Thursday, 31 May 2007

Lexx Season 2 - 'Mantrid'

The Divine Order has been destroyed and the crew of the Lexx are searching for a home in the Dark Zone. This doesn't last for long though. Kai suddenly demands that the Lexx return to the Light Universe to see if any dormant insect eggs survived the destruction of the Gigashadow, he needs more proto-blood and this can only be found in an insect. However, Kai is working to an agenda that even he is unaware of and the consequences of a 'trade off' between the crew and Mantrid (former Bio-Vizier to His Shadow) will spell trouble for the entire universe...
After the success of the four tv movies 'Lexx' was given the green light for a full season. The studio's confidence in the show is immediately apparent with the superior special effects on show. The Lexx isn't just made out of sheets of fabric and plywood anymore, it has a more organic feel. These changes are alluded to in the script, Stan asks the Lexx why the Bridge has changed and receives the answer "I'm still growing".
The new season of 'Lexx' immediately lays down the markers to be just as outrageous and nasty as it's predecessors. Sex is still very much on the agenda for the crew and when possibly one of the most evil men in the universe is only the bumblig sidekick to the main villain you just know that you are going to see truly nasty stuff happening... The only downside is the stagnant character of 790. His love for Zev is shown in some hilarious 'put downs' to Stan but there's no sign that he will ever develop. Maybe this is the whole point but it is starting to grate.
Events take place that mark the start of the main story arc for the season (and provide background history as well) and a gloomy gothic overtone makes it feel truly alien. Future episodes vary in quality but this is definitely one of the best.

Nine out of Ten

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

‘Death’s Head’ – David Gunn

The last thing you want to do is mess with ex-sergeant Sven Tveskoeg of the Legion Etrangere. He’s taken down a bull Ferox with his bare hands and has the prosthetic arm to prove it. He’s survived a flogging under a cruel desert sun and murdered his way up the criminal hierarchy of a penal ice planet. Now he is fighting for the Death’s Head, the emperor’s elite fighting force, where Sven and his auxiliaries take on the jobs where being expendable is the only requirement. The team comes together on a backwater planet where a war of attrition serves only to draw forces away from strategic targets elsewhere. A larger game is being played out but no one counted on Sven changing the rules…
I picked this book up in an airport departure lounge a couple of days ago and by the time I touched down at my destination I had almost finished it. ‘Death’s Head’ is space opera at it’s most bloody and outrageous, a mixture of Richard Morgan’s uber-violence with an ability not to take itself too seriously at the same time (a la’ Simon Green). There are no highbrow concepts, just many different ways in which a person can die, the closest that the reader gets to ‘hard science’ is a talking gun (possibly the most sarcastic weapon ever to grace the page). Gunn has clearly put a lot of thought into his fictional universe, while he doesn’t spring any suprises with its inhabitants and factions they were all interesting enough to keep me reading and wanting to find out more.
‘Death’s Head’ makes no apologies for what it is, a frantic hell raiser of an adventure with loads of gadgets and explosions, like James Bond on steroids. However, this almost proves its downfall as it can come across just the same battle repeated again and again. For me though, the plot helped the book to rise above this potential problem. This is the first book in a new series and my only concern is that Sven is already too powerful (in himself) to maintain reader interest over several books. I’m hoping that he will meet his match, on more than one occasion, just so that we can see he is still only human. I’ll be picking up the next book so we will see how things progress…
‘Death’s Head’ will not be the sci-fi book of the year but I reckon it will be the one that you enjoy reading the most!

Eight and a Half out of Ten

Monday, 28 May 2007

'The Stormcaller' - Tom Lloyd (Review and Giveaway!)

