Last Year by Robert Charles Wilson

last-yearThis week I reviewed Last Year by Robert Charles Wilson over at SFFWorld. Wilson is an author that I’ve not been reading for long, but one that has quickly become a favourite due to his character-focused take on SF – much like another of my favourite authors, Eric Brown. Last Year was a great read that I didn’t expect to enjoy as much as I did…

Robert Charles Wilson’s latest novel, Last Year, is a strange one: a near future SF novel set in an Illinois of 1876. With the invention of quasi-time-travel and instigated through the use of a multi-storey high ‘mirror’, tourism to the late 19th century is open to 21st century inhabitants. An interesting idea, especially given that the past the mirror opens to is no longer the one of that world, instead an alternate history that diverges from the moment the mirror is opened. Set entirely in the 19th century, Last Year is an SF novel that shouldn’t work quite as well as it does.

I really like what Robert Charles Wilson has done here, giving a character focused SF story that works on many different levels. While the time-travel technology of the near future isn’t explained in any great detail, the world feels thoroughly fleshed out, and also surprisingly familiar. The finale of the novel won’t come as a particular shock, though how it all ties together to feel more intimate than events would suggest is a wonder. Highly recommended.

The Gunslinger Born Omnibus

the-gunslinger-bornI decided last week that 2017 would be the year I read & re-read Stephen King’s Dark Tower universe. I’ve read all the books, though it’s a few years since I last immersed myself in them, but haven’t read all the comics/graphic novels that are set within this milieu. The Gunslinger Born is the first of these – one I did read way back in 2007/8 – and it’s good to revisit it once again. A great starting place for my journey, that’s for sure. Head on over to SFFWorld to see my full review!

The Dark Tower is Stephen King’s Magnum Opus, a seven book series that follows gunslinger Roland Deschain on his quest after the Man in Black, and then onwards to the Dark Tower. While the core books focus specifically on Roland’s quest, there are other stories the fit into this milieu:The Little Sisters of Eluria, a novella set before the events of the first book, The Gunslinger; and The Wind Through the Keyhole, a novel within a novel, set prior to the fifth book, Wolves of the Calla. And, of course, there is the focus of this review: the comic book series published by Marvel and with input from King.

The other main aspect that I must talk about is the art. Not only is it fantastic in its own right, it fits in perfectly with both the setting and story. Jae Lee and Richard Isanove have excelled, each page presenting such a fitting portrayal of characters and events. In this omnibus edition there is also bonus artwork included – the alternate and deviant covers for each of the issues – and it’s a great addition to an already excellent collection.

Bloodmage by Stephen Aryan

bloodmageI enjoyed Bloodmage so much I read it twice this year – once on release, and again a little later to refresh my memory for a review. I enjoyed it very much both times. Check out my full review at SFFWorld, but I highly recommend this series.

Bloodmage (Age of Darkness #2) is Stephen Aryan’s second novel, following on from events inBattlemage (review), though not necessarily a direct sequel in the strictest terms. I mentioned in my review of Battlemage that I was drawn to it primarily because of my friendship with Steve – fantasy not being my go-to genre – but I approached Bloodmage in an entirely different way. I was eager to read it to see where the story would go, what twists and turns were in store, and just how the world is progressing after the epic climax in the first novel. What I found not only met my expectations, but blew past them, delivering a second novel that is perhaps even more enjoyable than Battlemage.

I had very few issues with Bloodmage, finding the story, characters, and pacing excellent. I was immersed from the first page, enjoying the change of scenery while also appreciating the underlying threads that had been carried forward from Battlemage. Being a hard-to-please reader when it comes to the fantasy genre, Stephen Aryan’s Age of Darkness novels have measured up exceedingly well. Great stuff.

Now We Are Ten edited by Ian Whates

now-we-are-tenI don’t read nearly enough short fiction, but Now We Are Ten is a collection that jumped out at me. Not only is it from small publisher NewCon Press and edited by Ian Whates, it’s got a very good selection of authors on show. My full review is no live over at SFFWorld, so head on over to check it out.

Now We Are Ten is the anniversary anthology from NewCon Press, celebrating ten years of publishing fiction. Edited by press owner Ian Whates, this is a collection containing many different genres and authors, and the likelihood of you having read at least one of these authors is high. For a small press to release such an anthology is not unusual, but one that contains many award-nominated and award-winning authors is a pleasure to see.

The question of whether Now We Are Ten is a success is easily answered: yes. Each story, no matter my personal preference, fit the theme perfectly. I found some stories missed the mark in their delivery, others perhaps a touch too obscure for their own good. Ultimately, the better stories balance the collection out nicely, with particular stand-outs coming from Brown, Tchaikovsky, Pearce, and Swift. Now We Are Ten is another reminder that short fiction has a special place in SF&F, and it’s a length that I read way too little of.

Horizon by Tabitha Lord

horizonHorizon was one of those books that I picked up after a recommendation and then jut couldn’t put down until it was finished. Well worth checking out – you can see my full review over at SFFWorld.

Horizon is Tabitha Lord’s debut novel, a self-published sci-fi adventure. While I don’t often pick up self-published novels, this one came as a recommendation from someone I trust, and seeing it up on Netgalley was the push I needed. While it’s taken me much longer than planned to get toHorizon – too many books, never enough time – I’m certainly glad that I did, and I found a story within that really catered to my literary tastes.

