The Laundry Files Stross1

I love The Laundry series by Charles Stross so catching up with news around it today has been really exciting.

Firstly, The Atrocity Archives and The Jennifer Morgue have re-released with updated covers to match the style of The Fuller Memorandum and The Apocalypse Codex. I’m so tempted to replace my copies of the first two as they’ll look so nice on the shelf.

Secondly, and much more exciting is that Orbit UK have released the first two as audiobooks and re-recorded them with a UK narrator:

TheLaundaryAudioBook

“The first two adventures in Charles Stross’s Locus Award-winning supernatural thriller series the Laundry Files came out today as audiobooks:  THE ATROCITY ARCHIVES (UK|ANZ) and THE JENNIFER MORGUE (UK|ANZ).”

(Via: The Laundry Files: Listen to the Audiobooks!)

Am even more tempted to use up my Audible credits. Very very tempted as Jack Hawkins is very good.

Thirdly and fourthly, NEW STORIES!!

“Astute sky watchers will know that a new Laundry Files novel, ‘The Rhesus Chart’, is due out in July 2014.

I’m now able to announce that, in addition, a new Laundry Files novella is going to show up in the next few months! You’ll be able to read ‘Equoid’ on Tor.com at the end of September. It will be followed by a limited run signed first edition hardcover (illustrated by Steve Montiglio, who did the covers for the Golden Gryphon editions of ‘The Atrocity Archives’ and ‘The Jennifer Morgue’!) from Subterranean Press in 2014.

‘Equoid’ is set shortly before the events of the ‘The Fuller Memorandum’. It’s the longest non-novel-length Laundry story so far. And it explains (among other things) precisely what H. P. Lovecraft saw behind the wood-shed when he was 14 that traumatized him for life, the reproductive life-cycle of unicorns, and what really happened on Cold Comfort Farm.

(Beyond that, I’ve got tentative plans for more Laundry Files novels—but nothing’s going to happen until after I’ve written the next chunk of the Merchant Princes series.)”

(Via: His Master’s Voice – Charlie’s Diary)

I don’t buy myself special editions of books very often but I’m damned going to try for Equoid though I’ll have read the Tor.com release much sooner.

It’s probably a timing issue (as Merchant is going to be another trilogy I think) but I thought that The Laundry was a six book arc, however, I can live with it being five it that means there isn’t a big wait for a climax (I’m looking at you Felix Castor).

If you haven’t read the series (WHY NOT??) I’ve written a few reviews:

The Atrocity Archives
The Jennifer Morgue
The Fuller Memorandum
The Apocalypse Codex

And an interview from when The Fuller Memorandum was coming out.

A nice way to start the weekend.

 

Promise of Blood

Synopsis

The cover says, ‘THE AGE OF KINGS IS DEAD…AND I HAVE KILLED IT,’ which is quite a statement to make. And to be fair it’s not an understatement. Field Marshal Tamas’s coup in of the nation of Adro, one of the Nine kingdoms, results in the death of the monarch and the layer of aristocrat. But it also results in the death of his royal kabal of Privileged, magic users who are there to keep the King safe (they didn’t do a good job on this occassion). Though they aren’t the only magic users there are lesser users like powder mages and those with a knack.

The trouble is that it’s the powder mages, who are mostly military and of whom Tamas is one, may have saved Adro from being sold out to their neighbours, but the end of the Age of Kings causes its own problems.

Comments/Thoughts/Analysis

Let’s get this out of the way. I had a great time reading this book.  I’m having a really good run of varied reading; Equations of Life, Poison, The Panopticon, The City of Silk and Steel, The Universe of Alex Woods and I’m happy to add Promise of Blood to the list.

What’s different? Guns and magic! I honestly didn’t think I’d get excited about someone else’s gun fetish but McClellan’s narration drew me in. He has structured his story in such a way that it is compelling from the opening chapter. He weaves three main threads; an investigation each of the kabal’s dying words, his son’s hunt for a rogue privileged and Tama’s own struggles in powers. But even those seeds grow and each of their roles change as the story unfolds.

I’m aware that one person’s fresh voice is another’s cliché but I’m also aware that my tolerance for certain epic fantasy stories is low so to be drawn in and excited by a fantasy novel is a refreshing thing. McClellan really does have a skilled storytellers eye for lingering in the right places for the right time before looking elsewhere. It’s a dangerous thing to do to leave one thread just as it’s in full swing only to leap to another and invariably you think you’d like to keep going rather than leave it.

