Saturday, March 30, 2013

New Gaiman on its way...

All at Piper are eagerly awaiting this book, due in June from Headline.

Friday, March 29, 2013

New and forthcoming books

A J Dalton – Gateway of the Saviours. Gollancz £14.99
Raymond E Feist – Jimmy and the Crawler. Harper Voyager £12.99

Richard Ford – Herald of the Storm. Headline £16.99 (25 April)
Peter F Hamilton – Great North Road. Pan £9.99 (11 April)

Peter F Hamilton – Misspent Youth. Pan £8.99
Will Hill – Department 19: Battle Lines. Harper Collins £12.99

Jeff Noon – Pollen. Tor £8.99 (11 April)
Jeff Noon – Vurt. Tor £16.99 (11 April; 20th anniversary edition)

Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart & Jack Cohen – The Science of Discworld IV: Judgement Day. Ebury £18.99 (11 April)

Megan Shepherd – The Madman’s Daughter. Harper Voyager £7.99 (11 April)
Charles Stross – The Bloodline Feud. Tor £9.99 (11 April)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Chung Kuo volumes 4 & 5 by David Wingrove. Book review

Ice and Fire (Chung Kuo Book 4) and The Art of War (Chung Kuo Book 5) by David Wingrove. Corvus £14.99

Reviewed by John Howard

David Wingrove’s Chung Kuo originally appeared in eight large volumes between 1989 and 1997. Now Wingrove has started to ‘recast’ the entire series, spreading it across an epic twenty not so large volumes, adding completely new material in two prequel volumes and two more at the end. Ice and Fire originally formed the second part of the original first volume (The Middle Kingdom); The Art of War was the first part of the former book two, The Broken Wheel.

The vast majority of the Earth’s population of forty billion has come to live in the City: pre-fabricated stacked hives a mile or so high, linked to one another across entire continents. A privileged few are able to maintain estates outside the all-encompassing City. By the time Ice and Fire begins in 2201, the seven T’ang – the Han rulers of Chung Kuo (which to all effects and purposes is the entire planet Earth and a few dependencies off-world) – have allowed the creation of a House of Representatives at Weimar, and granted it a measure of devolved government. But the House and the Council of Seven maintain an uneasy relationship due to the natural desire of parliamentarians to increase the power of the elected body – which could only be done at the expense of the ruling Seven.

Many are resentful of the Edict of Technological Control – the law enacted by the Seven to prohibit change – and so the resulting stagnation due to free enquiry and scientific research virtually ceasing. The Dispersionists pin their hopes on The New Hope, a starship whose development and construction has been barely tolerated by the Seven. And to complicate matters some of the Dispersionists have formed an alliance with a group of former insiders who wish to overthrow the ruling order.

Stopping change, stopping the ‘wheel of history’ from turning, is the Seven’s whole raison d’etre; anything or anyone that challenges the Seven’s hold on Chung Kuo is liable to be crushed without mercy. Now, in Ice and Fire, the latest threat to their rule comes from outside the City, when an apparently insignificant incident close to one of the great Seals in the outer wall begins to reveal the extent of the discontent and the illicit experimentation taking place in breach of the Edict. War seems imminent – and a war not only for control of the Earth and the development of space travel, but also for human history itself.

The Art of War opens some three years after the end of Ice and Fire. The Seven have apparently won the War of Two Directions and reasserted their control. They have exacted a savage revenge, with the luckiest of the survivors from the losing side being thrust down to lower levels within the City. A few still survive in hidden fortresses secretly built in mountainous regions that the City has never covered. But the ‘winner takes all’ attitude among many of the ruling elite cannot hide the fact that discontent wasn’t eradicated, and is still growing. An out-and-out terrorist group, the Ping Tiao (‘levelling’) has been formed, and riots have become more frequent. For some among the Seven and their supporters the only answer is to make it impossible for people to wish for change, to wish to unbalance the utopia of peace and stability that their rulers wish to bestow on humanity – on their own terms.

As with the previous books in the series, Ice and Fire and The Art of War move along at an exhilarating pace. From the outset the reader is enmeshed in a complex world-wide political and dynastic drama in which threads of friendship, alliance and betrayal are continually being woven, severed, and woven again into new patterns. For Chung Kuo – the world – the possibilities are the enforced survival of its ‘utopia’ or its bloody downfall and replacement with – what? These are the highest possible stakes – and there are still fifteen more books to go!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Among Others by Jo Walton. Book review

Among Others by Jo Walton. Corsair/Constable Robinson. £7.99. Also available as an eBook

Reviewed by Jan Edwards

It would be very simple to slot Among Others neatly into the ‘rites of passage’ niche, but it really is so much more. It is an insightful look at a young teenage girl’s fight against her disability, her dysfunctional family and her lack of direction – and much more. 

Mori (Morwenna) Phelps is a runaway, escaping from an insane mother who caused the death of Mori’s twin sister in an apparent magical battle that also left Mori with a crippled leg and a broken heart. The courts place Mori in the care of her estranged father and his rich but very eccentric sisters, in Shropshire, who in turn promptly send her to a posh boarding school. She is miles away from everyone she knows. 

There is nothing manic or swooning about Mori; she takes all that life throws at her with stoic determination, and a wonderfully wry humour. The novel unfolds as a series of diary entries covering a few months over the period 1969/70. It holds her hopes and dreams, but also provides a window into her obsessive reading of fantasy and science fiction, with frequent acerbic judgements on books and their authors, which often had me laughing out loud. The diary entries, generally very short, also feature observations on the humdrum life she leads in a school she hates – with its strange politics concerning buns for tea and its obsession with house points. But these apparent low-key entries offer a fresh picture on who Mori is now and will be.

This novel deals with loss and yet Mori does not dwell on the darkness in her life. She has her fears and doubts, but she handles each as they arise with varying degrees of aplomb – and then moves on. We read of Mori’s casual, and occasionally frustrated, opinions on pain management, and of her logical analyses of emotional and physical turmoil caused by her completely dysfunctional family, especially her insane mother, still in South Wales, and apparently detached father. 

Among Others is also about magic. Mori describes her interaction with beings that she calls fairies; but which could be anything from ghosts to her own imagination. It is very much down to the reader and her boyfriend, whom she met at an SF readers’ group in the local library, to decide what is real and what isn’t. 

This is a compelling narrative, beautifully crafted, drawing you into a world that is often deceptively tranquil, and yet fraught. Among Others deservedly won the Hugo, the Nebula and the British Fantasy awards for Best Novel. Thoroughly recommended!

Monday, March 18, 2013

New books -- round up

The Shape Stealer by Lee Carroll. Bantam £12.99

The Devil’s Looking Glass by Mark Chadbourn. Bantam £7.99

The City by Stella Gemmell. Bantam £18.99 (April)

Wolfhound Century by Peter Higgins. Gollancz £14.99

The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones. Coming from Headline

Slaine: The Grail War by Pat Mills et al. 2000AD £17.99

Indigo Prime: Anthropocalypse by John Smith et al. 2000AD 14.99

Among Others by Jo Walton. Corsair £7.99