It doesn't bear thinking about.
Since I last wrote this column, I've been over to a convention in Oslo, Norway where I met up with Tim and Serena Powers, appeared on a couple of panels and did the Guest of Honour interview (with Tim). (Powers gave a fascinating lecture on novel writing, excerpts of which have been posted on YouTube and are well worth viewing. It was fun, and I thought Oslo an appealing city, though horribly expensive (perceptibly more so for my American friends) and excessively wet and rain-sodden. It felt very much like home!
My two main review titles this month are The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss's much lauded début fantasy, and Mike Carey's new Felix Castor supernatural thriller, Dead Men's Boots. I loved this latter novel. Mike Carey who started off being brilliant, just gets better and better. The Rothfuss left me a little cold, and as I note in my review, my critical reaction seems to be flying in the face of popular opinion. If you disagree with my appraisal, do feel free to use the comments box at the foot of the review page. Meantime, scroll down and see what genre readers are being offered here in the UK this month.
Altered Carbon (Gollancz S.F.) by Richard Morgan
(Gollancz 02 August 2007 / £7.99) - Since I reviewed Richard Morgan's début novel Altered Carbon back when it first came out in 2002, the author has gone on to become one of the best-selling genre writers in the UK. Now with four other high-energy novels under his belt, that first one is reissued in Gollancz's Future Classics series and looking back at that review I wrote five years ago, I'm glad to see I got it right!
"... an SF novel of extraordinary vision and depth. This lightening fast, breathtakingly violent 26th century thriller carries a weighty cargo of ideas and speculative science with graceful ease. It is an awe-inspiring vision of a future living on stolen time."
Blood Music (Gollancz S.F.) by Greg Bear
(Gollancz 02 August 2007 / £7.99) - Greg Bear's Blood Music won both the Hugo and Nebula awards back in the mid 80s. Gollancz reissue it in their Future Classics series with an eye-catching new jacket design.
"The award winning tale of the inevitable take-over of our society by a benign, intelligent scientific experiment gone awry. In the tradition of the greatest cyberpunk novels, Blood Music explores the imminent destruction of mankind and the fear of mass destruction by technological advancements. Blood Music follows present-day events in which the fears concerning the nuclear annihilation of the world subsided after the Cold War and the fear of chemical warfare spilled over into the empty void of nuclear fear. An amazing breakthrough in genetic engineering made by Vergil Ulam is considered too dangerous for further research, but rather than destroy his work, he injects himself with his creation and walks out of his lab, unaware of just quite how his actions will change the world. Author Greg Bears treatment of the traditional tale of scientific hubris is both suspenseful and a compelling portrait of a new intelligence emerging amongst us, irrevocably changing our world."
Evolution (Gollancz S.F.) by Stephen Baxter
(Gollancz 02 August 2007 / £7.99) - Gollancz reissue Baxter's 2002 novel Evolution as part of their future classics series. Each novel in this series is presented with ultra-modern new jacket designs and this velvety-textured one is my favourite! Evolution is a collection of stories that ingeniously weave together to form an over-arching narrative. The protagonist is Evolution itself.
"... follows the ebb and flow of one stream of the great river of DNA. It is a stream that will pick up, and then let go, mankind. Darwinian evolution is dramatized as a constant life and death struggle, a heroic story of endurance. It is a story that transcends generations, species, mankind and, in the end, the Earth itself."
Fairyland (Gollancz S.F.) by Paul J. McAuley
(Gollancz 02 August 2007 / £7.99) - Reissued this month by Gollancz as part of their Future Classics series.
