Archive for February, 2016

Jani and The Great Pursuit

February 24, 2016 - 11:41 am No Comments

Jani and the Great Pursuit
Eric Brown
Publisher: Solaris
Page Count: 384pp
Release date: 23rd Feb 2016
Reviewed by Chris Amies

“Jani and the Great Pursuit” is the sequel to “Jani and the Greater Game,” an adventurous tale set in an alternative India in the 1920s where the British Raj is underpinned by alien technology. Jani Chatterjee is a young woman of mixed race who when this novel opens is being pursued by the villanous Durga Das, who is possessed by a lifeform he believes to be the goddess Kali. Jani is accompanied by her companions the houseboy Anand and British Lieutenant Alfie Littlebody. Durga Das is pursuing her because he believes her to be in possession of an artefact, the ventha-di, that when properly configured will allow travel between worlds. There is danger in the stars however: a predatory (could we say imperialist) race called the Zhell who have their sights on Earth, where the British, the Russians and the Chinese are contenders for world domination (this was the “Great Game” of the first book).

The novel starts, as steampunk often does, in the air. ‘Jani was aboard the “Pride of Edinburgh, somewhere over northern Greece, when she made the acquaintance of the mechanical dog.’ That made me want to read on (as well as putting me in mind of the first line of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”).

Could you describe this series as ‘steampunk’? That genre is usually associated with a late Victorian / Edwardian setting. But here we have Soviet Russia (post-1917), and De Havilland aircraft (a company established in 1920). The feel of the novel is definitely inter-war thriller (Wheatley, Charteris, Bernede …), which would make this Valvepunk. On the other hand you have the airships – definitely steampunk, but in a world where the existence of alien technology may have slowed the development of Earth’s own tech (because we didn’t have to bother), there might still be airships instead of aeroplanes.

The world Eric Brown describes is engaging. I could well imagine Londoners being enthused by rocket launches from Ealing. The secondary characters such as Sebastian and Lady Eddington are also memorable.

How to set a story within a world that is unjust and imperialist? Unlikely as it might sound, Dennis Wheatley (a kind of clubland Tory not read much nowadays) overcame this conundrum in the 1930s by making his protagonists foreign or outsiders (his ‘good companions’ are Dutch-American, French, Russian, and Anglo-Jewish). Here, Jani is an outsiders’ outsider: neither quite Indian nor quite British and not accepted by the British in India – she is once described as a ‘Chutney Mary’ (an Indian woman who adopts European ways). Nor is she some kind of unlikely superheroine but a courageous and intelligent young woman albeit one who feels out of place in Delhi and London and “was a product of both places … but … belonged to neither.” Which paradoxically makes her suited to the London she finds, a city where the wonders on show are “developed by alien minds … not the brainchild of the British but driven by otherworldly technology.”

“Various astounding and life-threatening escapades,” says the blurb. There are indeed.

Welcome to The Dark Side

February 20, 2016 - 8:38 pm No Comments

Welcome to the Dark Side
Goth: a Brief Introduction

Steve Cotterill

Goth.

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It’s a word that conjures up many images, from black clad waifs, to graveyards and Poe, to the barbarians who sacked Rome. The subculture was born in the 1970s, consisting of pale teenagers with a fascination with Gothic literature and old horror films. Unnamed for the first part of its existence, it was only after Punk died down that anybody noticed that it was there at all, at the infamous Batcave club in London. ‘Goth’ was as much a term of scorn from the music press as anything else. Nobody envisaged that the kids in tie dye and black would embrace the label and make it their own. Now, over thirty years after Bauhaus first made it into the charts with Bela Lugosi’s Dead, the subculture is one of the most successful, reinventing itself endlessly into dozens of different varieties, while staying true to the central core that embodies it’s truth. The success of the movement means that we can now talk about generations of Goth, with all the clash of differences that brings. Musically, and in terms of fashion there has been evolution and the novels written from within the Tribe have provided a unique perspective on many aspects of horror. Far from only being focused on music, there have been Goth comics, games, films and so on. A whole slice of dark culture has spun out of one source.

