A Long Spoon December 18, 2014 A Long Spoon Jonathan L. Howard A Johannes Cabal story. Burnt Sugar December 10, 2014 Burnt Sugar Lish McBride Everyone knows about gingerbread houses. Father Christmas: A Wonder Tale of the North December 9, 2014 Father Christmas: A Wonder Tale of the North Charles Vess Happy Holidays from Tor.com Skin in the Game December 3, 2014 Skin in the Game Sabrina Vourvoulias Some monsters learn how to pass.
From The Blog
December 9, 2014
The Eleventh Doctor’s Legacy Was Loss and Failure
Emily Asher-Perrin
December 9, 2014
Tor.com Reviewers’ Choice: The Best Books of 2014
Tor.com
December 8, 2014
How Fast is the Millennium Falcon? A Thought Experiment.
Chris Lough
December 8, 2014
Tiamat’s Terrain: Tales of the Marvellous and News of the Strange
Alex Mangles
December 4, 2014
Potential Spoiler Leak for Star Wars: The Force Awakens Reveals Awesome Details
Emily Asher-Perrin
Thu
Dec 18 2014 3:15pm

Swiftly Does It

Osiris Project EJ Swift Tamaruq

As curator of the British Fiction Focus, I have a kind of cause—to bring word of the best genre fiction from my neck of the woods to you fine folks in yours—but sometimes, sadly, a series slips through the cracks.

Now I don’t have any inside information about how well they’re selling, but neither do I see nearly as many people talking about The Osiris Project as I believe there should be, so consider this a call to arms, all: E. J. Swift is an awesome author. She writes “proper grown-up SF,” as her fellow proper grown-up SF author Adam Roberts says; SF that is at once “stylish, memorable, beautifully written and utterly distinctive.” The failed utopia of her fiction—“a future ocean metropolis [...] whose inhabitants believe they live on the last city on earth”—mightn’t be explosive in the mode of most such stories, but by gum, it’s stunning.

She just so happens to have a new book coming out, too...

[Read More]

Thu
Dec 4 2014 9:00am

If Then What When?

The Red Men

I’ll come right out and say it: for a moment there, I thought we’d lost Angry Robot.

Obviously not. Recently they’ve re-signed Wesley Chu, bought two books by Alyc Helms, saved Danielle L. Jensen’s Malediction trilogy—Strange Chemistry’s biggest success story—from the ashes of that much-missed imprint, and now, news of another new arrival: Will Self’s erstwhile amanuensis, author Matthew de Abaitua, has enrolled in the reenergised Angry Robot Army.

Abaitua is of course known for rather more than taking dictation: his debut, The Red Men, was nominated for an Arthur C. Clarke Award, and in 2013, the first chapter was turned into a sensational short film. You do remember Dr. Easy, don’t you?

[Read More]

Tue
Nov 25 2014 4:00pm

The Farthest Star: Ultima by Stephen Baxter

Ultima Stephen Baxter review

Worlds and times collide in the concluding volume of the absorbing duology Proxima kicked off: “a story that encompasses everything that will be and everything that could have been,” just as Ultima’s flap copy claims, but fails, I’m afraid, to take in the little things—not least characters we care about—in much the same way as its intellectually thrilling yet emotionally ineffectual predecessor.

Ultima ultimately advances Stephen Baxter’s ambitious origin-of-everything from the nearest star to Earth at the inception of existence to the end of time on the absolute farthest, but first, the fiction insists on exploring, at length, what the galaxy would look like in terms of technology if the Roman Empire hadn’t fallen in the fifth century.

[Read More]

Thu
Nov 20 2014 10:00am

We Are Family: Symbiont by Mira Grant

mira grant symbiont review

On the back of the unsightly excitement of Parasite, something like rigor sets in as the second half of what was a duology turns into the middle volume of a tolerance-testing trilogy. Symbiont isn’t a bad book by any means—it’s accessible, action-packed, and its premise remains appallingly plausible—but absent the ambiguity that made its predecessor so very unsettling, it’s lamentable for its length and lack of direction.

The first part of Parasitology chronicled the apocalyptic consequences of SymboGen’s latest and greatest innovation: the ubiquitous Intestinal Bodyguard—a magic pill meant to protect against allergy, illness and infection—was a worm which, in time, turned; a symbiotic organism supposed to support its host yet set, instead, on supplanting said. Before long, of course, this conflict of interests turned the population of San Francisco and its suburbs into zombies of a sort—sleepwalkers, as Mira Grant would have it.

The transition went differently for a few folks, though. After a catastrophic car crash, and at the cost of her every memory, Sally Mitchell’s parasite saved her life... or so she thought.

