Review: RIVER OF TEETH by Sarah Gailey (Tor.com)

gaileys-riverofteethAn classic-style Western. Only, with killer hippos…

In the early 20th Century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. This is true.

Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two.

This was a terrible plan.

Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge.

River of Teeth has a fantastic premise: what if hippos were imported into the United States, to make up for the decline in buffalo stocks? This was a real proposal, way back when, and Gailey has done a great job of imaging an America in which hippos have spread and thrived — some are used as mounts, and there are thousands of deadly “ferals” populating the waterways. Now, throw in a group of mercenaries, drawn together on an operation (not a caper), and you have all the ingredients for a fun, original adventure. Continue reading

Interview with SARAH GAILEY

gaileys-authorpicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Sarah Gailey?

Sarah Gailey is a Bay Area native currently living in beautiful Oakland, California. She enjoys painting, baking, vulgar embroidery, and writing stories about murder and monsters. Her fiction been published internationally; her most recent credits include Mothership Zeta, Fireside Fiction, the Colored Lens, and the Speculative Bookshop Anthology. Her nonfiction has been published by Mashable and the Boston Globe, and she is a regular contributor for Tor.com.

Your new novella, River of Teeth, will be published by Tor.com. It looks rather fabulous: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

River of Teeth is the first novella in a duology. If I only had ten seconds to convince someone to read it, I’d say this: Cowboys riding hippos and trying to blow up the Mississippi River. Continue reading

Interview with MAURICE BROADDUS

broaddusm-authorpic2Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Maurice Broaddus?

A husband of one, a father of two, and an author of nearly a hundred short stories and the urban fantasy series, The Knights of Breton Court. I live in Indianapolis where I do a lot of community development work, finding ways to use writing/art to improve neighborhoods and protest. I keep my faith simple (love God, love people, don’t be a dick). And I binge watch a LOT of television.

Your new novella, Buffalo Soldier, will be published by Tor.com in April 2017. It looks really interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series? 

It’s set in the steampunk universe that I created for my story “Pimp My Airship.” In this universe, America lost the Revolutionary War and remains a colony of England. Buffalo Soldier is a stand alone sequel to my novelette, Steppin’ Razor (published in Asimov’s Magazine). Set in a Jamaica which was never a colony of England and thus flourished, an undercover agent, Desmond Coke, gets drawn into a web of political intrigue when he stumbles across a young boy, Lij. As it turns out, Lij is a clone of Haile Selassie, a messiah figure to the Rastafarians, who the government plans to raise as their puppet to control the people. Desmond frees the boy and goes on the run. In Buffalo Soldier, the pair is on the run through the United States of Albion, searching for a place to call home. Continue reading

Upcoming: ALL OUR WRONG TODAYS by Elan Mastai (Dutton)

MastaiE-AllOurWrongTodaysUSHaving just finished Blake Crouch’s excellent Dark Matter, the synopsis for Elan Mastai‘s tale of altered reality/history caught my attention (apparently, I’m in the mood for this type of novel, now). After doing some further digging, I also learned that Mastai wrote the movie The F Word, which I very much enjoyed (starring Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan and Adam Driver, it was both endearing and funny).

All Our Wrong Today’s sounds really interesting:

You know the future that people in the 1950s imagined we’d have? Well, it happened. In Tom Barren’s 2016, humanity thrives in a techno-utopian paradise of flying cars, moving sidewalks, and moon bases, where avocados never go bad and punk rock never existed… because it wasn’t necessary.

Except Tom just can’t seem to find his place in this dazzling, idealistic world, and that’s before his life gets turned upside down. Utterly blindsided by an accident of fate, Tom makes a rash decision that drastically changes not only his own life but the very fabric of the universe itself. In a time-travel mishap, Tom finds himself stranded in our 2016, what we think of as the real world. For Tom, our normal reality seems like a dystopian wasteland.

But when he discovers wonderfully unexpected versions of his family, his career, and — maybe, just maybe — his soul mate, Tom has a decision to make. Does he fix the flow of history, bringing his utopian universe back into existence, or does he try to forge a new life in our messy, unpredictable reality? Tom’s search for the answer takes him across countries, continents, and timelines in a quest to figure out, finally, who he really is and what his future — our future — is supposed to be.

All Our Wrong Todays is about the versions of ourselves that we shed and grow into over time. It is a story of friendship and family, of unexpected journeys and alternate paths, and of love in its multitude of forms. Filled with humor and heart, and saturated with insight and intelligence and a mind-bending talent for invention, this novel signals the arrival of a major talent.

All Our Wrong Todays is published by Dutton, on February 7th, 2017. I’m really looking forward to this one.

Review: CROOKED by Austin Grossman (Mulholland)

GrossmanA-CrookedAn excellent secret history

Richard Milhous Nixon lived one of the most improbable lives of the twentieth century. Our 37th President’s political career spanned the buttoned-down fifties, the Mad Men sixties and the turbulent seventies. He faced down the Russians, the Chinese, and ultimately his own government. The man went from political mastermind to a national joke, sobbing in the Oval Office, leaving us with one burning question: how could he have lost it all?