Goth is just one of many alternative cultures that have sprung up since the end of World War Two, and the creation of the Teenager not only as a phase in life but as a commercial market. This is at least what spawned Teddy Boys, Bohemians, Hippies, Glam Rockers and so on, shuttling back and forth between peace and love and, at the other extreme, the destructiveness of Punk. Most subcultures squat somewhere in the middle, drawing from each extreme.

Goth for example turns the Punk’s destructive impulses inwards, but also embraces notions of beauty. Yes, death is idolised to an extent, and beauty is found in the macabre, in graveyards and blood. But in a world where we push the notion of death so far away that we have to have Death Cafés to even bring ourselves to talk about the notion, a willingness to face up to our mortality is surely a good thing? The distinctive look of Goth draws from a similar place, the funeral parade became established by accident (UK Decay performed in black for purely practical reasons, hiding the travel stains on their clothes), but by the mid 1980s it had become a uniform with bands like The Sisters of Mercy and Fields of the Nephilim happily adopting the look. By the end of the decade, more historical styles were creeping in, being reinterpreted for the modern age, and these elements arguably form the core of the Goth look. Reaching back to plunder the past is a common theme; whether that’s Victorian era fashions and accessories, or the ubiquitous big tin ankh. Small wonder that when Goth became more commercialised in America, the answer was to dive back almost wholesale to the Victorian period and create Steampunk.

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Of course to attach the word truth to the Gothic is a strange thing to do. By its very nature the genre has more than a touch of artifice to it. The original stories envisaged imaginary histories, and in the case of Castle of Otranto at least, dissembled as genuine pieces of Medieval literature, or creating monsters to terrify their readers, who were largely young middle class women seeking an escape from the drudgery of their lives. In a similar fashion the architects of Gothic and Gothick buildings reached back towards an imagined form of castle, creating follies and grottos, secret passages and other fancies in the immense buildings they constructed. In the modern age we have a small chain of bars, Spooky Pubs which fully embrace the phoniness of the whole thing, right down to the morbid laughter track in the toilets, while the Romanian tourist board invites you to look around Castle Bram, claiming it to be the real Castle Dracula (despite it being nowhere near the site Stoker identifies in the novel).

What motivates most Goths however, is emotion, whether that’s the feeling of being alienated, or that life isn’t worth it. There’s also a fascination with the dark and the things in it, and well those outfits; is anything sexier? While that’s not the main motivation for most of us, there are Goths who are only interested in the fashion side of if, but I’d argue that for them at least it really is just a phase and they’ll be off when another ‘cool’ thing comes along. A recent study suggested that it was the subculture most likely to be connected to depression, though that seems to be more linked to the fact that Goths are bright and have a tendency to over think things. Personally, I found it made sense to become a Goth, like I finally fitted somewhere and I wonder how many others feel that way? I also found that the tribe was accepting, that LGBT, kinky, and feminist members met no problems. That’s partly because of a willingness to experiment, but also because once the people attracted to the subculture tend to be open minded; willing to conjure with fresh ideas; and make no mistake up until recently for all but a vanishing minority these were fresh concepts. It’s only in the last decade or two that they have begun to integrate into society and still have an aura of otherness for a lot of people.

The thing to take away is that the subculture is real, the people are real, even if the whole thing is based on an imagined world filled with monsters and fairytale endings.

Bio
Steve Cotterill is an author and Goth, dwelling in Birmingham (UK), currently working on his first collection of short stories. He loves vampires, werewolves and all the things that go bump in the night and lives with two very ungothic cats. He blogs at http://shoresofnight.blogspot.co.uk/

Five Gothic Works

Classic

Frankenstein: The text that arguably spawned the science fiction genre and cemented a large part of what horror is about, acting as a bridge between The Gothic of the late 18th Century and the more familiar works of the Victorian Age, Frankenstein is a fascinating story of hubris, mad science and rejection.

