Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Alchemy Press book launch - reminder

The Alchemy Press Book of Ancient Wonders, edited by Jan Edwards and Jenny Barber, and The Alchemy Press Book of Pulp Heroes, edited by Mike Chinn, receive their official launch at FantasyCon. Afterwards, copies can be purchased via Amazon US and UK, Barnes & Noble and The Book Depository. Check out The Alchemy Press's website for further information.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Crown of Embers by Rae Carson

Crown of Embers by Rae Carson is now available from Gollancz (£16.99).

“Elisa is a hero. She led her people to victory over a terrifying, sorcerous army. Her place as the country’s ruler should be secure. But it isn’t.

Her enemies come at her like ghosts in a dream… And her destiny as the chosen one has not yet been fulfilled.”

Crown of Embers is the sequel to Fire and Thorns.

Helix Wars by Eric Brown

“The Helix: a vast spiral of ten thousand worlds turning around its sun. Aeons ago, the enigmatic Builders constructed the Helix as a refuge for alien races on the verge of extinction.

Two hundred years ago, humankind came to the Helix aboard a great colony ship, and the Builders conferred on them the mantle of peacekeepers. For that long, peace has reigned on the Helix. But when shuttle pilot Jeff Ellis crash-lands on the world of Phandra, he interrupts a barbarous invasion from the neighbouring Sporelli -- who scheme to track down and exterminate Ellis before he can return to New Earth and inform the peacekeepers.”

Helix Wars, by Eric Brown, is the sequel to the best-selling Helix (Solaris £7.99).

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Graven Image by Charlie Williams. Book review

Graven Image by Charlie Williams. Crime Express/ Five Leaves Publishing £4.99

Reviewed by Peter Coleborn

The dealer assured me that this is a grim crime story – not a police procedural, something I wanted to avoid. And she was correct: this is a hard and downbeat tale about Leon, who’s searching fro his daughter, kidnapped by Graven. Leon was a bouncer at a brothel run by Graven but something not fully explained causes Leon to go on the run. Besides his search, people are looking for him, such as Dux and Sid – unpleasant youths armed with an Uzi. Leon is captured, escapes and goes on a rampage…

So far, this sounds quite straightforward. Yet as I was reading it I felt that the author had a trick up his sleeve, something that meant not all was as it appears at first glance. And yes, there is a surprise twist, one that I didn’t fully anticipate. I don’t mean that this is a twist-in-the-tail type of story, which I don’t much care for – and so I was more than happy to be “shocked”.

Because of this doubt it was difficult to fully empathise with Leon in his quest – but not impossible. Leon does come across as a real person, if somewhat crazy and bloodthirsty. The story grabs you and takes you along for the ride – like being in a Beamer bombing along at 60 m.p.h. The author packs in a lot of excitement and tension in this novella. Although first published in 2011, copies may still be available from FiveLeaves.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Weird and the Wonderful. Portfolio review.

The Weird and the Wonderful. A portfolio edited by Jon M Harvey. Spectre Press

Reviewed by Peter Coleborn

In the 1970s, Jon Harvey, one of the mainstays of the British Fantasy Society, before he left the BFS to join the Royal Navy, set up Spectre Press. He published a series of lovingly produced booklets and magazines, such as Cthulhu, Balthus, Ghoul Warnings and The Coming of the Voidal (perhaps my favourite). Contributors included Adrian Cole, Brian Lumley, David Lloyd, Brian Mooney and Jim Pitts. Considering this was pre-desk-top DTP days, the quality of the Press’s work was outstanding.

Then Spectre Press went into hibernation for thirty years.

I am delighted to announce, it’s back with a new portfolio, The Weird and the Wonderful. Here, we have ten plates, printed on good-quality 200g boards, of b&w illustrations by artists Harvey had worked with way back then. The artists are: Stephen E Fabian, Brian Frost, Dallas Goffin, Alan Hunter, David Lloyd, Martin McKenna, Jim Pitts (in fact, Pitts provides the only colour print), SMS and John Stewart. There is also a plate by Jon Harvey himself. This may look a bit like vanity, but Harvey explains why he included one of his own drawings. In fact, he gives a brief account of each piece and what they mean to him.

This is a tremendous portfolio, and if you have any taste for b&w illustrations – and if not, why not – then seek out this. Get some framed; I aim to do so.  

