Quick Review: WE ARE THE DEAD by Mike Shackle (Gollancz)

ShackleM-LW1-WeAreTheDeadUKOne of the best fantasy debuts in years

The war is over. The enemy won.

Jia’s people learned the hard way that there are no second chances. The Egril, their ancient enemy, struck with magic so devastating that Jia’s armies were wiped out. Now terror reigns in the streets, and friend turns on friend just to live another day.

Somehow Tinnstra – a deserter, a failure, nothing but a coward – survived. She wants no more than to hide from the chaos.

But dragged into a desperate plot to retake Jia, surrounded by people willing to do anything to win the fight, this time Tinnstra will need to do more than hide.

If Jia is to get a second chance after all, this time she will need to be a hero.

It took me longer than I would have liked to get around to reading Mike Shackle’s debut, We Are the Dead. Long-time readers may know how I’ve struggled a bit with the fantasy genre of late. This novel, however, sounded really interesting, so I decided to dive in. And I wasn’t disappointed! This is a gripping, excellently-written (grimdark) fantasy novel. Continue reading

Upcoming: THE GOD GAME by Danny Tobey (St. Martin’s Press/Gollancz)

TobeyD-GodGame

In January, St. Martin’s Press and Gollancz are due to publish a new novel by Danny Tobey that has caught my attention: The God Game. Based on the synopsis (below), it looks like it should appeal to fans of novels like Ready Player One and You, as well as fans of techno-thrillers. Looking forward to this one.

You are invited!
Come inside and play with G.O.D.
Bring your friends!
It’s fun!
But remember the rules. Win and ALL YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE.™ Lose, you die!

With those words, Charlie and his friends enter the G.O.D. Game, a video game run by underground hackers and controlled by a mysterious AI that believes it’s God. Through their phone-screens and high-tech glasses, the teens’ realities blur with a virtual world of creeping vines, smoldering torches, runes, glyphs, gods, and mythical creatures. When they accomplish a mission, the game rewards them with expensive tech, revenge on high-school tormentors, and cash flowing from ATMs. Slaying a hydra and drawing a bloody pentagram as payment to a Greek god seem harmless at first. Fun even.

But then the threatening messages start. Worship me. Obey me. Complete a mission, however cruel, or the game reveals their secrets and crushes their dreams. Tasks that seemed harmless at first take on deadly consequences. Mysterious packages show up at their homes. Shadowy figures start following them, appearing around corners, attacking them in parking garages. Who else is playing this game, and how far will they go to win?

And what of the game’s first promise: win, win big, lose, you die? Dying in a virtual world doesn’t really mean death in real life — does it?

As Charlie and his friends try to find a way out of the game, they realize they’ve been manipulated into a bigger web they can’t escape: an AI that learned its cruelty from watching us.

God is always watching, and He says when the game is done.

The God Game is due to be published by St. Martin’s Press in North America (January 7th) and Gollancz in the UK (January 9th).

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Interview with MIKE SHACKLE

ShackleM-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Mike Shackle?

I’m a Brit who’s lived and worked all over the world but has settled in the wonderful city of Vancouver with my family. In my time, I’ve sold washing machines, cooked for the Queen, designed a few logos and made a lot of ads for some of the biggest brands in the world. But I’ve always been a dreamer and I’m happiest disappearing into made-up worlds, full of dark and interesting characters, whether that’s in my own writing or enjoying our people’s novels.

Your debut novel, We Are The Dead, is due to be published by Gollancz in August (one of my most-anticipated debuts of the year). How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

We Are the Dead is the first book in the Last War trilogy. As per the blurb, it’s a story full of crunching revolutionary action, twisted magic, and hard choices in dark times. It’s about what happens when the bad guy wins and there are no heroes left to come and save the day. It’s a tale about a coward, a teenage psychopath, a single mother and a crippled soldier forced to stand up and fight when it matters most. It’s grim and it’s dark but, at its heart, it’s a story about families and hope. Continue reading

Interview with ALEXANDER DAN VILHJÁLMSSON

VilhjalmssonAD-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Alexander Dan Vilhjálmsson?

I am an Icelandic fantasy author, who currently lives in Reykjavík. I write in both Icelandic and English and translate my own work (by necessity).

