The fields of science and science fiction writing are traditionally looked upon as a male domain, certainly in the majority of those who have achieved a certain level where their names are immediately recognisable, yet debut novelist Pippa Goldschmidt has chosen to buck the trend by not only choosing to enter one of those fields, but both of them, and doing so with an assurance her leading character would be envious of.
Published in America last September, this spring has seen the UK publication of this collaboration from Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross, chroniclers of the boundaries of technology and how humanity copes with the changes that are forced back upon the creators by their own creations, the author’s collective range of expertise allowing them to write convincing engineering, nanotech, biology, computer science, post human modifications and post singularity geopolitics (and whatever the equivalent term for the rest of the solar system is) with confidence and assurance.
There is a hunter on the prowl, and his name is Charles Talent Manx, an appropriate appellation for indeed he does have a talent, for slipping between the walls of reality in his black Rolls Royce Wraith, snatching children from their lives in the real world and taking them back to his imagined realm of Christmasland, where snow always falls, the music is enduringly festive, there are presents to open every morning, and the favourite game is scissors for the drifter.
Michael Okuda has been part of the Star Trek art department since he designed bridge monitor displays for the NCC-1701-A for the final scenes of Star Trek IV The Voyage Home, released in 1986, his wife Denise since Star Trek Generations in 1994, though they had previously collaborated on such projects as the Star Trek Encyclopedia (and later its digital cousin, the Star Trek Omnipedia) and the Star Trek Chronology, and both were visual effects producers on Star Trek remastered project for CBS digital, have provided text commentaries for all ten films, and are consultants on the Blu-ray Remastered project of Star Trek The Next Generation for CBS Paramount.
Our past informs the present and shapes who we are, and memory is rarely random so much as triggered, but the question is by what? Having spent most of his weekend preparing an important presentation, overworked and underappreciated software monkey Ross Baker reminisces on the morning bus to work about his childhood playing Half Life before being informed by email that his project has been sidelined, so when a colleague asks him to spare some time to be a test subject for the latest round of calibrations on the experimental brain scanners the company is developing for use in hospitals, he has no excuse to say no.
Released late last year and inspired by the science fiction poems of Edwin Morgan, some of which are presented here, this collection is subtitled contemporary science fiction poems from the UK and gathers over ninety pieces from over forty writers, grouped into four sections with titles taken from Morgan, A Home In Space, Hold Hands Among The Atoms, From The Video Box and The Ages.
Edge of Infinity is the new anthology of short stories from Solaris focusing on the possibilities of the first steps further out into the solar system beyond the orbit of the Moon. Edited by Jonathan Strahan and with bold cover art by Adam Tredowski, it follows on from their previous collections Engineering Infinity and Solaris Rising and features many of the same authors, both of which raised the bar fairly high for this somewhat mixed offering.
Like the characters in his novels, Joe Abercrombie is not a man to be taken lightly. Launching his writing career in 2006 with The Blade Itself, his First Law trilogy was heralded by the legendary genre publishers Gollancz as a major event in modern fantasy, and their confidence remains justified, with consistent critical praise, placements on the bestseller lists and the continued success of series, as evidenced by the release of his sixth volume, a tale of life on the frontier where bravery boils down to an unstable mixture of obligation and desperation.
Justin Cronin is an acclaimed writer, and deservedly so: the Harvard graduate is a professor of English at Rice University and an award winning novelist, but recognition of his first two novels was confined to the circles of literary fiction, and the echo of applause, no matter how sincere, does not carry across oceans nor, all too often, pay the bills. Then came The Passage, and everything changed.
Sublime: noble and majestic; impressive and awe-inspiring. Sublimation: the transition of a substance from the solid phase directly to the vapour state such that it does not pass through the intermediate liquid phase. To the Culture and their associates, the involved species, there is another definition: for to them, to sublime is to move from the physical state of the known universe to another state of being, unfettered and omniscient. For the Gzilt, a species on a technological par with the Culture though not a member of that metacivilisation, they have considered taking that step for generations, and now, the decision made, are within days of their transition.
