Archive for September, 2015

Archangel’s Enigma

September 30, 2015 - 8:05 am No Comments

Guild Hunter series
Author: Nalini Singh
Publisher: Gollancz
Release date: 3rd Sept 2015
Page count: 357pp
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

The Guild Hunter series pitches Archangels and Vampires together in a fight against evil. The latest of the series, Archangel’s Enigma, finds Naasir, the most feral of the ‘Seven’ (a powerful group of vampires and angels) dispatched to find the Archangel of Persia amidst rumours of a plot to murder him. He is mentioned in the prophecy Lijuan knows of, as one who might destroy her.
Naasir is called to see Archangel Raphael and is ordered to find out where Alexander Sleeps. It’s about the right time for a new mission; apart from feeling like a caged animal in the city, he is becoming impatient waiting for his ‘mate’ to find him. And although he knows he will miss his family, he is eager for another adventure. He has been assigned to protect a scholarly angel, Andromeda, an angel with insight into the locations an Archangel is most likely to hibernate.
As a scholar, stuck at the a Refuge where Naasir travels to, Andromeda is distracted by a letter she has received. She is soon to be four hundred years old and at that age she is instructed to return to her brutal totalitarian grandfather, Charisemnon, enemy of Raphael, so that she can serve at his side for five hundred years. She is tempted to ask Raphael for Sanctuary but is hesitant to ask, convinced she has no choice and must return home as a princess in fifteen days. But not until she has finished her mission with the delicious Naasir. Despite her vow of celibacy, she can’t help but find him enticing, especially when the first thing he does upon meeting her is to lean in and sniff her just in case she might be his mate.
This is the second book I’ve read in the Guild Hunter series. Whereas the first time I had difficulty getting my head round the various intricacies of the world building, this time I had no trouble at all. Having read the previous book, I understand what’s going on in this war and how the various factions fit together, which makes it easier to understand the plot and get into the story. And a fun story it is, with something for all; there’s political intrigue and power battles, romance, sexual chemistry, humour, zombies who feed on immortals and an edge of darkness and viciousness. Of the two series Singh writes I prefer the Psy-Changeling series, but the Guild Hunter series is also one to watch. Particularly as the conclusion hints at lots more action to come.

Meet Jilly Paddock

September 23, 2015 - 5:26 pm No Comments

Jilly 4

Many thanks to Theresa for letting me write this piece for her blog.

I’ve been writing SF and fantasy for almost half a century, but apart from a couple of stories that
appeared in magazines in the 1990s, none of my work had been published. I even had an agent back
then, and although several editors liked my first novel, sadly it didn’t sell. When I took early
retirement from the NHS in 2011, I decided to self-publish e-books on Kindle, so in 2012, I brought
out two novellas, a collection of short stories and that debut novel.

I also had two more short stories published—The Third Worst Thing That Can Happen On Mars, which
appeared in Pro Se Presents #19 in July 2013, and Mountains of Ice, which was in Blood Type: An
Anthology of Vampire SF on the Cutting Edge, a charity anthology published by Nightscape Press in
August 2014. I was delighted to appear in that last one, in a line up that included William F.
Nolan, Mike Resnick and Peter Watts.

Jilly 3

Pro Se Press are an independent publisher of New Pulp and genre fiction based in Arkansas. It would
be wrong to call them a small press, as they’ve produced well over a hundred books from many
different authors. They re-released my novel, To Die A Stranger, in e-book and print in January
2014, and it’s sequel, With Amber Tears, will appear within the next few months.

Jilly 1

My latest book, Dead Men Rise Up Never, is also from Pro Se Press and has just come out in print and
e-book. It’s an SF/detective novel featuring a pair of recurring characters, Detective-Inspector A.
Afton Lamont and her partner, Jerome. Afton is cynical, middle-aged and immersed in her job, and
Jerome is not quite human, almost seven feet tall and from a high gravity planet, which gives him
above average strength. They work in Prosperity City on a middle-tech colony world, and usually find
themselves landed with weird and complicated cases. At the start of Dead Men, a man is stabbed
through the heart by a unicorn—the police shoot the creature dead, but in the morning, it’s just a
shaggy white pony with a tin-plate horn tied to its head. The victim was an agent representing a
very famous painter, Alexandre DuQuesne, who signs his work using the name Cain. Afton and Jerome
visit his home, a walled estate containing a fragment of the native ecosystem of their world, where
he’s created a bohemian commune of artists. The technology that underpins what seems to be an
unspoilt rural environment is run by an AI—here’s a short extract of Jerome’s first meeting with one
of her avatar bodies:

