Peter F Hamilton interview in the Guardian today

Check out Master of his universe, an interview by the Guardian on Peter F Hamilton (you can also listen to the podcast). Choice quote:

“Um, to somebody who has never ever read it [science fiction] before I would suggest I’m not your best first choice,” he says disarmingly. Then he relents slightly. “If you’ve enjoyed Battlestar Galactica, you should love my stuff,” he says. And if you like whodunnits, he can recommend the Greg Mandel sci-fi/detective series that made his name.

As do I. I recently really loved The Dreaming Void and this is a pretty good summary:

The void in question is at the heart of the Commonwealth, our universe in the 34th century. Alien races have been discovered, but life is still mostly a story of human struggle. Humans are stratified into highers, who have abandoned their bodies altogether to pursue an enlightened, mostly bodyless existence, and others who have thwarted ageing with genetic manipulation. But the biggest conflict has been created by the void at the centre of the universe. Based on the dreams of a messianic figure, a new religion has sprung up theorising that paradise can be found in this void. A pilgrimage is launched, but other human and alien factions take the more rational view that journeying into the void will trigger a “devourment phase”, in which the void will swallow the entire universe.

Love this quote:

“The hyperdrive is a black box with a button on that you press and it takes you where you want to go. Do not open the box and try to describe the circuitry inside. That’s the basic rule in science fiction.”

There is an interesting comment on religion in sci fi

“The whole point of science fiction is that you explore the effect of ideas on a society,” says Hamilton.

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For the firefly fans

Check out this online Dark Horse comic by Jim Krueger and Will Conrad called Serenity: the other half. Also in the news, Shepherd Book gets a comic explaining his back story.

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…what I’m reading at the moment

1. Space by Stephen Baxter (Thanks, David!)

2. Astropolis by Sean Williams (Book 2 of Saturn Returns)

3. Affluenza by Oliver James (An interesting psychological study of need to consume. He conducted interviews around the world)

What I hope to be reading soon:

Victory of Eagles, Naomi Novik, released 7 Aug!

Gypsy Morph (Genesis of Shannara Book 3), Sept 4.

Nation, Terry Pratchett, Sep 11. Does this guy pump out novels or what? This one is a children’s novel and I don’t think it is set in Discworld.

The Riven Kingdom, Karen Miller, Jan 2009.

George RR’s long awaited Dance of Dragons. [Sigh] The new release date is April 2009.

Traitor’s Gate (Crossroads Book 3), Kate Elliot, May 2008.

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feathers – the new scooby snack

Jeff Noon, Vurt. Published 1994

Noon has created a fascinating world ruled by feathers – a heady drug that takes users into another dimension. Most of the people in this crazy new Manchester are searching for their next vurt feather like it’s heroin, they’re always on the run for their next, bigger, headier hit.

Scribble frenetically pushes the plot along constantly searching for his lost lover. She was lost in a yellow vurt and in exchange they got an alien, who strangely they could eat or sell if they wanted to. The thing communicates only in coos and wants only feathers. Scribble and his beatnik, scooby gang race around Manchester seeking the elusive vurt and a lot of bad shit happens along the way. Like they’re on a really nasty acid trip. Disturbingly we realise that Scribble’s lover is also his sister, and it ain’t gonna be that easy to find that vurt or get her back out.

Vurt creates a world, where for starters his own name is synonymous with the drug of choice. Humans have transcended, they have melded with dogs and shadows to create all sorts of weird new creatures. But the desire to be immersed in the vurt is everywhere.

It’s lyrical, mad and surreal. This was a fantastic random discovery of mine and I was surprised to see it was written in 1994. (It also won the 1994 Arthur C. Clarke, so take their word for it).

There are some classic scenes and quotes, the cheshire-like Game Cat is awesome.

“My mind was alike a stranger, a cold-hearted stranger with a gun in his hands”

“A glass of Fetish. Clean drugs. Good Friends. A hot partner”

“Sometimes it feels like the whole world is smeared with Vaz”

This is a book with a slap of mystery, a dollop of violence, sex, drugs and dj-ing and a dash of urban poverty. Highly recommended.

