Monday, February 23, 2009

Business trip

Today I will leave on a business trip and this week my access to the Internet will be limited or none. Although I have two posts that can be scheduled unfortunately I will not be able to schedule them because I have a few things to put in order before I leave tonight. Therefore this week I will not be able to make any post, but please feel free to navigate through my older pages and to visit the wonderful links from the left. Until we will talk again next week please take care of yourselves and have a marvelous week!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

"The Reach of Children" by Tim Lebbon

"The Reach of Children"
Format: Hardcover, 112 pages
Publisher: Humdrumming

Until one year and a half ago I was unfamiliar with the works of Tim Lebbon, but since then my each encounter with Lebbon’s works have been better and better and “The Reach of Children” is no exception.

Daniel, a 10 years old boy, lost his mother after a long illness. His father has difficulties in dealing with the loss and because of this he ends up neglecting his son. And when Daniel hears about a story of a girl found in a box buried in the ground he asks himself what is the link between that story and the box under his father’s bed.

Basically “The Reach of Children” is a horror story, but Tim Lebbon’s novella is more than that. I believe that enclosing the novella in the horror genre limits is not a proper thing to do and therefore those who are not attracted by this genre will miss a great story. “The Reach of Children” is a story about life, about loss and grief and about the efforts of people to continue their lives without the lost loved ones. Tim Lebbon’s story is masterfully written, with powerful emotions captured inside it and one that breaths sadness through its letters and words.

I am fortunate enough not to have lost anyone dear to me, but I have a close friend who lost his father in our high-school days through a long and terrible illness. I remember that visiting my friend on those days felt awkward and after his father’s death none of us seemed to know what is the proper thing to say, although we wanted to help him. This is one of the feelings caught by Tim Lebbon in his story. Told from the perspective of little Daniel the story doesn’t miss any of the difficult moments after Daniel’s loss. I could feel Daniel struggle to find his place again, with all the familiar places reminding him of his mother, with friends who don’t know what to say and with his family traditions irremediable broken. And Daniel being a 10 year old made me feel a greater struggle, after all at that age children have the whole world at their feet, their greatest worry is playing and they believe that their parents are immortal. With a flowing writing style it is easy to get attached to Daniel and to feel the difficulties he and his father go through.

My only complaint is that “The Reach of Children” is a limited edition and after its publisher, Humdrumming, closed its doors I think that the novella is very hard to find. I really hope that this story will be re-published because Tim Lebbon’s novella deserves a wider audience and because a very good story deserves to be read and this is a very good story.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Fantasy Art - Andreas Rocha

© The artwork presented on this post is used with the permission of its author. All the artwork is copyrighted. Please do not use the images without the permission of the artist or owner.

Andreas Rocha is a Portuguese artist born in 1976 and currently living in Lisbon. Andreas has an architect degree and has worked in the architecture field for 5 years. During his studies he became interested in digital painting and now for over 10 years is painting digitally. He is working as a freelance artist and his specializations are 2d illustrations/matte paintings and 3d architectural visualizations. Andreas’ works has been featured in publications like Expose, Exotique, ImagineFX and 2DArtist Magazine and he had done illustrations for books, advertising campaigns, CD covers and games promotions.

Interview - Andreas Rocha

Dark Wolf: Andreas, thank you for the opportunity of this interview.
You are painting digitally for over 10 years now, but how did you become interested in art in general and in digital art in particular?
Andreas Rocha: Well, digging up my past I must say my most vivid memories that took me into the path of art were seeing the movie posters of Drew Struzan and the Dungeons and Dragons paintings by Jeff Easley. Of course, before, I had always liked drawing but it was nothing serious. After seeing the works of these two artists there was something that stirred in me and my deep love for fantasy illustration was born. I believe that was more or less when I was 12 years old.
Over the years until getting into college my hobby for drawing had grown into something more serious. However, I still was unable to try and imitate the paintings I adored so much. Failures in trying traditional media like acrylics and oil painting, without guidance, took me nowhere. But that all changed when I found out about tablets and digital painting in a forum called Elfwood. I bought my first Wacom and that was where my digital art career started.

Dark Wolf: Who is your favorite artist? Who do you consider to have been the most influential figure on your art so far?
Andreas Rocha: My answer to the first question somehow answers this one. I love the graphic style of Drew Struzan and his ability to tell the story of a movie in one painting, revealing only enough to make you want to see the movie is truly something. As to Jeff Easley, I think it was his deep orange color palette that attracted me so much. His storytelling abilities are also what I admire. Finally, there are two other artists whose digital work really opened my eyes to what was possible: Craig Mullins and Khang Le.

Dark Wolf: Does your studies and work on the architectural field have an influence on your art?
Andreas Rocha: I think they do, but in an indirect way. I don’t think it is the depiction of architecture, which I don’t think is very common in my work, which relates me to my studies. On the other hand, I think it was during the college years, that my sensibility for composition, values and color grew…things inherent in architecture. The study helped introduced me to different things like architectural styles, rules of perspective, drawing medium and CAD for example. I then took the things that most interested me and tried developed them as a hobby until it turned into something more serious.

DW: Your portfolio consists more of environments and scenes than portraits or characters. Do you prefer working on environments and architectural visualizations more?
AR: I wish that was the correct answer, but I think it is my deficiency in character work and its difficulty that makes me show less of work in that field. The funny thing is that what I drew most were portraits and characters, especially in the erotic field. At the time I even thought I had some talent in that area…but over the years this idea changed and I’ve come to see the harsh reality. Now, it has turned into a challenge to get better at it.
Since we are so related to the human body, pointing out the flaws of its depiction is almost immediate. It’s unforgiving. Environments, on the other hand, are much more permissive (and rewarding!).

DW: While working does it happen sometimes to be caught in your painting and forget about yourself?
AR: I think it does…I don’t really know. Painting is such an immersive process, that you somehow let go of your consciousness. That’s perhaps the best way to describe how I feel. It’s not something that requires a lot of brainwork…it’s something more emotive and passionate.

DW: With so many digital artists and so many wonderful works, do you try to add a personal touch or to achieve a personal style on your works?
AR: No. (blunt answer) I never searched for a personal style. I said somewhere before, that my style was the result of my inability to copy the work of the artists I admire.I find out about new artists on a weekly basis. There are just so many great artists around…the Internet is such a wonderful thing. Every time I find out about some new artists I didn’t know before, I “suck in” the paintings visually and that somehow will influence my future work. I’m not trying to stand out or anything. With so many masters out there, that’s almost impossible. I just go my own way and try to have fun with it.

DW: If it were possible what would you change at your work? What aspects of your work are you constantly trying to improve?
AR: As I mentioned before, I believe it’s my character work which needs a lot of improvement. I just have to produce more character work…
Another thing that I think I need discipline with is precision and discipline in my brushwork. Sometimes, it’s just too rough. I think this is a result of wanting to produce the paintings too quickly. The following cleanup work can sometimes take a really long time…

DW: I’ve seen that you have many sources of inspiration, but may I ask if when you are looking on an empty canvas do you see the final image in your mind already?
AR: No (another blunt answer). The blank canvas is just that…BLANK! I have to throw in marks for my brain to start working. As soon, as I catch a glimpse of something recognizable I go down that path.
There have been times, when I had a preconceived idea of what I wanted to depict. But these were abstract ideas. Only the painting process can turn these ideas into something visual.