Dracula: Arguably the most famous vampire novel of them all, though far from the first, Dracula is also Bram Stoker’s finest story being more streamlined and evocative than any of his other work. Based on a ‘found footage’ technique common in Victorian Gothic, the novel consists of diary entries and correspondence that spins out a rich tapestry telling a tale so familiar that its become the lingua franca of vampire tales. Despite this it remains the seminal work in the traditional vampire genre, full of sensuality and horror.

Modern

The Woman in Black: Susan Hill’s classic tale of angry ghosts, the Woman in Black is a throw back to the age of M.R. James, told in a fashion that starkly captures women’s madness and anger. It’s a moving, involved tale that delves deep into the cruelties of child death and is highly affecting.

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Lost Souls: A modern vampire story, one deeply rooted in the Goth scene, Lost Souls concerns a young man’s quest for identity, and family. There’s a strong sense of ‘American wilderness’ to the novel, and the horror arises as much from the alienation of the Goths and their desire for self destruction (even if they don’t actively realise that’s what they desire) as the acts of the vampires.

Coraline: Neil Gaiman’s story about a girl who discovers another ‘family’ on the other side of a doorway. This is a children’s story, but none the less terrifying for that, especially if you’re a parent. You’ll never look at black buttons in the same way again.

Hellbounce

February 17, 2016 - 3:50 pm No Comments

Hellbounce.
Matthew W Harrill
Published by CreateSpace independent publishing on 30 May 2014
352 pages

I was lucky to win this book from the author
Eva a psychologist works for a mental hospital for the criminally insane. Everyday she treats people with evil sadistic minds but even with all this knowledge it still does not make her prepared for what she finds when she goes home. You see her husband has gone mad and is trying to keep her a prisoner in her own home by boarding the windows. In a moment of chance she manages to escape and armed with cash and a suitcase of clothes, she finds herself in a hotel room. Whilst going out for a drink to relieve the days stress, she bumps in to Madden. They share a moment of passion but then she forgets. You see Madden is a hellbounce, who in Jamaica was involved in a car chase with the police that went wrong. From this 1st meeting their adventure begins, but who can she trust.
This book has everything you want in a story, action good v evil, love and horror. They are back stories through out the book which explains the evil of the places that Eva and Madden visit These places are cities in the world and have been researched excellently. Whilst reading this book you are transported around the world
The relationships between the characters help explain the story and this is one book you will not want to put down. The build up to the finale is dramatic and there a members of the group that will surprise you to the end of this book.
If you love horror or supernatural stories then is a must read. This book is one of a series and I know if you read this then you will not be disappointed. I know that I have a favourite book couple so roll on book 2
To add to the book there is a brilliant trailer which was created by the author’s talented son. He is the link so take a look and please subscribe to his channel. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_tBpqjAgDg&sns=em

Monstrous Little Voices

February 12, 2016 - 1:55 am No Comments

Monstrous Little Voices: New Tales from Shakespeare’s Fantasy World
Editor: David Thomas Moore
Publisher: Abaddon Books
Page Count: 336pp
Release date: 8th March 2016
Reviewed by Chris Amies

It is the final years of the 16th century. Unrest between factions of the de Medici family threatens to plunge the Mediterranean – Tuscany, Venice, Aragon, Illyria – into war. This will not only involve human forces, for Titania the Queen of Faery and Oberon the King have been courting humankind. The stage is set.

Or many stages, for all the worlds are a stage. Five splendid novellas take on the imaginative sweep of Shakespeare’s fantasy world mostly seen in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Twelfth Night” but also “The Tempest”, which sees Prospero the Duke of Milan exiled to a small island with his daughter Miranda. At the end of the play Miranda goes off to marry Ferdinand and apparently that’s it.

Or is it? In the first story here, “Coral Bones” by Foz Meadows, she doesn’t. Miranda and the sprite Ariel flee and Miranda is taken to Queen Titania as a votary (a sworn follower). There is much changing of sex (for why indeed should magical creatures be tied to male or female?) and name and identity while they travel roads both mortal and magical and have adventures. The stories in this collection provide many of the female characters (Helena, Miranda) with “the kinds of careers their intelligence and resourcefulness merit.”

