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New Book Releases, Week of May 27th, 2012

Here’s the list of this week’s new releases in fantasy, scifi, and horror. Click on the titles to see the covers!

Released Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

The Emperor’s Gift (Grey Knights), by Aaron Dembski-Bowden

A young boy is recruited into the Grey Knights, and must hone his fledgling psychic talents if he is to join the hallowed and mysterious ranks of the Space Marine daemon hunters.

Jurassic Park: Dangerous Games, by Erik and Greg Bear

It is eleven years after the events of the Jurassic Park movies and CIA agent Daniel Espinoza is working undercover to infiltrate infamously brutal Nicaraguan drug lord Gabriel Cazares’ drug ring. Cazares and his henchmen have taken over Isla Nubar and converted the main facility into a walled fortress and pleasure palace in the center of a primeval jungle filled with savage monsters. When his deep cover is blown, Espinoza finds himself lost and alone on the dangerous island, hunted by both armed thugs and prehistoric monstrosities. And there’s someone else watching him, too – a mysterious figure in the shadows who could be Espinoza’s only hope for survival… or the bringer of his ultimate doom!

The Monster Hunters, by Larry Correia

Monster Hunter International, Monster Hunter Vendetta and Monster Hunter Alpha in one huge volume!  Two New York Times bestsellers in together for the first time, and the first three entries in Larry Correia’s blockbuster Monster Hunter series.

Monster Hunter International

Five days after Owen Zastava Pitt pushed his insufferable boss out of a fourteenth story window, he woke up in the hospital with a scarred face, an unbelievable memory, and a job offer.

It turns out that monsters are real. All the things from myth, legend, and B-movies are out there, waiting in the shadows. Officially secret, some of them are evil, and some are just hungry. On the other side are the people who kill monsters for a living. Monster Hunter International is the premier eradication company in the business. And now Owen is their newest recruit.

It’s actually a pretty sweet gig, except for one little problem. An ancient entity known as the Cursed One has returned to settle a centuries old vendetta. Should the Cursed One succeed, it means the end of the world, and MHI is the only thing standing in his way. With the clock ticking towards Armageddon, Owen finds himself trapped between legions of undead minions, belligerent federal agents, a cryptic ghost who has taken up residence inside his head, and the cursed family of the woman he loves.

Monster Hunter Vendetta

Accountant turned professional monster hunter Owen Zastava Pitt managed to stop the nefarious Old One’s invasion plans last year, but as a result made an enemy out of one of the most powerful beings in the universe. Now an evil death cult known as the Church of the Temporary Mortal Condition wants to capture Owen in order to gain the favor of the great Old Ones.

The Condition is led by a fanatical necromancer known as the Shadow Man. The government wants to capture the Shadow Man and has assigned the enigmatic Agent Franks to be Owen’s full time bodyguard — which is a polite way of saying that Owen is monster bait.  Fortunately, this bait is armed and very dangerous.

Monster Hunter Alpha

Earl Harbinger may be the leader of Monster Hunter International, but he’s also got a secret. Nearly a century ago, Earl was cursed to be werewolf. When Earl receives word that one of his oldest foes, a legendarily vicious werewolf that worked for the KGB, has mysteriously appeared in the remote woods ofMichigan, he decides to take care of some unfinished business. But another force is working to bring about the creation of a whole new species of werewolf. When darkness falls, the final hunt begins, and the only thing standing in their way is a handful of locals, a lot of firepower, and Earl Harbinger’s stubborn refusal to roll over and play dead.

No Going Back (Jon & Lobo Series), by Mark L. Van Name

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

Jon and Lobo are back–and everything is about to change.

If they both survive.

Haunted by memories of children he could not save, Jon Moore is so increasingly self-destructive that even his best friend, the hyper-intelligent Predator-Class Assault Vehicle, Lobo, is worried. When Jon risks meeting a woman from his distant past and undertakes a high-stakes mission, Lobo fears this will be their last.

The job is illegal.

They have to take on one of the oldest, most powerful men alive.

Two different security forces are tracking them.

And Jon is falling in love.

Desperate and out of options on a world so inhospitable that its statues and monuments outnumber its living inhabitants, Jon and Lobo encounter their deadliest challenges yet. They must make decisions from which there truly is No Going Back.

Osiris: Book One of the Osiris Project, by E. J. Swift

“Nobody leaves Osiris. Osiris is a lost city. She has lost the world and world has lost her . . .”
Rising high above the frigid waters, the ocean city of Osiris has been cut off from the land since the Great Storm 50 years ago. Most believe that Osiris is the last city on Earth. Adelaide is the black-sheep granddaughter of the city’s Architect. A jaded socialite, she wants little to do with her powerful relatives — until her troubled twin brother disappears mysteriously. Vikram, a third-generation storm refugee, sees his own people dying of cold and starvation. He hopes to use Adelaide to bring about much-needed reforms — but who is using whom? As another brutal winter brings Osiris closer to riot and revolution, two very different people attempt to bridge the gap dividing the city, only to find a future far more complicated than either of them ever imagined.

Prepare to Die!, by Paul Tobin

Nine years ago, Steve Clarke was just a teenage boy in love with the girl of his dreams. Then a freak chemical spill transformed him into Reaver, the man whose super-powerful fists can literally take a year off a bad guy’s life. Days ago, he found himself at the mercy of his arch-nemesis Octagon and a whole crew of fiendish super-villains, who gave him two weeks to settle his affairs–and prepare to die. Now, after years of extraordinary adventures and crushing tragedies, the world’s greatest hero is returning to where it all began in search of the boy he once was . . . and the girl he never forgot.
Exciting, scandalous, and ultimately moving, Prepare to Die! is a unique new look at the last days of a legend.

Tangle of Need (Psy-Changeling), by Nalini Singh

Discover the exhilarating risks of passion in the breathtaking new Psy-Changeling novel by Nalini Singh, the New York Times bestselling “alpha author of paranormal romance” (Booklist).
Adria, wolf changeling and resilient soldier, has made a break with the past–one as unpredictable in love as it was in war. Now comes a new territory, and a devastating new complication: Riaz, a SnowDancer lieutenant already sworn to a desperate woman who belongs to another.
For Riaz, the primal attraction he feels for Adria is a staggering betrayal. For Adria, his dangerous lone-wolf appeal is beyond sexual. It consumes her. It terrifies her. It threatens to undermine everything she has built of her new life. But fighting their wild compulsion toward one another proves a losing battle.
Their coming together is an inferno…and a melding of two wounded souls who promise each other no commitment, no ties, no bonds. Only pleasure. Too late, they realize that they have more to lose than they ever imagined. Drawn into a cataclysmic Psy war that may alter the fate of the world itself, they must make a decision that might just break them both.

Transient, by Justin Coro Kaufman

Transient Man is a black comedy about a homeless man whose visions lead him to believe he is an inter-dimensional savior of humanity, on a mission to save the universe. Is he indeed the “one,” chosen by mystical divine forces to embark on a crusade against ultimate evil, or a hopeless lunatic, aimlessly wandering the streets of San Francisco? Transient Man is a spoof on the hero’s journey that’s part Men In Black, part Raising Arizona, flavored with liberal portions of Ghostbusters and John Steinbeck. It is a ballad to the city by the bay, and a heartfelt take on the sacrifices one man will make for the love of his family, his friends, and all of humankind.

Alexander Outland: Space Pirate, by G. J. Koch

Captain Alexander Outland of the Sixty-Nine (short for Space Vessel 3369, of course) is the best pilot in the galaxy. He’s also a pirate, a smuggler, and loved and loathed by women in umpteen solar systems. His crew of strays and misfits includes an engineer of dubious sanity, a deposed planetary governor, an annoyingly unflappable Sexbot copilot, and a slinky weapons chief who stubbornly refuses to give the captain a tumble.
Outland just wants to make a decent living skirting the law, but when an invisible space armada starts cutting into his business, he soon finds himself in hot water with the military, the mob, mad bombers, and an extended family of would-be conquerors. And that’s not counting an occasionally telepathic spy . . . .
Like any sensible scoundrel, he hates heroics. They’re risky and they don’t pay well. But to keep his ship and crew in one piece, and make time with a certain hard-to-get weapons chief, he might just have to make an exception–and save the galaxy in spite of himself!