Thanks to northern green pixie for the cover image.

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a satisfying urban fantasy and romance

NB: When I picked up this book I had no idea who Stephenie Meyer was or what other books she had written. Obviously in the last week she has been all over the press and news with the launch of her latest book. I read and reviewed “The Host” in blissful ignorance.

The Host, Stephanie Meyer. Published 2008.

Sometimes you find a book that fits right in with where you are, emotionally, physically, etc. There is something fantastic about finding a nice thick book and having a couple of days of freedom to dive right in. And this book is thick. Brick sized. One of my favourite things about reading is getting lost in a world, believing in the characters and their plight. I’m feeling a bit of unrequited love at the moment, so the romance was just fine with me.

Be warned, The Host is 60% romance, 20% urban fantasy and 20% survival . It’s a fast paced read, pushing you through the short chapters.

Melanie is one of the last real humans on earth. She has been surviving, barely, with her younger brother until she runs into another survivor and falls madly in love. Souls, spidery parasite like aliens, have taken over Earth, humans’ bodies and their lives. They have colonised over 9 planets but have found earth the most difficult, the most emotional. Some humans even manage to resist the Souls implantation and wrest back their bodies.

Meyer’s story starts with one of these Souls, “Wanderer”, waking up in Melanie’s body. Melanie’s mind is resisting her host and Wanderer can’t seem to forget her motherly love for Jamie and romantic love for Jared. She finds herself, illogically, searching for them…

There are some great ingredients in this story:

  • the duplicitous invasion of Earth
  • how the human rebels live
  • Meyer’s descriptions of the other colonised worlds
  • the continuing debate on what exactly makes us human
  • the love and romance

I like the men in this story, they mostly compassionate, honourable and genuine. What the book lacks is any real evil or bad characters, everyone is conveniently won over. I was surprised when I found out this was supposed to be an adult novel. I thought it was young adult. It is surprisingly chaste, the love and passions that drive the characters rarely get beyond a kiss. “Partners in the truest sense” now sounds unbelievably cheesy, but I bought it when I read it.

If you’ve got a bit of spare time, like a bit of romance mixed in with your spec fic then, suspend your disbelief and give “The Host” a whirl.

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justice, warlords and magic: good stuff

Kate Elliot, Spirit Gate, Crossroads Book 1, Orbit. Published 2007.

I have not read any Kate Elliot before and picked this book up on impulse, seeing that great cover, a great teaser page and the Orbit tagline.

People that ride eagles and serve justice? Very very cool. ‘The Guardians’ a mysterious and magical race? Cool. A fanatical, evil and magical army, hiding from justice? Also very cool. Strong and diverse female characters? Nice one.

This is high up on my list for a must-read. Elliot races through the plot and leaves you wanting more. She introduces a whole new world and set of characters part way into the book. I was a bit annoyed at first with the sudden scene change, but it quickly drew me in with its characters and Chinese/Warlordian parallels.

For hundreds of years the Guardians ruled the Hundred, but these unearthly beings have faded from human sight and no longer exert their will on the world. Only the reeves, patrolling from the skies, still represent the Guardians’ power. But there is a corruption in the land that not even they can control, and fanatics are devastating villages, towns, and cities, slaughtering all who oppose them. Outlanders Anji and Mai are fleeing their homeland with a company of dedicated warriors. On reaching the Hundred, they form an alliance with Reeve Joss, and determine to stand against the devouring horde. But, as region after region slips into chaos, a young woman sworn to the Goddess may be all that keeps them from annihilation

Now, I am eagerly awaiting my copy of Shadow Gate to arrive.

Check out her blog, some interesting musings, enough to get lost in for an hour or so?

(The UK cover, above, is so much better than the US/Aus cover, below).

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A rough and insane Cleopatra

Cover of Empress

Empress (Godspeaker Trilogy Book 1) Karen Miller, Published April 2008.

