Monday, March 31, 2014

“Half Bad” by Sally Green (Penguin)

GreenS-HalfBadPBThe most frustrating novel I still couldn’t stop reading

You can’t read, can’t write, but you heal fast, even for a witch.

You get sick if you stay indoors after dark.

You hate White Witches but love Annalise, who is one.

You’ve been kept in a cage since you were fourteen.

All you’ve got to do is escape and find Mercury, the Black Witch who eats boys. And do that before your seventeenth birthday.


I have very, very mixed feelings about Half Bad. On the one hand, Green writes very well – there isn’t a bad sentence or garbled phrase in sight. The pacing is excellent. But, the story was in many ways deeply troubling, not to mention buried by certain choices the author made to make the novel more “gritty” (as she admits in the author’s acknowledgments at the end). Usually, I drop novels I don’t like very quickly, but with this one I kept reading. Partly because I was intrigued, but eventually because I was hopeful that the story-proper would begin at some point. Sadly, the novel did not properly deliver.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Upcoming: EDGE OF TOMORROW (Movie)

Another interesting sci-fi movie coming out this year. Tom Cruise seems to be enjoying the uptick in popularity of the genre (see also: Oblivion, which was much better than I expected). Emily Blunt is also great. I’m looking forward to this, think it has a fair bit of promise. Check out the trailer:

Find out more at the movie’s website, IMDb, and on Facebook.


“The Girl With All the Gifts” by M.R. Carey (Orbit)

CareyMR-GirlWithAllTheGiftsA superb novel, one of my favourite so far this year

Melanie is a very special girl. Dr. Caldwell calls her “our little genius”. Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh. Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children’s cells. She tells her favourite teacher all the things she’ll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn’t know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

I have long been familiar with Carey’s comics work – mainly the amazing Lucifer and The Unwritten, both of which I am addicted to. It took me a long time to get around to reading this novel, though, for reasons I cannot quite figure out. Long-time readers of the blog will know I’m a fan of certain types of post-apocalyptic-zombie novels. The Girl With All the Gifts is absolutely brilliant, and one of this year’s Must Reads. I loved it.

Thursday, March 27, 2014


This looks like a lot of fun…

Rat Queens, Vol.1 – “Sass & Sorcery” (Image Comics)

Writer: Kurtis J. Wiebe | Artist: Roc Upchurch

Who are the Rat Queens?

A pack of booze-guzzling, death-dealing battle maidens-for-hire, and they’re in the business of killing all god’s creatures for profit.

It’s also a darkly comedic sass-and-sorcery series starring Hannah the Rockabilly Elven Mage, Violet the Hipster Dwarven Fighter, Dee the Atheist Human Cleric and Betty the Hippy Smidgen Thief. This modern spin on an old school genre is a violent monster-killing epic that is like Buffy meets Tank Girl in a Lord of the Rings world on crack!

Collects: Rat Queens #1-5

In the tradition of Skullkickers (also published by Image) and Princeless, Rat Queens is a tongue-in-cheeky, funny take on traditional sword-and-sorcery tropes. We have the classic fantasy band of adventurers, with an amusing dynamic. That they happen to all be women is a nice touch, too, and Wiebe clearly shows (without any type of preaching) that there’s no reason why only big, hulking male barbarians or wizened, white-bearded sages have to be at the centre of fantasy adventures. Someone in the Rat Queen’s home town is setting up the local mercenary bands – engineering deadly assignments intended to eradicate them entirely. Unfortunately for the conspiracists, the Rat Queens won’t go down without a fight, a lot of killing and plenty of raucous fun.

“Iron Night” by M.L. Brennan (Roc)

BrennanML-GV2-IronNightA second, fine mess Fortitude Scott has got himself into…

Underachieving film theory graduate and vampire Fortitude Scott may be waiting tables at a snooty restaurant run by a tyrannical chef who hates him, but the other parts of his life finally seem to be stabilizing. He’s learning how to rule the Scott family territory, hanging out more with his shapeshifting friend Suzume Hollis, and has actually found a decent roommate for once.

Until he finds his roommate’s dead body.

The Scott family cover-up machine swings into gear, but Fort is the only person trying to figure out who (or what) actually killed his friend. His hunt for a murderer leads to a creature that scares even his sociopathic family, and puts them all in deadly peril.

Keeping secrets, killing monsters, and still having to make it to work on time? Sometimes being a vampire really sucks.

The sequel to Generation V, in Iron Night, we get more of the same – which is by no means a bad thing. We get to see Fort embracing his vampire heritage a little more. Since he started going through his physical changes, he appears to have accepted that he can’t escape what he is, and as a result has stopped rebelling as much as he used to. Iron Night is a solid follow-up, complete with great character development.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


LittlewoodA-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Alison Littlewood?

Ah, the hardest question of all... I’m a probably slightly odd person who writes probably slightly odd books! I’ve been writing dark fantasy and horror for several years now, and was lucky enough a while back to get a three-book deal from Jo Fletcher Books at Quercus. A Cold Season was picked for the Richard and Judy book club, and it went from there.

Your next novel, The Unquiet House, is due to be published by Jo Fletcher Books in April 2014. How would you introduce the novel to a new reader?

It’s a ghost story set in a rather dour Yorkshire house, following the fates of different generations of the same family. There are sections set in the present day as well as the seventies and the thirties, which each shed light on each other. It’s probably the oddest of my odd books, and in a way it’s perhaps best to read it knowing nothing at all, so I will leave it at that…!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

“Deadlands” by Lily Herne (Much-In-Little/Constable & Robinson)

Herne-MR1-DeadlandsAn interesting new Post-Zomebie-Apocalypse Series

Welcome to the Deadlands, where life is a lottery.

