Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Smoke Eaters by Sean Grigsby

The basic premise for Smoke Eaters (out now from Angry Robot) is an enticing one - Fire Fighters vs Dragons. I always like it when an author does something a bit different with genre favourites and fighting fire with firemen certainly does that.

The setting is America, a century from now and many parts of it are uninhabitable due to the rise of dragons (and the reason the dragons are up and about actually makes a lot of sense, it's to do with sleep cycles). Our hero is Cole Brannigan, a fireman just days away from retirement. On a callout to a fire he comes face to face with a dragon and, in trying to rescue his team finds he is one of the few not affected by dragon smoke.

This quickly leads to him waving goodbye to his retirement plans and being conscripted into the titular Smoke Eaters, the guys and gals with all the best toys, whose job is to tackle the dragons and the fires they cause. Seeing Cole go from being a seasoned veteran to becoming a rookie recruit is handled well. He knows his stuff but quickly has to learn his place.

Now, if it were just fire fighters v dragons it would probably be enough but, just to add an extra arm to the story there is trouble with City Hall and a corrupt mayor who is happy to line his own pockets while putting the lives of countless civilians at risk.

One thing that really stands out, for me, is the technical side of the story. Grigsby is himself a fire fighter and, obviously, he puts a lot of what he knows into the fire fighting scenes but it is done in a way that is understandable for the reader without leaving them to get bogged down in technical jargon.

So, there are dragons galore, of various shapes and sizes (and the Boss Level dragon towards the end is a phenomenal creation) on one side, City Hall on the other but at least with those Brannigan has a chance of winning the battle, even if it is the slimmest of slim chances. There is one battle he will never win though... just wait until you meet the formidable Mrs. Brannigan.

I know it's only March but this has to be a contender for Book of the Year. An excellent debut by an author I will certainly be keeping an eye on.

Highly Recommended

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Today's Book Post From Sean Grigsby and Angry Robot

So, the first post I saw on Facebook when I switched on my phone was this one. 

"Looks promising" thinks I.

So, when I get up and go see what the Postie has delivered, you can understand I was chuffed to find... 

And so I started reading...

Believe me, if the first chapter is anything to go by, this is looking to be something a bit special.

Review will follow when I've finished it.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Shannara - For The Last Time

Way back in the swirling mists of time (well, sometime back in the late 70s/early 80s) I discovered The Lord of the Rings and started my lifelong (from that point) love of Fantasy Fiction. One of the early series I started on around that time was Shannara and my love/hate relationship with these books is one thing I have never quite got my head round.

Back to the very beginning...

A young Ebookwyrm browsing the fantasy section at WH Smith spots the cover of Sword of Shannara, complete with elf, dwarf and village boy, and is hooked. This sounds very much like Lord of Rings - and therein lies the problem. It wasn't 'like' LotR it was an absolute rip off of it. I could not bring myself to finish it, and all these years later still haven't. But the very beginning, the first few chapters where Allanon the Druid turns up in Shady Vale looking for a Shannara descendant was wonderful, the rest of it though... awful.

Then, a couple of years later, same young chap, a tad older, same book dept, spots Elfstones of Shannara. Should have known better but, again, the cover hooked me. And, unlike Sword, Elfstones was wonderful, and is still one of my favourite books of all time.

That was followed by Wishsong of Shannara, another better of a book and the end of my journeying in that land.

Yeah, right... almost 40 years later there have been 28 novels in this world. Most I have looked at, some I've loved (Scions of Shannara series especially) while others have been poor, in my opinion.

The thing is though, despite my indifference, this is the one series where I feel most attached to the history and the land. I don't need to keep referring back to the map because I know where everywhere is. Through these books I feel I have walked the paths of this land. And for that I can only tip my hat to author Terry Brooks and say "Well done Sir".

And now Brooks brings us to the Endgame, the final days of Shannara with his four book series The Fall of Shannara, starting with book 1 The Black Elfstone. After this it is all over (there may be still tales to tell from 'history' but this series marks what I guess is the final resolution of Brooks vision.

And this makes me a little sad I guess but I will stick with this series as I have to know how things turn out. Thankfully, after starting it yesterday, it promises to be one of the better ones.

We'll see...

Monday, 12 February 2018

Exciting Press Release From Gollancz

Slush Pile Success!

Assistant Editor snatches brilliant Icelandic fantasy debut from open submissions

Gollancz, an imprint of the Orion Publishing Group, is delighted to announce the acquisition of a brilliant, genre-defining fantasy duology by debut author Alexander Dan Vilhjálmsson. SHADOWS OF THE SHORT DAYS, is a strikingly original Icelandic debut set in a strangely familiar alternate Reykjavík where wild and industrialised magic meet. Perfect for fans of China Miéville, Lev Grossman and Paulo Bacigalupi, this is a strange and wonderful tale of damaged characters forging a revolution against an oppressive government. Alexander Dan Vilhjálmsson is a fantastic new voice in the genre that will speak to a new generation of readers.