[Read More]

Tue
Nov 18 2014 10:37am

Chu’s Day

In something of a show of force, Angry Robot—the British base of “SF, F and WTF?!?” which was bought by Watkins Media in October, shortly after the sudden shuttering of its sister imprint Strange Chemistry—has signed a six-figure deal, reportedly the biggest in its history, for another three novels by Wesley Chu.

Chu might be new—his Young Adult Library Services Association Alex Award-winning debut, The Lives of Tao, was only released in 2013—but according to Angry Robot’s Managing Director Marc Gascoigne, he’s made quite an impression in the brief period he’s been on the scene:

Wesley Chu’s Tao series has been a runaway success for Angry Robot, and we’re delighted that he has re-signed for us for this brand new trilogy of novels. He manages to combine lofty science fiction themes with pure Hollywood pacing, and quite frankly his novels just rock. With Angry Robot recently moving to new owners, Watkins Media Ltd, we’re delighted to have the resources to take Wes’ sales to a whole new level. His world domination is now only a matter of time.

Having read one of Chu’s two Tao books myself, I’d suggest that this isn’t such an improbable possibility. The dude is good!

[Read more]

Mon
Nov 17 2014 2:15pm

Robson Returns

Justina Robson Silver Screen

I have a real soft spot for Justina Robson.

I don’t know exactly what it was about Silver Screen that caught my eye. It might have been the Giger-esque qualities of the art on the first edition’s front cover; it might have been the thoughtful concepts the synopsis suggested; it might merely have been because I fancied some sci-fi—a much rarer impulse in those days than these—and the South African bookshop I bought it in didn’t exactly specialise in speculative fiction.

Whatever it was, I spent the next few nights with my nose buried in that book, and I knew, even sixteen or so years ago, that I’d read something remarkable. I remember feeling oddly fulfilled when the markedly more informed minds behind the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the BSFAs agreed with me.

Justina Robson has been busy since: with Mappa Mundi, the Natural History novels, and the five volumes of the Quantum Gravity saga. The last we heard from her, however, was with respect to her short story collection, Heliotrope, in early 2011. Only recently have there been rumblings about her next novel.

[Read More]

Thu
Nov 13 2014 11:25am

The BFI Celebrates Sci-Fi

BFI Virtual SciFi Festival

Love science fiction?

Then you’re in luck, because the British Film Institute does too. As a matter of fact, they’re in the middle of “a major celebration of film and TV’s original blockbuster genre.” Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder is a season-long salute to the tales of tomorrow we here at Tor.com spend much of our time trumpeting. The programme is primarily arranged around a series of screenings—over a thousand at last count—but it also takes in talks with some of our favourite creators; discussions with directors, actors, screenwriters and the like.

Which is all well and good... but what about the books?

Once again, the BFI has our back. In partnership with HarperCollins’ hallowed genre fiction imprint Voyager, they’re staging the first #BFIVoyager Virtual Sci-Fi Festival this weekend, which proposes to explore “the link between science fiction literature and film with events on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other platforms.”

[Read More]

Mon
Nov 10 2014 1:30pm

David Ramirez and the Disc of Apocalypse

David Ramirez The Black Disc

David Ramirez’s debut novel The Forever Watch was a lot of things: a dystopian murder mystery, a skiffy conspiracy thriller, a book about human rights and revolution, and an exploration of the emergence of artificial intelligence. The Forever Watch bit off more than it could chew, to be sure, but I admired its ambition, its ideas and its phenomenal finale. “If [Ramirez] can strike a better balance between quantity and quality in his next novel,” I concluded in my review, “it’s easy to see him taking pride of place alongside the greats of speculative storytelling today.”

Have I got news for you, previous me!

Last week, the Hodderscape blog let slip a bit about The Black Disc, complete with a synopsis of its story and another stunning cover by Raid71, aka Chris Thornley, to complement his work on The Forever Watch. As if that weren’t enough, I went one further, and annoyed a couple of supplementary comments out of the author.

[Read more]

Fri
Nov 7 2014 5:00pm

Click-Clack: Wolves by Simon Ings

Wolves Simon Ings review

Wolves has been hailed as Simon Ing’s “spectacular return to SF,” and it is that, I think—though the text’s spare speculative elements only come into focus in advance of the finale, when the augmented reality Conrad’s company conceives of matures into something more meaningful than an idea.

The rest is something else: a catastrophic coming of age tale complicated by a macabre mystery which reminded me of This River Awakens. At the book’s beating heart, however, is the frustrated friendship between Conrad and his schoolmate Michel:

Michel was quiet, lugubrious, self-contained. For me, at any rate, he had extraordinary presence. A glamour. If he understood my feelings for him, he never let on. He showed very little tenderness for me. He wasn’t interested in my weaknesses. He wanted me to be strong. He cared for me as you would care for your side-kick, your familiar, for the man you had chosen to watch your back. He said we had to toughen up.

