Interview with GARETH L. POWELL

PowellGL-AuthorPic2021Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Gareth L. Powell?

I’m an author from Bristol, in the South West of the UK. I’m 50 years old and have two teenage kids. I’ve won the British Science Fiction Association Award for Best Novel twice and been shortlisted for the Locus and Seiun Awards.

Your novel The Recollection celebrates its tenth anniversary this year, and will be re-issued by Solaris. For those who didn’t catch it the first time, how would you introduce it to a potential reader?

The Recollection was my first full-length novel (a shorter novel, Silversands, appeared the year before). It follows the adventures of Ed Rico, a failed artist and London taxi driver as he travels into the future to find his missing brother, and the struggles of Katherine Abdulov, a starship pilot, as she races to a distant planet in order to regain the trust of her powerful family. Continue reading

Quick Review: GATE OF BONES by Andy Clark (Black Library)

ClarkA-WH40k-DoW2-GateOfBonesThe Indomitus Crusade forges ahead

As the Indomitus Crusade begins, fleets of mighty warships leave Terra on a vital quest to stabilise Imperium Sanctus in the wake of the Great Rift. The returned primarch, Roboute Guilliman, leads a huge force towards the shrine world of Gathalamor, where stable warp routes will allow the flotilla to spread across the beleaguered southern half of the Imperium.

But grave tidings reach the Imperial Regent’s ears. Warnings from an ancient race, and eerie silence from the army tasked with holding Gathalamor until his arrival, lead Guilliman to send a reconnaissance mission to the world, at its head, Shield-Captain Achallor of the Adeptus Custodes.

Achallor discovers a world on the brink: a beaten Imperial force and sinister agents of Abaddon the Despoiler who have unearthed an ancient evil – a weapon that when harnessed not only threatens the primarch, but perhaps the holy Throne of Terra itself…

Clark picks up the story where Guy Haley’s Avenging Son left off, and chronicles another early, major engagement of the Indomitus Crusade. Gate of Bones is a solid WH40k novel, one that moves the overall story ahead, but could also work as a stand-alone if you happened to stumble across it. Great characters, good writing. I enjoyed this. Continue reading

Upcoming: THE FIRST OMEGA by Megan O’Keefe (Orbit)

OKeefeM-FirstOmegaYesterday, Orbit unveiled the eye-catching cover for The First Omega by Megan O’Keefe. Described as “Mad Max meets X-Men“, it certainly caught my attention. Check out the synopsis:

It doesn’t matter what you call her. Riley. Burner. She forgot her name long ago. But if you steal from the supply lines crossing the wasteland, her face is the last one you’ll see.

She is the force of nature that keeps the balance in the hot arid desert. Keep to yourself and she’ll leave you well enough alone. But it’s when you try to take more than you can chew that her employers notice and send her off to restore the balance.

Then she gets the latest call. A supply truck knocked over too cleanly. Too precise. And the bodies scattering the wreckage weren’t killed by her normal prey of scavengers. These bodies are already rotting hours after the attack.

Cowering in the corner of the wreckage is a young girl. A girl that shouldn’t be there. A girl with violently blue eyes. Just like hers.

Megan O’Keefe’s The First Omega is due to be published by Orbit Books in North America and in the UK, on March 30th, 2021. Looking forward to reading this.

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Quick Review: AVENGING SON by Guy Haley (Black Library)

HaleyG-DoF1-AvengingSonGo back to the start of the Indomitus Campaign…

As the Indomitus Crusade spreads out across the galaxy, one battlefleet must face a dread Slaughter Host of Chaos. Their success or failure may define the very future of the crusade – and the Imperium.

A great darkness has befallen the galaxy, and the armies of Chaos are rampant. To survive, humanity must retaliate and take back what they have lost. By the will of the reborn primarch, Roboute Guilliman, is the Indomitus Crusade launched – a military undertaking that eclipses all others in known history. From the Throneworld of Terra does the Avenging Son hurl his fleets, their mission the very salvation of mankind.