All Spell Breaks Loose (Raine Benares), by Lisa Shearin

From national bestselling author Lisa Shearin comes a new chapter in “one of the best fantasy series currently on the market.” (Night Owl Reviews)

My name is Raine Benares—and it sucks to be me right now.
I’m a seeker who found the Saghred, a soul-stealing stone that gave me unlimited powers I never wanted. Now I’ve lost the rock—and the magic it gave me—to a goblin dark mage whose main goals are my death and world domination. This is more than incentive enough for a little trip to the goblin capital of Regor with a small band of good friends, not-so-good friends, and one outright enemy. Don’t ask.

All we need to do is destroy the Saghred, kill the mage, and put a renegade goblin prince on the throne. Did I mention I’ll be doing that with no magic?

Bleeding Out (OSI), by Jes Battis

From the author of Infernal Affairs comes a story of murder. mayhem, and demon relations. Is this really the vacation Tess was looking for?

Though she’s on leave from the Occult Special Investigations squad, Tess Corday is still grappling with her own personal mysteries. But finding out the truth about her demonic heritage has been more difficult than she expected. Plus, her unauthorized investigation into an addictive new vampire street drug is driving a stake between her and her undead boyfriend.

Then Vancouver’s premier necromancer turns up dead. Tess suspects that the cases are related. And her suspicions will lead her into a paranormal showdown that can—and will—change the course of her life forever.

A Blood Seduction: A Vamp City Novel, by Pamela Palmer

Quinn Lennox is searching for a missing friend when she stumbles into a dark otherworld that only she can see—and finds herself at the mercy of Arturo Mazza, a dangerously handsome vampire whose wicked kiss will save her, enslave her, bewitch her, and betray her. What Arturo can’t do is forget about her—any more than Quinn can control her own feelings for him. Neither one can let desire get in the way of their mission—his to save his people, hers to save herself. But there is no escape from desire in a city built for seduction, where passion flows hot and blood-red . . .

Bloodsworn (Ulrika the Vampire), by Nathan Long

Returning to Nuln after her adventures in Praag, Ulrika finds the Lahmian vampires preparing for war. Across the Old World, their rivals, the sinister von Carsteins, attack their strongholds and lead the witch hunters to their hidden lairs. Spurned by her sisters, Ulrika forms an uneasy alliance with the von Carsteins in a plot to destabilise the Empire by striking at its very heart – they plan nothing less than the assassination of Emperor Karl Franz. With enemies on all sides and the Empire in flames, Ulrika must decide whether her future will see her living among the humans, or as their enemy.

A Brief Guide to Star Trek, by Brian J. Robb

This essential guide will cover all prominent actors including William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and Patrick Stewart and will explore the connection between Star Trek and the US cold war foreign policy, why much of the far-out science from the show is now at the forefront of research, why linguistics are now studying Klingon, and much more.

Casket of Souls, by Lynn Flewelling

The Nightrunners are back in this gripping novel full of Lynn Flewelling’s trademark action, intrigue, and richly imagined characters. More than the dissolute noblemen they appear to be, Alec and Seregil are skillful spies, dedicated to serving queen and country. But when they stumble across evidence of a plot pitting Queen Phoria against Princess Klia, the two Nightrunners will find their loyalties torn as never before. Even at the best of times, the royal court at Rhíminee is a serpents’ nest of intrigue, but with the war against Plenimar going badly, treason simmers just below the surface.
And that’s not all that poses a threat: A mysterious plague is spreading through the crowded streets of the city, striking young and old alike. Now, as panic mounts and the body count rises, hidden secrets emerge. And as Seregil and Alec are about to learn, conspiracies and plagues have one thing in common: The cure can be as deadly as the disease.

Cursed (Alex Verus), by Benedict Jacka

Benedict Jacka’s acclaimed Alex Verus series continues with Cursed.

Since his second sight made him infamous for defeating powerful dark mages, Alex has been keeping his head down. But now he’s discovered the resurgence of a forbidden ritual. Someone is harvesting the life-force of magical creatures—destroying them in the process. And draining humans is next on the agenda. Hired to investigate, Alex realizes that not everyone on the Council wants him delving any deeper. Struggling to distinguish ally from enemy, he finds himself the target of those who would risk their own sanity for power…

Darkness Becomes Her (Offspring), by Jaime Rush

They live ordinary lives, but they are extraordinary. They are the Offspring, children of a mysterious experiment gone awry—and they are in terrible danger.

Power Junkie: Lachlan McLeod spent wild years astrally projecting himself into other times and places. But he doesn’t get out much anymore—not after the fatal mistake that cost him a precious loved one.

Pixie Fugitive: Jessie isn’t having a bad day. She’s having a bad lifetime. After the terrifying act of supernatural violence that destroyed her family, she’s been on the run for years. But now her ruthless enemy is drawing closer . . . and her own powers have finally awakened.

They’re two people who don’t play well with others. But they’re going to have to learn to, and quickly. Because they’re the only two people in the world who can save each other—and their passion is the only thing that can save the world.

From Hunt to Teen, by Renata Brodie

Samona is not your typical fifteen-year old. While other teens are doing homework and hanging at the mall, she is learning new battle techniques, attack plans, and how to make her next kill. Because of an ancient promise, her family has been charged to rid the world of as much evil as possible. Despite her focus on conquering the evils around her, Criss, the handsome newspaper delivery boy, catches her eye, leaving her thinking of nothing other than his long, jet-black hair. Before she knows it, she’s thrown into a whole new world of teenagers, parties, gossiping girls, and dates to the movies. If this is what being a normal teen is like, Sam has been missing out!

Going Interstellar, by Les Johnson and Jack McDevitt

Essays by space scientists and engineers teamed with a collection of tales by an all-star assortment of award winning authors all taking on new methods of star travel.

Some humans may be content staying in one place, but many of us are curious about what’s beyond the next village, the next ocean, the next horizon.  Are there others like us out there? How will we reach them?  Others are concerned with the survival of the species. It may be that we have to get out of Dodge before the lights go out on Earth.  How can we accomplish this?

Wonderful questions.  Now get ready for some answers.

Here is the science behind interstellar propulsion: reports from top tier scientists and engineers on starflight propulsion techniques that use only means and methods that we currently know are scientifically possible. Here are in-depth essays on antimatter containment, solar sails, and fusion propulsion.

And the human consequences?  Here is speculation by a magnificent array of award-winning SF writers on what an interstellar voyage might look like, might feel like—might be like.  It’s an all-star cast abounding with Hugo and Nebula award winners: Ben Bova, Mike Resnick, Jack McDevitt, Michael Bishop, Sarah Hoyt and more.

Harmony, by Keith Brooke

The aliens are here, all around us. They always have been. And now, one by one, they’re destroying our cities.

Dodge Mercer deals in identities, which is fine until the day he deals the wrong identity and clan war breaks out. Hope Burren has no identity and no past, but she does have a multitude of voices filling her head.

In a world where nothing is as it seems, where humans are segregated and aliens can sing realities and tear worlds apart, Dodge and Hope lead a ragged band of survivors on a search for sanctuary in what may be the only hope for humankind.

The Janus Affair: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel, by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

Evildoers beware! Retribution is at hand, thanks to Britain’s best-kept secret agents!!

Certainly no strangers to peculiar occurrences, agents Wellington Books and Eliza Braun are nonetheless stunned to observe a fellow passenger aboard Britain’s latest hypersteam train suddenly vanish in a dazzling bolt of lightning. They soon discover this is not the only such disappearance . . . with each case going inexplicably unexamined by the Crown.

The fate of England is once again in the hands of an ingenious archivist paired with a beautiful, fearless lady of adventure. And though their foe be fiendishly clever, so then is Mr. Books . . . and Miss Braun still has a number of useful and unusual devices hidden beneath her petticoats.

The Mandel Files, Volume 2: The Nano FloweNir, by Peter F. Hamilton

Peter F. Hamilton’s groundbreaking Mandel Files series concludes with The Nano Flower, a tour de force of unbridled imagination and cutting-edge scientific speculation.

Greg Mandel is a psychic detective whose skills have been augmented by powerful but dangerous biotechnology. Those abilities have won him success and almost killed him many times over. Little wonder that he has settled down to the life of a gentleman farmer.