"Having already made the final shortlist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award with his SF novels Eternal Light and Pasquale's Angel, Paul McAuley finally won this coveted prize with Fairyland. The title's hint of fey fantasy is blackly ironic: this is a streetwise cyberpunk future, replete with gene-hacking, instant designer drugs, and mind-warping viruses that function as "love bugs" or "loyalty plagues". One spinoff of genetic tailoring is a slave race of blue-fleshed "dolls", modified baboons made bright enough to do society's dirty jobs -- until they're liberated by the unholy alliance of an idealistic child prodigy and a biologically savvy nerd, boosting them to thinking, evolving, breeding "fairies". And indeed the night becomes full of unwholesome magic and fanged terrors again, as this new race steps into the old mythological niche of the dark elves, attacking venomously from the trees and setting up their private fairyland in the decayed remains of a certain Magic Kingdom outside Paris... Though occasionally obscure and not quite plausible in all its plot details, Fairyland is a creepily effective nightmare of a world becoming increasingly chaotic under the stress of runaway biotechnologies, excessively deadly toys in the hands of people with no more common sense than children. Vivid and viscerally compelling." -- David Langford on Amazon.co.uk
Hyperion (Gollancz S.F.) by Dan Simmons
(Gollancz 02 August 2007 / £7.99) - Dan Simmons's award-winning Hyperion is one of the seminal SF novels of the modern era, a genuine 'must read'. Gollancz rightly include it in their Future Classics, series, though I'd argue that this particular title is already a classic right now.
"It is the 29th century and the universe of the Human Hegemony is under threat. Invasion by the warlike Ousters looms, and the mysterious schemes of the secessionist AI TechnoCore bring chaos ever closer. On the eve of disaster, with the entire galaxy at war, seven pilgrims set fourth on a final voyage to the legendary Time Tombs on Hyperion, home to the Shrike, a lethal creature, part god and part killing machine, whose powers transcend the limits of time and space. The pilgrims have resolved to die before discovering anything less than the secrets of the universe itself."
Navigator (Gollancz S.F.) by Stephen Baxter
(Gollancz 26 July 2007 / £10.99) - Stephen Baxter's quite extraordinary Time's Tapestry sequence marches onwards through the middle ages.
Navigator is the third in this series of "counter-factual historical thrillers... a novel about science and war, an SF novel about an attempt to change the past and a loving look at Spain and Moors. It casts a new light on the crusades and the real reasons behind the discovery of America"
Pirates of the Relentless Desert: The Clouded World Series: Bk. 2 (Gollancz) by Jay Amory
(Gollancz 16 August 2007 / £12.99) - I reviewed Jay Amory's highly enjoyable YA novel The Fledging of Az Gabrielson just over a year ago and enjoyed it thoroughly. Now Amory follows up with a sequel entitled Pirates of the Relentless Desert and my regular reader will know I'm a real sucker for a pirate story! I am looking forward to this one very much indeed.
"What makes the novel so compulsively readable, quite apart from Amory's skill in narrating a story full of incident at breakneck pace, is that the reader comes to care about the varied cast. In lesser hands the characters might have become ciphers, but Amory imbues even the minor players with life and individuality. It's also thrilling, with a magnificently described aerial dog-fight finale and a denouement crammed with cliff-hangers." -- Eric Brown in The Guardian.
Revelation Space (Gollancz S.F.) by Alastair Reynolds
(Gollancz 02 August 2007 / £7.99) - One of the great modern day space operas, Gollancz have chosen well in their decision to include Alastair Reynolds's Revelation Space in their snazzily jacketed Future Classics series.
"Nine hundred thousand years ago, something wiped out the Amarantin. For the human colonists now settling the Amarantin homeworld, Resurgam, the fact is of little more than academic interest. But the Amarantin were wiped out for a reason. And that danger is closer and greater than anyone had imagined."
The Name of the Wind: The Kingkiller Chronicle: Book 1 (Kingkiller Chronicle) by Patrick Rothfuss
(Gollancz 20 September 2007 / £18.99) - Patrick Rothfuss's weighty début has been hailed far and wide as the next best thing since sliced bread. Our own Harriet Klausner gave it a rave review back in our April issue.
The Name of the Wind is now published here in the UK, by Gollancz, and though I have no wish to court controversy, my own impression of this novel seems to go against the flow! Check out my review elsewhere in this issue. (see review)
The Separation (Gollancz S.F.) by Christopher Priest
(Gollancz 02 August 2007 / £7.99) - A re-release for Priest's mind-bending 2002 novel, The Separation which won both the BSFA and Arthur C. Clarke awards. Part of Gollancz's Future Classics a series of trade paperback reissues each with a distinctive new cover design.
"Christopher Priest excels at rethinking SF themes, lifting them above genre expectations into his own tricky, chilling, metaphysically dangerous territory. The Separation suggests an alternate history lying along a road not taken in World War II. But there are complications.
