Dan Abnett & I.N.J. Cubbard, The New Deadwardians: Britain (and implicitly the world, though we never get to see that part) is overrun by the risen dead, and the upper classes take "the Cure" - that is, become vampires - in order to avoid the risk of becoming a zombie. Abnett does some thoughtful worldbuilding in terms of considering the social and security consequences of a zombie apocalypse on Edwardian England, though the logistics of Empire and maintaining the upper classes in their privilege are glossed over.
The story itself is a murder mystery, with a nobleman dead and the last murder detective in England (an officer, decorated in the Rising, who took the cure himself) sent by reluctant superiors to uncover the truth about his death. Various theories are advanced, but the ultimate solution is both very Vertigo (DC's 'adult' line, which published The New Deadwardians) and rather disappointing, both as a solution and in its explanation for the Risen Dead. Cubbard's art is also pretty variable, so while I like bits of it, I can't really recommend the whole package.
Robert Jackson Bennett, American Elsewhere: Mona Bright is an ex-cop whose life has gone down the tubes, but when going through her father's things, she finds that she's inherited a house that her mother owned in Wink, New Mexico: the site of a government research facility along the lines of Los Alamos. Once she arrives, it becomes clear that something is deeply wrong with Wink - the town is too perfect, and nearly completely cut off from the outside world. Inter-dimensional and trans-temporal weirdness ensues, culminating in a family feud that engulfs the whole town. While American Elsewhere is gripping - I stayed up until 3 AM to finish it - I don't feel like it holds up to scrutiny as well as The Troupe did, especially if you try to treat the science as anything other than a plot device. It's still a Robert Jackson Bennett book, though, and well worth your attention.
Deborah Bloom, The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York: Book club book for March. There are lots of lovely anecdotes - mostly of the "How the hell did our ancestors survive amidst such health hazards" variety (answer: some of them didn't) - but while I enjoyed the book it felt rather slight, content-wise. Recommended for anyone interested in being appalled at Prohibition or in need of a reminder of why we have laws about lead, and arsenic, and radium, and various other industrial chemicals/pollutants/toxins.
C.J. Chivers, The Gun: A history of the Kalashnikov line of assault rifles, starting out with the origins of automatic weapons by covering the Gatling and Maxim guns, and then focusing on the AK-47, its successors, and the botched introduction of the M-16 into Vietnam. (It turns out that while arms merchants are generally kind of horrible people, Hiram Maxim was awful. Seriously, I am tempted to fake-spit every time I say his name from now on.)
The strongest bits come when Chivers focuses in and grounds his narratives in both concrete incidents and historical/political context, which basically means that the development of the AK-47, which is still shrouded in secrecy and conflicting accounts, comes off as rather unsatisfying set of probability clouds in comparison to much of the rest of the book. Still and all, Chivers does a good job of making his account comprehensible to lay readers, though the book as a whole has a bit of a grab-bag feel. (There's a bit of a gap between WW I and the AK-47, in which the Sturmgewehr and Thompson SMG are touched on briefly, while guns like the BAR don't even rate a mention.) Recommended despite a few rough edges.
Pamela Dean, The Dubious Hills: This book is brilliant, and I was not at all surprised to hear that it was a beast to write. In the Dubious Hills, young children can do household magic (though most lose it as they age), uncertainty is a natural law unless you grow into adult Knowledge or have said Knowledge shared with you (and even then, characters attribute their lowercase-k knowledge to an authority 'saying' that a thing is true), and foreigners who wander into the Hills are often driven mad by their strangeness, protecting them from wizards and invading armies. Into this intimate and alien pastoral landscape come wolves who are not wolves, offering strange and ominous gifts, and Arry - the Physici, who Knows pain and hurt - and her siblings and neighbors must deal with them while also going about their daily lives.
I said this was brilliant already, right? Because it is. The Dubious Hills is a triumph of domestic fantasy, where philosophical arguments have terrible weight, and dealing with your neighbors and making sure the kids are occupied and not getting into too much trouble is as immediate and important as dealing with a threat to the world you've grown up in. Most fantasy novels privilege violence and conflict over everyday life in ways that The Dubious Hills doesn't. Everyone working in or around the SFF field should read this book. It's that good.
Warren Ellis, Gun Machine: Warren Ellis writes a serial killer procedural, except not as over-the-top or grim as that description might imply. Ellis's trademarks are all on display here, from poorly socialized and damaged protagonists and techies to a police band that's basically all grue and Kitty Genovese-style blind and deaf bystanders all the time (it's not clear whether Ellis hasn't read the debunking of that particular narrative or chose to ignore it), but aside from the unbelievable cavalcade of horrors lurking off-screen - seriously, New York's murder rate isn't close to that high, nor that consistently weird - Gun Machine is surprisingly grounded and credible despite its moments of melodrama. Guardedly but not strongly recommended.