DW: Does it happen sometime that after a while to be discontent with the result of your work? In that case would you try to change or work further on that particular painting?
AR: It happens most of the time, but I think that is positive. It means the painting needs improvement and that my eyes are recognizing its flaws. Sometimes, it gets to a point where there is no salvation, so I just start another painting taking a different path. Other times, some small global corrections can make a huge difference and take the painting back on track.
Globally speaking, there are times when I look at past paintings and feel somewhat proud and fulfilled. But other days I feel exactly the opposite. It’s curious how one’s opinion about the same thing can change so radically.

DW: What is your favorite piece or which one offered you the most pleasant time while painting it?
AR: I think it would have to be “One Ticket, Please”. Not being the most popular one from my portfolio, I think it is my most personal one as I truly relate to it. My father once took me and my brother to the funfair. There was the classic ghost train ride and I insisted that I could go alone. I was 9 years old. As soon as I saw the first old witch puppet laughing I cowered inside the “wagon” and closed my ears. What a relief it was when I came out…still cowering. Inspired by that event I produced “One Ticket, Please” which depicts a small boy wanting to face his fears and satiate his curiosity by visiting a freak show in a basement of some old building in a dark alley of a big city.

DW: Many of your works are inspired by images and landscapes seen on your walks or travels. What do you do if such scene inspires you but you don’t have your camera or other way to retain that specific scene for further work?
AR: If it’s something that is near to my home and which only takes 1 hour to get there, I just go there the following day…with the camera. If I’m far away, on holidays for example, I really get angry for having forgotten to load the battery the day before. I go back home having learned a lesson: always plan ahead.

DW: Also you have many fantasy elements in your works and influences from fantasy, science-fiction and horror genres. How much personal interest and how much professional interest do you have in the fantasy art? Does your interest go outside art as well?
AR: Well, I love everything fantasy related: books, movies, architecture, boardgames, etc. I think that I’m quite lucky that my work involves creating things that I admire. I don’t think there is a division between my personal and my professional interest in fantasy. I think that one thing lead to the other. Most of the movies I saw during my childhood during the 80s like Indiana Jones, Back To The Future and Star Wars trilogies influenced me and made me want to produce such imaginary worlds artistically.

DW: Would you like to work on the illustration of a specific book or on a specific movie project? If possible which one would it be?
AR: Hmmm…I’m not sure. The fantasy world is so big that I don’t think I would want to go after anything specific. On the other hand I’m waiting for the fantasy to come to me and let me be surprised.

DW: What are your immediate and future projects?
AR: I’m currently doing concept work for a video game, illustrations for a card game and a tutorial for a magazine. Future projects are still being talked about…

Thank you very much for your time and answers. It has been a pleasure.
You’re most welcome.

For more information about Andreas Rocha and for a complete portfolio, please visit his website, Andreas Rocha Portfolio.

© The artwork presented on this post is used with the permission of its author. All the artwork is copyrighted. Please do not use the images without the permission of the artist or owner.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Preditors & Editors poll

As I always say I am a passionate reader and this blog was started from my passion for reading and for fantasy genre. Later I brought my passion for fantasy art on my blog as well. Dark Wolf’s Fantasy Reviews is made of my passion for books, of pleasure of reading and exchanging thoughts, but it is always great when I receive recognition for this blog and it always gives great joy. My latest recognition came from the Preditors & Editors 2008 Readers Poll where my blog came on the 27th position at the Review Sites category. This news took me by surprise and made me very happy and I want to say thank you to my readers and my voters for bringing me such a pleasant surprise. Thank you all very much!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Fantasy Art News - Vincent Chong

Through my Fantasy Art posts I met many talented and wonderful artists and one of them is Vincent Chong (my post and interview). I always like to make constant visits to these artists’ websites, to see their new works and how their careers are growing. The other day one piece of news brought me great joy, Vincent re-launched his website, Vincent Chong Art. I discovered many new wonderful pieces and I have to admit that his works for the Stephen King’s “Stephen King Goes to the Movies” (my favorite being his "Children of the Corn" illustration) are stunning and gave me another reason (if necessary) for buying this book. So, for the latest news about Vincent Chong and for his new artwork please visit his newly designed website, Vincent Chong Art.

Also Vincent Chong has been nominated for the BSFA 2008 Award for the Best Artwork for the cover art of “Murky Depths 4”. Congratulations and good luck, Vincent!

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Book Review Meme

John from Grasping for the Wind came with another interesting idea for a new meme after the success of his last one, Book Reviewers Linkup Meme.

Here is how it works: Find a favorite book, movie, or videogame review (Science fiction and fantasy related) that you have written, no matter where it was posted, and add it to the following list. Make sure to repost the whole list, because in doing so, we accumulate what the reviewers themselves think is their best work, and give each other some linkages, increasing everyone's rankings.

The Book Review Meme @ Grasping for the Wind

1. Grasping for the Wind - INFOQUAKE by David Louis Edelman
2. Age 30+ ... A Lifetime of Books - A COMPANION TO WOLVES by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear
3. Dragons, Heroes and Wizards - ASSASSIN'S APPRENTICE by Robin Hobb
4. Walker of Worlds - THE TEMPORAL VOID by Peter F Hamilton
5. Neth Space - TOLL THE HOUNDS by Steven Erikson
6. Dark in the Dark - GHOST STORIES OF AN ANTIQUARY by M.R. James
7. A Dribble of Ink - THE SHADOW OF THE WIND by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
8. Fantasy Book News & Reviews - EMPRESS by Karen Miller
9. Fantasy Debut - ACACIA by David Anthony Durham Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Overall Review Afterthought
10. All Booked Up - THE BLUE SWORD by Robin McKinley
11. Fantasy Cafe - THE BOOK OF JOBY by Mark J. Ferrari
12. AzureScape - ANATHEM by Neal Stephenson
13. The Book Smugglers - THE INFERIOR by Peadar O'Guilin
14. Besotted Bookworm - PARANORMAL FICTION FEAST by Christine Feehan, Julie Kramer, and Jayne Castle
15. Renee's Book Addiction - WANDERLUST by Ann Aguirre
16. - THE BLACK SHIP by Diana Pharaoh Francis
17. Literary Escapism - FOR A FEW DEMONS MORE by Kim Harrison (with spoilers)
18. Speculative Horizons - THE TERROR by Dan Simmons
19. Stella Matutina - NEW AMSTERDAM by Elizabeth Bear
20. Variety SF - MISSION OF GRAVITY by Hal Clement
21. WISB/F&SF Lovin' Blog - SEABORN by Chris Howard
22. Dark Wolf's Fantasy Reviews - THE SHADOW OF THE WIND by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Saturday, February 14, 2009

"The Company" by K.J. Parker

"The Company"
Format: Paperback, 448 pages
Publisher: Orbit Books UK

After three published trilogies, “The Fencer”, “The Scavenger” and “The Engineer”, “The Company” is the first stand alone novel of K.J. Parker.

After many years of war Teuche Kunessin comes home with a new proposal for his former A Company brothers in arms, to start a new life on a deserted island. He wants to colonize the island of Sphoe and to settle in a peaceful life together with his friends. But their tasks will encounter difficulties as much from outside their group as from inside it.

“The Company” is not the classical fantasy novel, because although K.J. Parker sets the novel in a fantasy setting the story has many layers and explores in its vast majority the human nature. The world of “The Company” is a vast one, but shattered by a long and consumptive war. The author doesn’t name the belligerent sides, doesn’t point the reasons behind the war and doesn’t center the story on it. But all this are not important because I believe that K.J. Parker makes a statement on the general notion of war and points the reader throughout the novel to the consequences of war, consequences suffered by the society, by all those caught in the act of war and by the ordinary and innocent people.

