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. The Angelus Guns July 16, 2014 The Angelus Guns Max Gladstone There's a war in heaven, outside of time. Sleep Walking Now and Then July 9, 2014 Sleep Walking Now and Then Richard Bowes A tragedy in three acts. The Devil in the Details July 2, 2014 The Devil in the Details Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald A Peter Crossman adventure.
From The Blog
July 18, 2014
Summer 2014 Anime Preview: In the Name of the Moon!
Kelly Quinn
July 16, 2014
Picturing Dragons
Irene Gallo
July 15, 2014
Who Should Play The Magicians?
Ryan Britt
July 14, 2014
A Long Overdue Nod to SciFi and Fantasy’s Best Librarians
Stubby the Rocket
July 11, 2014
For Love or Money (And If You Do It Right, BOTH): Choosing a Career in Art
Greg Ruth
Showing posts by: niall alexander click to see niall alexander's profile
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]

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?]

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]

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]

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]

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?!]

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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

Jun 18 2014 3:00pm

Who Goes There? Zodiac Station by Tom Harper

Tom Harper Zodiac review

An uncanny account of the circumstances surrounding the murder of the members of a remote outpost near the North Pole, Tom Harper’s taut new novel—a conspiracy-ridden riff on The Thing—is thrilling and quite literally chilling.

I suppose you know about Utgard. It’s the last place in the world, the most northerly scrap of land on the planet. Easy to miss—so easy, in fact, that no one realised it was there until the twentieth century. Most of it’s covered in ice, so much that the weight has actually pushed the land below sea level. Not that there’s much sea, either: for ten months of the year it’s frozen solid. The only notable population is polar bears, and a couple of dozen scientists at Zodiac Station. I wouldn’t like to say who’s hairier.

[Read More]

Jun 18 2014 12:00pm

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?]

Jun 18 2014 7:30am

A Festival of Ice and Fire

Edinburgh Internation Book Festival

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.

Last Wednesday, the programme for the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2014 was published. Taking place “just weeks before Scotland’s independence referendum on 18 September,” the hundreds of events it heralds include a fair few which will be of interest to genre fiction fans—including a signing by the author of a certain fantasy saga who threatens to overshadow everyone else in attendance—so while I can still safely consider myself British, I wanted to bring the best of the rest to your attention.

Also featured in the Focus this week: some compromising cover art by way of new books by Ben Aaronovitch and Tad Williams.

[Read More]


Jun 17 2014 5:00pm

Lost and Found: Ajax Penumbra 1969 by Robin Sloan

Ajax Penumbra 1969 Robin Sloan review Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore was, without question, one of last year’s most endearing debuts. A short novel about a tech-savvy shop assistant drawn inexorably into what is a magnificent mystery, at least initially, Robin Sloan’s fontastic fantasy began brilliantly, before revealing itself to be a book about the absolute good of Google—and as I concluded in my review, “that’s not what I come to my speculative fiction for, frankly.”

Happily, this brief prequel isn’t half as distracted as the originating fiction, in large part because it’s set in the sixties: in 1969, specifically, during the last days of the Summer of Love. But that’s not what motivates our narrator. That’s not why he’s travelled to San Francisco. As one of his accomplices allows, “drugs, music, a new age dawning... and you came for an old book.”

[Read More]

Jun 17 2014 12:10pm

“They Are the Children of Loki, the Brothers of Coyote”: Rogues, ed. George R. R. Martin & Gardner Dozois

Rogues Anthology review Give genre fiction fans a fat fantasy novel each and they’ll read for a week. Give ’em an anthology edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, and they could be rolling in stories forever more.

Rogues is the latest in a long line of collaborations by the pair, and like Warriors and Dangerous Women, it represents a commingling of forms of fiction. Fitting insofar as the rogue is “a character archetype that cuts across all mediums and genres,” as the author of A Song of Ice and Fire asserts in his introduction, thus the fantasy narratives forecast are accompanied by stories of historical heroics, replete with romance, ghosts, and gunslinging. Which is to say there are Westerns as well, in addition to efforts emblematic of a small army of other categories, including horror, mystery and the mainstream. Herein, expect to see science fiction rubbing shoulders with the traditional thriller.

[In that regard, Rogues is rather a throwback.]