But Greg’s former employer, the mighty tech company Event Horizon, needs him once more. After Royan, hacker-genius and husband to company owner Julia Evans, mysteriously vanishes, a business rival suddenly boasts an incredible new technology. Has Royan been kidnapped and forced to work for his captors, or is the truth far stranger? The answer may lie in a gift of flowers received by Julia—flowers with DNA like nothing on Earth. Greg already has his hands full with corporate killers and other unsavory characters. Is he going to have to add aliens to the list?

The Greg Mandel trilogy—which also includes Mindstar Rising and A Quantum Murder, available in Volume 1set a new standard for science fiction when it first appeared in the 1990s. The Nano Flower is every bit as gripping today—and even more timely.

Night’s Engines: The Nightbound Land, Book 2, by Trent Jamieson

The conclusion of the Night-Bound Land duology.

The Roil has not yet been defeated – and the Roil extends its grip on Shale, following the commands of the Dreaming Cities. Wars will be fought. Doomsday weapons employed. And night will fall.

The Primarchs (Horus Heresy), by Christian Dunn

Created in the Emperor’s own image, the primarchs had long thought themselves to be princes of the universe and masters of their own destiny – they led the Space Marine Legions in glorious conquest of the galaxy, and no enemy of the Imperium could stand against them. However, even amongst this legendary brotherhood, the seeds of dissent had been sown long before the treacherous Warmaster Horus declared his grand heresy. Gathered within this anthology are four novellas focusing on some of the mightiest warriors and leaders that mankind has ever known – Fulgrim, Alpharius, Lion El’Johnson and Ferrus Manus – and the roles that they may have yet to play in a war which threatens to change the face of the Imperium forever.

Seeker of Shadows, by Nancy Gideon

NANCY GIDEON CONTINUES HER COMPELLING, SENSUAL NEW SERIES WITH A SEDUCTIVE TALE OF FORBIDDEN ALLEGIANCE AND REDISCOVERED LOVE.

His town.

Susanna Duchamps came to New Orleans to settle a debt and to temporarily escape the controlled constraints of her life among the Chosen. What she finds is an opportunity to make miraculous strides with her research into Shifter genetics . . . and an unexpected, but never forgotten, man from her complicated past.

Her rules.

Shifter club owner Jacques LaRoche is fiercely protective of his freedom. Stripped of his memories of a former life, he longs for the mate he lost . . . until the enticingly familiar presence of a mysterious stranger from the north ignites a primal, nearly uncontrollable need to release the untamed beast inside him.

Their last chance.

Susanna dares not tell Jacques it was she who sacrificed his past and her future years ago, to protect him and the secret she carried. But her arrival in New Orleans comes with consequences. When a bloody confrontation erupts between their enemy clans, will she betray her lover once again—or throw her own life on the line so they can finish what they started?

Star Trek: Typhon Pact: Plagues of the Night (Star Trek, the Next Generation), by David R. George III

In the wake of the final Borg invasion, which destroyed entire worlds, cost the lives of sixty-three billion people, and struck a crippling blow to Starfleet, six nations adversarial to the United Federation of Planets—the Romulan Star Empire, the Breen Confederacy, the Tholian Assembly, the Gorn Hegemony, the Tzenkethi Coalition, and the Holy Order of the Kinshaya— joined ranks to form the Typhon Pact. For almost three years, the Federation and the Klingon Empire, allied under the Khitomer Accords, have contended with the nascent coalition on a predominantly cold-war footing. But as Starfleet rebuilds itself, factions within the Typhon Pact grow restive, concerned about their own inability to develop a quantum slipstream drive to match that of the Federation. Will leaders such as UFP President Bacco and RSE Praetor Kamemor bring about a lasting peace across the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, or will the cold war between the two alliances deepen, and perhaps even lead to an all-out shooting war?

Weird Space: The Devil’s Nebula, by Eric Brown

Best-selling author Eric Brown has created a brand new shared world for Abaddon Books: Weird Space. This thrilling space-opera series will begin with the release of The Devil’s Nebula. Brown will introduce readers to the human smugglersveterans and ne’erdowells who are part of the Expansion – and their uneasy neighbours, the Vetch Empire.

When an evil race threatens not only the Expansion, but the Vetch too – an evil from another dimension which infests humans and Vetch alike and bends individuals to do their hideous bidding, only cooperation between them means the difference between a chance of survival and no chance at all.

When Passion Lies: A Shadow Keepers Novel, by J. K. Beck

Tiberius is a vampire dedicated to protecting his kind—and the secrets of the shadow world. Now, as his quest to become head of the Alliance draws within reach, a shattering new threat puts him to the ultimate test. It’s a nightmare of grim proportions: a dark plot to bring about the mass extermination of human and shadow alike. And it forces Tiberius to turn to the woman he loved and lost, the lover he still desires but doesn’t trust.

Caris was Tiberius’s mate for centuries—until a fateful mission changed her forever. Her tortured secrets drove her into the arms of his rival, but desperation has brought her back. As a horrifying new weapon of mass destruction is about to be unleashed, Tiberius and Caris harness the power of their immortal and passionate love. But will it be enough to battle devastating odds and a ruthless enemy with the ambition to destroy them all?

Don’t miss J. K. Beck’s short story “Shadow Keepers: Midnight” in the back of the book.

Changeling (Order of Darkness), by Philippa Gregory 

Dark myths, medieval secrets, intrigue, and romance populate the pages of the first-ever teen series from #1 bestselling author ofThe Other Boleyn Girl.

Italy, 1453. Seventeen-year-old Luca Vero is brilliant, gorgeous—and accused of heresy. Cast out of his religious order for using the new science to question old superstitious beliefs, Luca is recruited into a secret sect: The Order of the Dragon, commissioned by Pope Nicholas V to investigate evil and danger in its many forms, and strange occurrences across Europe, in this year—the end of days.

Isolde is a seventeen-year-old girl shut up in a nunnery so she can’t inherit any of her father’s estate. As the nuns walk in their sleep and see strange visions, Isolde is accused of witchcraft—and Luca is sent to investigate her, but finds himself plotting her escape.

Despite their vows, despite themselves, love grows between Luca and Isolde as they travel across Europe with their faithful companions, Freize and Ishraq. The four young people encounter werewolves, alchemists, witches, and death-dancers as they head toward a real-life historical figure who holds the boundaries of Christendom and the secrets of the Order of the Dragon.

The first in a series, this epic and richly detailed drama is grounded in historical communities and their mythic beliefs. It includes a medieval map of Europe that will track their journey; and the interior will include relevant decorative elements as well as an interior line illustration. And look for a QR code that links to a note from the author with additional, detailed information about the setting and the history that informed the writing. With Philippa Gregory’s trademark touch, this novel deftly brings the past—and its salacious scandals—vividly and disturbingly to life.

Dreamless (Starcrossed), by Josephine Angelini

Can true love be forgotten?

As the only scion who can descend into the Underworld, Helen Hamilton has been given a nearly impossible task. By night she wanders through Hades, trying to stop the endless cycle of revenge that has cursed her family. By day she struggles to overcome the fatigue that is rapidly eroding her sanity. Without Lucas by her side, Helen is not sure she has the strength to go on.

Just as Helen is pushed to her breaking point, a mysterious new Scion comes to her rescue. Funny and brave, Orion shields her from the dangers of the Underworld. But time is running out—a ruthless foe plots against them, and the Furies’ cry for blood is growing louder.

As the ancient Greek world collides with the mortal one, Helen’s sheltered life on Nantucket descends into chaos. But the hardest task of all will be forgetting Lucas Delos.

Josephine Angelini’s compelling saga becomes ever more intricate and spellbinding as an unforgettable love triangle emerges and the eternal cycle of revenge intensifies. Eagerly awaited, this sequel to the internationally bestselling Starcrossed delivers a gritty, action-packed love story that exceeds all expectations.

Angel Eyes, by Shannon Dittemore

Once you’ve seen, you can’t unsee. Everything changes when you’ve looked at the world through . . . 
Angel Eyes

Brielle’s a ballerina who went to the city to chase her dreams and found tragedy instead. She’s come home to shabby little Stratus, Oregon, to live with her grief and her guilt . . . and the incredible, numbing cold she can’t seem to shake.

Jake’s the new guy at school. The boy next door with burning hands and an unbelievable gift that targets him for corruption.

Something more than fate has brought them together. An evil bigger than both of them lurks in the shadows nearby, hiding in plain sight. Two angels stand guard, unsure what’s going to happen. And a beauty brighter than either Brielle or Jake has ever seen is calling them to join the battle in a realm where all human choices start.