The war brings together the five central characters of the novel and is the foundation of their friendship (formerly six friends, but one of them died in the war). Through the depicted scenes of war involving their group K.J. Parker starts building the main characters. And this is the area where “The Company” is focused, on characterization and on the human psychology in different situations. The five central characters captivate immediately the attention of the reader and they have a complex personality, built with every page of the story. I could easily see their struggle to readapt to the peaceful way of life after they have lived on the thin edge between life and death in war (they were line-breakers, meaning they were in the first line of battles). Their struggle will encounter many other difficulties, betrayal, selfishness, revenge and hidden secrets. Through all this K.J. Parker builds the conflict of the novel and the mystery of story, both resolved only on the last pages of the book.

The conflict and the mystery kept me wondering what will be happening next throughout the whole book, but the novel’s action moves slowly. Sometimes the novel seems to go nowhere and the only action is that from the wartime recollections. And I could see a great attention to detail given by K.J. Parker to the different processes of building a new colony. Every event and action involving the new community is treated in its minor details. I have to admit that I personally liked this attention to the details and through “The Company” I’ve learned quite a few new things I didn’t know until now. The story is also quite dark and gritty and it doesn’t have an optimistic tone and what I really liked is that it doesn’t point toward the morality of one action or another, it is a story of life.

I believe that K.J. Parker’s “The Company” is not the usual fantasy novel and will not appeal to every reader. I enjoyed quite a lot “The Company” for the great in-depth characterization and for its psychological aspects which brought me through the slow moving pace to the end of the story, an end which same as the novel will not appeal to every reader.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

"Gunpowder" by Joe Hill

Format: Hardcover, 81 pages
Publisher: PS Publishing

When you have a world renowned author as father, Stephen King, it is almost impossible for your works not to be compared with those of your father. But until now Joe Hill made his voice heard and with this new novella, “Gunpowder”, he makes another stand for his unique talent.

Gunpowder is a remote planet or properly said is the nickname given to R2 by its inhabitants. Its inhabitants are a group of artificially created children with the power to psyform, meaning that they can weave DNA, can create living things and can make a new reality. Their mission is to terraform R2 or Gunpowder as they call it from a desolate planet into one proper for living. And they are supervised by the only adult on the planet, Elaine.

One of the things I absolutely love at Stephen King’s works is his children characters or the recollections of his characters from their childhood. In “Gunpowder” Joe Hill proves an equal talent in creating such lovely children characters and I have to admit that I loved this novella’s characters not only taken individually, but as a children group as well. Each character has his own personality and is acting accordingly to it, but what I loved the most is the group taken as a hole. Although the characters are strong and stand out, the group sounds as a true group of children, with a central figure whom everybody is looking up, with their search for play, their ability to befriend, to be cruel and to compete with each other. I also loved the guessed metaphor behind this group of children, the power to build a world from dreams, an experience that is not strange to my childhood when I had a different world built in my imagination, and the fading of this dreams after growing up, as it is described in one characteristic of this children’s talent, the psyforming: “Their powers were engineered to burn out in their twenties, a harrowing passage that would probably kill several of them, from terrific fevers.”

Elaine, the only adult character of the novella, is a very nicely built character as well. I could almost feel her emotions, her memories of her childhood and her efforts in protecting Charley, an outcast because of his lack of “talent”. Elaine and the children as well captured my attention and emotions until the end of the novella and I could bond with almost every single character. What Joe Hill did with his “Gunpowder” characters is even more impressive considering that he managed to build such strong characters in only 80 pages.

Impressive too is Joe Hill’s work on the story and the action of the novella. The story thread entangled me from the beginning and kept me racing through the pages of “Gunpowder” until the final dot. The action is steadily built, with each chapter adding a new element in the general layout of the story and reaching its climax in a breathtaking end. The end of the story left me with that unique wish for the story not to end and with a very pleasant feeling toward the novella.

Like I said it is impossible not to compare Joe Hill’s works with those of his father, but with pieces such as “Gunpowder” Hill proves that has his own path to follow and new and wonderful things to bring in the world of literature.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Excerpt: "Hater" by David Moody


Simmons, regional manager for a chain of main street discount stores, slipped his change into his pocket then neatly folded his newspaper in half and tucked it under his arm. He quickly glanced at his watch before leaving the shop and rejoining the faceless mass of shoppers and office workers crowding the city center sidewalks outside. He checked through his date book in his head as he walked. Weekly sales meeting at ten, business review with Jack Staynes at eleven, lunch with a supplier at one-thirty...
He stopped walking when he saw her. At first she was just another face on the street, nondescript and unimposing and as irrelevant to him as the rest of them were. But there was something different about this particular woman, something which made him feel uneasy. In a split second she was gone again, swallowed up by the crowds. He looked around for her anxiously, desperate to find her among the constantly weaving mass of figures which scurried busily around him. There she was. Through a momentary gap in the bodies he could see her coming toward him. No more than five feet tall, hunched forward and wearing a faded red raincoat. Her wiry gray-white hair was held in place under a clear plastic rain hood and she stared ahead through the thick lenses of her wide-rimmed glasses. She had to be eighty if she was a day, he thought as he looked into her wrinkled, liver-spotted face, so why was she such a threat? He had to act quickly before she disappeared again. He couldn’t risk losing her. For the first time he made direct eye contact with her and he knew immediately that he had to do it. He had no choice. He had to do it and he had to do it right now.
Dropping his newspaper, briefcase, and umbrella Simmons pushed his way through the crowd then reached out and grabbed hold of her by the wide lapels of her raincoat. Before she could react to what was happening he spun her around through almost a complete turn and threw her back toward the building he’d just left. Her frail body was light and she virtually flew across the footpath, her feet barely touching the ground before she smashed up against the thick safety-glass shop window and bounced back into the street. Stunned with pain and surprise she lay face down on the cold, rain-soaked pavement, too shocked to move. Simmons pushed his way back toward her, barging through a small crowd of concerned shoppers who had stopped to help. Ignoring their angry protests he dragged her to her feet and shoved her toward the shop window again, her head whipping back on her shoulders as she clattered against the glass for the second time.
“What the hell are you doing, you idiot?!” an appalled bystander yelled, grabbing hold of Simmons’s coat sleeve and pulling him back. Simmons twisted and squirmed free from the man’s grip. He tripped and landed on his hands and knees in the gutter. She was still on her feet just ahead of him. He could see her through the legs of the other people crowding around her.
Oblivious to the howls and screams of protest ringing in his ears, Simmons quickly stood up, pausing only to pick up his umbrella from the edge of the footpath and to push his wire-framed glasses back up the bridge of his nose. Holding the umbrella out in front of him like a bayonet rifle he ran at the woman again.
“Please...” she begged as he sunk the sharp metal tip of the umbrella deep into her gut and then yanked it out again. She slumped back against the window, clutching the wound as the stunned and disbelieving crowd quickly engulfed Simmons. Through the confusion he watched as her legs gave way and she collapsed heavily to the ground, blood oozing out of the deep hole in her side.
“Maniac,” someone spat in his ear. Simmons spun around and stared at the owner of the voice. Jesus Christ, another one! This one was just like the old woman. And there’s another, and another...and they were all around him now. He stared helplessly into the sea of angry faces which surrounded him. They were all the same. Every last one of them had suddenly become a threat to him. He knew there were too many of them but he had to fight. In desperation he screwed his hand into a fist and swung it into the nearest face. As a teenage boy recoiled from the sudden impact and dropped to the ground a horde of uniformed figures weaved through the crowd and wrestled Simmons to the ground.


