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
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
Showing posts by: niall alexander click to see niall alexander's profile
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...

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Dec 17 2014 10:20am

Philip Pullman Releases New His Dark Materials Story for Christmas

Philip Pullman The Collectors audio story

Hot on the heels of the “wonderland of new writing by J. K. Rowling” being released over at Pottermore, I’ve got good Philip Pullman news and bad Philip Pullman news for you. All we need now is for Suzanne Collins to unveil an exclusive new tale about The Hunger Games’ Gale and this Christmas will be complete.

We’re going to begin today with the bad, because that way we can conclude on the good: the long-awaited companion piece to His Dark Materials, The Book of Dust, isn’t even nearly here.

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Dec 16 2014 5:00pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: Nunslinger Begins


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.

In Great Britain and beyond, ghost stories are seen as something of a winter tradition, and I guess that makes a certain amount of sense. This time of year, there’s precious little light left, and in its absence... why, what else but darkness? Which is itself scary enough for some, but bear with me a bit, because darkness, in turn, suggests silence, and in silence, every sound seems strange—intrusive, even. No wonder we tell tales of things that go bump in the night. No wonder we spin fictions to diminish our fear of the unseen. In a way, being scared makes us feel safer. And so: ghost stories.

Well, thank Santa for counter-programming! I’ve never been one to watch the Queen’s Christmas Message—the alternative address has always been my preference—and much as I adore a good ghost story, reading one this week would be more than a little predictable. So I sought out something a little different: an episodic western about a nun with guns.

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Dec 11 2014 9:40am

A Pottermore Christmas

Harry Potter snow

I don’t know what it is about them, but the Harry Potter films have become a kind of Christmas tradition for me and mine. There’s rarely enough time to reread the books or I dare say I’d do that too. This year, that said, I may have to make time, because Pottermore.com has announced that a fortnight of festive fun is forthcoming, including “a wonderland of new writing by J. K. Rowling,” and I’m already hankering to hear a bit more about Harry and his.

Starting Friday, December 12, we’ll be releasing a new surprise for you every day at 1pm GMT (8am EST). With brand new writing by J.K. Rowling and even a new potion or two, make sure you don’t miss out on these daily treats.

Oh, I won’t. Nor should you! That said, I’d counsel caution. At least one outlet is erroneously reporting that Rowling plans to “put out 12 additional Harry Potter stories” over advent, which is not at all what the originating email and accompanying press release teased.

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Dec 9 2014 10:15am

World Book Night is Back

World Book Night 2015

65% of the population of Great Britain read for pleasure regularly. Not a bad number, compared with some countries. On the other hand, that leaves 22.4m folks who don’t even dream of reading—and that’s just not on. Not according to the minds behind World Book Night.

Since 2011, World Book Night has brought together “a powerful collaboration of [...] partners—publishers, printers, distributors, libraries, booksellers, private donors, trusts and foundations—to inspire more people to read.”

To that end, many millions of books have been given out over the years by teams of volunteers... yet in 2015, World Book Night will be a decidedly less worldly event than it once was, with the United States having had to “suspend operations after failing to secure outside funding.”

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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?

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Dec 2 2014 5:00pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: The Sleeper and the Spindle

the sleeper and the spindle

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.

Having joined forces before on Fortunately, the Milk... as well as illustrated editions of The Graveyard Book and Coraline, Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell have a history. The Sleeper and the Spindle is their latest collaboration, and undoubtedly their greatest to date.

As a work of fiction, most folks will find it familiar, I figure; in the first because it’s a refashioned fairy tale based in part on a couple of classics—specifically Sleeping Beauty and Snow White—but consider this in addition: The Sleeper and the Spindle has been published previously, albeit absent the art, in Rags & Bones: New Twists on Timeless Tales, in which anthology the story was very much at home.

The real hero of Bloomsbury’s exquisitely illustrated edition is Riddell, then. His pen and ink portraits and landscapes add a delightful new dimension to the text, and though they were added after the fact, they don’t seem in the slightest superfluous; on the contrary, they belong in this book. That said, this is the Short Fiction Spotlight, so our focus must be on the story, which—whilst neither shiny nor new—well... it’s still swell.

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Dec 2 2014 3:30pm

Reading Room: The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami

the strange library review haruki murakami

A couple of months ago, a story about the closure of yet another local library caught my eye at the same time as I was searching for a subject for the sixty-some students I teach to tackle—a problem of sorts for them to set about solving. I had in my head an exercise which would require each pupil to suggest a selection of strategies that might make the local library relevant again.

Quite quickly we hit a wall, as I recall. It wasn’t that the kids didn’t grasp the task at hand; if anything, they understood the problem too well. None of them, you see—not a one—had even been to a library, far less used its facilities. In short order I saw that I’d based the week’s work on a false premise: that local libraries had ever been relevant to them.

They certainly were to me, once—as they are to the narrator of The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami: a nearly new novelette from the author of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.

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Dec 1 2014 9:40am

Remembering P. D. James

PD James

P. D. James, born Phyllis Dorothy James on the 3rd of August 1920, passed away peacefully at her home in Oxford last Thursday morning. She was 94 years old.

