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)

Lots of new eBook fiction to delve into!

This month’s new eBook fiction from Overdrive includes a range of dark and suspenseful stories, from the Prix Goncourt-winning Lullaby by Leïla Slimani to the “lost classic” The Hours Before Dawn by Celia Fremlin. Fremlin’s work has been called a pioneer of the Domestic Noir genre, so if you’re a fan of authors such as Julia Crouch and Rebecca Whitney, be sure to check it out!

Overdrive cover Lullaby, by Leïla Slimani
“When Myriam, a French-Moroccan lawyer, decides to return to work after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect caretaker for their two young children. They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite and devoted woman. But as jealousy, resentment and suspicions increase, Myriam and Paul’s idyllic tableau is shattered…” (Adapted from the Overdrive description.)

Overdrive cover The Hours Before Dawn, by Celia Fremlin
“Louise would give anything for a good night’s sleep. Forget the girls running errant in the garden. Forget her husband who seems oblivious to it all. If the baby would just stop crying, everything would be fine. Or would it? In a new edition of this lost classic, The Hours Before Dawn proves – scarily – as relevant to readers today as it was when Celia Fremlin first wrote it in the 1950s.” (Adapted from the Overdrive description.)

Overdrive cover Killed, by Thomas Enger
“Determined to find his son’s killer, crime reporter Henning Juul doggedly follows an increasingly dangerous trail, where dark hands from the past emerge to threaten everything. His ex-wife Nora is pregnant with another man’s child, his sister Trine is implicated in the fire that killed his son and, with everyone he thought he could trust seemingly hiding something, Henning has nothing to lose… except his own life.” (Adapted from the Overdrive description.)

Overdrive cover Missing Fay, by Adam Thorpe
“A spirited, restless fourteen-year-old, Fay, goes missing from a Lincoln council estate. Is she a runaway, or a victim – another face on a poster gradually fading with time? The story of her last few days before she vanishes is interwoven with the varied lives of six locals – whether aware or unaware of her presence or absence, all touched in life-changing ways.” (Adapted from the Overdrive description.)

Overdrive cover The Floating World, by C. Morgan Babst
“As Hurricane Katrina approaches the Louisiana coast, Cora Boisdoré refuses to leave the city. Her parents, Joe Boisdoré, an artist descended from freed slaves, and his white “Uptown” wife, Dr. Tess Eshleman, are forced to evacuate without her, setting off a chain of events that leaves their marriage in shambles and Cora the victim or perpetrator of some violence mysterious even to herself…” (Adapted from the Overdrive description.)

Overdrive cover The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao, by Eric M. B. Becker
“Euridice is young, beautiful and ambitious, but when her rebellious sister Guida elopes, she sets her own aspirations aside and vows to settle down as a model wife and daughter. And yet as her husband’s professional success grows, so does Euridice’s feeling of restlessness. But then one day Guida appears at the door with her young son and a terrible story of hardship and abandonment.” (Adapted from the Overdrive description.)

Overdrive cover Six Months, Three Days, Five Others, by Charlie Jane Anders
“Before the success of her debut SF-and-fantasy novel All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders was a rising star in SF and fantasy short fiction. Collected in a mini-book format, here—for the first time in print—are six of her quirky, wry, engaging best, including “Clover”, written exclusively for this collection.” (Adapted from the Overdrive description.)

Overdrive cover Daring Brides, by Ava Miles
“Over one million readers have fallen in love with Ava’s bestselling Dare Valley and Dare River series…come join the family. Your favourite Dare Valley characters have survived betrayal, secrets, and tragedy to find true love. Now, watch each of these daring brides walk down the aisle to their happily ever after with the man of their dreams. You know, the hero who fires up all their engines.” (Adapted from the Overdrive description.)

Overdrive cover Version Thirteen, by Martin Baker
“Yavlinsky, a brilliant Russian scientist has created a piece of wonder-technology; a drilling process that uses the forces of supercavitation. Named ‘Version Thirteen’, it enables oil explorers to take 40 per cent more oil out of the ground – it’s worth trillions. But there’s a problem. Supercavitation is also the basis for highly sophisticated weaponry…” (Adapted from the Overdrive description.)

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)

Graphic biographies & first volumes: new graphic novels

This month’s selection of new graphic novels includes the first volumes of four new series. There are also two brilliant graphic biographies, one by Jose-Louis Bocquet on Josephine Baker, the Afro-American dancer that became the sensation of Paris in the 1930s and the other by David Kushner and Koren Shadmi on Gary Gygax, the creator of the Dungeon and Dragons game that became a global phenomenon.

