Friday, 26 March 2010
Here's the cover for Peter F Hamilton's next novel, The Evolutionary Void, US edition. It's definitely the nicest of the US covers for the Void trilogy and sticks with the same design from the first two books. Overall, very nice, but not a patch on the UK cover.
Thursday, 25 March 2010
The knight errant Anderson is hunting a dragon on the primitive Out-Polity world of Cull, little knowing that far away a man has resurrected a brass killing machine to assist in a similar hunt that encompasses star systems. When agent Cormac learns that an old enemy still lives, he sets out in pursuit aboard the attack ship Jack Ketch … whilst scientist Mika begins discovering the horrifying truth about that ancient technology ostensibly produced by the alien Jain, who died out five million years ago.Here's yet another stunning new cover for one of Neal Asher's books, this time Brass Man. As each new cover is unveiled I am in awe of what Jon Sullivan can do. His style clearly captures Neal's writing and makes me want to read his books. I would say that as far as cover art goes Neal's books are now being graced with some of the best in the field - a round of applause for all involved!
On a planet roamed by ferocious insectile monsters the people of Cull must struggle to survive, while they build the industrial base to reach their forefathers’ starship still orbiting far above them. An entity calling itself Dragon assists them, but its motives are questionable, having created genetic by-blows of humans and the hideous local monsters before growing bored with that game. And now Cull, for millennia geologically inactive, suffers earthquakes…
Meanwhile a brass killing machine seeks to escape a bloody past it can neither forget nor truly remember. So mindlessly will continue its search for sanity, which it might find in an instant or not for a thousand years.
Thursday, 18 March 2010
Author: Black Charlton
Publisher: Tor (US) / Harper Voyager (UK)
Pages: 352 / 400
Release Date: 2nd March 2010 (US) / 27th May 2010 (UK)
In a world where words can come to life, an inability to spell can be a dangerous thing. And no one knows this better than apprentice wizard Nicodemus Weal.As I'm sure most regular readers know, I'm not really a fantasy kinda guy as science fiction is my preferred reading genre, but every now and then I do like to dip my toes and see what I find. This depends a lot on what I hear about - with everyone always on the lookout for the next big fantasy debut it's always nice to find one that appeals to me. Spellwright by Blake Charlton fits perfectly into this category and it was the US artwork that originally made me take a closer look. What I found within the pages was a great character driven story with a superbly realised magic system. This delivered in a big way and has set the bar for fantasy books I read this year...
Nicodemus Weal is a cacographer, unable to reproduce even simple magical texts without 'misspelling' – a mistake which can have deadly consequences. He was supposed to be the Halcyon, a magic-user of unsurpassed power, destined to save the world; instead he is restricted to menial tasks, and mocked for his failure to live up to the prophecy.
But not everyone interprets prophecy in the same way. There are some factions who believe a cacographer such as Nicodemus could hold great power – power that might be used as easily for evil as for good. And when two of the wizards closest to Nicodemus are found dead, it becomes clear that some of those factions will stop at nothing to find the apprentice and bend him to their will...
The story follows Nicodemus, a young wizard who is also a cacographer - someone who instantly misspells magical text when he touches them. Living in Starhaven, an old city originally inhabited by the Chthonic people a long time ago but now a magical university for wizards young and old, Nicodemus must struggle through life with the distrust many wizards have of cacographers. When a senior member of Starhaven is murdered, events start to unfold that relate to a prophecy - that of the Halcyon, a wizard of immense power - and Nicodemus' history relating to this. With evil rising and secrets from the past coming to the fore, Spellwright is much more than you're average tale of swords and sorcery.
I guess the first place to start with is the magic system. Charlton has created an intricate and masterful system here, with all magic taking the form of written text that can only be written in the muscles (usually the arms) of wizards and then transferred to anything needed. This ranges from gargoyles magically bought to life to spellbooks with vast and powerful spells ready for a wizard to peel off and use when the moment calls. While this system is hugely inventive and allows for so much diversity, it does take a little while to get used to. The intricacies of spellwriting are immense, and with many magical languages in the world - each with different uses - there is so much to get a grasp of, especially in the latter half of the novel.
When you add Nicodemus and his misspelling disability to the mix, Spellwright becomes a very character orientated story. Nicodemus is a nice character to read and is one that lives with his disability and learns to control his cacography as much as possible, but not always to great success, as we discover early in the novel. Despite this he is exceptionally skilled in magical languages and his link to the prophecy is an area many debate about. Nicodemus' master, Shannon, is the experienced wizard and mentor of the cast and his guidance and council help no end in some of the situation that arise. There are also plenty of other characters that join the story, both for good and bad reasons, but Spellwright is the story of Nicodemus and it hits the right notes because of it.
With a world and magic system as deep and varied as it is in Spellwright there was bound to be some worldbuilding going on. Most of this takes place through descriptive expositions and conversations with characters and is mostly done in a subtle and non-intrusive way. However, the spellwriting explanations do suffer from some info dumping and sometimes feel clunky early on in the story while this system is described. One of the best ways that Charlton does this is when Nicodemus takes a class of new students in his masters absence - this was a joy to read and explained much of the system and history behind the magical languages.
