Oh how I love the Fall — the changing of the leaves, jacket weather, Halloween, my birthday (!). And on my birthday wish list is typically a slew of books by my favorite authors and publishers released from early September through November. Anne Rice’s The Vampire Armand, Clive Barker’s Abarat, Max Brooks’s World War Z all came out during this season, and nearly every Fall Neil Gaiman (Coraline, The Graveyard Book) offers up something new.
For 2009, here are some of this Fall’s coolest literary offerings of vampires, zombies, monsters, mysteries, and more. Note, I’ve kept the list to just novels (meaning, no graphic novels), and remember, these are just items that I’m interested in. If you have more suggestions, we’d love to know ’em!
A few weeks ago, I received a publicist’s email asking me if I’d like a copy of Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter for review. I didn’t read any further before I hit Reply with an “Absolutely” as my response. Serious, Queen Victoria as a demon hunter, that’s really all I needed to know. When the book arrived, I figured I’d leaf through it and take a few seconds to familiarize myself with it; next thing I knew I was a third of the way through the book. Yes, it was that good.
I’m a big fan of historical fiction, so even if various types of demon folk weren’t involved, I think I’d have enjoyed the story of a young Victoria coming of age as the Queen of England and falling in love with Prince Albert nevertheless. But add in the Queen’s inherent ability to battle demons, along with demons, zombies, reanimators, and two-headed creatures, and damn if that’s not good stuff. It’s an historical fiction/horror mash-up sprinkled with humor in all the right places. One of my favorite characters is a manservant who becomes zombie lunch only to return to life … to continue being a manservant! Seriously, I love this guy, and you will too.
I don’t want to go into the plot, as there is much that is revealed about the Queen’s enemies and allies, as well as how the dark forces came to be. The book is a very quick read, fast-paced, and interesting; definitely hard to put down.
This is actually a Fall release for the UK, so if you’re overseas (or not but are willing to use Amazon UK), I highly recommend grabbing this book right away. If not and you’re in the U.S., the book comes out here in early January, so pre-order it now. I’m not seeing much publicity on this one, but it’s most deserving of some big recognition. [Update for U.S. release: Paperback | Kindle]
Who would have thought to have the prim and proper Bennett sisters of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice become zombie-slaying masters in His Majesty’s service? Quirk publishers and co-author Seth Grahame-Smith, that’s who! A mash-up of the 1813 classic novel and zombie horror, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was a smash hit upon its initial release in April of this year.
Now, Quirk is releasing the novel as a Deluxe Heirloom Hardcover Edition with all-new full-color illustrations and 30 percent more zombie action. The living dead — known here as Unmentionables — are ravishing the English countryside in search of brains to feast on. The young Bennett sisters have little time to spend on finding husbands as they are tasked to help rid the country of the zombies plaguing it. Thanks to their special martial arts training, the Bennett girls kick major zombie ass in Grahame-Smith’s alternate version.
Ok, so this came out in August, but this choose your own adventure style book is still a perfect Fall read. I mean, everyone loves a good zombie story, right? Well, Zombocalypse Now offers up a variety of undead encounters with 112 possible endings — and apparently there’s a least 7 where you don’t die — score!
For those of you Zombie aficionados who always ponder the ‘what if’ scenarios of a zombie apocalypse, this is a fun way to find out how you would deal with it and what the outcome from your decisions would be.
For instance, let’s say you’re at a restaurant with a blind date, who, when asked to choose an appetizer, settles on an order of Brrraaaaaaains. What do you do?: head to the restroom then make a run for it, or stick it out a little longer since this is only your third or so worst blind date? Your decision will then lead you to another scenario, where you once again will have to choose your own fate. You might end up on the menu or… well, let’s face it, you’re probably what’s for dinner no matter how you choose to get there. But, it’s not how you get to die, it’s how you get to how you’re going to die, right? And hey, since there are a few ways for you to survive, part of the fun of the book is trying to make your way to that ending.
Check out an excerpt from the book for a quick sampling.
The famous Victorian detective Sherlock Holmes (the character created by author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) was a master at his craft, solving hundreds of mysteries in an almost superhero-like way. But, Holmes was just an ordinary man — yes, with a keen sense of logic for sure, but a man nonetheless. As a detective, Holmes used more than just the logic he’s so known for; no, Holmes had skills in a great many things: safe-cracking and lock-picking; various methods of self-defense; the knowledge of how to fake his own death; and the ability to keep his mind sharp and stage a dramatic entrance. And that’s only a small sample of Holmes’s capability.
In The Sherlock Holmes Handbook, the secrets and methods to Holmes’s successful career are revealed with separate sections on how to master your detective, survival, and life skills so that you, like Holmes, can one day retire to a life of apiculture — raising bees.
Once you’re done honing your detective skills with the Sherlock Holmes Handbook, try your hand at a modern-day forensics challenge in CSI: An Interactive Mystery, based on the popular TV series Crime Scene Investigation.
What makes this hardcover book “interactive” is that as you read the story, you also study the eight removable clues throughout the book, like a blood-stained booklet and burned papers recovered from a fire. In this murder case, a wealthy real estate developer is killed by a masked intruder in his mansion, which is equipped with high-tech surveillance cameras surrounding it. The story is written just like an episode of the television show, with Gil Grisson and Jim Brass working with their CSI team to solve a murder. As they find the clues, so you do, and you’ll get to examine the evidence at the same time the CSI team does and study the photographs taken.