In 1999, history author Stuart Gratton is intrigued by a minor mystery of the European war which ended on 10 May 1941. The British-German armistice signed that month has had far-reaching consequences, including a resettlement of European Jews in Madagascar.
In 1936, the identical twin brothers Joe and Jack Sawyer win a rowing medal for Britain in the Berlin Olympics: it's presented to them by Rudolf Hess. The brothers are separated not only by a twin's fierce need "to be treated as a separate human being", but by sexual rivalry and even ideology. When war breaks out Jack becomes a gung-ho bomber pilot, Joe a conscientious objector. Still they're inescapably linked, and sometimes confused. Both suffer injuries and hauntingly similar ambulance journeys. Churchill writes a puzzled memo (later unearthed by Gratton) about the anomaly of a registered-pacifist Red Cross worker flying planes for Bomber Command. Hess has significant, eventually incompatible meetings with both men. Contradictions are everywhere.
As in his magical 1995 novel The Prestige Priest is fruitfully fascinated by the legerdemain of twins, doubles, impostors, symmetrical roles. Churchill's double briefly appears. So does the famous conspiracy theory that the Hess who flew to Britain with his quixotic peace deal wasn't the real Hess ring true? Clearly The Separation was impressively, extensively researched. Its evocations of bombing raids--from either side of the bomb sites--are memorable.
The unfolding story strands become increasingly disorienting and hallucinatory; the easy escape route of dismissing one strand as delusion is itself subtly undermined. The Separation is filled with a sense of the precariousness of history; of small events and choices with extraordinary consequences." --David Langford on Amazon.co.uk
The Twilight Herald (Gollancz S.F.): Book Two of the Twilight Reign by Tom Lloyd
(Gollancz 16 August 2007 / £12.99) - The sequel to Tom Lloyd's debut fantasy, The Stormcaller, a novel that was perhaps the biggest let down of last year as far as I was concerned. (See my review here). The Twilight Herald returns us to Lloyd's fictional world and to the adventures of Isak, the new Lord of the Farlan.
Warsworn (Gollancz S.F.) by Elizabeth Vaughan
(Gollancz 19 July 2007 / £9.99) - A new title in the Gollancz Romancz series of paranormal and fanatsy titles for women readers.
"Lara is a daughter of kings, a city girl and a powerful healer ion her own right, but she is the Warprize and has sworn an oath of loyalty to Keir, the barbarian Warlord, and his people. As Keir and the tribe are making their way back to their homeland, they come across a village stricken down by plague - and though Lara has the tools to fight this scourge, the Warlord forbids her risking her own life. Both Lara and Kier are strong-willed and neither will bend easily, even for love. When Lara disobeys, she pays the price, for both she and Keir are struck down by the fatal disease - and so is their entire encampment. In the midst of the dying, a rival warrior gathers his followers and challenges Keir for the right to rule their tribe. If Keir, weakened by sickness, loses - he dies. And so does Lara...
Hunter's Run by George R.R. Martin, Gardner Dozois, and Daniel Graham
(HarperVoyager 03 September 2007 / £18.99) - HarperCollins Voyager publish this much anticipated three way collaboration, Hunter's Run, co-authored by George R.R. Martin, Gardner Dozois and Daniel Graham in hard cover this month.
This British edition will precede the US release by some months and notably, a limited edition is also planned from Subterranean Press sometime next year.
Martin's web site has some interesting background about this novel, which the publisher blurb describes as a "...sharp, clever, funny morality tale that answers the biggest question of all: what makes us human?"
Dead Men's Boots: A Felix Castor Novel (Felix Castor Novel 3) by Mike Carey
(Orbit 06 September 2007 / £7.99) - Mike Carey climbs even higher on my favourite authors list with this, his third Felix Castor novel.
Dead Men's Boots is another engrossing and supremely well plotted supernatural thriller and further cements Carey's place as one of the best writers around of this kind of story. A paperback original released by Orbit, be sure to check out my review else in this issue. Definitely my top pick of this month's releases. (see review)
Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings by Christopher Moore
(Orbit 06 September 2007 / £6.99) - Orbit re-release another absurd piece of fiction from the warped imagination of Christopher Moore.