Syndetics book coverMoonshine. Vol. 1 / Brian Azzarello, writer ; Eduardo Risso, art & colors.
“This first volume in a new series is set during Prohibition, and deep in the backwoods of Appalachia, and tells the story of Lou Pirlo, a city-slick “torpedo” sent from New York City to negotiate a deal with the best moonshiner in West Virginia, Hiram Holt. Lou figures how hard could it be to set-up moonshine shipments from a few ass-backward hillbillies? What Lou doesn’t figure on is that Holt is just as cunning as ruthless as any NYC crime boss and Lou is in way over his pin-striped head. Because not only will Holt do anything to protect his illicit booze operation, he’ll stop at nothing to protect a much darker family secret, a bloody, supernatural secret that must never see the light of day, or better still, the light of the full moon.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverJessica Jones [1] : uncaged! / writer, Brian Michael Bendis ; artist, Michael Gaydos.
“A lot has changed in the Marvel Universe and there are many secrets hiding in the shadows, secrets only a special woman like Jessica Jones can hope to uncover. Alias Investigations is open for business, and of all the many mysteries to discover, her new case may be the most dangerous one.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverJosephine Baker / written by José-Louis Bocquet ; art by Catel Muller ; historical consultant, Jean-Claude Bouillon-Baker.
“Josephine Baker (1906-1975) was nineteen years old when she found herself in Paris for the first time in 1925. Overnight, the young American dancer became the idol of the Roaring Twenties, captivating Picasso, Cocteau, Le Corbusier, and Simenon. In the liberating atmosphere of the 1930s, Baker rose to fame as the first black star on the world stage, from London to Vienna, Alexandria to Buenos Aires. After World War II, and her time in the French Resistance, Baker devoted herself to the struggle against racial segregation, publicly battling the humiliations she had for so long suffered personally. A victim of racism throughout her life, Josephine Baker would sing of love and liberty until the day she died.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTo have & to hold / Graham Chaffee.
“Set in October 1962, while the world holds its collective breath awaiting the possibly apocalyptic climax of the unfolding Cuban Missile Crisis, the banality of everyday life goes on and Lonnie and Kate Ross confront their own domestic cold war. As Kate, frustrated and disillusioned, looks outside her marriage for satisfaction, Lonnie’s justifiable suspicions of his wife’s infidelity lead him down a deadly road of increasing paranoia and violence as he seeks to reclaim what he’s lost.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMutiny Bay / Antoine Cossé.
“1519. A Spanish fleet leaves Seville, heading west. Portuguese Captain Magellan is convinced of the existence of a South American strait that will expedite trade with the Indonesian Spice Islands. Months later, in a deserted and inhospitable land, mutiny brews, and two men are marooned and the world explodes in a riot of hallucinatory colour.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverOn the Camino / Jason.
“Northwestern Spain, observed with the eye of an artist, chronicling both the good (people, conversations) and the bad (blisters, bedbugs) he encountered on his journey. Full of quiet incidents, odd encounters, small triumphs, and the occasional setback, On the Camino is the first implicitly autobiographical long-form work by a master cartoonist.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRise of the dungeon master : Gary Gygax and the creation of D&D / David Kushner and Koren Shadmi.
Rise of the Dungeon Master tells, in graphic form, the story of Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons and; Dragons, one of the most influential games ever made. Like the game itself, the narrative casts the reader into the adventure from a first person point of view, taking on the roles of the different characters in the story. Gygax was the son of immigrants who grew up in Lake Geneva, WI, in the 1950s. An imaginative misfit, he escaped into a virtual world based on science fiction novels, military history and strategic games like chess. In the mid-1970s, he co-created the wildly popular Dungeons & Dragons game, determining the rules and inventing the signature 20-sided dice. Starting out in the basement of his home, he was soon struggling to keep up with the demand.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA.D. : after death / written by Scott Snyder ; illustrated by Jeff Lemire.
“Set in a future where a genetic cure for death has been found. Years after the discovery, one man starts to question everything, leading him on a mind-bending journey that will bring him face-to-face with his past and his own mortality. This is a unique combination of comics, prose, and illustration.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBoundless / Jillian Tamaki.
“Jenny becomes obsessed with a strange “mirror Facebook,” which presents an alternate, possibly better, version of herself. Helen finds her clothes growing baggy, her shoes looser, and as she shrinks away to nothingness, the world around her recedes as well. The animals of the city briefly open their minds to us, and we see the world as they do. A mysterious music file surfaces on the internet and forms the basis of a utopian society-or is it a cult? This collection of short stories is a showcase for the masterful blend of emotion and humour of award-winning cartoonist Jillian Tamaki.” (Adapted from
Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDeadman : dark mansion of forbidden love / Sarah Vaughn, writer ; Lan Medina & Phil Hester, illustrators.
“Boston Brand is a dead man walking. More than walking, actually his uncanny abilities enable him to float, fly and seize control of the bodies of the living. He’s no mere ghost. He’s something more powerful, more heroic, he is Deadman and he’s about to meet Berenice, a living woman with powers of her own. Separated by the boundary between life and death, yet able to walk between both worlds, Deadman and Berenice must work together to unravel the mystery of the Manor and defeat the dark forces that threaten to erupt.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

New Contemporary Fiction for January

The selection of new contemporary fiction this month includes some brilliant writers, and some spell-binding narratives. Included are new novels from Louise Erdrich, Marcel Theroux and Ali Smith, and the best seller from Japanese writer Hiro Arikawa, titled The Travelling Cat Chronicles. Highly recommended is Nickolas Butler’s second novel, titled The hearts of Men.

