Posts Tagged ‘Science Fiction’

THE HOUSE OF BINDING THORNS by Aliette de Bodard

August 20, 2017 - 7:17 am No Comments

THE HOUSE OF BINDING THORNS by Aliette de Bodard, Gollancz, £14.99 paperback, 351 pages. ISBN: 978-1-475-21260-2

Reviewed by Pauline Morgan.

So much literature, whether SF, fantasy or general fiction is set in an English-speaking world, or has its main characters coming from that background. A handful of writers are willing to step outside the box. Ian McDonald is one, having set novels on practically every continent with rarely a westerner in sight. Alastair Reynolds Blue Remembered Earth trilogy has the majority of characters originating from sub-Saharan Africa. From American authors, it is only the likes of Octavia Butler whose characters are non-white. Thus it is refreshing to have a novel set wholly in another country and whose characters do not speak English.

The House of Binding Thorns and the earlier novel The House of Shattered Wings, are set in a Paris devastated by a magical war. In this world, the Fallen were once angels and have immense power. In The House of Shattered Wings the conflict between the rival houses of Silverspires, headed by Lucifer Morningstar, and Hawthorn, headed by Asmodeus, ended with carnage and the diminution of Silverspires. The House of Binding Thorns centres on Hawthorn.

Asmodeus became the head of the house by staging a bloody coup twenty years previously. Now he reclaims Madelaine from Silverspires, where she took refuge at the height of the coup. As his dependent, she has his protection as long as she is loyal and useful. He sends her as part of a delegation to the Annamite, or dragon kingdom which lurks under the Seine. She has visited before but this time notices the decay and shabbiness. Too many of the inhabitants have become addicted to angel essence, a drug made from the bodies of the Fallen and which slowly destroys the user. Madelaine knows as she is an addict herself. Ngoc Bich, ruler of the underwater kingdom, is herself under siege from rebels and is willing to form an alliance with Hawthorn. To seal the pact, a marriage is to take place between Asmodeus and Thuan, prince of the dragons and former spy in Hawthorn, a factor which immediately produces tensions.

Threads from the past weave consequences that emerge in the complex situation. Ngoc Bich’s rebels are being aided by House Astragale. Ciseis, who should have been heir to Hawthorn except for the coup, has taken refuge there and gradually set plans in action to take back the house from Asmodeus.

Another consequence of the magical war amongst the Fallen was the need for workers. Many of these were conscripted in Vietnam, the original home of the dragons under the Seine. Many of them still live in Paris, many are Houseless (not under the protection of any of the Houses of the Fallen). They are poor, living amongst the ruins of the city. Among them is Berith, Fall-sister to Asmodeus. She lives alone – a House of one – with her lover Françoise (not her birth name as the Viet names are difficult to pronounce and they tend to adopt French ones). Françoise, like many of her compatriots, is able to use the magical khi currents that permeate the elements. She is also pregnant.

Phillipe is another Annamite who was once attached to Silverspires and who feels responsible for the death of the Fallen, Isobelle. He knows that the Fallen can be resurrected and has vowed to bring her back. Much of his part in this novel is directed towards this.

The plot is complex, weaving together a number of strands, most of which have their origin in politics and the inter-House conflicts. In the first novel, much of the focus was on Morningstar and the Fallen of House Silverspires. Here attention

gives a wider picture of this Paris, encompassing a different set of passions. It is beautifully constructed and written. The characters are multi-faceted but it is worth keeping in mind that the Fallen are dangerous and ruthless, but like the angel essence that can be made from their bodies, they are addictive. A worthy sequel to the award winning The House of Shattered Wings.

LUNA: NEW MOON by Ian McDonald

August 20, 2017 - 7:10 am No Comments

LUNA: NEW MOON by Ian McDonald. Gollancz, London. £9.99 paperback. 392 pages. ISBN: 978-1-473-20224-5

Reviewed by Pauline Morgan.

