Wednesday 31 August 2011

NEWS: Deja Review

Hail Mighty Readers,
Here's this months round up of previously reviewed titles that have either been released in PB format or have undergone new binding/artwork. (Covers in review may differ from current incarnation.)

This month you'll find:
04/08/11 ANDERSON, Kevin and HERBERT, Brian - Hellhole
04/08/11 McCAFFREY, Todd - Dragongirl
11/08/11 RANKIN, Robert - The Japanese Devil Fish Girl and Other Unnatural Collections
18/08/11 MORAN, Michelle - Madame Tussaud

If we've missed one please let us know,


HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: The Armour of Achilles - Glyn Iliffe

Release Date: 08/07/11


The siege of Troy is in its ninth year.

The Greeks, with Achilles at their head, have inflicted numerous defeats on the Trojans, but Troy itself still stands. When

Agamemnon is threatened with mutiny by a disillusioned army wanting to return home he changes his tactics by ordering a series of attacks on the allies of Troy, thus depriving the city of reinforcements, trade and supplies. But even this cannot draw the Trojans out from behind their walls.

Odysseus, Eperitus and their men have become hardened soldiers. Tired and bitter about the war, Odysseus just wants to return home to his island Kingdom of Ithaca. But while Agammenon is still determined to revenge himself upon Troy for the theft of Helen by Paris, then Odysseus is held by the oath that he himself created. Eperitus is tormented by his own oath: sworn to protect the very man who murdered his daughter.

As the war continues, Odysseus realises that sheer numbers will never overwhelm Tory, if he is ever to return home, then he must use cunning and guile to bring about its downfall . . .


To be honest I read the David Gemmell telling of the Trojan War and was very impressed with his writing style, so for me, an author has a lot to live up to when presenting a series based on the same source material if they’re going to make headway with myself as a reader.

What Glyn’s writing does is take the key elements and brings it to the modern audience through the eyes of Epiretus who works wonderfully well. Add to this a cracking overall arc and an author who believes in working the story up so that the reader gets not only the glory but the true horror of this type of battlefield and this was a story that overall was very impressive. Finally add to the mix a great sense of pace which when backed with Iliffe’s own writing style made this a book to stand out. I’ll eagerly await future instalments.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Many Bloody Returns - Ed. Charlaine Harris, Toni LP Kelner

Release Date: 31/07/11


Charlaine Harris (the Sookie Stackhouse novels) and Toni L.P. Kelner (the Laura Fleming mysteries) have gathered together another 11 writers with serious vamp credentials to provide a baker's dozen tales. Meet Sookie Stackhouse, who, as the only non-vampire at a 'Dracula's birthday ball' soon finds that's she's the one on the menu, and Harry Dresden, who drops by a role-playing game to find himself dealing with deadly party crashers. In P.N. Elrod's 'Grave-Robbed', which mixes pathos and comedy, vampire PI Jack Fleming busts a phony medium mid-seance Tanya Huff's 'Blood Wrapped' has Henry Fitzroy searching for the ideal gift for a vampire's 40th mixing with his pursuit of a human kidnapper. And Christopher Golden takes birthdays to heart in his poignant coming-of-age story 'The Mournful Cry of Owls'.


As many know, compendiums are one of the joys of my reading existence. The reason for this is that when you get a set of tales from the talent of a genre you know that it’s a great way to try authors that you’ve heard of but haven’t tried yet as well as getting short stories from firm favourites. It’s a win win all round and for me, a great price to not have to worry about in case some of the authors aren’t to your personal taste.

This title edited by Charlaine and Toni is a wonderful new addition to those that have gone before and with a whole host of authors like Kelley Armstrong, Jim Butcher as well as Christopher Golden and Rachel Caine, you know that the pleasure is going to be turned up to 11. Great stuff.

Tuesday 30 August 2011

URBAN FANTASY ROMANCE REVIEW: Demonica 1: Pleasure Unbound - Larissa Ione

Release Date: 30/08/11


Tayla Mancuso is a demon-slayer who hungers for sensual pleasure - but fears it will always be denied her. Until she lands in a hospital run by demons in disguise, and the head doctor, Eidolon, makes her body burn with unshakable desire. But to prove her ultimate loyalty to her peers, she must betray the surgeon who saved her life.Eidolon cannot resist this fiery, dangerous woman who fills him with both rage and passion. Not only is she his enemy, but she could very well be the hunter who has been preying upon his people. Torn between his need for the truth and his quest to find his perfect mate before a horrific transformation claims him forever, Eidolon will dare the unthinkable - and let Tayla possess him, body and soul . . .