Since the apocalypse, Cape Town’s suburbs have become zombie-infested Deadlands. Human survivors are protected from the living dead by sinister, shrouded figures – the Guardians. In return, five teenagers are “chosen” and handed over to them for a mysterious purpose: this year, Lele de la Fontein’s name is picked.

But Lele will not stick around and face whatever shady fate the Guardians have in store for her. She escapes, willing to take her chances in the Deadlands.

Alone, exiled and unable to return home, she runs into a misfit gang of renegade teens: Saint, a tough Batswana girl; Ginger, a wise-cracking Brit; and handsome Ash, a former child soldier. Under their tutelage, Lele learns how to seriously destroy zombies and together they uncover the corruption endemic in Cape Town, and come to learn the sickening truth about the Guardians …

I first heard about the mother-daughter writing team Lily Herne at World Fantasy Con 2013 in Brighton. I was walking along the signing corridor and Jared of Pornokitsch pulled me aside and introduced me to them. Since then, I have read The Three by Sarah Lotz (the mother of the duo), which I think will most likely be one of my Top 5 reads of 2014. Then, despite having a signed copy of Deadlands, I spotted the first two books in the series on sale for Kindle. I snapped them both up, and started reading Deadlands right away. And, I must say, I really enjoyed it.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Upcoming: Gollancz Debuts 2014

I’ve already featured Edward Cox’s upcoming debut, The Relic Guild, and Den Patrick’s The Boy With the Porcelain Blade, but I thought it would be good to take a quick look at Gollancz’s other 2014 debuts. All of the novels will be included in the £1.99 eBook promotion. So, in order of release, here are Gollancz’s other four 2014 debuts…

HuntS-FCS1-InDarkServiceUKStephen Hunt’s In Dark Service (May 15)

Carter has been kidnapped. Enslaved. But he’s determined to fight to the end.

Jacob is a pacifist. His family destroyed. He’s about to choose the path of violence to reclaim his son.

Their world has changed for ever. Between them, they’re going to avenge it.

Jacob Carnehan has settled down. He’s living a comfortable, quiet life, obeying the law and minding his own business while raising his son Carter… on those occasions when he isn’t having to bail him out of one scrape or another. His days of adventure are – thankfully – long behind him.

Carter Carnehan is going out of his mind with boredom. He’s bored by his humdrum life, frustrated that his father won’t live a little, and longs for the bright lights and excitement of anywhere-but-here. He’s longing for an opportunity to escape, and test himself against whatever the world has to offer.

Carter is going to get his opportunity. He’s caught up in a village fight, kidnapped by slavers and, before he knows it, is swept to another land. A lowly slave, surrounded by technology he doesn’t understand, his wish has come true: it’s him vs. the world. He can try to escape, he can try to lead his fellow slaves, or he can accept the inevitable and try to make the most of the short, brutal existence remaining to him.

… Unless Jacob gets to him first and, no matter the odds, he intends to. No one kidnaps his son and gets away with it – and if it come to it, he’ll force Kings to help him on his way, he’ll fight, steal, blackmail and betray his friends in the name of bringing Carter home.

Wars will be started. Empires will fall. And the Carnehan family will be reunited, one way or another...

I’ve never read anything by Stephen Hunt, but they’ve all sounded great – this is not his debut novel, just his Gollancz debut.


WallaceJ-BarricadeUKJon Wallace’s Barricade (June 19)

A kinetic, violent and hugely intelligent SF road thriller – a desperate journey through a ruined future world.

Kenstibec was genetically engineered to build a new world, but the apocalypse forced a career change. These days he drives a taxi instead.

A fast-paced, droll and disturbing novel, BARRICADE is a savage road trip across the dystopian landscape of post-apocalypse Britain; narrated by the cold-blooded yet magnetic antihero, Kenstibec.

Kenstibec is a member of the “Ficial” race, a breed of merciless super-humans. Their war on humanity has left Britain a wasteland, where Ficials hide in barricaded cities, besieged by tribes of human survivors. Originally optimised for construction, Kenstibec earns his keep as a taxi driver, running any Ficial who will pay from one surrounded city to another.

The trips are always eventful, but this will be his toughest yet. His fare is a narcissistic journalist who’s touchy about her luggage. His human guide is constantly plotting to kill him. And that's just the start of his troubles.

On his journey he encounters ten-foot killer rats, a mutant king with a TV fixation, a drug-crazed army, and even the creator of the Ficial race. He also finds time to uncover a terrible plot to destroy his species for good – and humanity too.

This sounds like a pretty cool SF novel.


Caltabiano-SeventhMissHatfieldUKAnna Caltabiano’s The Seventh Miss Hatfield (July 17)

A spellbinding debut from a hugely talented young author, featuring time-travel, 19th-century New York, unrequited love and a mysterious portrait…

Rebecca, a 15-year-old American, isn’t entirely happy with her life, comfortable though it is. Still, even she knows that she shouldn’t talk to strangers. So when her mysterious neighbour Miss Hatfield asked her in for a chat and a drink, Rebecca wasn’t entirely sure why she said yes. It was a decision that was to change everything.

