Selfies September 17, 2014 Selfies Lavie Tidhar Smile for the camera. When Gods and Vampires Roamed Miami September 16, 2014 When Gods and Vampires Roamed Miami Kendare Blake A Goddess Wars story As Good As New September 10, 2014 As Good As New Charlie Jane Anders She has three chances to save the world. Tuckitor’s Last Swim September 9, 2014 Tuckitor’s Last Swim Edith Cohn A hurricane is coming.
From The Blog
September 18, 2014
Cast As Thou Wilt: Kushiel’s Dart Dream Cast
Natalie Zutter
September 17, 2014
How Goldfinger Bound Sci-Fi to James Bond
Ryan Britt
September 15, 2014
Rereading the Empire Trilogy: Servant of the Empire, Part 1
Tansy Rayner Roberts
September 13, 2014
If You Want a Monster to Hunt, You’ll Get It. Doctor Who: “Listen”
Chris Lough
September 11, 2014
The Ghostbusters are an Antidote to Lovecraft’s Dismal Worldview
Max Gladstone
Showing posts by: Niall Alexander click to see Niall Alexander's profile
Tue
Sep 16 2014 2:30pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: The Great Lake

Jay Lake Last Plane to Heaven

Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a weekly column dedicated to doing exactly what it says in the header: shining a light on the some of the best and most relevant fiction of the aforementioned form.

Some stories stay with you. Most, entertaining as they often are in the moment, don’t.

I encountered Jay Lake’s ‘The Passion of Mother Vajpaj’ for the first time three years or so ago, in the course of reviewing the second Subterranean Tales of Dark Fantasy for Strange Horizons. Then, as now, I saw anthologies as opportunities to broaden my reading horizons, and this one indubitably did. There were better stories in it, I think—by Caitlin R. Kiernan and K. J. Parker, to the best of my recollection—but not a one was more memorable or moreish than this richly erotic and irresistibly exotic exploration of the milieu mined in Green, Endurance and Kalimpura.

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Tue
Sep 16 2014 2:00pm

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?”

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Mon
Sep 15 2014 2:00pm

The Retrospective: The Relic Guild by Edward Cox

The Relic Guild Edward Cox

The end result of more than a decade of obsessive endeavour, The Relic Guild by Edward Cox is the first part of a fine fantasy saga mixing gods and monsters that promises a lot, but delivers on too little to linger long after its last page.

Be that as it may, it’s engrossing in the early-going, as the author thrusts us into the midst of a magical battle between Marney, an out-of-practice empath; a goodly number of golems in service of someone called Fabian Moor: an evil Genii determined to bring his banished master back from the blackest corners of beyond; and Old Man Sam, a bounty hunter unburdened by the little things in life, like what’s right.

The good, the bad and the ugly are all searching for the same thing, in this instance: a girl called Peppercorn Clara. “Barely eighteen, she was a whore rumoured to have a libido as spicy as it was insatiable. The story was that [she] had killed a client halfway through a job.” Needless to say, this is a fabrication. Clara’s only crime is that she’s different from most of the million mere mortals who live in Labrys Town, being the first magical being born within its walls in a generation.

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Sun
Sep 14 2014 10:00am

British Genre Fiction Hitlist: Late September New Releases

From the fold of the British Genre Fiction Focus comes the British Genre Fiction Hitlist: your biweekly breakdown of the most notable new releases out of the United Kingdom’s thriving speculative fiction industry.

The summer may be coming to a close, but don’t despair, readers dear... because it’s a fine fortnight to be a genre fiction fan. Look forward to a few exciting sequels—not least The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey, which takes place after The 5th Wave, Day 21 of The 100’s expedition to Earth and Sarah Rees Brennan’s latest Lynburn Legacy—as well as several new series, such as Pierre Pevel’s Tales from the High Kingdom, but if I’m honest, the standalones have it. Standalones like Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld, Eren by Simon P. Clark, Horrorstor by our own Grady Hendrix and The Golem of Hollywood by Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman. Then there’s Bête by Adam Roberts, The Revolutions by Felix Gilman, Rooms by Lauren Oliver and another Man Booker Prize-longlisted novel: namely J by Howard Jacobson.

This edition of the Hitlist also features new books by Ekaterina Sedia, Sean Wallace, Ed Cox, Robert Rankin, Chris Riddell, Alexander Maskill, S. J. (aka Stephen) Deas, James Dashner, John Jackson Miller and Garth Stein.