I tend to read a lot of Urban fantasy Romance titles from authors like Sherrilyn Kenyon, JR Ward and of course Christine Feehan to name a few, so I’m always apprehensive when I get a title from an author I’m not too familiar with. What Larissa has done is create a world where there’s something for fans of all paranormal races where the key ingredient is romance with dashes of danger, action and peril which makes this a pretty unique title in itself as it doesn’t like to stick to one particular race.

Finally add a revamp (if you’ll excuse the phrasing) of the cover and this title is set to enthral a whole host of readers who missed its original release as Pleasure Unbound rises like the proverbial phoenix set to inflame many a reader with passion for this spectacular author.

URBAN FANTASY ROMANCE REVIEW: Arcan Society 12: Canyon's of Night - Jayne Ann Krentz

Release Date: 30/08/11


Charlotte Enright, owner of a small antiques shop called Looking Glass Antiques on Rainshadow Island, and Slade Attridge, the community's new chief of police, both have something in common: they possess strong paranormal talents. They met several years ago when they were in their teens spending the summer on the island. Slade saved Charlotte from a gang of drunken toughs, but then at the end of the summer Slade and Charlotte went their separate ways and started their adult lives. Now, fifteen years later, they have both been drawn back to Rainshadow Island. They will discover the adult passion they have for each other and start to explore some of the mysteries of the forbidden section of the island known only as the Preserve.


Jayne Ann Krentz has to be one of the busiest writers in the genre as to a certain extent it feels that theres a new book out every few months, yet that said, they all have something different for the fans, whether it’s the lead characters or the plotline and something very dark and mysterious that attracts the reader to the series.

As usual, the adventure leads to romance, complications and new discoveries as the principle protagonist keeps takes series fans to the island of Rainshadow which many have yearned to visit. All in well written, cleverly plotted and a decent enough overall arc.

Monday 29 August 2011

INTERVIEW: Alison Goodman

Becoming a published author is the dream of many but after that initial hit of success with your first book, many start to learn the tricks to surviving in the writing world. Here we chat to friend of the blog Alison Goodman now that she has a few more titles under her belt to discover how life has changed, what tips she’s picked up and what she’d recommend to anyone else starting out…

Falcata Times: How would you say that your perspective has changed about selling your own work with multiple novels under your belt?

Alison Goodman: With four books now under my belt, and with all the rapid changes that are occurring in the publishing industry with the rise of the e-book, I believe more than ever that an author needs to create a marketing strategy for their career that does not rely solely on the resources of their publishing house. There are a lot of opportunities opening up for writers who can ride the wave of change.

FT: How would you sell yourself as an author?

AG: I would say I am a maximum engagement author. I write in a way that takes my reader straight into the middle of the action. They will feel like they are fighting the sword battles, wearing soft silk against their skin, smelling vibrant spices, tasting rich broths, and holding the heat of earth energy in their hands. I write novels for people who want to live the story.

FT: How would you say that your experience of writing and publishing has changed your method of writing?

AG: It probably hasn’t changed my method – I plan, I research, I write - but just the sheer amount of words written has made the process a bit quicker than it was at the beginning of my career.

FT: With the experience that you've gained now, what do you wish you could have told yourself when you were starting out that you now know?

AG: Boring but essential stuff about tax and accounting.

FT: What characteristics of your protagonists do you wish that you had yourself and why?

AG: I wish I had Eona’s sword skills – I haven’t practiced in a long while, and mine are rusty – and I wish I had her ability to commune with the Mirror dragon.

FT: Which of your characters are most like you and why?

All of my characters have aspects of me in them, but none of them are really like me. I’m not an autobiographical writer, but of course I do use my own human experience to create the emotional complexity of my characters.

FT: What of life’s little addictions could you not live without and why?

AG: The internet – I spend a lot of time on-line when I am not writing – and strong black coffee, because I love the taste, and because I know that if I don’t get my daily five to six cups, I will be curled up in a little ball with a withdrawal migraine for days.

