Wednesday, 29 July 2009
"It was an occasion where it paid to be British," Anderson said. "It launched in the U.K. six months earlier than in the U.S., and we got wind of it when it was in galley form before the U.K. release. We think it has the potential to be a new 'Lord of the Rings'-style epic, and the book has all this great imagery."Added Bolt: "We put our own money to buy it. We were reading all these great reviews, and we thought someone was going to buy it pretty fast."
Brett has confirmed that he's almost done with the page proofs for his upcoming Sub Press short story collection, The Great Bazaar (artwork to the left), and that the final draft of The Desert Spear is due to be handed in next month.
Meanwhile, the paperback bersion of The Painted Man is on to its third print run in the UK, while it's also selling very well in Germany (currently at number 333 out of all books on the German amazon website).
All things considered, things are certainly looking very rosy for Peter Brett at the minute...
Monday, 27 July 2009
"A horror film made for just £45 on a camcorder is to be released in cinemas after impressing a distributor.
Zombie movie Colin, which was filmed in London and Wales, is the work of director Marc Price who also wrote, filmed and produced the movie.
It took the 30-year-old 18 months to complete and was edited while he was working for a courier company.
Swansea-born Mr Price said he hoped it would encourage other budding filmmakers to follow their dreams."
You can check out the rest of the article, and watch some footage, here.
Fighting their way south, betrayal follows battle, battle follows deviation, and they are attacked from all quarters by deadly warriors, monstrous harvesters who drain blood from their victims to feed their masters. As Falanor comes under heavy attack and invasion, only then does Nienna begin to learn the truth about grandfather Kell -- that he is anything but a hero.
Ferocious fantasy from a real-life hardman come to claim the post-Gemmell world. FILE UNDER: Fantasy [A City Besieged / A Dangerous Hero / Bloodsucking Hordes / Epic Battles]
Now, this is something that is unashamedly genre - and it's maybe for that reason that it appeals to me. The cover is very reminiscent of Games Workshop's earlier Black Library Warhammer novels, which isn't surprising that, from what I understand, the artist used to do some work for them. Sophisticated it ain't, but it certainly gets the job done in informing the potential reader that this is a bold, in-your-face fantasy.
The Gemmell reference is presumably tongue-in-cheek (filling the void left by Gemmell is an almost impossible task), but from reading the synopsis the story does sound Gemmell-esque, which is certainly no bad thing.
In all, sounds like quite a lot of fun. As far as I'm aware, Kell's Legend marks author Andy Remic's first foray into fantasy, having written a number of military SF novels for Orbit and Solaris, so I'm interested to see what he can bring to the table.
Kell's Legend will be published in the UK by Angry Robot (the new HarperCollins imprint) on 3 September 2009.
Thursday, 23 July 2009
After Gemmell's passing in 2006 (can't believe it was nearly three years ago...I can still recall the exact moment when I heard the news) I re-read all 11 of his Drenai novels in a couple of months - and a hugely enjoyable experience it was too. There are some extremely good novels in this sequence - Waylander, Hero in the Shadows, Winter Warriors...but none of them are quite like Legend, Gemmell's debut novel.
In 1976, Gemmell was waiting for test results on what he feared was cancer. Determined to realise his dream of having a novel published bef0re he died, he wrote The Siege of Dros Delnoch in the space of two weeks. The story itself - 10,000 Drenai warriors defending a massive, ancient fortress against 500, 000 Nadir tribesmen - was a direct metaphor of Gemmell's own struggle with his perceived cancer. His idea was that if the tests confirmed he had cancer, the fortress would fall, if the tests proved he didn't then the fortress would stand firm.
The tests came back negative.
Having survived his cancer scare, Gemmell decided the finished story wasn't very good, locked it away and forgot about it. A few years later, a friend read it and told him that it had potential. Gemmell dusted the manuscript down, re-wrote it and retitled it Legend.
It was published in 1984 and a star was born.
Given that I'd already read Legend twice before, I was interested to see whether third time around it would still hold my attention. The answer was an emphatic yes. Within 50 pages I was utterly hooked, despite being able to mostly remember who lived, who died and so on - the sign of a very good book.
What makes Legend such a powerful, engaging book - in fact, what makes any of Gemmell's books powerful and engaging - are the characters and their personal journeys. Legend is driven by its well-developed characters: Druss the Axeman, a legendary warrior in his sixties who comes out of retirement to fight a battle he knows will kill him; Rek, a vain and foppish wanderer who finds himself bound to a cause that is not his own; Bowman, an outlaw who hopes to somehow banish the demons that snap at his heels; Orrin, an overweight, inexperienced and unpopular general who struggles beneath the weight of the Drenai cause that he carries on his shoulders...and many others besides.
Gemmell makes you care about these people, makes you feel their despair and their joy. And through them, he explores some major themes. Druss, for example, is the epitome of determination - a man who refuses to give in no matter the odds, who will stand when others flee, who stands up for what is right and spits in the eye of death. In many ways Druss is the embodiment of Gemmell's psychology at the time - he represents not just everything Gemmell believed in, but also his refusal to be beaten down by his potential cancer, his determination to face his possible end with courage. Similarly, the character of Rek is used to illustrate the importance of facing up to your fears, and of not shirking your duties. Rek's journey is probably the greatest undertaken by any of Legend's characters, and Gemmell made his progression both believable and gratifying.
It's not just the major characters that help to demonstrate the supposed glory and horror of war, but also the minor characters. Carin the miller, for example, appears in only two short scenes, but his cameo is a well-judged comment on the subtle ironies of war.
Themes and characterisation aside, Legend also heavily features plenty of what Gemmell did best - battle scenes. There's loads of action, and the tight plot rips along without a dull moment. Gemmell's concise, economical style only helps the flow of the story. He also does a decent job of exploring the backgrounds of several major characters, without sacrificing the fast pace. His depiction of the Nadir is also commendable in the sense that he was at pains to illustrate that they weren't evil, but merely men obeying orders. A poignant scene near the end of the novel, as both Drenai and Nadir come together, perfectly demonstrates the stupidity of war.
Despite the novel's iconic status, there are issues with it; Gemmell himself later acknowledged this by saying that as a piece of writing Legend "appalled" him, but that he believed very strongly in its potency as a story. In fact, he went as far as suggesting that although the prose could be improved, it wouldn't make the book any better because the spirit of the story came through so strongly.
Who am I to disagree with the great man himself? As it happens, I don't - the writing is rather stiff in places, particularly the dialogue. I must admit that I laughed when Virae waved her sword at a bunch of outlaws and called them 'dungbeetles.' Yet I don't think - even if Gemmell had re-written Legend - that it would be that much better, since the story is so powerful anyway. That said, there are some rather jolting and unnecessary POV changes - mid scene - that add little and could have been done away with. A good example is when the perspective switches in chapter one from Rek to Horeb (a minor character who only appears in one scene) - not only is it a little confusing, but we simply don't need to see Horeb's perspective.
I also have some minor quibbles unrelated to prose. The resurrection of one character towards the end of the story seems unnecessary and to my mind weakens the emotional impact on another person - not to mention being too saccharine for my tastes. Furthermore, the moment when Druss roars "Obey your husband, woman!" at a prominent female character is a little embarrassing. Arguably in character, but even so it should have been edited out.
Still, most debut novels have issues. Those in Legend certainly don't detract from what is now a classic of heroic fantasy - and deservedly so. Even after three reads, its ability to enthrall and inspire an emotional reaction in me remains intact.
Heroic fantasy doesn't get much better than this.
Edit: For more info on Gemmell and some recommended reading, check out the post I wrote way back in the early days of the blog. :)
Monday, 20 July 2009
Rumours had been swirling around the interwebs that Sean Bean was being lined up to play Eddard Stark, and now GRRM has confirmed the accuracy of those rumours.
From his Not A Blog:
"Well, Reuters has the story out already, so there's no longer any reason for me to keep mum. Yes, the rumors you've been seeing all over the web the last few days are true. Another huge piece has fallen into place for the HBO pilot of A GAME OF THRONES -- we have signed Sean Bean to play the part of Lord Eddard Stark.
For the movie fans out there, Sean Bean needs no introduction. I mean, what the hell, he was Boromir and he was Sharpe, he was terrific in both roles, and in a hundred other parts besides. I can't imagine a better Ned. The deal took some doing, so my fingers have been crossed for a month now (and boy, that made it hard to type), but now it's done, and I'm thrilled."
That's not all - GRRM also confirmed that role of Jon Snow (thought by many fans to be the key figure in the entire series) has gone to a young actor called Kit Harington (left).
King Robert Baratheon will be played by British actor Mark Addy who internationally is probably most widely known for his appearance in A Knight's Tale. Also confirmed are Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon, and Harry Lloyd as Viserys Targaryen.
The casting of Bean as Eddard Stark is a very sound one - as a world-famous actor, he'll lend some serious credibility to the series. Furthermore, he's got the right look and is certainly more than capable of bringing the stoic, brooding Eddard to life. Exciting news, for sure.
As for the other appointments, I've never bothered to watch A Knight's Tale all the way through and don't recall seeing Mark Addy in anything else, so I can't really comment on his acting abilities. Perhaps an odd choice, but in terms of appearance - if you slapped a beard on him - he'd look about right.
No idea what Gleeson and Lloyd look like, so can't comment. I do think though that Kit Harington looks perfect for Jon Snow. Again, no idea on the acting ability but he certainly looks the part. It's so crucial that they get the Jon Snow role nailed, so I'm certain this appointment would have had plenty of thought behind it.
Looks like this production is starting to pick up momentum...
Wednesday, 15 July 2009
By Neal Asher
(Tor, 3 April 2009)
While fantasy novels make up the bulk of my reading, I do like to dip my toes into SF now and again. Over the last few months I'd received no less than three Neal Asher books - an ARC of Orbus, a MMPB of Line War and a nice shiny hardback of Shadow of the Scorpion. My initial interest in each quickly wavered when I realised that all were part of various different series, and I was reluctant to just jump in without any prior knowledge of Asher's books.
By chance, I happened to stumble across Gav's review of Shadow of the Scorpion over at NextRead, and learned that this novel was actually a prequel to the other novels in the Agent Cormac Series. Deciding that this was probably as good a place as any to leap into Asher's universe (and feeling guilty at the thought of letting such a nice hardback gather dust) I decided to give it a go. After the snore-fest that was Jasmyn, I needed something that was going to wake me up and give me a hefty slap around the chops.
Shadow of the Scorpion did a decent job.
Raised to adulthood during the end of the war between the human Polity and the vicious arthropoid race, the Prador, Ian Cormac is haunted by childhood memories of a sinister scorpion-shaped war drone and the burden of losses he doesn't remember. In the years following the war, he signs up with Earth Central Security, and is sent out to help either restore or simply maintain order on worlds devastated by Prador bombardment. There he discovers that though the old enemy remains as murderous as ever, it is not anywhere near as perfidious or dangerous as some of his fellow humans, some of them closer to him than he would like. Amidst the ruins left by wartime genocides, he discovers in himself a cold capacity for violence, learns some horrible truths about his own past and, set upon a course of vengeance, tries merely to stay alive.
While I knew that Shadow of the Scorpion was a prequel, the concern was always there that my enjoyment of the novel would suffer due to my lack of familiarity with Asher's universe. This proved not to be a problem - Asher must have realised that this novel might attract newcomers, as he takes care to provide a suitable depth of background information to help them get a feel for his universe. Commendably he manages to do this without compromising the pace of the novel - exposition is nicely spread out, without any clumsy infodumps.
Speaking of pace, it's fast. Asher doesn't mess around - the story rips along at gratifying speed, the emphasis clearly on action. The plot is carefully constructed, with two narrative threads (one focusing on Cormac's childhood, the other on his career progression in the present) weaving together nicely. These chronological jumps in the narrative are used to good effect, with events in the present explained by revelations from Cormac's childhood. Such a device can be jarring and ineffective when not employed properly, but Asher handles it well. A nice counterpoint is achieved between the introspection and revelation of the chapters that deal with Cormac's past, and the high-octane action of the chapters focusing on his present state. Asher's no-nonsense, economical style of prose helps the story's momentum.
I wouldn't say characterisation is the novel's strong point, but it's adequate: Cormac is well-developed and makes for a decent protagonist, while the various other characters that flit in and out of the story are granted enough depth and personality to be engaging. My knowledge of SF is rather limited, so I can't comment effectively on Asher's universe, but it was certainly well-realised enough to hold my attention. I liked the ideas surrounding memory erasure, and the fleeting glimpses I got of the Prador made me want to read more about them (how can you not like huge Crab-like aliens?). While I figured out the main twist of the storyline some time before it was revealed, it didn't spoil my enjoyment of the book.
Quibbles are fairly minor. I would have liked more of an emotional response from Cormac at times (his lack of reaction to the fate of a female character who he appeared to be close to, struck me as odd). The eventual showdown with the antagonist of the piece seemed a little rushed, with a solution that just seemed to appear out of nowhere (clearly this moment would have been far more significant to a reader familiar with the earlier Comac books, whereas for me it fell a little flat). I'd also liked to have seen more of Cormac's training with the Sparkind - he seemed to join their ranks and develop very quickly.
Other than that, the repeated use of the word 'abruptly' became increasingly distracting - at one point it was used four times in one page, but I guess this is just a quirk of Asher's that somehow his editor failed to pick up on.
Verdict: Shadow of the Scorpion is a fast, entertaining read that offers something for new and old readers alike - for the former, a good introduction to Asher's novels, for the latter, an insight into how Asher's most popular character became the man he is. Minor flaws didn't spoil the novel for me, and I expect I'll check out some more of Asher's stuff - probably starting with Prador Moon.
Tuesday, 14 July 2009
Still, mustn't judge a book by its cover and all that. Here's the synopsis:
The elves have fled to Calius, seeking to escape the overwhelming power of the demonic Garonin. A desperate last stand in their own dimension saved the race, at the cost of 100,000 elves lost to the Garonin.
The elf who led that fight, Takaar, is blamed for the losses and has gone into hiding. Now the weakened elf race is tearing itself apart in civil war, human mercenaries have arrived in Calius and are ripping the continent apart. Only one elf can unite the elves. And only one elf believes in him.
A young warrior named Auum sets out to bring back the shamed hero and save the elven race. James Barclay's ELVES trilogy will tell the whole story of his immortal elven race, and will appeal to all fans of Tolkien and fantasy - this is a uniquely entertaining take on a fantasy staple perfect to bring new readers to Barclay. And old readers of James Barclay will welcome a return to one of their favourite creations and will also love seeing one of their favourite characters again - the Tai Gethan warriror Auum destined to be one of the Raven.
Sounds like fans of Barclay's high-octane action fantasy won't be disappointed. Elves is slated for a 21 January 2010 release.
Monday, 13 July 2009
Subterranean Press is proud to announce a new novella by the enigmatic author of The Company and The Engineer Trilogy.
When his father, brothers and uncles wiped each other out in a murderous civil war, Nicephorus was forced to leave the University and become emperor.
Seventy-seven emperors had met violent deaths over the past hundred years, most of them murdered by their own soldiers. Hardly surprising, then, that Nico should want to fill the major offices of state with the only people he knew he could trust, his oldest and closest friends.
But there's danger on the northern frontier, and Nico daren't send a regular general up there with an army, for fear of a military coup. He turns to his best friend Phormio, who reluctantly takes the job.
Military dispatches, written in the purple ink reserved exclusively for official business, are a miserable way for friends to keep in touch, at a time when they need each other most.
But there's space in the document-tube for another sheet of paper.
Purple and Black will be printed in two colors throughout.
I really like this idea of using two different colours for the prose, purple for the military dispatches and then black for the personal correspondence. Sub Press are well-known for the aesthetic quality of the books they produce, so expect Purple and Black to look very swish indeed - especially if the striking, yet subtle, artwork is any indication.
As for the quality of the story, I've not read any of K. J. Parker's work before but I've heard some good things.
Sunday, 12 July 2009
Saturday 15th August, 3-5. Waterstones, United Reform Church, 89a Broad Street, Reading
Saturday 22nd August, 1-2 (probably) Travelling Man games shop, 32 Central Road, Leeds LS1
Satursday 29th August, tbc, Garforth Bookshop, 15 Main Street, Garforth LS25 1DS
Thursday, 9 July 2009
I've had my eye on this trilogy for a while, and reading a snippet of the prologue made me even more interested: "And now the world turns slowly from the light. Not with the cymbal clash of guns and tanks, but with the gently plucked harp of shifting moods and oddly lengthening shadows, the soft tread of a subtle invasion, not here, then here, and none the wiser. Each morning the sun still rises on supermarket worlds of plastic and glass, on industrial estates where slow trucks lumber in belches of diesel, on cities lulled by the whirring of disk drives breaking existence down into digitised order. People still move through their lives with the arrogance of rulers who know their realm will never fall. Several weeks into the new Dark Age, life goes on as it always has, oblivious to the passing of the Age of Reason, of Socratic thought and Apollonian logic...No one had noticed. But they would. And soon."
Mmmm. Nice. I might have to order the US versions though, because for once the US covers are far better than their UK counterparts...
Tuesday, 7 July 2009
By Alex Bell
(Gollancz, 18 June 2009)
While I had a number of issues with Alex Bell's debut offering, The Ninth Circle, I did think it showed some promise - enough to make me pick up her new novel, Jasmyn, to see whether the negative aspects of the first book had been improved on.
I was disappointed to find that all of the problems and flaws that marred the first novel are all present and correct in Jasmyn. Worse, they're even more prominent and intrusive than the first time around. The result is a book that becomes more infuriating and ridiculous with each chapter.
One day, without warning, Jasmyn's husband died of an aneurysm. Since then, everything has been different. Wrapped up in her grief, Jasmyn is trapped in a world without colour, without flavour - without Liam. But even through the haze of misery she begins to notice strange events. Even with Liam gone, things are not as they should be, and eventually Jasmyn begins to explore the mysteries that have sprung up after her husband's death . . . and follow their trail back into the events of his life. But the mysteries are deeper than Jasmyn expects, and are leading her in unexpected directions - into fairytales filled with swans, castles and bones; into a tale of a murder committed by a lake and a vicious battle between brothers; into a story of a lost past, and a stolen love. She's entering a magical story. Jasmyn's story.
There's so much wrong with this novel that I hardly know where to start.
The characterisation is probably the biggest offender. Jasmyn herself is actually a well-realised protagonist, and for the first third of the novel Bell does a decent job of fleshing her out and inspiring the reader's sympathy for her. As the novel progressed, I found my sympathy in increasingly short supply, until it vanished altogether and I started hoping that the (unintentionally) comical villain would actually put a bullet in her brain to put her out of her misery.
The main problem is Jasmyn's relationship with Ben, who she doesn't like but really wants to. Ben treats her like dirt, so Jasmyn gets angry with him. Then he is a little more nice to her, and she decides that he's quite pleasant after all. Then treats her like dirt again, and she thinks he's horrible again. This leads to endless monologues - How could I have thought Ben could ever be nice? Liam told me not to trust him! How could I be so stupid! I really thought I'd seen a different side of him, and, and, and...he was so rude to me! Yawn. This sort of monologue appears over and over again. By the end of the novel I was convinced that Jasmyn must have been a robot or something, because she seemed utterly incapable of actually learning from her past experiences.
The other characters are a pretty dull bunch. Jaxon, the antagonist of the piece, comes across as an shallow, incompetent James Bond villain who - despite apparently being an excellent marksman - somehow manages to miss a shot at point-blank range. Ben is - with good reason - a moody, irritable bastard, but his constant pattern of irritation/lash-out/apologise/irritation/lash-out/apologise becomes tedious (though not as tedious as Jasmyn's reaction to this treatment).
The characters' dull personalities pale when compared to their actions and motivations, some of which are so ludicrous that they seriously undermine the book's credibility. For example, the notion that a scientist would readily accept someone's claim of the existence of a magic swan - without any proof - and accompany said person on a trip to catch one, is utterly ridiculous. There are frequent instances like the one above that made me want to throw the book into a corner. I don't know about you, but if five black, dead swans fell from the sky at a funeral, I wouldn't just say "Oh, how strange" and then waltz off to the car without giving it any more thought (which is what happens).
The plot is no better - strip away the Bavarian folklore element (which frustratingly isn't used nearly as well as it could have been) and it essentially boils down to a weak thriller. The central premise gives the novel a decent foundation, but the subsequent plot veers from monotonous to ridiculous, with a generous side-helping of deus ex machina. In short, it has more holes than a Swiss cheese that's been shot by a firing squad. For example, after being told time and time again that the item our heroine is hunting for would have been hidden somewhere within easy reach but out of the public eye, the item turns out to be concealed in a location that is full of tourists and not accessible between 5 pm and 10 am. Hmm.
Another problem is Bell's insistence on using certain locations that, while being atmospheric, are totally illogical in relation to the plot - the artifact's location is a good example of this, as it was clearly chosen because of the possibilities that it offered the story, rather than because it made any sort of sense. The most glaring example is the inclusion of the Ice Palace, which totally defies logic. The paper-thin explanations Bell offers to explain the inclusion of these settings completely fails to convince.
There's not much positive to say about the prose. It's passable, nothing more. Despite the whimsical, fairytale settings in the novel, there's a distinct lack of atmosphere in the writing and the descriptive prose is pretty underwhelming. The book is crying out for more of a lyrical flourish, some haunting, dreamy language...but it just doesn't happen. Still, at least Bell has reigned in her obsessive use of italics.
Positive elements are thin on the ground. I suppose Bell deserves some credit in that - despite all its faults - I kept reading the novel because I wanted to find out the reason for Liam and Ben's fall-out (although the eventual revelation was another tick in the column marked 'unconvincing'). Other than that, well...the cover's quite nice.
Verdict: I hoped for good things from Jasmyn, but was sorely disappointed and sadly this is easily the worst book I've read this year. Somewhere in this unconvincing mishmash is a decent story - I don't doubt that Bell has got some interesting ideas. But there was just far too much wrong with this novel for me to enjoy it - weak and unconvincing characters, a plot that is simply unbelievable (for the wrong reasons) and constant dull monologues. Put simply, it's a few hours of my life I won't get back.
Saturday, 4 July 2009
THE HERO OF AGES – Brandon Sanderson
THE WAY OF SHADOWS - Brent Weeks
THE LAST ARGUMENT OF KINGS - Joe Abercrombie
HEIR TO SEVENWATERS - Juliet Marillier
THE TWO PEARLS OF WISDOM - Alison Goodman
THE KINGDOM BEYOND THE WAVES - Stephen Hunt
HAVEMERCY - Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett
THE PAINTED MAN - Peter V. Brett
TOLL THE HOUNDS - Steven Erikson
GLADIATRIX - Russell Whitfield
EMPIRE IN BLACK AND GOLD - Adrian Tchaikovsky
GRACELING - Kristin Cashore
KING'S SHIELD - Sherwood Smith
HELDENHAMMER -Graham McNeill
THE STEEL REMAINS - Richard Morgan
WRATH OF A MAD GOD - Raymond E. Feist
WOLFBLADE - Jennifer Fallon
THE SOLDIER KING - Violette Malan
MAGIC BURNS - Ilona Andrews
Thursday, 2 July 2009
This is a really good achievement - most debut authors don't achieve this with their first hardback release. I must say I'm not that surprised - the novel attracted almost universally positive reviews both online and in print, and it was clear that online readers were pretty excited about it.
Anyway, congratulations to Mark - a thoroughly deserved success.