I never felt that. I did think that a couple of times the leaps didn’t flow from one moment in one thread to the same or future moment but instead they felt they were going backwards (I could be wrong). But even so the whole thing held together. Each thread was worthy of the attention it got and each was packed with twists and turns. I enjoyed each of them equally for different reasons. The treat that Tama’s faces leading a country, the underside met by his investigator and the action that his son provides hunting.

All the characters are multifaceted. McClellan is good with giving characters something worthwhile to do. They serve the story. Some more than others obviously but even the minor characters are interesting for example a maid we meet at the start plays an important role at several key moments which are unbeknown to her moments before they happen.

As I was reading I didn’t have any major problems with portrayal of any of the characters apart from a niggle to do with the ’slave-girl’ Ka-poel. She’s a mute, a ‘savage’ and her magic is not understood by those around her. She accompanies Tamas’s son on his missions and when she does she looks after him, mostly via magic. I only had the niggle because of something that happens later on.

McClellan shows women in various roles and strata of society but it does have an old school flavour to it. The society is a conservative one. It’s a book about the men (thanks Neil) and their fights and struggles dominate, though as I said the maid’s story is a powerful in minor thread and could well turn into something else but even that it is about a male character.

So while I didn’t have any issues while reading it on reflection it could and probably should have taken more risks to displace the social model it based itself on. The women have a valuable role in the story but not in their own society, at least that their power isn’t their own as they facilitate the males at each and every turn.

 Summary

Where does this leave me? I have a quandary. If I’d read and moved on then I’d have been left with feeling I’d enjoyed an amazing book. And I still feel like that. But the process of reviewing it has made me consider other aspects that I wouldn’t have lingered on. I would have missed the conservative nature of the backdrop. That’s the privilege of being a male reader I guess.

So, I can’t ignore that aspect but neither can I berate it for sticking to a historically social norm. I can wonder why it wasn’t more daring. I can be honest and say that I think that this is a book written for men. And most male readers are going to enjoy the hell out of it without batting an eyelid.

As for me I’m going to read the next one. I’m hoping that McClellan brings to it all his skill as a storyteller. I’m invested in the plight of the people of Adro. I want to know the consequences of Tama’s actions. I want to see what the shocking end of this one means in the bigger picture. But I also hope that there is time for McClellan to tweak his treatment of his female characters. I’m not sure how he’d be able to do it as he’s set the whole world up to be male dominant but there are still opportunities for giving them strength rather than weakness and goals that unrelated to those of the male characters.

This is a traditional feeling story. It’s amazingly well constructed. Its aim isn’t to elevate the role of women in society, so leaves to others. But it does explore the law of unexpected consequences. Its premise feels fresh. It’s exploring an idea about what happens when gods you don’t think are real actually are. It also explores the diminishing of power over time. The role of the church and it’s statements vs it’s actions. It explores truth and lies. Plus it has guns and magic and a passion for that which is infectious.

And with all that said would I recommend this book?

Oh yes, but with all the caveats above.

Buy from:

Amazon UK: Hardback/Kindle

Book Depository UK/US

I’ve been keeping a record of which books are coming out when. Not only does it help me get organised as to what would be better to read when (if I have a review copy) or what I’m expecting if I’ve preordered it (though I tend to order ebook/paperbacks). It’s also interesting to see what’s getting released at the same.

So with that in mind here a selected few from the books that are coming out this week either for the first time or now as paperbacks:

The Curve of the Earth

The Curve of the Earth by Simon Morden

WELCOME TO THE METROZONE

Post-apocalyptic London, full of street gangs and homeless refugees. A dangerous city needs an equally dangerous saviour.

Step forward Samuil Petrovitch, a genius with extensive cybernetic replacements, a built-in AI with god-like capabilities and a full armoury of Russian swear words. He’s dragged the city back from the brink more than once – and made a few enemies on the way.

So when his adopted daughter Lucy goes missing in Alaska, he has some clue who’s responsible and why. It never occurs to him that guessing wrong could tip the delicate balance of nuclear-armed nations. This time it’s not just a city that needs saving: it’s the whole world.