Karen Miller is a great storyteller. If you liked her previous series Kingmaker, Kingbreaker, you’ll enjoy this new series. Fast-paced and easy to get into, I sped through Empress and am keenly awaiting the next book: The Riven Kingdom.

Empress is the first in line to a new trilogy outing by Miller, Godspeaker. Mijak is turning into a desert, some of its provinces are failing, some are still green and fertile. Its citizens are fanatical about their Gods and making war. Mijak is a ruthless place run by Warlords and priests who divine the Gods will through entrails, blood, sacrifice and scorpions.

In the barren wastes, Hekat is sold into slavery but from the start knows that she is precious and destined for something great. Empress tells her merciless rise to power.

Mijak has a great ancient Egyptian feel, you can almost imagine Hekat as a power hungry and insane Cleopatra. Add to this a bit of puzzling magic and magical items (never fully explained), great “knife-dancing” and the battle, sacrifice and other violent scenes are gory and detailed. The plot holds no quarter, just when you think things can’t get any worse they do.

Check out the contentious reviews over at Amazon, over the book and Hekat in particular. Granted Hekat is not the most heroic or virtuous of characters but she cannot be ignored – I hated her for most of the book. Nevertheless she stands alone in her own right and I found her quite refreshing (plus there are lots of other nice characters to identify with).

Read an extract and decide for yourself.

I also found this interesting cover over at fantastic fiction, I think the UK cover is much better visually and the cheesy tagline doesn’t do much for the cover (Her name is Hekat and she will be slave to no man).

Empress - Alt cover

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Did Fleming create a lover or hater?

In all the hoopla about Sebastien Faulks’ new Bond novel The Devil May Care, I read this great Guardian/Observer article ‘Bring on the Bond Girls’ by 7 female women on their reaction to the books, feminism, Bond’s sexuality and Ian Fleming’s writing. A few of the musings made me want to read the books, quite a few made me laugh out loud, some of the comments on the misogyny and rape in the books are pretty disturbing. Time to look at the books fresh?

(Thanks to Articulate for the pic)

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A lovely fantasy twinset

What do you call two books in a series? A twinset? Musings aside, this is another great offering from Orbit, one of my favourite sf&f publishers. A fast-paced classic fantasy tale, this is one of my must-reads.

The Innocent Mage

The Awakened Mage

Asher is a strapping young fisherman living in a small fishing village of Lur. He heads to the big city to make a bit of cash to buy his own boat and look after his Da. He scores an excellent job liaising between the races and advising the young and magic-less (and disabled) Prince Gar.

Lur is ruled by the Doranen, an arrogant and magical elf like race. They escaped to Lur from the evil tyrant Morg and now a magical barrier is all that protects them. Asher is an Olken, one of the original inhabitants of Lur. They are banned from using Doranen magic, on penalty of death, but rumous abound of their own ‘earth’ magic, forced underground. Asher of course has loads of this new magic, is the prophesised one and is pulled this way and that as Morg tries to break the barrier and underground Olken magickers try to use him.

The characters are fascinating and flawed (kudos to another strong female character) and the world itself is very entertaining. Love the magic scenes, the weatherworking (love a bit of blood in magic). The world Miller has built is very cool and easy to get absorbed in.

The Innocent Mage and The Awakened Mage are called the Kingmaker, Kingbreaker series. I read these back in October 2007 and have also passed them over to my 14 year old sister who loved them. Albeit she found the ending not quite to her liking and a bit depressing.

Read an extract of The Innocent Mage and The Awakened Mage.

The Innocent Mage (Kingmaker, Kingbreaker 1), Karen Miller, Orbit, April 2007.
The Awakened Mage (Kingmaker, Kingbreaker 2), Karen Miller, Orbit, September 2007.

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Look at this! Farseer graphic novel

Wow, how cool is this? The Farseer Trilogy in a French graphic novel.

Farseer graphic

Thanks, to Patrick for this.

Read Robin Hobb’s comment and view the novel at the French publisher Soleil.

…and here is what looks like the Liveship traders series. Cool.

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