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Niall Alexander

Dead in the Water: Day Four by Sarah Lotz

Got an appetite for good food? Hungry for some unforgettable fun?

If you answered yes to those questions, then Foveros Cruises is beside itself with excitement to invite you to spend a week on the sparkling seas aboard The Beautiful Dreamer—a once in a lifetime opportunity to get to know North America’s number one psychic, Celine del Ray.

[That’s not all this holiday has to offer, either.]

Kenstibec is Back

Good news, Ficial fans! Kenstibec, the anti-hero at the artificial heart of Jon Wallace’s pacey dystopian debut, will return in a sequel this summer. Furthermore, a final volume will follow, completing the circle Barricade began.

With Steeple revealed, I reached out to the aforementioned author to talk about the new novel. Among a number of other subjects, we discussed the hard work of building a world, the balancing act involved in making the middle of a trilogy accessible at the same time as satisfying returning readers, and the mixed bag of comparisons many reviewers (including yours truly) made between Barricade and… let’s call it a lost and found of other fiction.

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Series: British Fiction Focus

Aliette de Bodard Nukes Notre-Dame

After a period of anticipation so great that it may have given me brain pain, The House of Shattered Wings, Aliette de Bodard’s first full-length fiction in more than four years, is almost upon us. Would-be readers will already have admired the cover Roc has arranged for the book’s impending publication in the States, but I believe the art adorning Gollancz’s pretty-in-purple British edition, unveiled Monday, is at least its equal.

The House of Shattered Wings is said to be “a superb murder-mystery on an epic scale, set against the fall out of a war in heaven. For such an epic novel, [Gollancz] needed a suitably epic cover.”

[Its wish? The artist’s command.]

Series: British Fiction Focus

Bad Blood

For twenty years we thought the Blood Wine Sequence was complete, but British Fantasy Society favourite Freda Warrington thinks “the time is right to unleash [her] fearless cast of vampires once more” upon the public.

Fans of A Taste of Blood Wine, A Dance in Blood Velvet and The Dark Blood of Poppies will want to know one thing: when? Well, if you have plans for Friday the 29th, now’s the time to put them aside. That’s right, readers—after two decades of uncertainty, The Dark Arts of Blood will finally be released… next week!

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Series: British Fiction Focus

“A Thing Within a Thing” — Redesigning Dune

This afternoon, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Frank Herbert’s singular science-fiction masterpiece, Hodder & Stoughton unveiled a truly beautiful new edition of Dune. Due for release on July 16th, it comes complete with a fantastic found cover by Sean O’Connell, a graphic artist working out of Oregon—not coincidentally “the same state that sparked Frank Herbert’s initial interest in desert ecology.”

[But that’s not all!]

Series: British Fiction Focus

Endurance: Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

You certainly can’t judge a book by its cover, but its first sentence, I find, can be tremendously telling—and so it is with Seveneves, the latest doorstopper of a novel to bear Neal Stephenson’s name, and his greatest since Cryptonomicon in 1999.

It starts simply: with eleven ordinary words arranged in such a straightforward way that the eye absorbs them almost automatically. It’s only when the significance of said sentence registers that the eye tracks back to take in its content more carefully. Still, it takes a few seconds to make sense, for as easy to read as these words may be—as indeed is the entirety of Seveneves—their meaning is a world away from mundane.

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Completing the Dark Circus Cycle

Pan Macmillan was thrilled Thursday morning to announce that it had acquired the rights to release the Dark Circus series:

These enthralling books are set within a circus in a world somewhat like our own—but where wonders and magic really exist. A young runaway seeks escape from a life of injustice and secrets, and the circus promises freedom. There, Micah will become who she was meant to be, yet the future also holds conflict and dangerous mysteries.

Both book the first, Pantomime (which won the Bisexual Book Award for Speculative Fiction in 2014 at an event organised by the Bi Writers Association) as well as Shadowplay (the sole sequel so far) were brought to market by Strange Chemistry under the auspices of Angry Robot Books before its recent reboot. Sadly, when editor (not to mention Malazan Rereader) Amanda Rutter’s auspicious imprint was abruptly shuttered, Laura Lam’s unfinished trilogy was counted among the calendar of casualties.

Lam herself was heartbroken, but in a display of great British grit, she roundly refused to give up the ghost of the Dark Circus cycle.

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Series: British Fiction Focus

Dispatches from the Digital First Front

This week, Catherine Webb, aka Kate Griffin, revealed the release date of the next books to bear the bestselling brand of her second pseudonym. I’m talking about Claire North, of course—the acclaimed author of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August and Touch. Her next novel proper, pencilled in for publication sometime in spring 2016, is currently called Forget Me Not, but in advance of that, we’ve got the Gameshouse to get good and excited about.