It’s not often a debut novel gathers the attention that greeted the launch of The Quantum Thief two years ago, a book that received critical praise despite its persistent refusal to provide backstory or exposition, forcing readers to immerse themselves in the complicated world of the Oubliette, a walking city on the surface of Mars whose slow march keeps it ahead of the enroaching phoboi infestation, a city visited by the titular Jean le Flambeur, recently sprung from a Dilemma Prison and commissioned to carry out a very special theft within the city.
Having been shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award with his debut novel, 2010’s Boxer, Beetle, Ned Beauman’s followup continues his success with The Teleportation Accident making the Man Booker Prize longlist, and well deserved that recognition was. Aptly titled, leaping through geographic and temporal location, it tells the tale of theatrical set designer Egon Loeser, whose circumstances befit his name, always on the outside, looking in as others enjoy so easily what he strives for, his only true talent making a bad situation indescribably and excruciatingly worse.
It was in 1960 that The Weirdstone of Brisingamen was first published, with its sequel The Moon of Gomrath following in 1963. The first told the tale of siblings Colin and Susan’s encountered with the wizard Cadellin Silverbrow as he sought the titular stone without which he would not be able to safeguard the sleeping warriors and their white horses who lay within the caves of Fundindelve until the time foretold when they would awaken and defend the realm against the coming evil. In Gomrath, older magic still came to prominence, the ancient evil of the Brollachan and the uncontrollable Wild Hunt, who in the final scenes rode off into the sky, taking Susan with them.
It’s a privilege to be in the company of those smarter than you, especially when your host turns out to be so personable, and in this new collection of his shorter work, writer Neal Stephenson, better known for his epic novels, invites us to join him as he discusses his diverse interests and, in a reprinted online interview, what his readers have asked of him, a means of communication he finds more efficient than individual responses as he explains in the concluding Why I Am a Bad Correspondent.
Although a prolific writer in his own right, perhaps best known for the Xeelee sequence, Stephen Baxter is no stranger to collaboration, having worked with Arthur C Clarke to expand his premise The Light of Other Days into a full novel and on the Time Odyssey trilogy that act as companion pieces to the masters' Space Odyssey quartet, and also his award winning novel The Time Ships, sequel to HG Wells' The Time Machine. Now, he is the latest "big name" science fiction author to take a trip in the TARDIS.
When you read Peter F Hamilton you’re not just turning the pages of a book, but rather following the strands of a complex tapestry. He creates a universe where the story has a neatly fitting context. Great North Road starts off as a whodunnit but if you’re familiar with Hamilton’s work you’ll know that it is just the beginning of a slow burning intrigue. The cyberpunk genre has been developing steadily over the last few decades and while William Gibson might be credited with playing a huge part in its creation, Hamilton was the upstart king in waiting and is now very much a threat to Gibson's crown.
It could be argued that the genius of George Lucas was not the stories he told but the way he told them to us. By giving us Star Wars figures and toys he invited us to play in his universe, but the thing that most of us dreamed of was to be a Sith or a Jedi, channeling the Force to conquer the galaxy or to save it, even if the only weapon available was the cardboard inner of a roll of kitchen towel to serve as a lightsaber. While Lucas may not have opened a Jedi academy, he has done the next best thing by offering training manuals for followers of either side of the Force with the release of The Jedi Path in 2010, now followed by the Book of Sith.
Of the writers shortlisted for the 2012 Arthur C Clarke award for best British science fiction novel, Jane Rogers was the outsider amongst established names like Greg Bear, Charles Stross and one of only two people to have won more than once, the powerhouse of China Miéville. As a literary novelist moving peripherally into the genre for the first time, Rogers had struggled to get the novel published before it was picked up by Sandstone Press, not normally known for their genre output other than Ken Macleod’s novella The Highway Men, yet it was Rogers who took the prize.
While his writing style and subjects may be subject to change without notice, China Miéville is consistent in his schedule, with this his fourth major novel to be published in the last four years. In Railsea he invites us to journey with him on the moletrain Medes as it hunts across the titular network for that most fearsome beast, Talpa ferox rex, the great southern moldywarpe. All of China’s books have a great sense of place, normally a city that is depicted vividly and intimately, but unlike New Crobuzon of Perdido Street Station or Beszel and Ul Qoma of The City & The City, the Medes is always on the move, and any port is a brief stop before the next departure.