Here for the first time is the true story told in his own words: the terrifying supernatural secret he stumbled on as a young man; the truth behind the Cold War; the truth behind the Watergate coverup. What if our nation’s worst president was really a pivotal figure caught in a desperate struggle between ordinary life and horrors from another reality? What if the man we call our worst president was, in truth, our greatest?

In Crooked, Nixon finally reveals the secret history of modern American politics as only Austin Grossman could reimagine it. Combining Lovecraftian suspense, international intrigue, Russian honey traps and a Presidential marriage whose secrets and battles of attrition were their own heroic saga, Grossman’s novel is a master work of alternative history, equal parts mesmerizing character study and nail-biting Faustian thriller.

I was a relative latecomer to Austin Grossman’s novels — I only read You in 2014, and have yet to read Soon I Will Be Invincible (which I do own). When I first read the synopsis for Crooked, though, I knew I wouldn’t wait to read this one: I am a US politics and history nut, with a particular interest in the presidency. So, given that Grossman’s a great author, and that he was mixing two of my favourite things (politics and SFF), Crooked has been one of my most-anticipated novels of the year. I’m very happy to say, I was not disappointed. This is an excellent novel. Continue reading

Interview with GRAEME SHIMMIN

ShimminG-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Graeme Shimmin?

I’m spy thriller novelist, and the author of the award-winning novel A Kill in the Morning. I also run a website where I review spy thrillers and advise aspiring authors about writing and getting published.

Your debut novel, A Kill in the Morning, is due to be published in June by Transworld. How would you introduce the novel to a new reader?

A Kill in the Morning is an action-packed, fun spy thriller that has been compared to Robert Harris’s Fatherland and Ian Fleming’s Thunderball – if you like classic spy thrillers, you’ll love it.

ShimminG-AKillInTheMorning

What inspired you to write the novel? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?

Specifically, I’d had an image in my head for years of hanger doors grinding open to reveal an amazing super-weapon that I could never quite see. Generally, all the classic spy novels I’d read inspired me. When I started writing A Kill in the Morning, all those ideas just seemed to flood out. About halfway through, I suddenly realised how the story had to end and that it was really going to work. I sat back and just thought, “This is the story I was born to write.” It was an amazing moment. I felt like a sculptor, chipping away and finding the sculpture was already there inside the marble.

How were you introduced to reading and genre fiction?

I was brought up reading classic spy thrillers like From Russia With Love, Ice Station Zebra, and The Ipcress File: fast-paced, action-packed and fun. My mum used to take me to the library every Thursday and I worked my way through practically every thriller and sci-fi novel they had, reading two or three a week.

ShimminG-IntroToThrillers

How do you enjoy being a writer? Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?

Being a writer gives me the opportunity to write exactly the sort of thing I like to read, and that’s massively enjoyable – almost like a choose-your-own-adventure!

I try to write first thing in the morning. Get up, have a cup of tea and write for a couple of hours. Writing first thing in the morning whilst still half asleep is good for imagining things. I write at home, mostly, although I have done some good work on long train journeys.

My strategy for research is to have ‘research days’ and ‘writing days’. That avoids getting sidetracked. On a ‘writing day’, if I’m unsure of a fact I just make a note to check it later.

When did you realize you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing? Do you still look back on it fondly?

I worked in IT for fifteen years. It was very lucrative, but practically everything I ever worked on was cancelled. I realised I wanted to create something lasting. I’d always written a bit, but I resigned in order to write full time. The first page I wrote is still in the novel, but it has been edited a lot.

What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?

I’m aware that “Nazi victory” had been used as a setting for several novels, notably Fatherland and that some people feel it “has been done before”, but I think there’s plenty of room for more stories in what is becoming a sub-genre. After all, every story has been done before, and no one criticises a new crime novel because it’s not the first story with a detective in it!

In A Kill in the Morning, the Nazis haven’t achieved “victory”, anyway. Britain and the Soviet Union are still opposing them, but not in open warfare – instead there’s a three-way Cold War. That gave me a lot of scope to write the kind of classic spy story that was written during the Cold War, but with the Nazis as antagonists, and after all the Nazis are the ultimate bad guys!

What other projects are you working on, and what do you have currently in the pipeline?

I’m editing a novel called Angel in Amber at the moment, and hoping to bring that out next year. Angel in Amber is a thriller set in the near future, with Britain trapped between a feuding USA and Europe. It’s written in the same all-action style as A Kill in the Morning.

After that, there will be sequels to A Kill in the Morning. I’ve worked out how the series will continue and I’ve already written the first chapter of the next book.

Also, every month I write a free short story for my friends and the people who like my writing. You can sign up for it on my website.

What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?

The novel I’m reading is Ministry of Fear by Graham Greene. I’m rereading all his spy-related novels to review them on my website. A non-fiction book I’ve been reading is Inside the Third Reich by Albert Speer, as part of my research for the sequel to A Kill in the Morning.

ShimminG-Reading

What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?

I have never been a spy! People ask me this all the time, which I think has to be a compliment to the amount of research I’ve done.

What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?

Seeing A Kill in the Morning on the shelves in bookshops, and talking to people who have read it.

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A Kill in the Morning will be published in the UK on June 19th, 2014.