The Secret Speech

Nikita Khrushchev’s so-called “Secret Speech” is the central spark to the events of Tom Rob Smith’s THE SECRET SPEECH. But first, a 1946 prologue takes place, in which the actions of what investigator Leo Demidov did in his old position of an MGB will have severe ripple effects. Fast forward to 1956, when Khrushchev famously denounced the actions of the Stalin regime.

For those who have not read Smith’s previous novel, CHILD 44, pick it up and read that first, because this story is a continuation of certain characters from that story. But also do so because it’s a top-notch read that will only enhance your enjoyment of this jaw-dropping historical thriller.

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This Is Not a Game

Alternate-reality games have been all the rage for the past few years as marketers have found ways to merge fiction, reality and advertising in vast multimedia campaigns. From HALO 3 to LOST, these things seem to be everywhere, and this is the kernel from which Walter Jon Williams sprouts his latest.

Following in the footsteps of other cyberpunk pioneers by verging into the whole “the present has become science fiction” meme that I don’t quite agree with, THIS IS NOT A GAME begins with our spunky geek-chick protagonist, Dagmar, recovering from a job in Jakarta when all hell breaks loose and chaos envelops the city.

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Rigor Mortis #1

While it’s a popular notion that the zine format died years ago, it’s actually being kept alive on life support by a steadfast crew of people who refuse to give up hope, maintaining a constant bedside vigil. One of those people is Baltimore’s Davida Gypsy Breier, and she’s back with her latest project, the zombie-themed RIGOR MORTIS.

When I was heavily into zines, I was always into the film ones — way more than those sappy, pre-LiveJournal personal ones — and MORTIS wonderfully (and also quite slickly) hearkens back to that. Sure, many of us who have devoted way too many hours to horror will find it a nice little refresher, but, for those of you just getting into zombies and the living dead, MORTIS will be a great primer for you.

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Cartoon Marriage: Adventures in Love and Matrimony by The New Yorker’s Cartooning Couple

If I weren’t already intimidated by time — specifically, a lack of it — I’d subscribe to THE NEW YORKER. It has great articles, reviews and, of course, cartoons. Liza Donnelly and Michael Maslin are two providers of the latter. And not only that, but they’re married. And not only that, but they’ve put out a joint collection in CARTOON MARRIAGE: ADVENTURES IN LOVE AND MATRIMONY BY THE NEW YORKER’S CARTOONING COUPLE.

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With that WOLVERINE movie still making bank at the box office, people must love their cigar-smoking Canadians with mammoth sideburns. Good news for them: We have five copies to give away of Mike W. Barr’s THE WOLVERINE FILES, which is a S.H.I.E.L.D.-compiled, top-secret compilation of all known facts about the mutant: origins, career, friends, allies and enemies.

Speaking of allies, here are the five winners:
• Liza Sonza of Cerritos, Calif.
• Bob Vasquez of Council Bluffs, Iowa
• Andrew Neville of Arlington, Va.
• Jacob Arroyo of McPherson, Kan.
• Steve Gibson of Virginia Beach, Va.

Buy it at Simon & Schuster, and sign up for the S&S newsletter while you’re at it.

SEARCH ME >> 5.09

A sampling of some of the bizarro search terms with (thankfully) low numbers that brought people to BOOKGASM over the last 30ish days:

• when a women get excited is a man usual
• submarine porn
• breaking dawn honeymoon fanfic
• hermione goes goth
• tiger man sex comic

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Alexander Irvine is an absolutely unique voice in speculative fiction. So many of the great voices in the genre are rooted in the action/adventure mold that the few who dare not to have sexy cyborgs or interplanetary warfare or awesome time travel tend to get lost on book shelves. Irvine’s latest, BUYOUT, even has a cover reminiscent of Richard K. Morgan’s MARKET FORCES, even though murderous car-to-car combat is about the furthest thing from what BUYOUT’s about.

Like THE NARROWS before it and, really, all of Irvine’s books, BUYOUT is a story about morality, ethics and personal relationships — friendship, family and marriage.

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Rory Clements’ MARTYR has an intriguing setting: Elizabethan England in the year 1587. Our protagonist is one John Shakespeare, an elder brother to struggling playwright William, and an officer in the employ of Sir Francis Walshingam, an historical figure who could be considered as the head of an intelligence-gathering secret service type of operation in that time.

Shakespeare’s tasks are twofold: Locate any Catholic priests and bring them to justice, and protect the life of Sir Francis Drake, who is about to set sail with his fleet of ships to strike at the Spanish enemy within their ports. While Spain threatens on one front, anti-Catholicism is in full force during this timeframe, and Papists are widely believed to be plotting the death of the English Queen.

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After Harvey Kurtzman left MAD, Hugh Hefner gave him TRUMP, only to fold it after two issues. But Hef being Hef, he let Kurtzman still use the office space, where Kurtzman and his stable of artists launched their next great humor magazine in HUMBUG in 1957. You remember HUMBUG, right? Right?

MAD keeps marching along, but HUMBUG died a quick death, ceasing publication after 11 issues. It’s one of those periodicals MAD fans too young the first time around have heard about for years, but have never seen. Fantagraphics rights that wrong with the complete HUMBUG, a two-box hardcover set in a slipcase.

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PREVIEW >> Rise of the Ancients: Annuna

JC De La Torre’s RISE OF THE ANCIENTS: ANNUNA is the second novel in an action-packed series — beginning with ANCIENT RISING — centered around the battle between mythology and mankind. It streets July 31.

It silently rose in the distance, dark and foreboding, toward an angry sky. Prometheus, the god, flexed his immense muscles, his eyelids clamped down and his face contorted in a grimace. His invisible power reinforced the structure of the ship, enabling the craft to remain whole as it was battered and bruised by the unforgiving sea. Despite his protection, the frigid spikes of rain assaulted my skin and jet engine howl of the wind penetrated my ears. Lightning, a ballerina dancing among the clouds, crackled to the sea and briefly illuminated the wave as it descended upon us. I held tightly to the mast of one of the alien ship’s sails, praying for deliverance from the two gods unleashing their fury.

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