I started the first book of this series (this is book 4) when it first came out to sample Simon’s writing but sadly it got pushed aside for other things. So when Orbit but out the first trilogy as an omnibus ebook earlier month (The Petrovitch Trilogy)  I thought it was a good chance to catch up especially as Pornokitsch are such fans.  Equations of Life is zipping along. I really have no clue what’s happening but it’s got that pulp thriller feel that’s dragging me along and it’s glorious for that.

 

Wolfhound Century

Wolfhound Century by Peter Higgins

A thousand miles east of Mirgorod, the great capital city of the Vlast, deep in the ancient forest, lies the most recent fallen angel, its vast stone form half-buried and fused into the rock by the violence of impact. As its dark energy leeches into the crash site, so a circle of death expands around it, slowly – inexorably – killing everything it touches. Alone in the wilderness, it reaches out with its mind.

The endless forest and its antique folklore are no concern to Inspector Vissarion Lom, summoned to the capital in order to catch a terrorist – and ordered to report directly to the head of the secret police. A totalitarian state, worn down by an endless war, must be seen to crush home-grown terrorism with an iron fist. But Lom discovers Mirgorod to be more corrupted than he imagined: a murky world of secret police and revolutionaries, cabaret clubs and doomed artists. Lom has been chosen because he is an outsider, not involved in the struggle for power within the party. And because of the sliver of angel stone implanted in his head at the children’s home.

Lom’s investigation reveals a conspiracy that extends to the top echelons of the party. When he exposes who – or rather what – is the controlling intelligence behind this, it is time for the detective to change sides. Pursued by rogue police agents and their man-crushing mudjhik, Lom must protect Kantor’s step-daughter Maroussia, who has discovered what is hidden beneath police headquarters: a secret so ancient that only the forest remembers. As they try to escape the capital and flee down river, elemental forces are gathering. The earth itself is on the move.

This is one of those early review buzz novels. I’m not sure the blurb does it justice but a sample review:

“Peter Higgins does two things amazingly well. The first is turn a phrase: his imagery is studied, vivid, measured, striking: at times gorgeous, at times repellent, but never less than apt. The second is tone: there is a fantastically melancholic-yet-oppressive air about the scenes in Mirgorod, a combination of claustrophobia and instability accentuated by Higgins’ facility with the numinous—and he brings the numinous to the fore.”

(Via: “Wolfhound Century Is On My Back/But I Am Not A Wolf”: Wolfhound Century by Peter Higgins | Tor.com)

To be honest I’d be reading it now if I wasn’t reading this instead:

Cityofsilkandsteel

The City of Silk and Steel by Mike Carey, Linda Carey & Louise Carey

Once, in a city known as Bessa, there was a sultan named Bokhari Al-Bokhari, who was thrown down by the zealots of the ascetic Hakkim Mehdad. The sultan, his wives and children were put to the sword, while his 365 concubines were sent to a neighbouring caliph as tribute, Hakkim having no use for the pleasures of the flesh.

But a day after the caravan had departed from Bessa, Hakkim discovered the terrible secret that the concubines had hidden from him.His reaction was swift and cruel.

Kill the women of the harem forthwith, along with their children and maidservants. Let not one survive. Their bodies let the desert claim, and their names be fed to silence.

This, then, is the tale – or tales – of how a remarkable group of women fight together to survive both the fury of Hakkim and the rigours of the desert. It is the tale of Zuleika, whose hidden past holds the key to their future, and of Rem, the librarian whose tears are ink. Of the wise Gursoon, who defines the group’s conscience, and of the silver-tongued thief, Anwar Das, who knows when to ignore that conscience.

This is the tale of the forging of a rabble of concubines, children, camel-herds and thieves into an army of silk and steel. It is the tale of the redemption and rise of Bessa, fabled City of Women. And it is the tale of an act of kindness that carries the seed of death, and will return to bring darkness and the end of a dream . . .

I’ve not finished it yet but I’m enchanted. The way it’s told with stories within stories weaving together like a tapestry. The female character are so varied and full of strength and it’s nice to see a story told from that angle. There are so many enjoyable things. 

I’ve also nabbed an interview will all three authors, which is going live on Thursday. 

That’s it for this week. Anything I’ve missed?

