Upcoming: ALTERED CARBON (Netflix)

Richard K. Morgan shared the above trailer on Twitter, and it kind of made my day. This coming February, Netflix will release Altered Carbon, their TV adaptation of Richard Morgan’s novel of the same name. I am very much looking forward to this. Continue reading

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Review: THE FIRST FIFTEEN LIVES OF HARRY AUGUST by Claire North (Orbit)

NorthC-FirstFifteenLivesOfHarryAugustUKA superb timey-wimey novel

Harry August is on his deathbed. Again.

No matter what he does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, Harry always returns to where he began, a child with all the knowledge of a life he has already lived a dozen times before. Nothing ever changes.

Until now.

As Harry nears the end of his eleventh life, a little girl appears at his bedside. ‘I nearly missed you, Doctor August,’ she says. ‘I need to send a message.’

This is the story of what Harry does next, and what he did before, and how he tries to save a past he cannot change and a future he cannot allow.

It took me a long time to get around to reading this novel. I really don’t know why. Nevertheless, having now finished it, all I can say is: Wow. This novel is brilliant, and is an absolute must-read. Continue reading

Review: CITY OF STAIRS by Robert Jackson Bennett (Jo Fletcher Books/Crown Publishing)

BennettRJ-CityOfStairsUKAnother superb novel from RJB

The city of Bulikov once wielded the powers of the gods to conquer the world, enslaving and brutalizing millions — until its divine protectors were killed. Now Bulikov has become just another colonial outpost of the world’s new geopolitical power, but the surreal landscape of the city itself — first shaped, now shattered, by the thousands of miracles its guardians once worked upon it — stands as a constant, haunting reminder of its former supremacy.Into this broken city steps Shara Thivani. Officially, the unassuming young woman is just another junior diplomat sent by Bulikov’s oppressors. Unofficially, she is one of her country’s most accomplished spies, dispatched to catch a murderer. But as Shara pursues the killer, she starts to suspect that the beings who ruled this terrible place may not be as dead as they seem — and that Bulikov’s cruel reign may not yet be over.

City of Stairs is a superb novel, offering imaginative new takes on classic fantasy ideas and themes, populated by diverse and well-realised characters, and presented in excellent prose. This was one of my most-anticipated novels of 2014, and it exceeded by expectations. Continue reading

Sebastian de Castell’s THE TRAITOR’S BLADE out in Paperback tomorrow! (Jo Fletcher Books)

deCastellS-GC1-TraitorsBladeEarlier this year (January), an advanced review copy of The Traitor’s Blade dropped through my mailbox. The debut fantasy novel by Sebastian de Castell, I was intrigued by the premise, which promised a mixture of swashbuckling action and adventure, sword-fights aplenty, and some intrigue and good storytelling. I was not at all disappointed. I blitzed through the novel. Here’s the main take-away from my review

“An all-round brilliant fantasy debut, and one of the best I’ve read in a decade… Every so often, a debut novel comes along that knocks your expectations out of the park. Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamorra is one of those novels. Peter V. Brett’s The Painted Man is another. Sebastien de Castell’s Traitor’s Blade needs to be added to that list. I loved this.”

Tomorrow, The Traitor’s Blade is published in paperback in the UK, and I highly recommend you pick it up, if you haven’t already. Here’s the synopsis…

Falcio is the first Cantor of the Greatcoats. Trained in the fighting arts and the laws of Tristia, the Greatcoats are travelling Magisters upholding King’s Law. They are heroes. Or at least they were, until they stood aside while the Dukes took the kingdom, and impaled their King’s head on a spike.

Now Tristia is on the verge of collapse and the barbarians are sniffing at the borders. The Dukes bring chaos to the land, while the Greatcoats are scattered far and wide, reviled as traitors, their legendary coats in tatters. All they have left are the promises they made to King Paelis, to carry out one final mission.

But if they have any hope of fulfilling the King’s dream, the divided Greatcoats must reunite, or they will also have to stand aside as they watch their world burn…

And, finally, you can read an interview with Sebastian de Castell, here. I really can’t wait to read the next book in the series. Long may Falcio et al find their adventures in print!

A Quick Comment on the Gemmell Award Shortlists, and One of the Nominees. Sort of…

This post is a bit of a break from the norm for me. I’m also not really sure what it’s meant to do. It’s a bit waffley, for which I apologise only slightly, and in not entirely a heartfelt manner. Fiction awards mean very little to me, being neither author, editor, publisher, nor agent. (At least, not yet…) This means I have never (to my recollection) written a post of any worth/note about shortlists or winners.

Brett-DaylightWarUKAward lists tend to pass me by without comment or thought. Invariably, this is because there aren’t any books featured that I’ve read – or, if there is, it is one that didn’t leave much of an impression one way or another. This year has been a bit different, however. For example, Kameron Hurley’s God’s War has been cropping up on a few shortlists, and it’s a book I rather enjoyed. So that made a nice change.

The shortlists for the Gemmell Awards were announced today at Eastercon. In a real break from the norm, the shortlist for the Legend Award (best fantasy) features not only five authors I have read, but also a book I feel particularly strongly about. So I thought I’d write a quick blog post about it. The book in question is Peter V. Brett’s The Daylight War, the third in his Demon Cycle series.

[Before I continue, let me just state that my focus on this book is not an indictment of the other authors nominated for the award. I just feel particularly strongly about this one. The other Legend nominees – Mark Lawrence, Scott Lynch, Adrian Tchaikovsky, and Brandon Sanderson – are great authors, too, whose works I have enjoyed very much. I just haven’t read their nominated novels.]

