Archive for August, 2011

Review – The Bookman – Bloody ace!

August 8, 2011 - 12:55 am No Comments

The Bookman

Author:  Lavie Tidhar         

Publisher: Angry Robot

Price:  £7.99 (Paperback)

Page count:  412pp (includes free giant squid)

Reviewer:  Theresa Derwin

Steampunk is a strange kettle of fish and readers either love it or hate it. I happen to love its’ insanity, but with the caveat that I only like good Steampunk.  By its very nature, the genre challenges knowledge, preconceptions and history itself. If that’s not your cup of tea, move away now. If however, you relish adventure, fantastical events and the mingling of historical fact and fiction with all sorts of technology twisted into a barmy dose of perfect pulp, climb on board this steam train!

If, like me, you want the best of Steampunk, then you simply have to read Lavie Tidhar.

The Bookman, Tidhar’s exemplar Steampunk novel features young hero Orphan. As the novel commences in an alternate Victoria’s England where the Queen is in fact a Lizard, young Orphan is due to marry his beloved Lucy when she is murdered in a terrorist attack on the new Martian probe due to take off.  This is quite a feat considering Mars was only theorised about by scientists such as Percival Lowell at this stage in history.

As you might gather so far, this is no ordinary England. The Londonof The Bookman is full of glorious sights, sounds and smells.  It has two castes of Lizard, the ‘royal’ lizards and the regular Joes, Automatans play chess and successfully imitate humans, poetry is a way of life, The ‘Bookman’ is a cunning terrorist and all must ‘beware the books’. All manner of historical figures from Isabella Beeton to Gilbert & Sullivan and Irene Adler take part in Orphan’s adventures to save his beloved and bring her back to life. 

Tidhar’s Londonis a sumptuous feast of gas lamps, airships, fog, pirates, lizards, murky pubs and whales that sail the Thames. As Orphan starts his quest, it is not just his Lucy he finds, but a hint towards his own hidden identity and that of the mysterious ‘Bookman’.  Played like a pawn in a chess game, (a theme that runs through the novel), Orphan is thrust into manhood & heroism in a manic world of colour and life. Most impressive in this novel is Tidhar’s authenticity in his world building. He is obviously a scholar of history and/or literature, his various literary excerpts which head each chapter, appropriate, enjoyable and also identifiable. There is also a slight mention of ‘giant squids in space’ in the text, a reference most SF fans may just recognise!

All in all, The Bookman is a tremendous achievement and a perfect example of Steampunk. Read it and I guarantee some serious satisfaction!        

If you want to know more about Angry Robot’s latest projects take a look at their website Angry Robot Books. To find out about Lavie Tidhar, follow him @lavietidhar, where he remains active.

Review – Seminal Steampunk Text

August 2, 2011 - 2:26 am No Comments

Morlock Night

Author:  K W Jeter 

Publisher: Angry Robot

Price:  £7.99 (Paperback)

Page count:  301pp (includes Introduction & Afterword)

Reviewer:  Theresa Derwin

From the writer who coined the phrase ‘Steampunk’ comes; Morlock Night. Originally published in 1979, this 2011 reprint by Angry Robot comes with a glorious front cover, an Introduction by fellow Steampunk author Tim Powers and an after word by academic & Steampunk/SF writer Adam Roberts. And that’s just for starters. What you have here is the seminal Steampunk text by the Godfather of Steampunk itself.

A sequel to H. G. Well’s The Time Machine this novel starts on the evening of The Traveller’s narrative to his friends as he tells them of his adventures with the Morlock and his Eloi love Weena.  Following on, rather loosely, from the Wellsian classic, Morlock Night starts as Mr. Edwin Hocker leaves the Traveller’s house on the same evening and is accosted by a mysterious stranger known as Dr. Ambrose who transports Hocker to an alternative 1892 over run by the Morlocks, a barren, rubble strewn post apocalyptic ‘present’ where he meets the far too modern female Tafe, who saves his life.

