Review: TROPIC OF KANSAS by Christopher Brown (Voyager)

brownc-tropicofkansasusA terrifyingly realistic dystopian novel

The United States of America is no more. Broken into warring territories, its center has become a wasteland DMZ known as “the Tropic of Kansas.” Though this gaping geographic hole has no clear boundaries, everyone knows it’s out there — that once-bountiful part of the heartland, broken by greed and exploitation, where neglect now breeds unrest. Two travelers appear in this arid American wilderness: Sig, the fugitive orphan of political dissidents, and his foster sister Tania, a government investigator whose search for Sig leads her into her own past — and towards an unexpected future.

Sig promised those he loves that he would make it to the revolutionary redoubt of occupied New Orleans. But first he must survive the wild edgelands of a barren mid-America policed by citizen militias and autonomous drones, where one wrong move can mean capture… or death. One step behind, undercover in the underground, is Tania. Her infiltration of clandestine networks made of old technology and new politics soon transforms her into the hunted one, and gives her a shot at being the agent of real change — if she is willing to give up the explosive government secrets she has sworn to protect.

As brother and sister traverse these vast and dangerous badlands, their paths will eventually intersect on the front lines of a revolution whose fuse they are about to light.

As the news is filled with stories of creeping fascism, an increase in the militarization of police forces, and a “fortress America” mentality settling in for those on the right (although, mostly, it’s anyone who voted for Donald Trump), this novel feels frighteningly realistic. It is also very good. Continue reading

Interview with ANNA SMITH SPARK

anna-smith-spark-author-photo-1Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Anna Smith Spark?

I tweet as QueenofGrimdark, I’m an ex-fetish model, and I have a PhD in Victorian occultism.

No, honestly.

I’m a fantasy novelist from London, UK.  I have a background in history and literature: I studied Classical History for my BA, Cultural History for my MA and English Literature for my PhD. Which really was about Victorian occultism, looking at the way it intersected with the physical sciences and with politics. My only real interests in life are history, mythology and literature. I spent several years as an obsessive D&D player, but sadly no longer play. I’m obsessed with Warhammer miniatures as well (Chaos Warriors … oh. Oh oh oh), but don’t actually play Warhammer either. Continue reading

Upcoming in 2017… Harper Voyager

upcoming2017-voyager

Tricky to find information about Voyager UK titles, unless they’re already established authors (Mark Lawrence, Richard Kadrey, etc.). So, this post features predominantly titles published in both North America and the UK.

Featuring: Christopher Brown, Becky Chambers, Nicky Drayden, Patrick Hemstreet, Richard Kadrey, Mark Lawrence, Wesley Snipes

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Quick Review: ZEN IN THE ART OF WRITING by Ray Bradbury (Voyager)

bradburyr-zenintheartofwritingukA collection of articles and essays from the author of Fahrenheit 451

In this exuberant book, the incomparable Ray Bradbury shares the wisdom, experience, and excitement of a lifetime of writing.

The first thing a writer should be is – excited

Author of the iconic FAHRENHEIT 451, THE ILLUSTRATED MAN and THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, Ray Bradbury is one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century.

Part memoir, part masterclass, ZEN IN THE ART OF WRITING offers a vivid and exuberant insight into the craft of writing. Bradbury reveals how writers can each find their own unique path to developing their voice and style.

ZEN IN THE ART OF WRITING offers a celebration of the act of writing that will delight, impassion, and inspire.

I picked this up on a whim the other week, while enjoying a books-about-writing binge. The prolific Bradbury seemed like a good bet for an interesting book about writing, and I wasn’t disappointed. This is a lively (perhaps almost hyperactive, in some sections) about the joy of fiction and writing. It is not a how-to book, although there is plenty of general advice. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Some Thoughts on Fantasy Series & Stand Alones” by Blake Charlton

charltonb-authorpic“Is this book a standalone or the third in your trilogy?” A question that I’ve had to address since the publication of my latest book, Spellbreaker. The answer, perhaps confusingly, is yes. When justifying this answer, I’ve done a lot of thinking about the way stories are told in series, particularly in epic fantasy.

I don’t think too many will disagree that in the traditional conception of epic fantasy, the use of a series of books is a logistical necessity, not an aesthetic choice. The Lord of the Rings, of course, was written as one book (to rule them all?) and broken into three only because the printing, binding, and shipping costs would have been prohibitive. This precedent created the current expectation that every book in an epic fantasy series will be the immediate continuation of the last. Since the 1980s, the majority of successful fantasy series have done exactly that. There are many, well-known advantages to this approach; it allows for intricate exploration of subplots; it proves continuous and detailed character development; it creates an experience in which the reader traverses an epic number of pages that mirrors the characters’ journey across and among an epic number of landscapes and cultures. The grandmasters do so effortlessly and with style. Continue reading

Interview with EMMI ITÄRANTA

ItarantaE-AuthorPic2Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Emmi Itäranta?

I’m a Finnish writer living in the UK. I have written two novels to date: Memory of Water and The City of Woven Streets, which is out in the UK on 2 June 2016. I write in two languages, English and Finnish.

Voyager has just published your new novel, The City of Woven Streets. It looks fantastic: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

Thank you! The City of Woven Streets is a story set on an isolated island where dreaming is forbidden. The main character, Eliana, is a young woman who works as a weaver; she is also a dreamer, and she must hide this ability, because in her society it’s a taboo. Her life changes when she finds a woman with her tongue cut off and Eliana’s name tattooed on her skin. It’s a stand-alone novel. Continue reading

Interview with HELEN LOWE

LoweH-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction, for new readers: Who is Helen Lowe?

Thank you, for hosting me on Civilian Reader, Stefan. In terms of “who I am”: I’m a novelist, poet, and occasional interviewer. So far, the only idea I’ve ever had for a novel has come to me in speculative fiction mode, i.e. as fantasy, science fiction, or legendary history, but I write short fiction in a wider range of genres. Outside of writing, I live in “Middle Earth”, aka New Zealand, and I am interested in a range of “stuff”, from astronomy and history, through martial arts, to wine – especially NZ wines – and making and consuming food, the latter in the company of friends whenever possible.

Your latest novel, Daughter of Blood, was published earlier this year by Orbit (UK) and Voyager (US). It’s the third in your fantasy series, but how would you introduce the series to a potential reader?

Well, the Twitter-length synopsis for the series is that it’s a story about a people who believe themselves to be champions of good but are divided by prejudice, suspicion, and fear. (Not to mention xenophobic, socially rigid, and prone to fratricidal blood feuds.) They are also alien to the world they inhabit (Haarth), so there’s an SF-nal element there. The Wall of Night series is a single story told in four distinct parts, but it centres on a young woman, Malian of Night (think ‘princess’, not ‘farm girl’), who must attempt to reunite her fractured people (the Derai) and restore their abandoned magic, as well as building alliances with the other cultures of Haarth, in order to prevent the world being destroyed by (another) alien invader. Continue reading