Interview with KRISTYN MERBETH

MerbethK-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Kristyn Merbeth?

Hi! I’m an author, gamer, and SFF enthusiast. When I’m not writing or reading, I’m often playing video games, board games, or Dungeons & Dragons. I also love to cook, and my latest hobby is making alcoholic ice cream.

Memoria, your second Nova Vita Protocol novel, is due to be published by Orbit in December. How would you introduce the series to a potential reader? What can fans of the first novel, Fortuna, expect from the follow-up?

My usual quick pitch is “a dysfunctional family of smugglers in space!” The five human-settled planets of Nova Vita are all close enough to see one another clearly in the skies above, but a long history of distrust has led to laws that make traveling between them nearly impossible. Fortuna is one of the last remaining ships that can cross otherwise-closed borders — which the Kaiser family uses to smuggle illegal goods between the planets. But when the family is drawn into a messy interplanetary conflict, the two eldest siblings – broody soldier and former golden child Corvus and troublemaking, fast-talking scapegoat Scorpia — are faced with a choice about which of them will inherit the ship, and where they will lead the family if the system goes to war. Continue reading

Upcoming: SON OF THE STORM by Suyi Davies Okungbowa (Orbit)

OkungbowaSD-NR1-SonOfTheStormUSNext year, Orbit Books is due to publish Son of the Storm, the first novel in Suyi Davies Okungbowa‘s Nameless Republic trilogy. Pitched as “a sweeping tale of violent conquest and forbidden magic set in a world inspired by the pre-colonial empires of West Africa,” I’m really looking forward to reading this. (Also, that’s a great cover.) Here’s the full synopsis:

In the thriving city of Bassa, Danso is a clever but disillusioned scholar who longs for a life beyond the rigid family and political obligations expected of the city’s elite. A way out presents itself when Lilong, a skin-changing warrior, shows up wounded in his barn. She comes from the Nameless Islands — which, according to Bassa lore, don’t exist — and neither should the mythical magic of ibor she wields.

Now swept into a conspiracy far beyond his understanding, Danso and Lilong will set out on a journey that reveals histories violently suppressed and magic only found in lore.

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Suyi Davies Okungbowa’s Son of the Storm is due to be published by Orbit Books on May 11th, 2021, in North America and in the UK. The author’s debut novel, David Mogo Godhunter is out now, and recommended.

Also on CR: Interview with Suyi Davies Okungbowa (2019)

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via NetGalley

Very Quick Review: THE DOORS OF EDEN by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Orbit/Tor UK)

TchaikovskyA-DoorsOfEdenUSAn intriguing, twisty portal fantasy

They thought we were safe. They were wrong.

Four years ago, two girls went looking for monsters on Bodmin Moor. Only one came back.

Lee thought she’d lost Mal, but now she’s miraculously returned. But what happened that day on the moors? And where has she been all this time? Mal’s reappearance hasn’t gone unnoticed by MI5 officers either, and Lee isn’t the only one with questions.

Julian Sabreur is investigating an attack on top physicist Kay Amal Khan. This leads Julian to clash with agents of an unknown power – and they may or may not be human. His only clue is grainy footage, showing a woman who supposedly died on Bodmin Moor.

Dr Khan’s research was theoretical; then she found cracks between our world and parallel Earths. Now these cracks are widening, revealing extraordinary creatures. And as the doors crash open, anything could come through.

In his latest novel, Adrian Tchaikovsky takes his imagination into a new area of SFF: portal fantasy. It quickly becomes clear that this is more evidence that the author really can turn his hand to anything. An intriguing mix of mystery, fantasy and science fiction. I enjoyed this. Continue reading

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