Interview with TITUS CHALK

ChalkT-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Titus Chalk?

A literary chancer with a new book out! Otherwise, a typical Berlin implant; a Brit taking advantage of the city’s cheap rent to work a bit less and write a bit more. I’ve recently left a decade or so of sports writing behind me to spend time in the library learning to write fiction – that’s currently what I am hoping to with my life, having taken Generation Decks from initial idea to a bookshelf near you soon.

Your new book, Generation Decks, will be published by Solaris. It looks interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader?

It’s the story of the world-changing fantasy game Magic: The Gathering and a memoir of my time playing it. But more than that, it’s a look at the way business, culture and community changed with the advent of the internet age. It tries to capture that transition in the early 90s where everything was turned on its head as more and more people plugged in their dial-up modems and logged on to this strange thing called the web. Although Generation Decks is ostensibly about a very complex and rich strategy game, it’s absolutely not a specialist book – it’s for non-gamers and gamers alike. And for anyone with an interest in the way pop culture evolved in the digital age. Continue reading

Upcoming: CARAVAL by Stephanie Garber (Hodder)

GarberS-CaravalCaraval, Stephanie Garber’s debut novel is due to be published by Hodder in the UK. The animated cover was unveiled earlier today, and I thought the synopsis sounded quite interesting. (Also, that cover-GIF is pretty mesmerizing if you spend a little time watching it…) Here’s what it’s about:

Welcome to Caraval, where nothing is quite what it seems.

Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.

Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father.

When the sisters’ long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show’s mastermind organiser, Legend.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever.

Looking forward to this. Caraval is due out January 31st, 2017. For new and updates, be sure to check out Garber’s website, and follow her on Twitter.

Review: ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY by Charlie Jane Anders (Titan/Tor)

AndersCJ-AllTheBirdsInTheSkyUKOne of the most anticipated novels of the year… fizzles

Patricia is a witch who can communicate with birds. Laurence is a mad scientist and inventor of the two-second time machine. As teenagers they gravitate towards one another, sharing in the horrors of growing up weird.

When they later reconnect as adults, Laurence is an engineering genius living in near-future San Francisco, trying to stop the planet failing apart through technological intervention. Meanwhile, Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the magically gifted, and works with her fellow magicians to secretly repair the earth’s ever growing ailments.

As they each take sides in a cataclysmic war between science and magic, All the Birds in the Sky sees Laurence and Patricia try to make sense of life, sex and adulthood on the brink of the apocalypse.

This novel is perhaps one of the most anticipated of the year — with glowing reviews proliferating around the internet, and praise coming in from such luminaries as Michael Chabon, expectations have been high pretty much since it was announced. Anders writes quite beautifully, at times, and there’s little doubt that she is an author of talent. I know a lot of people who have loved this novel. Unfortunately, however, All the Birds in the Sky failed to ever take off for me. Continue reading

Review: THE MAGICIAN’S LAND by Lev Grossman (Penguin/Arrow)

GrossmanL-M3-MagiciansLandUSA most satisfying conclusion to The Magicians trilogy

Quentin Coldwater has been cast out of Fillory, the secret magical land of his childhood dreams. With nothing left to lose he returns to where his story began, the Brakebills Preparatory College of Magic. But he can’t hide from his past, and it’s not long before it comes looking for him.

Along with Plum, a brilliant young undergraduate with a dark secret of her own, Quentin sets out on a crooked path through a magical demimonde of gray magic and desperate characters. But all roads lead back to Fillory, and his new life takes him to old haunts, like Antarctica, and to buried secrets and old friends he thought were lost forever. He uncovers the key to a sorcery masterwork, a spell that could create magical utopia, a new Fillory — but casting it will set in motion a chain of events that will bring Earth and Fillory crashing together. To save them he will have to risk sacrificing everything.