Last year was all about the (well deserved) hype generated by the release of 'Lies of Locke Lamora' and 'The Blade Itself'. In the midst of all this excitement you would have been forgiven for not noticing that Gollancz had released 'The Stormcaller' at about the same time. Having to live in the shadow of these two books is unfair on 'The Stormcaller' as it is an enthralling read that is well worth a look (and I've got two copies to give away but more on that later...)
Isak is a 'white eye'; one of many chosen by the Gods of the Land to be a leader amongst men. He is larger, faster and stronger than any normal man but suffers from blinding rages and is ostracised by 'normal' people. A tedious existence, as part of a wagon train, comes to an abrupt end when (for reasons known only to the Gods themselves ) Isak is chosen to become the heir to Lord Bahl of the Farlan tribe. The one-time wagon brat becomes one of the most powerful men in the realm overnight and must deal with the resentment this brings, not least from Lord Bahl himself. If this wasn't enough, childhood nightmares begin to take on new meaning for Isak and dark forces begin to stir at his arrival...
A slow beginning belies a richly told story against a backdrop that is beautifully realised. I'll admit that I winced a little when elves and trolls were mentioned (I can't remember the last time I read a book with trolls in it!) but their appearances were artfully understated and so they avoided becoming another 'Dungeons and Dragons' cliche. The Land is a harsh place where only the strong can thrive. Lloyd lends his characters sufficient backbone to do what they must do but none of them are supermen, I particularly liked Lloyd's study of immortality (in certain characters) and the problems that had to be faced because of this. A white eye's rages (Isak's in particular) are sudden and come without warning, these random attacks could have disrupted the flow of the story but they are handled in such a way that they are pivotal to the plot and can send events hurtling in strange new directions. The number of characters in the book can be overwhelming at times, especially when the lowliest guard is treated in as much detail as Isak himself. Fans of intricate world-building will love this although fans of anything a little faster paced will be put off.
I would say, give 'Stormcaller' a chance and you will be rewarded with an intense journey (with characters that you will care about) through a world that you can almost see when you close your eyes. I'm looking forward to the sequel 'The Twilight Herald' when it is released in July.

Eight and a Half out of Ten.

'The Stormcaller' - Giveaway!

So what do you reckon? Sounds like a great read doesn't it? Well, I've got two mass market copies of 'The Stormcaller' (thanks to the author himself!) to give to two lucky people (picked at random) who drop me an email by this Friday.
Email me at graemesfantasybookreview@(no-spam) (remove the 'no spam' bit) telling me who you are, where you live and if you frequent any particular forums.
Good Luck!

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Who won the books?

Brian Stabler (Midnighter on the SFX Forum) was quickest off the mark and will be recieving copies of 'The Culled' and 'Kill or Cure' very shortly! Second past the line is a person known only as 'Rich' who just happened to be passing through the SFX Forum and saw my post there. Rich, I need your address or you don't get anything!

Right now I'm reading 'The Stormcaller' (Tom Lloyd), a book that (judging by what I've read so far) was very unfairly stuck in the shadow of 'Lies of Locke Lamora' when it was published last year. I'll have a review up in the next couple of days and I've got two copies to give away as well so stay tuned...

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Who wants a copy of ‘The Culled’ and ‘Kill or Cure’?

You do! Of course you do. You’ve read my reviews and you’re thinking ‘I fancy some of that…’ Well, thanks to the very nice people at Abaddon Books I have two copies of ‘The Culled’ and ‘Kill or Cure’ to give to the first two people to drop an email in my in-box.
Drop me an email on graemesfantasybookreview@(no-spam) (remove the ‘no spam’ bit) telling me who you are, where you live and if you frequent any particular forum. I’ll let you know who won tomorrow.

'Kill or Cure' - Rebecca Levene

The second book in the ‘Afterblight Chronicles’ takes us back into a world devastated by ‘the Cull’, this time through the eyes of a character only hinted at in the previous book.
Jasmine has been trapped in an underground government bunker for the last five years, her only company is a psychosis induced voice, a side effect of the plague cure she was working on. She is rescued by the pirate rulers of the New Caribbean and put to work finding out what has turned the inhabitants of Cuba into rabid killers, impervious to the fact that their bodies are rotting away. The answers that Jasmine finds (and her attempts to escape the ruthless pirate queen ‘M’) will force her to confront some of the darkest secrets of her own past and face up to her future…
‘Kill or Cure’ is a slightly slower paced affair than ‘The Culled’ but lives up to the standards set by its predecessor. It’s another mad frantic dash through a post-apocalyptic landscape where the gun is law and nothing is ever quite the way it seems… Intrigue and ‘double double crosses’ abound! In such a world, there is always the potential for evil schemes of world domination and the main protagonists are suitably Machiavellian. There is also the scope for something new to arise, out of the old, and ‘The Collector’ is a great example of ‘aftermath eccentricity’.
With ‘Kill or Cure’, Abaddon Books are succeeding in their mission to deliver quick entertaining ‘pulp’reads. The excerpt, at the back, from the next book (‘School’s Out’) promises more goodness to come…

