Interview with JOHN APPEL

AppelJ-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is John Appel?

I’m an SFF writer from Maryland, recently retired after a career in information security and technology risk. I’m married to a university administrator and have two disabled adult children. I was a US Army paratrooper and cavalry scout back in the 1980s, and a life-long tabletop gamer. These days, aside from writing (and reading), my main hobbies are woodworking and historical fencing.

Your latest novel, Assassin’s Orbit, is due to be published by Solaris in the summer. How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

Assassin’s Orbit starts with the investigation of an assassination/mass murder, but quickly spirals into a major planetary conflict. The protagonists have to work together to both solve the murder and deal with the events that spill from it, which include discovering that a threat from the past might just still be with them. Continue reading

Quick Review: WHILE JUSTICE SLEEPS by Stacey Abrams (Harper/Doubleday)

AbramsS-WhileJusticeSleepsUKA twisty political thriller, set in the halls of the Supreme Court and corridors of power in DC

An explosive secret

When legendary Washington judge Justice Wynn falls into a coma and puts his law clerk, Avery, in control, Avery’s world is turned upside down. Because Justice Wynn had a secret. One that nobody wants to come out…

A life in the balance

As Wynn lies in hospital, Avery begins to unravel a sequence of clues, and realizes the puzzle will lead her directly into danger.

A showdown that will change everything

But how high a price can you put on the truth? And is Avery brave enough to expose the White House itself?

I’ve been looking forward to reading this ever since it was announced. I was lucky enough to get an advance review copy, and dove in as soon as I could. I’m very glad to report that it is great: an excellent example of the genre, well-written and gripping. Continue reading

Excerpt: HOW TO MARS by David Ebenbach (Tachyon)

EbenbachD-HowToMarsHopefully, you caught my interview with David Ebenbach yesterday. (If not, go check that out!) Today, Tachyon Publications has provided CR with an excerpt from David’s new novel, How to Mars. Due out later this month, here’s the synopsis:

What happens when your dream mission to Mars is a reality television nightmare? This debut science-fiction romp with heart follows the tradition of Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, with a dash of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and a hint of The Real World.

For the six lucky scientists selected by the Destination Mars! corporation, a one-way ticket to Mars — in exchange for a lifetime of research — was an absolute no-brainer. The incredible opportunity was clearly worth even the most absurdly tedious screening process. Perhaps worth following the strange protocols in a nonsensical handbook written by an eccentric billionaire. Possibly even worth their constant surveillance, the video of which is carefully edited into a ratings-bonanza back on Earth.

But it turns out that after a while even scientists can get bored of science. Tempers begin to fray; unsanctioned affairs blossom. When perfectly good equipment begins to fail, the Marsonauts are faced with a possibility that their training just cannot explain.

Now, on with the Excerpt!

Continue reading

Interview with DAVID EBENBACH

EbenbachD-AuthorPic(creditJoeKing)Let’s start with an introduction: Who is David Ebenbach?

Hi! Nice to meet you. Well, I’m a writer, which in my case is rooted in a blend of curiosity and introversion. I’m deeply, fundamentally, persistently curious about the human experience — what we feel, what we do, why we do what we do, and how we feel about doing it. At the same time, my favorite place to be, quarantine or not, is at home with just my family (and sometimes all alone at my desk). So that’s where writing comes in — digging into the human experience without, you know, getting overwhelmed by being around humans all the time. If you see what I mean.

And, as you’ll notice in most of my answers in this interview, I’m also a big “on the one hand… but on the other hand” person. Life is complicated!

Your new novel, How to Mars, is due to be published by Tachyon. It looks really fun: How would you introduce it to a potential reader?

