Posts Tagged ‘Gollancz’

Electric Dreams Philip K Dick

September 24, 2017 - 6:57 am No Comments

Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams

Published by Gollancz on 14th September 2017

213 pages

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Philip-K-Dicks-Electric-Dreams-ebook/dp/B071X4RMZ4/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1506236010&sr=1-1&keywords=electric+dreams

Reviewed by Chris Stocks

35 years since the death of Philip K. Dick his work seems as relevant as ever. The sequel to Blade Runner is being released next month and Electric Dreams, a ten-part anthology-series based on his short stories, has just started on Channel 4. To coincide with the latter, Gollancz has released this book containing the stories on which the episodes are based, each with an introduction written by the writer or director of the corresponding episode.

In Exhibit Piece, a historian living in a future totalitarian society enters a 20th Century exhibit that he has helped create – and finds himself living in the 1950s with a job, family and memories to match. Which world, if either, is real?

The Commuter deals with similar themes. A harassed commuter tries to buy a season ticket to Macon Heights – only there is no such station. However, when a curious train employee investigates, he finds that Macon Heights is gradually becoming real – and in turn affecting his world.

Impossible Planet concerns a 350-year-old woman who wants to visit Earth before she dies – but Earth is just a myth. However, a pair of dodgy spacers agree to take her there. Obviously, their destination is not Earth – or is it?

The Hanging Stranger and The Father Thing both combine 1950s paranoia with alien invasion. In the former, a man is horrified to find a dead stranger hanging from a lamp-post in the small town in which he lives – yet no one else seems to notice. Is he going mad – or he is the only one not under alien control? In the latter, a young boy discovers that his father has been killed and replaced by a cold, emotionless doppelganger. But who will believe him – and who is next to be replaced?

The Hood Maker is set in a future world where some humans, known as teeps, have become telepathic and where being unwilling to be scanned by them is considered suspicious. So, when devices that block telepathic scans are secretly distributed, the teeps are determined to find those responsible and stop them.

In Autofac, the remnants of humanity in a post-nuclear world are provided for by vast automated factories programmed to manufacture and distribute anything that mankind needs. But then a group of survivors, wanting to start fending for themselves, ask their local Autofac to stop supplying them…

Sales Pitch and Foster You’re Dead are both consumer satires; one darkly comic, the other more chilling. In the former, in a far-future world where advertising is ubiquitous and inescapable, a couple’s home is invaded by a robot, programmed to demonstrate its abilities and sell itself – and which won’t take no for an answer. In the latter, consumers are encouraged – indeed expected – to buy their own bomb-shelters. But with each shelter quickly becoming obsolete as new weapons are developed, who can afford to keep up? Or rather can one afford not to?

In Human Is, a woman’s spouse changes from a cold, work-driven man to a kind, loving and attentive husband after a trip to an alien planet. He’s been replaced by a shapeshifting alien. But has he become more or less human as a result?

These stories were all originally published in SF magazines in the 1950s and concern themselves with the same themes as most other works of the period; cold-war paranoia, post-apocalyptic scenarios, aliens etc. But they also share the same concerns that Philip K. Dick addressed in his later stories and novels. What is the nature of reality? What makes us human? How can one distinguish the real from the counterfeit?

If you are already a fan, then you don’t need me to recommend this book to you. However, if you haven’t yet discovered the weird and disturbing world of Philip K. Dick, then my advice to you is: read this book, watch the TV series and let them blow your mind. Or as Timothy Leary might have put it: read on, tune in and freak out!

The Real Town Murders by Adam Roberts

September 6, 2017 - 6:26 pm No Comments

The Real-Town Murders by Adam Roberts

Published by Gollancz on 24th August 2017

230 pages

Reviewed by Chris Stocks

Alma is a private detective in a near-future England, where most people spend all their time in a fully immersive successor to the internet, known as Shine. However, Alma’s partner has been infected with a genetically-engineered lipid phage, which renders her bed-bound. Alma must treat her within a five-minute window every four hours or she will die. Consequently, Alma is one of the few people still living wholly in the real world.

