From urban fantasy to space-opera via fantasy quests, dystopian post-apocalyptic zombie romps, alternate history, warlocks, prophets, sword-n-sorcery, robots, telepaths and creatures of myth and mystery [phew], here are eighteen inspired titles from indie authors, new writers and a couple of old favourites to add to your to-read list…
BEST LEFT IN THE SHADOWS by Mark Gelineau and Joe King. The body of a Highside girl is found dead in Lowside, beaten and murdered. Daxton Ellis, Magistrate Inspector, and friend to the girl’s noble family, must find answers. The doors of the underworld open only to its own kind. His only hope lies with an old lover, a daughter of the underworld gangs, and the one person he swore he would never see again. She agrees to help him, but for a price. First they must gain the approval of the boss of Prion and the king of rats. Then, deeper they go, traveling into the dark heart of the underworld in search of a killer. Like everything in Lowside, nothing is as it first appears, and everything has a price.
CAN’T DREAM WITHOUT YOU by Tanya Reimer. Legends say that tens of thousands of years ago, Whisperers were banished from the heavens, torn in half, and dumped on a mortal realm they didn’t understand. Longing for their other half, they went from being powerful immortals to lonely leeches relying on humans to survive. Over the years, they earned magic from demons, they left themselves notebooks with hints, and by pairing up with human souls, they eventually found their other halves. Some returned to the heavens. But many did not. The Dark Chronicles are stories that share the heartache of unworthy Whisperers on their journey to immortality after The War of 2019. Can’t Dream Without You is one of those stories, in which we meet two such heroes…
THE DARK DEFILES by Richard Morgan. The final, vast volume of this trilogy is a monumental 240,000 word epic of fast-paced, brutal science-based fantasy. Antihero Ringil comes to his final reckoning as the world tips into another war with the dragon folk. Most terrifying of all, the prophecy of a dark lord come to rule may be coming true very close to home. Brings this complex and mature series to a fitting finish, combining sword-n-sorcery with hard science, and characters so real they might slap your face. Best to start the series with The Steel Remains.
THE FARTHEST CITY by Daniel P Swenson. In the far future, intelligent machines resurrected the human race then disappeared. Now humanity wages a losing war against aliens. One soldier who experiences unbearable loss is possessed by her anger and wants as much revenge as she can get before she dies in battle. An unexpected mission changes everything. She meets a shy, sensitive artist whose origin is deeply intertwined with the machines. Discovering how and why takes them on an incredible journey which alters their very existence.
COWBOY ENDING by Adam Knight. Women are disappearing in Winnipeg, the police are at their wits’ end, the media is in an uproar and Joe is struggling to pay his bills as a nightclub bouncer. After a violent night at the club, Joe’s past and present collide and strange things happen around him. Electrical devices react to his presence in a supernatural way. While Joe comes to terms with his new life in ‘Overdrive’, he becomes enmeshed in the search for one of the missing women. Along the way he uncovers evidence of corruption, betrayal and eventually murder. Urban fantasy suitable for a mature audience with language and graphic imagery.
SLOW BULLETS by Alastair Reynolds. A space-opera novella which somehow sneaked past us last year; an interstellar adventure of war, identity, betrayal, and the preservation of civilisation itself. A vast conflict, one that has encompassed hundreds of worlds and solar systems, appears to be finally at an end. On the brink of the ceasefire, Scur is captured by a renegade war criminal, and left for dead in the ruins of a bunker. She revives aboard a prisoner transport vessel. Something has gone terribly wrong with the ship. Passengers —combatants from both sides of the war — wake up from hibernation far too soon. Their memories, embedded in bullets, are the only links to a world which is no longer recognisable. And Scur will be reacquainted with her old enemy, but with much higher stakes than just her own life.
AWAKE by AmarA. She is suddenly awake. She is alone and does not know where she is. She is vampire and has no memory or how or why. As she struggles with the insatiable Thirst through the night time streets of Seattle, she struggles to piece together that lost night and finds herself on a journey centuries into the past to understand strength, friendship, and destiny. Dark urban fantasy. Available as a free ebook in some formats ($1 on kindle), or download the author’s preferred pdf edition with illustrations.
I AM by Michael Drakich. Genius, wealthy and life regenerated, Adam Spenceworth is living the dream aboard his custom spaceship run by Mum, his first designed AI, protected by Gort, his first robot, and occupied by Eve, his sexbot. With each regeneration he returns to start over as a twenty-five year old man ready to enjoy the pleasures of his success. What could go wrong? How about planetary wars, territorial space battles, alien invasions, and the disturbing fact that each regeneration is taking exponentially longer than the one before bringing him into one galactic crisis after another. A frolicking space drama filled with references sure to strike home with any science fiction aficionado.
THE SIXTH HORSEMAN by Anderson Atlas. For hundreds of years, a ninth century mosque guarded a secret, an artefact covered with strange spores. Zilla tinkered with the spore’s DNA until a biological weapon emerged, one that obliterated all but a fraction of humanity. A new creature spawned inside the rotting corpses. In symbiosis, they attacked, adapted and learned. They were poised to inherit the earth when they met Ian Gladstone. Gladstone now seeks the truth and revenge, as the world crumbles, rots and succumbs to chaos. He needs his hands around the throat of the mastermind, the sixth Horseman…
BLOODHOUND by James Osiris Baldwin. Alexi Sokolsky is a spook, a hitman who uses his mediocre magical talents to help him in the hunt. However, his place in the Russian mafia that dominates New York is more than tenuous. On the wrong side of a power struggle between the old gangsters and the new, Alexi accepts a job that he hopes will gain him enough respect to survive. This job drags him straight into the fight over a being known as a Gift Horse. The Gift Horse could make a world-changing monster out of any mage, and Alexi’s opponents – an immensely powerful maverick from the Italian Mob and an unknown psychopath with the ability to summon demons – both know it. Alexi must decide whether he will answer the Gift Horse’s call to become the cure for the sickness attacking his world, or if he is part of the disease that will destroy it. The first chapter is available to read for free.
