Monday, July 29, 2013

Cover art - "Balfour and Meriwether in the Incident of the Harrowmoor Dogs" by Daniel Abraham

In the last couple of years I gathered a series of books I read and enjoyed a lot but for which I never managed to sit down and write a review. Sometimes I feel guilty about it, but most often I am just happy I was able to discover their magic. Of course, it doesn’t compensate my wish to have actually showcased these titles with a proper review on the blog, but in a way it is better than nothing. One author who became quickly one of my favorites and ended up in the said list is Daniel Abraham. I had review copies of the first three novels of the “Long Price Quartet” at the time of their release but I didn’t read them then. To make the matter a little bit worse, all the four novels in Daniel Abraham’s series are among the books I read and enjoyed in the fullest in the recent years and never got around to write the review I had in mind. It is a matter to be considered for the future. Yet again much later than the publication day I finished last week-end “The Dragon’s Path”, the excellent first novel in Daniel Abraham’s “The Dagger and the Coin” series, but at least in this case I am already writing my review. It is a start and I am hoping to catch up with the other two novels of the series really soon. I also hope to catch up with the stories of two other characters born from Daniel Abraham’s pen, Balfour and Meriwether, until the new novella featuring their adventures comes up from Subterranean Press. “Balfour and Meriwether in the Incident of the Harrowmoor Dogs” is scheduled to be released on October this year and is the third adventure of this pair of special agents after “The Adventure of the Emperor’s Vengeance” and “The Vampire of Kabul”, both available in digital format in the volume “Balfour and Meriwether in Two Adventures” published by SnackReads. If the first two are short stories and the volume containing them is about 40 pages long, “Balfour and Meriwether in the Incident of the Harrowmoor Dogs” is a novella length adventure of about 90 pages. The cover artwork of the volume is made by David Palumbo and while I am not a big fan of characters on covers I find it difficult to argue with how the things turned out here. I could say that I can’t wait to get a copy of this novella, but although it is true I also have some things to put in order with Daniel Abraham’s works that I am certain the time until “Balfour and Meriwether in the Incident of Harrowmoor Dogs” is released will seem short.

When a private envoy of the queen and member of Lord Carmichael's discreet service goes missing, Balfour and Meriwether are asked to look into the affair.  They will find a labyrinth of dreams, horrors risen from hell, prophecy, sexual perversion, and an abandoned farmhouse on the moors outside Harrowmoor Sanitarium.  The earth itself will bare its secrets and the Empire itself will tremble in the face of the hidden dangers they discover, but the greatest peril is the one they have brought with them.

Friday, July 26, 2013

"On a Red Station, Drifting" by Aliette de Bodard

"On a Red Station, Drifting"
Publisher: Immersion Press
The review is based on a bought copy of the book

For generations Prosper Station has thrived under the guidance of its Honoured Ancestress: born of a human womb, the station’s artificial intelligence has offered guidance and protection to its human relatives.
But war has come to the Dai Viet Empire. Prosper’s brightest minds have been called away to defend the Emperor; and a flood of disorientated refugees strain the station’s resources. As deprivations cause the station’s ordinary life to unravel, uncovering old grudges and tearing apart the decimated family, Station Mistress Quyen and the Honoured Ancestress struggle to keep their relatives united and safe.
What Quyen does not know is that the Honoured Ancestress herself is faltering, her mind eaten away by a disease that seems to have no cure; and that the future of the station itself might hang in the balance…

In the recent couple of years it is easy to remark Aliette de Bodard among the most important names of modern speculative fiction because of her recent works being shortlisted or winning the prestigious awards of the genre. But in the light of the recent appreciations Aliette de Bodard has received let’s not forget that even from the early days of her writing career her works have been recognized for their value. After all, how many writers can put in their CVs references such as honorable mentions in year’s bests or nominations to Nebula and BSFA Awards from their debut years?

So far, Aliette de Bodard’s published works dwell in two universes, a couple of stories and the “Obsidian and Blood” trilogy of novels, set in the Postclassical Mesoamerica, a historical noir with fantastical elements, and the rest of her short fiction set in the Xuya universe, an alternative history spanning from 1400s to the distant future. To go into specific details of the Xuya universe here will somehow evade the scope of this review, therefore I recommend a visit Aliette de Bodard’s website for all the information and stories of this alternative setting. Among those stories you will also find “On a Red Station, Drifting”, the latest exploration of the Xuya universe.