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Thu
Sep 4 2014 3:00pm

Fear Factory: Gleam by Tom Fletcher

Hot on the heels of three deeply discomfiting horror novels, Gleam marks the starts of a fantasy saga that’s never better than when it harks back to Tom Fletcher’s first fictions. It’s burdened by a bland protagonist and a lacking opening act, but besides that, The Factory Trilogy is off to a tantalising start.

In large part that’s due to the darkly wonderful world it introduces us to. Gleam is a devastated landscape equal parts Ambergris and Fallout 3, arranged around a truly hellish edifice.

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Wed
Sep 3 2014 12:30pm

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.

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Tue
Sep 2 2014 12:00pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: Time Will Tell

The Bone Clocks David Mitchell

Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a weekly column dedicated to doing exactly what it says in the header: shining a light on the some of the best and most relevant fiction of the aforementioned form.

The longlist of novels nominated for this year’s Man Booker Prize is notable for any number of reasons. The prevalence of American authors in a field formerly dominated by Brits and writers hailing from the countries of the Commonwealth can hardly come as a surprise, being a direct effect of the new rules, but the lack of big hitters—foremostly favourites like Martin Amis and Ian McEwan—indubitably does.

David Mitchell’s longlisting for his new book, The Bone Clocks, bucks both of the aforementioned trends. Aside a sojourn in Sicily and eight years of teaching in Hiroshima, he’s a University of Kent-educated Englishman who has been what you might describe as a Booker bridesmaid not once or twice but thrice: for number9dream, Cloud Atlas, and finally, four Prizes past, for The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. Could 2014 be his year? Having read ‘The Right Sort,’ an experimental short set in the same world as the author’s upcoming novel, I’d put to you that it’s a real possibility.

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Tue
Sep 2 2014 11:00am

The End is the Beginning: Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer

Acceptance Jeff VenderMeer review

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was... well. That’d be telling. Because the Word was whatever you wanted it to be. The Word was possibility. The Word was promise. For in the Word was the beginning, to boot, and beginnings are simple. They’re questions, essentially. It follows, then, that endings are answers. And it is far harder to answer questions satisfactorily than it is to ask ’em.

Acceptance is the end of the Southern Reach series, which began with Annihilation—with its countless cosmic questions. What is Area X? Where did it come from? Who—or what—created it? Not to mention: when? And why?

Readers are apt to approach Acceptance expecting answers, and they’ll find a fair few, to be sure; Jeff VanderMeer does indeed complete the sinister circle of the Southern Reach series here. But when all is said and done, much of the mystery remains. Area X is, in the end, as unknowable as it was when we breached its impossible border at the very beginning of the trilogy. It has lost none of its promise. Possibilities still spring from its fantastical firmament. In the final summation, I can’t conceive of a finale more fitting.

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Sun
Aug 31 2014 10:00am

British Genre Fiction Hitlist: Early September New Releases

speculative fiction new UK releases september

From the fold of the British Genre Fiction Focus comes the British Genre Fiction Hitlist: your biweekly breakdown of the most notable new releases out of the United Kingdom’s thriving speculative fiction industry.

How the hell can it be September already? Tell you what: if I figure it out first, I’ll let you know. You’d do the same for me, I’m sure.

In the interim, do you like books? You do? Good, because I have a fair few for you to take a look at today, not least exciting new series by Rod Duncan, James Lovegrove, Karen Miller and Tom Fletcher; several standalones, like The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell—longlisted of late for the Man Booker Prize; and stay tuned, too, for a couple of conclusions: of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach series and Tad Williams’ Bobby Dollar novels.

This edition of the Hitlist also features new books by Angus Watson, Benedict Jacka, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Elizabeth Cody Kimmel, Charlie Higson, Malinda Lo, Drew Karpyshyn, Robert Aickman, Mercedes Lackey, Terry Pratchett, Gary Gibson, Richard Kadrey, Sarah J. Maas, Brian Herbert, Daniel H. Wilson, Holly Black, Cassandra Clare, Kate Mosse and Rachel Urquhart.

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Fri
Aug 22 2014 5:00pm

Among Myths: Scale-Bright by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

Scale-Bright by Benjanun Sriduangkaew review

World Fantasy Award winner Lavie Tidhar has it that Benjanun Sriduangkaew may be “the most exciting new voice in speculative fiction today,” and on the basis of Scale-Bright, he might be right. A love story set in heaven and Hong Kong arranged around a troubled young woman’s belated coming of age, it’s the longest and most involved tale Sriduangkaew has told to date, and considered alongside The Sun-Moon Cycle, it represents an achievement without equal.

