Guest Post: “On Theon Greyjoy…” by Mark Alder

AlderM-AuthorPicTheon Greyjoy – do you like him now? Did you ever like him? Will you ever like him?

As a writer, I find Theon by far the most interesting character in Game of Thrones. He illustrates a lot about how to make a character disliked. He also, in his long redemption, illustrates the techniques novelists and screenwriters use to build sympathy in a character.

Theon has had many of these sympathy building techniques applied to him in the course of his redemption, but here’s the thing – up until the very last scenes of the last series of  the Game of Thrones TV series, they simply have not worked.

He’s particularly interesting when compared to another GoT character who has undergone his own redemption – Jaime Lannister.

[Please Note: Spoilers for Game of Thrones!] Continue reading

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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

Interview with ED McDONALD

McDonaldE-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Ed McDonald?

Hello! That would be me. I’m an author, swordsman, medieval historian, lecturer, husband, reader, and gamer.

Your debut novel, Blackwing, will be published by Gollancz. It’s been getting quite a bit of pre-publication buzz. How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

Blackwing is the first part of The Raven’s Mark series. It’s epic fantasy in scope, but with a tight focus on a single character and the individual part he plays in a wider conflict. The pace is more like a thriller than the usual wander through a fantasy landscape, so I’d say that if you like your fantasy fast paced, character driven, hard hitting, free from gender bias and set on the edge of a post-apocalyptic magical wasteland, then it’s probably for you. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Love and Hate for 4x4s” by Jon Wallace

WallaceJ-AuthorPicFor those of us who navigate London by tube and bus, it can be easy to resent the city’s Range Rover drivers. The hulking black monstrosities are every bit as staggeringly inefficient a modern indulgence as the plastic water bottle, the sort of thing that makes us throw up our hands and ask: ‘have we all gone quite mad?’

For what good do they do driver or pedestrian? There are no mountains to conquer in London; no swamps or muddy tracks. They bloat beyond their parking paces. They burn through fuel and fume out our streets; and they draw the eye to our unequal distribution of wealth, almost as such as the ubiquitous chauffeured Black Mercedes.

Well, perhaps that’s the point; their presence on the tightly packed, jumble of central London streets could be a willfully calculated offense to those with shallower pockets. Bring on climate change, the drivers seem to say. Drown the riff raff, make it a swamp again, and let us dominate the surface alone! Continue reading

Guest Post: “Writing Exodus, or: How to take on too much and learn to love it” by Alex Lamb

LambAlex-AuthorPicExodus, the third novel in the Roboteer series comes out this month. It was, by far, the most difficult creative project I’ve ever undertaken, and also, probably because of that, the most satisfying. Never have I teared up so much whilst writing, or laughed so hard, or felt such terrible tension. Why was it hard? There were many reasons, both personal and creative. In this post, I’ll do my best to share them.

The most obvious cause of my problems was that I had set myself up with an almost impossible challenge. Before I wrote Nemesis, the book that precedes Exodus, I had made the decision that the trilogy would need to answer the enormous question that I set up in Roboteer:

What is the difference between an intelligent species that survives, and one that wipes itself out? Continue reading

Guest Post: “Write what you know… even if that’s just being an idiot” by Tom Lloyd

Write what you know, it’s the first piece of advice a writer will get. It’s sometimes useful too. After eight years and almost a decade as a published novelist, I was starting a new series and so I asked myself what I’d learned, what I liked and what I wanted for the next few years. But this time round I wasn’t some newbie, I was a wise and skilled crafter of words who utters profound witticisms as he works the room of industry types, right?

Much to my disappointment that clearly wasn’t the case. I was pretty much the same damn fool I’ve always been. Well meaning, stubborn not the cleverest, getting on a bit with something of a food preoccupation – not without some skill but not ever likely to be one of the biggest and brightest stars in the sky. So hey, write what you know? 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