The Dai Viet Empire is at war and the rebel fighting forces push closer and closer to the heart of the empire. When the conflict zone reaches the 23rd planet Lê Thi Linh flees it and seeks refuge among her distant relatives on Prosper Station. Welcomed by the Hounoured Ancestress, the AI of the station, she is instantly disliked by her cousin and Prosper’s administrator, Lê Thi Quyen. The interaction between the two cousins gives birth to a family drama, a conflict with consequences beyond their personal lives. Two women with strong personalities bearing different connections with the past, but a similar one with the near future.

Although the Dai Viet Empire is the pinnacle of technology the past and old traditions are never forgotten and a constant presence in the everyday life of its citizens. The lineage of one family can be traced to its roots, the family ties require certain obligations according to each member’s statute. A certain examination is required for everyone around the Dai Viet Empire and failing this exam or the incapacity of reaching a higher level at the examination can throw one to a different destiny entirely. Lê Thi Linh and Lê Thi Quyen had different paths in life because of the examination, but war throw their situation in disarray, one once in power finds herself at the mercy of the other while the weaker member of the family finds herself in a position beyond her training. Linh and Quyen have their private wars, with each other, but also with themselves, one trying to reconcile with the past, the other challenged by the present.

The conflict between Linh and Quyen takes the central stage in the story and the consequences of this clash of personalities are felt all around the two. Aliette de Bodard builds these two characters with virtuosity, and while there isn’t a side I was willing to take or with whom I sympathized more, Linh and Quyen are clearly, strongly defined characters… memorable for all the right reasons. The end of their conflict and of the story is played very well too, there is nothing predictable at “On a Red Station, Drifting” and this just one more motive for Aliette de Bodard’s novella to work smoothly.

Of course, “On a Red Station, Drifting” is not all about characters. It is about a setting that feels only natural. Technology and tradition go hand in hand here without impeding each other. Aliette de Bodard reaches the perfect balance for the two, blends them to the maximum effect and creates a world that brings both the amazement of a new discovery and the sense of intimate familiarity for the reader. The language is another fundamental piece of the novella found in almost perfect equilibrium, sometimes simple, sometimes with poetical quality to the point of the actual verses being born on the pages on the book. Sensible or hardened, vulnerable or firm when needed.

There is little surprise in the recent wave of recognition Aliette de Bodard receives for her works, as seen in “On a Red Station, Drifting” every little sign of esteem this amazing writer gets is deserved in the fullest. The next natural step would be a majestic tome gathering all Aliette de Bodard’s short fiction, “On a Red Station, Drifting” included, for the readers to enjoy and value. Adorned with an equally grand cover artwork and not the unfortunate choice we can see on the hardcover limited edition of this novella.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Title spotlight - "Tales of Jack the Ripper" edited by Ross E. Lockhart

Jack the Ripper. The most notorious unidentified serial killer of the world. Rivers of ink have and will continue to flow in the wake of this murderer and the legend behind the mysterious figure will continue to inspire plenty of non-fiction and fiction books. This is the introduction I wrote for my review of Sarah Pinborough’s excellent “Mayhem” and a little over a month after the virtual ink dried on the equally virtual paper of my review one such title sprang forth. I find nothing wrong with the situation, after all the mystery of Jack the Ripper fueled plenty of my dreams ever since I first laid my eyes on his story. Nowadays not as much as in my childhood years, but it still keeps me very interested in the subject. Therefore I received with delight the news of an anthology edited by Ross E. Lockhart dedicated to the notorious, mysterious serial killer, “Tales of Jack the Ripper”. 125 years after the Whitechapel murders started, Ross E. Lockhart gathers 19 new and classic stories of Jack the Ripper from some of best writers of dark fiction, including E. Catherine Tobler, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Ramsey Campbell, Joe R. Lansdale, Laird Barron or Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. Besides the theme and attractive presence of these talented writers “Tales of Jack the Ripper” comes with other tempting promises for me, the full satisfaction I had with Ross E. Lockhart’s work at the two “The Book of Cthulhu” anthologies published by Night Shade Books, the atmospheric and excellent cover artwork made by Arnaud de Vallois and the chance to encourage a newly born small press, Word Horde. Even a single one of these features would have been made me interested in “Tales of Jack the Ripper”, but with all of them together I can’t wait to put my hands on a copy of Ross E. Lockrat’s new anthology. “Tales of Jack the Ripper” will be released this fall, but if like me you believe that date to be a bit too far away please consider grabbing Sarah Pinborough’s “Mayhem” I already mentioned, it is not about Jack the Ripper but it is set around the Whitechapel murders and captures perfectly the atmosphere of those Victorian times.