For Miss Hatfield is immortal. And now, thanks to a drop of water from the Fountain of Youth, Rebecca is as well. But this gift might be more of a curse, and it comes with a price. Rebecca is beginning to lose her personality, to take on the aspects of her neighbour. She is becoming the next Miss Hatfield.

But before the process goes too far, Rebecca must travel back in time to turn-of-the-century New York and steal a painting, a picture which might provide a clue to the whereabouts of the source of immortality. A clue which must remain hidden from the world. In order to retrieve the painting, Rebecca must infiltrate a wealthy household, learn more about the head of the family, and find an opportunity to escape. Before her journey is through, she will also have – rather reluctantly – fallen in love. But how can she stay with the boy she cares for, when she must return to her own time before her time-travelling has a fatal effect on her body? And would she rather stay and die in love, or leave and live alone?

And who is the mysterious stranger who shadows her from place to place? A hunter for the secret of immortality – or someone who has already found it?

How cool is that cover GIF? I’m really intrigued by this novel. Sounds different, and should be a stand-out of the summer.


JacobsJH-IncorruptiblesUKJohn Hornor Jacobs’s The Incorruptibles (August 14)

On the edges of the Empire, life is hard – and men must be harder.

In the contested and unexplored territories at the edge of the Empire, a boat is making its laborious way up stream. Riding along the banks are the mercenaries hired to protect it – from raiders, bandits and, most of all, the stretchers, elf-like natives who kill any intruders into their territory. The mercenaries know this is dangerous, deadly work. But it is what they do.

In the boat the drunk governor of the territories and his sons and daughters make merry. They believe that their status makes them untouchable. They are wrong. And with them is a mysterious, beautiful young woman, who is the key to peace between warring nations and survival for the Empire. When a callow mercenary saves the life of the Governor on an ill-fated hunting party, the two groups are thrown together.

For Fisk and Shoe – two tough, honourable mercenaries surrounded by corruption, who know they can always and only rely on each other – their young companion appears to be playing with fire. The nobles have the power, and crossing them is always risky.

And although love is a wonderful thing, sometimes the best decision is to walk away. Because no matter how untouchable or deadly you may be, the stretchers have other plans.

I have been hearing a lot of great things about this novel. Can. Not. Wait to read it.


Guest Post: “Influences & Inspirations” by Stephanie Saulter

SaulterS-AuthorPicI had, by any definition, an unusual childhood – I grew up in what was then a fairly remote corner of rural Jamaica, beautiful but quite isolated, in a resolutely free-thinking, non-conformist family. I have seven siblings so I wasn’t exactly lonely; but being the eldest, a voracious reader and not particularly gregarious, I never really felt I fitted in to the neighbourhood. Books were my escape hatch, my window into different times and places and worlds. They were how I worked out who I was, what I was interested in, what lay beyond the horizon.

The power of story to capture your imagination and alter your thinking and take you somewhere else had a profound effect on who I grew up to be, long before I became a writer of stories myself. And because so many stories celebrate the outsider, the loner, the person who is always second to the right of everyone else, I think they helped to reassure me that being a bit odd and a bit different was okay. You can be the hero of your own life, and it doesn’t have to be like anyone else’s life. I learned that early, and I learned it from books.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Upcoming: “Fall of Macharius” by William King (Black Library)

KingW-MC3-FallOfMachariusThe epic conclusion to The Macharian Crusade trilogy.

Long-time readers of the blog will know that I’ve been a fan of William King’s fiction ever since I read his first Gotrek & Felix short story (now collected in Trollslayer and the First Gotrek & Felix Omnibus). I’ve fallen a bit behind, though, and I need to catch up with the previous book in the series, Fist of Demetrius.

For decades, Lord Solar Macharius and his loyal forces have crusaded across the stars, bringing the Imperial Truth to uncounted worlds and purging aliens and heretics from the dark places at the fringe of the galaxy. But all things must come to an end. His soldiers are weary, his generals fractious, and the legend of Macharius may no longer be enough to hold them together. Called by a representative of Terra to a council of generals, Macharius fears treachery – but will it come from closer to home than he could possibly imagine?

Fall of Macharius is due to be published in hardcover on July 22nd, 2014, by Black Library.

Friday, March 21, 2014

EVERNESS by Ian McDonald (Jo Fletcher/Pyr/Audible)


A mixed-media reading experiment…

There is not one you. There are many yous. There is not one world. There are many worlds. Ours is one among billions of parallel earths.

When Everett Singh’s scientist father is kidnapped from the streets of London, he leaves young Everett a mysterious app on his computer. Suddenly, this teenager has become the owner of the most valuable object in the multiverse — the Infundibulum — the map of all the parallel earths, and there are dark forces in the Ten Known Worlds who will stop at nothing to get it. They’ve got power, authority, the might of ten planets — some of them more technologically advanced than our Earth — at their fingertips. He’s got wits, intelligence, and a knack for Indian cooking.

To keep the Infundibulum safe, Everett must trick his way through the Heisenberg Gate that his dad helped build and go on the run in a parallel Earth. But to rescue his dad from Charlotte Villiers and the sinister Order, this Planesrunner’s going to need friends. Friends like Captain Anastasia Sixsmyth, her adopted daughter, Sen, and the crew of the airship Everness.

Can they rescue Everett’s father and get the Infundibulum to safety? The game is afoot!

Ian McDonald’s science fiction YA series – comprised of Planesrunner, Be My Enemy and Empress of the Sun – has been widely praised across the SFF community and all over the press. Despite that, it has taken me a long time to get around to giving it a try. Needless to say, it’s a lot of fun, and deserves all of the glowing reviews it has received. A must-read sci-fi series.

