Where the Trains Turn November 19, 2014 Where the Trains Turn Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen His imagination runs wild. The Walk November 12, 2014 The Walk Dennis Etchison Creative differences can be brutal. Where the Lost Things Are November 5, 2014 Where the Lost Things Are Rudy Rucker and Terry Bisson Everything has to wind up somewhere. A Kiss with Teeth October 29, 2014 A Kiss with Teeth Max Gladstone Happy Halloween.
From The Blog
November 21, 2014
Never Wait for a Sequel Again: 17 Standalone Fantasy Novels
Stubby the Rocket
November 18, 2014
The Hollow Crown: Shakespeare’s Histories in the Age of Netflix
Ada Palmer
November 17, 2014
In Defense of Indiana Jones, Archaeologist
Max Gladstone
November 14, 2014
An Uncut and Non-Remastered List of Star Wars Editions!
Leah Schnelbach
November 13, 2014
Why Do We Reject Love as a Powerful Force in Interstellar?
Natalie Zutter
Showing posts by: niall alexander click to see niall alexander's profile
Tue
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.

[Read More]

Thu
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?

[Read more]

Thu
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.

[Read More]

Tue
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]

Mon
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.

[Read More]

Sun
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.

[Read More]

Thu
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.”

[Read More]

Tue
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.

[Read More]

Mon
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.

[Read more]

Fri
Nov 7 2014 5:00pm

Click-Clack: Wolves by Simon Ings

Wolves Simon Ings review

Wolves has been hailed as Simon Ing’s “spectacular return to SF,” and it is that, I think—though the text’s spare speculative elements only come into focus in advance of the finale, when the augmented reality Conrad’s company conceives of matures into something more meaningful than an idea.

The rest is something else: a catastrophic coming of age tale complicated by a macabre mystery which reminded me of This River Awakens. At the book’s beating heart, however, is the frustrated friendship between Conrad and his schoolmate Michel:

Michel was quiet, lugubrious, self-contained. For me, at any rate, he had extraordinary presence. A glamour. If he understood my feelings for him, he never let on. He showed very little tenderness for me. He wasn’t interested in my weaknesses. He wanted me to be strong. He cared for me as you would care for your side-kick, your familiar, for the man you had chosen to watch your back. He said we had to toughen up.

[For what? Why, for The Fall, folks!]

Fri
Nov 7 2014 11:00am

Desolate Plain at Dawn: The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

The Three-Body Problem Cixin Liu review

What would you do to save the world?

That is, the planet as opposed to the people—we’re the problem, after all—so better, perhaps, to ask: what would you do for a solution? Would you kill your own comrades, if it came to it? Would you sacrifice yourself? Your sons and daughters? Would you betray the whole of humanity today for a better tomorrow?

These are some of the provocative questions posed by The Three-Body Problem, the opening salvo of Galaxy Award-winner Cixin Liu’s fascinating science fiction trilogy, which takes in physics, philosophy, farming and, finally, first contact.

[Read More]

Thu
Nov 6 2014 11:45am

Half the World at War

Sometimes a girl is touched by mother war. Sometimes a woman becomes a warrior. Sometimes a warrior becomes a weapon. And weapons are made for one purpose...

To decorate the walls of dank taverns, perhaps? To display in glittering glass cases? Or maybe, just maybe... they’re made for murdering.

That sounds rather more like it!

Seems like only yesterday we were talking about Joe Abercrombie’s new novel, Half a King—and now the sequel is nearly here! So very nearly here, indeed, that today I’m able to share with you the sharp cover art teased at the top, some key story details about the second book of The Shattered Sea’s three and a report on the progress of Half a War.

[Read More]

Tue
Nov 4 2014 2:00pm

Born Again: Wakening the Crow by Stephen Gregory

Wakening the Crow Stephen Gregory

Stephen Gregory pulls precisely none of his punches in Wakening the Crow, a darkly fantastic fiction about family which, like The Waking That Kills before it, is interested in the ties that bind us together largely because these lead to the lies that drive us apart.

Oliver Gooch is “a dabbler and a dilettante,” someone who would “always procrastinate if there was an easier option,” and this past year, there has been. He and Rosie, his hard-working wife, have come into a substantial sum of money—enough, though the numbers go undisclosed, to purchase a church: an old Anglican in one of Nottingham’s nicer suburbs.

“No, not the whole building,” Gooch is quick to qualify. “As the congregation had dwindled to almost nothing, the commissioners had closed the church and sold it as two parcels. The body of the building was now a furniture warehouse. We’d bought the tower,” to live in, and the vestry as well—a very special space our protagonist plans to turn into a bookshop. Specifically “a specialist outlet of strange and occult and arcane books. The shop I’d daydreamed foolishly about having.”

[Read More]

Sun
Nov 2 2014 8:00am

British Fiction Hitlist: Early November New Releases

new releases UK

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.

Halloween might be behind us, but evidently, early November didn’t get the message. Revival is reputed to be a “rich and disturbing novel [spanning] five decades on its way to the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written,” the next volume of The Walkin’—David Towsey’s godforsaken zombie apocalypse series—is hot on its heels, and quite aside from being a very fine standalone fantasy, Riding the Unicorn by Paul Kearney is desperately distressing.

Last but not least, if you’re looking for a little light relief, keep your eyes peeled for my final pick of the period: Willful Child by Steven Erikson sounds like such fun, doesn’t it?

This edition of the Hitlist also features new books by John Shirley, Gail Carriger, Ally Condie, S. J. Kincaid, Carol Anne Duffy, Michael Carroll, Al Ewing, Matt Smith, Chris Priestly, Tom Hoyle, James Luceno, Neal Shusterman, Liz de Jager, Stephen Gregory, Lauren Kate, Stephen Lloyd Jones and David Dalglish.