The portfolio is available as printed plates at £15.00 or as a CDROM at £12.00. Profits will be donated to charities – another good reason to buy it. At the time of writing, the Spectre Press website is not up and running. However, to order the portfolio (or any of the Spectre Press’ backlog) email Harvey: jon.harvey [at]

Clouded Vision by Linwood Barclay. Book review

Clouded Vision by Linwood Barclay. Orion £1.99

Reviewed by Peter Coleborn

I haven’t read anything by Linwood Barclay before and so I bought this slim volume, discovered whilst browsing the bookshops last year, published as part of the Galaxy Quick Reads project in 2011. And at just under two pounds, what was the risk? Quick read? Well, yes it is, once you start it – after all, it’s just a 90-page novella – even though it had sat on my “to be read” pile for many months. I am very pleased that the book did, eventually, reach the top of the heap.

Considering that this is a novella, Barclay uses multiple viewpoints to perfection. Often, I find that too many POVs can obscure the story, or maybe gives away too much, especially when used in the shorter form. But not in this case. The tale begins with Ellie, a brief moment as we share her death. Then we are introduced to Keisha, a psychic who aims to help Ellie’s husband find the body, which is missing in the bleak, cold winter environment. Keisha intends to earn a handsome payment for her services – which, we quickly learn – are dubious, to say the least. And Kendall – the husband – has his doubts.

The reader learns reasonably early on what has happened to Ellie, and discovers who may be involved with her death. It takes Keisha longer to figure it out. But that all adds to the tension Barclay has created in this small book. I do prefer short stories and novellas to novels (which can be over long), and thoroughly enjoyed this brief, scary ride to hell. I note that the book is still available via Amazon, both in print and for the Kindle.

Phantasmagoria by Terry Breverton. Book review

Breverton’s Phantasmagoria by Terry Breverton. Quercus £9.99

Reviewed by Peter Coleborn

The tag line is “A compendium of monsters, myths and legends”, and the book is just that. Terry Breverton has brought together a galaxy of the weird, the paranormal, the strange creatures and beliefs that our ancestors once believed. Unlike many such books, this one is not simply an A-Z of beasties. Instead, we have eight chapters dealing with specific themes, such as “Mysterious, Magical and Weird People”, “Mysteries of the Deep” and “Tales of Secret Treasures”. Each chapter is, then, arranged with A-Z entries, so we end up with bite-sized snippets of information on, for example, The Babushka Lady, William Lilly, Teothihucan, Mother Carey’s Chickens and the Loch Ness Monster. Because the book covers so much ground in its 380 pages, the individual articles do not go into much depth. However, if you are looking for a brief explanation or description, Phantasmagoria is a good book with which to start off.

Okay, yes, of course one may Google the Amphisbaena Tortoise or Chessie … but that’s not the point with this book. You can browse its pages, stopping at an article when something catches your eyes, and maybe discovering something you didn’t know, or something that you can use in your next story.

Breverton’s Phantasmagoria is a beautifully designed publication. The two-column pages are printed in a brown ink, embellished with many sepia-tinted illustrations. Maybe it’s not as filled out as the Element encyclopaedias, but Phantasmagoria will make a fine gift for anyone with an interest in monsters, myths and legends.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Exodus Code by John & Carole Barrowman

John and Carole E Barrowman have collaborated on the Torchwood novel – Exodus Code (BBC Books £16.99).

“It starts with a series of unexplained events. Earth tremors across the globe. Women being driven insane by their heightened and scrambled senses. And the world is starting to notice –the number one Twitter trend is #realfemmefatales. Governments and scientists are bewildered and silent. The world needs Torchwood, but there's not much of Torchwood left.

Captain Jack Harkness has tracked the problem to its source: a village in Peru, where he's uncovered evidence of alien involvement. In Cardiff, Gwen Cooper has discovered something alien and somehow connected to Jack. If the world is to be restored, she has to warn him – but she's quickly becoming a victim of the madness, too...”

The Dalek Project by Justin Richards & Mike Collins

Doctor Who – The Dalek Project is a graphic novel by Justin Richards and Mike Collins, published by BBC Books (£14.99).  In this story, the Doctor is portrayed by Matt Smith.