Interview with SARAH LOTZ

SarahLotz-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Sarah Lotz?

I’m a genre-crossing pulp-fiction writer based in South Africa. I’m addicted to coffee and collaborating, and write horror novels with author Louis Greenberg under the name S.L Grey; a ‘choose-your-own’ erotica series with authors Helen Moffett and Paige Nick (as Helena S. Paige), and a YA series co-written with my daughter under the name Lily Herne.

Your next novel, The Three, is due to be published by Hodder in May. How would you introduce the novel to a new reader?

I’m tempted to say it’s about plane crashes and (possibly) evil children – but I hope there is more to it than that! Here’s a brief description:

Four devastating plane crashes. Three child survivors. A fanatic who insists the survivors are possessed by the harbingers of the apocalypse. What if he’s right?

I’m fascinated by how quickly fear and paranoia can spread throughout society – especially during the aftermath of a devastating event – and the novel attempts to explore how this could potentially influence the political landscape.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Suicide Risk, Vol.1 (Boom Studios/Titan Comics)

SuicideRisk-Vol.1-ArtWriter: Mike Carey | Artist: Elena Casagrande

Even when there are only villains, being a hero makes you a…

Super-powered people are inexplicably rising from the streets and there’s a big problem: Too many supervillains, not enough superheroes. Heroes are dying, and cops are dying twofold. Humanity is underpowered in the face of their onslaught, and people are suffering untold casualties trying to stem the flow.

After barely surviving a super-powered bank heist gone horribly wrong, beat cop Leo Winters vowed to try and find a way to stop them. Following a lead, he discovered two lowlifes who seemed to be able to grant a person powers... for the right price. Thing is: you don't get to choose which power. It’s seemingly random, a crap-shoot, a risk. Will Leo decide to take that risk? And why is it that even the heroes in this world eventually break?

Collects: Suicide Risk #1-4

I have long been a fan of Mike Carey’s work – his comic-series The Unwritten and Lucifer (Vertigo) are easily among my top five favourites; and his most recent novel, The Girl With All the Gifts (Orbit) is one of my favourite reads this year. Carey’s new original ongoing series is a great one. Anyone interested in superheroes should check this out.

“The Accident” by Chris Pavone (Crown Publishing/Faber)

PavoneC-TheAccidentUSAn engaging suspense, featuring a secret manuscript, a conspiracy, and unwitting pawns caught in the middle.

As dawn approaches in New York, literary agent Isabel Reed is turning the final pages of a mysterious, anonymous manuscript, racing through the explosive revelations about powerful people, as well as long-hidden secrets about her own past. In Copenhagen, veteran CIA operative Hayden Gray, determined that this sweeping story be buried, is suddenly staring down the barrel of an unexpected gun. And in Zurich, the author himself is hiding in a shadowy expat life, trying to atone for a lifetime’s worth of lies and betrayals with publication of The Accident, while always looking over his shoulder.

Over the course of one long, desperate, increasingly perilous day, these lives collide as the book begins its dangerous march toward publication, toward saving or ruining careers and companies, placing everything at risk—and everyone in mortal peril.  The rich cast of characters—in publishing and film, politics and espionage—are all forced to confront the consequences of their ambitions, the schisms between their ideal selves and the people they actually became.

The action rockets around Europe and across America, with an intricate web of duplicities stretching back a quarter-century to a dark winding road in upstate New York, where the shocking truth about the accident itself is buried.

Pavone’s The Expats was an international bestseller – one I seem to have missed almost entirely. When The Accident popped up on NetGalley, though, its synopsis sent it right to the top of my Must Read titles. The story is located at the confluence of a number of my key interests: politics, media, international relations/espionage, and publishing. While the novel is not perfect, it is nevertheless a gripping, fast-paced thriller that entertained and gripped me from the start.

Interview with DANIELLE JENSEN

JensenD-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Danielle Jensen?

Danielle is an unrepentant daydreamer, which is a highly undesirable attribute for most professions. Life might have gone quite poorly for her if she hadn’t discovered her knack for translating dreams into novels. 

Your debut novel, Stolen Songbird, is due to be published by Strange Chemistry in April 2014. How would you introduce the novel to a new reader? Is it part of a series?

Stolen Songbird is Book 1 in The Malediction Trilogy.  This is the blurb that will be on the back of the book:

For five centuries, a witch's curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the mountain. When Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she realises that the trolls are relying on her to break the curse.

Cécile has only one thing on her mind: escape. But the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time...

But the more time she spends with the trolls, the more she understands their plight. There is a rebellion brewing. And she just might be the one the trolls were looking for...

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Upcoming: “The Relic Guild” by Edward Cox (Gollancz)

CoxE-RG1-RelicGuild2014I’ve been lucky enough to read a (very) early draft of this, about a year and a half ago, before it was submitted to publishers for consideration. I can’t wait to see the final version. This cover, unveiled earlier this week, is awesome. The Relic Guild is, in my opinion, a must-read of 2014.

Here’s the synopsis:

Magic caused the war. Magic is forbidden. Magic will save us.

It was said the Labyrinth had once been the great meeting place, a sprawling city at the heart of an endless maze where a million humans hosted the Houses of the Aelfir. The Aelfir who had brought trade and riches, and a future full of promise. But when the Thaumaturgists, overlords of human and Aelfir alike, went to war, everything was ruined and the Labyrinth became an abandoned forbidden zone, where humans were trapped behind boundary walls a hundred feet high.