Eight and a Half out of Ten

Monday, 21 May 2007

‘Jigsaw’ – Garry Kilworth

I enjoyed reading ‘Attica’ (by the same author, reviewed this month) so was looking forward to reading ‘Jigsaw’, another Atom book for young adults. In hindsight though, I would say that ‘Attica’ is definitely the better book…
Max Sanders travels the world with his adopted brother (Hassan) and their archaeologist father, their latest trip sees them on a deserted Malaysian island where the father carries out secret experiments that he will not let them see. Told through Max’s blog, what starts off as just another field trip becomes a story of pirates, spies and mythological beasts and ends with a revelation that could have earth shattering consequences…
‘Jigsaw’ is an engaging read that kept me interested until the end. It’s a good old-fashioned ‘boys own’ adventure, with plenty of cliffhangers and suspense, but for me its flaws outweighed the positives.
The ‘blog/diary’ format was an original idea that was perhaps not best suited to this kind of tale, especially when the island’s power generator failed and the computer could not be used! Maybe Max kept notes, he never said though… The blog posts also struck me as far too detailed for a teenage boy who has spent the whole day having adventures on a tropical island and is trying to compete with his brother for the attentions of a beautiful American girl, where did he find the time to post? It's very clearly the authors voice that we hear, not Max's.
The ‘earth shattering secret’ may surprise the target audience but I saw it coming a long way off and the bit where Max inadvertently makes his father a laughing stock by posting everything in his blog (while his father wants to keep it a secret) is either a great insight into woolly teenage thinking or something that Kilworth maybe didn’t think of.
A fun read that, for me, doesn’t stand up to closer inspection.

Four out of Ten

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Sci-Fi TV! Lexx 1.4 – ‘Gigashadow’

“The Gigashadow is the end, and it is the beginning…”
Kai’s supply of proto-blood is running dangerously low so Zev persuades Stan to take the Lexx back through the fractal core (into the Light Universe) in an attempt to steal some more from the Cluster. What none of them realise is that the Cluster is now home to the re-awakened ‘Gigashadow’, the culmination of a millennia old scheme to finally crush humanity. While Stan exorcises some old demons, Kai and Zev must solve the mystery of the Gigashadow and ensure that the prophecy is fulfilled…
‘Gigashadow’ represents the end of ‘Lexx’s’ first season and ensures that all plot arcs end in style. The show still suffers from clunky CGI but this is made up for by the revelation of the Gigashadow and the way that we finally see the crew of the Lexx start to bond as a group. They still face the same issues that they always had but burgeoning friendship sees them through and helps them do what must be done. Kai’s character is slightly puzzling though, much has been made of how he is completely emotionless but all of a sudden he begins to exhibit feelings for no reason at all. It helps to advance the plot in important ways but the lack of an explanation does jar, for me anyway…
‘Gigashadow’ also sets things up for the second season of ‘Lexx’. The very last shot lets us know that things are far from over for our hapless crew and that we have only just begun to scratch the surface of the Dark and Light Universes…
This was by far the best of the four ‘TV-movies’ for me. I’ve said before that these films are out of print but you can find them in on-line DVD rental sites. Check them out for a refreshing (and darker) alternative to the more staid shows on at the moment, I reckon you’ll enjoy them.

Nine out of Ten

Friday, 18 May 2007

'Hinterland' - James Clemens

This is the second book in Clemens’ ‘Godslayer’ series and I haven’t read the first… Luckily this doesn’t matter too much as Clemens hearkens back to the events of the first book throughout the novel, meaning that the casual reader can catch up quite quickly. Tylar Noche is a Shadowknight once again but his reinstatement ceremony quickly becomes a trap as Naethyn forces mount a deadly siege on the citadel. Things are no safer inside as infiltration by the Cabal means that no one can really be trusted. Tylar and his freinds must escape the siege and then find a way to break it from outside…
On the face of it, ‘Hinterland’ looks to be a continuation of a promising new series. There’s plenty of action, strange new races and labyrinthine intrigue (spanning hundreds of years) keeps the reader guessing what will happen next. All the characters are well rounded although it is only the lesser characters that the reader can empathise with (Brant and Laurelle being good examples).
I did find fault with the book but this was mainly due to my own tastes rather than flaws in the book itself. The main problem I had was that Clemens ‘info-dumped’ far too frequently regarding the Gods and their Graces and this interrupted the flow of the story. With this being a series, perhaps the ‘info-dumps’ could have been spread out over more than one book, it’s a lot for the reader to take in at once and it detracted from the story. ‘Hinterland’ is set in a fantasy world that is just beginning to embrace industrial age style technology. The only author I’ve seen tackle this theme with any degree of credibility is China Mieville in his New Crobuzon books, Clemens shows signs of promise but (for me) the ‘Magic/Machinery’ still tipped too far towards magic to make the technology plausible. Finally, one of my pet hates in fantasy literature is ‘made up swear words’. As far as I’m concerned you either use swear words (and get on with it) or find an appropriately medieval way of having a good old-fashioned curse. What you don’t do is use a blatantly made up word that sticks out like a sore thumb and jars the reader’s attention away from your tale. Clemens is guilty as charged…
It was an entertaining read overall but just not to my taste. Fans of James Clemens will enjoy this and any fantasy fan should certainly give it a look.