In 2011, Glen Duncan introduced us to Jacob Marlowe, who believed himself to be the last werewolf. Through diaries he shared wisdom accumulated over two centuries of walking the earth as a man always possessed by beast, driving and guiding him even outwith its monthly manifestation, his perspective on life skewed by his compulsion to bloody violence and the inherited memories of the consumed dead within him.
Launched at Eastercon 2012, Rocket Science is not a traditional science fiction anthology. None of the featured writers are well known, but all are previously published and many have worked in space science or related fields, but the oddity in this collection, focused on the immediate past, present and future of space travel within our own solar system and staying within the limits of possibility, is that there are also a handful of essays written to the same specification.
The process of novelising a television or film script is unenviable, and while there are those who have made successful careers out of it, such as Alan Dean Foster, who has transferred everything from the Star Trek animated series to Disney’s The Black Hole and Chronicles of Riddick to book form, and Terrance Dicks, the former Doctor Who script editor who novelised over sixty stories from that show, the work involves tight deadlines for poor pay on scripts that may undergo vast changes before they reach the screen.
The mediums are also very different, with the structure of a standard television show being much more inflexible than that of a novel, where creative freedom can more easily be expressed, and the scripts themselves are often little more than sketches for the actors and directors to build the full story upon. One writer who was very aware of the difference was Douglas Adams. His background was in television, having worked with members of the Monty Python team and as a script editor on Doctor Who himself before his greatest success which made him a household name.
Much as global austerity has forced cuts to the space programmes of the major nations, diverting funds to more immediate concerns of continuity and survival, so has science fiction, the frequent haunt of cautionary tales, returned from the far to the more immediate future, with authors who once ploughed the stars turning their attention to domestic concerns. So it is that Ken Macleod, who launched his offworld career with The Star Fraction, has in recent years focused on such topics as climate change in The Highway Men and the place of religion in the modern world in The Night Sessions.
From his first published science fiction story just over two decades ago, Alastair Reynolds has marked a vast territory across the Milky Way and beyond as one of Britain’s most prolific, consistent and acclaimed science fiction writers, with five novels in the Revelation Space universe and three standalones, Century Rain, Pushing Ice and Terminal World, plus almost forty short stories. With a background in physics and astronomy, his style is hard science fiction informed by cutting edge knowledge of the latest theoretical developments and their practical applications, given wing by a wild and devious imagination coupled with a precise and commanding voice.
“I’d been off Earth for so long I didn’t recognise the sound of gunfire.”
So begins the sobering return to the planet of their birth for the characters who began their outward journey in Marsbound, only to discover that world was home to a species placed there to monitor the Earth, then continued onwards in Starbound for a meeting with those mysterious masters, the Others. At the conclusion of that second volume, Carmen, Paul, Namir and their company had returned home following that confrontation, but in their absence, the governments of Earth had taken action of their own, raising a armed fleet against the Others which was ready to leave orbit.
In the notes on his title story of the collection Zima Blue, Alastair Reynolds acknowledged the debt that story owed to Isaac Asimov’s Bicentennial Man thusly: “One of the truly delightful things about science fiction is that it is far less about new ideas than it is about finding new ways to think about old ones. All you have to do is find a new spin, a new way of telling, a new truth to illuminate.”
Reynolds has always looked to the very edge of scientific research as he spins ideas in new directions, and his work is never less than excellently written and entertaining, and while throughout this new collection there are themes that have appeared elsewhere in his work, that does not mean the specimens here are better or worse, simply different, sometimes radically so.
Subtitled The New Solaris Book of Science Fiction, this is a diverse collection, over three hundred pages of new work from a broad range of well known names from the worlds of science fiction literature, compiled by editor Ian Whates, himself the author of two novels published by Solaris.