1888: One hundred and twenty-five years ago, a killer stalked the streets of London’s Whitechapel district, brutally–some would say ritualistically–murdering five women (that we know of): Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly.
The story of Jack the Ripper captured lurid headlines and the public’s imagination, and the first fictionalization of the Ripper killings, John Francis Brewer’s The Curse Upon Mitre Square appeared in October of 1888, mere weeks after the discovery of Jack’s first victim. Since then, hundreds of stories have been written about Bloody Jack, his victims, and his legacy. Authors ranging from Marie Belloc Lowndes to Robert Bloch to Harlan Ellison to Roger Zelazny to Alan Moore have added their own tales to the Ripper myth. Now, as we arrive at the quasquicentennial of the murders, we bring you a few tales more.
From Word Horde and the editor who brought you The Book of Cthulhu and The Book of Cthulhu II comes Tales of Jack the Ripper, featuring new and classic fiction by many of today’s darkest dreamers, including Laird Barron, Ramsey Campbell, Ed Kurtz, Joe R. Lansdale, Joseph S. Pulver, Sr., Stanley C. Sargent, E. Catherine Tobler, and many more.

“Whitechapel Autumn, 1888” by Ann K. Schwader
“A Host of Shadows” by Alan M. Clark and Gary A. Braunbeck
“Jack’s Little Friend” by Ramsey Campbell
“Abandon All Flesh” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
“God of the Razor” by Joe R. Lansdale
“The Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick Maker” by Ennis Drake
“Ripping” by Walter Greatshell
“Something About Dr. Tumblety” by Patrick Tumblety
“The Truffle Pig” by T.E. Grau
“Ripperology” by Orrin Grey
“Hell Broke Loose” by Ed Kurtz
“Where Have You Been All My Life?” by Edward Morris
“Juliette’s New Toy” by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.
“Villains by Necessity” by Pete Rawlik
“When the Means Just Defy the End” by Stanley C. Sargent
“A Pretty for Polly” by Mercedes M. Yardley
“Termination Dust” by Laird Barron
“Once November” by E. Catherine Tobler
“Silver Kisses” by Ann K. Schwader

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Premios Ignotus 2013 finalists

Premio Ignotus (Ignotus Award) is a an annual award created in 1991 by the AEFCFT, Asociación Española de Fantasía, Ciencia Ficción y Terror (The Spanish Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror Association) and recognizing the Spanish works of speculative fiction. Until recently the awards were voted by the members of AEFCFT and the attendees of HispaCón, The Spanish National Fantasy and Science Fiction Congress, but this year the voting rights were extended outside these requirements. To a certain extent Premio Ignotus has similarities with the Hugo Awards. Here are the finalists of the 2013 Premios Ignotus:

“Cenital” (Zenith) by Emilio Bueso (Salto de Página)
“Corazón de Alacrán” (Heart of Alacrán) by Felipe Colorado (Espiral Ciencia-Ficción)
“Crónicas del Aleph II: El lama negro” (Chronicles of Aleph II: The Black Ooze) by Martín Gastón (Espiral Ciencia-Ficción)
“El mapa del cielo” (The Map of the Sky) by Felix J. Palma (Plaza & Janés)
“La ley del trueno” (The Law of Thunder) by Sergio Mars (Cápside)

“El espacio aural” (The Aural Space) by Blanca Mart (Eridano)
“La textura de las palabras” (The Texture of the Words) by Felicidad Martínez (Akasa-Puspa, de Aguilera y Redal)
“Magna Veritas” (Magna Veritas) by Ramón Merino Collado (El Teatro de los prodigios)
“Osfront” (Osfront) by Eduardo Vaquerizo, José Ramón Vázquez y Santiago Eximeno (Ediciones del cruciforme)
“Recuerdos de un país zombi” (Greetings from a Zombie Country) by Erick J. Mota (Terra Nova)

“Deirdre” (Deirdre) by Lola Robles (Terra Nova)
“Dynevor Road” (Dynevor Road) by Luis Manuel Ruiz (Steampunk Antología Retrofuturista)
“Los libros” (The Books) by Ramón Merino Collado (El Teatro de los Prodigios)
“London Gardens” (London Gardens) by Juan Jacinto Muñoz Rengel (Steampunk Antología Retrofuturista)
“Memoria” (Memory) by Teresa P. Mira de Echeverria (Terra Nova)
“Neo Tokio Blues” (Neo Tokyo Blues) by José Ramón Vázquez (Prospectivas. Antología del cuento de ciencia ficción española actual)
“Patrick Hannahan y las guerras secretas” (Patrick Hannahan and the Secret Wars) by Eduardo Vaquerizo (Prospectivas)

