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Pile by the Bed's Top five science fiction books of 2023 - In The Lives of Puppets, Titanium Noir, Translation State, The Blighted Stars and Ymir, plus five honourable mentions.

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Pile by the Bed reviews and recommends House of Open Wounds by Adrian Tchaikovsky, follow up to City of Last Chances but a very different book with mostly new characters set in a military field hospital that riffs heavily on MASH.

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Pile by the Bed reviews and recommends Orbital by Samantha Harvey, a rich prose poem and meditation on the Earth and humanity set on the international space station.

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Pile by the Bed reviews and recommends Wolves of Winter, the second book in Dan Jones' historical series set on the battlefields of Northern France in the opening years of the hundred years war

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Pile by the Bed reviews Kill Your Husbands by Jack Heath, the puzzlebox thriller follow up to Kill your Brother.

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Pile by the Bed reviews Geneva a debut technothriller by Richard Armitage but finds that it too contrived and muddled to be the page turner that it wants to be.

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Pile by the Bed reviews So Close to Home by Mick Cummins an important, compassionate and heartbreaking look at teen homelessness and drug addiction in Australia.

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Pile by the Bed reviews The Future by Naomi Alderman, a techo-thriller with the heart of a heist novel that explores how technology might drive different possible futures.

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Pile by the Bed reviews Conquest by Nina Allan a metanarrative involving consipracies, programmers and Bach held together by the work of a flawed private detective

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Pile by the Bed reviews Beyond the Door of No Return by David Diop, a novel that explores the impacts of colonialism and the Senegalese slave trade in the 18th Century through the eyes of a real life French botanist.

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Pile by the Bed reviews Red River Seven by AJ Ryan a post-apocalyptic horror-tinged puzzlebox novel full of guns and explostions that reads like the outline of a video game.

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Pile by the Bed reviews Calico by Lee Goldberg, an engaging speculative fiction novel that deftly incorporates Western and crime fiction tropes.

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Pile by the bed reviews Baumgartner by Paul Auster a character study that considers issues of memory, art, ageing and relationships.

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Pile by the Bed reviews The Exchange by John Grisham, a sequel to his breakout hit The Firm. Set fifteen years later, this is a sequel in name only and instead is a not particularly thrilling kidnap thriller with the same protagonist.

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Pile by the Bed reviews and recommends The Well of Saint Nobody by Neil Jordan, set in a small Irish village and engagingly exploring the relationship of two damaged characters searching for connection.

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Pile by the Bed reviews and recommends Ritual of Fire, the third book in DV Bishop's engaging historical crime series set in Renaissance Florence.

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Pile by the Bed reviews Everyone on this Train is a Suspect by Benjamin Stevenson, the comic golden-age crime mystery follow up to Everyone in My Family has Killed Someone.

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Pile by the Bed reviews Prom Mom by Laura Lippman, a novel set during Covid in Baltimore but which explores the long term aftermath of a high school tragedy.

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Pile by the Bed reviews Lola in the Mirror by Trent Dalton, the story of a homeless girl living on the streets of Brisbane told in a naive, optimistic style.

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Pile by the Bed reviews The North Light by Hideo Yokoyama, another exploration of modern Japan, this time through the lens of architecture.

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Dangerous to Know by Anne Buist
Crime , Review / 06/04/2016

Anne Buist’s Natalie King novel Dangerous to Know could be described as a true psychological thriller. But only because the two main characters are psychiatrists. Most of the plot is taken up with the psycho-personal tousle between bipolar-recovering-depressive forensic psychiatrist King and potentially-homicidal-manipulator academic psychiatrist Frank Moreton. And while it takes a fair while for this joust to develop any heat it doe...

Radiance by Catherynne M Valente

Retrofuturism is an area of sci-fi with proliferating sub-genres. First there was steampunk, Victoriana sci-fi usually replete with airships, flying goggles and cogs. But now other time periods are muscling in on the act. There is clockpunk, based on an area before a steam. But there is also dieselpunk and atompunk taking the retrofuturistic baseline deep into the twentieth century. Catherynne M Valente’s latest novel for adults Radi...

Ten Days by Gillian Slovo
Crime , Review , Thriller / 01/04/2016

Gillian Slovo’s Ten Days started life as a play that explored the London riots of 2011. The play itself was based on a series of interviews and transcripts. The novel follows the outline of these events but ficitionalises them, which gives Slovo a broader scope than that original piece and some licence with her exploration of character and motivation. But it still centres around a week of intense heat in which the disaffected and dis...

The Trap by Melanie Raabe
Crime , Review , Thriller / 30/03/2016

Good thrillers often stand or fall by their initial concept. Think the missing wife and the diary of Gone Girl. Or the woman with amnesia and a journal in Before I Go To Sleep. A simple, possibly plausible, plot driver that is able to twist and flex as the circumstances change. In The Trap, that concept is the reclusive novelist, seeking revenge for the murder of her sister eleven years before.Because she cannot bring herself to leav...

Illuminae by Kaufman and Kristoff

Illuminae states its intention right from the cover, which is covered in scraps of partially redacted documents. The book itself is told through a series of recovered documents of varying types, many flagged with introductory comments. The form of narrative has been done before and it is worth saying at the outset that Kaufman and Kristoff do it very well. Despite lots of goriness and evil goings on, all swear words are redacted to k...

Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald

A long line of science fiction classics, including Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Arthur C Clark’s Moondust, through to more modern writers like Ben Bova (Moonrise and Moonwar) have focussed on life on a settled or developed Moon.  In Luna: New Moon, Ian McDonald brings his hardscrabble, developing-world sci-fi sensibility to the Moon to dazzling effect. As could be expected after books like River of Gods and Brasyl, McD...

Welcome to Night Vale by Fink and Cranor

The extremely strange town of Night Vale will be familiar to listeners to the popular podcast which has been going since 2012. For those who have never heard about the town of Night Vale – which is ruled over by a glow cloud (all hail the mighty glow cloud), where the most dangerous place is the library, it is subversive to believe in mountains, the most popular dish at the diner is invisible pie and where the police have been ...

Steeple by Jon Wallace

Jon Wallace’s debut novel, Barricade was a blistering, visceral ride through a post-robopocalyptic Britain. It dropped readers into a nuclear blasted landscape and an ongoing war between the ravaged, disease-ridden survivors of humanity (the Reals) and their implacable, seemingly indestructible android foes (the Ficials). Barricade’s protagonist, a Ficial called Kenstibec, emotionless and virtually indestructible, was the perfect gui...

The Silent Inheritance by Joy Dettman
Crime , Review / 14/03/2016

Joy Dettman delves into a world of crime in her latest novel. Over a wide cast of characters she manages to fit in a whole spectrum of crime and general meanness into a small space: from a serial killer through to a hit and run, perjury and drug dealing. The Silent Inheritance ranges across a large group of characters so it takes a while to get going. Sarah Carter, deaf since birth, is trying to get a promotion but is passed over for...

Fever City by Tim Baker
Crime , Historical , Review / 10/03/2016

There is nothing more certain than death, taxes and books about the assassination of JFK. This event had everything – sex, drugs, mafia, movie stars, the FBI, the CIA, communists. And to top it all off, as Tim Baker does not hesitate to point out in Fever City, it was an event that changed the course of America and world history. The shooting of JFK  has always been the motherload for conspiracy theorists but also for crime writers. ...

Emperor of the Eight Islands by Lian Hearn
Fantasy , Review / 06/03/2016

Lian Hearn returns to her best-selling faux-Japanese fantasy world in a new four book series being published in Australia in two volumes. Set three hundred years before her Tales of the Otori, The Tale of Shikanoko is pure sword and sorcery fantasy with a Japanese twist. As with her Otori series, the setting is not Japan, or even a Japanese version of ancient Japan, but it is a Japan-like world heavily based on the myths, legends and...

The Poison Artist by Jonathan Moore
Crime , Recommended , Review , Thriller / 06/03/2016

Many crime novels straddle the line between crime and horror. Serial killers, on the whole, are the stuff of nightmares and crime writers have been falling over themselves for some time to up the gore factor. While horror novels usually rely on some form of supernatural agency and do not necessarily have the neat resolution of the crime genre, the bloody results are often the same. And so it is with The Poison Artist – a crime novel ...

How to Set a Fire and Why by Jesse Ball
Literature , Recommended , Review / 06/03/2016

It is easy to compare any novel narrated by a disaffected American teenager with the seminal Catcher in the Rye. Holden Caulfield has become the archetypical American teen – intelligent, insightful and with plenty of promise but constantly fighting against a system which seeks to pigeon hole and repress. Lucia, the eighteen year-old narrator of How to Set a Fire and Why, fits into this mould but this is a very different tale and a ve...

Down Station by Simon Morden
Fantasy , Review / 06/03/2016

Doorways into magical lands are a venerable fantasy tradition going back centuries in English fiction. Think Alice in Wonderland or Peter Pan. In the Twentieth Century we had the seminal Narnia series and plenty of imitators followed. More recently we’ve even seen a modern deconstruction of that mythology in books like Lev Grossman’s Magician’s series. In this context, Simon Morden’s Down Station seems a little staid. The central ide...

The Midnight Watch by David Dyer

The sinking of the Titanic, now over one hundred years ago, is still one of the most famous disasters in history. So it is no wonder that it has been the subject of countless books and films. Given this, the question has to be whether there is the appetite for yet another novel exploring this incident. The answer, strongly given by David Dyer in his debut The Midnight Watch, is an unqualified yes. The Midnight Watch is not primarily ...

Fall by Candice Fox
Crime , Recommended / 23/01/2016

  Eden Archer, Australia’s answer to Dexter Morgan, and her damaged partner Frank Bennett are back at work in Fall, investigating a series of murders of women joggers. Underlying this investigation is another one by Frank’s lover (and former psychologist) Imogen, who solves cold cases in her spare time and is closing in on Eden’s true identity. There is plenty else going on in Fall, with Eden’s ex-crimelord father Hades having a...

Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick DeWitt
Fantasy , Literature , Review / 05/01/2016

Patrick deWitt has gone into fractured fairytale territory in his latest novel. Undermajordomo Minor, set somewhere in Europe, sometime in the nineteenth century comes complete with castles, dukes, battles, pickpockets, chambermaids and the titular majordomo. Lucien “Lucy” Minor needs to leave home. He lands himself a job as assistant to Olderclough, the majordomo  of the Castle von Aux. On arrival, Lucy finds that Olderclough’s prev...