After yesterday's foray into fantasy, it's time to move on to its inbred sex-starved cousin of the municipal variety. As a subgenre, Urban Fantasy doesn't look to be going anywhere any time soon. Not only do all the major players return, they've also got a few new faces to contend with in the private investigator / witch / nurse/ vampire / nurse / waitress / werewolf / lover / guilty pleasure business.
Despite my proclivity for poking fun, I'd be lying if I said that I didn't enjoy the occasional Urban Fantasy. There are a lot of Twilight knock-offs or Dresden Dopplegangers - you just need to figure out what's worth reading and what's pure drek. Hopefully these promising new series will be the start of something special...
Midnight Riot (US) / Rivers of London (UK)
Author: Ben Aaronovitch
Publisher: Del Rey
Release Date: February 1, 2011
Synopsis: Probationary Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. Too bad his superior plans to assign him to the Case Progression Unit, where the biggest threat he’ll face is a paper cut.
But Peter’s prospects change in the aftermath of a puzzling murder, when he gains exclusive information from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost. Peter’s ability to speak with the lingering dead brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who investigates crimes involving magic and other manifestations of the uncanny. Now, as a wave of brutal and bizarre murders engulfs the city, Peter is plunged into a world where gods and goddesses mingle with mortals and a long-dead evil is making a comeback on a rising tide of magic.
Author: Kevin Hearne
Publisher: Del Rey
Release Date: April 19, 2011
Synopsis: Atticus O’Sullivan has been running for two thousand years and he’s a bit tired of it. After he stole a magical sword from the Tuatha Dé Danann (those who became the Sidhe or the Fae) in a first century battle, some of them were furious and gave chase, and some were secretly amused that a Druid had the cheek to defy them. As the centuries passed and Atticus remained an annoyingly long-lived fugitive, those who were furious only grew more so, while others began to aid him in secret.
Now he’s living in Tempe, Arizona, the very last of the Druids, far from where the Fae can easily find him. It’s a place where many paranormals have decided to hide from the troubles of the Old World—from an Icelandic vampire holding a grudge against Thor to a coven of Polish witches who ran from the German Blitzkrieg.
Unfortunately, the very angry Celtic god who wants that sword has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power, plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, a sexy bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good, old-fashioned luck of the Irish to kick some arse and deliver himself from evil.
Author: Cassie Alexander
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: January 1, 2012
Synopsis: Nursing school never prepared Edie Spence to work with vampires.
When Edie's heroin-addicted brother overdoses, she's given a choice at the County Emergency Room: she can watch him die or buy him an unconventional treatment by quitting her current job and transferring to Floor Y4. She agrees to transfer and finds herself in the bowels of the County hospital, working with vampire-exposed humans and were-creatures in their mortal phases. Caring for her new patients is stressful enough -- and when she rescues an abused little girl from a vampire prince, she realizes that saving her brother may have come at the cost of her immortal soul.
I apologize for the short list of horror recommendations. In my defense, A) There aren't a lot of high profile horror novels, debuts or no. B) A lot of the newer writers are writing short fiction. C) Horror isn't my strong suit.
Author: Adam Baker
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Release Date: April 14, 2011
Synopsis: They took the job to escape the world
They didn't expect the world to end.
But the world beyond their frozen wasteland has gone to hell. Cities lie ravaged by a global pandemic. One by one TV channels die, replaced by silent wavebands.
The Rampart crew are marooned. They must survive the long Arctic winter, then make their way home alone. They battle starvation and hypothermia, unaware that the deadly contagion that has devastated the world is heading their way...
Kasker Rampart: a derelict refinery platform moored in the Arctic Ocean. A skeleton crew of fifteen fight boredom and despair as they wait for a relief ship to take them home.
Author: SL Grey
Release Date: June 1, 2011
Synopsis: Dan works at a bookstore in a deadly dull shopping mall where nothing ever happens. He’s an angsty emo-kid who sells mid-list books to mid-list people for the minimum wage. He hates his job
Rhoda has dragged her babysitting charge to the mall so she can meet her dealer and score some coke. Now the kid’s run off, and she has two hours to find him. She hates her life.
Rhoda bullies Dan into helping her search, but as they explore the neon-lit corridors behind the mall, disturbing text messages lure them into the bowels of the building, where old mannequins are stored in grave-like piles and raw sewage drips off the ceiling. The only escape is down, and before long Dan and Rhoda are trapped in a service lift listening to head-splitting musak. Worst of all, the lift’s not stopping at the bottom floor.
Plummeting into the earth, Dan and Rhoda enter a sinister underworld that mirrors their worst fears. Forced to complete a series of twisted tasks to find their way out, they finally emerge into the brightly lit food court, sick with relief at the banal sight of people shopping and eating. But something feels different. Why are the shoppers all pumped full of silicone? Why are the shop assistants chained to their counters? And why is McDonald’s selling lumps of bleeding meat?
Just when they think they’ve made it back to the mall, they realise their nightmare has only just begun…
Author: John Hornor Jacobs
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Release Date: August 1, 2011
Synopsis: Recent World War II veteran Bull Ingram is working as muscle when a Memphis DJ hires him to find Ramblin' John Hastur. The mysterious blues man's dark, driving music--broadcast at ever-shifting frequencies by a phantom radio station--is said to make living men insane and dead men rise.
Disturbed and enraged by the bootleg recording the DJ plays for him, Ingram follows Hastur's trail into the strange, uncivilized backwoods of Arkansas, where he hears rumors the musician has sold his soul to the Devil.
But as Ingram closes in on Hastur and those who have crossed his path, he'll learn there are forces much more malevolent than the Devil and reckonings more painful than Hell . . .
In a masterful debut of Lovecraftian horror and Southern gothic menace, John Hornor Jacobs reveals the fragility of free will, the dangerous power of sacrifice, and the insidious strength of blood.
Now, It's not the most comprehensive slate but as I said, I can always use some help in the Horror department. Recommendations of new authors are always welcome in the comments.
The same goes for Urban Fantasy - finding the diamond in that rough is much too dirty for my liking. But I'm always happy to take a look at something someone suggests is worth digging for.
Come back tomorrow for a rather respectable look at a few literary crossovers and those agonizingly brilliant things I refer to as short fiction collections.
If you are looking for more 2011 debuts, check out the full index (including science fiction, fantasy, and steampunk) here.