“It’s 1917. It’s the height of the Great War and Hellcombe Hall is a house full of mystery: locked doors, forbidden rooms, dustsheets covering guilty secrets, and ghostly noises frightening the servants. Most mysterious of all, the drawing room seems to open directly onto a muddy, corpse-filled trench on the Western Front…

Arriving at this stately home, the Doctor meets Lord Hellcombe, an armaments manufacturer who has a new secret weapon he believes will win the war: he calls it ‘the Dalek’. Soon, the Doctor and his new friends are in a race against time to prevent the entire Western Front from becoming part of the Dalek Project!”

Alcatraz by Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson’s The Complete Alcatraz is a 750-page omnibus volume, collecting the four Alcatraz novels, due from Gollancz at £16.99.

“On his thirteenth birthday, Alcatraz – a foster child – get a bag of sand in the mail which purports to be his 'inheritance' sent from his father and mother. The Librarians, of course, immediately steal the bag of sand from him.

This sparks a chain of events which leads Alcatraz to realize that his family is part of a group of freedom fighters who resist the Evil Librarians – the secret cult who actually rule the world. Alcatraz's grandfather shows up and tows him off to infiltrate the downtown library to steal back the mystical bag of sand. The ensuing story involves talking dinosaurs, sentient romance novels, and a dungeon-like labyrinth hiding beneath the innocent-looking downtown library.”

The Fractal Prince by Hannu Rajaniemi

“Jean le Flambeur is out of prison, but still not free. To pay his debts he has to break into the mind of a living god. But when the stakes are revealed, Jean has to decide how far he is willing to go to get the job done.”

The Fractal Prince is the sequel to Hannu Rajaniemi's debut novel The Quantum Thief (due from Gollancz later this month, £12.99).

The Alleyman by Pat Kelleher

Coming next month from Abaddon: No Man’s World – The Alleyman by Pat Kelleher (£7.99).

“It’s been four months since the Pennine Fusiliers vanished from the Somme and found themselves stranded on an alien world. The Tommies have been surviving on this bizarre planet, populated by lethal foliage and hostile human-like insects, while desperately trying to find a way back to Blighty.

In The Alleyman, while Lieutenant Everson tries to discover the true intentions of their alien prisoner, Lance Corporal Atkins and his Black Hand Gang are on the trail of Jeffries, the diabolist responsible for their predicament. And above it all, Lieutenant Tulliver of the Royal Flying Corps soars free of the confines of alien gravity, where the true scale of the planet’s mystery is revealed. To uncover the truth, however, he must join forces with an unexpected ally.”

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Alchemy Press book launch

The Alchemy Press Book of Ancient Wonders, edited by Jan Edwards and Jenny Barber, and The Alchemy Press Book of Pulp Heroes, edited by Mike Chinn, receive their official launch at FantasyCon. Afterwards, copies can be purchased via Amazon US and UK, Barnes & Noble and The Book Depository. Check out The Alchemy Press's website for further information.

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

Coming in January 2103: a swords & sorcery fantasy with a middle-eastern flavour:

“The Crescent Moon Kingdoms, land of djenn and ghuls, holy warriors and heretics, Khalifs and killers, is at boiling point. A power struggle between the iron-fisted Khalif and the mysterious master thief known as the Falcon Prince is reaching its climax. In the midst of this brewing rebellion, a series of brutal supernatural murders strikes at the heart of the Kingdoms. Only a handful of reluctant heroes can learn the truth, and stop the killing.

Doctor Adoulla Makhslood just wants a quiet cup of tea. Three score and more years old, he has grown weary of hunting monsters and saving lives, and is more than ready to retire from his dangerous and demanding vocation. But when an old flame's family is murdered, Adoulla is drawn back to the hunter's path. Raseed bas Raseed, Adoulla's young assistant, a hidebound holy warrior whose prowess is matched only by his piety, is eager to deliver God's justice. Zamia Badawi has been gifted with the near-mythical power of the Lion-Shape, but shunned by her people for daring to take up a man's title. She lives only to avenge her father's death. Until she learns that Adoulla and his allies also hunt her father's killer. Until she meets Raseed.

When they learn that the murders and the Falcon Prince's brewing revolution are connected, the companions must race against time to save the life of a vicious despot. In so doing they discover a plot for the Throne of the Crescent Moon that threatens to turn the city, and the world itself, into a blood-soaked ruin.”