Jon Courtenay Grimwood, The Outcast Blade: Grimwood is busily ticking off items on the Urban Fantasy/Supernatural Romance genre checklist here, though his terse, hard-boiled style means that events come off far more like an account of an alternate-history Vampire: the Dark Ages game than Renaissance Twilight. The Outcast Blade is chock-full of gratuitous drama and sex, and the impression one gets of Duchess Alexa and Regent Alonzo's political acumen over the course of the book isn't terribly favorable, but it's readable enough, even if the structural obviousness (and political stupidity) of various developments made me roll my eyes. Recommended only for those interested in a different (mostly non-romantic) take on historical vampire and werewolf-fantasy.
Yumi Hotta & Takeshi Obata, Hikaru no Go v.8: It turned out I had one more hardcopy volume of Hikaru no Go than I thought. Hikaru gets further into his Insei training (see the Shonen Jump formula in action!), and we get some more glimpses of the professional Go world.
William Manchester, The Last Lion, Vol. 1: Winston Spencer Churchill: Visions of Glory, 1874-1932: Uff da. This is a big goddamn book, and a readable one, despite the reader needing to compensate for Manchester's evident hero-worship of Churchill and general tendency to apologize for colonialism. Many of the best bits are those contextualizing Churchill's upbringing, or various events in his and his father's parliamentary careers, though of course Churchill's life is often fascinating in its own right. It's evident that Churchill was astonishingly lucky to have avoided death or injury in his military service, and also evident that his personal good fortune in military affairs reinforced his tendency to view armed conflict through a romantic lens. That said (assuming Mr. Manchester wasn't outright lying) I was surprised to learn that Churchill wasn't responsible for the debacle at Gallipoli, and that his idea of a strike on the Dardanelles is understood by military historians as a sound one that could have completely altered the course of the war if the Royal Navy had followed his instructions and not backed off.
It's also quite striking how Churchill's vehement opposition to Communism and Labour seems to have totally overshadowed his contributions to Britain's NHS and the minimum wage, and all sorts of other safety net legislation. Churchill is a conservative hero (in the modern sense) only if you ignore dozens of inconvenient details - and there are many inconvenient details, no matter where you stand politically, as he was an unreconstructed Imperialist and more than a bit racist. Manchester pleads for the reader to consider the time, but I feel one must understand historical figures both through the present and the context of the past. Hagiographizing or demonizing them undermines our ability to understand both history and the impact that their deeds and beliefs have on us today.
Sandy Mitchell, The Greater Good: A perfectly serviceable Ciaphas Cain novel that follows up on some developments from The Emperor's Finest, though it doesn't really do enough with them to retroactively make that book worthwhile. There's some nice detente with the Tau here, as well as inter-service conflicts between the Mechanicus and the Imperial military, and a nice three-sided battle at the end, but overall there's nothing outstanding on display in this one. (Other than the description of the Tau as "inscrutable" on the back cover. I could really do without seeing that word used to describe Asians, or aliens - or anyone - ever again.)
Chris Moriarty, The Inquisitor's Apprentice: A lovely little middle grade book about a boy from an immigrant Jewish family in New York apprenticed to a police Inquisitor tasked to investigate witchcraft and crimes involving magic. The characters and setting are compelling and well-drawn (even if some of the jokes about Wall Street Wizards are a tad groan-worthy), but while I understood why Sacha didn't confide in his Inquisitor or fellow apprentice earlier, that element of the plot still felt a bit contrived. Also, the book is clearly the first in the series, as only half of its main plotline was resolved by its end. Complaints aside, I eagerly await the sequel.
Chris Roberson, Further: Beyond the Threshold: Apparently the first in a new series from Roberson from Amazon's 47North imprint, Further feels like it really needed a good developmental edit or two. The book's structure and shape are both massively out of whack - basically the first two-thirds of the book are setup, with the protagonist being awakened from cold sleep and learning about a Culture-esque future linked by a teleportation network, and the last third of the book contains all the action. Against (basically) space nazis.
Let me just say this - if I never have to roll my eyes at space nazis again, I will be a happy man.
There will probably be readers who enjoy Roberson's attempt to set up a new, Star Trek-like series about interstellar exploration, and it's possible that forthcoming volumes will be better than Beyond the Threshold. But given what a mess this book was, I'm inclined to let the former discover if the latter is true, rather than reading them myself.