Seven and a Half out of Ten

Thursday, 17 May 2007

‘Parasite Positive’ – Scott Westerfeld

This is another book from Orbit’s ‘Atom Range’ for young adults although you wouldn’t necessarily think it after reading the blurb on the back. Cal Thompson made the mistake of sleeping around in his freshman year and not only was he turned into a vampire parasite ‘carrier’ (by one of the ladies he slept with), he also inadvertently passed on the parasite to every girl he slept with afterwards. Employed by a shadowy agency, he now has to track them down before they create even more of their kind. Young Adult novel or plot for a 1970’s porn film? You decide…
The story begins with Cal just needing to find Morgan Ryder, the girl who infected him to start off with, before he can say that he has cleared up the mess that he made. Tracking down Morgan isn’t that easy though and in the course of his investigation Cal begins to realise that there is more going on than he has been told about…
At only 270 pages long ‘Parasite Positive’ is a very quick read and one that I really enjoyed. Westerfeld keeps the action ticking over but doesn’t rely on it to drive the plot, he also uses Cal’s naivety (about his condition) to throw a lot of questions into the mix and this is ultimately what keeps the pages turning. A character that is hamstrung by his constant sexual urges will strike a chord with the target audience and ring a few bells for those of us who are a bit older.
The only issue that I had with this book was that everything seemed to wrap up a little too neatly at the end. ‘Parasite Positive’ is the first book in a series and it would have felt better if there were a few loose ends to run alongside the main story arc. All in all though a very good read, if you liked Charlie Huston’s ‘Already Dead’ (and fancy some more of the same but lighter) then you could do worse than pick this up.
And remember kids, if you think she might be a vampire then the safest kind of sex is no sex at all!

Eight out of Ten

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Richard Morgan Book Signing - Forbidden Planet (London)

For anyone in the area tomorrow, Richard Morgan will be signing copies of his new book ('Black Man') at the Forbidden Planet Megastore in London (6-7pm). If you haven't already got a copy of the book (or even if you have) this will be a great opportunity to get a copy signed by the man himself.
Scroll down a little bit for my review of what is being touted as the Sci-Fi book of the year.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Film: '28 Weeks Later'

After having seen ’28 Days Later’, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was strictly a one-off with no real possibility of a sequel. The people infected by the Rage virus have gradually starved to death and tentative efforts are being made to re-establish contact with Britain by Europe and America. Job done, right? Wrong.
’28 Weeks Later’ starts off in the midst of the Rage virus and then fast forwards to the present day where the American military are attempting to re-build London. An act of cowardice, from the past, ultimately leads to the Rage virus breaking out once again and all control is lost in some quite stunning cinematic scenes. In the midst of the chaos, an American doctor and a disillusioned sniper fight to protect a boy whose blood may hold the key to stopping the virus…
People are at great pains to point out that the people infected by the Rage virus are ‘infected’, they are NOT zombies! Having said that, ’28 Weeks Later’ pays homage to the ‘zombie master’ George Romero in an opening farmhouse scene taken almost directly from ‘Night of the Living Dead’ and a ‘death by helicopter’ scene that has echoes of ‘Dawn of the Dead’. The movie doesn’t suffer for this as these scenes cater for both lovers of suspense and gore (and there’s plenty of gore!) The film is set in London and shots of empty deserted streets and landmarks are once again used to great effect (as with the previous film). The emptiness and silence are so compelling that when I left the cinema I had to give myself a little slap in the face and re-adjust to finding myself in the midst of a bustling crowd once again. I don’t live that far away from Canary Wharf (where the Americans make their base) and the shots of Greenwich in flames touched a nerve as it’s only just up the road from my house! The story itself is a fairly standard ‘Get from A to B, avoid being gutted by the infected’ tale but moments of suspense/carnage pad this out and make it very watchable. Certain characters do fall prey to overdone horror clich├ęs (if I’m trying to avoid being killed by psychotic infected people, the last place I will hide is the London Underground!) but for the most part stand up to examination very well. Robert Carlyle gives a very good performance as the grief stricken Don while Rose Byrne and Jeremy Renner also stand out as American military personnel on the run from both the infected and their own side. Mackintosh Muggelton (great name!) and Imogen Potts both give muted performances as Don’s children. To be honest, I couldn’t tell you whether they were told to act traumatised or if it was simply a case of wooden acting.
Despite some flaws, ’28 Weeks Later’ is well worth a night out at the cinema, especially if you enjoyed the first one. Two hours worth of well executed gore and suspense is money well spent for the true horror fan and the ending holds the possibility of more films to come. I hope so anyway.