“An orphan who spent seven years hating equally the parents that died and the extended family that did not,” Julienne, when we join her, lives what you might describe as a quiet life with her adoptive aunts, Hau Ngai and Seung Ngo. The fact that they’re myths in mortal form complicates things a little, admittedly.

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Fri
Aug 22 2014 10:00am

What Happened, If It Happened: J by Howard Jacobson

J Howard Jacobson review

Alongside Us, The Bone Clocks, and How To Be Both, J by Howard Jacobson was one of a number of novels longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in advance of its publication date. A source of frustration for some, I’m sure—though this has ever been the panel’s habit—but for others it represents a reason to update reading radars.

This year, I found myself amongst the others above, because if not for the nod, I doubt I’d have looked twice at this book. When I did, additionally, it was with some scepticism; after all, Jacobson has won the Booker before, for The Finkler Question in 2010—the first comic novel to take the trophy home in 25 years—and pointedly acknowledging former nominees is another of the panel’s practices.

Not today. J, I’m pleased to say, is in every sense deserving of its spot on the longlist. It’s a literary revelation wrapped in understated dystopian clothing; a wonder of wit and whimsy that takes in the chilling and the ridiculous—the hilarious and the horrific. That said, it’s a novel that requires rereading to appreciate completely.

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Sun
Aug 17 2014 10:00am

British Genre Fiction Hitlist: Late August New Releases

British Genre new releases August

From the fold of the British Genre Fiction Focus comes the British Genre Fiction Hitlist: your biweekly breakdown of the most notable new releases out of the United Kingdom’s thriving speculative fiction industry.

There’s lots to look forward to in late August if you’re itching for a genre fiction fix. There are the big hitters—books like The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks, Lock In by John Scalzi and Jo Walton’s new novel, My Real Children—and there are a good few little books that could, including the revised version of Marcher by Arthur C. Clarke Award-winner Chris Beckett, The Race by Nina Allan, and the finale of Ben H. Winter’s underrated Last Policeman series.

This edition of the Hitlist also features new books by Kanae Minato, Mark Walden, Ian Whates, Lilite Saintcrow, George Mann, Salome Jones, D. J. Molles, Michael Grant, Lloyd Shepherd, Josephine Angelini and Dana Fredsti.

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Thu
Aug 14 2014 5:00pm

When in Rume: The Incorruptibles by John Hornor Jacobs

The Incorruptibles John Hornor Jacobs

A grimdark fantasy about mercenaries protecting precious cargo as it’s transported through treacherous territory, The Incorruptibles gives Red Country a run for its money, if not its funny, but what sets it apart from Joe Abercrombie’s wild west diversion is its unexpected perspective.

Fisk and Shoe have been partners in crime for a lifetime. One is a pious man, the other “damned as surely as the sun rises.” Why? Because “he loves the Hellfire. He loves his gun. He’s a hard, unyielding man, with a long memory and impervious to regret. But there’s kindness, too, under all that.” Sounds like an anti-hero to me!

Surprisingly, John Hornor Jacobs’ new novel is more interested in the man of God—or rather Ia—than it is in the man of action I expected to find front and centre of the alt historical events The Incorruptibles documents.

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Wed
Aug 13 2014 5:00pm

An Empty Vessel: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgramage Haruki Murakami

“From July of his sophomore year in college until the following January, all Tsukuru Tazaki could think about was dying.”

So begins Haruki Murakami’s first novel since the bloat of the book many expected to be his magnum opus. Happily, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is essentially the inverse of IQ84. It’s short and sweet where that last was extended in its dejection; gently suggestive rather than frustratingly overbearing; and though the ending is a bit of bait and switch, it’s one which feels fitting, unlike IQ84’s dubious denouement.

If you were worried, as I was, that Murakami may have had his day, then rest assured: his new novel represents a timely reminder of the reasons you fell for his fiction in the first place.

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Tue
Aug 12 2014 2:00pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: Mother of Suns

The Archer Who Shot Down Suns Benjanun Sriduangkaew

Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a weekly column dedicated to doing exactly what it says in the header: shining a light on the some of the best and most relevant fiction of the aforementioned form.

One of the highlights of this month for me is the release of Scale-Bright by Benjanun Sriduangkaew, a new novella—the author’s first, in fact—blending “Chinese myth, interstitial cities, and the difficulties of being mortal and ordinary when everyone around you has stepped out of legends.” But before there was Scale-Bright, there was The Sun-Moon Cycle, a trio of long and lustrous shorts published at the commencement of Sriduangkaew’s creative career.

