The Colonel July 29, 2014 The Colonel Peter Watts The hives are sleeping giants. <em>To Eternity</em> July 24, 2014 To Eternity Wesley Allsbrook and Barrie Potter If all things were normal, Stuart would be considered quite a catch. Brisk Money July 23, 2014 Brisk Money Adam Christopher It's hard out there for a robotic detective. A Short History of the Twentieth Century, or, When You Wish Upon A Star July 20, 2014 A Short History of the Twentieth Century, or, When You Wish Upon A Star Kathleen Ann Goonan A rocket story.
From The Blog
July 29, 2014
Introduction to the H. P. Lovecraft Reread
Ruthanna Emrys and Anne M. Pillsworth
July 25, 2014
Huge New Cast and Bloopers. Highlights from the San Diego Comic Con Game of Thrones Panel
Chris Lough
July 22, 2014
What Makes Chinese Science Fiction Chinese?
Xia Jia
July 22, 2014
Everything I Learned from the Buffy Rewatch
Alyx Dellamonica
July 21, 2014
If This is the Plot for Star Wars: Episode VII, I Will Be Sad
Emily Asher-Perrin
Showing posts by: niall alexander click to see niall alexander's profile
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.

[Read More]

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.

[Read More]

Mon
Jul 28 2014 3:00pm

A Tale as Old as Time: The Seventh Miss Hatfield by Anna Caltabiano

Anna Caltabiano The Seventh Miss Hatfeild review

The Seventh Miss Hatfield is seventeen year old Anna Caltabiano’s second novel: a scientific romance, after a fashion, and indeed, an extraordinary feat for someone so young. I can’t in good conscience recommend it, however—much as I might like to champion the work of such a promising new author.

It’s 1954, and Cynthia, a lonely little girl on the edge of adolescence, has become fascinated by her new neighbour: a strange lady who has spoken to no one in the weeks since she moved into the street. The better to get a glimpse of this antisocial character, Cynthia puts away her doll one day to take Miss Hatfield a package the postman abandoned when she refused to open her door. To her surprise and delight, she’s invited in for a glass of freshly made lemonade. Her host, however, slips some mysterious liquid into her drink: a drop of water from a lake discovered in the distant past by Ponce de Leon which immediately makes her immortal.

[Read More]

Mon
Jul 28 2014 9:00am

Entanglement: Breakfast with the Borgias by DBC Pierre

Breakfast with the Borgias DBC Pierre

I haven’t been so relieved to finish reading a novel in recent years than I was Breakfast with the Borgias.

This from someone who’s had to review some utter rubbish—books which tested my patience from the first page. Here, however, we have a completely different beast. Coming as it does from the Man Booker Prize winning author of Vernon God Little, it’s no surprise that Breakfast with the Borgias is brilliantly written; that its themes are thoughtful, its execution deft; that its gregarious cast of characters come alive even as its slight story excites.

The trouble? The tension. It’s almost intolerable. Especially in the first section, DBC Pierre’s inaugural Hammer Horror is intensely stressful, like a bad blind date you can’t escape.

[Read More]

Wed
Jul 23 2014 3:00pm

Something Wonderful This Way Comes: Smiler’s Fair by Rebecca Levene

review Smiler's Fair Rebecca Levene There’s something for everyone at Smiler’s Fair. Be you young or old, small or tall, green around the gills or hardened by the horrors of war, the travelling carnival will welcome you with open arms before attending to your every pleasure.

Say you want to drink yourself into oblivion or dabble in drugs from distant lands—head on over to the mobile market. Perhaps your deepest desire is to look Lady Luck in the eye at the high stakes tables, or earn enough money wheeling and dealing to make your way in the wider world—well, what’s stopping you? Maybe what you’ve always wanted is to satisfy some carnal fantasy with a well-kept sellcock. Smiler’s Fair doesn’t care... not so long as the coin keeps coming.

[Read More]

Sun
Jul 20 2014 8:00am

British Genre Fiction Hitlist: Late July New Releases

british genre fiction focus new releases UK July 2014

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 British genre fiction industry is on fire! But whatever you do, don’t put it out, because me? I appreciate the heat—and what with all that there is to look forward to in late July, you should do too.