[Read More]

Fri
Oct 31 2014 10:30am

Worlds Apart: Riding the Unicorn by Paul Kearney

Paul Kearney Riding the Unicorn

The third of three resplendent reissues of Northern Irish author Paul Kearney’s very earliest efforts completes the sinuous circle described in his dreamlike debut, A Different Kingdom. Riding the Unicorn is a darker fiction by far—it’s about the abduction of a man who’s likely losing his mind by the conniving by-blow of a hateful High King—but it’s as brilliant a book as it is brutal, not least because our hero, Warden John Willoby, is a horrible human being; fortunate, in fact, to find himself on the right side of the cages he keeps his prisoners in.

He has, in the first, a truly terrible temper. To wit, he’s wholly unwelcome in his own home, where his wife and daughter strive each day to stay out of his way. Willoby isn’t an idiot—he’s well aware of their disdain—he just doesn’t give a two bob bit.

[Read More]

Fri
Oct 31 2014 9:40am

The Good Wolf

Wolf in the Attic

Next week sees the release of Riding the Unicorn, the third of three resplendent reissues of Paul Kearney’s very earliest efforts. Like A Different Kingdom and The Way to Babylon before it, Riding the Unicorn in enrapturing—and hats off to the folks at Solaris for giving it and its previously out-of-print predecessors space in today’s marketplace, complete with clever new cover art by the fabulous Pye Parr.

“Like Robert Holdstock, Ursula [K.] Le Guin and Philip Pullman, Kearney pushes back the boundaries of what fantasy can actually do,” explains the aforementioned imprint’s Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Oliver. “Yes these stories are strange, yes they are speculative—but they are also very human, and that is what makes Kearney one of the most vital authors in genre.”

And hot on the heels of these repackaged classics comes The Wolf in the Attic: “a poignant and touching story” which marks “an exciting new chapter in Kearney’s career.”

[Read more]

Wed
Oct 29 2014 1:30pm

Amazing Grace: The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

The Book of Strange New Things Michael Faber review

Michel Faber’s first novel since The Fire Gospel—a sterling send-up of The Da Vinci Code and its ilk—is a characteristically compelling exploration of faith which takes place “in a foreign solar system, trillions of miles from home,” on a wasteland planet populated by hooded beings with foetuses for faces.

So far, so science fiction. Factor in first contact, a spot of space travel, and an awful lot of apocalypse, and The Book of Strange New Things seems damn near destined to be speculative. Unfortunately for fans of the form, as the author warns early on, “there was nothing here to do justice to [that] fact.” Or, if not nothing, then very little aside the superficial. Even in addition to the aforementioned trappings, honeydewed drinking water and a dizzying day/night cycle do not add up to much more than an unlikely lens through which to look at love: in the first between mere mortals, but above and beyond that, the love—and the love lost—between man and maker.

[Read More]

Tue
Oct 28 2014 2:30pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: Before the Mountains of Madness

The Madness of Cthulhu S. T. Joshi Titan BooksWelcome 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.

With three volumes of Black Wings behind him, S. T. Joshi—the one Lovecraft scholar to rule them all—has taken the reins of another eldritch anthology project, and it’s as lush as his last.

Alongside a couple of classics—not least a lark by Arthur C. Clarke—The Madness of Cthulhu features fourteen “never-before-seen” stories of Old Ones and shambling shoggoths inspired, in this instance, by “the pinnacle of Lovecraft’s ‘cosmic’ vision and his union of traditional supernatural fiction with the burgeoning genre of science fiction.” Joshi speaks, here, of At the Mountains of Madness: a grimly fascinating narrative in which the geologist William Dyer leads an expedition into the Antarctic, only to find there—in a strange stone city composed of cubes and cones; an apparently abandoned marvel of alien architecture—evidence of ancient, intelligent and finally malign life...

[Read more]

Fri
Oct 24 2014 10:55am

Tributaries of Rivers of London

Ben Aaronovitch

You can take the copper out of London—you can take him, to wit, to “a small village in Herefordshire where the local police are reluctant to admit that there might be a supernatural element to the disappearance of some local children”—but you can’t take the London out of urban fantasy’s favourite copper, can you?

Foxglove Summer, the fifth of the bestselling PC Peter Grant series—which began with the wonderful Rivers of London—is, at long last, almost upon us. With the hardcover out hereabouts in early November, news of a tour in support of said text, and the announcement of an upcoming comic based on the books, I borrowed Ben Aaronovitch and Andrew Cartmel, his partner in sequential art, for a chat about Body Work and beyond.

[Read More]

Thu
Oct 23 2014 2:00pm

City of Contradictions: Retribution by Mark Charan Newton

Mark Charon Newton Retribution Drakenfeld

The laid-back detective drama of Drakenfeld marked a propitious departure for Mark Charan Newton: an assured move from the weird and sometimes wonderful fantasy with which he had made his name to a tale of mystery and alt-history not dissimilar to C. J. Sansom's Shardlake stories.

But with all-out war in the offing—in large part because of Drakenfeld's discoveries at the end of the text so titled—and a serial killer torturing and slaughtering some of most prominent people in the kingdom of Koton, the darkness of the Legends of the Red Sun series is back; a change of pace Newton paves the way for on the first page of his new book.

“In over thirty years of life, a decade of which has been spent as an Officer of the Sun Chamber,” Lucan Drakenfeld remarks, “the world has long since robbed me of my limitless optimism.” To be sure, he appears a pretty positive protagonist compared to grimdark Princes like this year's Jalan and Yarvi, yet the events of Retribution are still to take their toll—on its hero and, indeed, its reader.

[Read More]