“Akasa- Puspa de Aguilera y Redal” (Akasa-Puspa by Aguilera and Redal) edited by Rodolfo Martinez (Sportula)
“Homenaje” (Tribute) by Domingo Santos (AJEC)
“Steampunk. Antología retrofuturista” (Steampunk. Retro-futuristic Anthology) edited by Felix J. Palma (Fabulas de Albión)
“Terra Nova. Antología de ciencia ficción contemporánea” (Terra Nova. Anthology of Modern Science Fiction) edited by Mariano Villarreal and Luis Pestarini (Sportula)
“Calabazas en el trastero: horror cósmico” (Pumpkins in the Attic: Cosmic Horror) by various authors (Saco de huesos)

“Alan Moore Storyteller” (Alan Moore Storyteller) by Gary Spencer Millidge (Planeta Agostini)
“Ensayo Z” (Essay Z) by Jorge Martínez Lucena (Berenice)
“Extra Life. 10 videojuegos que han revolucionado la cultura contemporánea” (Extra Life. 10 video games that revolutionized the modern culture) by various authors (errata naturae) 
“Juego de Tronos. Los secretos del trono de hierro” (A Game of Thrones. The Secrets of the Iron Throne) by Carlos Ripoll (Dolmen)
“La ciencia ficción de Isaac Asimov” (The Science Fiction of Isaac Asimov) by Rodolfo Martínez (Sportula)
“La explosión Marvel: Historia de la Marvel en los 70” (The Marvel Boom: The Histroy of 70s Marvel) by José Joaquín Rodríguez (Dolmen)
“La prehistoria de la ciencia ficción. Del tercer milenio antes de Cristo a Julio Verne” (The Science Fiction Prehistory. From the Third Millennium BC to Jules Verne) by Pollux Hernández Núñez (El rey Lear)
”Lágrimas de luz. Posmodernidad y estilo en la ciencia ficción española” (Tears of Light. Postmodernism and Style in Spanish Science Fiction) by Mariela González (Sportula)
“Recordando Nueva Dimensión” (Remembering the New Dimension) edited by Luis Vigil and Leonor Fernández (Editores de Tebeos)
“Recordando “Futuro”” (Remembering “the Future”) edited by Leonor Fernández and Luis Vigil (Glenat)

“Ciencia-Ficción en español” (Science Fiction in Spanish) by Fernando Angel Moreno (Prospectivas)
“Cinco reyes, cinco príncipes” (Five Kings, Five Princes) by Julián Díez (Hélice 14)
“Cincuenta relatos para una década” (Fifty stories for a decade) by Juan Manuel Santiago (“Literatura Prospectiva”)
“Escatología física en la saga de Akasa-Puspa” (Physical Eschatology in the Akasa-Puspa saga) by José Manuel Uría (“Akasa Puspa de Aguilera y Redal”)
“La ciencia-ficción está aquí, pero está mal repartida” (The Science Fiction is here, but it is bad distributed) by Tim Maughan (Literatura Fantástica) 
“La vida dentro de veinticinco yugas: el paisaje evolutivo de Akasa-Puspa” (The Life in the twenty yugas: the evolutionary scenery of Akasa-Puspa) by Sergio Mars (“Akasa Puspa de Aguilera y Redal”)
“Ni tan invisibles, ni tan traidores” (Neither invisible, nor as traitors) Manuel de los Reyes (Literatura Fantástica)

The cover of “Akasa-Puspa, de Aguilera y Redal” made by Juan Miguel Aguilera (Sportula)
The cover of “Corazón de Alacrán” made by Koldo Campo (Espiral Ciencia-Ficción)
The cover of “Crónica Aleph II. El lama negro” made by Koldo Campo (Espiral Ciencia-Ficción)
The cover of “El rey trasgo. La ciudadela y la montaña” made by Barb Hernández (Kelonia)
The cover of “Terra Nova” made by Ángel Benito Gastañaga (Sportula)

“El apostol” (The Apostle) by Fernando Cortizo (Cine)
“El vuelo del Fenix” (The Flight of the Phoenix) by various authors (Podcast)
“Fallo de sistema” (System Failure) by Santiago Bustamante (Radio)
“Los Ganglios” (The Ganglions) by ¡Hay! (Video)
“Los Verdhugos” (The Verdhugos) by Miquel Codony, Elías Combarro, Josep María Oriol y Pedro Román (Podcast)