A Land Fit for Heroes, to give this fantasy trilogy of which the second volume has just been published its full name, is no such thing. The war is over, but alliances forged to fight a common enemy are strained in the aftermath of the conflict, the imperial coffers are drained, and the streets of the capital are full of soldiers, many crippled in the war, now reduced to begging. A year after the events of The Steel Remains, which saw Lord Ringil of the Glades House Eskiath charged with rescuing a distant cousin sold into slavery, the situation has not improved.
Since the return of Doctor Who to BBC television in 2005, the Christmas special has become a festive fixture, and apparently its importance is not lost on Amy and Rory who request the Doctor to take them home to Leadworth for seasonal celebrations in this new novel from Dan Abnett, long time contributor to the Warhammer novels and 2000AD.
Proudly described as "Britain’s number one science fiction writer" on the cover of his new short story collection, Peter F Hamilton is the prolific creator of a number of tomes that have weighed down the shelves of science fiction fans for almost two decades, many of them set in the Commonwealth universe that features prominently here. Join Geek Chocolate as we read the words that take us through the many worlds of possibility.
When it was announced that Michael Moorcock, legendary veteran of British science fiction and fantasy literature, was to pen an original novel based on the latest series of Doctor Who, fandom gasped in delighted astonishment. Join Geek Chocolate as we consider whether the meeting of two legends is to be treasured or avoided.
Sci-fi is a tricky bugger. If you don’t draw your reader in early on, if you get too technical with mechanics of space flight, or if you ramble on with loquacious descriptions of ancient alien ruins when we just want to get the action, then you’re getting it wrong as far I’m concerned.
I’m therefore delighted to be able to report that with The Recollection, Gareth L. Powell has got it just right!
Beginning in a future not too distant from now - sometime around 2050 by my guess - the bulk of The Recollection follows two different sets of characters, born hundreds of years apart.
Science fiction is a genre that is always moving forwards, always adapting and mutating to meet the new frontiers of knowledge and research. How to keep abreast of all the latest ideas, developments and trends, and those who write about them? Join Geek Chocolate as we meet a few of those on the cutting edge of the art in this recently published short story collection.
Join GeekChocolate for a howling good read, as two hundred years of full moon fever takes its toll on a lonely lycanthrope who just wants to lead a quiet life in this recently published novel.
Three time Arthur C Clarke award winner China Miéville returns with a new novel of a new frontier, challenging both readers and himself as he pushes the boundaries of science fiction and literature as the human inhabitants of a distant outpost come up against the unknowable intentions of their alien hosts in Embassytown.
The Empire of Britannia Magna rules two thirds of the world, into the depths of the ocean and beyond the atmosphere into space. Yet even as Queen Victoria prepares for the celebration to mark the 160th year of her reign, on the streets of London there is an undercurrent of discord: a malcontent prowls the capital, unpopular with both police and government, looking upon his fellow countrymen with disdain, cursing them and dismissing them as inferior to his refined breeding.
With vampire novels flooding the market, and the dark romance subgenre booming, is there a place for a serious, adult, and above all else, modern take on the undead? Join GeekChocolate, as we takes a torchlit trip through derelict Americana...
We live in an age of miracles, but not of the religious variety. The wonders of the modern age are technological, an ever refined harnessing of material and forces, so that where two hundred years ago the farthest man could see was the horizon, and horseback the fastest news could travel, we can now instantly communicate across the entire planet, while our radio telescopes have witnessed the most distant galaxies. If these are not miracles, then what are?
But where are Heaven and Hell? Classical mythology tells us Hell is below the surface, but geology tells us that is not so, and astronomy has yet to locate Heaven. But without those opposing constructs from which to hang the banner of salvation, where is conventional morality? In a world where religion is big business, the question is, if we didn’t have Hell as punishment would we invent it to keep the coffers full by selling salvation to the fearful population?
When finishing the first book of a trilogy, the urge to immediately pick up the next instalment is usually a good thing, but unfortunately, when reading the novels of Diane Duane, this can be something of a frustration. Her Rihannsu sequence of Star Trek novels started with 1984’s My Enemy, My Ally, but the story was not completed until 2006’s The Empty Chair – twenty two years for five books. Her other major series is the incomplete fantasy quartet known as The Tale of the Five, which still lacks The Door Into Starlight, even though it is over thirty years since she first opened The Door Into Fire, so while the second Omnitopia novel is scheduled for next year, I’m not holding my breath.