FT: With regular trips for book tours around the country as well as to various Conventions, what is an absolute travel essential that you couldn't do without?

AG: A few months ago I would have said my laptop, but now it is my iPad – I can use it to Skype my family, write, keep up with my email, read e-books and research on the hop, all in a device that fits in my handbag.

FT: How has multiple novels under your belt changed how you accept criticism?

AG: I am much better at distinguishing between well thought-out critiques and critiques that are sneakily based on genre prejudice or a political agenda.

FT: On long journey's, reading is often the pleasure of choice, who's work will you grab at the airport to ensure a good journey?

AG: I’ve flown a lot of long haul flights lately, and I have come to realise that I am usually so exhausted by the time I step on to the plane that the best thing to do is to buy a couple of high-end fashion magazines and flick through the pretty pictures, watch a couple of movies, hoover my way through all the meals, and sleep.

FT: Out of all your novels, which is your favourite and why?

AG: All of my novels are my favourite in their own way – Singing the Dogstar Blues because it was my first published novel, Killing the Rabbit because it was the most challenging to write, EON (aka The Two Pearls of Wisdom) because it was my breakthrough novel, and EONA (aka The Necklace of the Gods) because it took me on to the New York Times Bestseller List for the first time.

FT: With everyone having their own personal view as to who should be cast in a film version of their work, who do you think should play your principle protagonists and why?

AG: Eona needs to be played by quite a young actress who can be both vulnerable and tough, so maybe Katie Leung who played Cho in the Harry Potter movies.

FT: Authors are generally a superstitious lot and upon completion of novels follow a certain ritual, what is yours and how has it changed from the original?

AG: It’s probably not really a completion ritual, but once I have finished a novel, I like to have my next project up and running fairly quickly.

FT: What was your impression of an authors lifestyle and status and how has that interpretation changed since you've published a number of books?

AG: I never really had any stars in my eyes about an author’s lifestyle. I studied professional writing at university and in our first week of class we were told that only 5% of us would ever get their fiction published, and even less would make a living from it. So, I am just pleased to be in that tiny percentage who are earning their living by publishing professionally.

FT: What are the best words of wisdom or tip that you'd give to a new or soon to be published author?

AG: Writing is an art, a craft, and a business, so my best tip is to study your craft, develop your art, and learn as much as you can about the business side of things, even if you have an agent. Finally, join a professional organization that represents the interests of authors in order to keep up-to-date with the rapid changes in the publishing industry.

LADY ELEANOR HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: The Darling Strumpet - Gillian Bagwell

Release Date: 04/08/11


From her beginnings as a humble oyster seller, Nell Gwynn’s dazzling rise to fame has gone down in history. Step into the tumultuous world of Restoration England, and join Nell on her journey from courtesan, to famed actress to King’s mistress in a novel that is as captivating as Nelly herself.

She sold her innocence…and captured the heart of a king.

London, 1660

Growing up in the bawdy atmosphere of 17th century Covent Garden, Nell Gwynn is little more than a girl when she enters the world of the courtesan. But Nell learns the hard way that to be at the mercy of unscrupulous men is no life at all.

With London’s theatres flourishing, Nell seizes an opportunity to change her luck and takes a job selling oranges at The King’s Playhouse on Drury Lane.

It isn’t long before Nell takes centre-stage herself and her saucy wit and ambitious temperament soon catch the eye of the young King Charles II. But can she keep him enthralled when the country’s finest Ladies are vying for his attentions at court?

Nell Gwynn was a darling of the people and the most famous courtesan of her age. You too will find it impossible to resist her in The Darling Strumpet.


To be honest with you, I like a good historical fiction novel with strong female characters, so having really enjoyed Philippa Gregory and Jeanne Kalogridis I thought I’d try Gillian Bagwell as I’ve always love the tale of Charles II and Nell Gwynn.

Unfortunately what I got was a story that to be honest really didn’t say much for her character and whilst the author admits that she made a certain amount of it up there is some factual discrepancies with Nell’s known life alongside the portrayal within. Add to this that the author includes sexual sequences with a minor and it’s a wonder that this ever made it past the publishers lawyers. Whilst I’m not saying such things didn’t happen, with today’s legal implications as well as morality it was a whole set of events that the author could have briefly alluded to with a couple of lines starting the novel at a later age and thus cut out the heavily descriptive sequences.