“15 historietas de Ciencia-Ficción Oscura” (15 little histories of dark science fiction) by various authors (Diábolo Ediciones)
“Echo Vol.3” (Echo Vol.3) by Terry Moore (Norma)
“Espinas” (Thorns) by Santiago Eximeno y Angel Manuel Sánchez Crespo (The End 2012)
“Locke & Key” Vol 3. by Joe Hill y Gabriel Rodríguez (Panini Cómics)
“Morning Glories vol 1 (Por un mundo major)” by Nick Spencer y Joe Eisma (Panini Cómics)
“Nocturna 1” (The Strain 1) by Guillermo del Toro y Chuck Hogan (Planeta Agostini)
“Sleepers” by Luis NCT (Editores De Tebeos)
“Solo: Historias Caníbales” (Solo: Cannibal Stories) by various authors (Ed. Ominiky)
“Witch Doctor. A golpe de bisturi” by Robert Kirkman (Planeta de Agostini)

“Peripecias de la Brigada Poética en el Reino de los Autómatas” (Adventures of the Poetic Brigade in the Kingdom of the Automatons) by Alberto García Teresa (Asociación Umbrales)
“Quiero comerme tu máscara de gas” (I want to eat your gas mask) by Santiago Eximeno (Groenlandia 14)
“Versos mortíferos” (Lethal Verses) by Fermín Moreno (selfpublished)

“Barsoom” (La Hermandad del Enmascarado)
“Catarsi” (TerCat)
“Delirio” (Biblioteca del Laberinto) 
“Hélice” (Asociación Cultural Xatafi)
“Planetas Prohibidos” (Grupo Planetas Prohibidos)

“Clorofila” (Chlorophyll) by Andrei H. Rubanov (Minotauro)
“El Arca” (Ark) by Stephen Baxter (La Factoría de Ideas)
“El visitante inesperado” (Fuzzy Nation) by John Scalzi (Minotauro)
“El vivo” (The Living) by Anna Starobinets (Nevsky Prospect)
“Entre extraños” (Among Others) by Jo Walton (RBA)
“La ciudad y la ciudad” (The City & The City) by China Miéville (La Factoría de Ideas)

“El ciclo de la vida de los objetos de software” (The Lifecycle of Software Objects) by Ted Chiang (Terra Nova)
“El zoo de papel” (The Paper Menagerie) by Ken Liu (Terra Nova)
“En la casa de los locos” (Ship of Fools) by Charles Stross (Brecha nuclear)
“Quedarse atrás” (Staying Behind) by Ken Liu (Cuentos para Algernon)
“Una edad difícil” (An Awkward Age) by Anna Starobinets (Una edad difícil)
“Un diez con bandera” (Ten with a Flag) by Joseph Paul Haines (Cuentos para Algernon)

“Cuentos para Algernon” - Marcheto (
“La Tercera Fundación” (Asociación “Los Conseguidores”) (
“Literatura Fantástica” - Mariano Villarreal (
“Rescepto Indablog” - Sergio Mars (
“Stardust” - Javier Romero (

Congratulations and good luck to all the nominees!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Cover art - "Working God's Mischief" by Glen Cook

I’ve declared my love for Raymond Swanland’s works with every little chance I got so I will not bore you with the details again. I’ll only present the new cover made by Raymond Swanland for the fourth novel in Glen Cook’s “Instrumentalities of the Night” series, “Working God’s Mischief”, due to be released by Tor Books on March 2014. And here are the other covers made by the same extremely talented artist for the other three novels of the series published so far.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Interview with Sarah Pinborough

Sarah Pinborough is a critically acclaimed horror, thriller and YA author. In the UK she is published by both Gollancz and Jo Fletcher Books at Quercus and by Ace, Penguin in the US. Her short stories have appeared in several anthologies and she has a horror film Cracked currently in development and another original screenplay under option. She has recently branched out into television writing and has written for New Tricks on the BBC and has a crime three-parter in development with World Productions.
Sarah was the 2009 winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Story, and has three times been short-listed for Best Novel. She has also been short-listed for a World Fantasy Award. Her novella, The Language of Dying was short-listed for the Shirley Jackson Award and won the 2010 British Fantasy Award for Best Novella.

This interview was initially published on Revista de suspans.

Mihai A.: Thank you very much for the opportunity of this interview, Sarah.
With “Poison”, “Charm”, “Beauty” and “Mayhem” published this year, the releases of the US editions of “A Matter of Blood”, “The Shadow of the Soul” and “The Chosen Seed” and the re-issue of “The Language of the Dying” by Jo Fletcher Books 2013 proves to be an extremely busy year for you. Does such a full year in your career prove to be more demanding than the usual? Are you enjoying a moment of rest or are you already working on your next novel?
Sarah Pinborough: No rest here! It's a round of edits, copy edits and page proofs as well as trying to crack on with the follow up to “Mayhem” (“Murder”, June 2014) and various other projects I've got on the go.