As vessels in their thousands burn through the cold void, the attention of Fleetmistress VanLeskus turns to the Machorta Sound – a region under attack by a dreaded Slaughter Host of the Dark Gods. The success of the Indomitus Crusade will be determined by this conflict, and the desperate mission of Battlegroup Saint Aster, led by Space Marine Lieutenant Messinius. Even then it is but a prelude to the forthcoming bloodshed.

Avenging Son is the first novel in a new nine-part series, which tells the story of Roboute Guilliman’s Indomitus Crusade. I was surprised when this series was announced, set as it is prior to Haley’s Dark Imperium novels. Originally pitched as the start of the “new” WH40k meta-story, and set during the Indomitus Crusade, the Dark Imperium novels dropped readers into the action some decades into the Crusade. So, the fact that Black Library commissioned this series, before the Dark Imperium trilogy was completed, was interesting: perhaps they thought they needed to go back, fill in a bunch of details in order to better-situated fans of the franchise? No idea. Regardless, it’s a strong start to a series, and I enjoyed it. Continue reading

Upcoming: THE 22 MURDERS OF MADISON MAY by Max Barry (G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Hodder)

BarryM-22MurdersOfMadisonMayUSThis summer, readers will get a new novel from Max Barry. The first of Barry’s novels that I read was Lexicon, back in 2013. I really enjoyed it, and set about reading anything else of his I could find (I’d also recommend Jennifer Government). Last year’s Providence was also pretty good. Each of his novels has been interesting and imaginative, so I’m always keen to try his latest book. His new book, The 22 Murders of Madison May sounds pretty interesting:

A mind-bending speculative psychological suspense about a serial killer pursuing his victim across time and space, and the woman who is determined to stop him, even if it upends her own reality.

“I love you. In every world.”

Young real estate agent Madison May is shocked when a client at an open house says these words to her. The man, a stranger, seems to know far too much about her, and professes his love — shortly before he murders her.

Felicity Staples hates reporting on murders. As a journalist for a midsize New York City paper, she knows she must take on the assignment to research Madison May’s shocking murder, but the crime seems random and the suspect is in the wind. That is, until Felicity spots the killer on the subway, right before he vanishes.

Soon, Felicity senses her entire universe has shifted. No one remembers Madison May, or Felicity’s encounter with the mysterious man. And her cat is missing. Felicity realizes that in her pursuit of Madison’s killer, she followed him into a different dimension—one where everything about her existence is slightly altered. At first, she is determined to return to the reality she knows, but when Madison May — in this world, a struggling actress — is murdered again, Felicity decides she must find the killer—and learns that she is not the only one hunting him.

Traveling through different realities, Felicity uncovers the opportunity — and danger — of living more than one life.

Max Barry’s The 22 Murders of Madison May is due to be published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons in North America (July 6th) and Hodder in the UK (July 8th).

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Upcoming: THE PAST IS RED by Catherynne M. Valente (Tor.com)

ValenteCM-PastIsRedThis summer, Tor.com are due to publish The Past is Red, an intriguing-looking new post-eco-apocalypse sci-fi novella by Catherynne M. Valente. Check out the synopsis:

The enchanting, dark, funny, angry story of a girl who made two terrible mistakes: she told the truth and she dared to love the world.

The future is blue. Endless blue… except for a few small places that float across the hot, drowned world left behind by long-gone fossil fuel-guzzlers. One of those patches is a magical place called Garbagetown.

Tetley Abednego is the most beloved girl in Garbagetown, but she’s the only one who knows it. She’s the only one who knows a lot of things: that Garbagetown is the most wonderful place in the world, that it’s full of hope, that you can love someone and 66% hate them all at the same time.

But Earth is a terrible mess, hope is a fragile thing, and a lot of people are very angry with her. Then Tetley discovers a new friend, a terrible secret, and more to her world than she ever expected.

Catherynne M. Valente’s The Past is Red is due to be published by Tor.com in North America and in the UK, on July 20th, 2021.