Syndetics book coverThe travelling cat chronicles / Hiro Arikawa ; translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel.
“It’s not the journey that counts, but who’s at your side. Nana is on a road trip, but he is not sure where he is going. All that matters is that he can sit beside his beloved owner Satoru in the front seat of his silver van. Satoru is keen to visit three old friends from his youth, though Nana doesn’t know why and Satoru won’t say. Set against the backdrop of Japan’s changing seasons and narrated with a rare gentleness and striking humour, Nana’s story explores the wonder and thrill of life’s unexpected detours. It is about the value of friendship and solitude, and knowing when to give and when to take.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLove & fame / Susie Boyt.
“Eve, a nervous young actress from a powerful theatrical dynasty has found herself married to an international expert on anxiety called Jim. Could it work? Should it work? Across town, tabloid journalist Rebecca Melville is burning all her bridges while her devoted sister Beatrice, a therapist, tries her hardest not to intervene. How far can Eve and Rebecca go without losing the admiration of the people they love? This funny and heartbreaking story asks: do we get what we deserve in life? Must the show always go on?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe hearts of men / Nickolas Butler.
“Camp Chippewa, 1962. Thirteen-year-old Nelson, loner and over-achiever, is nicknamed the Bugler as he proudly sounds the reveille each morning. This is the summer that everything changes, marking the beginning of Nelson’s uncertain friendship with a popular boy named Jonathan, and the discovery of his father’s betrayal, which tears his family apart. As time moves on, Nelson, irrevocably scarred from the Vietnam War, becomes Scoutmaster of Camp Chippewa, while Jonathan marries, divorces, and transforms his father’s business. When something unthinkable happens during a visit from Jonathan’s grandson and daughter-in-law, the aftermath tests the depths and the limits of Nelson’s selflessness and bravery.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFuture home of the living god : a novel / Louise Erdrich.
“Evolution has reversed itself, affecting every living creature on earth. Science cannot stop the world from running backwards, as woman after woman gives birth to infants that appear to be primitive species of humans. For twenty-six-year-old Cedar Hawk Songmaker, this change is profound and deeply personal. She is four months pregnant. As society begins to disintegrate, Cedar first feels compelled to find her birth mother, Mary Potts, an Ojibwe living on the reservation. There are rumors of martial law, of Congress confining pregnant women, of a registry, and rewards for those who turn these wanted women in. It will take all Cedar has to avoid the prying eyes of potential informants and keep her baby safe.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAn unremarkable body / Elisa Lodato.
“Katharine is found dead at the foot of the stairs by her 30-year-old daughter Laura. The medical examiner’s report, in which precious parts of her mother’s body are weighed and categorized, motivates Laura to write her own version of events. To bear witness to the unbearable blank space between each itemized entry. What emerges are a series of stories in which Laura attempts to discover how and why her mother died, as well as make sense of her own grief, by piecing her mother’s body back together. In doing so, she is forced to confront a woman silenced by her own mother and wronged by her husband, a woman who felt shackled by motherhood and unable to love freely.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe threat level remains severe / Rowena Macdonald.
“House of Commons secretary Grace has been counting the tea breaks in the same dull job for a decade. Brett, the new boy is on a mission to shake up the dusty backrooms of power and set to collide with Grace. Office life begins to look up when Grace receives some mysterious emails.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Zanzibar wife / Deborah Rodriguez.
“Set both in Oman and on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar, the ancient land of frankincense, wind-swept deserts, craggy mountaintops and turquoise seas. This is a place where tales of evil spirits and eerie phenomena abound. Into this magical nation come three remarkable but very different women, each facing a crossroad in her life. Rachel, a troubled American war photographer, Ariana Khan, a bubbly British woman struggling to keep up with the glitz of Dubai and ready to give up on love, and Miza, a young woman living far from her beloved homeland of Zanzibar. As the second wife of Tariq, an Omani man, she remains a secret from his terrifying ‘other’ wife, Maryam. Until one day, when Tariq fails to come home. As the three women journey together across this weird and wonderful land, they are forced to confront their darkest fears and their deepest wishes. Because here in Oman, things aren’t always what they appear to be.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe secret books / Marcel Theroux.
“Seeking adventure, a young man flees the drudgery of shop keeping in Tsarist Russia to make a new life among the bohemians and revolutionaries of 19th century Paris. Travelling undercover in the mountains of British India, he discovers a manuscript that transforms the world’s understanding of the historical Jesus. Decades later, in a Europe threatened by unimaginable tragedy, he makes a despairing attempt to right a historic injustice.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFlights / Olga Tokarczuk ; translated by Jennifer Croft.
Flights is a series of imaginative and mesmerizing meditations on travel in all its forms, not only the philosophy and meaning of travel, but also fascinating anecdotes that take us out of ourselves, and back to ourselves, about life and death, about the very nature of humankind. Thrilling characters and stories abound, the Russian sect who escape the devil by remaining constantly in motion; the anatomist Verheyen who writes letters to his amputated leg; the story of Chopin’s heart as it makes its journey from Paris to Warsaw, stored in a tightly sealed jar beneath his sister’s skirt; the quest of a Polish woman who emigrated to New Zealand as a teen but must now return in order to poison her terminally ill high-school sweetheart.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWinter / Ali Smith.
“Winter? Bleak and cold, frosty wind, earth as iron, water as stone, so the old song goes with the shortest days, and the longest nights. The trees are bare and shivering, the summer’s leaves? Dead litter.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