Mihai A.: Ever since your debut almost 10 years ago you were a very prolific writer with at least one novel released each year. Is such a rhythm taking its toll from your inspiration? Do you feel burned out sometimes?
Sarah Pinborough: To be honest, I'm feeling it a bit this year. I keep telling myself that I will factor in a proper holiday and a month with no work at some point, but it doesn't pan out that way. Plus, I am a bit of a workaholic so I find it hard not to write. And I'm also aware of how precarious this business is so I never really relax.

Mihai A.: You have four novels out this year with another, “Murder”, the follow up of “Mayhem”, due to be released next year. Did you face strict deadlines for these works? Did you sacrifice the quality of your writing in order to meet the deadlines, now or sometimes in your career?
Sarah Pinborough:  I hope I don't sacrifice quality – I think as I progress through my career my books are getting better. I have “Murder” out next year and another book for Gollancz “The Death House” but I won't start writing that until I've finished “Murder”. I do face strict deadlines but my editors often give me extra time. I'm a big planner and so my first draft is normally (tidying aside) the one I hand in.

MA: After six stand-alone and two Torchwood novels you published two trilogies, “The Dog-Faced Gods” and “The Nowhere Chronicles”, and now a trio of theme related novels, “Tales From the Kingdoms”, and a duology, “Mayhem” and “Murder”. Do you miss writing stand-alone novels? Did you get used with the difficulty of writing books that are strong individually, but also create a powerful and packed story over more novels?
SP: Oh, I'm very much looking forward to writing a stand alone novel after “Murder”! I love telling a more complex story over a few books but I do miss the containment of one novel and not having to keep checking back to see what you did in other books. That said, I'm very proud of both my trilogies.

MA: Not only that you are a prolific writer, but you are also a versatile one, writing in different genres and stepping over their boundaries. Is there a particular genre you enjoy writing more? I understand that some day in the future you would like to write a thriller or crime novel. Would you like to try writing in other genres as well?
SP: I just like writing stories that have a dark edge. I've realised over the past year or so that I like pulling things from different genres and weaving them together. My first six novels were all straight horror novels and I found that quite restrictive. I like to play around with different elements although I don't tend to think in terms of genre when I come up with my ideas – I just think of a story. And I have an eclectic mix of stories in my head.

MA: Your latest novel, “Mayhem”, is a historical crime fiction with supernatural elements, set in the London of 1888 the story gravitates around the Whitechapel murders and the Whitehall mystery. What attracted you towards this particular period? Why did you choose Dr Thomas Bond as one of your main characters?
SP: I chose Dr Bond because I found elements of his life and personality (his insomnia for example) interesting and I felt I could weave them into my story quite easily. He was also heavily involved in both the Jack the Ripper investigation and the Thames Torso killings so he was an obvious choice as I didn't want to focus heavily on the police investigation and therefore didn't want to use one of the police as my central character.

MA: In a historical fiction like “Mayhem” is important to keep the known facts as accurate as possible? How much freedom does the imagination get in the context of historical facts?
SP: I've tried to stick as closely as possible to the facts of the cases, although I have taken liberties with the personal lives of the 'real' characters. I've used real newspaper reports throughout the book which gives it an authentic flavour, and having decided to stick closely to the real timeline actually made my plotting more complex. It's like having to put flesh on a provided skeleton.

MA: You took a travel in time with “Mayhem” but throughout your works the present and future were treated at some point too. Which one proves to be more difficult to write and which one is the most rewarding when finished?
SP: Historical writing is definitely the hardest because you are constantly fact-checking and researching, so as well as worrying that there might be a hole in your plot that you haven't see, you also have to worry about getting the historical parts right. Especially when you're also using several real-life people as your characters. I find them all rewarding. I'm very pleased that people are liking “Mayhem” because it was such a different kind of story for me and when I finished it I really wasn't sure if it was good or not – although I think that is normally a sign that it's good.

MA: “Poison”, “Charm” and “Beauty” are all retellings of the renowned fairy tales, but with different approach. What gave you the idea to adapt these fairy tales to the modern times?
SP: It actually came out of discussion with my editor at Gollancz. We'd both been watching “Once upon a time” on TV and loving how they'd played around with the stories and she asked me how I'd feel about trying my hand at it. At first I wasn't sure I could, but then inspiration struck and I could see all three in my head. In many ways it was similar to writing “Mayhem” because I had a structure to work to and play around with already in place. Everyone knows the stories of Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Snow White, so I then had to play around with the expectations. They were a lot of fun to write – far more so than that I thought they would be – and I'm really pleased with them.