There are new beginnings in abundance, such as Smiler’s Fair by Rebecca Levene, The Queen of the Tearling by Erica Johansen and The Seventh Miss Hatfield by Anna Caltabiano. Ahoy endings, as well, including The Casual Angel by Hannu Rajaniemi, which concludes the story started in The Quantum Thief, whilst Deborah Harkness’ All Souls saga wraps up by way of The Book of Life.And that’snot to mention a marvellous miscellany of new books by Lauren Beukes, Ben Aaronovitch, Charlie Human, Mitch Benn, Nicola Griffith, Eric Brown, and—last but not least—the one and only Lisa Tuttle.

[Read More]

Fri
Jul 18 2014 5:00pm

We’re Off To Sue The Wizard: The Outsorcerer’s Apprentice by Tom Holt

Tom Holt The Outsorcerer's Apprentice review

An affectionate send-up of the fairytale from the author of such sarcastic tracts as Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sausages and May Contain Traces of Magic, The Outsorcerer’s Apprentice features overlords and underlings, self-aware wolves and woodcutters, plus a prince from another world: ours.

Benny isn’t a prince of anything hereabouts, however. Point of fact, he’s in a bit of a pickle when the book begins. He has his final exams at Uni in a few weeks, and with his whole future before him, all of a sudden he doesn’t have a clue what he’s been doing. Studying to be a mathematician, maybe? In a moment of inspiration that some might mistake for laziness, he realises what he really needs is a good, long break to take stock of his situation. To that end, he borrows his Uncle’s “omniphasic Multiverse portal” and travels to a parallel reality where he can pretend to be a powerful person... because of course.

[Wouldn’t you if you could?]

Wed
Jul 16 2014 7:30am

And Finally, For Now, the Fall of the Novel

Young Adult Literature Convention

Welcome back to the British Genre Fiction Focus, Tor.com’s regular round-up of book news from the United Kingdom’s thriving speculative fiction industry.

In this, the last edition of the British Genre Fiction Focus before the column goes on hiatus over the holidays—more on which in a moment—we’ve got some pretty Patrick Rothfuss cover art, a round-up of some of the conversations to come from the UK’s first Young Adult Literature Convention, and an argument that the modern novel may be “losing the narrative arms race.”

All that, plus the Waterstones Children’s Laureate comes over all Klingon, author Allan Ahlberg takes a stand against Amazon, the first male Queen of Teen is crowned, and more.

[Read More]

Tue
Jul 15 2014 1:00pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: China Miéville, The Movie

China  Mieville

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.

I’ve missed China Miéville.

But fair’s fair—the bloke had earned a bit of a break. A new novel bearing his name appeared every year from the publication of The City & The City in 2009 through the release of Railsea in 2012. After that, he scripted fifteen issues of the underrated and unfortunately ill-fated Dial H for DC Comics, and sure, there have been some short stories since: in The White Review, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern and The Apology Chapbook, which was distributed amongst attendees of last year’s World Fantasy Convention.

I haven’t read any of them, though. They were hella hard to get hold of, and if they were rarities then, these days they’re like liquid silver: hot and costly.

[Read More]

Mon
Jul 14 2014 4:00pm

Endgame: The Causal Angel by Hannu Rajaniemi

The Causal Angel Hannu Rajaniemi review

The finale of the stellar science fiction saga that The Quantum Thief kicked off begins days after the devastating denouement of The Fractal Prince, with Jean le Flambeur, the trilogy's fin de siècle frontman, finally free... if crestfallen after the abject failure of his latest caper. His partner in crime, meanwhile, finds herself in terrible peril, in part because of the last act of her sentient spidership Perhonen:

When a Sobornost hunter attacked us, the ship tried to save Mieli by shooting her into space. I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time. [...] The problem is that Mieli served the Sobornost for two decades and carries a Founder gogol in her head. There are too many forces in the system that was access to that kind of information, especially now. For example, the Great Game Zoku, the zoku intelligence arm. They might be nice about it, but when they find her, they are going to peel her mind open like an orange. The pellegrinis, the vasilevs, the hsien-kus or the chens will be less polite. Let alone the mercenary company she infiltrated and betrayed on Earth.