These short stories are perfect for summer holidays

This month, short stories are the feature of our ‘Other Genres’ category of fiction recent picks. There are collections from many much acclaimed writers including William Boyd, Helen Garner, P.D. James and our own Paula Morris. There are several debut short story collections also, one notably from Emily Fridlund whose first novel History of Wolves was shortlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize.

Syndetics book coverTell tale / Jeffrey Archer.
“Fourteen gripping and rewarding short stories from the master of short story writing. Find out what happens to the hapless young detective from Naples who travels to an Italian hillside town to solve a murder and the pretentious schoolboy whose discovery of the origins of his father’s wealth changes his life forever. Follow the stories of the woman who dares to challenge the men at her Ivy League university during the 1930s, and another young woman who thumbs a lift and has an encounter of a lifetime.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe dreams of Bethany Mellmoth / William Boyd.
“A philandering art dealer tries to give up casual love affairs, seeking only passionate kisses as a substitute. A man recounts his personal history through the things he has stolen from others throughout his life. Couple charts the journey of their five year relationship backwards, from awkward reunion to lovelorn first encounter. And, at the heart of the book, a 24-year old young woman, Bethany Mellmoth, embarks on a year-long journey of wishful and tentative self-discovery. Original, funny, surprising and moving stories from a much acclaimed writer.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe relive box and other stories / T. Coraghessan Boyle.
“Known as one of our greatest American novelists, Boyle’s sharp wit and rich imagination combine with a penetrating social consciousness to produce raucous, poignant, and expansive short stories defined by an inimitable voice. The twelve stories in this collection speak to the humor, the pathos, and the struggle that is part of being human while relishing the whimsy of wordplay and the power of a story well told.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCatapult : stories / Emily Fridlund.
“Following Emily Fridlund’s acclaimed debut novel History of Wolves . The characters in these stories are sometimes calculating, at other times bewildered, they orbit around each other, enacting a deeply human tragicomedy of wit, misunderstanding, and loss. With dexterous, atmospheric, and darkly comic prose, Fridlund conjures worlds where longing is open-ended, intentions misfire, and the line between comfort and cruelty is often difficult to discern. This is a gripping collection, unsettling as much in its familiarity as in its near-gothic strangeness.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverStories : the collected short fiction / Helen Garner.
“This collection of short fiction celebrates the seventy-fifth birthday of one of Australia’s most loved authors. These stories delve into the complexities of love and longing, of the pain, darkness and joy of life, are all told with her characteristic sharpness of observation, honesty and humour. Each one a perfect piece, together they showcase Garner’s mastery of the form.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverUncommon type : some stories / Tom Hanks ; photographs by Kevin Twomey.
“A collection of seventeen wonderful short stories showing that two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks is as talented a writer as he is an actor. In this first collection the stories are surprising, intelligent, and heartwarming.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSleep no more : six murderous tales / P. D. James ; foreword by Peter Kemp.
“From this brilliant crime writer, who is acknowledged as a past master of the short story, who weaves together motifs of crime-writing with deep psychological insight to create gripping, suspenseful tales. As the six murderous tales unfold, the dark motive of revenge is revealed at the heart of each.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThat was a shiver : and other stories / James Kelman.
“A trucker passes through a town he used to know and a local tries to sell him his sister; a couple put their children to bed and hear a loud scratching at the wall; a Principal and his associate examine the dead body before them; a man looks into a mirror and reflects on becoming more like his father. Sparky, touching and brilliantly daring, these stories uncover human feeling in the ordinary and the everyday.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHer body and other parties : stories / Carmen Maria Machado.
“ In these stories the writer blithely demolishes the arbitrary borders between psychological realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulist. There is a bending of bends genre to shape startling narratives that map the realities of women’s lives and the violence visited upon their bodies. In their explosive originality, these stories enlarge the possibilities of contemporary fiction.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFalse river : stories, essays, secret histories / Paula Morris.
“Fictional characters muse upon the truth behind real people, non-fiction pieces contain short interludes of fiction, fiction is written to read like an essay, made-up elements slip into true accounts. These pieces range the world, from America, to Antwerp to Aoteoroa, and talk about writers and writing, famous figures, family members, witch-burning in Denmark, cyclones and numerous pertinent and stimulating topics.”(Adapted from Syndeitics summary)