A trilogy of novellas telling the tale of the titular guild—a club whose most tenured members treat human beings as “pieces to be moved in a game too big for most people to perceive”—the Gameshouse series will be released on November 3rd. As ebooks, even!

With that to look forward to and the recent launch of K. J. Parker’s Two of Swords project—part the fourth of which so-far phenomenal fantasy was made available earlier today—what better time than now, one wonders, to take the temperature of the digital first front?

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Series: British Fiction Focus

The Testament of Hal Duncan

It’s been damn near a decade since The Book of All Hours blew my tiny mind. Hal Duncan’s tremendous two-volume debut helped opened my eyes to a whole new world of words upon its release all those eons ago. He’s proven pretty prolific as an author and as an editor in the short story scene since—see Fabbles the first, Scruffians! and Caledonia Dreamin’—and as my two year tenure as co-curator of the Short Fiction Spotlight shows, I hope, I’m a huge fan of the form.

But sometimes a novel is needful. Sometimes authors require the room long-form fiction allows to thoroughly explore a theme or an idea. To wit, I’ve been watching Notes from New Sodom like a hawk, and in April, the aforementioned author teased something called Testament. I reached out to find out more about the project post-haste, and today, it’s my pleasure to tease you about Testament—not to mention The Boy Who Loved Death—in turn.

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Landing The Apollo Quartet

Having lifted off in mid-2012 with Adrift on the Sea of Rains, achieved orbit by way of both The Eye with Which the Universe Beholds Itself and Then Will the Great Ocean Wash Deep Above in 2013, Ian Sales’ BSFA Award-winning Apollo Quartet is to land at long last later this week with the release of All That Outer Space Allows, the saga’s novel-length finale.

It is 1965 and Ginny Eckhardt is a science fiction writer. She’s been published in the big science fiction magazines and is friends with many of the popular science fiction authors of the day. Her husband, Walden, has just been selected by NASA as one of the New Nineteen Apollo astronauts… which means Ginny will be a member of the Astronaut Wives Club.

Although the realities of spaceflight fascinate Ginny, her gender bars her from the United State space programme. Her science fiction offers little in the way of consolation—but perhaps there is something she can do about that…

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Series: British Fiction Focus

Djinnthology Joy

By way of The Book Smugglers, Mahvesh Murad of the kickass Midnight in Karachi podcast and Jurassic London’s Jared Shurin (never forget The Folding Knife reread!) announced yesterday that they’d signed up with Solaris—the purveyors of so very many of the best genre anthologies in recent years that it’s getting a little ridiculous—to curate and co-edit “the first-ever anthology of original fiction inspired by the Djinn.”

It’s, em… ages away. Expect to see it sometime in spring 2017. But hey, that just means we’ve got all the more of time to get excited.

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Series: British Fiction Focus

Gollancz Can’t Get Enough S.N.U.F.F.

Last week, Gollancz quite rightly delighted in announcing its acquisition of a pair of postmodern novels by “the leading Russian novelist of the new generation.” Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to Little Booker Prize-winner Victor Pelevin: one of the precious few authors “who writes seriously about what is happening in contemporary Russia,” albeit through a speculative fiction filter.

It’s needful to note that his work has heretofore been translated—into fifteen languages, including English. Omon Ra, The Life of Insects, The Clay Machine-Gun, Babylon and The Sacred Book of the Werewolf and two collections of short stories by said have been published in the UK by Faber & Faber to great acclaim, not least from The Independent, who fell for the “unruly, suggestive energy” of Pelvin’s prose.

I’ll be honest: I’ve never read the fella. But now that Gollancz have got him—for not one but two new books—I’m going to.

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Series: British Fiction Focus

Tom Fletcher Does the Devil’s Work

Last year, one of the most promising young horror authors of the past decade turned his stark talents to fantasy, conjuring up “a devastated landscape equal parts Ambergris and Fallout 3” to typically excellent effect. I’m talking, of course, about Tom Fletcher, whose Factory trilogy got off to a tantalising start with Gleam—reviewed right here—in 2014.

Fast forward to last week, when the author confirmed that 2015 will indeed see the release of the sequel. It’s called Idle Hands, and it should be published sometime in September or October. The cover’s coming up under the cut—plus, I’ve bagged a blurb! But that’s not all the Tom Fletcher news I have to share with you today. Far from it, in fact. Firstly, there’s Thin Places: a bumper ebook edition of Fletcher’s first three novels, namely The Leaping, The Thing on the Shore, and The Ravenglass Eye.