Jilly 2

I wake a little before dawn with a sore head and a full bladder. Afton is curled up in a ball, eyes
twitching beneath closed eyelids, lost in a dream. I sneak away without waking her, wading through
grass wet with dew and walking between trunks that could be carved from marble, eventually finding a
silver-marked tree with its secret way down to the underworld. When I come up again, the forest is
in monochrome, a world of grey mist and opal shadows, so silent it feels as if the world is holding
its breath. I pause with my back against the ironwood, half-afraid to move and disturb that
stillness. The damp air is full of strange scents and I snuff them deep into my throat, the fruits
of an alien ecosystem, resinous and earthy. When something rustles above my head, I look up,
expecting a bird or a spider-lemur, but it’s a girl, an elfin-faced teenager, sitting on a branch
four metres up and swinging her feet. She’s a fragile little thing, with enormous eyes, a halo of
pale hair and an enigmatic smile.
“Hello, Jerome,” she says, waving down at me.
As far as I know there’s only one woman on the estate that we haven’t met and although it seems
unlikely, I have to ask. “Are you Raven?”
“No.” She tilts her head to one side. “Raven spent the night at the grotto. Memory is watching her.
She’s very unhappy.”
Her voice is soft and precise, and her smile never alters. She doesn’t blink either. I wonder if
she’s a construct. “Who are you?”
“Take a guess.”
I move out from the tree to get a better view of her. Under her tunic of iridescent fabric, she’s
unnaturally tiny and slender. Her finger and toe-nails glint like slivers of mother-of-pearl and her
eyes are too big, out of proportion to the rest of her face. Not human, then—engineered. She has to
be a construct, and if she is… the answer comes to me in a lightning-strike of inspiration.
“You’re the persona of the main-brain that lives in the gate-house.”
She claps her hands, laughing, a sudden bubble of delight. “Very good, tek-wiz!”
“Do you have a name?”
“I’m a machine. What use would I have for a name?”
I take a second leap of faith. “No dumb think-box could run a complex system like this, so you have
to be an AI, which makes you a person in my book. What should I call you?”
“Cain calls me Phaedra, the Bright One. Azure calls me the Witch and Anatole, Baba Yaga. Tassie
calls me Dorothy—I rather like that one.” She brushes the hair back from her face in a strangely
human gesture. “You can call me Silky, after an elf who lived in a tree in the middle of an
enchanted wood. I know why you’re here, you know, both you and the Inspector. I know everything
about you.”
That wakes up my fear. When an AI uses a word like ‘everything’ you’d better believe her. “And do
you know who killed Theodore Dexter?”
“That’s an interesting question.” She wiggles her toes and contrives to look uncomfortable. “A
complex, convoluted conundrum. I have answers on several different levels, logical, rational and
intuitive. Which did you want to hear?”
My experience of AIs is limited—Silky brings my quota up to three. Imagine a mind with infinite
access to all human knowledge in less than an eye-blink, capable of juggling more tasks than you can
count inside the same second, with the curiosity and clear vision of a child and an adolescent’s
inadequate grasp of emotion. They scare me; I don’t understand why they consent to work with mental
pygmies like us. “All three.”
“That’s just greedy!” She scolds, flashing a brief, very natural smile. “The logical answer is no. I
didn’t see Dexter die, therefore I have no data on who or what ended his life. The rational answer
is maybe. Most victims know their killers, so it’s reasonable to assume that the guilty party is a
member of this community. As far as I can determine, Dexter had done nothing to anger anyone here,
apart from having a sexual liaison with Raven, and jealousy, historically-speaking, is a very
significant motive for murder.”
Colour is seeping back into the forest, hand in hand with the unseen dawn. Silky’s tunic is wedgwood
blue and matches her eyes, and her hair is palest primrose. It seems absurd to be discussing violent
passions with such a delicate, fey creature. “Did Raven have any other lovers?”
“Yes. All of the males and one of the females. The pairings and couplings around here are governed
by a very advanced set of equations. I haven’t worked out the math yet!” She giggles and the humour
sounds authentic. “Raven showed a preference for Fionn and Oliver, and avoided Anatole and Azure.”
“And the woman?”
“Angelyke. She shuns men, except for Cain. No-one refuses a summons to his bed.” Her eyes are
abruptly empty, the mask slipping back. “Not even me.”
I’m starting to work up some real dislike for Alexandre DuQuesne. “We haven’t had the chance to talk
to Cain yet. Where can we find him?”
“He left the estate at nineteen twenty-three yesterday and went towards the City. He hasn’t returned
It’s just a dumb piece of data to her, one of the millions of fragments she records every second. I
try to hide my shock.
“Jerome, I’ve a message for you.” She bites her lip. “Well, it’s for the Inspector really–it was
logged on her phone. It’s from your Forensics department. The sample you submitted for analysis
appears to be ash. Its composition is consistent with the combustion of wood and canvas at a
relatively low temperature, laced with traces of pigment.”
“Right.” I wonder how she manages to monitor calls on an inactive mobile locked in a strongbox.
“Could we send an answer if we wanted to?”
“Thought and Memory are programmed to handle communications. Just whistle down the wind and they’ll
come to you, my lad.” She’s fidgeting, swinging her legs. “Look, I have to fly. You take your coffee
white and frothy, while the Inspector prefers hers black, with precisely five grams of brown sugar.
Is that right?”
Silky stands up suddenly, balancing sure-footedly on the narrow branch. She shakes herself and
extends a pair of wings from her shoulders, wings like a dragonfly or fairy, as fragile as gossamer,
transparent and washed with a rainbow play of colour, like oil on a puddle. I only see them for a
moment, then she steps into the air and hovers there, supported by the whirring blur at her back.
“I like you, Jerome,” she says, her elfin face grave. “I’ll help you, if I can, but you should
remember that Cain owns me. He had me built and programmed, and he had this body designed and grown
for me. My loyalty-matrix is skewed in his favour. I have to love and obey him, and I have as little
choice in the matter as any other woman here.”
As she speaks, she sinks towards me until she’s almost close enough to touch. When I reach out to
her, she darts away. Then she’s gone, slipping through the trees faster than a man could run. As I
walk slowly back to Afton, my mind is reeling with the sheer magnitude of the technical wizardry
I’ve just witnessed. What does it take to make a woman fly? Hollow bones probably, and wings crafted
of an ultra-light alloy and synthetic membrane, and that’s just the easy part. Factor in an improved
heart, lungs and circulatory system to pull in enough oxygen, plus a boosted metabolism to provide a
glut of ATP to fuel the muscles used to beat them fast enough to attain a hover—and all of this, for
what? To make a pretty toy for a very rich, very privileged man? The waste of resources makes me
feel sick.