New mystery novels from around the world

Mystery readers will once again enjoy the prospect of much arm-chair travel in this month’s selection of new mysteries recently added to Wellington City Libraries fiction collection. There are mysteries set in Australia, Botswana, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Siberia, and in America: Los Angeles and New Mexico. All of course, involve murder, and will keep the reader in spine tingling suspense until the very last pages.

Syndetics book coverThe trust / Ronald H. Balson.
“When his uncle dies, Private Investigator Liam Taggart reluctantly returns to his childhood home in Northern Ireland for the funeral, a home he left years ago after a bitter confrontation with his family, never to look back. But when he arrives, Liam learns that not only was his uncle shot to death, but that he’d anticipated his own murder: In an astonishing last will and testament, Uncle Fergus has left his entire estate to a secret trust, directing that no distributions be made to any person until the killer is found. Did Fergus know, but refuse to name, his killer? Was this a crime of revenge, a vendetta leftover from Northern Ireland’s bloody sectarian war? Or is it possible that the killer is a family member seeking Fergus’s estate? As his investigation draws Liam farther and farther into the past he has abandoned, he realizes he is forced to reopen doors long ago shut and locked. Now, accepting the appointment as sole trustee of the Fergus Taggart Trust, Liam realizes he has stepped into the center of a firestorm.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe girl in the fog / Donato Carrisi ; translated by Howard Curtis.
“A man is arrested in the small town of Avechot. His shirt is covered in blood. Could this have anything to do with a missing girl called Anna Lou? What really happened to the girl? Detective Vogel will do anything to solve the mystery surrounding Anna Lou’s disappearance. When a media storm hits the quiet town, Vogel is sure that the suspect will be flushed out. Yet the clues are confusing, perhaps false, and following them may be a far cry from discovering the truth at the heart of a dark town.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMadness treads lightly / Polina Dashkova ; translated by Marian Schwartz.
“As a working mother, Lena Polyanskaya has her hands full. She’s busy caring for her two-year-old daughter, editing a successful magazine, and supporting her husband, a high-ranking colonel in counterintelligence. She doesn’t have time to play amateur detective. But when a close friend’s suspicious death is labeled a suicide, she’s determined to prove he wouldn’t have taken his own life. As Lena digs in to her investigation, all clues point to murder and its connection to a string of grisly cold-case homicides that stretches back to the Soviet era. When another person in her circle becomes a victim, Lena fears she and her family may be next. She’s determined to do whatever it takes to protect them. But will learning the truth unmask a killer or put her and her family in even more danger?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTwo kinds of truth / Michael Connelly.
“Harry Bosch is back as a volunteer working cold cases for the San Fernando Police Department and is called out to a local drug store where a young pharmacist has been murdered. Bosch and the town’s 3-person detective squad sift through the clues, which lead into the dangerous, big business world of pill mills and prescription drug abuse. Meanwhile, an old case from Bosch’s LAPD days comes back to haunt him when a long-imprisoned killer claims Harry framed him, and seems to have new evidence to prove it. He must fend for himself in clearing his name and keeping a clever killer in prison. The two unrelated cases wind around each other like strands of barbed wire. Along the way Bosch discovers that there are two kinds of truth: the kind that sets you free and the kind that leaves you buried in darkness.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe angel / Katerina Diamond.
“When a burned body is found in a disused signal box, suspicion falls on lonely teenager Gabriel Webb. There’s no doubt he was at the scene of the crime, but does he really deserve what awaits him in prison? DS Imogen Grey is certain there’s more to the case than meets the eye. But while she struggles to convince those around her of the truth, her partner DS Adrian Miles is distracted by his own demons. When a brutal double murder is reported, their investigation is stopped in its tracks. Is the body in the box even who they thought it was? The duo realise Gabriel might have been locked up for a crime he didn’t commit. But with enemies watching Gabriel’s every move, they may be too late.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDown for the count / Martin Holmén ; translated by Henning Koch.
“Harry Kvist walks out of the gates of Langholmen jail into the biting Stockholm winter of 1935. He has nothing to his name but a fiercely burning hope: that he can leave behind his old existence. But the city has other ideas. Nazis are spreading their poison on the freezing streets, and one of Kvist’s oldest friends has been murdered. Before he can leave Stockholm’s underworld for good, he must track down the killer. As Kvist uncovers a trail of blood leading to the highest echelons of Swedish society, the former boxer finds himself in a fight to the death with his most dangerous opponent yet.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverKilling season : a thriller / Faye Kellerman.
” Four years ago, fifteen-year-old Ellen Vicksburg went missing in the quiet town of River Remez, New Mexico. Ellen was kind, studious, and universally liked. Her younger brother, Ben, could imagine nothing worse than never knowing what happened to her until, on the first anniversary of her death; he found her body in a shallow grave by the river s edge. Now he is committed to finding her murderer police believe she was the victim of a psychopath known as the Demon. In the police files, Ben’s analytical mind sees patterns that don t fit, tiny threads that he adds to the clues from other similar unsolved murders. As the body count rises, a picture emerges of an adversary who is as cunning and methodical as he is twisted.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Anthill murders / Hans Olav Lahlum ; translated from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson.
“1972. Across Oslo, a serial killer is hunting down young women. Each body found strangled and with a peculiar calling-card placed upon her body: a cut-out picture of an ant. The first victim is a timid theology student, the next a jazz singer, followed by the heir to one of the largest fortunes in Oslo. But despite Inspector K2’s best efforts to find a link, the only thing connecting them seems to be their murder. With assistant Patricia’s intellect put to the test and increasing pressure from his boss as the clock ticks down to the next possible killing, K2 is in danger of losing his position as Oslo’s leading homicide detective.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDying to live : a Detective Kubu mystery / Michael Stanley.
“A Bushman is discovered dead near the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Africa. Although the man looks old enough to have died of natural causes, the police suspect foul play, and the body is sent to Gaborone for an autopsy. Pathologist Ian MacGregor confirms the cause of death as a broken neck, but is greatly puzzled by the man’s physiology. Although he’s obviously very old, his internal organs look remarkably young. He calls in Assistant Superintendent David “Kubu” Bengu. When the Bushman’s corpse is stolen from the morgue, suddenly the case takes on a new dimension.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAnd fire came down / Emma Viskic.
“Deaf since early childhood, Caleb Zelic is used to meeting life head-on. Now, he is struggling just to get through the day. His best mate is dead, his ex-wife, Kat, is avoiding him, and nightmares haunt his waking hours. But when a young woman is killed, after pleading for his help in sign language, Caleb is determined to find out who she was. The trail leads Caleb back to his hometown, Resurrection Bay. The town is on bushfire alert, and simmering with racial tensions. As Caleb delves deeper, he uncovers secrets that could ruin any chance of reuniting with Kat, and even threaten his life. Driven by his own demons, he pushes on. But who is he willing to sacrifice along the way?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Out of this world new sci-fi and fantasy novels

