Science fiction author Lavie Tidhar is a busy man. He’s had two novels published in 2011 and will see two more this year. Along with his longform fiction, Tidhar fills his time writing short stories, editing anthologies and websites, and, of course, hanging out on Twitter. This month, science fiction publisher Angry Robot is putting out the third book in his Bookman Histories series, The Great Game. But for those of you who have yet to discover the first two, you won’t need to go back to the beginning, The Great Game is one of those few sequels that can be read as a standalone novel.

Infused with steampunk elements, The Great Game is an interwoven, alt-history tale of espionage, often with the feel of an old spy novel. Historical and fictional characters — Oliver Twist, Bram Stoker, Houdini, Jack London, and Frankenstein to name a few — mingle on the streets of Victorian-era London as a “secret shadow war” wages on between humans, a ruling class of lizards, and automatons.  

The inscription preceding Drew Magary’s first novel, The Postmortal (Penguin, August 2011), is a quote from the band Mastodon. Though appropriate for a story about a species in peril, this reference is an unfortunate omen for the novel to come. Mastodon, for the uninitiated, is a popular (and pretty damn great) metal band whose shows are so notoriously populated by knuckle-dragging testosterone junkies that I’ve always been afraid to attend. As a 30-year-old lady geek, this band and many aspects of Magary’s novel are fantastic in concept, exclusionary in practice.