Quick Review: A HISTORY OF HEAVY METAL by Andrew O’Neill (Headline)

ONeillA-HistoryOfHeavyMetalUKAn entertaining romp through a comedian’s history of heavy metal

The history of heavy metal brings brings us extraordinary stories of larger-than-life characters living to excess, from the household names of Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Bruce Dickinson and Metallica (SIT DOWN, LARS!), to the brutal notoriety of the underground Norwegian black metal scene and the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. It is the story of a worldwide network of rabid fans escaping everyday mundanity through music, of cut-throat corporate arseholes ripping off those fans and the bands they worship to line their pockets. The expansive pantheon of heavy metal musicians includes junkies, Satanists and murderers, born-again Christians and teetotallers, stadium-touring billionaires and toilet-circuit journeymen.

Award-winning comedian and life-long heavy metal obsessive Andrew O’Neill has performed his History of Heavy Metal comedy show to a huge range of audiences, from the teenage metalheads of Download festival to the broadsheet-reading theatre-goers of the Edinburgh Fringe. Now, in his first book, he takes us on his own very personal and hilarious journey through the history of the music, the subculture, and the characters who shaped this most misunderstood genre of music.

There is so much to love in Andrew O’Neill’s A History of Heavy Metal. O’Neill’s love for the genres is clear and rings true throughout. He’s opinionated, clear in his opinions, and damned funny. As he mentions at one point, metalheads are nerds, and this book is packed with nerdy details for all metal fans of any age. For me, it evoked my favourite music journalism from the ’90s and early 2000s, but with extra humour. Continue reading

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Guest Post: “Unexpected Influences” by Jen Williams

WilliamsJ-AuthorPicAuthors are influenced by all sorts of things – their favourite writers, their childhoods, the amount of caffeine consumed at any one time. Sometimes though the influences that shape a book can come from stranger places, or show themselves in unusual ways. The Ninth Rain was a book that formed through an alchemy of oddities, so here are a few of the things that have their fingerprints on the first volume of the Winnowing Flame trilogy. Continue reading

Upcoming: DEFENDER by G.X. Todd (Headline)

ToddGX-1-DefenderUKThis is one I’m really looking forward to: G.X. Todd‘s upcoming debut, Defender, has been described as including “nods back to Stephen King’s The Stand“, and also influenced by Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman. That’s a pretty impressive SFFH pedigree to which it’s being tied. The first in the four-part Voices series, in which “your inner voice might kill you”. Defender is due to be published in the UK by Headline in January 2017. Here’s the synopsis:

The primal battle between Good and Evil plays out in a new arena…

‘On the cusp of sleep, have we not all heard a voice call out our name?’

In a world where long drinks are in short supply, a stranger listens to the voice in his head telling him to buy a lemonade from the girl sitting on a dusty road.

The moment locks them together.

Here and now it’s dangerous to listen to your inner voice. Those who do, keep it quiet.

These voices have purpose.

And when Pilgrim meets Lacey, there is a reason. He just doesn’t know it yet.

Defender pulls you on a wild ride to a place where the voices in your head will save or slaughter you.

For more news about Todd’s writing and novels, be sure to check out the author’s website, and follow her on Twitter and Goodreads.

Quick Review: THE VIEW FROM THE CHEAP SEATS by Neil Gaiman (William Morrow/Headline)

GaimanN-ViewFromTheCheapSeatsUSA must-read collection of essays

An enthralling collection of nonfiction essays on a myriad of topics — from art and artists to dreams, myths, and memories — observed in #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman’s probing, amusing, and distinctive style.

An inquisitive observer, thoughtful commentator, and assiduous craftsman, Neil Gaiman has long been celebrated for the sharp intellect and startling imagination that informs his bestselling fiction. Now, The View from the Cheap Seats brings together for the first time ever more than sixty pieces of his outstanding nonfiction. Analytical yet playful, erudite yet accessible, this cornucopia explores a broad range of interests and topics, including (but not limited to): authors past and present; music; storytelling; comics; bookshops; travel; fairy tales; America; inspiration; libraries; ghosts; and the title piece, at turns touching and self-deprecating, which recounts the author’s experiences at the 2010 Academy Awards in Hollywood.

Insightful, incisive, witty, and wise, The View from the Cheap Seats explores the issues and subjects that matter most to Neil Gaiman — offering a glimpse into the head and heart of one of the most acclaimed, beloved, and influential artists of our time.

What to say about a collection of excellent and far-ranging essays? It would be easy to pick through many of my favourites, and quote Gaiman at length, but I’m not sure that would make for a very good/interesting review. So, I’ll keep this very short instead.

GaimanN-ViewFromTheCheapSeatsUKIf you have any interest in Gaiman’s thought-processes when it comes to art, creativity, books, popular culture, specific works… Then you will undoubtedly find something fascinating in The View From The Cheap Seats. It’s a substantial collection of essays and speech transcripts. There is some overlap between certain pieces, which I thought was interesting — giving us some insight into those authors and books that most influenced Gaiman, and also the issues that have been most important to him at certain points during his career.

At no point was it a slog to get through, but it works just as well as both a binge-read and a book to dip in-and-out of at your leisure.

Erudite, informed, passionate, and sometimes amusing. This is an excellent collection. Very highly recommended.

*

The View from the Cheap Seats is published on May 31st, 2016, in North America by William Morrow, and in the UK by Headline.

New Books (January)

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Featuring: André Alexis, Jennifer Armstrong, Rob Boffard, Ezekiel Boone, Algis Budrys, Matthew de Abaitua, Patrick Flanery, Ian Graham, Elizabeth Greenwood, Sarah Hilary, Joe Hill, Gregg Hurwitz, Davide Mana, Samuel Marolla, Vonda N. McIntyre, A.D. Miller, Tim Murphy, Daniel José Older, Chris Pavone, Aidan Donnelley Rowley, Adrian Selby, Nick Stone, Patrick S. Tomlinson, Fran Wilde

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Guest Post: “Magic & Its Masters” by Jen Williams

WilliamsJ-AuthorPicIn The Iron Ghost, the second book in the Copper Cat trilogy, my very own troubled magic user Lord Aaron Frith comes face to face with one of the most famous mages’ in Ede’s history: the resurrected Joah Demonsworn. Unfortunately, although Joah is quite polite and rather pleased to find that there is at least one other mage still around, he is also murderously insane – driven beyond all sense by the pursuit of power, by his close association with a demon, and by spending a thousand years mouldering in a tomb. His plans for the Black Feather Three will prove to have disastrous consequences for everyone.

Magic is one of the foundations of fantasy, and often those who use it or are changed by it can be the most interesting characters in fiction. Here are a few of my favourites: Continue reading