Also on CR: Interview with Catherynne Valente (2012); Guest Post on “The Long Orbit of Radiance

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Quick Review: A PSALM FOR THE WILD-BUILT by Becky Chambers (Tor.com)

ChambersB-M&R1-APsalmForTheWildBuiltA monk and a robot go for a wander in the woods(ish)…

It’s been centuries since the robots of Earth gained self-awareness and laid down their tools; centuries since they wandered, en masse, into the wilderness, never to be seen again; centuries since they faded into myth and urban legend.

One day, the life of a tea monk is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honor the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of “what do people need?” is answered.

But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how.

They’re going to need to ask it a lot.

This novella was a great, pleasant surprise. It’s quite a small story, but one that takes a look at some pretty big questions. Its two main characters are fantastic, and is a breath of fresh air in today’s rather bleak times. I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Upcoming: STRANGE BEASTS OF CHINA by Yan Ge (Melville House/Tilted Axis Press)

YanGe-StrangeBeastsOfChinaUSI first spotted Yan Ge‘s new novel on NetGalley — I’ll admit, it was the cover that caught my attention. Strange Beasts of China has an intriguing premise, as well, and I’m really looking forward to reading it. First published in 2006 as 异兽志, it’s finally getting an English-language edition. Here’s the synopsis:

A disquieting bestiary that blurs the line between human and beast from one of most exciting voices in contemporary Chinese literature

YanGe-StrangeBeastsOfChinaUKIn the fictional Chinese town of Yong’an, monsters and spirits live, almost indistinguishable, alongside humans. Strange Beasts of China follows the narrator, an amateur cryptozoologist, as she attempts to document each type of beast with the help of her former professor and his enigmatic assistant. From the Sacrificial Beasts, who can’t stop dying, to the Heartsick Beasts, who are genetically engineered to be as loyal and loving as possible, each chapter introduces a new beast and dives deeper into a mystery that threatens the narrator’s very sense of self.

In prose that is both whimsical and daring, Yan Ge guides the reader through the underbelly of a chillingly uncanny world and questions what it really means to be human.

Strange Beasts of China is due to be published by Melville House in North America (July 2021), and is published in the UK by Tilted Axis Press (out now).

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Q&A with BRUCE STERLING

SterlingB-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Bruce Sterling?

Well, at the present moment, I’m some unshaven guy in his mid-sixties surviving a global pandemic in Ibiza while wearing house slippers, linen pajama pants and a poncho.

Your latest book, Robot Artists and Black Swans, will be published by Tachyon in March 2021. It looks really interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader?

It’s a literary conceptual-art piece. I was an American science fiction writer spending time in Italy, so I naturally thought, “I should write some science fiction about Italy!”

But then I surmised: “What kind of science fiction would I write if I myself was Italian?” Then, instead of me peering through a keyhole as a puzzled foreigner, it was like a vast door had opened up into the marbled streets. Continue reading

Quick Review: FURY OF MAGNUS by Graham McNeill (Black Library)

McNeillG-HHSoTN2-FuryOfMagnusMagnus faces a decision that could tip the balance of the entire Horus Heresy

Of all the Emperor’s sons who fell to Chaos, it is perhaps Magnus the Red whose tale is the most tragic. Sanctioned because of his desire for knowledge, chastised, judged, and shattered to his very elements – there is much for the Crimson King to feel vengeful for.

Yet revenge is not the only thing that draws him to Terra alongside the Warmaster’s besieging armies. He seeks something, a fragment, the missing piece of himself that lies within the most impregnable place on the planet – the inner sanctum of the Imperial Palace. As the greatest conflict of the ages reaches fever pitch, Magnus fights his own inner battle.

To be whole once more, he must not only overcome the fiercest of defences, but also face the one being whom he loves and hates with equal fervour more than any other – his errant father, the Emperor of Mankind.

In Fury of Magnus, his second novella set during the Siege of Terra, Graham McNeill brings Magnus the Red’s story to an end, of sorts. A story the author has been telling for a few years, now (starting with the superb A Thousand Sons), this final chapter contains some surprises, some great action, and ultimately a devastating choice. Magnus remains one of the most interesting characters in the Horus Heresy, and I think McNeill has done him justice. I enjoyed this. Continue reading