All-in-all Horizon is a solid novel: it’s got a very interesting premise and characters that I genuinely cared about. While not perfect it certainly has potential for any future novels in this series, and given the ending I’d be highly disappointed not to see something else in this setting.

Night Without Stars by Peter F Hamilton

night-without-stars-ukLast week I posted my review of Peter F Hamilton’s latest, Night Without Stars, the rather excellent conclusion to his Chronicle of the Fallers. Well worth checking out!

Night Without Stars is Peter F Hamilton’s conclusion to his Chronicle of the Fallers duology, itself effectively a conclusion – at least for the moment – of his Commonwealth Universe. Following on from The Abyss Beyond Dreams (Mark C’s review, MarkY’s review), Night Without Stars has a lot to do in its page count to effectively tie up the story, and it makes this task even greater by essentially resetting the society and technology on Bienvenido following its expulsion from the Void. It’s safe to say that having read The Abyss Beyond Dreams is a must before tackling Night Without Stars

With a varied cast of characters that each bring their own point of view to the story, and many threads that intertwine as the plot progresses, Night Without Stars ticks almost every box on an SF fans list. While sporadical during the early parts of the novel – prologue (Nigel Sheldon in Andromeda!) and start of chapter 1 (Primes!) excepted – these elements build to a very satisfying and enjoyable conclusion, and one that long-time fans of Hamilton’s work will relish.

Binary by Eric Brown

binaryEric Brown is one of my favourite authors, so when a proof copy of his latest hit my inbox I didn’t waste any time in getting to it. My full review is over at SFFWorld, so please head on over to check it out.

Binary is the latest work from Eric Brown, though I’m not entirely sure how to classify it. Releasing in ebook-only format it’s novella length with a page count just under 150 pages. But Binary is just the first part of this story and the second, System, will release early next year, also in ebook form. However, once they’re both out the publisher, Solaris, will issue them together in novel form under the title of Binary System. I’ve not come across this release style before, though the longer release window certainly gives more visibility to the novel, and that’s no bad thing given the high regard I hold Brown’s work to.

In short, Binary is a great read that brings a sense of excitement and discovery, and delivered at a pace that keeps the e-pages turning and has left me eager for the conclusion in System. It’s also typical of Brown’s work, so if you’ve read him before you know what you’re getting into. If you haven’t then this could be the perfect place to start!

The Complete Aliens Omnibus Volume 2 by David Bischoff & Robert Sheckley

the-complete-aliens-omnibus-volume-2I’m a big Aliens fan so these new re-releases from Titan Books are an awesome way for me to catch stories that I’ve never got around to. The first omnibus was a great trilogy of novels (let down slightly by The Female War), yet this second omnibus is much more divisive in my enjoyment. My full review is up over at SFFWorld, so head on over to check it out.

Following on from the first omnibus of Aliens novels re-released early in 2016 is The Complete Aliens Omnibus Volume 2, and as you can imagine it does exactly what it says on the cover. While the first omnibus was a trilogy that carried an overall story throughout the three books, this second collection contains two relatively stand-alone novels, Genocide and Alien Harvest. However, both are set in the same timeline as that first omnibus and as such some knowledge of it may be of use, though not entirely required.

So, The Complete Aliens Omnibus Volume 2 is a very mixed bag. With one great novel (Genocide) that perfectly fits into this setting, and one poor novel (Alien Harvest) that insults fans of the series, it’s hard to say whether this is for you. Personally I lean towards picking it up regardless, for Genocide is worth it on its own. Here’s looking to more consistency in the release of the next omnibus.

War Factory by Neal Asher

war-factoryMy latest review is for War Factory by Neal Asher, one of my favourite SF authors who very rarely disappoints. This wasn’t one of those times! Check it out in full over at SFFWorld.

War Factory is the second novel in Neal Asher’s Transformations series, preceded by Dark Intelligence. Based in his ever-popular Polity universe, War Factory takes the events from the first novel and expands on them further, and all done in typical Asher fashion. Not the place to jump in to Asher’s work, but if you liked Dark Intelligence, you’ll love War Factory

In short, War Factory contains everything that is good about Asher’s writing. It’s thoughtful, yet action-packed, and adds layer upon layer to an already deep setting that is the Polity. With AI, Prador, and human elements to the story this truly takes the series title of Transformations and gives it a spin that is massively enjoyable. Add to this some truly unique and weird aliens that you’re unlikely to see from any other authors and you’ve got a winner. Nobody does science fiction like Neal Asher, and War Factory is yet more proof of that.

A Window Into Time by Peter F Hamilton

a-window-into-timeA little snippet below, but head on over to SFFWorld.com to read the rest of the review, and I highly recommend picking up the novella!

A Window Into Time is one of those rare things from British Science Fiction author Peter F Hamilton – a novella. Known for his galaxy spanning far-future Space Opera novels and series, A Window Into Time is almost the exact opposite – a present day look at the life of a teenager. Of course, that’s not to say there isn’t his trademark SF twist in the mix – there is – but rather that this is a story unlike anything else Hamilton has written.