Of the current works of SF, they can probably be divided into three groups. There are the Earth based novels that frequently deal with near future such as Paul McAuley’s World Wide Web or future developments like catastrophe, evolution, politics or social change as expressed by Margaret Atwood in The Handmaid’s Tale. Then there are the novels in which travel between stars has been achieved and is common place. It doesn’t matter whether it is wormholes, folding space, alien technology or a bullshit drive. C.J. Cherryh’s Chanur novels are a good example. The third group accepts the current view of physics that faster than light travel is not achievable, that if we want to reach those tantalising planets discovered around distant stars we will either have to use generation ships, solve the problem of longevity or use cryo or stasis techniques. The alternative is to set the novel within the solar system. Ian McDonald’s latest novel, Luna: New Moon, takes this last option.

The moon is our nearest neighbour and would be the first place to look for extra-terrestrial mineral resources. In McDonald’s future the Australians did just that. The Mackenzie family developed a mining dynasty. Three other families carved out their niches in the corporate economy. Then Adriana Corta arrived, initially as an engineer for the Mackenzies but she saw an opportunity and exploited it. She built her own dynasty. As this novel opens, Adriana is approaching the end of her life but is determined that her family will have the alliances with the other families to carry on without her leadership.

Many readers will know the Robert Heinlein novel, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. That is exactly the sentiment McDonald builds on in Luna. He explores the problems involved in living and working in an unforgiving environment where a single mistake means death. Although the action revolves around the families and their sometimes bloody feuds, we also see them through the eyes of Marina Calzaghe. She is a relative newcomer to the moon. Most of the newcomers come for the prospect of earning good money, but as Marina discovers, there is as much poverty here as at home. Everything has to be paid for, including water and air. She is prepared to do anything in order to keep breathing. It is one of those jobs that sees her as a waiter at a party being held by the Corta family to celebrate Lucasinho’s new status as moonrunner. To become a moonrunner, you have to run twenty metres, naked, on the moon’s surface. Only the foolhardy and the rich do it. Some die.

At the party (a handy device to introduce the major players), Marina’s quick reactions save the life of Rafa Corta. As a result, she finds herself working for the family and involved in the interfamily rivalries in the role of loyal retainer. Though the Moon can be lethal she is not as ruthless as the people who try to tame her. Humans are unpredictable.

McDonald has created a totally believable setting and does it with a deft touch. Nowhere is the lecturing that less skilled writers might subject the reader to. From the start we are plunged into a fast, action packed novel. There is no time to breathe but at the same time this hostile world is brought vividly to life. There is a vast cast and initially the character list at the start of the book is a useful tool but they quickly become recognisable as each have their different traits and relationships fall into place. McDonald is also one of these writers who have looked into the future of political dynamics and largely left Europe and North America out of the equation. It is the citizens of other nations, China, Brazil, Australia, who have taken on the task of taming the moon, despite knowing that they will ultimately lose.

Already an award winner, this is a book for anyone who likes hard SF where the characterisation is central to the plot. Here, the main character is the Moon and she doesn’t tolerate the careless.

Adam Roberts Aquisition

May 28, 2017 - 1:16 pm No Comments

Adam Roberts is taking over the SF world – again.

Bringing you more news on his recent adventures is @Gollancz guru Marcus Gipps (@marcusgipps)

Hitchcock-inspired Adam Roberts (@arrroberts) novel and sequel to Gollancz

Gollancz is delighted to announce the acquisition of World rights to The Real-Town Murders and an untitled sequel from award-winning author Adam Roberts.

 

Gollancz Commissioning Editor, Marcus Gipps, bought the rights directly from Professor Roberts. The first book, which was inspired by a scene Alfred Hitchcock wanted to film for NORTH BY NORTHWEST but couldn’t manage, is a near-future conspiracy thriller told with Adam’s trademark wit and intelligence.

Alma is a private detective in a near-future England, a country desperately trying to tempt people away from the delights of Shine, the immersive successor to the internet. But most people are happy to spend their lives plugged in, and the country is decaying.