Blake Charlton has written a hugely enjoyable novel in Spellwright - the good guys are good and interesting, the bad guys motivated and mysterious, the magic system is unique and impressive, and most importantly, the characters are relatable and a joy to read. There isn't much wrong here and Spellwright should be a must read for any genre fan. Highly recommended!
Buy from: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com
Thursday, 11 March 2010
Title: Meridian Days
Author: Eric Brown
Publisher: Pan SF
Release Date: 13th August 1993
Bob lives on a planet patronized by artists and their friends. Involved in a terrible accident, for which he blames himself, Bob now lives in a semi-reclusive manner. When a concerned neighbour, Abe, drags him to a party he becomes involved with Fire, the daughter of a sculptress and a poet.
Eric Brown is an SF novelist that I have come to love, his recent novels (Necropath, Xenopath and Cosmopath) are among some of my favourite reads of recent years and right up there with series' that I would recommend to anyone. Meridian Days was Brown's first published novel and, while not perfect, it has everything that I've enjoyed from his recent offerings.
Meridian is a colony planet, and a unique one at that. Being tidally locked to its star, one face, brightside, always faces it, with nightside never seeing any light. This makes for a very interesting habitable zone, a string of islands varying in size that runs down the only area that humans can happily inhabit, while the rest goes from freezing cold on nightside to boiling hot on brightside. The chain of islands are lush and allow those living there to have a near-perfect life, doing what they please. With the population made up of many artists there are plenty of parties and events to attend. All in all, Meridian is a very nice place indeed.
The technology in Meridian Days is not that far fetched and not much more advanced that what we are used to today, although the method of travelling between stars is not done by ships, but rather being transmitted from one planet to another. This is not without risks and we learn early on that Fire's father perished in an accident while travelling from Meridian. The technology is certainly not at the forefront of this story as its very much a character driven tale of relationships and mystery.
So, we now come to the characters, and in particularly Bob. He's our main man and the story is told through his eyes. He's a retired smallship pilot who moved to Meridian after a terrible accident for which he blames himself. He's living on his own and is addicted to a drug that grows only as a flower on brightside, one that takes him back to happier times in an effort to suppress the bad memories of the accident. It's when he attends an event with Abe, his neighbour, that he meets Fire, the daughter of two well known artists, and starts down a road that leads to things that he never expects.
Meridian Days is very much Bob's story and it looks at his personal strife, the relationships he builds with Fire and that of his neighbour, Abe. Not everything is clear cut and many questions start to come to the surface, especially when he and Abe discover some bloodied remains while encountering one of the viscous native animals while over on brightside. This starts off some of the questions in Meridian Days, but it is not all that is raised. Fire's relationship with her mother is overly strange and Bob takes it upon himself to find out more about this, leading to some confrontations and revelations that are both interesting and resolve the story satisfactorily.
It's not too hard to see what's coming, but the way that Brown tells the story just swept me up and carried me along to the end in the way that every good story should. I really did enjoy Meridian Days, but it is not perfect. One of the things that I think could have been improved is the timespan of the story, which takes place over only a couple of weeks - I felt that much more could have been done if this had been lengthened. This would mainly go towards a deeper connection with the characters and the relationships within, and allow further character development more reader attachment to those characters.
Despite this I think that Meridian days is a very good novel indeed. While short, it delivers a story that is interesting and enjoyable, and it will once again go to show why you should be reading Eric Brown's work.
Read an afterword by Eric Brown, written 13 years after the release of Meridian Days, here.
Buy from: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com
Tuesday, 2 March 2010
Most people believe the Sidhe are long dead, exterminated centuries ago when the males of the race rose up and fought alongside the humans subjugated and enslaved by the female Sidhe. But Jarek Reen knows better: he's discovered, the painful way, that the Sidhe are alive and well, and still screwing over humanity. They've already killed his sister, so he's not surprised when he discovers an old friend and her partner are next on the Sidhe's hitlist. He helps not only to foil the assassination attempt, but also to muddy the scene of the crime, leaving the Angels Nual and Taro sanMalia presumed dead - and free to join his crusade to expose the insidious influence of the Sidhe, and their evil plans to enslave the human race again. Their mission takes them across human-space, from utilitarian hub-points to rich, exotic planets - where they discover that a brilliant vacation spot hides some of the darkest secrets of all. And that's when they discover how easy it is for the hunters to become the hunted . . .Via John Jarrold, here is the cover for Jaine Fenn's next novel, Guardians of Paradise, due out in September from Gollancz. I really like this cover - it's clearly sci-fi and has that optiomistic feel to it. I've yet to read any of Jaine's work, but I've got Principles of Angels sitting on the stack at home. Time to get around to it methinks!
Also, it appears that Gollancz are also putting a new cover on Consorts of Heaven. Again, very nice and it's clearly defining a style for Jaine Fenn.