One of the best current science fiction and fantasy – assessment roundup | Fiction
Inen Seer (Gollancz, £ 20), Christopher Priest returns to the Dream Archipelago, a number of islands where there is no first. Thriller writer Todd Fremde is being invited to teach at the University of Dearth, a subpolar island that disrupts climate change and time called “mutability”. On the island he was approached by a retired police commissioner; describes in detail the murders that took place 15 years earlier. Fremde investigates the murder after returning home, to find that some of his stories do not match the facts. He soon finds himself confronted with a series of threats that threaten to kill him at his doorstep. While playing the game, Priest reveals the whole secret – Fremde’s efforts to achieve the truth of the cold story – and explains the unreliability of the story. The evidence is confusing, a Kafkaesque trip.
Kate Mascarenhas’ debut was SF’s official book called Psychology of Time Travel, with a leap and a handwriting of women. He changes color to be fun and follow him, A Thief on a Winged Horse (Head of Zeus, £ 18.99), bringing real magic to modern Oxford in an unequal analysis of men and women. In 1820 a conference was set up by four Kendrick sisters, making magical dolls that, when captured, would evoke certain ideas. Over the years the power has changed, and now only men are allowed to indulge in magic. Persephone Kendrick, granddaughter of Paterfamilias Conrad, dreams of being allowed to work with dolls but instead should be in the family law. The book follows Persephone’s frustration, self-doubt and intelligence, as well as a love affair with a stranger, the mysterious Larkin, as he tries to grab a stolen toy and undermines the male dominance of the business.
Jonathan Sims is best known for producing and directing The Magnus Archives, a podcast on fictional characters. As we would expect from a man who has been threatening the audience for years, his first book, Thirteen places (Gollancz, 16.99), combines the notification of failure with an emergency exit. Tobias Fell was the billionaire owner of Banyan Court, a comprehensive development that includes high-rise luxury homes combined with affordable housing. At a party at his dormitory, Fell was brutally murdered – a mystery that has plagued terrorists for years, as no 13 guests, both residents or staff of the stadium, will reveal what happened that night. The portmanteau book goes back to mentioning the visitors and the various magical experiences they encountered in the Banyan Court, which led to their party summons from Fell. The book serves as a list of risk factors and as a cohesive book, and reinforces the end of the nerves that reveal the risks at the party.
Tom Fletcher’s Mfiti bottle (Jo Fletcher, £ 16.99) traces the wealth of Dan, a failed writer who left his wife and child in the wild in Cumbria, where he found work as a dairy farmer. Three fairy tales form a complete picture of the protagonist: the breakdown of his childhood, his failed family and his current life away from the rural idyll. Dan suffers from a vision of a dangerous brown man – and soon finds out that he is not alone, as some villagers are facing difficulties. In addition to the rising fear is a local business called Fallen Stock, which collects the carcasses of animals as well as those whose employees practice magic. When Dan meets Kathryn, a white witch who makes “witch bottles” – milk bottles filled with magic fluids to avoid evil and prevent bad access – Dan agrees to give them to the locals, an idea that makes her receive a number of threatening messages. Fletcher succeeds in disrupting global events – much of Dan’s work is carefully watched – and feel a little more subtle.
English New Zealander Chloe Gong, This Violence is Fun (Hodder & Stoughton, £ 14.99), is a fun-filled experience of well-known events in the 1920s Shanghai. Not only are there fierce rivalry between rival mafia groups but a monster threatening civilians from the Huangpu River, and infectious diseases are ravaging the city. The story follows the fortunes of a strong man, confident Juliette Cai, who has recently returned to China from her studies in the US and a successor to the Scarlet Gang leadership, and Roma Montagov, a group of White Flowers. In a brief review of Romeo and Juliet, Gong wrote a series of love stories – they were childhood lovers whose romance ended bitterly – and told them how they set aside their differences to meet the city’s enemies. This Violent Funeral Service incorporates a solid form, a powerful political connection and a showcase for the atmosphere in Shanghai in transition.
• A recent book by Eric Brown and Murder by Numbers (Severn House).