Lunatic. Bloody hell, I’ve seen some things happen in this town before but never anything like that. That was disgusting. That made me feel sick. Christ, he came out of nowhere and she didn’t stand a chance, poor old woman. He’s in the middle of the crowd now. He’s outnumbered fifty to one and yet he’s still trying to fight. This place is full of crazy people. Fortunately for that woman it’s also full of police officers. There are two of them down with her now, trying to stop the bleeding. Three more have got to the guy who did it and they’re dragging him away.
Damn, it’s three minutes to nine. I’m going to be late for work again but I can’t move. I’m stuck in this bloody crowd. There are people bunched up tight all around me and I can’t go backward or forward. I’ll have to wait until they start to shift, however long that takes. There are more police officers arriving now trying to clear the scene. It’s pathetic really, you’d think they’d show some respect but people are all the same. First sign of trouble on the street and everyone stops to watch the freak show.
We’re finally starting to move. I can still see that guy being bundled toward a police van on the other side of the street. He’s kicking and screaming and crying like a bloody baby. Looks like he’s lost it completely. The noise he’s making you’d think he was the one who’d been attacked.

I know I’m a lazy bastard. I know I should try harder but I just can’t be bothered. I’m not stupid but I sometimes find it difficult to give a shit. I should have run across Millennium Square to get to the office just now but it was too much effort so early in the morning. I walked and I finally got here just after quarter past nine. I tried to sneak in but it was inevitable that someone was going to see me. It had to be Tina Murray though, didn’t it? My sour-faced, slave-driving, unforgiving bitch of a supervisor. She’s standing behind me now, watching me work. She thinks I don’t know she’s there. I really can’t stand her. In fact I can’t think of anyone I like less than Tina. I’m not a violent man—I don’t like confrontation and I find the very idea of punching a woman offensive—but there are times here when I’d happily smack her in the mouth.
“You owe me fifteen minutes,” she sneers in her horrible, whining voice. I push myself back on my chair and slowly turn around to face her. I force myself to smile although all I want to do is spit. She stands in front of me, arms folded, chewing gum and scowling.
“Morning, Tina,” I reply, trying to stay calm and not give her the satisfaction of knowing just how much she bugs me. “How are you today?”
“You can either take the time off your lunch hour or stay late tonight,” she snaps. “It’s up to you how you make it up.”
I know I’m only making things worse for myself but I can’t help it. I should just keep my mouth shut and accept that I’m in the wrong but I can’t stand the thought of this vile woman thinking she’s in control. I know I’m not helping the situation but I just can’t stop myself. I have to say something.
“What about yesterday morning?” I ask. I force myself to look into her harsh, scowling face again. She’s not at all happy. She shifts her weight from one foot to the other and chews her gum even harder and faster. Her jaw moves in a frantic circular motion. She looks like a cow chewing the cud. Fucking heifer.
“What about yesterday morning?” she spits.
“Well,” I explain, trying hard not to sound like I’m patronizing her, “if you remember I was twenty minutes early yesterday and I started working as soon as I got here. If I’m going to make up your fifteen minutes for today, can I claim back my twenty minutes for yesterday? Or shall we just call it quits and I’ll let you off the five minutes?”
“Don’t be stupid. You know it doesn’t work like that.”
“Maybe it should.”
Bloody hell, now she’s really annoyed. Her face is flushed red and I can see the veins on her neck bulging. It was a stupid and pointless comment to make but I’m right, aren’t I? Why should the council, the city government, have it all their own way? Tina’s staring at me now and her silence is making me feel really uncomfortable. I should have just kept my mouth closed. I let her win the face-off and I turn back around to sign on to my computer again.
“Either take it off your lunch hour or work late,” she says over her shoulder as she walks away. “I don’t care what you do, just make sure you make up the time you owe.”
And she’s off. Conversation’s over and I don’t get any chance to respond or to try and get the last word. Bitch.
Tina makes my skin crawl but I find myself staring at her rather than at my computer screen. She’s back at her desk now and Barry Penny, the office manager, has suddenly appeared. Her body language has completely changed now that she’s speaking to someone who’s higher up the council pecking order than she is. She’s smiling and laughing at his pathetic jokes and generally trying to see how far she can crawl up his backside.
I can’t help thinking about what I’ve just seen happen outside. Christ, I wish I had that bloke’s umbrella. I know exactly where I’d shove it.

Sometimes having such a dull and monotonous job is an advantage. This stuff is way beneath me and I don’t really have to think about what I’m doing. I can do my work on autopilot and the time passes quickly. It’s been like that so far this morning. Job satisfaction is nonexistent but at least the day isn’t dragging.
I’ve been working here for almost eight months now (it feels longer) and I’ve worked for the council for the last three-and-a‑half years. In that time I’ve worked my way through more departments than most long-serving council staff manage in their entire careers. I keep getting transferred. I served time in the pest control, refuse collection, and street lamp maintenance departments before I ended up here in the Parking Fine Processing office or PFP as the council likes to call it. They have an irritating habit of trying to reduce as many department names and job titles down to sets of initials as they can. Before I was transferred here I’d been told that the PFP was a dumping ground for underperformers and, as soon as I arrived, I realized it was true. In most of the places I’ve worked I’ve either liked the job but not the people or the other way around. Here I have problems with both. This place is a breeding ground for trouble. This is where those motorists who’ve been unlucky (or stupid) enough to get wheel-clamped, caught on camera violating a traffic rule, or given a ticket by a parking warden come to shout and scream and dispute their fines. I used to have sympathy with them and I believed their stories. Eight months here has changed me. Now I don’t believe anything that anyone tells me.
“Did you see that bloke this morning?” a voice asks from behind the computer on my left. It’s Kieran Smyth. I like Kieran. Like most of us he’s wasted here. He’s got brains and he could make something of himself if he tried. He was studying law at university but took a holiday job here last summer and never went back to class. Told me he got used to having the money and couldn’t cope without it. He buys an incredible amount of stuff. Every day he seems to come back from lunch with bags of clothes, books, DVDs, and CDs. I’m just jealous because I struggle to scrape together enough money to buy food, never mind anything else. Kieran spends most of his day talking to his mate Daryl Evans who sits on my right. They talk through me and over me but very rarely to me. It doesn’t bother me though. Their conversations are as boring as hell and the only thing I have in common with them is that the three of us all work within the same small section of the same small office. What does annoy me, if I’m honest, is the fact that they both seem to be able to get away with not doing very much for large chunks of the working day. Maybe it’s because they’re friendly with Tina outside work and they go out drinking together. Christ, I only have to cough and she’s up out of her seat wanting to know what I’m doing and why I’ve stopped working.
“What bloke?” Daryl shouts back.
“Out on the street on the way to work.”
“Which street?”
“The high street, just outside Cartwrights.”
“Didn’t see anything.”“You must have.”
“I didn’t. I didn’t walk past Cartwrights. I came the other way this morning.”
“There was this bloke,” Kieran explains regardless, “you should have seen him. He went absolutely fucking mental.”
“What are you on about?”
“Honest, mate, he was wild. You ask Bob Rawlings up in Archives. He saw it. He reckons he practically killed her.”
“Killed who?”
“I don’t know, just some old woman. No word of a lie, he just started laying into her for no reason. Stabbed her with a bloody umbrella I heard!”
“Now you’re taking the piss...”
“I’m serious.”
“No way!”“You go and ask Bob...”
I usually ignore these quick-fire conversations (most of the time I don’t have a clue what they’re talking about) but today I can actually add something because I was there. It’s pathetic, I know, but the fact that I seem to know more about what happened than either Kieran or Daryl makes me feel smug and superior.
“He’s right,” I say, looking up from my screen.
“Did you see it then?” Kieran asks. I lean back on my seat in self-satisfaction.
“Happened right in front of me. He might even have gone for me if I’d been a few seconds earlier.”
“So what was it all about?” Daryl asks. “Is what he’s saying right?”
I quickly look over at Tina. She’s got her head buried in a pile of papers. It’s safe to keep talking.
“I saw the old girl first,” I tell them. “I nearly tripped over her. She came flying past me and smashed up against the window by the side door of Cartwrights. I thought it must be a group of kids trying to get her bag off her or something like that. Couldn’t believe it when I saw him. He just looked like a normal bloke. Suit, tie, glasses...”
“So why did he do it? What had she done to him?”
“No idea. Bloody hell, mood he was in I wasn’t about to ask him.”
“And he just went for her?” Daryl mumbles, sounding like he doesn’t believe a word I’m saying. I nod and glance from side to side at both of them.
“Never seen anything like it,” I continue. “He ran at her and stabbed her with an umbrella. It was gross. It went right into her belly. There was blood all over her coat and...”
Tina’s looking up now. I look down and start typing, trying to remember what it was I was doing.
“Then what?” Kieran hisses.
“Idiot turned on the rest of the crowd. Started hitting out at the people around him. Then the police turned up,” I explain, still looking at my screen but not actually doing anything. “They dragged him away and shoved him in the back of a van.”
The conversation stops again. Murray’s on the move. For a moment the only sound I can hear is the clicking of three computer keyboards as we pretend to work. After looking around the room and staring at me in particular she leaves the office and Kieran and Daryl immediately stop inputting.
“So was there something wrong with him?” Daryl asks pointlessly.
“Of course there was something wrong with him,” I answer. Christ, this guy’s an idiot at times. “Do you think he’d stab an old lady with an umbrella if there wasn’t anything wrong with him?”
“But did he say anything? Was he screaming or shouting or...?”
I wonder whether it’s even worth answering his half-asked question.
“Both,” I grunt.
“Was he drunk or on drugs or...?”
“I don’t know,” I say, beginning to get annoyed. I stop and think for a second before speaking again. In my head I can still see the expression on the man’s face. “He looked absolutely fucking terrified,” I tell them. “He looked like he was the one who was being attacked.”