The Causal Angel is as daunting a novel as this early excerpt suggests, requiring from its readers such deliberate commitment that those who come to their fiction for fun—though there is some—would be best to leave this baby be. Accessible it ain't, I'm afraid. What it is is brilliant: far more focused than the books before it, and as fulfilling, finally, as it is indubitably difficult.

[Read More]

Wed
Jul 9 2014 11:40am

Battling the Embuggerance

Discworld Con British Genre Fiction Focus Terry Pratchett

Welcome back to the British Genre Fiction Focus, Tor.com’s regular round-up of book news from the United Kingdom’s thriving speculative fiction industry.

Sometimes the news is good. In addition to informing folks about facts, it can inspire, entertain and engage us. Equally, of course, it can cause frustration, anger, sadness and so on. This week in the British Genre Fiction Focus, we walk the line—between an inescapably upsetting story about Sir Terry Pratchett’s early-onset Alzheimer’s and several exciting items, not least news of Adam Nevill’s imminent next novel and a new Harry Potter short by J. K. Rowling.

[Wait, you what?!]

Sun
Jul 6 2014 10:00am

British Genre Fiction Hitlist: Early July New Releases

UK genre fiction new releases July 2014

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.

Looks like summer’s here, constant readers, and with it, a whole host of awesome new genre novels to take sunbathing, including intriguing standalones such as The Child Eater by Rachel Pollack, The Garden of Darkness by Gillian Murray Kendall and Touched by Joanna Briscoe; loads of sequels—to The Long War by A. J. Smith, The Thousand Names by Django Wexler and Blood Song by Anthony Ryan, among others; and several exciting new series, not least Gail Z. Martin’s Trifles and Folly, The Defenders of Shannara by Terry Brooks, and what must be the highlight of the month for me: the start of Joe Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea series.

[Read More]

Thu
Jul 3 2014 3:00pm

Playing the Fool: The Child Eater by Rachel Pollack

The Child Eater review Rachel Pollack

Representing Rachel Pollack’s first original genre novel since Godmother Night in 1996—a World Fantasy Award winner in its day, and a classic now, by all accounts—the release of The Child Eater is bound to be a big deal in certain circles. How her returning readers respond to it remains to be seen; this was my first of her works, I’m afraid... but not likely my last.

Based on a pair of tales from The Tarot of Perfection, Pollack’s last collection, The Child Eater tells two separate yet connected stories. Separate in that the boys we follow are worlds apart, and divided in time, too; connected, though neither knows it, by the parts they’re fated to play in the downfall of the eponymous monster: an immortal man wicked in the ways you’d expect, not least because of the innocents he eats.

[Read More]

Thu
Jul 3 2014 11:00am

Je Reviens: Touched by Joanna Briscoe

Joanna Briscoe Touched review

From the author of a selection of elegant bestsellers, not least the sensational Sleep With Me, comes a creepy period piece, positively drenched in dread, that documents an old-fashioned family’s decision to leave London for a crumbling cottage in the countryside.

For Rowena, mother and matriarch of the many and various Crales—including her dullard of a husband Douglas—the move is meant to demarcate a break from the bland patterns of the past, but from the first, the house seems set on rejecting its new tenants. A retaining wall can’t be broken through; a damp problem proves impossibly pervasive; and in the interim, “an impression she couldn’t pin down, that the house was already inhabited [...] overlaid with memories of all the years her mother-in-law had lived there,” eats away at Rowena.

It’ll be worth all the blood and sweat in the end, she tells herself. But that’s before her daughters start disappearing...