"Just why do humpback whales sing? That's the question that has marine biologist Nate Quinn and his crew poking, charting, recording and photographing very big, wet, gray marine mammals. That is, until the extraordinary day when a whale lifts its tail into the air to display a cryptic message spelled out in foot-high letters: BITE ME. Trouble is, Nate's beginning to wonder if he hasn't spent just a little too much time in the sun. 'Cause no one else saw a thing- not his long time partner, Clay Demodocus; not their saucy young research assistant; not even the spliff-puffing white-boy Rastaman Kona (ne Preston Applebaum). But later, when a roll of film returns from the lab missing the crucial tail shot - and his research facility is trashed - Nate realizes something very fishy indeed is going on."
Rebel Fay (Noble Dead Saga 5) by Barb Hendee & J.C. Hendee
(Orbit 06 September 2007 / £7.99) - The fifth title in the Hendee's Nobel Dead Saga. An Orbit paperback original.
"Half-elven Leesil burns with the need to rescue his mother, an alleged traitor, now held captive by elven assassins. But his obsession will endanger him and his friends, as they cross the mountains in the dead of winter, to a land known for its eerie beauty and hatred of humanity. For all of them, the journey will raise more questions than answers ...Magiere, part-human, part-vampire, is plagued by visions of humanity's ancient enemy. But which side is she destined to serve? And Chap, their canine guardian, faces a new fear. He united Magiere and Leesil for his kin, their goal being creation of an alliance against the forces of dark magics. But now this alliance is under threat, why have the Fay abandoned him?"
The Elves of Cintra (Genesis of Shannara) by Terry Brooks
(Orbit 06 September 2007 / £18.99) - The inexhaustible Terry Brooks offers up the second novel in this series that links together his fictional worlds of Shannara and The Word and The Void. The Elves of Cintra is a smart hard cover published by Orbit.
"Fifty years from now, our world looks very different. Governments have fallen. Thousands live in fortified strongholds; others roam the landscape as either predator or prey. Standing against the forces that have tipped the balance from good to evil are very few heroes, men and women imbued with powerful magic and sworn to a high destiny. Logan Tom is one of those heroes. He's on a desperate quest to deliver the street kids he rescued in Seattle to safety. So, too, is Angel Perez, who is leading a second group in the Oregon wilderness where she encounters the long-hidden Elves of Cintra. And Hawk - just learning his magic - has an encounter with the mystical King of the Silver River, who promises safety for both humans and elves - if only they can reach him..."
Author Terry Brooks will be in the UK to promote the release of The Elves of Cintra and will be a guest at this years Fantasycon.
The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross
(Orbit 06 September 2007 / £6.99) - Yet more from prolific British author Charles Stross, a writer who continues to cut a huge swathe through contemporary genre with his seemingly bottomless pit of extraordinary ideas. This latest is The Jennifer Morgue, already seen in the US last year from Golden Gryphon, it is now released here in the UK as an Orbit paperback original.
Be sure to check out Ernest's review in our November 2006 edition.
The Serrano Connection: Omnibus Two by Elizabeth Moon
(Orbit 06 September 2007 / £10.99) - Fantastic value for money! Orbit release this omnibus edition containing two novels from Elizabeth Moon's Esmay Suiza Trilogy. This trade paperback edition is entitled The Serrano Connection and contains Once a Hero (1997) and Rules of Engagement (1998). Excellent militaristic space opera - check out the Familias Regnant Universe page on Wikipedia for further insight on these novels and, of course, visit the author's own website. And congratulations to Elizabeth on her recent and well-deserved Heinlein Award.
Hunter's Moon by Lori Handeland
(Pan Books 07 September 2007 / £6.99) - The second title in Lori Handerland's Nightcreature sequence. Paranormal suspense fiction from Pan Macmillan.
"Leigh Tyler was once a kindergarten teacher with starry-eyed dreams - dreams that turned into nightmares when the biggest mistake she ever made came back to tear her world apart. Now, Leigh lives only for the hunt. Werewolves are her prey, and love is no longer an option. Leigh has been called to Wisconsin for something big. As long as it means killing fanged and furry demons, she's up for it. But the worst is yet to come, because something stronger and smarter than the average beast is on the prowl...and it's doing Leigh's work for her. Intoxicating and intriguing Damien Fitzgerald is making Leigh question her vow never to let another man into her bed, or her heart. Every moment with him brings forth familiar - and dangerous - urges. Urges that may prove too strong to resist. Leigh's job is a dance with death, and she has no intention of letting Damien become involved and get hurt. Especially now that she knows her enemy is watching from the forest. Waiting for her first wrong step..."