Eight and a Half out of Ten

Monday, 14 May 2007

'Black Man' - Richard Morgan

Carl Marsalis is a ‘Variant Thirteen’, a genetically modified alpha-male, the ultimate soldier in a world that no longer has any need for them. He earns a living hunting down his fellow ‘Thirteens’ who have either escaped the internment ‘tracts’ or have somehow managed to make it back from Mars. Hated by his own kind (as the bringer of death) and feared by the rest of humanity, Carl must constantly walk the line between what he is and how society demands that he live. A deal cut with the US police leads Carl in pursuit of a rogue ‘Thirteen’ responsible for a spate of murders across America. What Carl finds instead are circumstances that don’t quite add up and these are covering the truth about what really happened to the last of the world’s ‘genetic soldiers’…
Perceived racist connotations in the title mean that if you’re buying this in America you’ll be buying a book called ‘Thirteen’ instead. This is very ironic seeing as ‘Black Man’s’ depiction of the fundamentalist American secession states (‘Jesusland’) are far more likely to get the book burnt than anything else. This is a novel about prejudice but Morgan looks to tackle something far meatier than racism, he shares his view on the ramifications of man playing God in a way that is startling in it’s intensity and brutally frank in its approach. Marsalis is unique in that he does not fit into any area of society at all and attracts prejudice from all sides. Morgan expands on this to paint a picture of a whole world hamstrung by fear of what it has created and slowly turning on the Variants and anything else that is different. The human (and Variant) cost is portrayed in every single character the reader meets. Marsalis’ job reminded me of Deckard ‘retiring’ androids, in ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’, but the substitution of pragmatism for spirituality make this a far more compelling read. The whole point of the ‘Variant Thirteen’ is their capacity for charisma and violence, Morgan does not shirk from showing just exactly what a ‘Thirteen’ is capable of in his now trademark scenes of ultra-violence. Check out what Marsalis is capable of when he takes on six men armed with just a shovel!
My initial annoyance at the abundance of descriptions of America’s economic landscape soon became awe at the attention to detail Morgan has paid to every facet of his book, it is so well written that you will almost believe that this is how things could turn out.
Sci-fi book of the year? Most definitely. Genre book of the year? Could well be…

Ten out of Ten

Friday, 11 May 2007

Sci-Fi TV! Lexx 1.3 - 'Eating Pattern'

The Lexx is hungry and, with Stan concentrating on his own stomach, eventually decides to take matters into it’s own hands. Landing on a seemingly deserted garbage planet the Lexx proceeds to eat its fill, leaving Zev and Stan to bury a freeze dried Kai and explore the planet. But something is laying in wait for them, something that is just as hungry as they are…
This is an odd episode in that it doesn’t quite fit into the overall arc of the first four episodes. While it’s an entertaining story in itself, there is no reason for the crew of the Lexx to be on the planet that has anything to do with the main plot involving His Shadow and the prophecy. It’s almost like the producers had decided to do four episodes no matter what! While ‘Eating Pattern’ is lacking in cohesion this is more than made up for by the exploration of hunger (both physical and emotional) as a theme. Hunger leads people to make snap judgments and rash decisions, Stan’s hunger for the ‘pattern’ drug renders him almost insane while Zev’s need to make some sense out of her new life is what lands them in trouble in the first place. The parasite’s hunger is truly alien in it’s intensity and its need to give birth (when it can’t remember it’s own origins) is somehow poignant.
There is of course more of the dark humour, violence and (not so subtle) references to sex that make ‘The Lexx’ stand out amongst other sci-fi shows. Any show where an actor can say the line ‘your worm is your friend’ and keep a straight face is a show that (on some level) you know you need to watch.

