Very Quick Review: SWEET HARMONY by Claire North (Orbit)

NorthC-SweetHarmonyAn unnerving, sharply observed and altogether too plausible novella

Harmony is tired. Tired of working so hard, tired of the way she looks, tired of being average. But all that changes when she decides to splash out and upgrade her nanos.

And why not? Everyone’s doing it now. With a simple in-app purchase, you can update the tech in your bloodstream to transform yourself — get enhanced brain power, the perfect body or a dazzling smile.

Suddenly, everything starts going right for Harmony. She’s finally becoming the person she always wanted to be. But when she ends up running too many upgrades on her body all at once, the effects will be more catastrophic than she could have imagined.

A sharply observed, albeit depressing vision of the future that is all too plausible. Another very good novella from North, one of the best and most interesting authors writing today. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE AUTUMN REPUBLIC by Brian McClellan (Orbit Books)

McClellanB-PM3-AutumnRepublicThe conclusion to the Powder Mage trilogy

Tamas, Taniel, and Adamat have been betrayed and Adro now lies in the hands of a foreign invader. But it remains the duty of the powder mages to defend their homeland unto death…

The capital has fallen…
Field Marshal Tamas returns to his beloved country to find that for the first time in history, the capital city of Adro lies in the hands of a foreign invader. His son is missing, his allies are indistinguishable from his foes, and reinforcements are several weeks away.

An army divided…
With the Kez still bearing down upon them and without clear leadership, the Adran army has turned against itself. Inspector Adamat is drawn into the very heart of this new mutiny with promises of finding his kidnapped son.

All hope rests with one…
And Taniel Two-shot, hunted by men he once thought his friends, must safeguard the only chance Adro has of getting through this war without being destroyed…

Brian McClellan’s first two Powder Mage novels were great — I remember devouring them both. With great characters, an interesting magic system, and a balanced blend of action and political mystery, they ticked pretty much all of my reading buttons. For some reason, I left The Autumn Republic for quite some time before reading it (the author has written an entire other trilogy since this one). I enjoyed it, but it didn’t pack the kind of punch I expected from the end of a trilogy. Continue reading

Interview with DJANGO WEXLER

WexlerD-AuthorPicWelcome back to Civilian Reader! It’s been a little while, so for newcomers let’s start with an introduction: Who is Django Wexler?

Hi! I’m Django Wexler. I’m currently an author of fantasy series of various kinds — military, middle-grade, and young adult. Before that I was a software engineer and worked on AI research and programming languages. I’m very into games of all sorts (tabletop, board games, wargames, video games, etc) and watch a fair bit of anime. I read a lot, anything SFF on the fiction side and history, economics, and science on the non-fiction side. I’m a big fan of cats.

Your next novel, Ashes of the Sun, is the start of a new series and is due to be published by Orbit. How would you introduce it to a potential reader?

Ashes is an epic fantasy set in a post-fantasy-apocalypse — the aftermath of the collapse of a powerful magical civilization, with survivors living amidst the ruins. It’s about two siblings named Gyre and Maya; at a young age Maya is identified as having the potential to be a powerful wielder of magic and taken to be trained with the Twilight Order. A decade later, their paths cross again. Maya has grown into a committed believer in the Order’s mission of defending civilization, while her brother Gyre has sworn revenge on the callous authority that destroyed their family. Continue reading

Orbit & Tor Acquire New Trilogy from Adrian Tchaikovsky!

TchaikovskyA-AuthorPicOrbit Books (North America) and Tor Books (UK) have acquired a new trilogy from Adrian Tchaikovsky! This is fantastic news, because every new novel (or novella) by Tchaikovsky is something to be cheered and eagerly anticipated. There’s not much information, yet, about the trilogy save for this mini-description:

The new far-future science fiction trilogy begins with Shards of Earth, which will be published worldwide in spring 2021. The novel is set fifty years after a war that nearly extinguished humanity, when the enemies of the human race reappear after a long silence.

Spring 2021 still feels very far away, though. If you are new to Tchaikovsky’s work, or have yet to read anything by him, then maybe you’d like to read one of his already-available novels before the new one comes out? But where to begin? Adrian has written a lot of great novels, by now, so here are just a few suggestions for you to pick from, depending on your tastes. (He has written many more excellent books, but these are just some I think would be good starting points.) Continue reading

Annotated Excerpt: THE RANGER OF MARZANNA by Jon Skovron (Orbit)

SkovronJ-RW1-RangerOfMarzannaUSAs someone obsessed with process, I love reading annotated things. Books, comics, movie commentary, what have you. When trying to understand how to do a thing (say, write a book), it can be invaluable to get that peek behind the curtain. But if there is one thing we can say for certain about the process of writing, it’s that no two writers do it exactly the same. So when you read this annotated excerpt, I invite you not to latch on to any one thing too strongly, and view it merely as one more sample in a vast sea of writing processes.

In this world there are writers who simply sit down and start writing the book from the beginning and eventually come to the end. And that’s the book. Done. One of these “people” is a friend of mine, so I will refrain from saying anything else about this “method” except that it is most certainly not mine. My drafting process is messy and chaotic, and subject to change drastically from one revision to the next as I stumble blindly through those early stages.

