Posts Tagged ‘SF’

Something Coming Through

February 3, 2016 - 4:05 pm No Comments

Something Coming Through
Author: Paul McAuley
Publisher: Gollancz
Page count: 383pp (paperback)
Release date: 14th Jan 2016
reviewed by Chris Amies

Paul McAuley’s latest novel tells of an Earth that has been contacted by aliens called the Jackaroo. Chloe, working for an organisation called Disruption Theory in London, is tracking weird phenomena relating to the aliens and happens upon a young boy who is drawing strangely hypnotic structures. Meanwhile on the planet Mangala, detective Vic Gayle is investigating a murder.

Although the two converging strands of this novel involve murder on a distant world, gangsters and dangerous robotic lifeforms, there is a slowness to this narrative that allows us to admire the scenery. The story starts in a London that feels like the present day only a present day with alien coral reefs and avatars. Change has come in the wake of a briefcase nuke detonated in Trafalgar Square. Now there are people who appear to be conduits for the aliens, but what the aliens want is another matter. As McAuley says, “… the way that technology has become a cargo cult that is changing us in ways we can neither predict nor, as yet, fully understand.” Not everyone is happy with the new order: an organisation called the Human Decency League – something like UKIP – is ranged against the Jackaroo and has Disruption Theory in their sights.

Chloe is an intriguing character – streetwise and almost too cynical for her young age but no cliche. The second story set on Mangala infuriated me by its setting – I made a note ‘How redshifted was my valley’ and this stuck with me: McAuley describes the planet as like ‘an alternate Earth or the kind of fictional country where action films … were staged’, with alien avatars and biochines (biological+machines). Investigator Gayle comes across as something like Jack Regan from ‘The Sweeney’ and the whole is reminiscent of a Western both set and made in the 1970s and with gangsters, bent cops, poverty and drugs – because they can just pile through a wormhole along with the builders of fast food restaurants and supermarkets. There are alien drugs and dealing with their effects is a full-time job for the cops on Mangala. If Cormac McCarthy were to set a novel in space it could resemble this. The alien entity that seems to be influencing young Farhad and his sister Rana is called Ugly Chicken – a reference to Howard Waldrop’s story? The phrase “Easy Travel to Other Planets” also gets used a few times and is the title of a novel by American novelist Ted Mooney and which isn’t really about space travel. The Jackaroo themselves are enigmatic and their gifts to humankind ambivalent.

There is a sequel named “Into Everywhere.” It will be interesting to see how the mystery of the Jackaroo and what they want – and what happened to the races they contacted before they got to Earth – develops.

Drone

February 2, 2016 - 1:20 pm No Comments

Drone by Jackson Dean Chase
Published on 10th April 2015
Publisher: Jackson Dean Chase Inc
Page count: 202 page.

I was given this book in exchange for a honest review.
As soon as you start reading this book you are transported into a dystopian world. Vikka, a teenage girl is a Drone ( lower class). The drones are bred to work for the elite in their factories, wearing drab clothing, struggling to find enough food and always worrying about the oxygen wither by being able to pay for it in their apartments or by wearing a tank whilst out and about.
To get extra money Drones are able to sell limbs or organs to the elite. Vikka’s mom had to do this her dad lost his legs due to a bomb planted by the revolution.
At the start of the story Vikka is on her way to sell her organs to get some money to pay their oxygen bill, but travelling in the worse area of the city gets her in to trouble. Enter elite boy Zan who father is the leader of the government who just happened to be cruising round this area for fun. He sees Vikka in trouble and comes to the rescue.
After rescuing her he takes her to a clinic in the posher end of town to donate her organs, but unbeknown to both of them she ends up involved in a secret genetic experiment to turn her into a super human.
The decision she makes results in her joining up with the most unlikely characters to get to the bottom of the trouble.
The city reminds me of the colony in Total Recall, and although both stories have the revolution that is were the comparison stops. This is a story about love, betrayal and survival. The character’s have their own identity and Vikka is your typical teenage and at times you are wondering why she did not think through her actions,but you can feel that she has a heart of gold and wants to protect her family and friends. Whilst you are reading this book you will have your favourite one of the group.
The book will keep you interested and I was surprised when I finished this book so quickly. It does finish on a cliffhanger but there is a book 2.
A nice finish is that there is also a short story entitled Hard times in Dronetown, which tells the story of Rylee who has a small part in Drone

The Sand Men

January 27, 2016 - 2:00 pm No Comments

The Sand Men
Author: Christopher Fowler
Publisher: Solaris
Page count: 334pp
Release date: 2015
reviewed by Chris Amies

Lea follows her husband Roy from Chiswick to Dubai, where Roy is working on a building project designed to bring in wealthy holidaymakers. With their 15-year-old daughter Cara they move to a gated community, where there is little for journalist Lea to actually do. Determined to write about things other than shopping and celebrity she begins to confront the nature of the place she must now call home. Sure enough, there have been mysterious deaths. People vanish.