Seven out of Ten

Thursday, 10 May 2007

‘Red Seas under Red Skies’ – Scott Lynch

A debut fantasy novel was published last year that everyone was raving about, apart from me that is. My healthy scepticism of ‘hype’ stopped me picking up what really was the best fantasy novel of last year, ‘The Lies of Locke Lamora.’ After I’d given myself a good kicking for being foolish I promised myself that I would not make the same mistake twice! So here I am, having just put the book down, and I can say that (despite some shortcomings for this reader) Scott Lynch has delivered the goods again.
I can imagine Scott watching ‘Oceans Eleven’ and ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’, before sitting down to write ‘Red Seas’, as the influences are apparent. Following the events of the first book (and some enforced convalescence), Locke and Jean are poised to empty the vaults of Tal Verrar’s premiere gambling house the Sinspire. However, before Locke and Jean can get started another job is offered to them and a dose of poison means they cannot refuse… Having never sailed a boat in their lives, Locke and Jean now find themselves masquerading as pirates in a bid to bring the nobility of Tal Verrar under the control of a dictator. Thus begins a swashbuckling tale of daring deeds, doublecrossing treachery and doomed romance.
If you enjoyed ‘The Lies of Locke Lamora’ then you can look forward to more of the same in ‘Red Seas’. The plot twists and turns on itself and just when you think that you’ve nailed it, Lynch throws in another twist that you will never see coming. The outcome of the opening scene is hilarious purely because of the sense of anti-climax. The on-going banter and close relationship between Locke and Jean is absorbing, an off the cuff remark (at an inappropriate moment) will make you laugh out loud but they are forced to question where their friendship is headed in some scenes that are very poignant. The main characters are not the only ones who get this treatment, I particularly enjoyed any chapters with the pirate captain Zamira (and her first mate Ezri) and I’m looking forward to seeing more of the enigmatic Merrain in later books.
Funnily enough, for a book about pirates the weakness in this novel becomes apparent when Locke and Jean are at sea. Scott Lynch has a boundless and energetic imagination that has created some of the most fascinating ‘fantasy cities’ I have come across and I got the impression this was restricted by having to set large chunks of the novel in a ship in the middle of the ocean. The pace of the novel certainly picked up when Locke and Jean were back on dry land (and the prose became a lot more descriptive). This is a very small quibble considering that overall I really enjoyed this book.
‘Red Seas under Red Skies’ may not be this years best fantasy novel but I’m sure it will be prominent in any ‘top five’ list and, true to it’s subject matter, will probably pick a few pockets while it’s there!

Nine and a Half out of Ten

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Coming up soon...

I can read quite quickly but I’ve got some pretty thick tomes waiting to be read on the book pile! I’m about halfway through Scott Lynch’s ‘Red Seas under Red Skies’ and hope to have a review up in the next couple of days (for all you folks still waiting, it’s as good as everyone says it is!). After that I’ll be reading Richard Morgan’s ‘Back Man’ and (perhaps the most eagerly awaited fantasy book of the year) ‘Reaper’s Gale’ is looming on the horizon…
In between all of that I’ll be reviewing more ‘Lexx’, ‘The Walking Dead’ and loads more books (some of which I’ll giving away!)
Stay tuned!

Monday, 7 May 2007

Author Interview! David Devereux

David Devereux's debut novel 'Hunter's Moon' is published by Gollancz next month, he very kindly let me buy the beers while he answered my questions...

This is your first novel but it isn’t your first published work, does it feel any different this time round?
It still feels scary and weird, I feel like I’m waiting for Jeremy Beadle to pop out and ask for the advance back! The wierdest experience I’ve had with authing was walking into Waterstones one day and seeing copies of ‘Memoirs of an Exorcist’ (my first book) sitting on the bookshelf and then getting emails from people saying how much they had enjoyed it.

What can you guarantee the reader who picks your book up for the first time?
Sex drugs and violence! Plus it’s short and easy to read… Violence isn’t glamorous, it’s brutish and thuggish which is how I wanted it to come across in the book. Jack’s attitude towards violence (and the lengths he will take it to) also shows how disconnected Jack is from the real world and what a messed up individual he really is!

As a writer, what is you relationship with your main character?
It’s a funny one. Although Jack has his upsides, he’s certainly not a guy I’d want to go and have a beer with! I don’t like him but I do respect him for how he copes with what I put him through and how he can laugh it off afterwards.

Will you ever let Jack get out of the business and live a normal life again?
That’s hard to say, these things can have a life of their own and when this happens you know you’re doing it properly. ‘Hunter’s Moon’ spiraled off in it’s own direction at around Chapter Six. I remember looking at what I’d written, looking at my original chapter notes and thinking ‘bloody hell!’

Is ‘Hunter’s Moon’ a fulfillment of an ambition to become a writer or did things just happen by accident?
I got talked into it over a period of two years. I volunteer as an official at the Cambridge Beer Festival and one afternoon all the Deputies were swapping tales at the pub. I mentioned a couple of my experiences, as an exorcist, and my friend Steve Jackson said I should write a book. I didn’t take this seriously but he persisted and a couple of years later I get a call from Steve who says there’s an editor who would like to talk. I agreed to write a test chapter and all of a sudden I had a book deal for ‘Memoirs of an Exorcist’. I’d been running test chapters past Steve who said to me, ‘you should write fiction’. So I sat down and wrote what was to become the introduction to ‘Hunter’s Moon’ and Steve loved it. That gave me the courage to keep going, but it came to the point where I had to put the fiction to one side, to concentrate on ‘Memoirs’. Steve then showed what I'd done so far to his friend Simon Spanton at Gollancz.. Simon has since told me that he basically read it as a favour to a friend, and wasn’t necessarily expecting great things. He loved it and, as I was just getting ready to see ‘Memoirs’ come out, I get the call asking me to lunch.
Considering how it’s all turned out, I’m very conscious of just how lucky I am to be here.