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Wed
Aug 6 2014 4:00pm

Urbosynthesis: Our Lady of the Streets by Tom Pollock

Tom Pollack Our Lady of the Streets review

There was always something special about Beth Bradley; something which went beyond her quick wit, her evident intelligence. Wasn’t so long ago she was one among many—a badly-behaved teenager suffering through school, as exceptional individuals like Beth tend to—yet even then she was set apart by her street art; by graffiti which came to life because of her partnership with Pen, who’d append poetry to her pictures, turning still images into stories. Stories of the city.

Stories such as those Tom Pollock has told over the course of The Skyscraper Throne: an inventive and affecting urban fantasy saga which comes full circle with the release of Our Lady of the Streets. Be prepared to bid a bittersweet goodbye to Beth and her best friend, then... but not before they’ve had one last adventure together. An adventure as incredible as it is desperate; as tragical as it is magical.

[Why? Because Beth Bradley is dying.]

Tue
Aug 5 2014 12:00pm

What We Know Not: Irregularity, ed. Jared Shurin

Irregularity anthology edited by Jared Shurin review

Most books are dedicated to people near and dear: to friends or family members of the minds behind the literary leaps such documents detail. Sometimes other authors or artists—figures of miscellaneous inspiration without whom some key element of the texts in question may have foundered or failed—are acknowledged in the aforementioned fashion. It’s a rare thing, though, to see a dedication made not to a someone, but a something.

Irregularity is exactly that. It’s an anthology dedicated to an idea, to an abstract: “to failure,” in fact—though the text itself is a tremendous success. As an enterprise it is “no less than wonderful, and it seemed to me that every man of scholarship, every man of imagination, regardless of his language or place of birth, should find in it something extraordinary.” Lo, like The Lowest Heaven before it, the latest collaboration between Jurassic London and the National Maritime Museum showcases an audacious assemblage of tales arranged around an inspired idea: that we as a people were in a way robbed by the Age of Reason.

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Sun
Aug 3 2014 10:00am

British Genre Fiction Hitlist: Early August New Releases

British Genre fiction focus new releases August

From the fold of the British Genre Fiction Focus comes the British Genre Fiction Hitlist: your biweekly breakdown of the most notable new releases out of the United Kingdom’s thriving speculative fiction industry.

The Focus may be on hiatus over the holidays, but the Hitlist is still here, readers! Just as well, what with all of the awesome new releases due out in early August, beginning with a bunch of big hitters—such as the start of Robin Hobb’s new series, Fitz and the Fool; a bumper alien invasion tale from award winner Peter Watts; Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami; and the very end of The Malazan Empire, by way of Assail.

Add to all that an array of exciting debuts, headlined by The Buried Life by Carrie Patel and The Godless by Ben Peek; the continuation of The Dagger and the Coin by Daniel Abraham; the conclusion of The Skyscraper Throne series by Tom Pollock; and the completion of The Fourth Gwenevere by the late, great John James.

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Tue
Jul 29 2014 12:30pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: The Man Who Was A Monster

Stephen Volk Whitstable

Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a weekly column dedicated to doing exactly what it says in the header: shining a light on the some of the best and most relevant fiction of the aforementioned form.

Seems like Spectral Press has been in the news a whole lot lately; at least, the news I read—and write. A few Focuses ago we heard about The Spectral Book of Horror Stories, an exciting new anthology inspired by the cult classic Pan and Fontana annuals of the 60s and 70s. Simon Marshall-Jones’ indie outfit was also acknowledged by the British Fantasy Society with a number of award nominations, most notably for Best Small Press—this for the third time in a row, I think—but also for several stories by Steven Volk.

You might not know the name—he hasn’t written a whole lot of prose fiction—but Brits in particular will be familiar with his notorious Halloween hoax show, Ghostwatch, as well as the tremendous ITV series Afterlife. Afterlife’s cancellation was a Bad Thing, believe you me, but it did come with something of a silver lining: in the aftermath, Volk took to the short fiction form like a fella possessed. To wit, this week, we’re going to be reading Whitstable, his British Fantasy Award-nominated novella.

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Mon
Jul 28 2014 5:00pm

Dreamwalk With Me: Kill Baxter by Charlie Human

kill baxter review charlie human

The antidote to Harry Potter is back in Charlie Human’s bawdy new novel: a lively elaboration of the mad as pants brand of South African urban fantasy advanced in Apocalypse Now Now which, whilst thrilling, makes some of the same mistakes its predecessor did.

Kill Baxter kicks off a matter of months on from the apocalyptic conclusion of Human’s debut. Our sixteen year old protagonist may have saved the world, however his heroics haven’t made a lick of a difference to his unlikely life.

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