Now the Aelfir are a distant memory and the Thaumaturgists have faded into myth. Young Clara struggles to survive in a dangerous and dysfunctional city, where eyes are keen, nights are long, and the use of magic is punishable by death. She hides in the shadows, fearful that someone will discover she is touched by magic. She knows her days are numbered. But when a strange man named Fabian Moor returns to the Labyrinth, Clara learns that magic serves a higher purpose and that some myths are much more deadly in the flesh.

The only people Clara can trust are the Relic Guild, a secret band of magickers sworn to protect the Labyrinth. But the Relic Guild are now too few. To truly defeat their old nemesis Moor, mightier help will be required. To save the Labyrinth – and the lives of one million humans – Clara and the Relic Guild must find a way to contact the worlds beyond their walls.

Be sure to check out Edward Cox’s Tumblr and Twitter for more on his writing and exuberant personality (directly inverse to just how awesomely dark, atmospheric and Peake-ian his novel is). The Relic Guild is due to be published by Gollancz, on September 18th, 2014. It is also part of the publisher’s £1.99 Debut eBook promotion – which means there is no excuse for you to not check out this great new author. (At the time of writing, there weren’t yet any retail links to pre-order the novel, but I’ll be sure to share it ASAP.)

“The Radleys” by Matt Haig (Canongate Books)

HaigM-RadleysAn unconventional, intelligent vampire novel

Just about everyone knows a family like the Radleys. Many of us grew up next door to one. They are a modern family, averagely content, averagely dysfunctional, living in a staid and quiet suburban English town. Peter is an overworked doctor whose wife, Helen, has become increasingly remote and uncommunicative. Rowan, their teenage son, is being bullied at school, and their anemic daughter, Clara, has recently become a vegan. They are typical, that is, save for one devastating exception: Peter and Helen are vampires and have – for seventeen years – been abstaining by choice from a life of chasing blood in the hope that their children could live normal lives.

One night, Clara finds herself driven to commit a shocking – and disturbingly satisfying – act of violence, and her parents are forced to explain their history of shadows and lies. A police investigation is launched that uncovers a richness of vampire history heretofore unknown to the general public. And when the malevolent and alluring Uncle Will, a practicing vampire, arrives to throw the police off Clara’s trail, he winds up throwing the whole house into temptation and turmoil and unleashing a host of dark secrets that threaten the Radleys’ marriage.

I really enjoyed this. I also read it quite a while ago, which is why I’m going to keep the review rather brief. It’s a different and original take on vampires – one that blends commentary on contemporary British society, middle-class life and anxieties, and is presented with a deft, light touch.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Guest Post: “Pantheon Inspirations” by James Lovegrove

LovegroveJ-AuthorPicSo far my Pantheon series extends to six novels and three novellas. What is it about these military-SF tales of gods and men that I seem to find so fascinating? Why do I keep coming back time and time again to this well of inspiration?

Partly it’s because the ideas embedded in polytheistic religious mythologies are so wonderfully rich and exploitable, like countless mines yielding up different seams of precious ore. I myself do not believe in deities of any kind, but the stories that others have came up with about them over the centuries are pleasingly intricate and complex, full of incident and nuance. Every Pantheon strikes me as being like a dysfunctional family. Their conflicts and passions echo those of their worshippers. Even though they’re gods, they’re eminently relatable. They banter and squabble, have affairs, plays tricks on one another, lose their temper, just as humans do. The aloof, monotheistic gods whose faiths prevail in the world today aren’t anywhere near as interesting. Those guys are like grumpy father figures you can’t get on with and have to tread carefully around but are still supposed to admire. Where’s the fun in that?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Guest Post: “On Change, Blood and Iron…” by Jon Sprunk

SprunkJ-AuthorPicHello everyone. I’m Jon Sprunk, the author of Blood and Iron (which came out last week) as well as the Shadow Saga, both from Pyr Books. I’m so glad to have this chance to speak to you. Today I’d like to talk about change.

Whoa, whoa. Don’t click away yet! I know everyone has a healthy mistrust for change, but I’ll keep it painless. Scoundrel’s honor.

What I mean by change are the differences between writing my two series. For those who don’t know my work, the Shadow Saga trilogy was about a lonewolf assassin named Caim. The new series, The Book of the Black Earth, follows the stories of three people caught up in the machinations of an empire ruled by sorcerers.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Recent Acquisitions (March)…


Another incredible couple of weeks for review copies.

Featuring: Charles L. Adler, Octavia E. Butler, James S.A. Corey, Charlie Fletcher, Christopher Fowler, Sally Green, John Gwynne, Duncan Jepson, K.V. Johansen, David Levithan & Andrea Cremer, Peter Higgins, Alison Littlewood, Adrian McKinty, Gail Z. Martin, Deborah Meyler, Pat Mills & Tony Skinner, D.J. Molles, Claire North, Stephanie Saulter, Jon Sprunk, Martin Windrow

Saturday, March 15, 2014

“Nate in Venice” by Richard Russo (Kindle Single)

RussoR-NateInVeniceA short story from Pulitzer-prize winning author of Empire Falls

After a tragic incident with a student, Nate, a professor at a small New England college, retires from teaching and from life. He ends his self-imposed exile with a tour-group trip to Venice in the company of his overbearing, mostly estranged brother. Nate is unsure he’s equipped for the challenges of human contact, especially the fraternal kind. He tries to play along, keep up, mixing his antidepressants with expensive Chianti, but while navigating the labyrinthine streets of the ancient, sinking city, the past greets him around every corner, even in his dreams: There’s the stricken face of the young woman whose life he may have ruined, and there’s Julian, the older brother who has always derided and discounted him. Is Nate sunk? Is the trip, the chance to fall in love — in fact, his whole existence — merely water under the ponte?