The Magician’s Land is an intricate thriller, a fantastical epic, and an epic of love and redemption that brings the Magicians trilogy to a magnificent conclusion, confirming it as one of the great achievements in modern fantasy. It’s the story of a boy becoming a man, an apprentice becoming a master, and a broken land finally becoming whole.

I left this for far longer than I intended: I thoroughly enjoyed both of the previous books in the series, The Magicians and The Magician KingThe Magician’s Land is a great, gripping conclusion, and exceeded my high expectations. This is a must-read trilogy for all fans of fantasy. Continue reading

Interview with PETER McLEAN

McLeanP-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Peter McLean?

I’m a married man and grandfather in my 40s, who has been writing for over twenty years, and actually taking it seriously for perhaps the last five years or so. Over the years I’ve also been a kung fu teacher, a Wiccan priest, a Unix technician and a chaos magician, and I am now an IT account manager at a multinational outsourcing corporation.

Your debut novel, Drake, will be published by Angry Robot. It looks pretty cool: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

Thank you! I guess I’d describe it as “a Guy Ritchie movie with demons in it” – Drake is set in the ganglands of South London, but instead of a cheap gangster my central character is a cheap magician, a hitman who uses his magical abilities and the power of an enslaved Archdemon to summon demons and set them on people. Of course it all goes horribly wrong for him in fairly short order, and that’s when things start to get interesting. Continue reading

Upcoming: SPELLBREAKER by Blake Charlton (Tor/Voyager)

CharltonB-3-Spellbreaker

Above are the covers for the long-awaited third novel in Blake Charlton‘s Spellwright Trilogy, Spellbreaker. The sequel to Spellbound, it works as a stand-alone. It’s due out in June 2016, published in the US by Tor Books and in the UK by Voyager. Here’s the synopsis:

Leandra Weal has a bad habit of getting herself in dangerous situations.

While hunting neodemons in her role as Warden of Ixos, Leandra obtains a prophetic spell that provides a glimpse one day into her future. She discovers that she is doomed to murder someone she loves, soon, but not who. That’s a pretty big problem for a woman who has a shark god for a lover, a hostile empress for an aunt, a rogue misspelling wizard for a father, and a mother who — especially when arguing with her daughter — can be a real dragon.

Leandra’s quest to unravel the mystery of the murder-she-will-commit becomes more urgent when her chronic disease flares up and the Ixonian Archipelago is plagued by natural disasters, demon worshiping cults, and fierce political infighting. Everywhere she turns, Leandra finds herself amid intrigue and conflict. It seems her bad habit for getting into dangerous situations is turning into a full blown addiction.

As chaos spreads across Ixos, Leandra and her troubled family must race to uncover the shocking truth about a prophesied demonic invasion, human language, and their own identities — if they don’t kill each other first.

I rather enjoyed the first two novels in the trilogy, but four years and many novels later, I have forgotten a fair bit of what happened in them…

Also on CR: Interview with Blake Charlton; Reviews of Spellwright and Spellbound

For more, be sure to check out the author’s website, and follow him on Twitter, Goodreads and Facebook.

Interview with ZEN CHO

ChoZ-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Zen Cho?

I’m a lawyer and writer from Malaysia, living in the UK. My short story collection Spirits Abroad was published by Malaysian press Buku Fixi in 2014 and was a joint winner of the Crawford Fantasy Award. I’ve edited an anthology called Cyberpunk: Malaysia, also published by Fixi, which came out this year.

Your debut novel, Sorcerer to the Crown, will be published in September by Tor Books. How would you introduce the novel to a new reader, and is it part of a planned series?

Sorcerer to the Crown is a historical fantasy set in Regency London, about England’s first African Sorcerer Royal, Zacharias Wythe. Zacharias is trying to reverse the decline in England’s magic when his plans are hijacked by ambitious runaway orphan and female magical prodigy, Prunella Gentleman.

The book is the first in a trilogy, but while the books will be linked, the plan is for each book to focus on different characters. The hope is that people will be able to read them as standalones. Continue reading