For example, the excerpt below is the first chapter of The Ranger of Marzanna, but it was not written first, second, or even third. In fact, I’d written the entire first draft before I realized the beginning was completely broken. Among other things, it needed the proper framing for the world, and a proper introduction to Sonya Turgenev Portinari, who I imagined before I ever thought of the story, or the setting, or the theme, or anything else. Perhaps it’s my acting background, but character always comes first for me.

Anyway, the purpose of this chapter was let the reader know just what kind of world they’re dealing with and what kind of person the world perceived Sonya to be. So with those two goals in mind, let us proceed… Continue reading

Interview with MATTHEW WARD

WardM-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Matthew Ward?

That’s a question that takes a lifetime to answer – halfway through, I’m still not entirely sure. Eccentric? Probably. Introvert? Definitely? Cat Servant? Without question (as I write this, there’s a tabby purring on my knee and pawing at me for attention).

Beyond that? I’m a novelist and freelance creative consultant via dropping out of university before I actually started, followed by a dozen or so years developing game systems, lore and product ranges for Warhammer, Warhammer 40,000 and The Lord of the Rings at Games Workshop.

Your debut novel, Legacy of Ash, is published by Orbit. It looks pretty epic: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

Legacy of Ash is the tale of a new generation fighting the mistakes of the one that came before. It’s character-driven epic fantasy, full of action, intrigue and flawed men and women facing impossible choices. I’ve seen folk favourably compare it to Game of Thrones, with the caveat that it’s light on graphic content/language.

As you say, it’s quite long? I’d encourage anyone intimidated by the length to consider it equivalent to a series of TV – it’s even structured a little that way, if I’m honest. Continue reading

Interview with K.S. VILLOSO

VillosoKS-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is K.S. Villoso?

I’m a Filipino-Canadian living in BC, Canada. When I’m not writing, I’m enjoying my time with family and friends, getting lost in the woods or running around with my dogs. My background is in civil engineering technology, but I foolishly gave all of that up so I could write more books…

Your debut novel, The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, will be published by Orbit in February. It looks really intriguing: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

Let’s take an epic story with high stakes and complex politics like Game of Thrones, and then throw everything but one point-of-view away. Now, let’s make it unfold like a sword-and-sorcery with thriller-like pacing from the perspective of a woman haunted by her failed marriage and her father’s crimes. It is a book of contrasts, all done in a manner to serve this woman’s character arc; love it or hate it, it’s going to make you think. Continue reading

Quick Review/Second Look: THE GAMESHOUSE by Claire North (Orbit)

NorthC-GameshouseNovella triptych released in single, fantastic volume

Everyone has heard of the Gameshouse. But few know all its secrets…

It is the place where fortunes can be made and lost through chess, backgammon — every game under the sun.

But those whom fortune favors may be invited to compete in the higher league… a league where the games played are of politics and empires, of economics and kings. It is a league where Capture the Castle involves real castles, where hide and seek takes place on the scale of a continent.

Among those worthy of competing in the higher league, three unusually talented contestants play for the highest stakes of all…

I first read The Gameshouse when it was released as three novella eBooks: The Serpent, The Thief and The Master. I loved the story then, and it has stuck with me ever since. The release of the omnibus edition gave me an excuse to give it a second look. This is a really good story, and just more evidence of why Claire North is a must-read author. Continue reading

Quick Review: CHILDREN OF RUIN by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Orbit/Tor UK)

Tchaikovsky-C2-ChildrenOfRuinUKThe Children of Time are going on an adventure…

Thousands of years ago, Earth’s terraforming program took to the stars. On the world they called Nod, scientists discovered alien life – but it was their mission to overwrite it with the memory of Earth. Then humanity’s great empire fell, and the program’s decisions were lost to time.

Aeons later, humanity and its new spider allies detected fragmentary radio signals between the stars. They dispatched an exploration vessel, hoping to find cousins from old Earth.

But those ancient terraformers woke something on Nod better left undisturbed.

And it’s been waiting for them.

Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Clarke Award-winning Children of Time is one of my favourite sci-fi novels. When it was announced that he was going to revisit the setting (it was originally meant as a stand-alone, I believe), it was music to my ears. The story is comprised of two threads — one sort-of parallel to the first novel (“past”) and also a continuation of that story (“present”). A substantial tale of exploration, hubris, and contact with others, this is a very good read.

Continue reading

Interview with FONDA LEE

LeeF-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Fonda Lee?

A novelist, martial artist, action movie aficionado, recovering corporate strategist, and Eggs Benedict enthusiast.

Your latest novel, Jade War, was recently published by Orbit – who have also announced the follow-up: Jade Legacy. They are the second and third novel in your Green Bone Saga series. How would you introduce the series to a new reader? And what can fans of the first novel expect from the middle and third books?

The Green Bone Saga is an epic urban fantasy Asia-inspired gangster family saga. I’ve referred to it as “The Godfather with magic and kung fu.” Fans of the first novel can expect the second book, Jade War, to be bigger in every way — not simply in terms of page count, but because the scope of the story broadens onto an international stage. Jade Legacy is going to take place over a longer period of time and gives the conflicts introduced in the earlier books intergenerational aspects and repercussions. Continue reading