This is only the second thing by Russo that I’ve read. I recently also read (and thoroughly enjoyed) Straight Man, which I hope to review at some point in the near future. I have also acquired his Pulitzer-prize-winning Empire Falls, which is very high on my TBR mountain. When this popped up on Amazon UK’s Kindle Singles page, I thought it would be a great, quick read to fill in a gap between full-length novels. I was not wrong.

Friday, March 14, 2014

“The Three” by Sarah Lotz (Hodder)

LotzS-TheThreeA brilliant thriller. A must-read. And one of my new favourite books.

“They’re here... The boy. The boy watch the boy watch the dead people oh Lordy there’s so many... They’re coming for me now. We’re all going soon. All of us. Pastor Len warn them that the boy he’s not to­­—“

The last words of Pamela May Donald (1961-2012)

Black Thursday. The day that will never be forgotten. The day that four passenger planes crash, at almost exactly the same moment, at four different points around the globe.

There are only four survivors. Three are children, who emerge from the wreckage seemingly unhurt. But they are not unchanged.

And the fourth is Pamela May Donald, who lives just long enough to record a voice message on her phone.

A message that will change the world.

The message is a warning.

This wasn’t what I was expecting. I think I saw a positive comment from Lauren Beukes on Twitter, but other than that, didn’t know too much about it. So it was with great anticipation that I started reading it. And I loved it. It’s unusual, brilliantly written and expertly constructed, utterly gripping, frequently chilling, and always fascinating. It’s also really difficult to review, but very easy to praise.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

“The Library of Unrequited Love” by Sophie Divry & Siân Reynolds (trans.) (MacLehose Press)

Divry-TheLibraryOfUnrequitedLoveA peculiar, endearing little book

One morning a librarian finds a reader who has been locked in overnight.

She starts to talk to him, a one-way conversation that soon gathers pace as an outpouring of frustrations, observations and anguishes. Two things shine through: her shy, unrequited passion for a quiet researcher named Martin, and an ardent and absolute love of books.

A delightful flight of fancy for the lonely bookworm in all of us…

What a peculiar little book. The Library of Unrequited Love is a 98-page, stream-of-consciousness, single-paragraph monologue. Ordinarily, such a description would be an automatic turn-off for me. This, however, was a very endearing read.

Excerpt & Giveaway: WORDS OF RADIANCE by Brandon Sanderson (Gollancz)


Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance is one of the most hotly-anticipated epic fantasy novels of the year. Published by Gollancz (UK) and Tor Books (US).

Thanks to Gollancz, who also provided this excerpt (Chapter 3), there is a copy of the book up for grabs! All you need to do to be in with the chance of winning it is to re-tweet this excerpt on Twitter, follow @civilianreader, and include the hashtag “#CRWoR”. Simples. If you are not on Twitter, then you can leave a comment at the end, and I’ll include you in the random draw, as well. The winner will be selected at the end of the day (9pm) – unfortunately, the giveaway is for UK only.

(See banner, below, for upcoming stops on the blog tour.)


Soldiers reported being watched from afar by an unnerving number of Parshendi scouts. Then we noticed a new pattern of their penetrating close to the camps in the night and then quickly retreating. I can only surmise that our enemies were even then preparing their stratagem to end this war.

— From the personal journal of Navani Kholin, Jeseses 1174

Research into times before the Hierocracy is frustratingly difficult, the book read. During the reign of the Hierocracy, the Vorin Church had near absolute control over eastern Roshar. The fabrications they promoted — and then perpetuated as absolute truth — became ingrained in the consciousness of society. More disturbingly, modified copies of ancient texts were made, aligning history to match Hierocratic dogma.

In her cabin, Shallan read by the glow of a goblet of spheres, wearing her nightgown. Her cramped chamber lacked a true porthole and had just a thin slit of a window running across the top of the outside wall. The only sound she could hear was the water lapping against the hull. Tonight, the ship did not have a port in which to shelter.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

“Cataveiro” by E.J. Swift (Del Rey UK)

Reviewed by H.

SwiftEJ-2-CataveiroUKSwift nimbly avoids the sophomore slump, with another solid novel.

A shipwreck.

And one lone survivor.

For political exile Taeo Ybanez, this could be his ticket home. Relations between the Antarcticans and the Patagonians are worse than ever, and to be caught on the wrong side could prove deadly.

For pilot and cartographer Ramona Callejas, the presence of the mysterious stranger is one more thing in the way of her saving her mother from a deadly disease.

All roads lead to Cataveiro, the city of fate and fortune, where their destinies will become intertwined and their futures cemented for ever...

Cataveiro is the sequel to Swift’s beautifully-written debut, Osiris. Continuing the story of the world, this is a very good follow up, improving on the first in pretty much every way.

Guest Post: “Inspiration in Translation” by E.J. Swift

SwiftEJ-AuthorPic2The second book in my Osiris Project trilogy, Cataveiro, moves the action from an ocean city cut off from the rest of the world, to a South American continent which has been radically altered by climate change. I’ve always been drawn by the beauty of the South American landscape, but in writing Cataveiro I also wanted to explore something of the continent’s literary heritage. For inspiration, and in the hope that some of their flair might rub off, I started reading Latin American writers in translation.