A realm that only angels and demons-and Brielle-can perceive.

All descriptions from Amazon.

Book News, Books, News

Book Excerpt: Halo Primordium

Howdy Halo fans! The second book in the Halo Forerunner Saga — Halo: Primordium, written by hugo and nebula-award winner Greg Bear — hit stores recently. We have an excerpt, courtesy of tor.com, for your reading pleasure. The excerpt begins after the long description.

What’s the book about? Here’s a summary from Amazon.com:

A long time ago, I was a living, breathing human being. I went mad. I served my enemies. They became my only friends.

Since then, I’ve traveled back and forth across this galaxy, and out to the spaces between galaxies–a greater reach than any human before me.

You have asked me to tell you about that time. Since you are the last true Reclaimer, I must obey. Are you recording? Good. Because my memory is failing rapidly. I doubt I’ll be able to finish the story.

Once, on my birth-world, a world I knew as Erde-Tyrene, and which now is called Earth, my name was Chakas…

In the wake of apparent self-destruction of the Forerunner empire, two humans–Chakas and Riser–are like flotsam washed up on very strange shores indeed.

Captured by the Master Builder, misplaced during a furious battle in space, they now find themselves on an inverted world where horizons rise into the sky, and where humans of all kinds are trapped in a perilous cycle of horror and neglect. For they have become both research animals and strategic pawns in a cosmic game whose madness knows no end–a game of ancient vengeance between the powers who seeded the galaxy with life, and the Forerunners who expect to inherit their sacred Mantle of duty to all living things.

In the company of a young girl and an old man, Chakas begins an epic journey across a lost and damaged Halo in search of a way home, an explanation for the warrior spirits rising up within, and for the Librarian’s tampering with human destiny.

This journey will take them into the Palace of Pain, the domain of a powerful and monstrous intelligence who claims to be the Last Precursor, and who now has control of both this Halo and the fate of Forerunners and Humans alike.

Called the Captive by Forerunners, and the Primordial by ancient human warriors, this intelligence has taken charge of, and retasked, the Master Builder’s cruel researches into the Flood–which it may have itself unleashed on the galaxy more than ten thousand years before.

****

HALO/SHIELD ALLIANCE 631

Record of communications with Autonomous Mechanical Intelligence (Forerunner Monitor).

SCIENCE TEAM ANALYSIS: Appears to be severely damaged duplicate (?) of device previously reported lost/destroyed (File Ref. Dekagram- 721- 64- 91.)

Machine language records attached as holographic files. Incomplete and failed translation attempts deleted for brevity.

TRANSLATION STYLE: LOCALIZED. Some words and phrases remain obscure.

 

First successful AI translation: RESPONSE STREAM

#1351 [DATE REDACTED] 1621 hours (Repeated every 64 seconds.)

What am I, really?

A long time ago, I was a living, breathing human being. I went mad. I served my enemies. They became my only friends.

Since then, I’ve traveled back and forth across this galaxy, and out to the spaces between galaxies—a greater reach than any human before me.

You have asked me to tell you about that time. Since you are the true Reclaimers, I must obey. Are you recording? Good. Because my memory is failing rapidly. I doubt I’ll be able to finish the story.

Once, on my birth-world, a world I knew as Erde-Tyrene, and which now is called Earth, my name was Chakas. . . .

Multiple data streams detected. COVENANT LANGUAGE STREAM identified.

SCIENCE TEAM ANALYSIS: Prior contact with Covenant likely.

Break for recalibration of AI translator.

SCIENCE TEAM LEADER to MONITOR: “We realize the difficulty of accessing all parts of your vast store of knowledge, and we’d like to help you in any way we can, including making necessary repairs . . . if we can be made to understand how you actually work.

“What we’re having difficulty with is your contention that you were once a human being—over a thousand centuries ago. But rather than waste time with a full discussion of these matters, we’ve decided to proceed directly to your narrative. Our team has a dual focus for its questions.

“First question: When did you last have contact with the Forerunner known as the Didact, and under what circumstances did you part ways?

“Second question: What goals did Forerunners hope to achieve in their ancient relations with humans? . . .”

RESPONSE STREAM #1352 [DATE REDACTED] 2350 hours (first portion lost, nonrepeating):

 

 

ONE

. . . LOOKED ACROSS THE deck of the star boat at the Didact—a massive, gray- black shadow with the face of a warrior god. He was impassive, as usual. Far below, at the center of a great gulf of night filled with many ships, lay a planet under siege—the quarantined prison world of the San’Shyuum.

“What will happen to us?” I asked.

“They will punish,” Riser said gloomily. “We’re not supposed to be here!”

I turned to my small companion, reached to touch the long, dry fingers of his outstretched hand, and shot an angry glance at Bornstellar, the young Manipular that Riser and I had guided to Djamonkin Crater. He would not meet my eyes.

Then, faster than thought or reflex, something cold and bright and awful carved up the distance between us, split-ting us apart in blue- white silence. War sphinxes with passionless faces moved in and scooped us up in transparent bubbles. I saw the Didact and Bornstellar packed away in their own bubbles like trophies. . . .

The Didact seemed composed, prepared—Bornstellar, as frightened as I was.

The bubble sucked in around me. I was caught in sudden stillness, my ears stuffed, my eyes darkened.

This is how a dead man feels.

For a time, surrounded by senseless dark or flashes of nothing I could understand, I believed I was about to be ferried across the western water to the far grasslands where I would await judgment under the hungry gaze of sabertooths, hyenas, buzzards, and the great-winged eagles. I tried to prepare myself by listing my weaknesses, that I might appear humble before the judgment of Abada the Rhinoceros; that Abada might fend off the predators, and especially the hyenas; and that his old friend the Great Elephant might re-member me and nudge my bones from the dirt, back to life, before the time that ends all.

(For so I have seen in the sacred caves.)

But the stillness and silence continued. I felt a small itch in the pit of my arm, and in my ear, and then on my back where only a friend can reach. . . . The dead do not itch.

Slowly, with a flickering rhythm, like the waving of a fan, the stiff blue silence lifted, scattering visions between shadows of blankness and misery. I saw Riser wrapped in another bubble not far from me, and Bornstellar beside him. The Didact was not with us.

My ears seemed to pop—a painful, muffled echo in my head. Now I heard distant words . . . and listened closely. We had been taken prisoner by a powerful Forerunner called the Master Builder. The Didact and the Master Builder had long opposed each other. I learned as well that Riser and I were prizes to be stolen from the Didact. We would not be destroyed right away; we had value, for the Librarian had imprinted us at birth with ancient memories that might prove useful.

For a time, I wondered if we were about to be introduced to the hideous Captive—the one my ancient ancestors had locked away for so many thousands of years, the one re-leased by the Master Builder’s ignorant testing of his new weapon-toy, a gigantic ring called Halo. . . .

Then I felt another presence in my head. I had felt this before, first while walking over the ruins at Charum Hakkor, and then later, witnessing the plight of humanity’s old al-lies, the once beautiful and sensuous San’Shyuum, in their quarantined system. Old memories seemed to be traveling across great distances to reassemble, like members of a tribe long lost to each other . . . struggling to retrieve one personality, not my own.

In my boredom, thinking this was merely a strange sort of dream, I reached out as if to touch the jittering pieces. . . .

And was back on Charum Hakkor, walking the parapet above the pit, where the Captive had been imprisoned for more than ten thousand years. My dream-body—oft-wounded, plagued with aches and motivated by a festering hatred— approached the railing and looked down upon the thick-domed timelock.

The lock had been split wide like the casing of a great bomb.

Something that smelled like thunder loomed behind me. It cast a shimmering green shadow—a shadow with far too many arms! I tried to turn and could not. . . .

Nor could I hear myself scream.

Soon enough I lapsed back into a void filled with prickly irritations: itching but unable to scratch, thirsty but without water, muscles both frozen and restless. . . . Viscera trying to writhe. Hungry and nauseated at the same time. This long, weightless suspension was suddenly interrupted by violent shaking. I was falling.

Through the filters of my Forerunner armor, my skin sensed heat, and I glimpsed blossoms of fire, searing blasts of energy trying but failing to reach in and cook me—then, more buffeting, accompanied by the gut-wrenching shudder of distant explosions.

