While I have spent a great deal of time talking about Angry Robot as a publisher and a business, I have not given much attention to the one element which defines any publishing house; their catalog. Today I will briefly reflect on a few of AR’s critical successes, which should provide a decent snapshot of the quality of AR’s output.
All cover images come from Angry Robot’s website.
By far, AR’s biggest critical smash has been Lauren Beukes’ Zoo City (which I briefly mentioned in my intro post). This urban fantasy takes place in an alternate Johannesburg where those who have committed a crime are burdened with an animal familiar as well as a unique psychic power. The plot focuses Zinzi December, a wayward former journalist who attempts to find a missing popstar in return for a payload that can clear her drug debts. Zoo City won the 2011 Arthur C. Clarke Award, a prestigious honor for genre novels published in the U.K., and became a critical darling amongst genre bloggers and reviewers. Her previous novel for AR was the well-received Moxyland (which I enjoyed immensely) and her latest was the very high-profile thriller/sci-fi yarn The Shining Girls (published by Hachette). By all accounts, Beukes appears to be a rising superstar in the SF/F publishing landscape.
My personal favorite (so far) in AR’s catalog has been Chuck Wendig’s Miriam Black series (consisting of Blackbirds, Mockingbird, and the upcoming The Cormorant). In these urban fantasy novels, the titular character is a hitchhiking drifter who has the ability to see when and how people will die, but can do absolutely nothing to prevent said death. While Wendig’s success might not be as prestigious as Beukes’, his irreverent and entertaining trilogy has garnered heaps of praise from many critics. Publisher’s Weekly wrote that Blackbirds “vibrates with emotional rawness that helps to paint
a bleak, unrelenting picture of life on the edge.” Wendig’s other novel for AR is The Blue Blazes, the first novel in his Mookie Pearl series. He has also written numerous other genre novels and non-fiction books for other publishers.
Time to jump from urban fantasy to superheroes and SF. New Zealand author Adam Christopher made his debut with the AR-published Empire State, a tale of feuding science heroes in parallel versions of Prohibition-era New York City. After gaining plenty of acclaim for his debut, Christopher re-teamed with AR to publish Seven Wonders, a novel about a brand-new superhero in a city already teeming with them. Seven Wonders continued Christopher’s ascent into genre fame, prompting The Guardian to call his novel “…an artfully plotted and thrilling action-adventure with some satisfying set-piece confrontations and amazingly rounded characterization.” His other novels for AR include the Empire State sequel The Age Atomic and the upcoming stand-alone fantasy Hang Wire. Christopher has also signed a deal with mega-publisher Tor to publish his dark space opera The Burning Dark, which will drop in March 2014.
Madeline Ashby rocked the genre landscape with her AR-published debut vN. This novel, which is the first in the First Machine Dynasty series (and is succeeded by iD) tells the story of Amy Peterson, a self-replicating humanoid robot who has grown slowly as a member of a mixed synthetic/organic family. When she learns that the failsafe which prevents all robots from harming humans has malfunctioned, she finds herself as the target of multiple parties, none of them benign. Science Fiction supersite io9 listed vN as one of the top 10 SF/F books of 2012, which reflects many of the praises heaped upon this debut. One such critic was BoingBoing legend Cory Doctorow, who wrote: “Ashby’s debut is a fantastic adventure story that carries a sly philosophical payload about power and privilege, gender and race. It is often profound, and it is never boring.”
I don’t mean to imply that these are the only AR novels worth checking out; these are just their most buzzed-about. Other notable AR books include Ramez Naam’s Nexus, King Maker by Maurice Broaddus, and The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke. Even Strange Chemistry had a big hit already with Gwenda Bond’s Blackwood. All of AR’s titles can be found on their website, and many more of them are probably worth a look. Just because it’s not a hit doesn’t mean it can’t be good!
Next time, in my FINAL POST of this blog, I will be looking at where AR has been, where they are going, at what it all means for this industry.