There’s a girl who sits on the other side of the office called Jennifer Reynolds. I don’t know her very well. I don’t have much to do with her from day to day. In fact I’ve only spoken to her a handful of times since I was transferred into the PFP. She’s not here today and I hate it when she’s out. When Jennifer Reynolds isn’t here her duties get shared between the rest of us, and the job I have to cover today is the worst job of all—Reception. The postal address of the PFP isn’t actively broadcast but it’s on some of the correspondence we send out and it’s in the phone book and it doesn’t take much for the general public to find out where we are. We get a lot of visitors, too many in my opinion. If someone comes here it’s almost always because they’ve been fined or clamped. They’ve probably already tried to get the fine overturned or the clamp removed and, by the time they reach us, coming to argue their case in person is often the only option they have left. So those people who do turn up here are likely to already be seriously pissed off. Shouting, screaming, and threatening behavior isn’t unusual. The first place these people reach is Reception, and the first person they get to scream at, shout at, or threaten is the poor sod sitting behind the desk.
So here I am, sitting alone at the Reception desk, staring at the tatty bronzed-glass entrance door, watching anxiously for any visitors. I hate this. It’s like sitting in a dentist’s waiting room. I’m constantly watching the clock on the wall. It’s hung just above a large bulletin board covered with unread and unhelpful council posters and notices. Just to the left of the bulletin board, equally unread and unhelpful, is a small sign which warns the public against intimidating or attacking council staff. The fact that it’s there doesn’t make me feel any safer. There’s a personal-attack alarm stuck under the desk but that doesn’t make me feel any better either.
It’s four thirty-eight. Twenty-two minutes to go then I’m finished for the day.
I’m sure Tina enjoys making me come out here. It’s always me who ends up covering for Jennifer. Being out on Reception is a form of torture. You’re not allowed to bring any paperwork out here with you (something about protecting confidential data) and the lack of any distractions makes the time drag painfully slowly. So far this afternoon I’ve only had to deal with two phone calls, and they were just personal calls for members of staff.
Four thirty-nine.
Come on clock, speed up.