This month the selection from the new material received in this genre covers a broad range of themes.
From conspiracies to cybernetics, robots to vampires, humour to horror, and survival to dystopia, plus many more, all provide some brilliant out of this world reading.

Syndetics book coverMageborn / Stephen Aryan.
“It’s been ten years since the battlemage war, where thousands died as mages sundered the earth and split the sky. Habreel believes eradicating magic is the only way to ensure a lasting peace. He will do anything to achieve his goal, even if it means murdering every child born with the ability. As deaths involving magic increase and the seat of magical learning, the Red Tower, falls under suspicion, two students and one lawbringer must do everything they can to combat Habreel and his followers, before magic disappears from the world for good.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe island will sink / Briohny Doyle.
“The energy crisis has come and gone. Cities have been rethought and redesigned, and Ecolaw(TM) is enforced by insidious cartoon Pandas and their armies of viral-marketing children. Max Galleon is a filmmaker of immersive cinema, a father to two children distressed by the world around, a distant husband, a brother to a comatose mystery man, and falling rapidly in love with a doctor who is not what she seems” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverIt devours! : a welcome to Night Vale novel / Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor.
“Nilanjana Sikdar is an outsider to the town of Night Vale. Working for Carlos, the town’s top scientist, she relies on fact and logic as her guiding principles. But all of that is put into question when Carlos gives her a special assignment investigating a mysterious rumbling in the desert wasteland outside of town. This investigation leads her to the Joyous Congregation of the Smiling God, and to Darryl, one of its most committed members. Caught between her beliefs in the ultimate power of science and her growing attraction to Darryl, she begins to suspect the Congregation is planning a ritual that could threaten the lives of everyone in town.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe fifth doll / Charlie N. Holmberg.
“Matrona lives in an isolated village, where her life is centered on pleasing her parents. She’s diligent in her chores and has agreed to marry a man of their choosing. But a visit to Slava, the local tradesman, threatens to upend her entire life. Entering his empty house, Matrona discovers a strange collection of painted nesting dolls, one for every villager. Fascinated, she can’t resist the urge to open the doll with her father’s face. But when her father begins acting strangely, she realizes Slava’s dolls are much more than they seem. When he learns what she’s done, Slava seizes the opportunity to give Matrona stewardship over the dolls, whether she wants it or not. Forced to open one of her own dolls every three days, she falls deeper into the grim power of Slava’s creations. But nothing can prepare her for the profound secret hiding inside the fifth doll.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe fall of the House of Cabal / Jonathan L. Howard.
“Johannes Cabal, a necromancer of some little infamy, has come into possession of a vital clue that may lead him to his ultimate goal: a cure for death. The path is vague, however, and certainly treacherous as it takes him into strange territories that no one has ever seen before. The task is too dangerous to venture upon alone, so he must seek assistance, comrades for the coming travails. So assisted, ably and otherwise, by his vampiric brother, Horst, and by the kindly accompaniment of a criminologist and a devil, he will encounter ruins and diableries, mystery and murder, the depths of the lowest pit and a city of horrors, London, to be exact. As the snare closes slowly and subtly around them, it may be that there will be no survivors at all.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe salt line / Holly Goddard Jones.
“In an unspecified future, the United States’ borders have receded behind a salt line, a ring of scorched earth that protects its citizens from deadly disease-carrying ticks. Those within the zone live safe lives in a society controlled by a common fear. Few have any reason to venture out of zone, except for the adrenaline junkies who pay a fortune to tour what’s left of nature. Once out of zone, this group finds itself at the mercy of deadly ticks and at the centre of a murderous plot. How far are they are willing to go to get to the right side of the salt line?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAutonomous / Annalee Newitz.