Alma is assigned to a murder investigation at an automated car factory. A body has been found in the boot of a newly assembled car – though the CCTV footage shows there was no body present at any point in the assembly process.

She is then warned off the case by a government agent, who is subsequently killed. Now a suspect, Alma must go on the run, evade arrest, avoid the machinations of political conspirators and solve the impossible-seeming murder – as well as return home every four hours to treat her partner! This latter requirement adds an extra layer of dramatic tension to what might otherwise have turned into an extended series of chase sequences.

The near-future setting is convincing. The streets are almost deserted, as most people live in the Shine. Most pedestrians are somnambulant figures dressed in Mesh suits that take their bodies for walks to avoid muscular atrophy, whilst their minds are in the Shine – a high-tech version of The Wrong Trousers! AIs and nanotechnology are used to keep the country ticking over, but the overall impression is of decay. Indeed, the underlying political conspiracy involves different government factions who either want everyone to live permanently in the Shine or to tempt Shine users back to the real world.

This is an exciting, fast-paced and often darkly comic thriller, with all the twists and turns of an Alfred Hitchcock film, albeit in a futuristic setting. Indeed, there are deliberate nods to Hitchcock throughout. Some chapter titles allude to Hitchcock films – “Dial ‘C’ for Caring”, “Strangers on the Terrain”, for example. There are also more overt references. One passage features an attack by a swarm of small drones that could have come straight out of The Birds. Another is a tense chase scene set amongst the nanobot-sculpted faces of famous Britons (William Shakespeare, Winston Churchill etc.) that now adorn the White Cliffs of Dover – an allusion to the Mount Rushmore scene in North by North-West. The great director himself even makes a small cameo – as is only right and proper!

There are also numerous references to other works. Alma at one point gets into an amusing argument with the low-grade AI running her front door about whether it should admit her or not. This reminded me of a very similar scene from the Philip K. Dick novel, Ubik. I also spotted passing references to Catch 22, The Princess Bride and The Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy amongst others – and I’m sure I missed many more.

In summary, I really enjoyed Adam Robert’s latest novel and can thoroughly recommend it. It is an intriguing thriller as well as referencing enough Hitchcock films and SF classics to satisfy the discerning fan of both genres.

Xelee: Vengeance by Stephen Baxter

August 25, 2017 - 3:34 pm No Comments

Xeelee: Vengeance
Author: Stephen Baxter
Publisher: Gollancz
Page count/Size: 346pp/Trade paperback
Release date: 15th June 2017
Reviewer: Chris Stocks

Check out Xeelee: Vengeance by Stephen Baxter http://amzn.to/2wb1PQl
Note: This is the first of a duology from Stephen Baxter, the conclusion of his Xeelee Sequence of short stories and novels. Having not read any of the previous books, I have reviewed this book as a standalone novel.

It is 3646. Michael Poole, a wormhole-engineer and a young scion of the powerful Poole dynasty, is near Io, field-testing one gate of a new wormhole transit system, when suddenly a number of alien objects come through.

At first the intentions of the aliens appear unclear, but as they slowly make their way into the inner Solar System, their actions become more overtly hostile as they start attacking humanity’s many colonies and outposts before preparing a devastating attack on Earth itself.

Apparently, a million years in the future, at the centre of the galaxy, there is a statue of Michael Poole, commemorating his part in a million year war with the Xeelee. In a literary cross between The Terminator and Independence Day, the Xeelee have used the wormhole to travel back in time to attempt to kill Michael Poole, wipe out pesky humanity and erase the war from history.

Despite initial misgivings, Michael is forced to become involved in the unfolding events. He pursues the Xeelee across the solar system, accompanied by the outspoken, anarchic and impulsive pilot, Nicola Emry. On Earth, he is aided (and occasionally thwarted) by his father and head of the family business, Harry, who seems more interested in manipulating the crisis for short term political and business advantage than stopping the aliens. He is also offered advice by Muriel, his long-dead mother, who has been re-created as a virtual simulation, and Gea, a centuries-old AI.