Kate Heartfield’s “The Course of True Love” introduces us to some plant magic by the witch Pomona (named for the Roman goddess of fruit trees and orchards), bringing in myths told by Ovid and the coming of Vertumnus, a prisoner in a garden and Queen Mab who is indeed bounded in a nutshell and counts herself queen of infinite space.

In “The Unkindest Cut” by Emma Newman, where Lucia de Medici is a protagonist, we see a dagger before us, one that if used will ‘shed blood that will worsen the war’; and Miranda makes an appearance among the machinations of the de Medici family.

Adrian Tchaikovsky’s “Even in the Cannon’s Mouth” sees Viola from “Twelfth Night” shipwrecked in Illyria and the Scottish One whose name none dare speak makes an entrance. It also makes good use of Helena from ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and a possible red herring that may have misled 17th-century audiences.

Finally “On the Twelfth Night” by Jonathan Barnes ties all together — imagining Anne Hathaway and a very different Will of Stratford, and a lattice of many possibilities.

It’s refreshing that instead of going for the usual – and sometimes very effective – route of a dozen or so short pieces this anthology consists of five novellas. The novella length allows for more character development, and subplots to be brought into play. Taken together, and these five are intended to be taken together along with the introduction which sets the scene in the manner of a Prologue, they can provide the reader with an entire universe.

The Space between The Stars

February 11, 2016 - 3:17 pm No Comments

PAN MACMILLAN BUYS BEAUTIFULLY POIGNANT TALE OF SURVIVAL AMONGST THE STARS
Pan Macmillan is delighted to announce a new deal – the acquisition of The Space between the Stars by debut novelist Anne Corlett. Senior Commissioning editor Bella Pagan bought World Rights from Lisa Eveleigh at the Richford Becklow Literary Agency.

The Space between the Stars is an enthralling novel of love, loss and second chances. It’s also a dramatic road-trip across the stars, as a woman journeys across a plague-ravaged universe to the place she once called home, and the man she once loved. After a virus wipes out most of humanity, Jamie heads for Earth. She must reach the Northumberland coast, to see if Daniel is still alive. She’ll struggle to survive, while wrestling with loss and heartache, to gain one last chance at happiness. We’d compare this wonderful novel to Emily St John Mandel’s Station Eleven and The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber.
During her MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa, Anne was mentored by Maggie Gee who says ‘Anne Corlett is a natural writer, full of stories. It’s wonderful to hear she has the deal she deserves with a great publisher – now she will fly!’ Fay Weldon also tutored Anne and called her ‘an original thinker and a very, very effective writer.’
Anne Corlett commented: ‘I’m really looking forward to working with Bella and the rest of the Pan Macmillan team. I’ve been blown away by the warmth and enthusiasm that has been apparent throughout the acquisitions process.’

Pagan enthused: ‘I was utterly captivated by Jamie’s plight and her incredible journey – which is one of self-discovery as well as a hazardous push for home. Anne has an incredible talent and I can’t wait for others to discover it too.’
Anne Corlett has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University and has won a number of awards for her short stories, including the H E Bates Award. She works as a criminal solicitor and freelance writer, and lives with her partner and two young boys in Somerset. Pan Macmillan will be publishing The Space between the Stars in late spring 2017.

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ABOUT PAN MACMILLAN
Pan Macmillan is the UK general book publishing arm of the Macmillan Group, which operates in over 70 countries. Its imprints include Macmillan, Mantle, Pan, Picador, Bluebird, Boxtree, Sidgwick & Jackson, Bello, Tor, Macmillan Children’s Books, Campbell Books, Macmillan New Writing and Macmillan Digital Audio. Pan Macmillan was named Publisher of the Year at The Bookseller Industry Awards in May 2015. www.panmacmillan.com