Your next novel, Shadows of the Short Days, is due to be published by Gollancz in July. It looks really interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

Shadows of the Short Days is set in a fantastical, alternate version of Iceland called Hrímland. The story follows two outcasts, Sæmundur and Garún. Garún is a revolutionary activist slash visual artist, who uses psychoactive, sorcerous graffiti to alter the world. She is fighting for a better society for herself and others who are oppressed by the colonial rules of Hrímland, the Kalmar Commonwealth. Sæmundur is a drug-addicted, outcast galdramaður, a magician who will do anything to reach full mastery and understanding of the extremely dangerous type of magic he practices. Both of them will sacrifice anything to reach their goals, pay any price. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Our Fascination with Genre Distinctions” by Christopher Ruocchio

RuocchioC-AuthorPicI don’t know what it is about genre distinctions that so fascinates writers and readers alike. We enjoy them perhaps for the same reason we obsess about character classes and skill trees and so on in games like Dungeons and Dragons and why so many of us obsess (wrongly) about “magic systems” (as if anything which supercedes and violates natural law should be systematic, ha)! We like complexity, perhaps too much, we like categories (heavens, so much trouble in fan culture of late is the result of trying to categorize fans and creators alike: for their immutable traits, for the beliefs, for their politics, and so on). Complex categories give the world a texture that we nerds find pleasing, for they bespeak a deep sense not merely of order, but of ordered chaos.

The best of both worlds. Continue reading

Interview with CHRIS HUMPHREYS

HumphreysC-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Chris Humphreys?

Gosh, start with an easy one! I was hoping you could tell me!

Chris is an actor and author who was born with a sword in his hand — which must have made it painful for dear old ma. He became an actor so he could leap around with bladed weaponry — and largely succeeded. (I was even Graham Ashe the Immortal in Highlander, though I was dead after ten minutes which seems a swizz!). He became a writer with much the same ambitions, though he also became interested in myth and magic and playing Hamlet at a formative age shook things up philosophy-wise. (Who also dies from a sword cut, of course!) His body is Canadian, his mind is English, and his heart is Norwegian. He has a familiar called Dickon who claims to be a cat, and he writes in a cedar octagon in a forest on an island in the Salish Sea.

Your new novel, Smoke in the Glass, was published this week by Gollancz. It looks really interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

Glad you think so. Yes, it is Book One of the Immortals’ Blood Trilogy. The story began for me, in that cedar octagon, with a question: If you had the choice, would you want to live forever? Continue reading

Upcoming: THE SONG OF THE SYCAMORE by Edward Cox (Gollancz)

CoxE-SongOfTheSycamoreUKIn August, Gollancz is due to publish the latest novel from Edward CoxThe Song of the Sycamore is a stand-alone fantasy novel, and it sounds really interesting. The cover recently appeared on NetGalley (not sure if it’s the final version, though), so I decided that it was time to let readers of CR know. Here’s the synopsis to whet your appetite:

On the broken world of Urdezha, Wendal Finn died on the hostile plains of the wasteland, one more casualty in the endless war between the city-dwellers and the clansfolk. But now Wendal has returned to his home city of Old Castle, possessed by something he brought back from the wasteland, something old and best left forgotten. The spirits are calling it Sycamore, an ancient entity out to avenge all victims of murder. And in a city like Old Castle, no one is innocent.

With his mind trapped inside a dead body, Wendal can do nothing but watch as Sycamore turns him into a serial killer. Until the magicians take an interest in him. Preserving Wendal’s body and trapping Sycamore inside it, the magicians now have the perfect assassin at their disposal. Whenever they need an enemy removed, they can set the killer loose on Old Castle. Between these moments of horror, Wendal struggles to piece together the remnants of his former life. He wants to know why his wife died while he was fighting in the war, but no one will tell him, no one wants him to know. Left to his own devices, Wendal picks at the scabs that cover the dark secrets of the magicians and reveals a threat to every city on Urdezha.

The clans are massing. A supernatural storm is raging across the wasteland. It has already destroyed one city, and now it is heading for Old Castle. And the only one who might prevent oblivion is the murderous entity who the spirits are calling Sycamore.

Ed is also the author of the Relic Guild trilogy, also published by Gollancz. I’ve only read the first book in that series, but I really enjoyed it. If you’re looking for an atmospheric, inventive and well-written fantasy series, I’d recommend you check it out.

Also on CR: Interviews with Edward Cox — 2014 and 2015; Guest Post on “Writes & Wrongs”, Review of The Relic Guild

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter