Guest Post: “Looking for God in Melnibone Places : Fantasy and Religion” by Adrian Tchaikovsky

TchaikovskyA-AuthorPicI ran a workshop at a convention last year on world building. It would be accurate to say that it was a section of a world building workshop I’ve been running for several years, because whenever I set out a bunch of topics, I generally manage about a third of them before we get hung up on something, and the rest never gets touched.

This time round, I dived into social conventions: governments, class systems, and then we hit the brick wall of religion and that is where the discussion firmly stayed.

This recurred to me while editing The Tiger and the Wolf because one of the main ways this series differs from Shadows of the Apt is the spiritual dimension. The insect-kinden of Shadows are aware of the concept of gods but have no truck with the idea. Their attitude to the numinous (those who can even conceive of it) is as something to master and control, not appease or worship. For Tiger I wanted to explore a culture that lived in constant dialogue with the spiritual. The various tribes’ ability to shapeshift is the cornerstone of a religion that, though it finds different expressions in different tribes, links them all together with a common cosmology. Continue reading

New Year, New Books… (Dec/Jan)

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Featuring: Megan Abbott, Kate Atkinson, John Ayliff, Elizabeth Brundage, M.R. Carey, Mike Carey, Linda Carey, Louise Carey, John Connolly, A.M. Dellamonica, Tim Federle, Patrick Gale, Addison Gunn, Antonia Hayes, Jeff Mariotte, K.S. Merbeth, Maggie Mitchell, Sarah Pinborough, Jennifer Ridyard, Marsheila Rockwell, James Rollins, Lilith Saintcrow, Emily Schultz, Peter Tieryas

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New Books (August-September)

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Featuring: Paul Cornell, Patrick DeWitt, John French, John Grisham, Garth Risk Hallberg, Lauren Holmes, Chrissie Hynde, Michael Livingston, Jonathan Maberry, Joel McIver, Patrick Ness, Nnedi Okorafor, K.J. Parker, Daniel Polansky, Alter S. Reiss, Geoff Renoff, Anthony Reynolds, Jeffrey Rotter, F. Wesley Schneider, Angela Slatter, A.J. Smith, Sylvia Spruck Wrigley, Patrick S. Tomlinson, Michael R. Underwood, Matt Wallace, Chuck Wendig, Kai Ashante Wilson, Tom Wood, Sunil Yapa

LokiOooh Continue reading

New Books (July)

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Featuring: Libba Bray, Mason Cross, Max Gladstone, Christie Golden, John Gwynne, Louisa Hall, Benedict Jacka, Mike Lawson, James Luceno, Maggie Mitchell, Jamie Schultz, Django Wexler, Chris Wraight Continue reading

New Books (2015 Inaugural Edition)

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Featuring: Louis Bayard, Pierce Brown, Gail Carriger, Tom Doyle, Alan Finn, James Grady, Simon R. Green, Kevin Hearne, Jim C. Hines, Deborath Install, Ha Jin, Michael Moorcock, Haruki Murakami, Daniel José Older, Anthony Reynolds, Brandon Sanderson, Beth Shapiro, Brian Staveley, Olen Steinhauer, Ferrett Steinmetz, Duane Swierczynski, David Walton, Susan Wilkins Continue reading

New Books (November #2)

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Featuring: Poul Anderson, David Baldacci, Elizabeth Bear, James Enge, Chris Evans, Michel Faber, John French, Joe Haldeman, James M. Hough, Jonathan & Jesse Kellerman, John Love, Brandon Sanderson, Gav Thorpe, Olivier Truc Continue reading

New Books (October)

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Featuring: Neal Asher, Paolo Bacigalupi, Marie Brennan, Genevieve Cogman, Brian Cox, William Gibson, Mira Grant, Kate Griffin, John Grisham, Nicholas Kaufmann, Jasper Kent, Stephen King, Ben Lerner, Peyton Marshall, Mark Charan Newton, Anne Rice, Justin Richards, Sebastian Rotella, Patrick Rothfuss, John Sandford & Michele Cook, Wilbur Smith, Edward St. Aubyn, Sam Sykes, Kazuaki Takano, Lynne Truss, John Twelve Hawks, Simon Unsworth, Debbie Viguie, SJ Watson

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Review: LOCK IN by John Scalzi (Gollancz/Tor)

Scalzi-LockInA solid sci-fi crime thriller

Imagine a plague that incapacitates almost 1.7 million people — and now imagine a cure that is even worse.

Fifteen years from now, a new virus sweeps the globe. 95% of those afflicted experience nothing worse than fever and headaches. 4% suffer acute meningitis, creating the largest medical crisis in history. And 1% find themselves “locked in” — fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus.