The obvious place to start was with magical realism, although I was interested to discover a podcast on Latin American literature debating a move away from the form. I’d previously read Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, but while I admired the novel greatly, Marquez turned out to be my least favourite of the writers I discovered.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

An Interview with DEN PATRICK

DenPatrick-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Den Patrick?

I’m a thirty-something novelist, originally from Dorset, born to Londoner parents. I’ve been in London for over ten years. I describe myself as all round geek; I like Fantasy, Sci-Fi, table top gaming, RPGs, CCGs and other acronyms that confuse normal folks.

Your debut novel, The Boy With the Porcelain Blade, is due to be published by Gollancz next week (March 20th). How would you introduce the novel to a new reader? Is it the first in a series?

The Boy with the Porcelain Blade is the first book of The Erebus Sequence. It is a Fantasy novel set in a pseudo-Renaissance world full of suspicion, politics and mystery. The novel takes place is the vast sprawling castle of Demesne, in the Kingdom of Landfall. The protagonist, Lucien, is exiled just after he turns eighteen which precipitates a lot of (frequently violent) repercussions. And swearing and sarcasm.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Excerpt: “The Unquiet House” by Alison Littlewood (Jo Fletcher Books)

Alison Littlewood’s latest novel, THE UNQUIET HOUSE, is due to be published in the UK by Jo Fletcher Books on April 24, 2014. Here, for your reading pleasure, is an excerpt…

LittlewoodA-UnquietHouseUKChapter Seven

Emma didn’t know when the house had changed. She had been sleeping, but when she awoke she had a sense that she had been listening to it all along, or if not listening, sensing it with her body, finding its rhythm, attuning herself to its ways.

She pushed the covers away, feeling too hot under them, but outside, the air was bitter. There was a sharp barrier between the two and once she’d crossed it, it was too late; the chill delved inside, embracing her skin, furrowing along her body, finding her spine, her legs, her feet. The room was dark, everything grainy and silver. The ceiling looked a long way off and the corners were dark, as if a child had sketched the room in stark black lines. She sat up and realised that the cupboard door was hanging open once more. How ridiculous, she thought. Monsters in the cupboard, like in a story. And then she saw the man standing quietly next to it.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Artwork: Ian McDonald’s NECROVILLE (Audible)


Ian McDonald is an author I have always wanted to read, but either never got around to, or I have just not had the chance to get hold of his books. This year, Audible are releasing new audio editions of a handful of his earlier novels (some of which have also been released as eBooks by Open Road Media). One novel of his in particular that I’ve been interested in is Necroville, which was released as an audiobook this week. And I just really liked that new cover (above), which has a certain Cinquo de Maio feel to it – alternatively spooky and groovy. It would make a great rock/metal album cover, too, I think. Here’s the synopsis…

In the Los Angeles ghetto of Necroville, the yearly celebration of the Night of the Dead – where the dead are resurrected through the miracle of nanotechnology and live their second lives as non-citizens – becomes a journey of discovery and revelation for five individuals on the run from their pasts.

With his customary flair for making the bizarre both credible and fascinating, McDonald tosses aside the line of demarcation between living and dead in a story that confronts the central quandary of human existence: the essence of non-being.

Necroville is published by Gollancz in paperback and eBook. In the US, it is Terminal Café for reasons that I cannot fathom.

Guest Post: “Tower of Babel” by Aidan Harte

AidanHarte-AuthorPicMasons, like writers, learn the hard way to choose their foundation carefully. The strength of that first stone defines the structure, sets the tone. Accordingly, Chapter One of Spira Mirabilis begins with blasphemy. The Last Apprentice of Concord whips up a Children’s Crusade and instead of sending them to fight the approaching coalition led by Contessa Scaligeri, he sets them to construct a new cathedral. This is a recreation of the Tower of Babel, that structure torn down by an outraged God who then “confounded the language of all the Earth,” for good measure.

Finishing The Wave Trilogy, I found myself toiling in Babel’s shadow. This influence can be partly ascribed to the setting – cathedral building was medieval society’s engine, the focus of mathematics, engineering, art and devotion – but what troubled me was what Nimrod’s Tower says about creation. It condemns all creation as a blasphemous encroachment. What more damning indictment of the hubris of storytelling than a tower reaching to heaven, swatted aside by the greatest creator of all? The Middle East’s attitude to idolaters has always swayed between hostility and ambivalence. No accident then that Scheherazade, like Babel, springs from the fertile soil between the Euphrates and the Tigres. The lovely slave girl forever spinning yarns to keep her head from tumbling is, I like to think, the patron saint of storytelling. Her story reveals the secret of all stories: once you get in the habit of it, it’s easier to keep going than to stop.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

“Stormseer” by David Annandale (Black Library)

AnnandaleD-SMB-StormseerWhite Scars vs. Orks, with a dash of Eldar…

The green-skinned hordes of the Overfiend of the Octavius system have long been a thorn in the Imperium’s side – and now, with human worlds caught in the crossfire between the orks and eldar, that thorn will be removed. Temur Khan and his brotherhood descend upon Lepidus Prime to cleanse it of the green taint. The swift and brutal hammer to the Imperial Guard’s anvil, the White Scars strike hard and fast – but when the orks reveal a super-weapon, it may take more than just power to win the day?