SOMETHING OF AN ORDINARY LIFE by John Bryant. Elves, magicians, goblins and centaurs and dwarves: this is a tough world for a plain old-fashioned human to get noticed. Elves normally get all the breaks, but things start turning around for Wally Wilson when he meets an internationally famous supermodel… and an elf. Dating an elf of her notoriety comes with its perks: private parties, fancy restaurants and access to exclusive clubs. It’s a new and exciting world for Wally. For the first time, his life is anything but ordinary. But he fears his newfound status might slip away, and he’ll do just about anything to hold on to it.
WAVE MANDATE by AL Schneider. ‘An exciting introduction to the worlds of the rowdy Academy, where young men train as fighters, and the temple-like Prophecy, where young women learn to augment the fighters with telepathic support. One student, while learning to master a variety of deadly weapons and martial arts, has developed a powerful, sophisticated and revolutionary synthesis of techniques which enables him to use his enemies’ strength to his own advantage. He has a mysterious mental connection with an aspiring prophet who augments his fighting ability by psychically coaching him with her prophetic vision. The characters are engaging, the imagined world is developed thoughtfully, and there’s plenty of action.’
STARLIGHT by William Stacey. A secret power. The revival of magic. An ancient evil stirs. When an impossibly localised lightning storm hits the surrounding forest, twenty-year-old university dropout Cassie Rogan discovers her supernatural side. After centuries of atrophy, the forces of magic are flowing back into our world, and Cassie can now wield arcane powers. Cassie must quickly master these new abilities to protect mankind because a dark entity secretly watches from the shadows. The Fae Seelie (aka the Dark Elves)—humanity’s ancient enemy—have returned to settle the score.
RENAISSANCE by Timothy Freriks. In this political, alternate-history thriller, Robert Curry is unexpectedly put in a position to save the world from imminent nuclear destruction. Given the task of returning to the past and rewriting history, he must first gain enough financial and political power to be able to prevent the series of accidents and manipulations that led to the apocalypse. But he isn’t the only power trying to affect the outcome. In an epic battle, competing energies of cosmic strengths collide in a complex and electrifying weave of plot twists and turns.
THE DREAMS OF THE BLACK BUTTERFLY by Mark James Barrett. Speculative fiction which follows the quest of Moises Quispe as he searches for the near-mythical Black Butterfly. Perhaps the Black Butterfly has been searching for him too, desperate to reveal the tight, elegant writing embedded in its wings. Its stories: tall, dark and cautionary tales of a doomed humanity that he alone can read. And when the butterfly finally submits, the danger that Moises finds himself in pales into insignificance against the fate of humanity itself. The Black Butterfly has chosen him to deliver its message and the future of mankind is in his hands. Man’s imagination will be nature’s revenge…
CARRION by Jonathan Rose. Carrion is about a world consumed by chaos. But in this world, you are not a desperate survivor hoping to outlast the bedlam; instead, you are the monster that caused it. Consumed by an insatiable hunger, a malevolent need to feed, you are the one from whom the masses flee. Follow in the footsteps of a fiend. See what he sees. Taste the flesh. Smell the decay. Suffer the anguish. Witness a massive city crumble under the weight of fear and hate and become hell. Whether engulfed in flames, or flooded by lakes of blood, all that remains are monsters and men, and the war that wages not only between them, but within themselves. Carrion is an epic length prose poem that delves deep into the capitalist psyche.
AFTER THE QUEENS OF THE SICARII by William Wire. A century ago a deadly super-virus infected humanity, killing off the world’s male population. Women ruled alone. When a cure is finally discovered, man was born again, and women began gradually reintroducing the boys back into society. But not all women were happy about that. A secret cult called the Sicarii wanted men to remain extinct. Nancy Rose is a US federal agent, charged with protecting men from the murderous Sicarii. A tip leads her to a party of man-killers, and then an all-out confrontation with one of the formidable Queens of the Sicarii. Nancy will need to shoot from the hip, aim straight, watch her back, and keep her own secrets from being uncovered if she wants to track down and stop the Queens of the Sicarii.
THE SKIFFIES by Aaron David. Four mind-melting sci-fi short stories, both creative and comedic. In ‘Moon2’, the affluent consider building a second Earth; one with a controlled climate well away from earthbound riffraff, just for the rich. In ‘Hughes the Rocket’, the Challenger shuttle disaster inspires an obsession for space travel. ‘One Small Step’ features the first manned mission to Mars. What could possibly go wrong? And in ‘The Big Unchill’, the decision is finally made to defrost all the cryogenically frozen millionaires…
More ripping reads from the crime / thriller / noir genres will follow in our next round-up. Authors / publishers: feel free to drop an email or find us on Facebook if you’d like your title to be mentioned next time around…
Find FIRST CONTRACT at Amazon