MA: I was talking recently with my wife about the perspectives of the fairy tales at different ages. When we are children we see the beauty of the stories, but as the time passes and we grow some terrifying and frightening elements of the same fairy tales are revealed. Do the adults need a reinterpretation of the childhood fairy tales in the way you did it? Are these your favorite childhood stories or is another you would like to rewrite from the modern perspective?
SP: Within the three stories I've woven in some of the other famous fairy tales so I think I've done all that I can do with that genre now. I think it's very hard to write them for a modern audience without addressing some of the feminist issues that fairy tales contain and I hope I've done that without beating people about the head with them. These interpretations are fun and sexy...and a little bit dark. I hope adults will read them and nod and smile at the more wry and cynical elements – as we do become more cynical as we grow and fairy tale happy endings can sometimes not be all they were cracked up to be!

MA: Last year, your debut novel “The Hidden” was optioned for film with Peter Medak set to direct “Cracked”, as it is entitled the movie adaptation of your book. How did “The Hidden” become optioned for movie adaptation? Which other of your books would you like to see adapted into movies someday?
SP: Oh, that's a long story but it came about after a company had optioned the “Dog-Faced Gods” trilogy. I had written a draft of an adaptation of “The Hidden” and they read it and liked it. I'm now doing some more notes on it – screenwriting is constant re-drafting – and I have another film – an original though – called “Red Summer” also optioned. I'd like them all to be made into movies. Then I'd be rich ;-)

MA: If I am not mistaken you also wrote the screenplay of “Cracked”. Does the screenplay follows the novel closely or is drifting a bit from the book? How important is the presence of the author on the crew making the movie for a better adaptation of the writer’s work?
SP: The screenplay is very different. Same basic premise but a lot has changed. The two mediums of book and film tell stories in very different ways and I think it's often a mistake to stick too closely to a text. Plus, it was my first novel and I would probably tell the story differently if I was writing it now. I don't think the author is necessarily important in an adaptation. When you sell the rights to someone you're selling them the right to do whatever they want with it – and create their vision from your story. Often authors do not make good screenwriters. Other people can adapt your book better for screen.

MA: How is the production of “Cracked” going? Do you know an approximate date when it would be released?
SP: I have no idea on that. We're hoping to shoot next year I think. A lot depends on schedules.

MA: Together with the screenplay of “Cracked” you also wrote an episode of the “New Tricks” TV series last year, “Old School Ties”. How did you find the experience of writing for movie and TV? Would you like to write again for movie or TV in the future?
SP: Writing for “New Tricks” was a baptism of fire in TV writing. That is a really high pressured industry but it was a great learning curve. I like writing films best, but I'd definitely like to write for TV again. I've got an original crime three-parter optioned by World Productions and we're meeting again in a couple of weeks to discuss some other ideas. It's just finding the time!

MA: Besides “Murder”, the sequel of “Mayhem”, what are you preparing for the readers?
SP: There is “The Death House” from Gollancz that I'll be writing after “Murder” which is once again a different type of story – not a horror novel, more a rites of passage book, but you can read more about that here :

Thank you very much for your time and answers. It has been a pleasure!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

More Gary McMahon goodies, "Reaping the Dark"

More good news comes our way from Gary McMahon. After the recently announced short novel, “The Bones of You”, due to be released by Earthling Publications on October, another novella signed by this very talented writer gets ready to be published. “Reaping the Dark” is scheduled for release on May 2014 by DarkFuse, the publisher of Gary McMahon’s “Nightsiders” (reviewed here on April), and so far we only have available the synopsis of this novella, but I am certain that more information about it and the cover artwork will begin to surface soon. Until then, here is the very interesting presentation of “Reaping the Dark”.

A streetwise getaway driver…
A drug raid that ends in bloodshed…
A violent criminal hell-bent on revenge…
A secret order of occultists…
And something summoned from the darkest depths of nightmare.
Who will survive this long, dark night, and how will it change them? And what kind of horror will be born from the chaos left behind?
If the old adage is true and we reap what we sow, then only evil can be unleashed by Reaping the Dark.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

"The Grim Company" by Luke Scull

"The Grim Company"
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Review copy received through the courtesy of the publisher, Head of Zeus

This is a world dying.
A world where wild magic leaks from the corpses of rotting gods, desperate tyrants battle over fading resources, impassive shapeshifters marshal beasts of enormous size and startling intelligence, and ravenous demons infest the northern mountains. A world where the only difference between a hero and a killer lies in the ability to justify dark deeds.
But even in this world, pockets of resistance remain. When two aging warriors save the life of a young rebel, it proves the foundation for an unlikely fellowship. A fellowship united against tyranny, yet composed of self-righteous outlaws, crippled turncoats and amoral mercenaries. A grim company, indeed...