Cold Days by Jim Butcher

WARNING SPOILERS FOR EARLIER BOOKS IN THE SERIES AHEAD!

Synopsis

Harry Dresden is back from his ghostly’ adventure in Ghost Story. In Cold Days he’s got a new job and first assignment is to kill someone who should be impossible to assassinate. Being Harry and Chicago’s only Professional Wizard/Private Detective combo he needs to find out why they need to die. Oh, and while he is doing that he also has a world to save.

Comments/Thoughts/Analysis

Honestly this is going to really hard to review without spoiling earlier books so if you are sensitive to these things skip to the summary.

Ok?

So here is the thing about The Dresden Files up until Changes (the 12th book), there was a story arc but it was in background to the monster-of-the-book detective-fiction-mould that allowed Jim Butcher to establish and explore relationships and to give lots of supporting characters centre stage. In the last book, Ghost Story, we saw what happens in a world without Harry being able to play hero. But in Cold Days it’s all about Harry and I’m not sure I like it.

At least I don’t think I’d like it to be permanent change of direction for the series. It’s partly a problem with plotting. Butcher has got very confident with his world and his character’s place in Dresden’s life but at the same time this books feels like a role-call in passing to important characters that aren’t Dresden. They play second fiddle to the plot.

It is a really good plot. Butcher chucks in the kitchen sink to make sure that it roars along. And I really enjoyed it. But Butcher has set a time pressure on this story and everything has to happen in short order with no time for characters to talk or reflect. In fact it’s all deflected as they have a world to save like right now!

There are some twists which really make you reconsider the roles the fae of Summer and Winter and their fight for power. And I loved the scenes with Mother Summer, I really wanted more of them as Butcher does those types of observations really well. I think it’s partly that he’s homeless and the routine from earlier books has been blown away that makes me want to see him back in his familiar surroundings, though here is a scene, like the bedroom in the Labyrinth, where is apartment is recreated that is way more creepy that sweet.

As I said I’m torn between liking the skill that Butcher has, the story has a satisfying journey, and missing the character interactions that made earlier books sparkle.

I think the real problem is that Butcher has six more ‘Dresden File’ books planned and an additional trilogy of ‘apocalypse’ books, which, to me, could go one of two ways. This book was setting up the stakes for the next few books and it’s all Harry, Harry, Harry from here on in or the next book has his supporting cast back in a proper supporting role and it’s all Team Harry. I’m so hoping for the later.

Summary

Harry Dresden is back in action. He’s got a time limit and by limiting the story to action, action, action Butcher looses some of the sparkle from earlier books. That doesn’t mean that it’s not gripping and engrossing but by the end it doe leave you feeling that you’ve slide on ice rather than feeling the characters have carved a deep and long impression of themselves.

I have a confession to make I put down Consider Phlebas, my first Culture novel, without finishing it. But you must admit that that a series that has been going for 25 years must have something to it. So a long while later I heard an adaption by Paul Cornell of The State of the Art on Radio 4 when it was repeated in April last year. And I was enchanted by the story being told. But it took me until April this year to do something about it. I bought The Player of Games on audiobook. Then it took my until last month to get around to listening to it.

I’m greatly enjoying it. It’s a new trick of mine to listen to books that I really want to read but don’t click with. So after not finishing my first try I’m really enjoying being told the second in the series. I had another go as so many of my reader friends like and enjoy the Culture and sometimes it’s about finding your way into an author. I hope this is my way in as Use of Weapons has already had a credit spent on it.

The other thing is that I’m in SF mood in my reading at the minute so it might explain why it’s now clicked? Anyway, are you a fan of the Culture? Where did you start? What’s your favourite?

This list may sound familiar if you’ve listened to this week’s edition of The Readers (to be fair it’s probably only just gone up) and enjoyed Simon and I sharing our lists after talking about book based New Year’s resolutions.