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Series: British Fiction Focus

Half a War and Beyond

Is it just me, or has someone been fast-forwarding 2015?

Case in point: it can’t possibly have been more than a week or three since I blogged about Half the World by Joe Abercrombie, and yet the next volume—“the third and (for the time being) final book” of the aforementioned author’s Shattered Sea series—is almost upon us. Half a War is so very nearly here that we’ve got copy and the cover coming up, in addition to an overview of what Abercrombie is turning his attention to now that his work on the trilogy is pretty much finished.

But before we get ahead of ourselves again—as if that’s even feasible this year—behold the blurb. Slight spoilers ahead if you aren’t yet up to speed on the series so far!

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Series: British Fiction Focus

Announcing the 2014 BSFA Award Winners

Did someone say science fiction prize?

Someone did! But to be sure, it wouldn’t do, in the wake of this morning’s announcement of the shortlist for this year’s Arthur C. Clarke Award, to forget the British Science Fiction Association’s assortment of awards, the winners of which were unveiled at a ceremony held at Dysprosium, aka Eastercon, on Sunday.

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Series: British Fiction Focus

Announcing the 2015 Arthur C. Clarke Award Shortlist

With award season upon us and already feasting like the beast it can be, it shouldn’t shock anyone that this morning saw the announcement of the six novels shortlisted for what has been described as the UK’s “most prestigious science fiction prize.”

“The Arthur C. Clarke Award is given for the best science fiction novel first published in the United Kingdom during the previous year.” The contenders this year include:

  • The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey (Orbit)
  • The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (Canongate)
  • Europe in Autumn by Dave Hutchinson (Solaris)
  • Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta (HarperVoyager)
  • The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North (Orbit)
  • Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel (Picador)

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Series: British Fiction Focus

The Horror of the Herberts

Announced on this day a year ago “to celebrate the life and career of one of the world’s best and most loved horror writers,” the James Herbert Award for Horror Writing aims to bring deserved attention to the boldest books by a new generation of authors working in the same genre on which Herbert himself made such a lasting mark.

The winner of the inaugural award—open as it was “to horror novels written in English and published in the UK and Ireland between 1st January 2014 and 31st December 2014”—was revealed over Easter. As chair of judges Tom Hunter noted in The Guardian’s write-up, “the first winner of a new prize can set expectations for years to come.”

The victor was picked from a shortlist of six books, including M.R. Carey’s The Girl With All The Gifts, Frances Hardinge’s Cuckoo Song, Andrew Michael Hurley’s The Loney, Bird Box by Josh Malerman, and An English Ghost Story by Kim Newman. But there can be only one; and the one, ultimately, was Nick Cutter, whose pseudonymous debut The Troop I called “a twisted coming-of-age tale, more Koryta than King, which I quite liked despite its disappointing dependence on disgust.”

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Series: British Fiction Focus

A Time of Transformation: The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall

Between land and sea, day and night, life and death and the like, there lie those borders that, much as we might try, we cannot deny. Equally, though, there are those we impose: make-believe borders drawn to defend against that which we fear, as well as to keep what we want for ourselves within.

Set in the pristine wilderness split down the middle by the border between Scotland and England—as powerful a haunt here as it’s ever been—in the run-up to and the aftermath of 2014’s hotly fought Independence Referendum, Sarah Hall’s fifth work of fiction is a sumptuous study of truth and trust some are sure to slight because it seems slow… but no. The Wolf Border takes longer than I’d like to find its feet, but before long it’s toddling confidently, then running rampant—not unlike the near-mythical infant its protagonist produces.

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Announcing Europe at Midnight by Dave Hutchinson

Europe in Autumn was among my favourite books of 2014. An “awesome concoction of sci-fi and spies,” I called it in the spring, that reminded me of “John le Carré meets Christopher Priest.”

What I didn’t know then, and what has only deepened my appreciation of Dave Hutchinson’s tremendous debut, is how incredibly prescient it would prove. When the summer came and went, and with it the Scottish Independence Referendum, the separatist prospect it posited—of a world in which “pocket nations” proliferate— suddenly seemed real. All too real, to tell the truth. That said, if this is the way we’re headed, then I’d rather know what’s to be expected before we get there.

Ask and ye shall receive, it seems! Because there’s more where Europe in Autumn came from—much more, according to Hutchinson. To wit, today, it gives me immeasurable pleasure to reveal the cover art and a few key details about the surprise sequel: Europe at Midnight.

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Series: British Fiction Focus