Interview with TYRELL JOHNSON

JohnsonT-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Tyrell Johnson?

Well, my Twitter bio says I’m a father, husband, writer, editor, and donkey trainer. So at least a few of those things MUST be true.

Your new novel, The Wolves of Winter, will be published by HQ this month. It looks rather fabulous: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

It’s a post-apocalyptic thriller about a young woman surviving in the Yukon wilderness with her family. When she encounters a strange man in the wilderness, his dark past calls her to a role she never imagined. I’d love to announce that it’s part of a series, but since nothing is “in the books” yet, I don’t want to jump the gun. Continue reading

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Quick Review: THE EMPEROR’S RAILROAD by Guy Haley (Tor.com)

HaleyG-EmperorsRailroadAn interesting new post-apocalyptic series

Global war devastated the environment, a zombie-like plague wiped out much of humanity, and civilization as we once understood it came to a standstill. But that was a thousand years ago, and the world is now a very different place.

Conflict between city states is constant, superstition is rife, and machine relics, mutant creatures and resurrected prehistoric beasts trouble the land. Watching over all are the silent Dreaming Cities. Homes of the angels, bastion outposts of heaven on Earth. Or so the church claims. Very few go in, and nobody ever comes out.

Until now…

This is an interesting novella, and one that shows a lot of potential for expansion. (According to the author, it is first in a possible/planned series of stories.) The story is told from the perspective of Abney, one of the travellers to whom the knight on the cover attaches himself. The three are travelling cross-country: the mother and son are trying to reach Winfort, an outpost in which a distant relative lives. Quinn, the knight’s motivation is shrouded in mystery, and pretty much remains so at the end of the novella. This is no bad thing, as it gives us a little hint as to what we should expect from upcoming stories in this setting. Abney recounts their journey, and offers us an introduction to the setting and characters — we don’t get too much, but we start to see their characters take shape, and in the process some tantalizing hints about how the world got to this state.

The biggest surprise for me was that the railroad in the title was… pretty much absent from the story. Not strictly speaking a bad thing, but an odd decision, given the title. The story does, however, have angels, dragons and some excellent tension. It’s a somewhat slow-burn, and is clearly setting things up for future adventures. It’s pretty satisfying, though.

If you enjoy post-apocalyptic stories, then this is a must-read. Very good.

The Emperor’s Railroad is published by Tor.com in April 2016.

Also on CR: Interview with Guy Haley

Guest Post/Excerpt: HOUSE OF SHATTERED WINGS by Aliette de Bodard

deBodard-AuthorPicThe Great Houses war is a central part of the book, though by necessity it’s always seen in flashbacks, as it took place sixty years before the events of the novel. It’s left marks on everyone, and of course it has also devastated Paris and given rise to the city in the book, a dystopic place where people cling to the Great Houses as their only source of safety. This scene is one of the strongest reminiscences from Philippe, who actually fought in it.

It also contains what is possibly my favourite lines in the book: the “magicians turned into soldiers… our best men turned into corpses”, which was one of those gifts from the muse: it came straight into the first draft and hasn’t really moved since.

The war. Philippe thought of the clamor of explosions; of huddling in the doorways of ruined buildings, peering at the sky to judge the best moment to rush out; of his lieutenant in House colors, urging them to lay down their lives for the good of the city; of his squad mates buried in nameless graves, on the edge of Place de la République. Ai Linh, who had had a laughter like a donkey, and always shared her biscuits with everyone else; Hoang, who liked to gamble too much; Phuong, who told hair-raising stories in the barracks after all lights had been turned off. “I don’t know what the war was like, inside the Houses,” he said, and it was almost the truth. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Don’t Hold the Horses” by Arianne “Tex” Thompson

ThompsonAT-AuthorPicYou know how there’s this one genre that we call “swords and horses” fantasy? It’s a heck of a thing. They’re kind of the PB&J of old-school fantasy: tasty, familiar, and they go so well together. But it’s not exactly an even relationship, is it?

I mean, the swords – let’s be real, The Sword – gets all kinds of literary limelight. It’s got a name, a big ol’ backstory, some awesomesweet epic powers, and probably a good chunk of the hero’s destiny riding around in its carbon-steel interior. More often than not, that sucker actually drives the plot.

So why no love for the horses? Size, sex, color, and that’s it. Maybe a name, if it’s going to be a long-term fixture, and not stolen by goblins or eaten by were-possums at the end of the first act. But unless the horse is some kind of magical creature (with a big tip o’ the hat to Misty Lackey’s Heralds of Valdemar series!), you can almost guarantee that it’s just a half-ton inventory item – as if only the fantasy elements of a fantasy story are allowed to be interesting or important.

I vote we change that. And I think a lot of writers would be up for trying – it’s just that we’re not really sure how. After all, most of us don’t live within thirty miles of a horse, nevermind own or ride one. The only time pop culture shows them to us as characters in their own right is either when they’re the focal point of the story (Black Beauty, Seabiscuit, etc.) or else when someone’s following the “basically furry humans with speech impediments” Disney sidekick model. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Anarchy Sucks” by Gail Z. Martin

0061-eWomenNetworkWar of Shadows is the newest book in my Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, tracing the struggle of disgraced lord Blaine McFadden and his convict friends, as they attempt to restore control over magic and reinstate the rule of law in the devastated kingdom of Donderath. It’s the third book in the series, and with rival warlords and rogue mages competing for control over Donderath’s ruins, there’s action and intrigue aplenty.

Underneath this all is a heartfelt conviction, born out of a lifelong study of history, that anarchy sucks.

The suckishness of anarchy seems up for debate. It’s quite trendy these days to loudly announce “we don’t need no stinkin’ government”. Sometimes, the announcement comes from people well-heeled enough to wall themselves in secure enclaves and protect their interests with private armies of security guards. On the other end of the spectrum are live-off-the-land survivalist types who believe that some canned food, a trout stream and several thousand rounds of ammunition are all that’s needed to live the good life. Continue reading

Review: IMPACT by Adam Baker (Hodder)

BakerA-4-ImpactUKSuperb fourth novel in Baker’s horror survival series

The world is overrun by an unimaginable horror. The few surviving humans are scattered in tiny outposts across the world, hoping for reprieve – or death. Waiting on the runway of the abandoned Las Vegas airport sits the B-52 bomber Liberty Bell, revving up for its last, desperate mission. On board – five crew members and one 10-kiloton nuclear payload. The target is a secret compound in the middle of the world’s most inhospitable desert.

All the crew have to do is drop the bomb and head to safety.

But when the Liberty Bell crashes, the surviving crew are stranded in the most remote corner of Death Valley. They’re alone in an alien environment, their only shelter the wreckage of their giant aircraft, with no hope of rescue. And death is creeping towards them from the place they sought to destroy – and may already reside beneath their feet in the burning desert sands.

Impact is the gripping, suspenseful fourth novel set in Baker’s post-apocalyptic reality. Everything I liked about Terminus, the previous novel in the series, is evident here: the tightly-plotted story, the stripped-down prose, realistic characters, sinister atmosphere, and addictive, chilling suspense. From the first page until the last, I was hooked. Continue reading

Short Fiction Review: “The Bloody Deluge” by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Abaddon)

Various-JournalOfThePlagueYearA very good post-apocalyptic story from the author of the Shadows of the Apt series

WHEN THE WORLD ENDED…

The Cull swept the world in the early years of the twenty-first century, killing billions and ending civilisation as we know it. Only a fortunate few, blessed with the right blood, were spared. But in times of need, heroes rise. Leaders, soldiers, rebels – even children – take a stand, to hold back the tide of savagery and set a light in the darkness…

Katy Lewkowitz and her friend and old tutor Dr. Emil Weber, fleeing the depredations of the so-called New Teutonic Order, take refuge among the strangely anachronistic survivors at the monastery of Jasna Góra in Western Poland. A battle of faith ensues, that could decide the future of humankind…

This is the first non-fantasy story of Tchaikovsky’s that I’ve read. It is also the first story I’ve read from Abaddon Books’ Afterblight series. With that in mind, I approached it concerned that I would be lost, missing important backstory and context for this post-apocalyptic world. However, I was very pleased to discover that this works perfectly well without past experience with the series. It’s very well-written, and moves at a pretty brisk pace. This is a good story.

Tchaikovsky’s characters are well-drawn and realistic, not to mention plenty of shades of grey. The role of religion in the story was interesting, and I liked the way the author showed how religious organisations could develop in multiple, conflicting ways when presented with the end of the world. Here, we have an Order that seems to feed of the worst historical characteristics of organised religion, fuelled and worsened by intolerance and bigotry. On the flip side, the group occupying Jasna Góra are far more accepting and focused on good works and charity.

There’s an interesting blend of historical/fantasy and post-apocalypse, here, which can be seen most clearly during the siege – bows and arrows from the walls compete against motorbike-mounted “knights” and a tank. Really enjoyed that about this story, the way the future and advancement of the human race came crashing to a halt in the wake of the Cull.

Speaking of bows, I think the only thing that didn’t work for me was Katy’s rather bizarre confusion, when she realised that the people at Jasna Góra used bows for fighting, and not just hunting. For a British-educated postgraduate, the idea that she would have been unaware of archers’ role in warfare was somewhat baffling.

Overall, then, this is not only a good new direction for Tchaikovsky, but also a good introduction (and, no doubt, continuation) of Abaddon Books’ Afterblight series.

It’s not as assured as Tchaikovsky’s Shadows of the Apt epic fantasy series (one that I am woefully behind on, but which comes to an end this year), and I think I preferred his writing and style in that series. Nevertheless, that should not discount The Bloody Deluge – it’s a solid example of post-apocalyptic fiction. If you’re a fan of the genre, then I think you’ll enjoy this, too.

*

You can read an interview with Adrian about this story, here.

The Bloody Deluge has been collected in the Journal of the Plague Year anthology. Here’s the synopsis for the other two stories therein:

Journal of the Plague Year offers three new tales from across the world of The Afterblight Chronicles, from the International Space Station to the wilds of the Australian Outback and beyond.

In Malcolm Cross’s Orbital Decay, the team in the Space Station watch helplessly as the world is all but wiped out. Exiled from Earth, astronaut Alvin Burrows must solve the mystery of the “Pandora” experiment, even as someone on the station takes to murdering the crew one by one.

In C. B. Harvey’s Dead Kelly, fugitive and convict Kelly McGuire returns to the lawless city of Melbourne to be revenged on his old gangmates, and, ultimately, to reveal his own terrible destiny.