The action sweeps through the solar system as Michael returns to Earth, pursues the Xeelee to Venus and then to the interior of the Sun(!), before battle is joined, first on Mars and then Earth at the novel’s climax . There Michael must decide whether to risk everything in a desperate gamble to save Earth from total destruction…

This is a fast-paced and exciting read, full of high-concept SF; wormhole technology, high-tech propulsion systems and super-weapons extrapolated from cutting-edge physics. There are also some interesting asides, such as the discovery of dark matter life-forms deep inside the Sun and the amusing idea of a virtual Barsoom, created in the Martian desert by gamers, being used to divert a Xeelee attack.

Personally I would have preferred a little more character development and more details about the 37th century society – though perhaps this can be found elsewhere in the Xeelee Sequence. In any case, it is perhaps a little churlish to make such minor complaints about what is otherwise an excellent read.

In the novel’s coda, Michael and Nicola prepare to leave Earth in order to follow the Xeelee to the galactic core, presumably the starting-point of the concluding novel. I look forward to reading it – though I may use the time before it is published to catch up on earlier Xeelee books.

The Vanishing Throne (Falconer 2) Elizabeth May

August 4, 2017 - 6:36 pm No Comments

The Vanishing Throne (The Falconer Trilogy: Book 2)
Author: Elizabeth May
Publisher: Gollancz
Page count: 362pp
Release date: 18th Nov 2015
(The third book The Fallen Lingdom was released 15th June 2017) Grab it now!


The first book in this series ‘The Falconer’ introduced us to a post-Regency world of early polite 19th Century society in Edinburgh, where Lady Alieana Kameron plays the game of ‘lady’ whilst tinkering with inventions.
On meeting pixie Derrick and Fae Kiaran, she discovers she is the ‘Falconer’ – the one who is strong enough to fight the fae – who wish to destroy the human world. There is much more to the first book (death, betrayal, love, passion, magic) but – spoilers darling!
Now, in the second book, having failed to save the world in a very Buffy-like manner – she is half dead and prisoner of Lonnrach – a baobhan sith – a vampire-like fae who holds Alieana in the faerie realm sucking her memories dry to find the information he needs to take a throne. The Vanishing Throne.
Time moves at a different pace in the Sith-bhruth – a week there can be months in the world of humans. But every day in her faerie prison is a day of torture – Lonnrach’s bite leaving physical and emotional scars, as his venom runs through her veins. But it is the guilt that consumes her, as much as the need to escape – she is shown visions of a desolate Edinburgh and knows she failed to save it.
Thankfully help comes in the form of Kiaran’s sister Aithinne.
There’s a nice little nod to The Princess Bride in here as Alieana escapes through the forests and rocks with Aithinne.
Though the imprisonment and escape is tense, emotional and intriguing, it was great to move on into Alieana’s normal world to see her reaction, and to see some old favourite characters.
Derrick the tiny winged pixie is particularly funny, as is Aithinne’s jubilant use of ‘normal’ swear words (implied at and stopped at just the right moment rather than expressed) and her sibling rivalry with Kiaran. Never mind Alieana’s love for Kiaran- a powerful fae she is only just getting to know.
When Derrick is drunk on honey he is very productive and at one point makes new clothes for Alieana- who huffs – to which Derrick replies “so just because the world ends you can’t dress fancy anymore?” Point made! I can almost feel Joss Whedon’s influence here, in reflect of sparkling dialogue at the least.
As for Kiaran, he has taught himself not to feel compassion after centuries in faerie, but seeing Alieana again stirs something deep inside, and when she is hurt at one point by another character his anger is cold. Bound from killing humans he still points out, “It’s incredible what the human body can endure without dying.” He’s your ‘Angel’ to Alieana’s Buffy; sexy, brooding, stalwart, strong – and lethal.
As a team, our heroes are formidable adversaries for Lonnrach, each character having different attributes to bring to the party; carrying on with the Buffy analogy – the ‘Scooby Gang’, each one valuable in their own right, with believable personalities to match.
With the gang and the surviving humans forming a truce with the pixies, we see an extraordinary underground city; glittering quartz domes, bee hive shaped houses, obsidian buildings, and food from everywhere in the world, which the pixies can create from nothing. But the sparkling fae disturb Alieana who still bears the scars of her torture.
However, for the reader, the city is awesome; you can smell, taste and feel this place. Stunning. Yet for Alieana there’s something missing that the real world has. Yet that real world is shattered and can’t be returned to right now. That won’t stop Alieana from trying to save the world that exists now – with a fairy killing gun (a blunderbus of her own design) her own innate powers and her team as back up.
This is a hero I can get on with. And here’s why;
“No – I don’t want balls (now now trader! not that type), or parties, or dresses again. No elevenhours or fourhours or being forced into marriage.
Those things all kept me caged …”
This is an awesome blend of Austen-era bad-assery heroines, magical steampunk, fae legend and urban fantasy.