Dead Men also contains a bonus short story, Five of Humours; one of Melancholy; one of Honey, about
our heroes drinking down their sorrows after an upsetting case.
The start of Afton and Jerome’s partnership is told in The Spook and the Spirit in the Stone, in
which they have to find the kidnapped daughter of Earth’s ambassador to their world. It’s currently
available as one of my e-books, but Pro Se Press intend to publish it in the future.

I know that self-publishing gets a lot of flack and is often considered to be poor quality rubbish.
Many of my friends have released excellent books and there’s a lot of good stuff out there. My own
books were carefully edited and produced as professionally as I could. I’ve also found that
self-publishing work is no barrier to being picked up by a publisher—as well as Pro Se, I have a
short story reprint and a huge SF space opera coming soon from another indie press, and I’m also
negotiating with another to bring all of the short fiction out in print.

Here’s a list of links that you may want to use–

My blog –

My Amazon UK Author Page –

Dead Men Rise Up Never on Amazon UK –

The Spook and the Spirit in the Stone on Amazon UK –

Blood Type (charity anthology in aid of The Cystic Fibrosis Trust) on Amazon UK –

About a Vampire

September 21, 2015 - 12:20 pm No Comments

An Argeneau Vampire novel
Author: Lynsay Sands
Publisher: Gollancz
Page Count: 357pp
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

I first came across Linsay Sands in a Christmas double novella The Bite Before Christmas, which include a wonderful story by Sands and got me hooked. This was my first encounter with the Argeneau vampires, and I wanted more, so when About a Vampire arrived in a goody box from those wonderful people at Gollancz, I squealed with delight.
When Holly spots a bundle of papers belonging to a client she’s not at all impressed, particularly as the papers contain a burial permit and need to be taken to the crematorium at just after midnight involving a trip through the graveyard. Not her idea of a good time. So, papers clasped between her fingers she ventures out into a darkened graveyard to the crematorium on a foggy, horror-movie night. Things don’t go according to plan when she discovers two men in the building and eavesdrops on their conversation. One of the men is vampire Justin Bricker, busy getting rid of decapitated bodies, when a head rolls onto the floor, all witnessed by Holly, and it’s up to him to clean up the figurative mess. Except for the slight hiccup that he can’t read her or control her, which means she could be his life mate.
Brimming with romance and humour, this is a fun addition to the vampire genre. There’s a solid scientific explanation for how the Argeneaus form of vampirism works, including the use of nanos. There’s also a fabulous backstory as to how these immortals even exist.
This book works on so many levels. It’s 22 in the whole series but this doesn’t matter, it can be read independently and all of the history of the Argeneaus comes across with ease. It’s sexy, steamy, exciting, but more than that, hilarious. Sands has an incredible wit about her that simply jumps up from the page. I loved this book so much I’m determined to seek out the first one and read the lot. Preferably in order but I don’t think that matters. My first search will be for the story of head honcho Lucien and his enigmatic bride Leigh. This series is simply addictive.

