the death of John Elphick, his daughters still convinced he was murdered, the coroner not so sure, or the skeleton that’s just been found under a concrete slab. There is also the doctor who killed two wives and a girlfriend, and left no evidence at all. Auhl will stick with these cases until justice is done, one way or another.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe vanishing box / Elly Griffiths.
“Christmas 1953. Max Mephisto and his daughter Ruby are headlining Brighton Hippodrome, an achievement only slightly marred by the less-than-savoury support act: a tableau show of naked ‘living statues’. This might appear to have nothing in common with DI Edgar Stephens’ investigation into the death of a quiet flower seller, but if there’s one thing the old comrades have learned it’s that, in Brighton, the line between art and life and death is all too easily blurred.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDeath on the canal / Anja de Jager.
“Drinking outside a canal side bar on a perfect summer’s evening, Lotte is witness to the fatal stabbing of Piotr Mazur, a Polish security guard working in one of the city’s department stores. And as Lotte starts to investigate Mazur’s death she keeps finding facts that potentially link him to the case of the dead tourists but soon realises that the head of the team investigating their murders is trying to bury the information just as quickly as she unearths it. Lotte saw the victim in the bar moments before he was killed, and he was with a woman who passed him a photo of a child. She is now convinced that his death wasn’t a revenge-killing over drugs after all but she has to think carefully about what to do for the best, especially as key evidence in Mazur’s murder comes from someone she knows she cannot trust.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe hanged man / Simon Kernick.
“A house deep in the countryside where the remains of seven unidentified women have just been discovered. With a cop ready to risk everything in the hunt for their killers and a man who has seen the murders and is now on the run in fear of his life. So begins the race to track down this witness before the killers do. For Ray Mason and PI Tina Boyd, the road ahead is a dangerous one, with bodies and betrayal at every turn.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverShadow man / Margaret Kirk.
“Just before her wedding day, Morven Murray, queen of daytime TV, is found murdered. All eyes are on her sister Anna, who was heard arguing with her hours before she was killed. On the other side of Inverness, police informant Kevin Ramsay is killed in a gangland-style execution. But what exactly did he know? As ex-Met Detective Inspector Lukas Mahler digs deeper into both cases, he discovers that Morven’s life was closer to the Inverness underworld than anyone imagined. Caught in a deadly game of cat and mouse, is Lukas hunting one killer, or two?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverApostle Lodge / Paul Mendelson.
“Apostle Lodge looks out over the ocean, an award-winning mansion built by a renowned architect. Stark and minimal, its black opaque windows hide a terrible secret. As Colonel Vaughn De Vries investigates the depraved crime committed within its walls, he believes there may be more than one killer on the loose, all with connections to a charismatic man who as a child, drowned his sister and shattered his family. And his work is not over yet.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe darkest day / Håkan Nesser ; translated from the Swedish by Sarah Death.
“It’s December in the quiet Swedish town of Kymlinge, and the Hermansson family are gathering to celebrate father Karl-Erik and eldest daughter Ebba’s joint landmark birthdays. But beneath the guise of happy festivities, tensions are running high, and it’s not long before the night takes a dark and unexpected turn. Before the weekend is over, two members of the Hermansson family are missing, and it’s up to Inspector Barbarotti, a detective who spends as much of his time debating the existence of God as he does solving cases, to determine exactly what has happened. He soon discovers he’ll have to unravel a whole tangle of sinister family secrets in the process.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWolves in the dark / Gunnar Staalesen ; translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett.
“Reeling from the death of his great love, Karin, Varg Veum’s life has descended into a self-destructive spiral of alcohol, lust, grief and blackouts. When traces of child pornography are found on his computer, he’s accused of being part of a paedophile ring and thrown into a prison cell. There, he struggles to sift through his past to work out who is responsible for planting the material and who is seeking the ultimate revenge. When a chance to escape presents itself, Varg finds himself on the run in his hometown of Bergen. With the clock ticking and the police on his tail, Varg takes on his hardest and most personal, case yet. (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Dystopia! Aliens! Space! New sci-fi and fantasy novels

The latest science fiction and fantasy novels selected from the new material this month, include several that are dystopian themed, along with alien encounters and space warfare. Also several novels weave into their plots the present problems of global warming, war criminals, animal rights, and epidemics. All ensure fascinating, thrilling reading.

Syndetics book coverValiant dust / Richard Baker.
“Sikander Singh North has always had it easy, until he joins the crew of the Aquilan Commonwealth starship CSS Hector. As the ship’s new gunnery officer and the only Kashmiri officer, he must constantly prove himself better than his Aquilan crewmates, even if he has to use his fists. When the Hector is called to help with a planetary uprising, he’ll have to earn his unit’s respect, find who’s arming the rebels, and deal with the headstrong daughter of the colonial ruler, all while dodging bullets. Sikander’s military career is off to an explosive start but only if he and CSS Hector can survive his first mission.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe city of brass / S. A. Chakraborty.
“Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of eighteenth-century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trades she uses to get by, palm readings, zars, and a mysterious gift for healing, are all tricks. But when Nahri accidentally summons Dara, an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior, to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to reconsider her beliefs. Dara tells Nahri an extraordinary tale about Daevabad, the legendary city of brass, a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound. In Daevabad, within gilded brass walls laced with enchantments and behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments run deep. When Nahri decides to enter this world, her arrival threatens to ignite a war that has been simmering for centuries.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe spark / David Drake.