On one level, How to Mars is the story of six people who, for a variety of personal reasons, volunteered to go on a dubious one-way mission to Mars. It’s dubious because it’s funded by a reality show that’s being made about the mission and it’s run by a really eccentric organization. The organization has left them with a lot of odd advice and guidance and one ironclad rule: NO SEX ON MARS. Well, of course a couple of the Marsonauts ignore that rule, and now there’s the first-ever pregnancy on another planet. That would be dangerous enough in the hostile environment of Mars, but there are also hints of an alien presence, and the engineer with the somewhat violent streak is starting to behave pretty erratically. Continue reading

Quick Review: GREAT CIRCLE by Maggie Shipstead (Knopf)

ShipsteadM-GreatCircleUSA sweeping, engaging story of adventure, determination, and the ties that bind

An unforgettable story of a daredevil female aviator determined to chart her own course in life, at any cost…

After being rescued as infants from a sinking ocean liner in 1914, Marian and Jamie Graves are raised by their dissolute uncle in Missoula, Montana. There — after encountering a pair of barnstorming pilots passing through town in beat-up biplanes–Marian commences her lifelong love affair with flight. At fourteen she drops out of school and finds an unexpected and dangerous patron in a wealthy bootlegger who provides a plane and subsidizes her lessons, an arrangement that will haunt her for the rest of her life, even as it allows her to fulfill her destiny: circumnavigating the globe by flying over the North and South Poles.

A century later, Hadley Baxter is cast to play Marian in a film that centers on Marian’s disappearance in Antarctica. Vibrant, canny, disgusted with the claustrophobia of Hollywood, Hadley is eager to redefine herself after a romantic film franchise has imprisoned her in the grip of cult celebrity. Her immersion into the character of Marian unfolds, thrillingly, alongside Marian’s own story, as the two women’s fates — and their hunger for self-determination in vastly different geographies and times — collide.

This is the first novel I’ve read by Maggie Shipstead, and it turned out to be an excellent one to begin with. It’s mostly the story of Marian Graves, and the people who fall in and out of her life, and her (successful) pursuit of a career as a female aviator. It is also the story of Hadley Baxter, an actress in the present day who finds herself cast in a biopic of Marian’s life. Alternating between the two stories, it’s a sweeping, engaging, and immersive novel. I really enjoyed it. Continue reading

Annotate Excerpt: THE SHADOW OF THE GODS by John Gwynne (Orbit Books)

GwynneJ-B1-ShadowOfTheGodsUSThanks so much for the invite onto Civilian Reader, I’m chuffed to be here and have this opportunity to share with you a chapter from my latest release, The Shadow of the Gods, book 1 of the Bloodsworn Saga.

This book is set in a world called Vigrið, the Battle-Plain, and is heavily influenced by my love for Norse mythology.

I grew up on tales of mythology – when I was a child I fell in love with the stories Arthur and his quest for the Grail, of Troy and dark lairs and minotaur’s, and tales of those enigmatic and fickle Norse gods. Amongst my favourites were the legends Beowulf and his band of monster-hunting shield men, and of Ragnarök, that end-of-days battle amongst the Norse gods, and to my mind this book and series is my love-letter both to Norse mythology and Viking-era history, merging the blood and grit of shield walls with the terror and thrill of monster hunting.

I hope that it feels markedly different from my previous books in its tone and world-setting, but there are also similarities. Family and friendship are themes that I will always write about, and you will find them here, although I’ve come at them from different angles than you find in my previous works.

Other things you should expect are: shield walls, longships, betrayal and vengeance, and a lot of monsters. Continue reading

Upcoming: FAR FROM THE LIGHT OF HEAVEN by Tade Thompson (Orbit)

ThompsonT-FarFromTheLightOfHeavenThe cover and synopsis for Tade Thompson‘s next novel — Far From the Light of Heaven — was unveiled by Orbit Books a little while ago. In addition to that eye-catching artwork, the novel’s synopsis also grabbed my attention, and I’m very much looking forward to reading this:

The colony ship Ragtime docks in the Lagos system, having traveled light-years from home to bring thousands of sleeping souls to safety among the stars.