Kiss Her Goodbye by Robert Gregory Browne
(Pan Books 07 September 2007 / £6.99) - ATF Agent Jack Donovan has two ambitions in life: take down cult leader Alex Gunderson after years of violent mayhem, and reconnect with his daughter Jessie, who has somehow managed to slip from his life. Unfortunately for Jack, none of his experience as a stellar cop or an absent father has prepared him for the unthinkable way these two parts of his life are about to collide. In a desperate act of revenge, Gunderson kidnaps Jessie and buries her alive. But just as Jack's team is closing in, Gunderson is shot dead and the secret to Jessie's location is lost with him. With only a few precious hours of oxygen to sustain her, and with not a single clue pointing in her direction, Jessie is sure to die unless Jack can somehow find her. Armed with a father's love and a newfound understanding of the power of family, Jack would trade anything at all to save his little girl - even his own life.
The Prisoner Handbook by Steven Paul Davies
(Pan Books 03 August 2007 / £7.99) - A fantastic new companion guide to the classic sixties series The Prisoner, a show that still looms large in fandom today and which influenced an entire generation of movie makers and writers.
Steven Paul Davies's The Prisoner Handbook is released to coincide with the shows' 40th anniversary and features interviews with cast members (including McGoohan) and a detailed episode-by-episode guide.
A must have item for all fans of the show.
Ivory: A Legend of Past and Future by Mike Resnick
(Prometheus Books 12 September 2007 / £7.57) - Pyr reissue Mike Resnick's 1988 novel Ivory, a piece originally short listed for the Clark and Nebula awards
"In the year 6303, when earth is bare of anything larger than an insect or a mouse and most people have left for the stars, Duncan Rojas receives a most unusual visitor. His name is Bukoba Mandaka, and he is the last of the Maasai. Mandaka wants Rojas, senior researcher for Braxton's Records of Big Game, to find the tusks of the Kilimanjaro Elephant, tusks that weigh over 200 lb. each. Why? Mandaka will not say, but he will pay enormous sums for them. And Rojas cannot resist the challenge of tracing something lost for 3000 years. Back and forth through time, in card games, wars, and rivalries, Rojas searches. But as he begins to glimpse the elusive, lost power of ancient Africa, he is seduced, and before long the quest has become his own. With Ivory, Mike Resnick has created a powerful novel spanning worlds and centuries, an exploration of the nature of history and legend, and a riveting parable for our times".
Endgame by Andy Secombe
(Tor UK 21 September 2007 / £6.99) - The fourth novel by Andy Secombe, an author now firmly established in the metaphysical stable of comic SF writers. His first two novels, Limbo and Limbo II put him on the map and gave us a clear flavour of his particularly tangential, goon-ish humour. His previous novel The Last House in the Galaxy was reviewed most favourably back in our May 05 issue. Now comes Endgame issued this month in mass market paperback from Tor UK, and it looks set to further cement Secombes reputation. Here's what the publishers have to say about it...
"Endgame ... grips the reader from the first line and holds them through a labyrinthine narrative that loops between hell, heaven and earth, the past and present-day and a web of fantastical intricacies. The fantasy is underpinned by Secombe's mordant wit, skilfully inserted historical reference and vividly created protagonists."
What this drily worded press release neglect to mention is that if Secombe's previous novels are anything to go by, Endgame is damned funny too!
The Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt
(Voyager 03 September 2007 / £7.99) - I reviewed Stephen Hunt's novel The Court of the Air back in our April issue when it was first published and found it to be a strange, remote and slightly schizophrenic piece of fiction. At the same time is was undoubtedly elaborately inventive and contained many elements that I just love in a novel - give me an airship and some steam-driven robots and I'll happily read through to the last page (authors take note!).
HarperCollins now issue Hunt's novel in mass market paperback and it seems to make sense to run the review again this month - just in case you missed it last time! (see review)
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