Four fifty-four.
Almost there. I’m watching the clock all the time now, willing the hands to move around quickly so that I can get out of here. I’m already rehearsing my escape from the office in my head. I just have to shut down my computer and grab my coat from the cloakroom, then I’ll sprint to the station. If I can get away quickly enough I might manage to catch the early train and that’ll get me back home for...
Damn. Bloody phone’s ringing again. I hate the way it rings. It grates like an off-key alarm clock and the noise goes right through me. I pick it up and cringe at the thought of what might be waiting for me at the other end of the line.
“Good afternoon, PFP, Danny McCoyne speaking,” I mumble quickly. I’ve learned to answer the phone quietly and at speed. It makes it difficult for the caller to take your name.
“Can I speak to Mr. Fitzpatrick in Payroll please?” a heavily accented female voice asks. Thank God for that—this isn’t a screaming member of the public with a complaint, it’s just a wrong number. I relax. We get a few calls for Payroll most days. Their extensions are similar to ours. You’d think someone would do something about it. Anyway I’m relieved. The last thing I want is a problem at four fifty-five.
“You’ve come through to the wrong department,” I explain. “You’ve dialed 2300 instead of 3200. I’ll try and transfer you. If you get cut off just dial 1000 and that’ll take you through to the main exchange...”
I’m suddenly distracted and my voice trails away as the front door flies open. I instinctively move back in my chair, trying to put as much distance as possible between me and whoever it is who’s about to come storming into the building. I finish the phone call and allow myself to relax slightly when I see the front wheels of a child’s stroller being forced through the door. The stroller is jammed in the doorway and I get up to help. A short, rain-soaked woman in a green and purple jacket enters Reception. As well as the child in the stroller (which is hidden from view by a heavy plastic rain cover) two more small children follow her inside. The bedraggled family stands in the middle of the Reception area and drips water onto the grubby marble-effect floor. The woman seems harassed and is preoccupied with her kids. She snaps at the tallest child, telling him that “Mummy has a problem to sort out with this man, then we’ll get you back home for something to eat.”
She takes off her hood and I can see that she’s in her late thirties or early forties. She’s plain looking and her large, round, rain-splashed glasses are steaming up. Her face is flushed red and there are dribbles of rainwater dripping off the end of her nose. She doesn’t make eye contact with me. She slams her handbag down on the desk and begins searching through it. She stops for a moment to lift the rain cover (which is also beginning to steam up with condensation) and checks on her baby, who seems to be sleeping. She returns her attention to the contents of her handbag and I make my way back around to the other side of the counter.
“Can I help you?” I ask cautiously, deciding that it’s about time I offered. She glares at me over the rim of her glasses. This woman has an attitude, I can sense it. She’s making me feel uncomfortable. I know I’m in for a hard time.
“Wait a minute,” she snaps, talking to me as if I’m one of her kids. She takes a packet of tissues out of her bag and passes one to one of the children at her feet who keeps wiping his nose on the back of his sleeve. “Blow,” she orders sternly, shoving the tissue into the middle of the kid’s face. The child doesn’t argue.
I glance up at the clock. Four fifty-seven. Doesn’t look like I’ll be getting the early train home tonight.
“I parked my car at Leftbank Place for five minutes while I took my eldest son to the toilet,” she begins as she repacks her bag. No time for niceties, she’s straight into her complaint. “In those five minutes my car was clamped. Now I know that I shouldn’t have been parked there, but it was only for five minutes and I was only there because it was absolutely necessary. I want to speak to someone who has the authority to sort this out and I want to speak to them now. I want that clamp removed from my car so I can get my children home.”
I clear my throat and get ready to try and respond. Suddenly my mouth is dry and my tongue feels twice its normal size. It had to be Leftbank Place, didn’t it. It’s an area of waste ground just ten minutes walk from our office. Sometimes it feels like just about every other car that’s clamped in this town is clamped at Leftbank Place. The enforcement team who cover that area are notorious. Someone told me they’re on some kind of performance-related pay scheme—the more cars they clamp each week, the more they get paid. I don’t know whether or not that’s true but it doesn’t help me now. I know I have no choice but to give this woman a stock response from procedures. I also know that she’s not going to like it.
“Madam,” I begin, tensing up in anticipation of her reaction, “Leftbank Place is a strictly no-parking area. The council...”
She doesn’t give me a chance to get any further.
“I’ll tell you about the council,” she yells, her voice suddenly uncomfortably loud. “This bloody council needs to spend less time clamping people and more time making sure that public amenities are in proper working order. The only reason I had to park at bloody Leftbank Place was because the public toilets in Millennium Square have been vandalized! My son has a bowel condition. I didn’t have any choice. He couldn’t wait any longer.”
“There must have been other toilets...” I begin to say, instantly regretting having opened my mouth. Christ I hate this job. I wish I was back dealing with rubbish collections, rat infestations, or even broken street lamps again. My biggest problem is that it sounds like this woman has been genuinely hard done by and I’d probably have done exactly the same as she did if I’d been out with my kids. It sounds like she’s got a fair point and there’s nothing I’d like to do more than call off the clampers but I don’t have the authority. My options now are bleak; follow procedures and get yelled at again by this lady or get yelled at by Tina Murray if I don’t do things by the book. Chances are I’m going to cop it from both of them. Before she can react to my stupid comment I try and cover it up. “I understand what you’re saying, Madam, but...”
“Do you?” she screams, this time loud enough to wake the baby in the stroller who starts to whimper and moan. “Do you really? I don’t think you do, because if you did understand you’d be on the phone to someone right now getting that bloody clamp removed from my car so that I can get my children home. They’re cold, they’re hungry and...”
“I need to just...”
“I don’t want excuses, I want this dealt with.”
She’s not going to listen. This is pointless. She isn’t even going to give me a chance.
“I suggest you go and speak to your superiors and find someone who’s prepared to take responsibility for this shoddy mess and come and sort it out. I was forced to park at Leftbank Place because of this council’s inefficiency. I have a son who has a medical condition and I needed to get him to the toilet urgently. If the council had done their job properly in the first place and had made sure the public toilets were in full working order then I wouldn’t have been parked there, I wouldn’t have been clamped, and I wouldn’t be standing here now talking to someone who clearly can’t or won’t do anything to help me. I need to speak to someone who’s a little higher up the chain of command than the receptionist so why don’t you do us both a favor and go and find someone who is actually prepared to do something before my son needs to use the toilet again.”
Patronizing bitch. I stand and stare at her, feeling myself getting angrier and angrier. But there’s nothing I can do...
“Well?” she snaps.
“Just give me a minute, madam,” I stammer. I turn and storm back into the office and walk straight into Tina coming the other way.
“What are you doing in here, Danny?” she asks, her tone of voice as patronizing as the woman outside. “If you’re in here, who’s manning Reception?”
She knows full well there’s no one out there. I try and explain but I know it’s pointless.
“I’ve got a lady out in Reception who...”
“You should have telephoned through if you needed help,” she interrupts. “You know the rules, you’ve been here long enough now. There should always be someone at the Reception desk and you should always telephone through if you have a problem.”
“There is someone at the Reception desk,” I sigh, “and she’s having a real go at me so can I tell you what her problem is please?”
She looks up at the clock. Damn, it’s gone five. I’ll probably be stuck at the station until six now.
“Make it quick,” she sneers, making it sound as if she’s doing me a favor.
“This lady has been clamped because she parked at Leftbank Place...”
“Tough! You can’t park at Leftbank Place. There are bloody big signs up everywhere telling you not to park at Leftbank Place.”
This isn’t getting any easier.
“I know that, you know that, and she knows that. That’s not the issue.”
“What do you mean, that’s not the issue?”
I pause before speaking again. I know I’m going to have a battle convincing Tina that this lady has a genuine case. For a moment I consider giving up and taking my chances outside in Reception again.
“This lady tells me she parked at Leftbank Place because she needed to take her son to the toilet.”
“What kind of an excuse is that?”
“She needed to take him to the toilet because he has a medical condition and because the public toilets in Millennium Square have been vandalized.”
“That’s not our problem...”
“No, but her argument is that it is the council’s problem. She’s demanding we get the clamp removed. Won’t go anywhere until it’s done.”
“She can’t go anywhere,” Tina laughs to herself. “We’ll get the clamp removed when she pays the fine.”
I’m not surprised by her response, just disappointed. I want to go home. I don’t want to go out there and get yelled at again. What annoys me most of all is that we both know the longer this lady stands her ground and makes a noise in Reception, the more chance there is that the clamp will be removed. I can’t stand all this bullshit and pretense. I can’t help but say something.
“Come on, Tina, give me a break. You know as well as I do that if she shouts long enough we’ll let her off.”
She looks at me, chews her gum, and shrugs her shoulders.
“That’s as may be, but we have to try and take the fee from the client first. You know the procedure. We have to...”
There’s no point listening to any more of this rubbish. I can’t be bothered.
“I know the bloody procedure,” I sigh as I turn my back on her and trudge back toward Reception. I wonder whether I should just keep going? Should I walk straight past the woman and her kids and just leave the building and the job behind?
I open the door and she turns around to glare at me. The expression on her face is pure evil.
I take a deep breath.
“I’ve had a word with my supervisor,” I begin dejectedly, knowing what’s coming next. “We can get the clamp removed, but we must insist on payment of the charge indicated on the signs displayed at Leftbank Place. We can’t...”
And she’s off. She explodes again, shouting and yelling at me. The force, velocity, and ferocity of her outburst is remarkable. It’s an incredible (but not at all unexpected) rant and I have no defense. I can’t argue because I happen to think she has a valid case. If she’d just shut up for a second I might be able to...oh, what’s the use? I don’t know why I bother. The more she shouts at me the less I’m inclined to listen. I’ve given up trying to follow what she’s saying now. Her words have just become a constant stream of noise. I’ll wait for her to take a breath.
“Madam,” I interrupt quickly as she pauses to inhale. I hold my hand up in front of me to make it clear that it’s my turn to speak. “I’ll go and get my supervisor.”
I walk away, ignoring the muttered comments I can hear about “speaking to the organ grinder, not the monkey.” I’m long past caring. As I reach for the office door Tina pulls it open from the other side and barges past me. She stops just long enough to hiss a few venomous words in my direction.
“Well handled,” she sneers sarcastically. “You’re bloody useless, you are. I could hear her shouting from my desk. Now, what’s her name?”
“Don’t know,” I admit, cringing at the fact that I haven’t even managed to establish the most basic of details.
“Bloody useless,” she sneers again before fixing a false smile on her foul face and marching over to the bedraggled woman and her children. “My name’s Tina Murray,” she says. “How can I help you?”
I lean against the office door and watch the predictable charade being played out. Tina listens to the complaint, points out to the lady that she really shouldn’t have been parked at Leftbank Place, then makes a phone call to “see what she can do.” Ten minutes later and the clamp is removed. Tina looks fantastic and I look like an idiot. I knew it would happen like that.

