Something More Than Night by Ian Tregillis, Tor Books, 304 pages, $29.99
In many ways, Bayliss, the hard-boiled gumshoe in Tregillis's noir detective novel, is a caricature of the trench-coat-wearing, chain-smoking cynic – only, he happens to be a low-ranking fallen angel. When the seraph Gabriel is murdered and his Jericho Trumpet, an incredible destructive force, is stolen, Bayliss needs to plug the hole left in creation. He appoints Molly, a tough woman who is deeply in over her head following a divine transformation. Equal parts catechism and quantum physics, Tregillis's universe has exquisite structure and considerable depth, and the angelic politics at play are intriguing and always entertaining. Though the tension and the strength of the plot falters near the very end due to a final reveal that doesn't quite match the strength of the rest of the novel, it's a sin to be forgiven for the celestial quality of most of the writing.
Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor, Hodder & Stoughton, $22.99
Set in Lagos, Nigeria, this story of first contact centres on three extremely different people (a Ghanaian rapper, a disgraced solider, and a troubled marine biologist) who are present for alien first contact, and then take on the responsibility to protect the new arrival. At first, they simply want to arrange a meeting between the alien and the president of Nigeria, but are beset by corrupt governmental officials, a panicked and rioting population, and, why not, sea monsters (psychic manatees! Swordfish bent on revenge!). As chaos begins to take hold, so the prose splinters apart. While the characters are often reduced to sketches of themselves due to the intensity of events, the setting is so well-wrought, often horrifying and sublime that the narrative flourishes within.
The Fell Sword by Miles (Christian) Cameron, Orbit, 640 pages, $19
Miles Cameron is, in fact, the alter ego of historical fiction writer Christian Cameron, who is best known for his wildly successful Tyrant series of novels. Reading this massive tome was not unlike hacking through a proverbial forest of thorns, only the barbs are made of the dense, intricate prose style and the formal, ritualized way many of the characters speak to each other. The slog, especially in the early parts of the books is worth the pay off: well-rendered, captivating characters and brilliant battle scenes. The mythical beasts and magical elements that populate the world also possess a wonderful, concrete realness – there is one unforgettable scene involving giant poop, for instance – that draws the reader in and gives Cameron's fantastical universe gravity.