“Earth, 2144. Jack is an anti-patent scientist turned drug pirate, traversing the world in a submarine as a pharmaceutical Robin Hood, fabricating cheap scrips for poor people who can’t otherwise afford them. But her latest drug hack has left a trail of lethal overdoses as people become addicted to their work, doing repetitive tasks until they become unsafe or insane.Hot on her trail, an unlikely pair: Eliasz, a brooding military agent, and his robotic partner, Paladin. As they race to stop information about the sinister origins of Jack’s drug from getting out, they begin to form an uncommonly close bond that neither of them fully understands. And underlying it all is one fundamental question: Is freedom possible in a culture where everything, even people, can be owned?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe real-town murders / Adam Roberts.
“Alma is a private detective in a near-future England, a country desperately trying to tempt people away from the delights of Shine, the immersive successor to the internet. But most people are happy to spend their lives plugged in, and the country is decaying. Alma’s partner is ill, and has to be treated without fail every 4 hours, a task that only Alma can do. If she misses the 5 minute window her lover will die. She is one of the few not to access the Shine.So when Alma is called to an automated car factory to be shown an impossible death and finds herself caught up in a political coup, she knows that getting too deep may leave her unable to get home.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe uploaded / Ferrett Steinmetz.
“In the near future, the elderly have moved online and their consciousness’s now live within the computer network. But that doesn’t stop them interfering in the lives of the living, whose sole real purpose now is to maintain the vast servers which support the new digital version of Heaven. For one young orphan that just isn’t enough, he wants more for himself and his sister than a miserable life slaving away for the dead. It turns out that he’s not the only one who wants to reset the world.” (Adapted from Syndetic summary)

Syndetics book coverArtemis : a novel / Andy Weir.Artemis
“Jasmine Bashara never signed up to be a hero. She just wanted to get rich. Not crazy, eccentric-billionaire rich, like many of the visitors to her hometown of Artemis, humanity’s first and only lunar colony, just rich enough to pay off a debt she’s owed for a long time. So when a chance at a huge score finally comes her way, Jazz can’t say no. Sure, it requires her to graduate from small-time smuggler to full-on criminal mastermind. And it calls for a particular combination of cunning, technical skills, and large explosions, not to mention sheer brazen swagger. But Jazz has never run into a challenge her intellect can’t handle, and she figures she’s got the ‘swagger’ part down. The trouble is, engineering the perfect crime is just the start of Jazz’s problems, because her little heist is about to land her in the middle of a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Wellington Author Interview: Jess Richards

“Dying faces are the colour of soiled linen. It’s the eyes which shine, as if the world around the person who is dying has brightened itself, so it’s fully seen and felt and known.”

So begins City of Circles, the third novel by acclaimed Wellington author Jess Richards. Richards’ work has been described as “brilliantly peculiar” and “a cornucopia of secrets and surprises”, with her debut novel Snake Ropes being nominated for the Costa First Novel Award, the Scottish Book Awards and the Green Carnation Prize. City of Circles tells the story of orphaned circus performer Danu as she negotiates grief, love and the mystery at the heart the fantastical city of Matryoshka . . .

Your work has been compared to Angela Carter and Erin Morgenstern, both of whom use circuses as key elements in their work. What do you think it is about circuses that continue to appeal to readers and writers?

Circuses have great potential to be made magical in fiction, because of their potential to appeal to all the senses, and also their rich history and traditions. They’re archetypal places of wildness and strangeness – performance and storytelling, which speak to our very human need for wonder. This is so often lacking in the ‘real world’ – as adults, we often lose sight of our desire for magic and strangeness. Within stories, we can find a parallel world to disappear into, between mundane daily rituals, tasks and chores. The people within circuses can be strange in so many ways – from the bearded lady to the cartwheeling clown, from the strong man to the contortionist. These slightly off-kilter people can be unique and intriguing characters to read and write about. The ordinary, distorted. The usual, made strange.