Alma’s partner is ill, and has to be treated without fail every 4 hours, a task that only Alma can do. If she misses the 5 minute window her lover will die. She is one of the few not to access the Shine. So when Alma is called to an automated car factory to be shown an impossible death and finds herself caught up in a political coup, she knows that getting too deep may leave her unable to get home.

What follows is a fast-paced Hitchcockian thriller as Alma evades arrest, digs into the conspiracy, and tries to work out how on earth a dead body appeared in the boot of a freshly-made car in a fully-automated factory.

Adam Roberts said: ‘I’m absolutely delighted to be publishing again with Gollancz: not only the best SF list in Britain, the best in the world. In this novel I’ve tried to play fair with an impossible murder and a couple of near-future science fiction technologies, but I wrote the whole book under the tutelary spirit of Alfred Hitchcock, and what I came to realise, as I was going along, is that he’s a much trickier customer than many people realise. I hope the SF puzzle and its working-out plays fair, for all that. I think it’s my most ingenious so far.’

Marcus Gipps said: ‘A new Adam Roberts project is always a delight, and this is a wonderful introduction to his work. We can’t wait for people to read this blend of Hitchcock and SF.’

The Real Town Murders | Adam Roberts | 24/08/207
HB £16.99 | Export TPB £13.99 | eBook

Adam Roberts is commonly described as one of the UK’s most important writers of SF, and has won or been shortlisted for all of the major awards. He is the author of numerous novels and literary parodies. He is Professor of 19th Century Literature at Royal Holloway, London University and has written a number of critical works on both SF and 19th Century poetry.

Gollancz is the oldest specialist SF & Fantasy publisher in the UK. Founded in 1927 and with a continuous SF publishing programme dating back to 1961, the imprint of the Orion Publishing Group is home to a galaxy of award-winning and bestselling authors. Through our long-running SF and Fantasy Masterworks programme, and major digital initiative the SF Gateway, Gollancz has one of the largest ranges of SF and Fantasy of any publisher in the world.

The Third Twin by Darren Speegle

April 28, 2017 - 5:36 am No Comments

The Third Twin by Darren Speegle

Published by Crystal Lake Publishing on 28th April 2017

213 pages

Reviewed by Yvonne Davies

When Barry Ocason received a travel mag with an advert for a trip to Bavarian Alps in the post, he did not expect to be drawn into a dangerous adventure. Recently divorced, travel writer Barry had a reputation of writing about the little unknown festivals held all over the world, but when he decided to take his teenage daughter Kristen, to the Spider Festival in Rio Tago, Brazil, he did not know that it would affect him and his family’s lives for ever. Kristen the sole survivor of twins was your typical teenage but she had a secret which came to light on the trip to Brazil. A disturbing stalker, only known as the Elephant Man, distressing dreams, and a fatal incident all eventually lead him to Bavaria and an old fascination involving experiments on twins were founded.
Whilst Barry was a worldwide traveller, in his heart he was a family man. Spending as much time as he could with his remaining daughter, he tried to take her on as many trips as he could. Like any loving father when his little girl was in danger his instinct kicked in. Due to his background, Barry relied a lot on his instincts and investigational skills. When he finally made the trip to Bavaria and came across others involved on the same journey, he took the lead in getting to the bottom of the mystery. Whilst he got on with the group, he was still much the loner.
This book had the element of suspense from the moment the magazine was dropped on the mat. Throughout the book there were hints of the experiments that were inflicted, and this was explained more with the dream sequences. The dreams also were used to explain the connection of the Third Twin. When the story shifted to Bavaria, Barry’s journey got darker and the pace was a lot a quicker. What helped was that the characters were hit with one occurrence after another and whether it was a natural or supernatural attack, made this a real page turner. You will get drawn into the mystery of the Third twin, this is a book that will getting you thinking and there were times when I wondered how much more tragedy could Barry handle before he cracked. Everything was explained in detail and descriptive writing made you feel as you were going on the journey with Barry. This is the 1st book I have read by this author and I really enjoyed it, with an unique storyline, I found this book a real page turner.