Came a final slamming impact. My jaw snapped up and my teeth almost bit through my tongue.

Still, at first there was no pain. Fog filled me. Now I knew I was dead and felt some relief. Perhaps I had already been punished sufficiently and would be spared the attentions of hyenas and buzzards and eagles. I anticipated joining my ancestors, my grandmother and grandfather, and if my mother had died in my absence, her as well. They would cross rich green prairies to greet me, floating over the ground, smiling and filled with love, and beside them would pad the jaguar that snarls at the sabertooth, and slither the great crocodile that darts from the mud to put to flight the ravenous buzzards—in that place where all hatred is finally extinguished. There, my good family spirits would welcome me, and my troubles would be over.

(For so I had seen in the sacred caves.)

I was not at all happy when I realized yet again that this darkness was not death, but another kind of sleep. My eyes were closed. I opened them. Light flooded in on me, not very bright, but after the long darkness, it seemed blinding. It was not a spiritual light.

Blurry shapes moved around me. My tongue decided to hurt horribly. I felt hands tugging and fumbling at my arms and legs, and smelled something foul—my own scat. Very bad. Spirits don’t stink.

I tried to raise my hand, but someone held it down and there was another struggle. More hands forcibly bent my arms and legs at painful angles. Slowly I puzzled this out. I was still wearing the broken Forerunner armor the Didact had given me on his ship. Stooped and bent shapes were pulling me from that stinking shell.

When they had finished, I was laid out flat on a hard surface. Water poured cool and sweet over my face. The crusted salt of my upper lip stung my tongue. I fully opened my puffy eyes and blinked up at a roof made of woven reeds thatched with leaves and branches. Sprawled on the cold, gritty platform, I was no better than a newborn: naked, twitching, bleary-eyed, mute from shock. Cool, careful fingers wiped my face clean, then rubbed grassy juice under my nose. The smell was sharp and wakeful. I drank more water—muddy, earthy, inexpressibly sweet.

Against flickering orange light I could now make out a single figure—black as night, slender as a young tree— rubbing its fingers beside its own broad nose, over its wide, rounded cheeks, then combing them through the hair on its scalp. It rubbed this soothing skin-oil on my chapped, cracked lips.

I wondered if I was again being visited, as I was at birth, by the supreme Lifeshaper whom the Didact claimed was his wife—the Librarian. But the figure that hovered over me was smaller, darker—not a beautiful memory but solid flesh. I smelled a woman. A young woman. That scent brought an extraordinary change to my outlook. Then I heard others murmuring, followed by sad, desperate laughter, followed by words I barely understood . . . words from ancient languages I had never heard spoken on Erde-Tyrene.

How then could I understand them at all? What kind of beings were these? They looked human in outline—several kinds of human, perhaps. Slowly, I reengaged the old memories within me, like digging out the roots of a fossil tree . . . and found the necessary knowledge.

Long ago, thousands of years before I was born, humans had used such words. The assembled shadows around me were commenting on my chances of recovery. Some were doubtful. Others expressed leering admiration for the female. A few grinding voices discussed whether the strongest man in the village would take her. The tree-slender girl said nothing, merely giving me more water.

Finally, I tried to speak, but my tongue wouldn’t work properly. Even without being half- bitten through, it was not yet trained to form the old words.

“Welcome back,” the girl said. Her voice was husky but musical. Gradually my vision cleared. Her face was round and so black it was almost purple. “Your mouth is full of blood. Don’t talk. Just rest.”

I closed my eyes again. If I could only make myself speak, the Librarian’s imprint from ancient human warriors might prove useful after all.

“He came in armor, like a crab,” said a low, grumbling male voice. So many of these voices sounded frightened, furtive—cruel and desperate. “He fell after the brightness and burning in the sky, but he’s not one of the Forerunners.”

“The Forerunners died. He did not,” the girl said.

“Then they’ll come hunting him. Maybe he killed them,” another voice said. “He’s no use to us. He could be a danger. Put him out in the grass for the ants.”

“How could he kill the Forerunners?” the girl asked. “He was in a jar. The jar fell and cracked open when it hit the ground. He lay in the grass for an entire night while we cowered in our huts, but the ants did not bite him.”

“If he stays, there will be less food for the rest of us. And if Forerunners lost him, then they will come looking for him and punish us.”

I listened to these suppositions with mild interest. I knew less about such matters than the shadows did.

“Why?” the dark girl asked. “They kept him in the jar. We saved him. We took him out of the heat. We will feed him and he will live. Besides, they punish us no matter what we do.”

“They haven’t come for many days to take any of us away,” said another voice, more calm or more resigned. “After the fires in the sky, the city and the forest and the plain are quiet. We no longer hear their sky boats. Maybe they’re all gone.”

The voices from the milling circle dulled and faded. None of what they said made much sense. I had no idea where I might be. I was too tired to care.

I don’t know how long I slept. When I opened my eyes again, I looked to one side, then the other. I was lying inside a wide meeting house with log walls. I was naked but for two pieces of worn, dirty cloth. The meeting house was empty, but at my groan, the dark girl came through the reed-covered doorway and kneeled down beside me. She was younger than me. Little more than a girl—not quite a woman. Her eyes were large and reddish brown, and her hair was a wild tangle the color of water-soaked rye grass.

“Where am I?” I asked clumsily, using the old words as best I could.

“Maybe you can tell us. What’s your name?”

“Chakas,” I said.

“I don’t know that name,” the girl said. “Is it a secret name?”

“No.” I focused on her, ignoring the silhouettes of others as they filed back in through the door and stood around me. Other than the tree-slender female, most of them kept well back, in a wide circle. One of the old men stepped forward and tried to pluck at the girl’s shoulder. She shrugged his hand away, and he cackled and danced off.

“Where do you come from?” she asked me.

“Erde-Tyrene,” I said.

“I don’t know that place.” She spoke to the others. No one else had heard of it.

“He’s no good to us,” an older man said, one of the shrill, argumentative voices from earlier. He was heavy of shoulder and low of forehead and smacked his thick lips in disapproval. All different types of human being were here, as I had guessed—but none as small as Riser. I missed Riser and wondered where he had ended up.

“This one fell from the sky in a jar,” the older man repeated, as if the story was already legend. “The jar landed in the dry short grass and cracked and broke, and not even the ants thought he was worth eating.”

Another man picked up the tale. “Someone high above lost him. The flying shadows dropped him. He’ll just bring them back sooner, and this time they’ll take us all to the Palace of Pain.”

I did not like the sound of that. “Are we on a planet?” I asked the girl. The words I chose meant “big home,” “broad land,” “all- under- sky.”

The girl shook her head. “I don’t think so.”

“Is it a great star boat, then?”

“Be quiet and rest. Your mouth is bleeding.” She gave me more water and wiped my lips.

“You’ll have to choose soon,” the old, cackling one said. “Your Gamelpar can’t protect you now!”

Then the others went away.

I rolled over.

Later, she shook me awake. “You’ve slept long enough,” she said. “Your tongue isn’t bleeding now. Can you tell me what it’s like where you come from? Up in the sky? Try to speak slowly.”

I moved lips, tongue, jaw. All were sore, but I could talk easily enough. I propped myself up on my elbow. “Are you all human?”

She hummed through her nose and leaned forward to wipe my eyes. “We’re the Tudejsa, if that’s what you’re asking.” Later I would put this word in context and understand that it meant the People from Here, or just the People.

“And this isn’t Erde-Tyrene.”

“I doubt it. Where we are is a place between other places. Where we came from, we will never see again. Where we are going, we do not want to be. So we live here and wait. Some-times Forerunners take us away.”

“Forerunners . . . ?”

“The gray ones. The blue ones. The black ones. Or their machines.”

“I know some of them,” I said.

She looked dubious. “They don’t like us. We’re happy they haven’t come for many days. Even before the sky be-came bright and filled with fi re—”

“Where do they come from—these People?” I waved my arm at the silhouettes still coming and going through the door, some smacking their lips in judgment and making disapproving sounds.

“Some of us come from the old city. That’s where I was born. Others have gathered from across the plain, from river and jungle, from the long grass. Some walked here five sleeps ago, after they saw you fall from the sky in your jar. One fellow tries to make people pay to see you.”

I heard a scuffle outside, a yelp, and then three burly gawkers shuffled in, keeping well back from us.

“The cackling bastard who fancies you?” I asked her.