I’m a big fan of Annandale’s Black Library fiction, and Stormseer is a great example of just why I think he’s so good. This is the first of three novellas in the Space Marine Battles series, all of which are connected to the same campaign. Fast and furious, excellently written and well-paced, this is an excellent novella. A must-read for fans of the White Scars and Warhammer 40,000 in general.

Mini-Review: “La Santasima” by Teresa Frohock

Frohock-LaSantisimaA brilliant, dark short story from one of my favourite authors.

It’s also a story that any review of length will ruin. It’s timely, incisive and haunting – it is a blending of the supernatural with the ongoing illegal immigration across the US-Mexican borders. Frohock has written a brilliant story that highlights the dangers and issues that those desperate to enter the States will face, as well as the people who will take advantage of and prey on their desperation. At the same time, it is a touching story of family ties.

Here’s the synopsis…

Sebastian’s friend Carlos claims that La Santa Muerte watches over the poor, the ones that the Church abandons. He promises Sebastian that La Santa Muerte will be his patron saint, that she will protect him and grant his wishes.

Death comes for us all. Keep her as your friend.

Sebastian is disappointed as prayer after prayer is rejected by the saint, and he loses faith. One night his sister Lucía joins him, and La Santa Muerte answers their prayer to bring their brother home…

On top of that, the eBook has a great piece by the author at the end, talking about the genesis of the story. If you haven’t read Frohock’s work, yet, you must. Best of all, La Santisima is free on Smashwords!

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Excerpt: AGE OF SHIVA by James Lovegrove (Solaris)


This April, Solaris Books publishes the sixth novel in James Lovegrove’s New York Times-bestselling Pantheon series, Age of Shiva. Below, you will find the first three chapters!


This is a confession.

This is an apology.

This is an origin story.

This is the tale of ordinary people who became extraordinary, became heroes, and the price we all paid.

It’s completely true.

I know.

I was there.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

An Interview with JUSTIN GUSTAINIS

GustainisJ-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Justin Gustainis?

I’m a college professor living in upstate New York. Writing fiction satisfies my soul (most days, anyway), but it’s my career in academe that pays the bills. At other times in my life, I’ve been a busboy, garment worker, soldier, speech writer and professional bodyguard (which wasn’t as glamorous as it sounds – I never got to meet Whitney Houston, or anyone like her).

Your next novel, Known Devil, was published by Angry Robot Books in February 2014. It is the third novel in your Occult Investigations Series. How would you introduce the series to a new reader, and what can fans of the first two books expect here?

GustainisJ-OI-BadgeFinal-BlogThe series is set in an “alternate” universe, one where supernatural creatures really exist, and everybody knows it – in other words, there’s no “masquerade.” Supernaturals (or “supes,” as they are often known) are accepted as part of human society, which is not to say there aren’t moments of friction. When the friction involves breaking the law, that’s when folks in Scranton, PA, send for my protagonist – Detective Sergeant Stan Markowski of the Scranton Police Department’s Occult Crimes Unit. As Stan says in the beginning of Hard Spell (the first book in the series), “When a vamp puts the bits on an unwilling victim, or some witch casts the wrong kind of spell. That’s when they call me. My name’s Markowski. I carry a badge.”

Monday, March 03, 2014

“Lagoon” by Nnedi Okorafor (Hodder)

OkoraforN-LagoonA gripping, beautifully-written science fiction novel set in and around Lagos.

A star falls from the sky. A woman rises from the sea.

The world will never be the same.

Three strangers, each isolated by his or her own problems: Adaora, the marine biologist. Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa. Agu, the troubled soldier. Wandering Bar Beach in Lagos, Nigeria’s legendary mega-city, they’re more alone than they’ve ever been before.

But when something like a meteorite plunges into the ocean and a tidal wave overcomes them, these three people will find themselves bound together in ways they could never imagine. Together with Ayodele, a visitor from beyond the stars, they must race through Lagos and against time itself in order to save the city, the world... and themselves.

“There was no time to flee. No time to turn. No time to shriek. And there was no pain. It was like being thrown into the stars.”

This is the first novel I’ve read by Nnedi Okorafor, and it won’t be my last. I started reading it on the first day it arrived in the mail – I was putting it on my TBR shelf, and flipped it open at the first page. Thirty minutes later, I was still reading and had sidelined my then-current read. Lagoon is beautifully and intelligently written, addictive, well-paced and a must read.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Just a Cool Kermit the Frog GIF…

Found this on the ever-excellent io9. Kermit, surrounded by New Yorkers lots of Animals…


That is all. Carry on.

Recently Received… (February 2014)

It’s been a good month for books. Many of them have been way up on my list for most anticipated, but it’s also been a really busy work-month, which means I’ve been falling behind a little bit. Things will hopefully pick up in March and April. Until then, here are the novels that have arrived (up to the end of February)… I’ve included an eARC…


Herein: Anne Bishop’s Daughter of the Blood; Ned Beauman’s Glow; M.L. Brennan’s Iron Night; Carolyn Hart’s Castle Rock; Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress; Tom Hoyle’s Thirteen; Debbie Johnson’s Dark Visions; Glenda Larke’s The Lascar’s Dagger; Tim Lebbon’s Into the Void; Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon; Chris Pavone’s The Accident; David Ramirez’s The Forever Watch; Marcus Sedgwick et al’s Dark Satanic Mills; Mark Smylie’s The Barrow; Justin Somper’s Allies & Assassins; Tad Williams’s Happy Hour in Hell