Remembering Vicky Stock

January 18, 2017 - 3:10 pm 3 Comments

Vicky Stock, Membership Secretary of BSFG (Birmingham SF Group) passed away quietly on Wed 11th January 2017. For years, she had fought the battle against cancer, and ‘fought’ is the right word, because Vicky was a fighter. Despite bad days, illness and exhaustion, Vicky took time to support many important fundraisers for Breast Cancer research, gave me advice during a difficult time and my own scare, and volunteered at St Mary’s Hospice. At the same time she worked for the BSFG continuing her role and sharing news and creating events on Facebook and Twitter. Vicky was relentless, but so much more than that; funny, warm, generous, committed, and probably not known by many, a talented writer.

A couple of of years ago I released a book to fundraise for Breast Cancer Campaign, a charity Vicky and I both agreed on. Written in her own words, here is the foreword that Vicky wrote for HER DARK VOICE.

Picture courtesy of Birmingham Mail

Foreword: Vicky Stock
The human body is an amazing thing. It can do the most amazingly brilliant stuff which you never imagined it could achieve. Childbirth, for instance. Or the way our brains work. The way everything interconnects. Our DNA…But what happens if, again rather miraculously, a cell gets an idea in its head that it wants to be immortal: it starts reproducing, again and again and again. Starts to take over the cells and tissue next to it. First we know about it is a lump or change or pain…miraculous, in a somewhat darker way with a much darker outcome. For that immortality will eventually take over our mortal body and kill it…

…Cancer. The darkest time of my short life so far. Plunged at the tender age of 30 into a battle with breast cancer, involving several surgeries removing and reconstructing, chemo- and radio-therapy, 12 months of the wonder-drug Herceptin, anticipating several years of a hormone drug…and then 18 months after diagnosis, plunged into that world all over again when I was diagnosed with my second breast cancer.

Like a lot of other cancer patients I have felt the strong urge to give something back, to get something positive out of this horrendous time, and for me this meant volunteering and fundraising. I started this just after diagnosis and my initial surgeries; and once my treatment finished in 2012 bar the ongoing hormone drugs and reconstructive work, I continued my work with charity fundraising. I have also been trained in delivering breast awareness sessions and have started a support group for younger people going through cancer, linking up with a national charity with the same aims.

There is a lot of need for support and someone to talk to at all stages of the treatment journey but particularly the point at the end of treatment is when quite often people seek out others who have experienced what they have gone through. A willing, empathetic ear to listen, understand at that time when everyone assumes you are ok and back to ‘normal’ – whatever that is. The various charities out there offer this to our starving souls desperate to recover but not knowing quite how. People feel themselves drawn to different charities. Some offer a helpline with professionals/peer support from people who have experienced the same cancer; or ‘buddies’ who will phone or visit to offer practical/emotional support; or online forums where you can vent your frustrations with others in a safe, monitored, anonymous arena.

Other survivors find themselves drawn to charities focusing on the treatments, research, science to try and find that miraculous cure, or stop it happening in the first place. Cancer can often be beaten back, putting the patient ‘in remission’ or as near cured as possible, but over you will always hang the threat of metastases. The word no cancer patient ever wants to hear. This means the initially mapped out careplan hasn’t worked. The speedy referrals, the mastectomy, the months of awful treatment and side effects, even the wonder drugs – it has none of it actually worked. The cancer has spread. Suddenly it is all very different. Now it is a case of how long can they keep you alive. A lot of current research is trying to find a ‘cure’ for this currently incurable spread which once started, can never be permanently halted. At the moment. But who knows in the future what these amazing scientists will discover?

Vicky Stock

 

Please consider Vicky’s words, remember her, and help with the various cancer charities that are out there. Or visit a patient, or spread the word. Knowledge is power.

 

Vicky, you will be greatly missed.

Theresa X