If you’re a fan of the television series, you will absolutely love this book; even if you’re not familiar with the series, you can enjoy the story and the interactiveness of helping to solve the mystery.
As with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters takes a Jane Austen literary classic and infuses horror elements. In this rendition, sea monsters have turned against the humans and have started wreaking havoc on the citizens of 19th century England. In the original novel, the Dashwood sisters must leave their residence after their father passes away; in Sea Monsters, Mr. Dashwood meets his untimely demise at the jaws of a hammerhead shark while out on an expedition to learn more about The Alteration — the uprising of the sea creatures. The sisters and their mother have little choice but to move to a small cottage owned by their cousin in a very dangerous part of the country surrounded by creature-infested waters. The ladies must fend for themselves most of the time, while maintaining their decorum. And, with this being 19th century England, the sisters still have to find suitable husbands — not so easy when potential suitors are also potential shark bait.
Sea Monsters is a unique tale, which I feel brings the characters more to life. Sense and Sensibility was a more rigid novel where I didn’t feel very much for the Dashwood sisters; I also didn’t feel as though the characters were very distinguishable. In Sea Monsters, all of that changes, especially with the character of Colonel Brandon who’s given a very extreme makeover. I had a lot of fun reading this story, and highly recommend it.
Talk about long-awaited! This official sequel to Bram Stoker’s 1897 literary classic Dracula has the distinction of being penned by Stoker’s great-grandnephew Dacre Stoker along with Dracula documentarian Ian Holt. Reportedly based on notes and deleted material from the classic novel, Dracula The Un-Dead takes place in 1912, 25 years after the end Dracula’s demise.
Quincey Harker, who is the adult son of Jonathan and Mina, comes upon a stage production of Dracula directed and produced by Bram Stroker and learns of his parents’ run-in with the legendary vampire. Now, one by one, Dracula’s own enemies who hunted him down are now being hunted down themselves. Has Dracula risen from death to exact revenge or is there another evil force at work?
The Gathering Storm is the twelfth book of the late author Robert Jordan‘s popular Wheel of Time fantasy series. It was co-written from Jordan’s notes by Brandon Sanderson and is the first part of a planned trilogy of books called A Memory of Light that will be the end of the Wheel series.
The series began with 1990’s The Eye of the World where the young shepherd Rand al’Thor must flee his village after an attack by evil Trollocs, minions of the Dark One. From there, Rand’s world is changed forever, as he learns more about himself, his past, and his destiny.
So much has happened since then in the Wheel series. Since The Gathering Storm is the twelfth book in the series, you’ll have a lot of catching up to do if you haven’t jumped on already (and you really do need to start at the beginning).
If you’re ready for book 12, you’ll find Rand trying to unite a fractured network of kingdoms and alliances in preparation for the Last Battle, while struggling with an inner conflict. Meanwhile, Egwene al’Vere is a captive of the White Tower and must keep the Aes Sedai together.
I love the Star Wars expanded universe that lives on in the books, starting from 1977’s Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, continuing with the mega jumpstart of the EU with Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire in 1991, and now with the latest release, Star Wars: Death Troopers.
Star Wars: Death Troopers takes place just before the events of the first Star Wars movie (that’s Episode IV: A New Hope for all you newcomers), and is horror crossover, which is somewhat unique to the Star Wars universe.
An Imperial prison barge runs into some engine problems while out in deep, uninhabited space. Luckily enough, a seemingly abandoned Star Destroyer is also in the area that the barge can use for parts. A boarding party is dispatched, but only half the crew returns bringing back with them a deadly disease that will kill off all who come into contact with it. The hitch is the dead don’t stay dead, and that seemingly empty Star Destroyer was not so empty; nope, there be undead hungry zombies lurking there.
The Stormtroopers of the Star Wars universe have always been intriguing, with their white helmets and armor, their deadly accuracy with blasters (HA HA), and the clip-cloppity sounds when they run. Who are these soldiers? What motivates them? What do they think? Why can’t they actually hit a target? In Death Troopers, those faces behind the mask are now decrepit, horrid walking undead prowling dark corridors of a ghost ship looking for their next meal.
Zombies are all the rage these days, so mashing up the Star Wars universe — especially the Stormtroopers — with them was a clever idea, and Death Troopers is a perfect inaugural effort for this subgenre.
Neil Gaiman‘s latest offering was inspired by traditional Norse mythology and takes place in a village in Ancient Norway where there lives a young boy named Odd who’s had a run of bad luck. After meeting some animals in the forest who each tell him a tale, Odd finds himself on a strange journey to save Asgard from the invading Frost Giants, restore peace in the land, and end the long winter.
Odd and the Frost Giants contains illustrations by Brett Helquist, artist for the Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events books. If you’re a great fan of Gaiman’s, you’ll probably want to also check out the Audio CD version, which is read by the author. For a taste of Odd and the Frost Giants, read chapter 1 online for free right now: Free Read: Chapter 1 of Neil Gaiman’s “˜Odd and the Frost Giants’.
At Geeks of Doom, we love books, so feel free to let us know your picks for favorite Fall reads this year!