Game related fantasy novels are one of my guilty pleasures and I am not one to deny an attraction to the fictional worlds of Dungeons & Dragons, Forgotten Realms, Warhammer or more recently, Pathfinder. I always found entertainment within the novels of these universes and at least one little pleasing thing among their pages. Therefore, when I learned of Luke Scull, a designer of computer roleplaying games, and his debut fantasy novel, “The Grim Company”, to a certain point my mind made a connection with the familiar game related fiction. And I saw no reason to shy away from it.

When I say a connection with the game related fiction I am thinking at pace and style and no connection with any existing game, although if one sets the mind to it a computer game could be born based on Luke Scull’s “The Grim Company”. And as I discovered, the said correlation was not off the mark, Luke Scull delivered a novel full of adventure and in a hasten rhythm. The story moves between its landmark points and several subplots with speed and ease encouraging a fast reading of “The Grim Company” without feeling as a burden in the least. A couple of the plots running along the novel are familiar to the readers of fantasy literature, but there is enough vivacity behind them to compensate for the sense of awareness.

There is nothing new to a city under the ruthless rule of a tyrant or the unlikely group of characters who find themselves together in an attempt to rid the world of this despot. A mage in search of revenge, a soldier caught between the sense of duty and thoughts of righteousness and a former champion of a land on the run after his actions clashed with the orders of another ruler are themes played before in one way or another. However, Luke Scull avoids leading the reader in the same tiresome way by constructing an interesting world, one struggling without much success to recover from a war that brought the complete destruction of the gods. A dark and grim setting, but one that effectively works and without impending on the reader while it is introduced and built by the author along the story. One more thing that makes the familiar motifs work in the case of “The Grim Company” is that although for the better part the story apparently draws clear lines between good and evil at the end of the novel there is enough grayness for all of the characters involved to keep the balance in perfect symmetry and not incline it towards one characteristic or another.

Besides adventures, pace, rhythm and world-building, the set of characters of “The Grim Company” also make the journey through the story swift for the reader. Again I walked on recognizable territory with plenty of them, but there are enough reasons to take sides and sympathize with some of the protagonists. Brodar Kayne, the formidable swordsman of the North is the perfect example in this case. The most common figure of fantasy literature among the characters of Luke Scull’s novel, Bordar Kayne receives sufficient attention from the author to gain sympathy from the reader, surmounting the triviality of this type of characters. Davarus Cole is another character taking the central stage in ample times, a wannabe hero with the head in the clouds failing to see past his open-eyed dreams. Along the way, Davarus Cole’s behavior becomes repetitive and this nudges the pleasure of the reading, but there is plenty of hilarity born from this behavior and the situations in which Davarus Cole finds himself to veer his conduct from being entirely stereotypical. Completing the cast are Barandas, the most skilled and trusted warrior of Salazar (the tyrant of Dorminia, the aim of the rebelling actions taken by most the characters) who finds himself caught between duty and honor, Eremul the Halfmage, a wizard with a sharp tongue and acid remarks, Isaac, his aide, a seemingly simpleton with unlimited resources, Yllandris, a sorceress in search of power and position but with a softness of the heart in opposition to her thoughts and Sasha, a brave fighter for freedom who steadily grows a connection with Brodar Kayne.

The adventures these characters are going through kept me turning the pages, fights, battles, shapeshifters, strange creatures, demons, magic, magically enhanced weapons with the unpleasant habit of creating dependency to their wearer, elements that are pleasant treats in the reading on Luke Scull’s “The Grim Company”. However, I am not sure if I am too picky or not but there were a couple of things that paused on my tracks. An unsettled wound is inflicted on a right arm (“Suddenly Jerek stumbled, barely staying on his feet. Brodar Kayne heard his growled fuck, saw him stagger again as another quarrel hit him in his right arm. The Wolf slowed and then sank to one knee.” p. 138) seems to affect the left one on the next page (“Regaining his feet, Kayne turned and saw Jerek struggling to rise. Blood soaked his left arm and pooled on the ground at his feet.” p. 139) and jumps back to the right side a bit later (“Jerek was there, crouched beside him. His right shoulder and thigh were wrapped in padded dressing.” p. 193), a novice taught by a professional assassin too fast in the art of murder and a feared mercenary army that finds its match in a militia force gathered over night are aspects that brought me disbelief. Obstacles not very difficult to overpass, but manifesting a presence that still needs to be considered.

“The Grim Company” walks on already paved roads but it does so in an entertaining manner, with a generous amount of adventures, action, energy and pace. Enough to keep one interested in the outcome of Luke Scull’s “Grim Company” series when the next novels become available.