If it sounds like something written by JG Ballard, the resemblance is intentional. Fowler has referred to this novel as his Ballard tribute and the epigraph is from Ballard’s “Super-Cannes.” If you wanted a symbol of first-world alienation this would be your first port of call: a wealthy elite rich on oil revenues, a servant class of expatriate experts, wives kept at home (because practically everyone is straight, and married), and a shadow army of underpaid workers mostly from India and the Philippines, whose lives and deaths are largely unreported – “the pleasures of the few, built on the burdens of the many”. It is possible that his protagonist is an unreliable narrator, finding a conspiracy where there isn’t one – but then if someone says ‘there is no conspiracy,’ is this because they are part of it? Or because there really isn’t one? The refrain “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you” is aired at least once. That I didn’t buy her perception of the conspiracy (despite the suspiciously gendered nature – for the 21st century – of the project) doesn’t mean it didn’t exist, either. Appropriately, Dreamworld is already a white elephant, there is doubt that it will be completed or be a commercial success and it might exist “one day only as a memory,” the desert reclaiming it rather than the other way about.

‘The Sand Men’ reads like part JG Ballard, part Brave New World. Then there are the hints at a further darkness underlying: “there were dark corners here” and a need to appease the land. It could in fairness have done with a bit of editing – 46 missing people plus the three you already knew about is 49, not 46 – and the nature of the Sand Men is unexplored, deliberate ambiguity left at the end. In a way if he’d stuck closer to what actually goes on in the Middle East it might have come across as angrier, but would that necessarily be a good thing? This would bear comparison with Le Carre’s ‘Constant Gardener’ about the iniquities of drug companies in Africa, and Torday’s ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’ which stitched up the venality of Western interests in the Gulf (the film however missed the point entirely). As it is ‘The Sand Men’ is a departure for Fowler who normally writes about London – and I suspect he will return there.

Children of Time

December 29, 2015 - 3:48 pm No Comments

CHILDREN OF TIME by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Tor / 608 pgs / £18.99 hardback / ISBN 978-1447273288
Reviewed by Carol Goodwin

For those of you who are unfamiliar with his work, Adrian Tchaikovsky has written, amongst other things the well-regarded 10-volume Shadows of the Apt series which is a fantasy where different races of people have the aspects/abilities of real insects. His new book CHILDREN OF TIME is Science Fiction but the author’s fascination with arthropods clearly was the inspiration behind this story as well.
Two thousand years after human civilisation tore itself apart in civil war, the ark ship Gilgamesh and its cargo of hibernating humans is desperately trying to find a new home. Earth is poisoned, damaged and dying. Patched together from bits and pieces of salvaged old technology that present humanity cannot replicate, the ship is heading for Kern’s World. This planet was terraformed and seeded with life in the final days of the old civilisation. What they do not know is that the Kern’s World project was also an attempt at species uplift. The world has been seeded with a nanovirus which was designed to accelerate the evolution of intelligence in the offspring of infected individuals. The original aim had been to work with monkeys but in the chaos of the civil war, the launch was sabotaged and only the virus is safely deployed. On the planet the virus infects the available fauna. In particular, the hunting spider, Portia labiata has the mental capacity and flexible behaviour that allows the virus to work most effectively.
The story then alternates between the humans on the failing ship and the developing spider civilisation as both species head towards a confrontation which will decide which of the “Children of Earth” will inherit this new world. The story rattles along at a good pace and kept my interest all the way through.
I enjoyed this book immensely. The spiders are well devised so that although they are clearly “alien” (ie not human) they are still sympathetic. I particularly liked that their approach to problems and their technology is clearly influenced by their non-human biology so it is different to humans. The author has succeeded admirably in a difficult task of making what many people see as scary into something fascinating instead. It is very refreshing to see them not just as the monster in a story. The story of their progression reminded me of an old favourite of mine, John Brunner’s THE CRUCIBLE OF TIME in which an alien race evolves from primitives into starfarers.
The other main strand of the story, of the humans confined to the decaying spaceship is also well written, as we see them divide into factions as their resources dwindle and the technology fails. As with the spiders, they are interesting as characters and the plot feels credible. The author cleverly shows the similarities and differences between the two species so that towards the end I found myself wanting both species to “win” even as they head towards an inevitable confrontation. Unless you are an arachnophobe, I would definitely recommend this book.
(Review copy kindly donated by Pan Macmillan Tor)

War of the Worlds is back

December 2, 2015 - 12:05 pm No Comments

Gollancz are delighted to share the news that they’re publishing a sequel to one of the most famous and influential SF books ever – The War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells. Massacre of Mankind is written by the multi-award-winning co-author of The Long Earth novels with Terry Pratchett, Stephen Baxter.

scifi-books-war-of-the-worlds-hg-wells

First published in 1897,The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells has been both popular (having never gone out of print) and influential, spawning half a dozen feature films, radio dramas, a record album, various comic book adaptations, and a television series.

In Stephen Baxter’s terrifying sequel, set in late 1920s London, the Martians return, and the war begins again. But the aliens do not repeat the mistakes of their last invasion. They know how they lost last time. They target Britain first, since we resisted them last time. The massacre of mankind has begun.

Steve Baxter said: “HG Wells is the daddy of modern SF. He drew on deep traditions, for instance of scientific horror dating back to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and fantastic voyages such as Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726). And he had important near-contemporaries such as Jules Verne. But Wells did more than any other writer to shape the form and themes of modern science fiction, and indeed through his wider work exerted a profound influence on the history of the twentieth century. Now it’s an honour for me to celebrate his enduring imaginative legacy, more than a hundred and fifty years after his birth.”

The Massacre of Mankind will be published in hardback, £20, and eBook, £19.99, on the 19th January 2017.

Please find more information attached. It would be excellent if you could help us share the news on your blogs and social media channels.

All the best,

Sophie

Sophie Calder
Publicity Manager
Gollancz
The Orion Publishing Group