In the blink of an eye Hocker is transported back to his contemporary present, a Morlock-less present, where he is informed by Dr Ambrose that he and modern woman Tafe must join forces to prevent the Morlocks, currently hidden in theLondonsewers from conqueringLondon, then the world. Then begins the adventure, when Hocker and Tafe must help Ambrose rescue a reincarnated King Arthur from abduction and hunt down three missing copies of the sword Excalibur. And that’s within the first few chapters! Still with me? Good!

Insane it might be, but that is what makes Morlock Night so bloody good. Combining all of the wonderful elements found in Steampunk; historical characters and settings, infernal devices such as submarines and rolling adventure, this novel is indeed a stunning example of Steampunk and a veritable visual feast.    

The characters and settings literally leap off the page and the darkened, rotten sewers that Jeter shows us at the heart ofLondonare murky yet glorious.  And this is no mere copy of Well’s original. As all good creations should, the Morlocks have evolved. We encounter a sub-species of Morlocks who can talk, wear shades to hide from the light and fight wars with military prowess, as well as the traditional Morlocks seen in Well’s novel; guttural and Neanderthal.

Jeter has created a fantastic vision, and whilst not perfect, must be read by all fans of Steampunk or decent SF Literature for that matter. Simply sublime.

If you want to know more about Angry Robot’s latest projects take a look at their website. To find out about K W Jeter, all you need do is Google.

Review – Autumn Purification – Dead Scary

August 2, 2011 - 1:17 am 1 Comment

Autumn: Purification

Author:  David Moody

Publisher:  Orion Books

Price:  £12.99 (Hardback)

Page count:  261pp

Reviewer:  Theresa Derwin

If you read my previous reviews of Autumn & Autumn: The City, the re-release of Moody’s self published zombie novels you will be aware that I heaped high praise on the first two books of the Autumn series. I didn’t think these books could get any better. Boy, was I ever wrong! 

Autumn: Purification carries on from the first and second Autumn novels, as (SPOILER ALERT) Michael, Emma and a group of survivors escape the city and find themselves hidden in a military bunker with what’s left of the military.  There are 37 of these survivors, still infected but still immune, who are kept in quarantine in the bunker. That is, until all hell breaks loose and they decide to make a break for it, because above the underground bunker, thousands upon thousands of the dead are drawn to the site.

You don’t need to have read the first two books, though you would have lost some great literature in not reading them. In just three pages Moody succinctly summarises the events of the first two books in an objective and skilful way, reducing the content to its necessary elements in order for the reader to understand the starting point of Purification. The reader is informed with being distracted from the action to follow. Once exposition is done, then bam! You’re in the story and each of the characters left alive begin to blossom as they fight for survival and look for somewhere to call home in this post-apocalyptic world. 

Moody’s language and description are efficient and economical, yet emotive.  Emma’s feelings of fear, loneliness and confusion are easily summarised in one beautiful line as Moody tells us, “Everything was cold, apart from his touch”. The man in question being Michael, the man she has only known for the eight weeks since disaster has struck.

Once the rag tag group have fled the bunker, they hide out overnight in a furniture store, seemingly without hope. But hope soon arrives in the shape of helicopter Richard who lands in the car park and shares with them the hope of a new safe haven, the home they have been desperately looking for. But is it really a safe haven? I won’t spoil that much for you, but the beauty of this book is that you want them to survive and you want them to have hope.  For the first novel at least, you have been journeying with a number of these characters for three books now, whilst with others it may only be two or one book, but such is the skill of Moody’s writing, that you want the characters you believe in to have a future.

This novel, the best of them so far, is a testament to just what people will do to survive in a decaying world.  I don’t know how he does it, but the tension throughout is palpable, the fear of what could be around the corner claustrophobic and undeniably real; and the greatest thing to fear about this book? The dead are evolving again. Whilst their bodies decay, they are becoming self aware and their minds are evolving. Truly scary in so many ways. Well done Mr. Moody.     

If you want to know more about David Moody’s latest projects and the sequel Autumn: Disintegration, take a look at his website for free fiction and other offers which can be found at Last of the Living.