Omnitopia is a massively multiplayer online role playing game, the biggest on the planet, and game creator Dev Logan is about to release major upgrades. Already the eighth richest man in the world and head of a company with turnover larger than the gross domestic product of some countries, he is determined to ensure the best gaming experience for millions of users. Of course, in any competitive industry, there will be those who won’t want to see the expansion proceed without them getting a slice of the virtual pie.
I must confess, my knowledge of the Norse pantheon of Gods doesn't stretch much beyond the basics. A smattering of knowledge picked up doing a primary 5 (that's 5th grade, for our US readers) project on the vikings, and a few bits 'n' pieces picked up from the telly and some video games (Heimdall on the Amiga, anyone?) is about my limit.
Fortunately this was a more-than-adequate amount to allow an understanding and enjoyment of James Lovegrove's superb The Age of Odin.
You always get a lot of bang for your buck with anthologies. If you don’t like the story you’re reading it's not long ‘til the next one comes along. While they're seldom excellent from start to finish, they're equally seldom rubbish from start to finish either.
A mixed bag usually and if you’re lucky you'll find a gem or two in there. The short story format means that the stories are to the point, shorn of excess flab, with only have a short time to tell the story. The best of them use this frugality with style and panache. Clive Barker's Books of Blood for example, tell some great short stories and use the medium to full effect. Just because it's short in length doesn't mean that it has to be short on thrills.
On to The End of the Line, then, a new horror anthology from Solaris Books that promises ‘a terrifying journey deep into the heart of terror’ with a collection of stories themed around travel on Underground Trains.
If there is a constant motif that runs through the work of Alastair Reynolds, it is one of decay, of an age running out, as in the melding plague of the Revelation Space sequence, turning the asteroid colonies of the Glitter Belt into the uninhabitable ruin of the Rust Belt, or the decayed, infected Earth of Century Rain. Here, disaster has ravaged the planet at quantum level, splitting it into zones where different levels of technology can grudgingly operate or permanently fail according to local conditions, and violent, debilitating sickness befalls any person foolish – or desperate – enough to traverse the borders.
Into this is thrown Quillon, a refugee angel from the highest technology zone, the Celestial Levels. He is stranded in neighbouring Circuit City and masquerading as a human doctor ever since his fellow undercover operatives turned on him while engaged on a mission.
Is it only a fellow writer who, when reading a great novel, speculates how much was conceived in a flood of inspiration at the moment of conception, and how much came into being during the writing or editing process? Was it a visit to Venice that inspired Iain Banks to craft a novel partially set among those streets and waterways, or was it only when actually writing a scene in which a character takes in the view of the City of Bridges as he sits down over a dish of pasta and contemplates the tangled web of his life as a former assassin, that both the writer and the character simultaneously realise the book and the lives within resemble a tangled bowl of spaghetti?
Is this the literary equivalent of the chicken and egg question? Neither can exist without the other, yet one must have come first.
In history and literature, there have been divided cities. Berlin, split politically; Belfast, separated by religion; Minas Tirith and Minas Ithil, beacons of light in Gondor, one of which fell to the shadow of Mordor. But none have been divided in the way of Beszel and Ul Qoma.
They share a physical space, yet the two cities are distinct, with different peoples leading segregated lives, forbidden from acknowledging the people who walk the same streets as them if they are dressed or walk in the manner of the alter city. Neighbours exist only steps apart, but live on the other side of a fluctuating but rigidly enforced border. While there are exclusive areas where each city is regarded as total, there are also areas neither fully in one city nor the other, leading to a maze of divisions, observed customs and enforced unseeings.
London is not only a city unknown to outsiders, it is unknown even to residents. Superficially reminiscent of his previous novel, The City And The City, in which Beszel and Ul Qoma share the same geographic but wildly divergent political space, the London of China Miéville’s Kraken is shaped not only by the powerful Londonmancers, but also the influences of various religions, cults, gangs and factions and the followers who flit between them, accumulating different faiths as though they were merit badges.