Monday, 16 April 2018

The Mermaid's Singing by Val McDermid

I'll be honest, I've been aware of Val McDermid and her books for probably as long as she has been writing them. Her Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series has been one of those I'll ' probably get round to one day'.

That all changed last year when I read a tweet by Val about losing a reader (I'm not going into details here but the reasoning was so ridiculous that really, that reader was probably no great loss). I guess the tweet angered me a little so I decided to redress the balance and have a look at this series.

The first book to feature profiler Tony Hill and D I Carol Jordan is The Mermaid's Singing and, to be fair, it is a brutal piece at times. In the Northern City of Bradfield men are being abducted and then murdered, using medieval style torture machines. The bodies are then dumped in various parts of the city's gay community. The police are at a loss and that is where Dr Hill and his profiling come in.

As I mentioned earlier, this story is brutal at times and the torture devices will make many men squirm but at no point did the violence feel gratuitous. Getting to know the characters of Hill and Jordan was nicely done - the balance of police work and private time, the, I guess obligatory, will they/won't they scenario was handled in a way that kept this reader interested.

And as for the killer, well, that kept me guessing right up to the reveal and I think it's fair to say I never saw that coming!

So, an enjoyable, if unsettling, read and one I'm glad I finally got around to. I may be 20 odd years late to the party but now I'm here, I'm here for the duration - and very much looking forward to it.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

If You Go Down To The Woods by Seth C Adams

This reminded me so much of Stephen King's IT at times it was almost like playing 'IT Bingo' (patent pendingūüėā).

Outsider kid saves fat kid from beating by bully and henchmen - check

Fat kid introduces Outsider to his coloured friend, also meets 'love internet's - check

Form a gang and hang out together in the woods - check

Gang are bullied - check

Gang have a run in with a supernatural seeming dude, The Collector - check...

I could go on but I'm sure you get my drift. That is not to say I didn't enjoy the book, I really did and I guess that's because it is so well-written. Indeed, the first half of the story, before things kick off is one of the best 'coming of age' pieces I've read in a long while.

After that though, it all gets very busy indeed. The gang find an abandoned car in the woods, in the front, $10 million, in the trunk/boot a dead body.
They hide the money until they can decide what to do with it and at this point The Collector turns up in his long coat and fedora giving them a deadline. "Get me my money or else".

Throw in an out of town gangster, his henchman and a token bent sheriff and things really do not go well for the kids.

A steady start that really rattles up the gears in the second half.

I'm just wondering if the author will resist the temptation to reunite The Outsiders 27 years later to face down The Collector one final time? I hope not, this story deserves to be left where it is, the characters have been through enough in this one long summer


Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Exciting Acquisition News From Gollancz

So, this popped up in my inbox today and I just had to share it with you.

Gollancz acquires novel version of THE QUANDERHORN XPERIMENTATIONS, a new Radio 4 series from the creators of Red Dwarf and 2point4children

Marcus Gipps, Gollancz Commissioning Editor, has acquired World All Language rights to a new novel from Red Dwarf co-creator Rob Grant and 2point4children creator Andrew Marshall.

THE QUANDERHORN XPERIMENTATIONS is a full length novel springing and expanded from the soon-to-be-broadcast six-part Radio 4 series of the same name. The series will be broadcast alongside the release of the book and features a stellar cast of comedy performers.

England, 1952. Churchill is Prime Minister for the last time. Rationing is still in force. All music sounds like the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. People like living in 1952: it's familiar and reassuring, and Britain knows its place in the world. Few have noticed it's been 1952 for the past 65 years.

Meet Professor Quanderhorn; a brilliant maverick scientific genius who has absolutely no moral compass. Assisted by a motley crew of outcasts – a recovering amnesiac, a brilliant scientist with a half-clockwork brain, a captured Martian prisoner adapting a little too well to English life, the professor’s part-insect “son” (reputedly ‘a major breakthrough in Artificial Stupidity’), and a rather sinister janitor – he’ll save the world. Even if he destroys it in the process. With his Dangerous Giant Space Laser, High Rise Farm, Invisible Robot and Fleets of Monkey-Driven Lorries, he's not afraid to push the boundaries of science to their very limit. And far, far beyond …
Marcus Gipps said: “I’ve long been a fan of Andrew and Rob’s work, and Gollancz was the proud publisher of two of Rob’s earlier, brilliant novels, so it’s great to welcome them home. QX is witty, silly, clever and fun, and having spent a day at the recording I know it’s going to be a hit both on radio and in print.”

Rob /Andrew said: “We’re excited to be at Gollancz – the home of British science fiction. We hope Quanderhorn will thrill and delight in equal measure. It’s as if aliens had horrifically grafted John Wyndham onto P.G. Wodehouse and made the monstrous outcome write a book. We have to go now – we’re not really allowed to use these crayons.”

THE QUANDERHORN XPERIMENTATIONS will be published in hardback, ebook and audio reading alongside the radio broadcast, June 2018.

Rob Grant is the co-creator of Red Dwarf and was head writer of Spitting Image. His previous books include Red Dwarf novels, Fat and Incompetnce.
Andrew Marshall wrote and sometimes produced the comedies 2point4children, Dad, Health & Efficiency and the supernatural drama Strange for the BBC.
The Authors

It certainly sounds, to me at least, like a whole lot of fun and certainly something I shall be keeping an eye out for. What about you?

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 Vilhj√°lmsson 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 HR√ćMLAND 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 Vilhj√°lmsson is an Icelandic author who lives in Reykjav√≠k. 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, Fur√įus√∂gur (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