It’s not quite the same list as I thought that 12 books was a better number than 15* we mentioned but it’s ended up as 13 as I can’t cut this list back any more than I have. I hope you find some books in here that you’re going to look forward to:

January

Dark Eden

Dark Eden by Chris Beckett

“You live in Eden. You are a member of the Family, one of 532 descendants of Angela and Tommy. You shelter beneath the light and warmth of the Forest’s lantern trees, hunting woollybuck and harvesting tree candy. Beyond the forest lie the treeless mountains of the Snowy Dark and a cold so bitter and a night so profound that no man has ever crossed it. The Oldest among you recount legends of a world where light came from the sky, where men and women made boats that could cross between worlds. One day, the Oldest say, they will come back for you. You live in Eden. You are a member of the Family, one of 532 descendants of two marooned explorers. You huddle, slowly starving, beneath the light and warmth of geothermal trees, confined to one barely habitable valley of a startlingly alien, sunless world. After 163 years and six generations of incestuous inbreeding, the Family is riddled with deformity and feeblemindedness. Your culture is a infantile stew of half-remembered fact and devolved ritual that stifles innovation and punishes independent thought. You are John Redlantern. You will break the laws of Eden, shatter the Family and change history. You will be the first to abandon hope, the first to abandon the old ways, the first to kill another, the first to venture in to the Dark, and the first to discover the truth about Eden.”

 

Diving Belles cover

Diving Belles by Lucy Wood

Straying husbands lured into the sea can be fetched back, for a fee. Magpies whisper to lonely drivers late at night. Trees can make wishes come true – provided you know how to wish properly first. Houses creak, fill with water and keep a fretful watch on their inhabitants, straightening shower curtains and worrying about frayed carpets. A teenager’s growing pains are sometimes even bigger than him. And, on a windy beach, a small boy and his grandmother keep despair at bay with an old white door. In these stories, Cornish folklore slips into everyday life. Hopes, regrets and memories are entangled with catfish, wrecker’s lamps, standing stones and baying hounds, and relationships wax and wane in the glow of a moonlit sea. This luminous, startling and utterly spellbinding debut collection introduces in Lucy Wood a spectacular new voice in contemporary British fiction.

February

9781843545798

The Secret Book of Sacred Things by Torsten Krol

The coming of the Great Stone to Earth has erased almost everything that used to be. But in one isolated valley, the Church of Selene has found its way back from destruction. Sister Luka and her female converts offer sacrifices to the scarred (and very close) moon that hangs over their convent. It has been this way since the meteor hit. Among the Little Sisters of Selene is twelve year-old Aurora, respected Scribe of the church. She endlessly writes down the name of the moon to keep her in the sky where she belongs. But Rory has a secret book she keeps hidden in her Scribe’s chamber and into this diary she pours out her hopes and desires. Upsetting this fragile equilibrium is Willa, a young tomboy whose flamboyant arrival threatens the hard-won status quo of the sisters’ community. As Rory and Willa inch toward friendship, insurrection grows. But when an unexpected marvel occurs in the sky, it is clear that Rory’s work as the Scribe has failed. The moon is threatening to remake the world all over again…This is The Secret Book of Sacred Things, this is Rory’s story.

Advent

Advent by James Treadwell

Warded from earth, air, water, fire, spirits, thought and sight.

But now magic is rising to the world once more.

And a boy called Gavin, who thinks only that he is a city kid with parents who hate him, and knows only that he sees things no one else will believe, is boarding a train, alone, to Cornwall. No one will be there to meet him.

March

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Whispers Underground by Ben Aaronovitch’s

Peter Grant is learning magic fast. And its just as well – he’s already had run ins with the deadly supernatural children of the Thames and a terrifying killer in Soho. Progression in the Police Force is less easy. Especially when you work in a department of two. A department that doesn’t even officially exist. A department that if you did describe it to most people would get you laughed at. And then there’s his love life. The last person he fell for ended up seriously dead. It wasn’t his fault, but still. Now something horrible is happening in the labyrinth of tunnels that make up the tube system that honeycombs the ancient foundations of London. And delays on the Northern line is the very least of it. Time to call in the Met’s Economic and Specialist Crime Unit 9, aka ‘The Folly’. Time to call in PC Peter Grant, Britains Last Wizard.

 

Hide Me Among The Graves

Hide Me Among the Graves by Tim Powers

“An ancient evil patrols the skies above the Thames, the Romantic poets unite in battle against the Muses, and a parallel world of magic exists in the London streets…Awoken by the poet Christina Rosetti, the vampire Polidori is awake once more. Fiercely protective of his beloved Christina, he bestows upon her the gift of divine poetry…but ensures the violent death of any potential rival for his affections. Trapped by her connection to the undead creature – poised between love, and horror for her immortal soul – Rosetti shuts herself away from the world. But Polidori’s abduction of another young girl compels her to join forces against him. With the aid of her brothers, Gabriel and William, and her sister Maria, she enters London’s unseen underworld. It is a realm of magically protected human familiars, jealous supernatural beings, and hungry ghosts.”

Fated by Benedict Jacka

Fated: An Alex Verus Novel by Benedict Jacka

Camden, North London. A tangled, mangled junction of train lines, roads and the canal. Where minor celebrities hang out with minor criminals, where tourists and moody teenagers mingle, and where you can get your ears pierced and your shoulder tattooed while eating sushi washed down with a can of super strength beer. In the heart of Camden, where rail meets road meets leyline, you might find the Arcana Emporium, run by one Alex Verus. He won’t sell you a wand or mix you a potion, but if you know what you’re looking for, he might just be able to help. That’s if he’s not too busy avoiding his apprentice, foiling the Dark, outwitting the Light, and investigating a highly toxic Relic that has just turned up at the British Museum.

April


TheAlchemistOfSoulsThe Alchemist of Souls by Anne Lyle

When Tudor explorers returned from the New World, they brought back a name out of half-forgotten Viking legend: skraylings. Red-sailed ships followed in the explorers’ wake, bringing Native American goods–and a skrayling ambassador–to London. But what do these seemingly magical beings really want in Elizabeth I’s capital?

Mal Catlyn, a down-at-heel swordsman, is seconded to the ambassador’s bodyguard, but assassination attempts are the least of his problems. What he learns about the skraylings and their unholy powers could cost England her new ally–and Mal his soul.

May


QuestionmarkRailsea by China Mieville

Sham Yes ap Soorap, young doctor’s assistant, is in search of life’s purpose aboard a diesel locomotive on the hunt for the great elusive moldywarpe, Mocker-Jack. But on an old train wreck at the outskirts of the world, Sham discovers an astonishing secret that changes everything: evidence of an impossible journey. A journey left unfinished…which Sham takes it on himself to complete. It’s a decision that might cost him his life.

BlackbirdsBlackbirds by Chuck Wendig

Miriam Black knows when you will die. Still in her early twenties, she’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, suicides, and slow deaths by cancer. But when Miriam hitches a ride with truck driver Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be gruesomely murdered while he calls her name. Miriam has given up trying to save people; that only makes their deaths happen. But Louis will die because he met her, and she will be the next victim. No matter what she does she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try.

2312

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

The year is 2312. Scientific advances have opened gateways to an extraordinary future. Earth is no longer our only home; new habitats have been created throughout the solar system, on moons, planets, and in between. But in 2312, a sequence of events will force humanity to confront our past, present, and future. The first event takes place on Mercury, in the city of Terminator, itself a miracle of engineering on an unprecedented scale. For Swan Er Hong, it will change her life. Once a designer of worlds, now Swan will be led into a plot to destroy them. 2312 is a bold vision of humanity’s future and a compelling portrait of those individuals who will shape its events.

June

Questionmark

The City’s Son (The Skyscraper Throne) by Tom Pollock

Expelled from school, betrayed by her best friend and virtually ignored by her dad, who’s never recovered from the death of her mum, Beth Bradley retreats to the sanctuary of the streets, looking for a new home. What she finds is Filius Viae, the ragged and cocky crown prince of London, who opens her eyes to the place she’s never truly seen. But the hidden London is on the brink of destruction. Reach, the King of the Cranes, is a malign god of demolition, and he wants Filius dead. In the absence of the Lady of the Streets, Filius’ goddess mother, Beth rouses Filius to raise an alleyway army, to reclaim London’s skyscraper throne for the mother he’s never known. Beth has almost forgotten her old life – until her best friend and her father come searching for her, and she must choose between the streets and the life she left behind. This is the first of a series, an urban fable about friends, family and monsters, and how you can’t always tell which is which.