Demon Road

September 18, 2015 - 6:59 pm No Comments

Author: Derek Landy
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release Date: 27th Aug 2015
Page count: 512pp
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

I’m aware of Derek Landy from the Skullduggery Plesant books, which I thoroughly enjoyed, so when I heard about Demon Road, I knew I just had to give it a go. Especially when some of the reviews compare it to my favourite TV show, Supernatural.
And the book starts with a bang;
“Twelve hours before Amber Lamont’s parents tried to kill her, she was sitting between them in the principal’s office …”
She’s been called in by Mrs Cobb, because over the last month she has been involved in three altercations, nothing like her normal behaviour. It’s clear from the start that Amber is a strong, resilient character and as the quote says, “from the mouths of babes” – Amber’s logic and honesty in the face of adversity is honourable. Of course, the adversity isn’t what you think – it isn’t the threat from Mrs Cobb that’s the issue, it’s the calm way in which her parents react to Mrs Cobb and decide to ‘punish’ the principal.
Amber’s parents are odd, to say the least. Of course everything starts to make sense when Amber finds herself on the run, and on a hellish road trip on the Demon Road.
As always, Landy’s sense of humour shines through the narrative. On this demonic road trip we have the guy with the mysterious and dangerous background, Milo, Glen, the Irish youth exploring America and Amber. It is through Glen that most of the humour comes through, giving Landy a chance to share his Irish heritage. As for the car the group are travelling in, I can see why the publishers have compared this to Supernatural, as Milo’s car has the same amount of personality as Dean’s ‘Baby’ from that series. It’s a serious car for a serious dude!
Despite the humour there are also some dark and grim veins running through this book, which add to the overall enjoyment of the novel, from dark characters, to settings, to all manner of creatures, this is immense fun. There’s a section of the book, in the town Cascade a Falls, that reads very much like a classic Stephen King novel, but I refuse to say which one because of spoilers.
As well as the aforementioned comedy that is rife through the book, there’s also a great deal of poignancy and exploration of what exactly family is and how important family can be. And the end of the adventure is a helluva cliffhanger that means we know Amber has more adventures to come.
Skullduggery was good, but with Demon Road, Landy has outdone himself. A hellishly awesome book

Children of the Grave

September 15, 2015 - 10:01 am No Comments

Edited by Monique Snyman
Publisher: Crystal Lake Publishing
Release date: 4th Sept 2015
Page Count: Unspecified
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

Are zombies dead in the water? Or is there more we can do to resurrect them? Joe Mynhardt certainly seems to think they can be revived. The “BRAAAAIIIINS”-child of Mynhardt, Children of the Grave is a brand new zombie collection with a notable difference. Each story in the collection is about protagonist Blaze, written by six different prolific authors, with six different endings. So, how will it end?
The opening scenario is where you meet Blaze, the newest addition to Purgatory. At the end of the opening section though, just like the old ‘choose your own adventure’ books from the 70s, the reader decides where the journey will take Blaze and which author to follow. This, as the introduction puts it, truly is an “interactive shared-world zombie anthology”
When Blaze wakes up to find himself dead, it’s a bit of a surprise; so is the sulphuric wasteland he finds himself in. In the strange new world, he meets Bones and Scrubs, two men who explain that he died in the real world, waking up with lost memories to find himself in a sort of twisted Hunger Games. It’s kill or be killed, but the more bodies he kills, the more the hunger abates and the better chance he has of leaving Purgatory to go – well, could be Heaven, could be Hell. He doesn’t know. But at least his two new companions might have the answers he’s looking for.
At the end of stage one it’s time to make your choice, and damn it’s a difficult one. Who do you choose? Aurelius Rico Lopez III, Tonia Brown, Alex Laybourne, Joe Mynhardt, Armand Rosamilia or Joe McKinney.
I chose ‘Only the Dead Go Free’ by Joe McKinney, as I absolutely love his ongoing Dead World Series. This man knows zombies.
It starts with Blaze making the first of his choices, struggling with his lost memories as he heads towards the Common and the Gatherers (dark souls, more fearsome than the zombies who shamble through the arid land).
Boy, what a journey! There isn’t much I can say for fear of giving spoilers, but this particular ride was fast-paced, pulsing with adrenaline and in turns shocking. The end was superlative. It’s my intention every month or so to choose a different ending and enjoy Blaze’s story anew but a varied resolution. This book is pure genius and I hope Mynhardt decides to do another choose your adventure book within a different genre. Great stuff.