I’ve been experiencing a phase of fantasy disenchantment, lately. In fact, looking back over the past year or so, I’ve read far less (epic) fantasy than I would have expected. I have picked up and discarded more fantasy novels than I usually do, too. I just can’t get into anything, nor can I rustle up the enthusiasm to sit through hefty tomes.

Brett-DaylightWarUSThere is one clear exception to that, though, and that’s Brett’s series. Every time I think about reading a fantasy novel, I find myself wistfully wishing that the next novel in the Demon Cycle was already available. This is because there are very few authors who do it better. That’s not to say other fantasists writing today aren’t good, or are lacking in talent – far from it. But, really, I think the only epic fantasy series I would happily drop everything to read the next book in, is the Demon Cycle. Everything about the novels just works for me – the story, prose, characters… everything. I don’t think, across the three novels published so far, I’ve come across anything that gave me pause. I read the first, The Painted Man, in three sittings – the final sitting a 300-page marathon, which I finished at 4am. I read the second and third novels back-to-back (something I rarely do), eschewing everything else – true, I was unemployed at the time, and had little else to do; but nevertheless, all I wanted to do was read the books.

I haven’t experienced that level of Reading Insistence since I read Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora – the book that got me back into reading fantasy in the first place (as I think I’ve mentioned ad infinitum on the blog). In the case of Lynch’s series, I went straight out and bought Red Seas Under Red Skies when I was only two-thirds of the way through the first book – I even didn’t mind that it was the (frankly ghastly) shiny red-covered edition. Since then, and given the understandable delay before the third book came out, I have been almost afraid to go back and re-read the series to catch up.

Oh actually, that’s not entirely true – I was also incredibly impatient about getting hold of Brent Weeks’s Night Angel Trilogy. I must have pestered the Orbit publicist to the point of irritation, requesting the final two books… I was also really late to Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy, and I do consider Before They Are Hanged to be one of my favourite novels.

Regardless, the point I’m trying to make is that very few epic fantasy novels have really grabbed hold of my imagination and attention. And, I think, none more so than Brett’s Demon Cycle.

So, to bring this ramble back around to the topic at hand, I really hope The Daylight War wins the Legend Award.

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The David Gemmell Awards ceremony will take place at London’s Magic Circle on June 13th, 2014.

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Peter V. Brett’s The Daylight War is published in the UK by Voyager, and in the US by Del Rey. The first two volumes in the series – The Painted Man (UK)/The Warded Man (US) and The Desert Spear are published by the same publishers. Two novellas have also been collected into a single volume: The Great Bazaar and Brayan’s Gold. If you haven’t read them yet, and have any interest in fantasy, then I could not recommend them enough. You won’t regret reading them, I’m sure.

My reviews of the books: The Painted Man, The Desert Spear, The Daylight War and The Great Bazaar and Brayan’s Gold.

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Regarding the Other Shortlists…

For the Morning Star category (best debut), I really enjoyed Brian McClellan’s Promise of Blood – it is also the only novel on the shortlist I’ve read.

In the Ravenheart category (best artwork), I actually like them all, and quite a lot. But I don’t understand why any of the covers for Elizabeth Bear’s Eternal Sky fantasy trilogy didn’t make it onto the final list… (I haven’t read any of the novels, but I want to, and those covers are frankly stunning.)

Short Review: “The Humans” by Matt Haig (Canongate)

Haig-TheHumansAn excellent examination of what it means to be human

It’s hardest to belong when you’re closest to home… One wet Friday evening, Professor Andrew Martin of Cambridge University solves the world’s greatest mathematical riddle. Then he disappears. When he is found walking naked along the motorway, Professor Martin seems different. Besides the lack of clothes, he now finds normal life pointless. His loving wife and teenage son seem repulsive to him. In fact, he hates everyone on the planet. Everyone, that is, except Newton. And he’s a dog. Can a bit of Debussy and Emily Dickinson keep him from murder? Can the species which invented cheap white wine and peanut butter sandwiches be all that bad? And what is the warm feeling he gets when he looks into his wife’s eyes?

The standfirst says it all, really: The Humans is an excellent examination of what it means to be human – everything from the horror and ugliness, to the beauty and wonder of life on Earth. It is a novel that is filled with insight, depth, affection, and humour. From the beginning, we are introduced to an imposter on earth – an alien who has taken the place of one of Cambridge University’s most respected mathematicians, who has just solved one of the great mysteries of mathematics. The race from which this being hails believes the solution will bring great upheaval to the universe: it could, after all, allow humans to leave Earth, and venture out into the universe. This would, of course, bring all their baggage with them. After all, from the outside, human can come across as miserable, money-obsessed, violent assholes.

As the new Andrew Martin navigates his new life, quashing all knowledge of the real Martin’s discovery, he finds himself confronted with everything that is good about life as a human. His obliviousness to what the real Andrew did before he was replaced, gives him a childlike innocence and fresh slate – something that has a real impact on his family life, in both positive and negative ways. He starts to go native, despite the frequent warnings of his superiors – the Hosts.

It doesn’t take long to read The Humans – the novel is very focused, the pacing is brisk, and Haig’s prose is pretty sparse. It is also superb – elegant in its focus, nuanced, affectionate yet not uncritical, and often very funny. His characters are well-rounded and expertly brought to life on the page. The book will also make you want to read more Emily Dickinson…

Haig is fast becoming one of my favourite writers, and I’ve only read two of his novels. The Humans is a must read. I thoroughly enjoyed this, and can’t recommend it enough.