1% doesn’t seem like a lot. But in the US that’s 1.7 million people “locked in” — including the President’s wife and daughter.

Spurred by grief and the sheer magnitude of the suffering, America undertakes a massive scientific initiative. Nothing can fully restore the locked in. But then two new technologies emerge. One is a virtual-reality environment, “The Agora”, where the locked-in can interact with other humans, whether locked-in or not. The other is the discovery that a few rare individuals have brains that are receptive to being controlled by others, allowing those who are locked in to occasionally “ride” these people and use their bodies as if they were their own.

This skill is quickly regulated, licensed, bonded, and controlled. Nothing can go wrong. Certainly nobody would be tempted to misuse it, for murder, for political power, or worse…

Another very good novel from John Scalzi, offering an excellent blend of two genres. In Lock In, Scalzi takes core elements of the crime/conspiracy thriller and injects some excellent techno-sci-fi elements reminiscent of Surrogates and I, Robot. I enjoyed this. Continue reading

Upcoming: “The Emperor’s Blades” by Brian Staveley (Tor UK & US)

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I thought I had missed all mention of this book until today, when Tor UK unveiled the new cover art (left). The Emperor’s Blades is the first book in Brian Staveley’s Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, and it sounds pretty interesting. As it turned out, though, I’d caught a glimpse of the US cover art a couple of months back (on the right). Of the two, I think I prefer the UK cover, but the US one isn’t exactly hideous. The UK one is very, well, “typical” of the way fantasy and medieval-fiction covers have been developing over the past couple of years, but I do like the colouring.

Check out the synopsis…

The circle is closing. The stakes are high. And old truths will live again.

The Emperor has been murdered, leaving the Annurian Empire in turmoil. Now his progeny must bury their grief and prepare to unmask a conspiracy. His son Valyn, training for the empire’s deadliest fighting force, hears the news an ocean away. He expected a challenge, but after several ‘accidents’ and a dying soldier’s warning, he realizes his life is also in danger. Yet before Valyn can take action, he must survive the mercenaries’ brutal final initiation.

Meanwhile, the Emperor’s daughter, Minister Adare, hunts her father’s murderer in the capital itself. Court politics can be fatal, but she needs justice. And Kaden, heir to the empire, studies in a remote monastery. Here, the Blank God’s disciples teach their harsh ways – which Kaden must master to unlock their ancient powers. When an imperial delegation arrives, he’s learnt enough to perceive evil intent. But will this keep him alive, as long-hidden powers make their move?

Brian Staveley’s The Emperor’s Blades is due to be published in January 2014. I’m very much looking forward to reading it.

Upcoming: “Art of Hunting” by Alan Campbell (Tor)

Campbell-GC2-ArtOfHuntingThe first novel in Alan Campbell’s Gravedigger Chronicles, Sea of Ghosts, is one of my favourite novels from 2011. After reading that, though, I haven’t heard much at all from Mr. Campbell. The author, who also wrote the Deepgate Codex trilogy – Scar Night, Iron Angel and God of Clocks – is an fabulously talented fellow, in my opinion, and I’ve been desperately keeping my eyes open for information about his next novel. (Interestingly, or perhaps weirdly, I was reading his blog before I ever started this one. His and Joe Abercrombie’s… Anyway.)

Thanks to a work-requirement to read Locus magazine, I spotted a mention that Alan Campbell’s Art of Hunting is on its way, and it is the sequel to Sea of Ghosts! This has made me ridiculously happy (and impatient). Here’s the synopsis…

The Haurstaf have been decimated. The Unmer have seized the palace at Awl. Ianthe’s father carries her to safety. But she is not interested in a life of treasure hunting with him. She returns to the palace, hoping to find the Unmer prince with whom she shared some of her darkest moments.

Prince Paulus Marquetta discovers a friend and ally in Ianthe, albeit a dangerous one. She has the power to destroy his mind with a single thought, and yet she herself remains at risk from his own innate sorcerous abilities. The handsome young prince could murder her with a simple touch.

Briana Marks, meanwhile, has escaped with her life. Fearful of Marquetta’s rule, she travels to the Dragon Isles to seek out the exiled Unmer lord, Argusto Conquillas and beg him to help her assassinate Ianthe. When Granger learns of this plot to kill his daughter, he must use every scrap of his resourcefulness and cunning to protect her.

Maskelyne returns to Scythe Island to study the crystal he plucked from the wreckage of the Unmer chariot. The artifact leads him to discover exactly why the Drowned continue to deposit thousands upon thousands of keys on the beach beneath his fortress. The Unmer, in their quest to unlock the secrets of the universe, forged a monster. Now Maskelyne knows where this thing is imprisoned…

Art of Hunting is due out in November 2013, published by Tor in the UK.