How accurate are the events you portay in ‘Hunter’s Moon’?
The concept for ‘Hunter’s Moon’ came from rumours arising from World War Two and rumours, within certain sections of the occult subculture, regarding shadowy organisations that keep things in line. The rest is writing about what I know and have researched. All the information within ‘Hunter’s Moon’ is as accurate as possible apart from the descriptions of magic. I don’t want anyone going off and trying this stuff out for themselves so I’ve taken great pains to make it plausible on paper but completely unworkable for real. This is made clear in the introduction

You told me once that being an author with Gollancz was like being a part of a big family. This being the case, which relative do you see yourself as?
I suppose I’d be the young cousin who has only just been discovered but still made to feel very welcome and a part of things. At the first Gollancz party I went to, Robert Rankin took me under his wing and we both got very drunk! I’ve also had an email from Jon Courtenay Grimwood telling me that he was looking forward to reading the book. Gollancz is a very level playing field in that respect; once you’re in, it’s because you’re considered good enough. I’m still very much the fan-boy at heart; I love the genre and admire the writers, now I’ve just found myself on the other side of the fence.

What do the next few weeks (pre/post release) hold for you?
I’m actually having a meeting with my publicist this afternoon to formalise this. On June 7th I’ll be one of a group of authors doing a signing at Waterstones, in Piccadilly, where there will be copies of ‘Hunter’s Moon’ available two weeks ahead of the release date. There’s the possibility of another book signing but this hasn’t been confirmed yet.

Gollancz have signed you up for two more of these books, does Jack’s story have a definite ending or are there more to come?
I’m signed for ‘Eagle Rising’, Book 3 is planned but hasn’t been bought. Depending how the first couple of books do, I could see myself writing more.

Tell me a little about the next book, ‘Eagle Rising’
Just four words. ‘This time it’s Nazis…’

Is the second book any easier to write than the first?
No! It’s like that difficult second album. I’ve done it the once and now I need to prove that I can do it again. I’ll always feel like that, I want to continue improving both as a storyteller and in the craft of writing itself. People give me money to write a story, I want to be worthy of it.

What kind of a routine do you have when you’re writing?
I play loud rock and dance music while I write and I end up working to the rhythm of what I’m listening to. I start by reviewing what I wrote previously, it’s good to revisit it with a fresh mind and it brings me up to speed. If I have a set of headphones and no interruptions I can work anywhere but a 30-second phone call can take half an hour out of the day.

What other authors do you like to read?
I have a longstanding love of William Gibson, I read ‘Neuromancer’ when it first came out and his vision is coming true today. I also love to read the old ‘pulp’ detective novels (Raymond Chandler, Lesley Charteris) and I think you can see some of that in ‘Hunter’s Moon’. Richard Morgan’s new book (‘Black Man’) is a stunner and two people who are kicking eight bells out of the fantasy genre right now are Joe Abercrombie and Scott Lynch. But I don’t just read Gollancz books, I’m also enjoying the ‘Dresden Files’ (Jim Butcher) and anything by China Mieville. I must also mention Diana Wynne-Jones and the world’s nicest man, Neil Gaiman,

It’s the night before ‘Hunter’s Moon’ is released, what’s going through your head?
That there’s nothing more I can do other than hope people turn up to the party. I’ll probably do the same thing I did with ‘Memoirs’ and treat myself to a really expensive meal on the day.

Talking of food, your blog shows you’re a dab hand at cooking. What’s your favourite dish?
My favourite dish tends to be the one I cooked yesterday! If we’re talking about a big ‘show-off’ dish though, I do an ultra-slow roasted beef with three day sauce (it really does take three days to make!) and ‘How Much!?” sauce on the side. The name ‘How Much?’ comes from a friend’s reaction when I told him that four servings cost thirty five pounds… When I cook seriously, I cook seriously! I make sure that my private life is incredibly private so I really make the effort for the people I love.

You’re helping out at the Cambridge Beer Festival again this year, will you be able to put ‘Hunter’s Moon’ to one side or will you still be thinking about it?
Even though I’m volunteering, I still have to be focussed on the job at hand. Over the course of the festival I will be part of a team that’s responsible for well over 30,000 visitors so dropping the ball could be problematic. I get an afternoon off and that will be about catching up with friends, some of whom I haven’t seen since the last festival. Given that all this is the result of one of those afternoons, one has to wonder what might happen this year…

Thanks for coming along and letting me interview you, what are your plans for the rest of the day?
I’m meeting with my publicist and agent, then I will probably go home and cook something!

