Guest Post: “Voices Across Time” by E. J. Swift

SwiftEJ-CoralBonesUKOne of the themes I wanted to explore in The Coral Bones was the relationship between human beings and non-human animals and beings, and how those relationships have changed — and could change for the better — over time. I’d always conceptualised the novel with multiple timelines and knew that I wanted to reflect both forward and back. Each timeline brought its own specific challenges.

Climate breakdown, and the bleaching of coral reefs caused by heating oceans, is at the heart of Hana’s contemporary storyline, so I decided the historical narrative should be situated early in the fossil fuel age. Whilst Judith is writing her diary in 1839, steam is beginning to revolutionise the world, at a cost no one — at least, no one in Judith’s colonial British society — could imagine. My last novel, Paris Adrift, included historical sections, but those were from the perspective of a time traveller. Writing a historical POV offered a whole new challenge in developing the voice and trying to instil some period texture. Whilst Judith pushes against her social constraints, she is still a product of her time and subject to the worldviews and prejudices of the Western age of exploration — full of enthusiasm for knowledge and discovery, but inextricably linked with imperialism. Continue reading

New Books (October)


Featuring: David Annandale, Asa Avdic, Myke Cole, Jeffrey Cranor, Tom Doyle, Karen Ellis, Spencer Ellsworth, Joseph Fink, James Alan Gardner, Kevin Hearne, Mike Lawson, Paul McAuley, Seanan McGuire, Adam O’Riordan, K.J. Parker (x3), C.L. Polk, Gareth L. Powell, Jane Robins, Paul M. Sammon, John Sandford, Christine Schutt, Jon Skovron, E.J. Swift, K.B. Wagers, Bill Willingham, Christopher J. Yates, Liz Ziemska

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New Books (Jan-Feb 2015)


Featuring: Dave Bara, J.L. Bourne, Peter V. Brett, Patricia Briggs, Royce Scott Buckingham, Ally Carter, Sara B. Elfgren, Chris Evans, Neil Gaiman, Wayne Gladstone, Erika Johansen, Caitlin Kittredge, Michael Moorcock, Naomi Novik, Mats Strandberg, Mark Stay, E.J. Swift, Erika Swyler, Ian Tregillis, Ben Tripp, Will Wiles, Dick Wolf Continue reading

“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.

The story at first felt rather disconnected to the events of the series opener. This was somewhat frustrating, given how much I enjoyed reading Vikram’s and Adelaide’s story. This does mean that it would probably not be too difficult for a new reader to start here (although, given the quality of Osiris, I would still recommend you read that, too). The many new ideas, locales, and characters made Cataveiro feel like a new beginning. The lack of any form of lengthy recap for the events of the first book, perhaps even suggest that Osiris is unnecessary. An odd decision, but it works. The fact that Vikram remained rather peripheral to the story, for the most part, was also a little disappointing to begin with. The more I read, though, the more invested I became in the new protagonists and their stories.

The author’s prose is as good as before (in fact, better), and the story does a great job of building the readers’ image of this future. It’s difficult to not be impressed by the world-building. Swift offers an engaging explanation of how the “land” world works, and offers commentary on the old ways that led to the environmental disasters that gave rise to this somewhat devastated world. Cataveiro also introduces us to two new characters. Both of them – Ramona and Taeo – are well-realised on the page, and develop nicely over the course of the novel. They are engaging guides to this part of the world.

Overall, Swift has produced another beautifully-written novel. There’s no doubt, also, that Cataveiro is a better novel than Osiris. The pacing is still relatively slow – this is something I struggled with when reading Osiris, and probably my only real criticism of Swift’s debut. The author has addressed this, here, though, making this a much more satisfying, fluid read. Nevertheless, the world, commentary, characters and – above all – story are interesting and engaging enough to keep us reading until the end. Fans of the first novel should definitely take to this sequel, although I’d be surprised if many weren’t similarly thrown by the apparent disregard of the events in Osiris. I’m certainly intrigued to see what happens in the final volume of the trilogy.

Cataveiro – and Osiris – might not be for all sci-fi fans, but there’s no doubt that Swift is a very talented writer, who is honing her craft wonderfully (in these two novels and also her shorter fiction). I expect she will very soon become a real force to be reckoned with. Definitely an author to watch. If you enjoy beautifully-written, literary science fiction, with less focus on being an action-packed blockbuster, then The Osiris Project is a must read.

Also on CR: Interview with E.J. Swift


For more on Swift’s writing and novels, be sure to follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and visit her Website.

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.

One of the first books I read was by the Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño. Last Evenings On Earth is a darkly satirical collection of stories, and proved a good place to start as an introduction to Bolaño’s work. His prose is effortless, clean as a knife, and stylistically, he seems to get away with things that on paper should never work. I’ve only just got round to the book generally acknowledged as his masterpiece, 2666, but already I’m lost in admiration over the seamless weaving of characters and their internal and external narratives.


Angelica Gorodischer’s Kalpa Imperial has proved another favourite: a gorgeous work of fantasy which charters ‘The Greatest Empire That Never Was’ in a series of tales delivered through the classic frame of the story-teller. One of my favourite chapters tells the story of one of the empire’s cities, capturing centuries of history in sinuous, evocative prose. In the final chapter, stories offered by the characters during a caravan crossing of the desert are punctuated with gloriously bizarre riffs on everything from the rise of Hollywood studios to the Beatles.

Nine Nights by Bernard Cavalho is part memoir, part imagined history, in which the author becomes obsessed with an American ethnologist who committed suicide in the Amazon jungle in 1939. Dreamy and mysterious, you never quite know where you are with this narrator. Equally tricksy is the protagonist of Chico Buarque’s Budapest, a Brazilian ghost writer who becomes obsessed with the Hungarian language. This is a beautiful poem of a book where the narrative works like a series of mirrors, illuminating and reflecting back on itself.

I dipped into Borges with Dreamtigers – a collection which is half poetry, half reflection – and Silvina Ocampo’s The Topless Tower, a contemporary of Borges and another prolific writer of the fantastic. Lygia Fagundes Telles’s vividly told The Girl in the Photograph deploys a complex, demanding narrative as it follows the intertwining stories of three young women.

This was only a small sample of the writers I would have liked to read, and there are many more whose work wasn’t available in English. I’d love to read Rachel de Queiroz, Alejandra Pizarnik, and Andrea del Fuego, three recommendations whose work I couldn’t find a translation. What other writers in translation (Spanish/Portuguese speaking or otherwise!) would you recommend, and which are on your to-read list?


E. J. Swift is the author of Osiris and Cataveiro, the first two volumes in The Osiris Project trilogy – published in the UK by Del Rey UK, and in the US by Night Shade Books. Her short fiction has been published in Interzone magazine, and appears in anthologies including The Best British Fiction 2013 and Pandemonium: The Lowest Heaven. She is shortlisted for a 2013 BFSA Award in the short fiction category for her story Saga’s Children.