Today's recommendations are by James Knapp. James Knapp's first novel, State of Decay was a Philip K. Dick award nominee, and won the 2010 Compton Crook Award. He's since completed the Revivors trilogy and written the first novel of a new series, Burn Zone, under the pseudonym James K. Decker.
- First up is T.C. McCarthy, author of the Subterrene War trilogy which includes Germline, Exogene, and Chimera (Germline won the 2012 Compton Crook Award). He weaves stories of very broken people in very dangerous environments, and he does it all with a poetic flair that really stuck with me. It’s much more than just futuristic war. A struggle over rare earth elements has come to a head under the mountains of Kazakhstan, where soldiers sealed in suits of armor fight in tunnels under tons of rock. In Germline, an embedded reporter quickly is forced to turn soldier, and the way it changes him so completely makes for compelling reading. McCarthy explores the human psyche, what we're willing to do in order to survive, and the effects that the horrors of war can inflict on us. He introduces genetically engineered soldiers, but explores the ethics of that (or lack thereof), and the mindset such soldiers might have, or be forced to have. He wraps it all in a great series of novels, and he does it all believably and memorably. His short story "Somewhere it Snows" proves that he's equally good at exploring other worlds, too, and I sincerely hope that he does. Writers like him are the type that we want to stick around, and so I'm recommending him to anyone who likes hard science fiction - even if military fiction isn't usually your thing, give him a try.
- Next is Alex Hughes, author of the Mindspace series, which so far includes Clean, and Sharp. I'm a big fan of science fiction and also noir, and her work has strong elements of both. I likened Clean to a fun blend of Blade Runner and Chinatown, but that doesn't truly do it justice. Her vision of a future Atlanta feels real, a hot, steamy place where a talented but damaged telepath named Adam uses his abilities to help track down criminals. The handling of 'mindspace', the sort of psychic residue left behind by people, is something I'd like to see a lot more of. Telepaths are able to perceive it, almost like an additional sense, and can use it to sort of look into the past. Adam struggles with an addiction that Hughes handles perfectly, a fight that occurs day to day, minute to minute. I'm really hoping this series turns into a long running thing.
- Lastly, although I don't read a lot of fantasy, I want to give a shout out to fantasy author Myke Cole whose work I was introduced to at Balticon (his debut novel Control Point won the 2013 Compton Crook Award, and the second novel in the series, Fortress Frontier, is out now) - he writes Military Fantasy so it’s a mixture of bullets and spell slinging. His real-life military experience brings a lot to the table, and really pushes his work from just guns and explosions into a much broader examination of what it means to be in the armed forces. You'll learn a lot of military jargon, and my fantasy-loving friends assure me that his magic system is top notch.
Stay tuned for the next post where we learn who literary agent Joshua Bilmes thinks we should be reading more of!