[For what? Why, for The Fall, folks!]

Fri
Nov 7 2014 11:00am

Desolate Plain at Dawn: The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

The Three-Body Problem Cixin Liu review

What would you do to save the world?

That is, the planet as opposed to the people—we’re the problem, after all—so better, perhaps, to ask: what would you do for a solution? Would you kill your own comrades, if it came to it? Would you sacrifice yourself? Your sons and daughters? Would you betray the whole of humanity today for a better tomorrow?

These are some of the provocative questions posed by The Three-Body Problem, the opening salvo of Galaxy Award-winner Cixin Liu’s fascinating science fiction trilogy, which takes in physics, philosophy, farming and, finally, first contact.

[Read More]

Wed
Oct 29 2014 1:30pm

Amazing Grace: The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

The Book of Strange New Things Michael Faber review

Michel Faber’s first novel since The Fire Gospel—a sterling send-up of The Da Vinci Code and its ilk—is a characteristically compelling exploration of faith which takes place “in a foreign solar system, trillions of miles from home,” on a wasteland planet populated by hooded beings with foetuses for faces.

So far, so science fiction. Factor in first contact, a spot of space travel, and an awful lot of apocalypse, and The Book of Strange New Things seems damn near destined to be speculative. Unfortunately for fans of the form, as the author warns early on, “there was nothing here to do justice to [that] fact.” Or, if not nothing, then very little aside the superficial. Even in addition to the aforementioned trappings, honeydewed drinking water and a dizzying day/night cycle do not add up to much more than an unlikely lens through which to look at love: in the first between mere mortals, but above and beyond that, the love—and the love lost—between man and maker.

[Read More]

Tue
Oct 21 2014 3:00pm

Cosmic Chaos: Bathing the Lion by Jonathan Carroll

Jonathan Carroll Bathing the Lion

Jonathan Carroll’s first full-length work of fiction in six years is as rooted in the real as it is the surreal its synopsis suggests. Bathing the Lion is about a quintet of cosmic mechanics who can read minds and remake the mundane recovering their talents in advance of the arrival of a fearsome force called Chaos—which seems, I’m sure, like a properly science fictional plot. But it’s not.

To wit, the World Fantasy Award-winning author evidences precious little interest in the ultimate result of this clash between... not good and evil, exactly, but order and its opposite. Rather, Carroll restrains his tale to the strictly small scale, in the process pointedly refusing the reader’s needs.

[Read More]

Fri
Oct 10 2014 3:00pm

Freefall: TimeBomb by Scott K. Andrews

TimeBomb Scott K Andrews review

Three teens from three times run rampant in 17th century Cornwall in the frenetic first volume of Scott K. Andrews’ TimeBomb trilogy, a paradoxical romp which, whilst engaging and entertaining, promises a little more than it delivers.

To wit, TimeBomb begins quite brilliantly, with a fleeting glimpse of future New York: a sprawling city in which forty-storey superstructures are “dwarfed by the looming organic skytowns that twined sinuously up into the cloud base.” Here, we meet Yojana Patel, the determinedly independent daughter of... a powerful politician, I think? We can’t be certain because Andrews doesn’t dally. In a matter of moments, rather than give her pursuers the satisfaction of catching her, Jana has thrown herself off the roof of a great skyscraper.

[Read More]

Wed
Oct 1 2014 11:30am

It’s Dark Down Under

James Smythe

Pay attention, people: James Smythe is one of the most exciting new science fiction writers to debut in decades. He’s also been amongst the most productive, releasing two books a year since The Testimony in 2012. In between volumes of the ongoing Anomaly Quartet the English author has treated readers to The Machine—a darkly fantastic Frankenstein story for the 21st century—and No Harm Can Come to a Good Man—a paranoid power play about predictive politics.

Alongside The Explorer and The Echo, these superlative speculative texts demonstrate the breadth and depth of Smythe’s abilities, so I wasn’t surprised to hear that his next book would be something unusual too. This was back in January, when Hodder & Stoughton announced that they’d acquired the rights to a three part Young Adult series by said.

The song remains the same this week, but the lyrics are significantly different. First and foremost, the novel formerly known as The Burning Depths has a new title. Coming up: Way Down Dark’s incredible cover art, plus comments about the book from its Arthur C. Clarke shortlisted author and editor extraordinaire Anne Perry.

[Read More]

Fri
Sep 26 2014 10:00am

Awesome Aliens: Jim Cambias’s A Darkling Sea

A Darkling Sea James L CambiasWhat’s better than a first novel with awesome aliens that includes really well done alien points of view? A first novel with two lots of different awesome aliens that includes two different alien points of view!