In Snake Ropes, the world of the story has been described as intentionally minimal in order to create the feeling of an “insular society”. How did creating Matryoshka and the world within City of Circles differ to this?

After writing Snake Ropes, which was set on a remote island, my second novel, Cooking with Bones began with two sisters fleeing a futuristic city (called Paradon) who quickly found their way to a strange and remote village. So both of my first two novels were mainly set in insular locations which had their own rules, folklore, mythology and sense of community. In City of Circles, I wanted to invent a magical city which also had all of these things, but on a larger scale. I used more description for the city, as it was such a unique and remarkable place, full of strange characters and places. Even the houses had their own unique ‘atmospheres’ and the house that Danu squats in has its own narrative voice. It was great fun to consider what kind of character a house could be – as cities are crammed full of buildings as well as people I came to see the buildings and the city itself as having their own personalities. As well as being part of the setting in that they were interesting things for the main characters to look at and explore, they also became part of the story.

As someone who has lived in several different places and recently moved to Wellington, how has your own experience with cities and identity compared to Danu’s?

When I’d just started to write City of Circles, I left my home of 18 years, and decided to remain voluntarily homeless for a period of time. During the next two years I couldn’t settle anywhere, so I looked after other people’s homes and pets, even their holiday cottages, which were sometimes in isolated rural places and sometimes in villages, towns, and cities. I slept in many different beds and was quite envious of Danu owning her own mattress, even though the caravan it was in kept moving on. All the places I lived in or visited found their way into City of Circles, as aspects of the places the circus travelled through, and several cities (London, Chicago, Wellington to name only a few) added to the descriptions of the different areas and revolving circles within Matryoshka, the city she eventually remains in. When Danu fell in love with Matryoshka, she experienced it almost as a living and breathing place, filled with enchanting scents and intriguing secrets. While I was exploring many different ‘homes’ I deeply wished to find somewhere which called me to it. Somewhere to love. As it happens, it was a person, not a city, I fell in love with, and that’s how I came to move to Wellington. I followed my heart to a person, while Danu followed her heart to a city.

Several reviews have praised your treatment of grief in City of Circles. How did you approach this theme?

My father died suddenly while I was writing City of Circles, and just three months after his death, I came to New Zealand. Experiencing grief so far away from anyone who knew him was an isolating experience. When we’re not with people who also knew the person who died, because no one is talking about them, there are no new memories to be had. All I could do, while grieving at such a great distance was to pour my grief into this novel. To give it to Danu, as it was too hard a thing to carry alone. As Danu’s parents had died right at the beginning of the novel, I wrote about her grief at the same time as I experienced my own. The physical pain of grief is something that few people talk about, so I gave aspects of this to Danu. I had her describe watching someone die, which is also something that few people talk about. She ties her mother’s locket like a choker around her throat, and trusses her ankles with her father’s bootlaces. The pain, to her, is a constant reminder of the strength of her love, and the strength of her loss. When she finally faces her grief, she does so from a high rooftop, throwing lily petals into the sky, and letting the wind carry them away. She’s trying desperately to part with her sorrow, and let it fly from her. But the truth of grief is that it never goes away. We each have to find our ways of living alongside it. And that is what Danu does as well. Learning to live beside grief takes time and courage. Others are also affected by it, which we see in Morrie, a charismatic hunchback who is in love with Danu, though she can’t reciprocate.

You were recently involved in an event at the Post-Apocalyptic Book Club in London. How did this go, and how do you see your work in terms of the genre of dystopian and speculative fiction?

It was a lovely event – with a great chairperson who had prepared excellent questions about City of Circles in advance. She got me to talk about more things than I’d realised I could. The audience were also great – really interested in the process of ‘world building’ and inventing an imaginary city. I tend not to think too much about genre when I write – to me, the main thing is the characters, and their story, and the world they are in being believable. That said, speculative fiction is a broad term which spans a variety of genres such as fantasy, sci-fi, young adult fiction and literary fiction. To me, what speculative fiction means is that the author has been ‘speculating.’ Asking… what if? And then answering their question in the form of a story. What if… there was an undiscovered island off the edge of a map? (This was the question behind Snake Ropes.) What if… an old woman was several people, and not just one? (One of the questions within Cooking with Bones.) And what if… a city was built which was made out of revolving circles, like a clockwork toy… and what if… a grieving woman thought she was alone in the world, and then discovered she had a double… In terms of dystopias – they’re far more interesting to write about than utopias, because I don’t believe that utopias exist. I also like writing amoral characters, who are neither completely good nor totally bad, but somewhere ambiguous in between. Darkness is, to me, much more interesting than light.