She shook her head. “Another fool. He wants more food. They just knock him down and kick him aside.”

She didn’t seem to like many of the People.

“Valley, jungle, river . . . city, prairie. Sounds like home,” I said.

“It isn’t.” She swept her gaze around the gawkers with pinched disappointment. “We are not friends, and no one is willing to be family. When we are taken away, it brings too much pain.”

I raised myself on my arm. “Am I strong enough to go outside?”

She pressed me back down. Then she pushed the gawkers out, looked back, and stepped through the hanging grass door. When she returned, she carried a roughly carved wooden bowl. With her fingers she spooned some of the contents into my mouth: bland mush, ground- up grass seed. It didn’t taste very good—what I could taste of it—but what I swallowed stayed in my stomach.

Soon I felt stronger.

Then she said, “Time to go outside, before someone decides to kill you.” She helped me to my feet and pushed aside the door- hanging. A slanting burst of bluish white glare dazzled me. When I saw the color of that light, a feeling of dread, of not wanting to be where I was, came on me fierce. It was not a good light.

But she persisted and pulled me out under the purple- blue sky. Shielding my eyes, I finally located the horizon— rising up like a distant wall. Turning slowly, swiveling my neck despite the pain, I tracked that far wall until it began to curve upward, ever so gently. I swung around. The horizon curved upward to both sides. Not good, not right. Horizons do not curve up.

I followed the gradually rising sweep higher and higher. The land kept climbing like the slope of a mountain— climbing but narrowing, until I could see both sides of a great, wide band filled with grassland, rocky fields . . . mountains. Some distance away, a foreshortened and irregular dark blue smear crossed almost the entire width of the band, flanked and interrupted by the nearest of those mountains—possibly a large body of water. And everywhere out there on the band—clouds in puffs and swirls and spreading white shreds, like streamers of fleece in a cleansing river.

Weather.

Higher and higher . . .

I leaned my head back as far as I could without falling over—until the rising band crossed into shadow and slimmed to a skinny, perfect ribbon that cut the sky in half and just hung there—a dark blue, overarching sky bridge. At an angle about two-thirds of the way up one side of the bridge, perched just above the edge, was the source of the intense, purple-blue light: a small, brilliant sun.

Turning around again, cupping my hand over the blue sun, I studied the opposite horizon. The wall on that side was too far away to see. But I guessed that both sides of the great ribbon were flanked by walls. Definitely not a planet.

My hopes fell to zero. My situation had not improved in any way. I was not home. I was very far from any home. I had been deposited on one of the great, ring-shaped weapons that had so entranced and divided my Forerunner captors.

I was marooned on a Halo.

Book News, Books, News

“Halo” And Orson Scott Card Book Giveaways on Tor.com!

Tor.com is having a lot of activity around some recent releases. Here are just two of them:

Today is release day for Orson Scott Card’s The Lost Gate. In celebration, tor.com is giving away five copies. You can enter until 2pm EST tomorrow, Wednesday January 5th. The link to do so is here.

If you want to know more about this book, check out an earlier Lytherus post on it here.

Also, in celebration of the new Halo:Cryptum book, tor.com is doing a bunch of fun giveaways. Their first giveaway is the entire collection of Halo books. The complete list is on the page where you can register. This giveaway is open until 9:30 am EST on Wednesday, January 5th. Click here to check it out. Lytherus also linked to an excerpt recently, which you can view here.

If you’re interested in some of the other giveaways, go to the main tor.com page and scroll down through the list!

Good Luck!

(These and other books were featured on this weeks’ new release list)

Book News, Books, News

New Releases, Week of January 2nd, 2011

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

Released Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Unearthly, by Cynthia Hand

As if adolescence isn’t enough, California girl Clara has recently begun to come into her powers as a Quartarius, a quarter-angel. Her half-angel single mother lends support, helping to puzzle through visions that reveal tantalizing portions of Clara’s “purpose.” The visions’ clues—a forest fire, license plate, and boy in a black fleece jacket—lead the family to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. There, on Clara’s first day of school, she meets her destiny: A-list football player Christian, the boy of the vision. She also makes friends with two very different girls: easygoing, horse-crazy Wendy, and intense loner Angela. It’s Wendy’s twin brother, Tucker, though, who begins to drive the plot, unwittingly seeming to change Clara’s purpose. If some of this series starter seems overly familiar—the rural setting, the two love interests, the dark powers at work—the details about angels make up for it. The dynamics of flying, the intense shining of “glory,” and an unplanned trip to hell are all creatively addressed.

Night School (A Blood Coven Vampire Novel), by Mari Mancusi

After their parents’ shocking revelation about their fae heritage and an attack on their lives, the McDonald twins are forced to hide out deep in the Swiss Alps at Riverdale Academy, a secret vampire slayer training facility. And with no way to contact their vampire boyfriends for rescue, they’re going to have to play nice with the locals. But when Sunny starts acting strange, Rayne realizes that there’s more to fear at Riverdale than getting staked by the student body-leading to a showdown in Fairyland that may cost the twins their lives.

Shadowspell, by Jenna Black

On top of spending most of her time in a bunkerlike safe house and having her dates hijacked by a formidable Fae bodyguard, Faeriewalker Dana Hathaway is in for some more bad news: the Erlking and his pack of murderous minions known as the Wild Hunt have descended upon Avalon. With his homicidal appetite and immortal powers, the Erlking has long been the nightmare of the Fae realm. A fragile treaty with the Faerie Queen, sealed with a mysterious spell, is the one thing that keeps him from hunting unchecked in Avalon, the only place on Earth where humans and Fae live together. Which means Dana’s in trouble, since it’s common knowledge that the Faerie Queen wants her – and her rare Faeriewalker powers – dead. The smoldering, sexy Erlking’s got his sights set on Dana, but does he only seek to kill her, or does he have something much darker in mind?

Awakened: A House of Night Novel, by P. C. and Kristin Cast

Exonerated by the Vampyre High Council and returned to her position of High Priestess at Tulsa’s House of Night, Neferet has sworn vengeance on Zoey.  Dominion over Kalona is only one of the weapons she plans to use against Z.  But Zoey has found sanctuary on the Isle of Skye and is being groomed by Queen Sgiach to take over for her there.  Being Queen would be cool, wouldn’t it?  Why should she return to Tulsa? After losing her human consort, Heath, she will never be the same – and her relationship with her super-hot-warrior, Stark, may never be the same either… And what about Stevie Rae and Rephaim?  The Raven Mocker refuses to be used against Stevie Rae, but what choice does he have when no one in the entire world, including Zoey, would be okay with their relationship?  Does he betray his father or his heart? In the pulse-pounding 8th book in the bestselling House of Night series, how far will the bonds of friendship stretch and how strong are the ties that bind one girl’s heart?

Slice of Cherry, by Dia Reeves

Kit and Fancy Cordelle are sisters of the best kind: best friends, best confidantes, and best accomplices. The daughters of the infamous Bonesaw Killer, Kit and Fancy are used to feeling like outsiders, and that’s just the way they like it. But in Portero, where the weird and wild run rampant, the Cordelle sisters are hardly the oddest or most dangerous creatures around. It’s no surprise when Kit and Fancy start to give in to their deepest desire—the desire to kill. What starts as a fascination with slicing open and stitching up quickly spirals into a gratifying murder spree. Of course, the sisters aren’t killing just anyone, only the people who truly deserve it. But the girls have learned from the mistakes of their father, and know that a shred of evidence could get them caught. So when Fancy stumbles upon a mysterious and invisible doorway to another world, she opens a door to endless possibilities….

The Faeman Quest, by Herbie Brennan

Herbie Brennan’s popular and critically acclaimed Faerie Wars series is well known for its cast of magical characters, hilarious dialogue, and wildly inventive flights of fantasy. Now, with The Faeman Quest, Brennan returns to the world of Faerie to introduce a new character – Mella, the daughter of King Consort Henry and Queen Holly Blue. When Mella accidentally travels to the country of Haleklind, she discovers rebel forces preparing an invasion using a terrifying new magical weapon. This novel features old favorites-Brimstone, Pyrgus, and Lord Hairstreak’s head-but readers will identify immediately with Mella, whose stubborn streak and fiesty daring must save the Faerie realm from mass destruction.