Gollancz assistant editor, Craig Leyenaar, acquired World Rights to two novels from Jennifer Jackson of the Donald Maas Literary Agency.

Alexander Dan Vilhjálmsson said: ‘Signing with Gollancz and Jennifer Jackson has been an incredible turn of events for me. When I sent the manuscript in to the open submission I had absolutely zero expectations – it’s been a daydream come true. I am humbled and honoured to have signed not one but two books of the HRÍMLAND SAGA with Gollancz. I look forward to working with Craig and the incredible team at Gollancz on these weird Icelandic novels.’

Craig Leyenaar said: ‘It’s an absolute dream to bring Alexander to the list.  His writing instantly stood out as incredibly original and special. It’s haunting, compelling and beautifully written – and I know readers will devour such a striking world and mythology.’  

Jennifer Jackson said: ‘I knew when I started reading Alexander's tale of an alternate Iceland that this was a journey I wanted to take! I'm so pleased he's found a home with Gollancz and that Craig and his team will bring this bold new talent to readers.’

Alexander Dan Vilhjálmsson is an Icelandic author who lives in Reykjavík. SHADOWS OF THE SHORT DAYS is his first novel. He writes in both Icelandic and English as the story requires, translating back and forth as necessary, and is the founder and editor of Iceland's first SFF magazine, Furðusögur (Weird Stories). Alexander is also the vocalist and lyricist for Icelandic black metal band Carpe Noctem.

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.

SHADOWS OF THE SHORT DAYS | Alexander Dan | February 2019
Hardcover £14.99 | Export Trade Paperback £12.99 | eBook £7.99

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Paris Adrift by E J Swift

Running away to Paris Hallie finds herself working at Millie's Bar. While there she discovers an 'anomaly' in the Keg Room that leads her to different times in past and future Paris where she will face her challenges and maybe save the world.

I'll be honest, the first thing that drew me to this book was the cover art, a gorgeous piece that is worth owning the book for in itself. Finding it was a novel of Time-Travel? Extra bonus. And so I started reading...

And found a story so absorbing and beautifully written it did the artwork proud. There is some good SF style weirdness here (the talking bird being a good example) but it did, for the most part, feel more like The Time Traveller's Wife, more likely to be found in the General Fiction section than in Genre. But if that means more people get to read it then I guess that's fine with me.

The different jaunts into the Paris timeline each came across as a mini adventure in a way and all felt 'real' but I was always glad to get back to 'Paris Now' just because I loved Millie's Bar, it's staff and the whole life there was there.

I can gladly say Paris Adrift has quickly become one of my favourite books of recent years and I thank Rebellion Publishing for both providing me with a review copy and inviting me to be part of the Blog Tour. Please take time to visit the other posts on the Tour

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Toys Talking by Leanne Shapton

I'm often on the lookout for books for my littlest niece and, at first glance this would have been ideal. The premise is simple enough - on one side of the page is a (rather lovely) drawing of a child's toy and on the other is what, I guess, is what the author imagines the toy is thinking.

A lovely idea, but on reading I feel the book would be better titled 'Your Toys Are Depressed And On The Verge Of Forming A Suicide Death Cult'

Seriously, I could not believe what I was reading, it was terrible. No child should think their precious toys could think like this.

A terrible book that is only saved by the illustrations - 1/5* (and you can take that as 1 out of 5 stars or 1 fifth of a star both would be fair)

Monday, 29 January 2018

Dead Lions by Mick Herron

Dead Lions is the second in the series of Spy Thrillers featuring Jackson Lamb and his team of 'career screw-ups from Slough House.

This story revolves around the murder of a former operative and the arrival of a Russian 'buisnessman' to, potentially, be turned by MI5.

I read the first in the series 'Slow Horses' last week and really enjoyed it but, to be honest, this was nowhere near as good. It started out well enough, the murdered ex spy strand hooked me in early on but after a while it just got ridiculous. It almost felt as if someone e else had taken over writing duties or the author just lost interest.

As in the first book the team loses a member and while the first one was a surprise this time around it felt more like just something to keep the cast list rolling.

Also, the characters. Where in Slow Horses the idea of a team of career screw-ups seemed fresh here they didn't so much. Roddy Ho, the computer whizz kid came across, to me, as particularly vindictive and nasty, once again using (or at least planning on using) his skills to ruin other people's lives by, for example, altering their credit scores, personal details, criminal records etc just because he can.

And, as for Jackson Lamb himself, what seemed fun and interesting in SH felt more tedious and boring here.

The last 1/4 of the book, where all got resolved was often ridiculous and a struggle to finish.

A very disappointing 1/5*