Blackwing: The Raven’s Mark 1 Ed McDonald

July 30, 2017 - 6:38 pm No Comments

Blackwing
Author: Ed McDonald
Publisher: Gollancz
Page count: 435pp
Release Date: 27th July 2017
Online: @EdMcDonaldTFK, @Gollancz, @StevieFinegan, #Blackwing

Captain Ryhalt Galharrow has brought a crew of mercenaries/soldiers into the ‘Misery’ where sympathisers have fled. And it’s his job to get them back. On his arm, he has a tattoo of a raven, which materialises in an incredibly painful way into real life and allows him to talk to Crowfoot; one of the Nameless and his boss of sorts. Stuck in the Misery, Crowfoot suddenly Orders the Captain and his crew to head for Station Twelve to find a woman.
There are plenty of twists and turns on our journey and it is a blend of Grimdark fantasy, magic and a kind of post apocalyptic setting.
“Everything in the Misery is broken. Everything is wrong”.
Ah, the Misery. Difficult to explain without too many spoilers but I’ll give it my best shot.
If you’re into genre TV, for me it felt like a mix between the underside in Stranger Things with a blend of Purgatory from S7/8 of Supernatural.
It’s a dark, unforgiving place that feels ‘other’. And the creatures tha live there are deadly, weird as hell and dangerous.
Captain Galharrow, the narrator, has that rugged, worn, anti-hero vibe going on, tarnished by life. A perfect example is how he describes his band of followers;
“How I’d managed to pick up such worthless gutter rats I couldn’t recall. Out of brandy, twenty miles into the Misery and a troop of vermin at my heels.” Brilliant tone of voice full of sarcasm and nonchalance with a good dose of pessimism here.
One of my favourite of the Gang is Nenn; a female cutthroat with her nose torn off, a wooden one in its place. She chews black sap, swears, fights and is the right hand woman for the captain. I love the fact that McDonald points out quite early, she is not ‘with’ Galharrow in a romantic or sexual sense. In fact, he uses humour to effect as Galharrow tells the reader he’s not exactly handsome, his jaw had “certainly taken enough of a pounding” and though Nenn claims to get a ‘hellcat in the sack’ their relationship remains platonic. We have a strong, unique female character who is judged by her skills and qualities not her skill in the bedroom. Fabulous.
The banter and ribaldry between the crew is really entertaining and humorous, the dialogue sharp and witty. There is a penetrating darkness to the environment and the action that happens in the book, making this a gritty and sometimes cruel read. There’s plenty of bloodshed and a fair old body count to be had here! This is not for the faint hearted.

Just an additional note yo add is it’s a beautiful looking book to hold in your hands, the paper edges dyed black and a gloriously grim and mysterious cover.
A brilliant gripping debut that I suspect will garner awards in 2018.