[Read More]

Wed
Jul 2 2014 2:00pm

Children’s Crusade: The Garden of Darkness by Gillian Murray Kendall

The Garden of Darkness Gillian Murray Kendall

A teenage take on The Walking Dead blissfully free from that franchise’s most mercenary elements, The Garden of Darkness is an astonishingly good debut about a cheerleader and a chess club member’s struggle to survive absent adults in a landscape ravaged by the Pest pandemic.

Though they went to school together way back when, the odd couple we quickly come to care about only really meet a matter of months after Pest lays waste to the world as we know it, killing all the afflicted adults and sentencing every single survivor to death at the onset of adolescence.

[Read More]

Wed
Jul 2 2014 7:30am

An Irregular Anthology and An Interactive Festival

Irregularity anthology Jurassic London

Welcome back to the British Genre Fiction Focus, Tor.com’s regular round-up of book news from the United Kingdom’s thriving speculative fiction industry.

Though many of us are still reeling from the abrupt closure of Strange Chemistry, the show must go on, and indeed, it did. In the last week we’ve heard about three separate festivals, one of which—Gollancz’s inaugural multimedia extravaganza—is sure to prove particularly interesting to fans of the fantastic.

But before that, this: the exclusive announcement of Jurassic London’s latest anthology, which promises to do for the Age of Reason what The Lowest Heaven did for the exploration of space.

[Read More]

Tue
Jul 1 2014 12:00pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: Aickman’s Animals

short fiction spotlight robert aickman cold hand in mine

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.

Last month, to mark the centenary of horror author Robert Aickman’s birth, Faber & Faber made good on the first part of their promise to bring the best of his sinister fiction back into print. New editions of several of his short story collections are now available, including Cold Hand in Mine and Dark Entries, alongside reissues of his exceedingly rare novels The Model and The Late Breakfasters. The Wine-Dark Sea and The Unsettled Dust will follow in August and September respectively.

But why wait? In truth, I couldn’t resist rummaging around the aforementioned collections for favourites, and in short order I came up with a characteristically controlled tale that scared the pee out of me when I was still in single digits. Wonderfully, I found ‘The Same Dog’ to be every bit as effective as I remembered when I reread it recently.

[Read More]

Wed
Jun 25 2014 2:00pm

An All-New Context: The Spectral Link by Thomas Ligotti

The Spectral Link review Thomas Ligotti

An anachronism in an age when authors are expected to be out there, selling themselves every second, Thomas Ligotti has never been particularly prolific, however he did, for a period of years, publish new short stories on a semi-regular schedule, every one of which represented an event among enthusiasts of his existential efforts.

Then, a decade or so ago, Ligotti was laid up with a crippling case of writer’s block. Perniciously, this persisted until 2012, when a near-death experience moved him to pick up his pen again. The Spectral Link is the result: a slender collection of novelettes that is no less essential for its relative brevity.

[Read More]

Wed
Jun 25 2014 7:30am

Strange Chemistry Closes

Strange Chemistry

Welcome back to the British Genre Fiction Focus, Tor.com’s regular round-up of book news from the United Kingdom’s thriving speculative fiction industry.

I got a dash distracted by the publication of the programme for the Edinburgh International Book Festival last time we did this, so we’ve got a couple of things to catch up on in this edition, including the announcement of an awesome new annual anthology and a striking-sounding space opera, news of the continuing dominance of Claire North and Jasper Fforde’s next novel, and any number of other items.

But the big news in the British genre fiction industry this week was bad. And sad. Angry Robot’s YA fiction imprint has closed its doors, folks.

[Read More]

Thu
Jun 19 2014 11:00am

Death After Death: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

You will die, one day. As will I. Our time will come, and we will go. As the most memorable character in Claire North’s astonishing novel notes, that is “the fundamental rule of this universe. The very nature of life is that it must end.”

Many of us spend our days denying death, yes, but whether it is conscious knowledge or not, the inescapable fact that the worst will occur factors into our every decision. The paths we take, the choices we make—all are dictated by the finiteness of our futures. With just one life to live, our achievements are all the more meaningful. With no guarantee, really, that there’s more than this, our mistakes have to matter.

But what if they didn’t? What if death were not the end? What if there were... exceptions?

[Read More]