Friday, 4 May 2007

‘Attica’ – Garry Kilworth

This book is from Orbit’s ‘Atom’ range for young adults, thanks to George Walkley for sending me a copy to review!
Jordy, Chloe and Alex have moved to a new house in a new town. It all seems really boring to begin with until the day that their parent’s elderly landlord asks them if they wouldn’t mind going into the attic to fetch his old watch… What they find at the top of the ladder is no ordinary attic but a magical landscape where everything that’s thrown into an attic (and forgotten) takes on a new and dangerous aspect. However, perhaps the most dangerous situation they will encounter is not the Ink Imps or the dreaded Removal Firm but whether they will actually want to leave the attic when the time comes for them to go home…
Despite some flaws; ‘Attica’ is a very engaging read (much like a ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ for the 21st century). The three children have greatly differing characters meaning that the book is three times as likely to appeal to it’s readership. The world of Attica is beautifully realised on paper and despite it’s dangers, I too was a little sad when it was time to put the book down.
To begin with, the plot was perhaps a little aimless but I’d put this down to the children’s indecision about where to go in the attic. As they gained purpose, so did the plot and I was certainly gripped by the end. The only other problem I had with the book was the author ‘info-dumping’ big chunks of prose about what was going on in each child’s head. Although this approach was probably taken with a young adult reader in mind I think it could have been done more effectively using the ‘show but don’t tell’ method of writing.
The ending is never in doubt but the landlord’s reaction to the children’s tale leant a small sense of anti-climax to the story.
All in all though, a quick entertaining read for the commute to work and a book that a younger reader will certainly be engrossed by.

Six and a Half out of Ten

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Who won my copy of 'The Thousandfold Thought'?

It was a close run thing but the first mail in my in-box was from John Dent (aka 'House' over at the Terry Brooks Forum). Well done John, the book is on it's way to you right now! Better luck next time to everyone else who entered, there'll be more of these competitions in the future so stay tuned!

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Introducing... David Devereux!

He's a dapper gent (owner of the finest hats in Old London Town) who knows his beer and is a dab hand with aeroplanes! He's also the author of the rather splendid debut novel 'Hunter's Moon', a tale of the unseen battle that a British secret agent wages against the forces of the occult...
visit and read all about the man himself and what he's up to, 'Hunter's Moon' is out next month so he's got a lot on between now and then!
David Devereux will also be the subject of my first ever author interview! Come back here, in the next couple of days, to find out how much beer we drank and what he had to say for himself...

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Win my review copy of ‘The Thousandfold Thought’!

I’ve reviewed it below but as I already have my own copy, I’m giving this one away! I guarantee whoever gets it will be in for a good read…
What’s that? You want to know what you have to do? It’s simple, just be the first person to email me saying that you want it. Email graemesfantasybookreview(no-spam), remove the no-spam bit, with your mailing address and details of any forums that you frequent (so it doesn’t look like I’m making this stuff up). I’ll let you know who won in the next couple of days…
Good luck!

‘The Thousandfold Thought’ – R. Scott Bakker

Steven Erikson says, of ‘The Darkness That Comes Before’, “take note one and all, something remarkable has begun.” With ‘The Thousandfold Thought’ it is a case of the first part of something remarkable coming to an close.
Re-issued in mass market paperback, bridging the gap between now and the release of ‘The Aspect Emperor’ (next year), ‘The Thousandfold Thought’ tells of the closing stages of the Holy War against the heathen Fanim and the march on the fabled city of Shimeh. Once derided as the Prince of Nothing, Anasurimbr Kellhus now leads the Men of the Tusk on their crusade, Achamian the sorcerer burns with love for Esmenet (now Kellhus’ consort) but plots against his own school in order to keep the Warrior Prophet safe. Against this backdrop of war and politics, the inhuman forces of the Consult work frantically to prepare for the coming of the No-God and the Second Apocalypse.
It was only due to some superlative works being published last year that this book did not get the wider recognition that it deserved. Hopefully this second chance will work in its favour. Bakker is equally at home writing about the workings of one man’s devious and calculating mind as he is writing about the movements of thousands of men in battle and this reader was captivated by the attention that he pays to both. The plot is meticulous and intricate, no stone is left unturned and the reader will be surprised at what lies beneath some of these stones. If this wasn’t enough, it is a testament to Bakker’s abilities that he can make some of the most unlikable characters in fantasy fiction so compelling to read. The only place where the story slightly falters is right at the end with a sense of anti-climax in how things are brought to a close. Hopefully this will be remedied when ‘The Thousandfold Thought’ is set in context against the rest of the series.
If you haven’t read this any of Bakker’s work before, start with ‘The Darkness That Comes Before’ and work your way through. I promise you that you’re in for a treat!

Nine out of Ten