BLOOMSBURY £16.99

Superheroes, deadly dolls, space pilots, and underworlds

David Barnett samples the latest in science fiction, fantasy and horror

Lavie Tidhar won 2012’s World Fantasy Award for his highly original novel Osama, which posited an alternative-reality in which Bin Laden was the anti-hero of a series of thriller novels. While perhaps not as politically loaded as Osama, Tidhar’s The Violent Century (Hodder & Stoughton, £18.99) is no less powerful. He imagines a world where superheroes are real. But while the Americans go for the brash costumes and public displays of power, Tidhar’s British heroes – primarily Oblivion and Fog – operate in the shadows, and bear witness to the major events of the 20th century in what is quite simply a stunning masterpiece.

Also dealing with superhumans is V E Schwab’s Vicious, coming up for UK readers in January from Titan books (£7.99). Friends Eli and Victor experiment with near-death experiences as a way of unlocking latent superpowers. It’s a supremely plotted and incredibly well-written piece.

In House of Small Shadows (Macmillan, £14.99) Adam Nevill explores a primal modern phobia – the fear of dolls and puppets – and spirals off into an exploration of a long-forgotten English folk tradition that is eminently believable at the same time as it is horrifying. A wonderfully creepy and disturbing novel.

Ann Leckie’s debut Ancillary Justice (Orbit, £7.99) signals the arrival of a hard science fiction author who just might fill the gap left by Iain M Banks. Ancillary Justice is a highly original novel with the protagonist a fractured artificial intelligence of a vast spaceship boiled down to a single reanimated corpse, out for revenge in an intelligent slow-burner. Highly recommended.

Another new hard SF novel with a well-imagined female lead is Gary Gibson’s Marauder (Tor, £18.99), which features pilot Megan Jacinth who has to not only locate an ancient entity and save colonised worlds from an impending alien invasion, but must find the friend she left for dead in order to do so. Solid space-faring action from an established name in the genre.

Mark Charan Newton shot to the top of the epic fantasy tree with his Legends of the Red Sun series, and now he’s done it again with Drakenfeld (Tor, £17.99). It is essentially a locked-room murder mystery, with the titular Drakenfeld an investigator for the Sun Chamber, which tries to maintain justice in the disparate nation-states of the Royal Vispasian Union. Drakenfeld is a flawed yet appealing hero and Newton has wrought a fast-paced fantasy thriller which should appeal to readers of C J Sansom.

Like The Violent Century, Guy Adams’s The Clown Service (Del Ray, £12.99) features a very British secret service. Toby Greene is a less-than successful spy and after one gaffe too many is re-assigned to Section 37 – dubbed “The Clown Service” in the circus of British espionage – tasked with tackling supernatural and paranormal threats. The Clown Service is fun and rips along like the finest episode of the old Avengers TV series.

The New Girl (Atlantic, £7.99) is the third and final outing for the Downside series from writing partnership Sarah Lotz and Louis Greenberg, writing as S L Grey. Their first book The Mall was one of the most original horror debuts of the past few years, and their second, The Ward, managed to recreate and take further their part-satirical and mostly horrifying vision of an underground mirror-world to ours. Incredibly, they’ve managed to keep the idea fresh and new with the final chapter, which not only riffs on the creepy and unsettling atmosphere inherent in schools, but gives us a satisfying look at the other world and how its inhabitants cope with life in our society. A must read.

Rebecca Alexander’s The Secrets of Life and Death (Ebury, £12.99) began life as an entry in a Mslexia writing competition, and has now become the first in a series with a strong female cast and a story that rattles along at a fair pace. It’s a fine addition to the urban fantasy genre and marks Alexander as an author to watch.

And so to The Man With The Compound Eyes (Harvill Secker, £16.99), a Taiwanese novel by Wu Ming-Yi that is, frankly, astonishing. A vortex of trash thrown away by our society has accumulated in the ocean and comes crashing back to land, bringing with it a young boy from an untouched island who lands in the life of bereaved professor Alice Shih. A wonderful novel which deserves a very wide audience.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent