The Escher-eqse city of Ayona has a nominal nobility, in the form of a duke and his royal family, but the city is mostly governed by the frequently conflicting groups of Mechanics and Alchemist. While the Mechanics and Alchemists exist in an uneasy truce with each other, they both vie for the upper hand in power. The ancient city was “grown” out of stone by the ubiquitous but slowly dying race of gargoyles, who, when they were stronger, were worshipped and feared and kept both groups in check.
China Mieville is the premiere iconoclast of the fantasy genre. Before (or at the same time) that “punk” (as in cyberpunk, splatterpunk and mythpunk) became a common subgenre suffix, Mieville laid out the manifesto of the New Weird movement, a literary movement about subverting fantasy and horror tropes. His work is gritty, urban, political, subversive, disquieting—and adult. His language is baroque—he knows the Oxford English Dictionary and isn’t afraid to use it. Mieville’s imagery borders on the Lovecraftian. And the work is ripe with allusion, from Marxist and gender theory to African literature. (Iron Council, the last of the Bas Lag novels, unabashedly models itself after the late Senegalese filmmaker Sembene Ousmane’s novel God’s Bits of Wood). So it is naturally intriguing to see how Mieville reconciles heady version of fantasy to the young adult novel, in Un Lun Dun.
Today I interview Steven Erikson who in my mind nothing less than writer who brought Sword and Sorcery elements into contemporary, even literary fiction and creating a landscape all his own. The author of my favorite series of all time. Let’s do this!
Last month I interviewed his cohort Ian Cameron Esslemont, the author of Night of Knives, and now,with his eighth novel in the Malazan Book of the Fallen just around the corner, I am pleased to present and welcome Steven Erikson.
Tem’s fantastical memoir The Man on the Ceiling, about his wife Melanie. And Melanie’s character, in one of her narrative turns, tells us how a strange and lost man did one night climb through her bedroom window, only to flee when she awoke. The Tems describe their book as “loosely autobiographical” (the book’s jacket adds a parenthetical “maybe” to the common descriptor “A Novel”) and we can guess that this episode may be one of those that are, as the word is typically understood, true. Given this starting point, a more creatively blinkered author or pair of authors might have left the “man on the ceiling” as a minor aside, a passing nightmare to be commented on and then dismissed. We would instead be holding a straightforwardly autobiographical account of the Tems, of the love and anxieties they have for each other and their family, likely titled “The Man in the Window.” And everything in that account would be true. But such a mechanically truthful account wouldn’t be the whole story, or the whole truth.
I almost feel like this doesn’t need to be said but I’ll say it anyway. This isn’t a review; it’s a critical piece that deals with text specific examples. In other words there WILL be spoilers.
“An artist speaks from personal experiences, knowledge and beliefs, and rarely gets to see the finished piece. The work is completed by the viewer’s own intelligence and emotions.” — Peggy Kingsbury
At the time of this writing Steve Mosby’s The 50/50 Killer has just been nominated for a Barry Award. There isn’t a more deserving book and it continues to surprise that Mosby doesn’t yet have a U.S. deal for his books. Hopefully the timing of this review will bring his work to wider attention. And maybe even those who have already read the book will have to reevaluate their reading experience.
Kushiel’s Dart is Jacqueline Carey’s highly successful debut and the first instalment of a trilogy that chronicles the exploits of Phèdre nó Delaunay – exquisite courtesan, talented spy and god-touched masochist. The book received the 2002 Locus Award for Best First Novel, and it established Carey as one of the new and innovative talents within the fantasy genre.
Kushiel’s Dart is first and foremost the story of Phèdre, who enters the world graced with an ill-luck name and a flaw in her beauty; a mote of scarlet in one of her dark eyes. She is sold into indentured service at a very young age, and when the enigmatic nobleman Anafiel Delaunay buys her service, he also names what the scarlet fleck in Phèdre’s gaze denotes: Kushiel’s Dart. Phédre is not merely an unlucky child of flawed beauty; she is an anguisette, chosen by the gods to experience pain and pleasure as one.
Maledicte marks Lane Robins’ first effort as a novelist, and a glance at the cover – which depicts and androgynous face in profile, eyes covered with an ornate Venetian-style domino, the title written with gothic type and the tagline: “A novel of love, betrayal, and vengeance” – it quickly becomes clear that Robins is aiming at a brand of dark fantasy of manners and courtly intrigue that have been very successful in the hands of writers like Jacqueline Carey and Ellen Kushner.
The story starts with a short prologue, where the reader is introduced to two teenagers, Miranda and Janus, who eke out a precarious existence in the Relicts, the slum of Murne, capital of the kingdom of Antyre. Here, Janus is kidnapped by a nobleman acting on the behalf of the Earl of Last. Janus is, in fact, the illegitimate son of the earl, who is in desperate need of an heir. The children know none of this, and the kidnapping thus takes a violent turn. In her desperation, Miranda takes an oath of vengeance and gives her soul into the keeping of Black-Winged Ani, the merciless and bloodthirsty goddess of love and revenge. She intends to reclaim Janus, her first love, and kill his father, the earl of Last.
The Mirrored Heavens by debut author David J. Williams is described by Stephen Baxter as “Tom Clancy interfacing Bruce Sterling.” Williams combines future technology and espionage with a richly imagined political climate, with action and mordant humor to spare. The main characters–the Razor (hacker) Claire Haskell and the Mech (assassin) Jason Marlowe hunt the terrorist group Autumn Rain through virtual and real worlds, not sure who to trust–even their own memories. The book is a rollercoaster ride, but Williams’ future is grimy and intense–this isn’t shiny new gadgets–and there is a serious exploration of the clash between the developing world and the first world.
Mr. Williams, fellow DC dweller and my occasional drinking buddy, graciously agreed to be interviewed for Boomtron.
Deepsix is the second novel in Jack McDevitt’s “Academy” series, which can be described as mostly-hard science fiction with a few exceptions like faster-than-light travel included out of narrative necessity. However, while it has the same main character as the first Academy book, The Engines of God, it is a fully self-contained story and can easily be read by someone who has not read its predecessor.
In the 23rd century, the Academy of Science and Technology and its fleet of superluminal ships is tasked with exploring the reaches of space and pushing back the frontiers of human knowledge. When a rogue gas giant adrift in deep space for half a billion years enters the Maleiva system, a scientific team is sent to watch. The rogue giant is on a near-collision course with the third planet of the Maleiva system, dubbed Deepsix, providing a rare opportunity- the chance to observe as a planet is ripped apart by gravity. Teams of scientists and an interstellar liner full of tourists gather in the Maleiva system to observe.
After a long and trying journey into the Azath I was finally able to track down one of the architects of the Malazan world that I find myself completely addicted to. When I first read Ian Cameron Esslemont’s first book, Night of Knives, I must admit my reaction was a bit lukewarm, not unwelcome but not a piece that impacted me. After I added more pieces to the puzzle and studied the ones I had with more scrutiny I tackled the book again and it was one of those books that made me review it. One of those books that — even if originating completely from a fan’s notion most nonsensical — necessitated thought being put down in one those rare works or series that we actively love. We can all come up with long lists of books we enjoyed or loved, but the beauty of the epic series — and in some sense SF’s Space Operas — is that it provide a constant adoration that lives between books not just during them or in the recent aftermath. Today I talk to Ian Cameron Esslemont, who along with Steven Erikson is responsible for one of the latest additions of this affair, and we chat about his first book, his soon to be released Return of the Crimson Guard, all things Malazan, and more.
You can check out my lengthy interview with Steven Erikson as well.
Today we are pleased to present an interview with Charlie Huston. Coming off of a run on Marvel’s Moon Knight Charlie Huston is a writer who also has several novels to his credit, including being three books into the continuing vamp noir adventures of Joe Pitt, and The Hank Thompson trilogy. More recently, the Edgar nominated author, switched perspectives and wrote the stand-alone Shotgun Rule. The fourth book in the Joe Pitt Casebooks, Every Last Drop, is scheduled for a September 2008 release.