Questionmark

The Long Earth by Sir Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

2015: Madison, Wisconsin. Junior cop Sally Jansson is called out to the house of Willis Lynsey, a reclusive scientist, for an animal-cruelty complaint: the man was seen forcing a horse in through the door of his home. Inside there is no horse. But Sally finds a kind of home-made utility belt. She straps this on – and ‘steps’ sideways into an America covered with virgin forest. Willis came here with equipment and animals, meaning to explore and colonise. And when Sally gets back, she finds Willis has put the secret of the belt on the internet. The great migration has begun…

The Long Earth: our Earth is but one of a chain of parallel worlds, lying side by side in a higher space of possibilities, each differing from its neighbours by a little (or a lot): an infinite landscape of infinite possibilities. And the further away you travel, the stranger the worlds get. The sun and moon always shine, the basic laws of physics are the same. However, the chance events which have shaped our particular version of Earth, such as the dinosaur-killer asteroid impact, might not have happened and things may well have turned out rather differently.

On reflection this is a very SFF-centric list. I guess under pressure of selection I go back to familiar territory. Though in my notes I have 50-odd books that I’d love to read that are coming out in the next six-months from all sections. Maybe I just wasn’t confident enough to list them here I was I wasn’t sure of them myself…

What would you have chosen? Have you got any books that you are forthcoming that you can’t wait to read?

 

*The two missing books compared with “The Readers” are “The Devil’s Beat” by Robert Edric &  “Half Sick Of Shadows” by David Logan

Hexed by Kevin Hearne

With no real recovery time Atticus O’Sullivan has do deal with the consequences of Hounded, namely the power gap that’s been created around Tempe, Arizona since he kicked a few demons back to hell. It’s a vacuum that a gang of German witches and a horde of Bacchants are very eager to fill.

In my review of the first one (Hounded) I might not have emphasised how much fun Kevin Hearne is to read. He writes in a way that is fast paced, intelligent (Atticus quotes Shakespeare just to prove a point), and it’s funny. It’s kind of jovial humour in places but I’d say this was very much a geek boys book. Especially given Atticus’s wondering eyes and the general banter he has with his dog Oberon (who he has a telepathic connection with).

Atticus is a very old Druid, the last, but he looks in his early twenty’s, thanks to some very good herbal medicine, which provides a lot of scope. He can know things like reciting  Shakespeare off the top of his head but also act like a lad in his 20s and partly that’s so he mixes in well, skill he’s trying to teach both his vampire and werewolf lawyers. But he wouldn’t be alive this long if wasn’t skilled and powerful.

And it is that melting pot that gives this series its energy. Hearne keeps fulling that with mix of gods (e. g.Roman/Celtic) but also more human evils (German witches) and other magicians (one of Kabbalist origins). This is a book that you’d have trouble getting bored reading.

The only thing that lets it down as a stand alone is that it stands on the shoulders of Hounded and it’s preparing for Hammered. Which doesn’t make a disappointment as such but it suffers slightly from the ‘middle book syndrome’. You know that things are building up to Hammered and that the focus is on the bigger picture.

What might have worked better would have been to draw more into this one and dance around a bit before going in for the kill. As I said this is a very laddish book so it may not be aiming for subtle.

Saying all that I tore through it and enjoyed it. Definitely a fun and enjoyable read.

I haven’t talked about ebooks for a little while so here is a few snippets:

Short UK Orbit

Finally Orbit are releasing some short fiction outside the US:

Last April, Orbit US launched Orbit Short Fiction, publishing digital editions of original short fiction written by its authors. Starting in 2012 Orbit UK will be joining the initiative. Stories published under the program will be released simultaneously in the US, UK, and other markets in which its e-books are routinely distributed.  Anne Clarke, Editorial Director, Orbit (UK) said: “The digital short fiction market is clearly gaining momentum, and I’m delighted that we’ll now be able to make our authors’ stories available internationally. The success of the program in the US has been very encouraging, and we’re very much looking forward to working with our authors and colleagues in the US on this next stage in its development.”

Press Release: ORBIT SHORT FICTION TO LAUNCH INTERNATIONALLY

To tell the truth I wasn’t that bothered. That was until I saw the release of The Butcher of Anderson Station was US only. I’m not really keen on missing out. And shortly we won’t be.

Flashman… aha…. ebook read every one of them…


And if you don’t know much about Flashman here you go:

For more than a century the fate of history’s most notorious schoolboy, Harry Paget Flashman, remained a mystery – until, in 1966, George MacDonald Fraser decided to discover a vast collection of unpublished manuscripts in a Midlands saleroom…Expelled from Rugby for drunkenness, and none too welcome at home after seducing his father’s mistress, the Flashman series follows the scandalous saga of Harry Paget Flashman; scoundrel, liar, cheat, thief, coward – and, oh yes, toady – in a series of bestselling memoirs in which the arch-cad reviews, from the safety of old age, his exploits in bed and battle.