I’ve been enjoying James Cambias’s short work for years, and I was excited to hear about A Darkling Sea. When I was asked to read it to see if I wanted to blurb it I agreed—and at that point I didn’t know anything about it but the title and author. Then I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I enjoyed it even more reading it again now. I’d have loved this book when I was twelve, and I still love it. This is an old-fashioned science fiction novel with today’s science—biology and physics and astronomy.

[Read more: no spoilers]

Wed
Sep 24 2014 4:00pm

Eternal Treblinka of the Spotless Soul: Bête by Adam Roberts

Bete Adam Roberts review

Reading Adam Roberts is like participating in a literary lucky dip. It’s a bit of a gamble, granted, but every one’s a winner, and all of the prizes on offer are awesome.

Different sorts of awesome, I dare say. Always smart, and ever so sharp, but sometimes you get something scathing, and sometimes something sweet. Sometimes his stories are obscenely serious; sometimes they’re ridiculously silly. Bête represents the best of both worlds—the coming together of all the aspects of Adam Roberts: the author, the professor and the satirist, alongside a number of others.

His fifteenth full-length fiction in fifteen years—including neither his punsome parodies nor his several collections—is a book about the rise of animals with intelligence to match man’s, and it begins with a cutting conversation between a cattle farmer and the cow he had thought to slaughter.

[Read More]

Thu
Sep 18 2014 10:00am

Love as Contest in the Work of Mary Renault

Mary Renault

Mary Renault (1905-1983) wrote six contemporary novels between 1938 and 1955 and then The Last of the Wine (1956) and the other Greek novels that are what she is best known for. Like most Renault readers I’m aware of, I came to her Greek novels first, and read her contemporary novels later. For most of my life her Greek novels have been in print and easy to find, while her contemporary novels have been almost impossible to get hold of. Now they are all available as e-books, and this makes me really happy as it means it is possible to recommend them in good conscience.

The Greek novels are historical novels set in Ancient Greece, and I love them. It’s possible to argue that they’re fantasy because the characters believe in the gods and see their hands at work in the world, but that’s a fairly feeble argument. They do however appeal to readers of fantasy and SF because they provide a completely immersive world that feels real and different and solid, and characters who completely belong in that world. I recommend them wholeheartedly to anyone who likes fantasy not because they are fantasy but because they scratch the same kind of itch. I’ve written about The Mask of Apollo and The King Must Die here on Tor.com before.

[Read more]

Tue
Sep 16 2014 1:00pm

Vincit Qui Patitur: The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

The Infinite Sea 5th Wave Rick Yancey review Following the first phases of the invasion revealed in Rick Yancey’s breakthrough book, the world of The 5th Wave “is a clock winding down,” with each tick of which, and every tock, what little hope there is left is lost.

No one knows exactly how long the last remnants of humanity have, but they’re looking at a matter of months, at most... unless someone, somewhere, can conceive of a means of driving the aliens away—aliens who, as the big bad of the series says, have nowhere else to go.

“You’ve lost your home,” Vosch asks The Infinite Sea’s central character—not Cassie, as it happens—to imagine. “And the lovely one—the only one—that you’ve found to replace it is infested with vermin. What can you do? What are your choices? Resign yourself to live peaceably with the destructive pests or exterminate them before they can destroy your new home?”

[Read More]

Wed
Sep 3 2014 11:30am

Out of Time: The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

The Bone Clocks David Mitchell review

An exquisite exploration of the beauty and the tragedy of mortality, The Bone Clocks is a soaring supernatural sextet split into sections carefully arranged around the novel’s initial narrator.

A baby-faced runaway when we meet in the mid-eighties, Holly Sykes has become a wistful old woman by the book’s conclusion in the year 2043. Between times David Mitchell depicts her diversely: as a friend and a lover; a wife and a mother; a victim and a survivor; and more, of course, as the decades prance past. The Bone Clocks is, in short, the story of Holly Sykes’ life: a life less ordinary that leads her—as if by the whims of some Script—into the midst of a macabre conflict between eternal enemies fought in the farthest fringes of existence.

[Read More]

Wed
Jun 18 2014 11:00am

Built to Last: Barricade by Jon Wallace

review Barricade Jon Wallace

Battlestar Galactica meets Mad Max in a dystopian debut that doesn’t disappoint: Jon Wallace’s Barricade is a bona fide barnstormer of a book about a dysfunctional future in which people are a problem our genetically engineered successors have almost solved.

In the first, the Ficials were created to help humanity. To do our dirty work—to serve and slave and slog and so on—thus they were bred to be better. Some have superhuman strength, others endless endurance; many are exceptionally intelligent, most are massively attractive. None of them have a heart, however. Pesky emotions would only have distracted them from their duties.

[What could possibly have gone wrong?]