Some of the sleepers, however, will never wake — and a profound and sinister mystery unfolds aboard the gigantic vessel as its skeleton crew make decisions that will have repercussions for the entire system — from the scheming politicians of Lagos station to the colony of Nightshade and the poisoned planet of Bloodroot, poised for a civil war.

Tade Thompson’s Far From the Light of Heaven is due to be published by Orbit Books in North America and in the UK, on October 26th, 2021. Thompson is also the author of the superb Molly Southbourne novellas, the Wormwood Trilogy, and Making Wolf — all out now!

Also on CR: Reviews of The Murders of Molly Southbourne and The Survival of Molly Southbourne

Follow the Author: Goodreads, Twitter

Quick Review: IN THE COMPANY OF KILLERS by Bryan Christy (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

ChristyB-InTheCompanyOfKillersUSIn geopolitics and international crime, everything is connected…

Tom Klay, an investigative reporter leading a double life as a CIA spy, discovers that he has been weaponized in a global game of espionage pitting him against one of the world’s most ruthless men.

Tom Klay is a celebrated investigative wildlife reporter for the esteemed magazine The Sovereign. But Klay is not just a journalist. His reporting is cover for an even more dangerous job: CIA agent. Klay’s press credentials make him a perfect spy — able to travel the globe, engage both politicians and warlords, and openly record what he sees. When he needs help, the Agency provides it to him, and asks little in return. But while on assignment in Kenya, Klay is attacked and his closest friend is murdered. Soon Klay’s carefully constructed double life unravels as his ambition turns to revenge.

The CIA has an answer. Klay is offered a devil’s bargain to capture the man who killed his friend by infiltrating the offices of the woman he once loved, South Africa’s special prosecutor, Hungry Khoza. But Klay soon discovers that he and Hungry are part of a larger, more lethal game — one that involves a ruthless mercenary and a global superpower. The deeper he digs, the more Klay realizes that everything he thought he knew about his work may have been a lie, and his sworn enemy may be his only ally. In this riveting, timely thriller, the lines between good and evil blur, and absolutely nothing is as it seems.

I’m always on the look-out for new international thrillers, so when I first spotted Bryan Christy’s In The Company of Killers in the publisher’s catalogue, the synopsis caught my attention. Christy’s done a very good job of drawing on his own experiences working for National Geographic, and blending it with an engaging and enjoyable espionage story — one that brings in many contemporary international and domestic political issues. I enjoyed this. Continue reading

Interview with T.A. WILLBERG

WillbergTA-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is T.A. Willberg?

I suppose I should call myself an author now but until four years ago, I was a full-time Chiropractor specialising in spinal deformities. Writing, other than for scientific papers and essays, just wasn’t a part of my life until I moved from my home country (South Africa) to live and work in Malta.

What else? I’m an outdoorsy, animal-loving introvert. I enjoy reading as much as writing, travelling as much as staying at home and chocolate as much as exercise.

Your new novel, Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder, will be published by Trapeze in May. It looks really intriguing: How would you introduce it to a potential reader. Is it part of a series?

Thanks! There’s a lot of genre-mixing going on in my novel so it’s always hard to describe, but I’ll give it a go: Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder is a quirky locked-room murder mystery set in an alternative 1950’s London with elements of grounded fantasy and loads of steampunk gadgetry. Continue reading

New Books (March-April)

NewBooks-20210426

Featuring: Stacey Abrams, Mike Brooks, Choi Jin-young, Mikaella Clements, Onjuli Datta, Alex de Campi, Amanda Foody, John French, Peter F. Hamilton, Gareth Hanrahan, Peter Heller, Christine Lynn Herman, Kotaro Isaka, Jadie Jang, Cassandra Khaw, Joe R. Landsdale, Richard Lange, Mike Lawson, S. Qiouyi Lu, Lee Mandelo, Elaine Murphy, Craig Nova, Megan E. O’Keefe, Gareth L. Powell, Tom Rosenstiel, Neil Sharpson, Brian Staveley, Gav Thorpe, C.L. Werner, David Wragg

Continue reading