Awhile ago here at Boomtron we had a contest to win a copy of The Blonde. And when the person who won the contest finished reading it he placed his thoughts in the review comments thread. One of the things that he said was:
“Also, I know this is categorized as mystery, but when I think mystery, I think dead bodies and some kind of something that has to be figured out,”
This to me speaks to expectations and pre-conceived notions. The very name of the genre, mystery, implies the solution of a crime, but the genre isn’t limited to just that type of story. Then in a private correspondence recently I was asked the following question:
“I wonder which books are a good way to start to read mystery/crime novels more; to delve deeper in the genre.”
And it’s a good question, especially for a site like Boomtron where readers of different genres rub shoulders with one another. But also for readers at large because the genre is big with a lot of different facets and it can be hard to know where to start.
Barth Anderson’s second novel, The Magician and The Fool, is marketed as a thriller in the DaVinci Code mode, with the hidden history behind the Tarot being the focus. Indeed, the novel is fast-paced and full of spectacular deaths, chases, and secret societies. But Anderson flips the script of the traditional thriller, and creates something much richer and more mysterious.
Ekaterina Sedia’s second novel, The Secret History of Moscow, has made her a new author to watch. It has garnered critical praise, from no less than Neil Gaiman and is selling quite well.
The novel is set in Post-Communist Russia, where everyone is suffering under the growing pains of capitalism gone amuck. Thugs and gangs share the stage with those used to the old communist way of doing things, poverty and uncertainty abounds, and yet there is an excitement in the air.
I am very happy to introduce Shamron Moore who has a lead part in the new film Zombie Strippers with Robert Englund and Jenna Jameson. The synopsis of the movie from the official site is as follows:
When a secret government agency lets out a deadly chemo virus causing the reanimation of the dead, the first place to get hit is Rhino’s, a hot underground strip club. As one of the strippers gets the virus, she turns into a supernatural, flesh-eating zombie stripper, making her the hit of the club. Do the rest of the girls fight the temptation to be like the star stripper, even if there is no turning back?
Now on to Shamron Moore!
My latest review is for Counting Heads by David Marusek. This is a catchy read. The story pulls up sort of like a shiny new car to whisk you off to an exotic location. It is March 30, 2092. That is announced immediately like a road sign. The technology is exotic and plentiful from the get go, so that serves as an invitation to put the imagination on cruise control, kick the seat back and enjoy the scenery that Marusek supplies along the way. Along the way he throws descriptive zingers out there that are good for a laugh. On the first page we get the line:
“Her eyes peered out at you like eels in coral.”
There is a complex theology at the heart Scar Night, the first book of the series known as the Deepgate Codex. The celestial goddess Ayen banished her son Ulcis to Hell because she wanted to close access to Heaven to mortals, while Ulcis, in a Promethean way, disagrees with her, She cast him down to Hell, which is at the bottom of a seemingly endless abyss. The city of Deepgate is built over the this abyss, hanging from chains. At its center is the Church of Ulcis, where the dead are properly disposed of through its rituals; bodies are flung down in the abyss, where their souls can join Ulcis’ army and storm Heaven. Bodies that are improperly cared for are damned to Iril, a blood-soaked labyrinth even further below the abyss.
Combining large-scale space opera, intense, visceral action, and occasional elements of horror, Neal Asher is one of the most exciting authors to come out of the United Kingdom in recent years. Born in England in 1961, Asher spent many years writing stories for British small-press magazines. In 2001 his first novel, Gridlinked, was published by by MacMillan in the UK, and by Tor in the United States. His “Polity” future history, the setting of books such as Gridlinked, The Skinner, and Hilldiggers, is one of the most intriguing settings in science fiction today. He has also written stand-alone stories, such as his novel Cowl. His next novel, The Shadow of the Scorpion, will be published by Night Shade Books in May 2008.
It becomes immediately apparent from the opening pages of Darkness, Take My Hand that Dennis Lehane has upped the ante since A Drink Before the War. Darkness, Take My Hand stands in stark contrast to A Drink Before the War as a new level of sophistication permeates the story. The prologue allows Lehane to demonstrate for the first time his desire to toy with our expectations for these characters. It could be said of A Drink Before the War that it ended on a high note that fostered certain hopes for the characters specifically the two leads Patrick and Angie. Lehane is happy to destroy those closely held notions that were carefully constructed right from the start and the experience is all the more richer for it. If the characters were given three dimensions in A Drink Before the War then Darkness Take My Hand breaths life into them. We learn a lot from Patrick in those first few pages, none of which is predictable and all of it shocking. The device used is that of the present looking back, so we don’t know what happened yet. We set our imaginations free and try to conceive of the horrors that brought such results and Darkness Take My Hand details all of it.
Jim C. Hines began writing in the early 90s, while working on a degree in psychology from Michigan State University. For many years, he focused on short fiction. His work has appeared in Realms of Fantasy, Turn the Other Chick, Sword and Sorceress XXI, and over thirty other magazines and anthologies.
His first published fantasy novel was Goblin Quest, a funny, popular tale about a nearsighted goblin runt named Jig. Goblin Hero followed in 2007, and Goblin War will be out in March of 2008.
DAW will also be publishing The Stepsister Scheme, which will hopefully be the first book in a new series.
Jim lives in mid-Michigan with his wife and children, who have always shown remarkable tolerance for his bizarre and obsessive writing habits.
Seneschal Zhu Irzh, demonic scion and star of the first Detective Inspector Chen Novel, is now officially, if grudgingly, a member of the Singapore 3 police force while Chen is on his honeymoon. An investigation lands in his lap, when a socialite ends up missing. He takes on the investigation, getting a whiff of his native Hell in the mix—and it gives him something to do.
At the same time, Robin Yuan, the lesbian lover of the missing socialite, starts an investigation of her own. Robin works at the pharmaceutical Paugeng Corporation, where she conducts secret, torturous experiments on a seemingly kind creature from Hell, something she finds distasteful.
In Last Dragon, J.M. McDermott strips the fat from the bones of epic quest-driven fantasy, then dresses up the resulting skeleton of story in layer upon layer of fragmented and elliptical narrative. The fit of this literary garb on the somewhat typical fantasy understory isn’t perfect; indeed, when the reading is done we may feel that the clothes have no emperor — or rather, empress, as we shall see. But the sheer pleasure the novel infuses the process of reading with, the way it trusts readers to engage deeply and carefully, makes Last Dragon a book that may be equally enjoyable to epic fantasy fans looking for something different and challenging, and to readers who enjoy challenges and who had all but given up on epic fantasy’s ability to provide them.
First off, I’d like to thank Michael Cisco for agreeing to this interview and welcome him as our guest at Boomtron. Michael Terry Cisco is an American writer and teacher. He currently resides in New York City and probably best known for his first novel, The Divinity Student, which has won the prestigious of the International Horror Guild Award for Best First Novel of 1999. Other works by Cisco include The Tyrant (2003), The San Veneficio Canon (2004) and two books published last year, The Traitor and Secret Hours.
Today we present an interview Allan Guthrie, writer, editor, and agent, best known for his Crime Fiction. His first novel, Two-Way Split, was shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger Award, won the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award in 2007. His next novel, Kiss Her Goodbye, was nominated for an Edgar Award and a Gumshoe Award.
There are fantasists and there are master fantasists; I’d like to suggest that the masters reveal themselves not only by their greatest works, but by what are — for them and them only — lesser volumes. Steps Through the Mist, the latest of Serbian author Zoran Živković’s novels to be published in the USA, is a revelatory volume of this later sort; it confirms Živković’s status as a master. The book’s chief flaw is that there is simply not enough of it, leaving us wanting more.
In the United States, Steps Through the Mist follows 2006’s Seven Touches of Music (both first appeared in English in the UK magazine Interzone several years ago, and were part of 2006’s Impossible Stories omnibus from the UK’s PS Publishing). Like the previous American release, Steps Through the Mist is an exquisite slim black volume from Aio Publishing; like that earlier volume, Steps Through the Mist is a mosaic novel, a story suite of short fabulations linked both literally and in thematic concern. Here Živković’s concerns are predestination, fate and the future; in the five stories that make up his mosaic he builds a multifaceted view into how modern people might relate to having, knowing and choosing their own fates — and those of others.