Five thirty-two.
I run to the station and reach the platform just in time to see the next train leave.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Book Trailer: David Moody - "Hater"

One of the novels I am looking forward to read this year is David Moody’s “Hater”. But until I can buy the novel or get a review copy I will take delight in this viral video promoting the release of David Moody’s novel.

DAVID MOODY self - published Hater online in 2006. Without an agent, he succeeded in selling the film rights to Guillermo del Toro (director, Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy 1 & 2, and the upcoming Hobbit series) and Mark Johnson (producer, The Chronicles of Narnia). With the official publication of Hater (2/17/2009), David is poised to make a significant mark as a writer of “farther out” fiction of all varieties.

REMAIN CALM DO NOT PANIC TAKE SHELTER WAIT FOR FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS THE SITUATION IS UNDER CONTROL Society is rocked by a sudden increase in the number of violent assaults on individuals. Christened 'Haters' by the media, the attackers strike without warning, killing all who cross their path. The assaults are brutal, remorseless and extreme: within seconds, normally rational, self-controlled people become frenzied, vicious killers. There are no apparent links as a hundred random attacks become a thousand, then hundreds of thousands. Everyone, irrespective of gender, age, race or any other difference, has the potential to become a victim - or a Hater. People are afraid to go to work, afraid to leave their homes and, increasingly, afraid that at any moment their friends, even their closest family, could turn on them with ultra violent intent. Waking up each morning, no matter how well defended, everyone must now consider the fact that by the end of the day, they might be dead. Or perhaps worse, become a killer themselves. As the status quo shifts, ATTACK FIRST, ASK QUESTIONS LATER becomes the order of the day... only, the answers might be much different than what you expect....

In the tradition of H. G. Wells and Richard Matheson, Hater is one man’s story of his place in a world gone mad— a world infected with fear, violence, and HATE.

You can find additional information here.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Cover art - "The Dog of the North" by Tim Stretton

One of my future reads will be Tim Stretton’s “The Dog of the North”. The novel was released on July last year by MacMillan New Writing in Hardback format and its Paperback edition will be released this year on 5th of June by another imprint of Pan MacMillan, TOR.

Winter on the lawless plains of the Emmenrule. En route to her wedding in the fortified city of Croad, the beautiful Lady Isola is kidnapped. What is worse, her captor is the infamous Beauceron. But, ruthless as he may be, Beauceron is no ordinary brigand: it is his life's ambition to capture Croad itself – and he will stop at nothing to achieve it.
Mondia, though, is a continent of many stories, and in Croad, a young man named Arren has been taken under the wing of the city's ruler, Lord Thaume. Although of low birth, Arren is destined to become a knight of valour and renown. But as his fortunes rise, so those of his childhood friend Eilla fall.
Beauceron has returned with his human plunder to his home – the exquisite frozen city of Mettingloom. There, the imperious Isola finds herself reassessing her former loyalties as she struggles to adapt to her new life. Beauceron, meanwhile, is manoeuvring to raise an army. He is determined to defeat his enemies, both inside and outside Mettingloom – and to capture the city he loathes.
But what is the source of Beauceron’s obsession with Croad? Can Arren reconcile his youthful ambitions with his growing feelings for Eilla? And just who is the Dog of the North?
Tim Stretton’s debut novel is a spellbinding tale of loyalty and betrayal, homeland and exile, set in a brilliantly imagined world of political intrigue, sorcery, and warfare on an epic scale.

I personally have the hardback edition, but I cannot admire the new cover of “The Dog of the North”, one realized by Steve Stone if I am not mistaken (seen at the beginning of the post). I also cannot notice the real improvement realized compared with the hardback edition. The new cover keeps the elements of the first cover art but adding something extra to its general aspect and dynamics. I really like the new cover and in my opinion it speaks a little more about the novel. However, I eagerly wait to explore a little more between its covers, but like I said not much to wait until then.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

In the mailbox

Here are the books I received this week, with my thanks to their senders:

- "The Secret War" by M.F.W. Curran (through the courtesy of Pan MacMillan);
- "The Hoard of Mhorrer" by M.F.W. Curran (through the courtesy of Pan MacMillan);
- "The Red Wolf Conspiracy" by Robert V.S. Redick (through the courtesy of Del Rey Books);
- "The Steel Remains" by Richard K. Morgan (through the courtesy of Del Rey Books);
- "The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 19" edited by Stephen Jones (through the courtesy of Constable & Robinson).

Thank you all very much once again!

Friday, February 6, 2009

On the blogosphere

The blogosphere is such a wonderful place and a great source for information, articles, reviews and chances of winning free books (how I love free books :)). Here are some links of last week posts that really caught my eye:

Joe Abercrombie follows the reactions created by the US cover of his upcoming novel, “Best Served Cold”, with an wonderful and interesting post on his blog.
Theresa from Fantasy & Sci-Fi Lovin’ Blog points us to an interesting reaction of Stephen King regarding Stephenie Meyer and her “Twilight” series. I have to be honest and say that I didn’t read any of the series books, but I find Stephen King’s reaction very interesting. Also she has another of her short story collection contests, this time the prize includes: “Crime Spells” edited by Loren L. Coleman & Martin H. Greenberg, “Catopolis” edited by Janet Deaver-Pack & Martin H. Greenberg and “Unusual Suspects” edited by Dana Stabenow (US participants only).

Dragonmount shows us sample covers of the graphic novels adaptation of Robert Jordan’s “The Wheel of Time” planned by Dabel Brothers.

John from Grasping for the Wind reached his 100,000 hits with his interesting blog. Congratulations John!
Robert from Fantasy Book Critic reviews “Hatter” by David Moody and “Lamentation” by Ken Scholes, two titles I am looking forward to read this year. Also he has another two great contests: 5 copies of Stephen Hunt’s “The Rise of the Iron Moon” (open worldwide) and 3 signed copies of Jonathan Maberry’s “Patient Zero” (open to North American residents).

Book Spot Central offers the possibility of winning 3 signed copies of Kit Redd’s “Enclave” and 5 copies of Carlos J. Cortes’ “Perfect Circle”.
Ken from Neth Space offers us his review of “Lamentation” by Ken Scholes.

Mulluane from Dragons, Heroes and Wizards reviews the first two books in Glen Cook’s “Chronicles of the Black Company”, “The Black Company” and “Shadows Linger”.

Graeme from Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review reviews M.F.W. Curran’s “The Secret War”. This is one of my future reads as well.

Gav from Next Read shows a promo of second book in Chris Ewan’s “Charlie Howard” series, “The Good Thief’s Guide to Paris”, and his review of the first book, “The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam”.
Rob from Rob’s Blog o’ Stuff points us to his review of Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s “The Shadow of the Wind” posted on SFF World. Another high recommendation for this amazing novel.

Doug from SciFi Guy reviews “Red-Headed Stepchild by Jaye Wells.

Ben from Speculative Fiction Junkie reviews “The Infinite Instant” by Danielle L. Parker.

Adam from The Wertzone reviews “Look to Windward” by Iain M. Banks.

Well, I am off signing for the contests where I qualify :)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Cover art article

Following the reveal of Joe Abercrombie’s “Best Served Cold” cover for the US edition and the reactions started by it, the art department of Orbit US made a wonderful article about their cover.