Vampire Diaries: Stephan’s Diaries: Bloodlust, by L. J. Smith

A new beginning . . . When Stefan Salvatore’s first love turned him into a vampire, his world—and his soul—were destroyed. Now he and his brother, Damon, must flee their hometown, where they risk being discovered . . . and killed. The brothers head to New Orleans, looking for safe haven. But the city is more dangerous than they ever imagined, full of other vampires—and vampire hunters. Will Stefan’s eternal life be forever damned? Based on the popular CW TV show inspired by the bestselling novels, Stefan’s Diaries reveals the truth about what really happened between Stefan, Damon, and Katherine—and how the Vampire Diaries love triangle began.

The Lost Gate: A Novel of the Mither Mages, by Orson Scott Card

Card’s newest series opener can’t decide whether it’s a thought experiment featuring a nifty magic system, a YA urban fantasy, or a series of fantasy interludes, so it settles for performing all three tasks satisfactorily, if not spectacularly. Danny North, descendant of exiled mages from another world, is taken aback when he comes into his true powers as a gatemage. He could reconnect his people with their long-lost home world, but gatemages are usually killed to maintain a fragile peace among the exiled clans. Fleeing his home, Danny finds refuge and slowly explores his potential, planning to open the first Great Gate in 14 centuries. Meanwhile, on the far-off world of Westil, a young gatemage named Wad finds love, conspiracies, and betrayal in a remote castle while struggling to recall his hazy past. Though occasionally uneven and meandering, this ambitious tale is well crafted, highly detailed, and pleasantly accessible.

The Book of Elizabeth, by Darby Harn

Alice remembers the fall of the Berlin Wall. How she doesn’t know, because it never happened; there was never a Wall. There was never a Berlin. In their place is a new world, a new history unburdened and unfettered of the past except for a small few like herself, swept out of their proper places in time and stranded with their memories in the new now, people from every era, poets, gladiators, peasants and queens. Queen Elizabeth the First finds herself, for the first time in her life, free; free of the weight of her office, her world and the constraints of her time. She relishes the opportunity to establish her own personal identity, her own personal destiny but she cannot avoid being at the center of a great struggle. Some, like Alice, want to learn the truth of what happened, and if possible, put things back the way they were meant to be . . . but in embracing the virgin world, the queen has no intent to restore the past but to see it banished, even from her own mind, forever . . .

House Name: The House War book 3, by Michelle West

The House War series centers on the most popular character in The Sun Sword series: a young woman named Jewel, who survives both the everyday perils of being an orphan in the slums of the city of Averalaan, and the demonic dangers of the Undercity, and who rises to become a key figure in House Terafin, the most important of the Ten Houses of the Essalieyan Empire. At the close of The Sun Sword series, the House War is about to begin. Now, at last, that story can be told.

Secrets of the Demon, by Diana Rowland

Homicide detective Kara Gillian has a special talent: she can sense the “arcane” in our world, and there’s quite a bit of it, even in Beaulac, Louisiana. She’s also a summoner of demons, and works on a task force that deals with supernatural crimes. Her partners are attractive and smart FBI agents, but they’re not summoners, and they’re not telling Kara why they are on this special force with her. To make things worse, Kara has pledged herself to one of the most powerful of demons-a Demon Lord-who helped save her partner’s life, but now expects things in return. Meanwhile, she’s trying to solve a string of murders that are somehow tied together by money, sex, rock music and…mud. But how can she concentrate on the case when she’s not even sure who-or what-her partners are?

Boondocks Fantasy, edited by Jean Rabe

From vampires in the Appalachians and leprechauns in the Smokies to mermaids in the Mississippi and bloodthirsty trolls in an Alabama trailer park the South makes a unique setting for the 20 stories in this anthology of redneck vampires, werewolves, wizards, elves, and other creatures. Featuring original stories by Gene Wolfe, Timothy Zahn, Chris Pierson, Mickey Zucker Reichert, Steven Savile, Elizabeth A. Vaughan, Jay Lake, Anton Strout, and many more.

Restless Soul (Rogue Angel), by Alex Archer

In 1966, a group of battle-weary American GIs trekked through the Vietnamese jungle knowing each step could mean facing the enemy’s guns. But instead of ambush, they stumbled upon a hidden treasure beyond their wildest dreams. It was a discovery that exacted a terrible cost. A vacation spot picked at random, Thailand is intended to provide relaxation time for globe-trotting archaeologist Annja Creed. Yet the irresistible pull of the country’s legendary Spirit Cave lures Annja and her companions deep within a network of underground chambers—nearly to their deaths. The ancient burial sites have slumbered through the ages. Yet no rest is found there—just the voices of the dead. When the dead speak, will they help Annja uncover the perplexing past of a remarkable find or will they call her to join them?

Blood Bound, by Patricia Briggs

Jalopy mechanic Mercedes Thompson may not be a were-creature, ruled by phases of the moon, but she can change into a coyote whenever she wants to. Because she owes him a favor, Mercedes agrees to back up vampire friend Stefan when he confronts another of his kind. But, being demon-possessed, that vampire proves deadlier than most. Before she can so much as bark, Mercedes is up to her ears in vampires fighting vampires, werewolves fighting vampires, and humans in the middle. She aims to off the demon-possessed vampire before any more killings, but she can’t count on everyone who ought to be her ally because the local top vampire has schemes of her own. Briggs’ world in which witches, vampires, werewolves, and shape-shifters live beside ordinary people is plausibly constructed; the characters are excellent; and the plot keeps the pages flapping. Those who haven’t read the first Mercedes Thompson tale, Moon Called (2006), may well want to after reading the second.

March in Country: A Novel of the Vampire Earth, by E. E. Knight

The race is on to claim the area between the Ohio River and Tennessee. What’s left of the resistance is hiding out in the tangle of central Kentucky hills- leaving the powerful, well-organized Kurian vampires the opportunity to fill the void. Major David Valentine knows there’s only one way for them to find help before the Kurians settle in: a desperate dash by hijacked rail, followed by a harrowing river journey. Valentine unites friends old and new in the effort- but the Kurian Order won’t easily yield the blood-soaked Kentucky soil.

Cobra Guardian: Cobra War Book 2, by Timothy Zahn

When the colony worlds Adirondack and Silvern fell to the Troft forces almost without a struggle. Outnumbered and on the defensive, Earth made a desperate decision. It would attack the aliens not from space, but on the ground—with forces the Trofts did not even suspect. Thus were created the Cobras, a guerilla force whose weapons were surgically implanted, invisible to the unsuspecting eye, yet undeniably deadly. And the Moreau family were the most famous of the Cobra warriors. Long after victory over the Troft was achieved, the Cobras made common cause against their former adversaries against a new enemy. Their reward was three planets that would be a home for the Cobras, who deadly powers made them too dangerous to feel at home on Earth. Now, years had passed and not everyone on the Cobra worlds thought that the Cobras were worth the cost of maintaining their existing built-in weaponry, let alone supporting research to improve the Cobra weapons, and possibly even put an end to the negative effects of that built-in weaponry, which caused Cobras to die much too young. Many who had never known interplanetary war were convinced that the Cobras were not needed at all. That was a grave miscalculation, because a Troft faction has decided to invade the Cobra planets in force, using a new strategy that even the formidable Cobra warriors may not be able to defeat . . .

Halo: Cryptum: Book One of the Forerunner Saga, by Greg Bear

100,000 years ago, the galaxy was populated by a great variety of beings. But one species–eons beyond all others in both technology and knowledge–achieved dominance. They ruled in peace but met opposition with quick and brutal effectiveness. They were the Forerunners–the keepers of the Mantle, the next stage of life in the Universe’s Living Time. And then they vanished. This is their story

Bornstellar Makes Eternal Lasting is a young rebellious Forerunner. He is a Manipular, untried–yet to become part of the adult Forerunner society, where vast knowledge and duty waits. He comes from a family of Builders, the Forerunners’ highest and most politically powerful rate. It is the Builders who create the grand technology that facilitates Forerunner dominance over the known universe.  It is the Builders who believe they must shoulder the greatest burden of the Mantle–as shepherds and guardians of all life. Bornstellar is marked to become a great Builder just like his father. But this Manipular has other plans. He is obsessed with lost treasures of the past. His reckless passion to seek out the marvelous artifacts left behind by the Precursors–long-vanished superbeings of unknowable power and intent—forces his father’s hand. Bornstellar is sent to live among the Miners, where he must come to terms with where his duty truly lies. But powerful forces are at play.  Forerunner society is at a major crux. Past threats are once again proving relentless. Dire solutions–machines and strategies never before contemplated–are being called up, and fissures in Forerunner power are leading to chaos. On a Lifeworker’s experimental planet, Bornstellar’s rebellious course crosses the paths of two humans, and the long lifeline of a great military leader, forever changing Bornstellar’s destiny …and the fate of the entire galaxy. This is a tale of life, death, intergalactic horror, exile, and maturity. It is a story of overwhelming change–and of human origins.  For the Mantle may not lie upon the shoulders of Forerunners forever.