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed will be available in paperback and hardcover from Gollancz – keep an eye out for it.

Shifting Price of Prey by Suzanne McLeod

The Shifting Price of Prey by Suzanne McLeod is now available from Gollancz (£7.99).

“Being the winner isn't about how rich you are, but about how much you're prepared to pay … and for Genny that price might just mean her death! Sometimes a bit of magical help might cost more than you bargained for…

London is hosting the Carnival Fantastique, and Genny's job has never been busier or more fulfilling. Only not everyone is so happy. Genny believed she'd cracked the fae's infertility curse … but the fae are still barren. It's a devastating plight to which the mysterious Emperor may have the solution – if Genny can find him.

She needs help. She turns to the vampire Malik al-Khan, only to find he's wrestling with his own demons and, when the police request Genny's assistance with a magical kidnap, her own problems multiply too. Is it all unconnected, or can the Emperor help her solve more than the fae's infertility? Soon Genny is hard on his trail, so it seems she'll have a chance to ask … but will the answer cost more than she's willing to pay?”

Osama by Lavie Tidhar

Lavie Tidhar’s Osama is published next month by Solaris at £7.99, following the previous PS publication from last year. It has already received much praise.

“In an alternate world without global terrorism, a private detective is hired by a mysterious woman to track down the obscure creator of the fictional vigilante, Osama Bin Laden...

Joe’s identity slowly fragments as his quest takes him across the world, from the backwaters of Asia to the European capitals of Paris and London. He discovers the shadowy world of the Refugees, ghostly entities haunting the world in which he lives. Where do they come from? What do they want? Joe knows how the story should end, but is he ready for the truths he will uncover ... or the choice he will have to make?”

Friday, September 7, 2012

Supernatural: Rite of Passage by John Passarella

Supernatural: Rite of Passsage by John Passarella (Titan £6.99) is based on the CW TV series, set during season seven.

“After Sam and Dean Winchester lost their mother to a mysterious supernatural force as young children, their father taught them how to hunt and destroy the paranormal evil that exists in the dark corners of America. Following their father’s demonic death, they discovered that they are descended from a long line of hunters and chose to continue their mission.

Laurel Hill, New Jersey, is beginning to look like one of the unluckiest places on Earth when an escalating series of accidents and outbreaks hit the town. But Sam and Dean suspect it’s more than just bad luck. Along with Bobby Singer, the brothers soon realize that a mysterious figure is at the centre of the chaos. When they uncover a connection between the stranger and three teenage boys at the local high school who are experiencing some unusual growing pains, they know they will need far more than good luck to prevent an all-out disaster.”

The Edge of Nowhere by Elizabeth George

“Becca King and her mother are on the run from her stepfather who has used Becca's talent for hearing 'whispers' to make a large and illegal sum of money. Now their options for safety are running out. In the town of Langley on Whidbey Island, Becca finds refuge in the home of her mother's childhood friend, while her mother continues on to Canada in search of safety.

But on her first day in town Becca meets sixteen years old Derric Mathieson, a Ugandan orphan who was adopted as a ten-year-old by the town's Deputy Sheriff. Derric has a secret that no one on Whidbey Island knows. Derric and Becca form an un-severable bond. Becca is convinced that she's the only person who can truly help him, and just maybe Derric can convince Becca that life is too short to live on the run.”

The Edge of Nowhere by Elizabeth George is the first in a new series of novels aimed at a YA audience (Hodder & Stoughton £12.99), out soon.

Dodger by Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett’s Dodger is due soon from Doubleday (£18.99), “A terrifically funny tale of dark deeds in Dickensian London”:

“Dodger is a tosher – a sewer scavenger living in the squalor of Dickensian London. Everyone who is nobody knows Dodger. Anyone who is anybody doesn't. But when he rescues a young girl from a beating, suddenly everybody wants to know him. And Dodger's tale of skulduggery, dark plans and even darker deeds begins...”

Fable: Edge of the World by Christie Golden

Fable: Edge of the World by Christie Golden (Titan £6.99) is based on Microsoft’s X-Box 360 game.

“Seven years have passed since the Monarch assumed the throne of Albion. When an ancient, malevolent force threatens the land, heroes old and new launch a crusade to stem the tide of corruption. As war erupts in faraway realms, evil also lurks within Albion.”