“I Ate’nt Dead…”*

Sorry the site’s been pretty empty the past few weeks — very busy work schedule. Hopefully normal reviewing, posting will commence from next weekend(ish). Lots of good books have been read, and I’m looking forward to sharing the reviews soon.

* Quoth Granny Weatherwax. Terry Pratchett, RIP.

 

Advertisements

Quick Review: BLACKWING by Ed McDonald (Gollancz/Ace)

A promising debut grimdark fantasy

You think you know Misery? You’ve not seen anything yet…

The republic faces annihilation, despite the vigilance of Galharrow’s Blackwings. When a raven tattoo rips itself from his arm to deliver a desperate message, Galharrow and a mysterious noblewoman must investigate a long dead sorcerer’s legacy. But there is a conspiracy within the citadel: traitors, flesh-eaters and the ghosts of the wastelands seek to destroy them, but if they cannot solve the ancient wizard’s paradox, the Deep Kings will walk the earth again, and all will be lost.

The war with the Eastern Empire ended in stalemate some eighty years ago, thanks to Nall’s ‘Engine’, a wizard-crafted weapon so powerful even the Deep Kings feared it. The strike of the Engine created the Misery — a wasteland full of ghosts and corrupted magic that now forms a No Mans Land along the frontier. But when Galharrow investigates a frontier fortress, he discovers complacency bordering on treason: then the walls are stormed, and the Engine fails to launch. Galharrow only escapes because of the preternatural magical power of the noblewoman he was supposed to be protecting. Together, they race to the capital to unmask the traitors and restore the republic’s defences. Far across the Misery a vast army is on the move, as the Empire prepares to call the republic’s bluff.

Blackwing is one of the most hotly-anticipated debut fantasy novels of the year. Social media and the blogosphere have been filled with glowing reviews, squees and other evidence that suggests the hype has been entirely justified. There’s a lot in here that will certainly appeal to plenty of fantasy fans. However, I ultimately came away from this novel underwhelmed. Continue reading

SDCC: New JUSTICE LEAGUE teaser trailer

Save for the superb Wonder Woman movie, DC’s cinematic output hasn’t been too well received. I’ve quite enjoyed each of the movies (though, I still haven’t seen Suicide Squad), and so I’m very much looking forward to Justice League. Warner Bros. has just unveiled a teaser trailer at San Diego ComicCon, featuring a lot of Steppenwolf, some parademons, and of course the League. Here it is:

Justice League should hit theatres in November 2017. During SDCC, a new poster was also unveiled, and I couldn’t agree more with io9, it really does look like an Alex Ross painting brought to life:

Review: BORN TO RUN by Bruce Springsteen (Simon & Schuster)

springsteenb-borntorunAn interesting, if not-particularly-revelatory memoir from the Boss

In 2009, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performed at the Super Bowl’s halftime show. The experience was so exhilarating that Bruce decided to write about it. That’s how this extraordinary autobiography began.

Over the past seven years, Bruce Springsteen has privately devoted himself to writing the story of his life, bringing to these pages the same honesty, humor, and originality found in his songs.

He describes growing up Catholic in Freehold, New Jersey, amid the poetry, danger, and darkness that fueled his imagination, leading up to the moment he refers to as “The Big Bang”: seeing Elvis Presley’s debut on The Ed Sullivan Show. He vividly recounts his relentless drive to become a musician, his early days as a bar band king in Asbury Park, and the rise of the E Street Band. With disarming candor, he also tells for the first time the story of the personal struggles that inspired his best work and shows us why the song “Born to Run” reveals more than we previously realized.

Born to Run will be revelatory for anyone who has ever enjoyed Bruce Springsteen, but this book is much more than a legendary rock star’s memoir. This is a book for workers and dreamers, parents and children, lovers and loners, artists, freaks, or anyone who has ever wanted to be baptized in the holy river of rock and roll.

Like many people, I was very eager to get my hands on Born to Run when it came out. I have been listening to Springsteen’s music my whole life, really — Born in the USA was a regular on our family stereo, and was the first album I ever loved. (I used to stage ‘concerts’ of it, using my G.I. Joe figures as stand-ins for the band…) Due to work and other reasons, it took me some time to get around to reading Born to Run, but I eventually got the audiobook. I found it quite interesting… if slightly underwhelming. Continue reading

Interview with JAMES HENEAGE

Let’s start with an introduction: Who is James Heneage?

I am a fifty-nine year-old writer who’s spent his life involved in the worlds of books and history. In 1987, I set up Ottakar’s, which I built into a 150-bookshop chain before selling it to Waterstones in 2006. I’ve been a Booker Prize judge and Chaired the Costa Book Awards. I was Chair of the Cheltenham Literature Festival before founding my own festival devoted entirely to history: ‘The Chalke Valley History Festival’, which now attracts some 40,000 visitors a year. I’ve been a writer since 2010 and have written four works of fiction, all set in the 15th Century at the end of the Byzantine Empire, much of which are set in the Peloponnese. So I’ve built a house there where I now live for half of the year. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Sex with the Clothes On” by Brian Staveley

StaveleyB-AuthorPicSometimes, sex feels like cheating. For a writer, I mean, a writer writing about sex.

There are some subjects that one has to really work at to snare a reader. Start a novel with the economic system of your invented city, for instance, or the heraldry of your protagonist, and you’ll lose the reader by the bottom of the first page. Almost no one, on the other hand, closes a book on a description of naked bodies doing what naked bodies do best. Even people who are offended by graphic depictions of sex, even people who will go on to write the author a very sternly worded letter after reading said descriptions — they still tend to read them. A fascination with sex is built into us at a limbic level. Continue reading

Interview with SAM PETERS

PetersS-FromDarkestSkiesUKLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Sam Peters?

Sam Peters is a writer and a… something else that is kind of hard to pin down exactly but right now is somewhere on the boundaries of a mathematician or a physicist (except not the sort who actually pushes the boundaries of anything new) and an engineer (except not the sort who actually makes anything). The sort of technology middleman who might have ended up on the Golgafrincham second ship if real physicists and real engineers ever actually got together. Right now Sam is something of an expert on Fast Fourier Transforms, which should have everyone zoning out right about now so unless you want to discuss the Cooley-Tukey algorithm and optimization of the Split Radix method let’s talk about something else, quick!

Your debut novel, From Darkest Skies, will be published by Gollancz in April. It looks rather fabulous: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

I’d call it a Science Fiction thriller wrapped around a love story. It’s partly Keon’s search for the truth about what happened to his missing wife Alysha and partly about him coming to terms with her loss and the consequences of where his grief has taken him – the recreation of Alysha as a simulacrum wrapped around an Artificial Intelligence. Keon and Alysha were basically spooks so the truth he’s looking for turns out to be a lot more complicated than he first thinks. A lot more complicated and a lot more dangerous. Continue reading