A Hard Day’s Knight, by Simon R. Green

John Taylor is a P.I. with a special talent for finding lost things in the dark and secret center of London known as the Nightside. He’s also the reluctant owner of a very special-and dangerous-weapon. Excalibur, the legendary sword. To find out why he was chosen to wield it, John must consult the Last Defenders of Camelot, a group of knights who dwell in a place that some find more frightening than the Nightside. London Proper. It’s been years since John’s been back- and there are good reasons for that.

Downrigger Drift (Deathlands), by James Axler

The nuclear cataclysm that maimed America altered the rules of existence. The new reality guarantees a grim battle for survival, but the higher human instinct to exist in peace and good will lives on. Legends endure and Ryan Cawdor is a warrior of his time. When the good fight needs to be won, Ryan and his band take a stand. In the nuke-altered region of the Great Lakes, Ryan and his group face the spectrum—from the idyllic to the horrific—of a world reborn. Close to enclaves of peace and sanctuary, Deathlands’ most distorted spawn of humanity, cannibals, spread terror. Against the battered shoreline of Lake Michigan, an encounter with an old friend leads to a battle to save Milwaukee from a force of deadly mutant interlopers—and to liberate one of their own.

Of Truth and Beasts: A Novel of the Noble Dead, by Barb & J. C. Hendee

In this ninth Noble Dead novel, young Journeyor Wynn Hygeorht finds herself cast into the wilds on a dangerous quest for knowledge that may instead lead to her doom.

The Soul Mirror: A Novel of Collegia Magica, by Carol Berg

In a royal city beset by hauntings, plagues of birds, and strange sinkholes that swallow light and buildings, whispers of necromancy swirl about the queen’s volatile sorcerer. Scholarly, reclusive Anne de Vernase rejoices that she lacks magical talent. Her father’s pursuit of illicit sorcery has left her beloved family in ruins and her future bleak. But a plague of murders compels Anne to unravel a dead sister’s magical puzzle. With none to trust but a friend she cannot see, Anne must investigate matters beyond science – a centuries-old rivalry, the boundaries of death, and the most dangerous sorcerer in Sabria . . .

Soul Trapper, by F. J. Lennon

This is the debut novel by computer programmer F. J. Lennon, and it is the first novel to be adapted from an iPhone app.

Shortly after death, a soul will see a door of light leading to the afterlife. But sometimes, when there’s something or someone still pulling at them, souls turn their back to this door. Instead, they haunt the living . . . Hollywood native Kane Pryce isn’t your average twenty-something dabbling musician. Yes, he’s an occasional substance abuser with a distrustful nature and self-destructive streak. And yes, most people might take him for a down-on-his-luck slacker. But to those in a very small circle, he’s also known as a ghost-hunting legend. Delving deep into the supernatural isn’t a lifestyle that Kane chose for himself, however; it was thrust upon him when his father vanished under mysterious circumstances. Unbeknownst to anyone besides Kane, his father left instructions to his son that led Kane to the Soul Trap, a powerful supernatural treasure that allows him to hunt down, capture, and send ghosts from the earthly realm to the afterlife. For Kane, power over the supernatural has come with a price. Despite his attempts to do good with this power, his efforts often leave a path of destruction. So when his paranormal side-job attracts the attention of Eva Kells, a crack reporter intent on breaking his story, Kane is reluctant can he trust her? Soon, though, risking his heart on a snooping journalist is the least of Kane’s worries. He receives a call from a terrified priest whose church is haunted by the soul of a deceased little boy. Kane takes on the case, but as he begins to learn the strange details surrounding the boy’s death, he realizes that there’s much more at stake than he ever could have imagined. And to complicate things even further, he falls hard for the boy’s mother. The only problem is, she’s been dead for almost fifty years . . . Nail-biting and darkly humorous, SoulTrapper takes readers on a thrilling ride through the ghostly realm.

Mercy Blade (Jane Yellowrock, book 3), by Faith Hunter

Jane, a shapeshifting vampire-hunter-for-hire, crosses paths with a stranger who has arrived in New Orleans, enlisted to hunt vampires who have gone insane-or so he says…

Citadel: Troy Rising II, by John Ringo

Of all the hosts of Eurotas the Troias were the most fell. For they were born of Winter. Between the Solar Array Pumped Laser and Troy, the two trillion ton nickel-iron battlestation created by eccentric billionaire Tyler Vernon, Earth has managed to recapture the Sol system from their Horvath conquerors and begin entering the galactic millieu. But when the Rangora Empire rapidly crushes humanity’s only ally it becomes clear the war is just beginning. At the heart of nickel iron and starlight are the people, Marines, Navy and civilians, who make Troy a living, breathing, engine of war. Survivors of apocalypse, they know the cost of failure. If this Troy falls, no one will be left to write the epic. Citadel continues the saga begun in Live Free or Die, following the paths of several characters during the first years of The Spiral Arm Wars culminating in the First Battle of E Eridani.

Released Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

The Naming of the Beasts (Felix Castor), by Mike Carey

The pulse-pounding pace never slackens as Carey’s superlative fifth supernatural thriller featuring London exorcist Felix “Fix” Castor picks up where its predecessor, Thicker Than Water, left off. Castor’s closest friend, Rafi Ditko, who’s possessed by the demon Asmodeus, has escaped from his jail cell and begun killing off people close to Ditko, starting with his former girlfriend, Ginny Parris. In order to thwart the evil spirit, Castor must be careful about his choice of allies, even as he struggles to predict his adversary’s next move. Amid the grimness, Carey manages to slide in flashes of humor, as in his portrayal of the difficulties the British legal system faces with the increasing numbers of the dead and the undead, whose civil rights also need protecting. At this rate, Carey could give Jim Butcher more than a run for his money as the best living writer of dark urban fantasy.

Hell’s Horizon (The City), by Darren Shan

Written before Darren O’Shaughnessy became a bestselling young adult author as Darren Shan, this gory companion to June 2010’s Procession of the Dead is a twisting, paranormal gangster mystery. Al “Algiers” Jeery works for the Cardinal, crime boss of the City. When Al’s new girlfriend, Nic, is brutally murdered in one of the Cardinal’s hotels, the boss asks Al to investigate. Al dutifully starts researching and quickly learns he knew nothing about Nic. Blind Incan priests, Nic’s weird friends, and the terrifying assassin Paucar Wami conspire as Al’s life unravels along with the mystery. Events occur in parallel to those of Procession of the Dead, but the stories are quite independent. Readers familiar with Shan’s teen titles might need to exercise a bit of patience with the pacing, but fans of dark urban fantasy will eagerly look forward toward City of Snakes, the next installment.

The Hammer, by K. J. Parker

Gignomai is the youngest brother in the current generation of met’Oc, a once-noble family exiled on an island for their role in a vaguely remembered civil war. On this island, a colony was founded seventy years ago. The plan was originally for the colonists to mine silver, but there turned out not to be any. Now, an uneasy peace exists on the island, between the colonists and the met’Oc. The met’Oc are tolerated, in spite of occasional cattle stealing raids, since they alone possess the weapons considered necessary protection against the island’s savages. Gignomai is about to discover exactly what it is expected of him, and what it means to defy his family. He is the hammer who will provide the spark that will ignite a brutal and bloody war.

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

Book News, Books, News

“Halo: Cryptum” Excerpts

The next book in the Halo series, Halo: Cryptum, is due out on January 4th. Tor.com and the Halo website have early previews. Tor.com has an exclusive excerpt of chapter one, which you can view here. You need to register at tor.com, but it’s free and only takes a second. You can read chapter two on the official Halo website.

The author, Greg Bear, is going to be touring at the beginning of January in Washington state and San Diego. You can check the details here on tor.com’s website.

[via tor.com]