I love the article, especially because I have a huge interest in cover art and because most probably I would have tried to defend my work as well. Like I said yesterday I find the US cover interesting and taken on itself it catches the eye and interest, although I would not know the author. But I believe that I am not the only one making the comparison with the UK cover. Still the article written by Lauren Panepinto makes some light on the process of making the cover and the goal of the Orbit US Art Department.

And one of the publisher goals is reaching for a brand new audience of readers. I certainly can understand that, after all an author doesn’t write just for the love of art and a publisher doesn’t release titles just for fun, making a profit is part of the process. Also I understand that the publisher tries to keep a general line on the presentation and its books to be easily recognized on the library shelves. But I believe that small changes are only benefic and can take way the stereotypical sensation.

I am perfectly aware that the important part is always between the covers, but the cover art plays a definite role in my opinion. When I walk in a library and looking through the shelves my first encounter is with the cover art and a great or interesting one will play in favor of an unknown author or title to me and it will made me pick the book up and read its blurb and look between the covers. So I have to admit once again that although I would have picked this book with both of its covers if the books will stand together I will pick the UK edition.

But it is very nice that Orbit shows us the insights of its Art Department and of the process of making a cover. I am looking forward to read more such captivating articles.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Cover art - "Best Served Cold" by Joe Abercrombie (US edition)

Pat from Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist revealed in one of his posts the future cover of the US edition of the upcoming Joe Abercrombie’s novel, “Best Served Cold”. Now, I have to say that the cover art isn’t bad and taken independently it catches the eye. However, I can’t help myself and not notice that it pales in comparison with the UK cover of the novel. With all the honesty I have to say that the image of the girl added on the right side of the cover ruins the effect and the savor of the map seen in its entire beauty. It is not for the first time when a book has different covers for the UK and US editions and I don’t know the demands on this two book markets, but I personally I would have liked the same cover on the both editions (the UK one, seen below).
And speaking of Joe Abercrombie if you go to his website you can find that he is having a great competition with a few Advance Reader Copies of “Best Served Cold” as prize. The contest is opened worldwide and if you are interested you can find the full details of the competition on Joe Abercrombie’s blog.

Monday, February 2, 2009

"Voices" edited by Mark S. Deniz & Amanda Pillar

Format: Paperback, 180 pages
Publisher: Morrigan Books

In my whole life I have been in several hotel or motel rooms, but I have to admit that I never thought of the previous guests who passed through that particular room. And if the hotel building doesn’t have a historical importance I might pass over its history as well. The anthology edited by Mark S. Deniz and Amanda Pillar, “Voices”, propose such a foray, raising a question what if the new guest is affected by his room past.

“Voices” is structured in four sections, named “Illusions”, “By the Hand”, “Possessions” and “Epiphanies”, each one opened with a short story written by Robert Hood. And Robert Hood’s stories take the reader in a journey through time and building structure, beginning from the lobby to the 4th floor and with a 20 year gap between them, starting from 1928 up to 2008.

“Prologue” by Robert Hood – A married couple comes to the hotel, but their staying will suffer an unexpected twist in the lobby. This short story makes a good introduction for the collection, with an uncomfortable feeling created by Robert Hood. I really liked and enjoyed the dialogue between the husband and wife.

“Sanctuary” by Carole Johnstone – A woman who is on the run seeks a refugee in a hotel room only to find that the needed sanctuary might not be on her liking. The character of this story has difficulties in discerning the reality from the illusion and the reader will find at the end that he has to make his own choosing, how much illusion surrounded the character?

“The Mirror” by K.V. Taylor – Max and Luca are hiding in the hotel room. But Max has trouble sleeping and he hears a music coming from the mirror. This is the first published story of K.V. Taylor and although it might look a little unpolished it made me think of what an obsession could do to the human mind.

“His Only Company, the Walls” by Brad C. Hodson – A man tries to reach his ex-girlfriend at the phone while he waits her in a hotel room. But who is eventually coming might not be on his liking. The story is told through the phone messages left by the character and I really liked how he suffers changes with each call, I almost see his degradation. This is one of my favorite stories from this collection.

“Remainders: 1948” by Robert Hood – Marcus Bryant, a famous explorer and hunter, is desperately trying to find finances for a new expedition to Borneo. But his expedition comes sooner than he thinks. A paranormal story which involves the power of illusion.

“Paris” by Todd C. Edwards – Celine collapses on her room floor after consuming an overdose of alcohol and medicines. Her hope for help lies in her boyfriend, Marcel, but she will be taken by surprise. An interesting story which deals with the human reactions when facing panicked situations.

“Just Us” by Pete Kempshall – Alex Gallagher investigates a murder scene in a hotel room, the criminal being his former chief. This is another story centered on the human nature, about manipulation and ambition. And for a person the things happening in the next room might remain a mystery as much as the thoughts of the person next to him.

“A Picture of Death” by Shane Jiraiya Cummings – The police is investigating a case of hanging. It is a supernatural story, with an example of how different can the things be seen sometimes. I felt on some places that the author is forcing the terror on some of its characters and that is trying a little too much to point the reader to a terrifying situation.

“Remainders: 1968” by Robert Hood – Sarah is looking for her room, but will find a horrifying scene on her floor. This story mixes the horror of a real situation and a supernatural situation.

“Constance Craving” by Gary McMahon – Thomas Usher, a man able to see ghosts, is asked to help Reverend Alex Potter and the parents of a girl who believes that she is a vampire by talking to her. I really liked this story, because it has an interesting dialogue, which sets the protagonist in a conflictual state and also I could see his doubts and fears. I liked a lot too that the story is ambiguous and the author doesn’t point an obvious truth leaving much in the end on the reader’s imagination as well.

“Bedbugs” by Martin Livings – Allison will discover in a strange way the destiny of one of her room’s previous guest. It is an interesting story, with two physical abuses that will superpose in a new disturbing image.

“Faking It” by Siobhan Byford – Celeste and Paul are two supposed mediums who make money from naïve clients. Only this time the money will be harder earned than before. Another supernatural story, made interesting by the way the author only hints the danger threatening the supposed medium.

“Remainders: 1988” by Robert Hood – Gowing leaves his home, unhappy with his wife and son. The story deals with surpassed memories that have a way of coming back unexpected.

“Sentinel” by Sonia Marcon – An Eastern European family visiting the country will find through their young daughter that the next room holds a macabre truth. I have to admit that this story didn’t sit very well with me, because I failed to find the relevance in one character presence and an illogical gap that spoiled my read (I find hard to believe that a killer will leave his bag unattended in an opened door room).

“The Suicide Room” by Paul Kane – Richard Gray comes to the hotel because he believes that this is a perfect place for killing himself. Unfortunately this is another story I didn’t enjoy. First the story looks like a huge list of suicide methods and second the end of the story sounded like a punishment taken from Dante’s “Purgatory” and set in a hotel room.

“The Man Who Wasn’t There” by Rodney J. Smith – A man tired of his job and the long journeys that it necessitates wonders what would be like if he had left his life behind. The story raises an interesting question, but the answer offered can’t be that simple.

“Remainders: 2008” by Robert Hood – Tara comes to the hotel drawn by a distant relative who has his destiny bound to the hotel. This story shows that not only humans can have a terrifying destiny, but a building can have one as well.

“Epilogue” by Robert Hood – It is the outcome of the collection imaginative hotel. It is the shortest story of the anthology that adds one more horror to the building.

Although I would have liked some of the stories to be longer, “Voices” is a nice collection of horror stories that deals more with the supernatural and paranormal aspects of the genre and less or almost not at all with the gory and macabre part. Also the anthology edited by Mark S. Deniz and Amanda Pillar presents new or established authors of the genre and I personally discovered through “Voices” a few names that stirred my interest.