What makes ebooks exciting for me is that it makes works of all sorts available to new audiences and it doesn’t stop at Flashman

George MacDonald Fraser’s other novels, short stories and nonfiction will follow in ebook format in 2012.

And Finally: Bradbury gives in to ebooks

Science fiction legend Ray Bradbury, who at 91 has long been one of the last bastions against the digital age, has crumbled, with his classic novel Fahrenheit 451 finally published as an ebook.

Fahrenheit 451 ebook published as Ray Bradbury gives in to digital era | Books | guardian.co.uk:

 

The author’s agent Michael Congdon told the Associated Press that “we explained the situation to him (Bradbury) that a new contract wouldn’t be possible without ebook rights. He understood and gave us the right to go ahead.” With ebooks now accounting for 20% or more of sales, Congdon said, the digital deal was inevitable.

 

HarperCollins, which publishes Fahrenheit 451 in the UK, said it was “in discussions” with the author about releasing an ebook of the novel but had not yet finalised a deal.

This is interesting as even Bradbury who resisted ebooks of his works has had to relinquish to commercial realities.

One thing is sure is that we’ll never be short of ebooks.

Hounded Kevin Hearne Iron Druid Chronicles review

I do love it when mythical characters are dropped into a modern world setting. And being a Welshman I have a certain frisson when Celtic myth is used. They were classical used in The Snow Spider by Jenny Nimmo. And another evocative portrayal is Mark Chadbourn’s trilogy of trilogies (The Age of Misrule, The Dark Age, Kingdom of the Serpent). Unlike Chadbourn’s serious (if excellent and entertaining) take Hearne sees the funny side of the situation by using a 2000 year old Druid who is currently in the masquerading as a 21 year old New Age bookshop owner.

Though his new found quiet life is disturbed when he receives a visit from the The Morrigan. And it’s her prophecy that that gives Atticus O’Sullivan a wake up call. He is the currently owner of a sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer. Unfortunately an angry Celtic god want’s it back and has been hounding (hence the title) Atticus for centuries.

To be honest what Hounded lacks in locations it more than makes up for in an eccentric cast of characters. The action sticks closely around Tempe and a few key locations, which is a bit of a double-edged sword as Hearne uses the introduction of several characters to keep the plot and the action moving. Now this could be a flaw if the characters and the situation weren’t so entertaining. Trouble has definitely come to Atticus’s door.

And in a way it’s like the trial of Hercules or some other ancient mythical hero, as soon as he’s fixed one problem there is a another just around the corner. But the cleverness comes from weaving those events into something that builds so Hearne can drop little bombshells on Atticus that reveals a bigger picture and the reader gets that must know more feeling.

Speaking of the bigger picture we have Celtic gods, Druids, a vampire, a pack of werewolves, sidhe, a coven and a Hindu witch to name a few. It’s good to see hints of a ‘real’ world outside the community of Tempe though for an out of the way place in Arizona it doesn’t half attract a few mystical beings.

Hounded definitely feels like Hearne has a good deep understanding and enjoyment of myth as well as cracking sense of humour and you can feel he’s enjoying himself. Though it isn’t actually a ‘lite’ tale. There are blood and gore moments as well as lightly touching on more adult themes. Which actually gives a better edge to the humour to play off as well as to show that Atticus is really in danger because near the beginning he seems quite powerful until the bad guys get stronger.

Another strength is that not only using Celtic myth but shows how other beliefs all interact and are it seems real. A fact that Hearne plays off really well as he builds his story. He also plays Atticus off against his dog Oberon who can not only psychically talk to his master but also has a pointed wit and that bound makes Atticus a sympathetic and likeable character and definitely a humanises him.

If you enjoy myths, like a laugh, and love feeling that an author is enjoying themselves Hounded is one you have to read. Now. It cheered me up no end reading it. Looking forward to Hexed (which is out next month).

Hounded: The Iron Druid Chronicles: Book One is out now. Book Two: Hexed is out Oct and Book Three: Hammered is out Nov.