She was “a much-loved mother, grandmother and great-grandmother,” according to a statement from her family, and the author of twenty-odd tremendously successful novels, most notably the many mysteries starring Scotland Yard’s Adam Dalgliesh.

It was with the first of these, Cover Her Face, that James made her debut in 1962, and though she took a few momentous detours over the years, she was to return to her prized poet and police chief repeatedly until 2008’s The Private Patient.

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Nov 30 2014 10:00am

British Fiction Hitlist: December New Releases

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

Well then, winter: what have you got?

Looks like... not a lot! But never fear, readers dear, for December does have its highlights, like Haruki Murakami’s new novella, The Strange Library, which I’m excited to read on the back of the aforementioned author’s return to form in Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage; and another genre novel of Japanese origin—Genocide of One by Kazuaki Takano—a kick-ass thriller about the survival of the fittest.

Beyond that, my nose will be buried in Nunslinger, the complete edition of which I’ve been raring to read for at least a year, and Jonathan Oliver’s latest anthology of speculative short stories, namely Dangerous Games.

This edition of the Hitlist also features new books by Laurell K. Hamilton, Kristen Painter, Jay Kristoff, Brian Aldiss, Stephen Blackmoore, Sara Raasch, N.K. Jemisin, and Nathan Hawke.

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Nov 28 2014 2:00pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: The Uncanny Valley

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.

Once upon a time, magazines of short speculative fiction were as prevalent and accessible as newspapers, but the periodicals of the past have been dying a slow death for decades. Don’t give up hope, though, for there are those who still believe such publications have a place.

Amongst their noble number, we have Hugo Award-winner Lynne M. Thomas and Hugo Award nominee Michael Damian Thomas, who last week launched the first issue of Uncanny, a brand new bi-monthly “that has the feel of a contemporary magazine with a history—one that evolved from a fantastic pulp. Uncanny will bring the excitement and possibilities of the past, and the sensibilities and experimentation that the best of the present offers.”

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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.

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Nov 20 2014 1:20pm

Aliette de Bodard Shatters Paris

Like Gollancz’s Gillian Redfearn, “I’ve long admired Aliette [de Bodard]’s writing,” as I asserted in this early edition of the Short Fiction Spotlight. So the news that the aforementioned author—which is to say “the winner of two Nebula Awards, a Locus Award and a BSFA Award”—has sold two new novels makes me a very happy chappy.

The two-book deal encompasses House of Shattered Wings and an as-yet untitled sequel. I dare say it marks the dawn of a new day for de Bodard, whose previous novels—the Obsidian and Blood trilogy comprising Servant of the Underworld, Harbinger of the Storm, and Master of the House of Darts—were published by Angry Robot Books. House of Shattered Wings, however—which is said to be “comparable to works of China Mieville and Iain M. Banks in epic scale and in delivering its ambitions”—will be in Gollancz’s hands.

So what are these new books about?

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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.

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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]

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.

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Nov 16 2014 10:00am

British Fiction Hitlist: Late November New Releases

new releases UK late november

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

There might be fewer books due in the next few weeks than usual, but they’re all such big hitters that I had a hard time deciding which to hit on in this intro. Eventually, however, I found something like a signal amongst all the noise: this, folks, is a fortnight of sci-fi sequels! Leading the pack, Ultima by Stephen Baxter. Picking up where Proxima left off, as past and present collide, this novel promises to reveal nothing less than “the true nature of the universe.” Symbiont, the sequel to last year’s divisive Parasite, doesn’t have such lofty ambitions, but if you’re on board for a bit of high concept body horror, book now. There’s also The Dark Defiles—the long-awaited last act of Richard Morgan’s marvellous science fantasy—and lest we forget The Peripheral by William Gibson. Not a sequel, no, but I could hardly let a fiction about two futures from the byzantine mind behind Neuromancer pass without remark.

This edition of the Hitlist also features new books by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson, Justin Richards, Ben Aaronovitch, George R. R. Martin, Melinda Snodgrass, Gavin Deas, John Connolly, Jennifer Ridyard, Gardner Dozois, Trisha Telep, William Gibson, Stephen Jones, Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kenner.

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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.”

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Nov 11 2014 9:30am

Something Happened: Revival by Stephen King

Stephen King Revival

Whether you love his work or loathe it—and there are those who do, difficult as that is for those who don’t to discern—you’ve got to give Stephen King credit, in the first for working so damned hard. Over the forty years of his career, he’s written fifty-odd novels, and financially, you have to imagine he’d have been sitting pretty after the first five.

This, then, isn’t a man who does what he does for the money. Demonstrably, I dare say, he does it for the fun, and that’s a fine thing, I think; after all, to paraphrase Dreamcatcher’s central character, doing the same shit day after day does get dull, and dull is the last thing a writer writing recreationally can afford to be. To escape that fate, King has reinvented himself repeatedly in recent years. He’s come up with a couple of very credible crime thrillers, commingled conspiracy with the stuff of science fiction and composed love letters to the old days and ways.

In that respect, Revival is a real throwback. A supernatural horror novel of the sort Constant Reader hasn’t seen since Duma Key, it’s classic King, complete with fantastic characters, a suggestive premise and an ending I’m going to politely describe as divisive.

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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.

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