“In the time of the Ancients the universe was united,but that was so far in the past that not even memory remains, only the broken artifacts that a few Makers can reshape into their original uses. What survives is shattered into enclaves, some tiny, some ruined, some wild. Into the gaps between settlements have crept monsters. Some creatures are men, twisted into inhuman evil; some of them are alien to Mankind. There are things which are hostile to all life, things which will raven and kill until they are stopped. A Leader has arisen, welding the scattered human settlements together in peace and safety and smashing the enemies of order with an iron fist. In his capital, Dun Add, the Leader provides law and justice. In the universe beyond, his Champions advance and enforce the return of civilization. Pal, a youth from the sticks, has come to Dun Add to become a Champion.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGnomon / Nick Harkaway.Gnomon
“In a near-future Britain, a distributed surveillance-democracy called The System knows everything you, and can even spy on your mind. It’s a Panopticon country. But when state investigators then look into the head of a refusenik novelist named Diana Hunter, what they find there is not her life story but that of four other people, spread across thousands of years, all vibrantly real and each utterly impossible and before they can unravel that puzzle, Diana Hunter, shockingly, dies as a result of the investigation, an unheard of result in a perfect system which protects everyone from harm. That’s where Inspector Mielikki Neith comes in, a staunch believer in The System who is assigned to investigate the Hunter case. The only problem is that the teasing mysteries in the dead woman’s mind may change all that.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTerminal alliance / Jim C. Hines.Terminal Alliance
“The Krakau came to Earth to invite humanity into a growing alliance of sentient species. However, they happened to arrive after a mutated plague wiped out half the planet, turned the rest into shambling, near-unstoppable animals, and basically destroyed human civilization. The Krakau’s first impulse was to turn around and go home. (After all, it’s hard to have diplomatic relations with mindless savages who eat your diplomats.) Their second impulse was to try to fix us. Now, a century later, human beings might not be what they once were, but at least they’re no longer trying to eat everyone.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBeacon 23 / Hugh Howey.
“For centuries, men and women have manned lighthouses to ensure the safe passage of ships. It is a lonely job and a thankless one for the most part, until something goes wrong, until a ship is in distress. In the 23rd century, this job has moved into outer space. A network of beacons allows ships to travel across the Milky Way at many times the speed of light. These beacons are built to be robust. They never break down. They never fail. At least, they aren’t supposed to.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNetherspace / Andrew Lane and Nigel Foster.
“Aliens came to Earth forty years ago. Their anatomy proved unfathomable and all attempts at communication failed. But through trade, humanity gained technology that allowed them to colonise the stars. The price: live humans for every alien faster-than-light drive. Kara’s sister was one of hundreds exchanged for this technology, and Kara has little love for aliens. So when she is drafted by GalDiv, the organisation that oversees alien trades, it is under duress. A group of colonists have been kidnapped by aliens and taken to an uncharted planet, and an unusual team is to be sent to negotiate. As an ex-army sniper, Kara’s role is clear. But artist Marc has no combat experience, although the team’s pre-cog Tse is adamant that he has a part to play. All three know that success is unlikely. For how will they negotiate with aliens when communication between the species is impossible?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAustral / Paul J. McAuley.
“The great geoengineering projects have failed. The world is still warming, sea levels are still rising, and the Antarctic Peninsula is home to Earth’s newest nation, with life quickened by ecopoets spreading across valleys and fjords exposed by the retreat of the ice. Austral Morales Ferrado, a child of the last generation of ecopoets, is a husky: an edited person adapted to the unforgiving climate of the far south, feared and despised by most of its population. She’s been a convict, a corrections officer in a labour camp, and consort to a criminal, and now, out of desperation, she has committed the kidnapping of the century. But before she can collect the ransom and make a new life elsewhere, she must find a place of safety amongst the peninsula’s forests and icy plateaus, and evade a criminal gang that has its own plans for the teenage girl she’s taken hostage.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDogs of war / Adrian Tchaikovsky.
My name is Rex. I am a good dog. Rex is also seven foot tall at the shoulder, bulletproof, bristling with heavy calibre weaponry and his voice resonates with subsonics especially designed to instil fear. Rex is a genetically engineered Bioform, a deadly weapon in a dirty war. He has the intelligence to carry out his orders and feedback implants to reward him when he does. All he wants to be is a Good Dog. And to do that he must do exactly what Master says and Master says he’s got to kill a lot of enemies. But who, exactly, are the enemies? What happens when Master is tried as a war criminal? What rights does the Geneva Convention grant weapons? Do Rex and his fellow Bioforms even have a right to exist? And what happens when Rex slips his leash?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe genius plague / by David Walton.
“Neil Johns has just started his dream job as a code breaker in the NSA when his brother, Paul, a mycologist, goes missing on a trip to collect samples in the Amazon jungle. Paul returns with a gap in his memory and a fungal infection that almost kills him. But once he recuperates, he has enhanced communication, memory, and pattern recognition. Meanwhile, something is happening in South America; others, like Paul, have also fallen ill and recovered with abilities they didn’t have before. But that’s not the only pattern, the survivors, from entire remote Brazilian tribes to American tourists; all seem to be working toward a common, and deadly, goal.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)