All in, this tale really didn’t do that much for the love affair of Charles and Nell and as such it’s a great shame that this less than fully formed idea made it to print especially when you add the lack lustre characterisation and overly long sexual sequences it made it feel that the author didn’t put as much effort in as you’d come to expect from better known genre names. If this is a typical example of Gillian’s writing I won’t be reading another one of her releases.

Sunday 28 August 2011

URBAN FANTASY THRILLER REVIEW: The President's Vampire - Christopher Farnsworth

Release Date: 07/07/11


The Ultimate Secret. The Ultimate Agent. Nathaniel Cade returns.For 140 years, Nathaniel Cade has been the President's Vampire, sworn by a blood oath to protect the President and America from their supernatural enemies. Cade's existence is the most closely guarded of White House secrets: a superhuman covert agent who is the last line of defense against nightmare scenarios that ordinary citizens can only dream of.When a new outbreak of an ancient evil - one that Cade has seen before - comes to light, he and his human handler, Zach Barrows, must track down its source. To 'protect and serve' often means settling old scores and confronting new betrayals . . . as only a century-old predator can.


Having read the first book in the series last year I was curious to see what Christopher would come up with next. After all with Frankenstein Monsters attacking the White House, it was going to have to be something spectacular to match up to the high octane thrill of the original.

So when I started this title I wondered how the characters would have progressed, after all it was a new relationship for the two lead characters and when you add in that its set a year later, you know that it had to have evolved further as a vampires work is never done.

As with the original it was fast paced, the characters fun and when you add “Lizard Men” to the equation it was a title that was a joy to behold. Also throw into the mix the shadowy organisation in the background trying to thwart out heroes and it was a book that really didn’t let up from the first to the last page. Great fun all in.

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: By Light Alone - Adam Roberts

Release Date: 18/08/11


In a world where we have been genetically engineered so that we can photosynthesise sunlight with our hair hunger is a thing of the past, food an indulgence. The poor grow their hair, the rich affect baldness and flaunt their wealth by still eating. But other hungers remain . . . The young daughter of an affluent New York family is kidnapped. The ransom demands are refused. Years later a young women arrives at the family home claiming to be their long lost daughter. She has changed so much, she has lived on light, can anyone be sure that she has come home? Adam Roberts' new novel is yet another amazing melding of startling ideas and beautiful prose. Set in a New York of the future it nevertheless has echoes of a Fitzgeraldesque affluence and art-deco style. It charts his further progress as one of the most important writers of his generation.


Adam Roberts is an author that will appear in quite a few Science Fiction readers top ten’s with one title or another, yet for me, I really couldn’t get into this latest book released by Gollancz. Yes I could see the author typical writing style with sharp prose and interesting premise but I just couldn’t get behind the characters within which I didn’t feel were fleshed out enough for me to generate a caring response to.

Add to this that a lot of the novel felt like padding and I was left wondering if this title was more a novella or short story expanded to fulfil a contractual obligation. Sadly, whilst I have enjoyed this author’s work in the past this one just wasn’t for me and I hope that the next book goes back to what has gone before with better rounded characters, a huge overall plot alongside his breakneck pace and cracking prose.

Saturday 27 August 2011

FANTASY REVIEW: Hyddenworld 2: Awakening - William Horwood

Release Date: 05/08/11


A series of extraordinary events mark the beginning of summer: earth tremors ravage the Hyddenworld; Jack and Katherine have a child, Judith; and a mysterious gem is found near Brum. That same night, after decades of sleep, the Emperor of the Hyddenworld awakens . . .

Jack, born of the Hyddenworld, knows that he has a foot in each world but doesn’t wholly belong to either.Is he human, or hydden? Judith too is a child of two worlds, with her human mother and hydden father. She knows who she is supposed to be – the Shield Maiden, bearer of the gems and helper of humankind – but somehow this destiny seems too much to accept.

The discovered gem puts Brum firmly in the path of the Empire – Jack must travel back to the Hyddenworld. He knows that the four gems need to be reunited soon and that the Shield Maiden must be ready to wield them.

If Judith does not embark on her own great journey soon, or the gems can’t be found, then both the hydden world and the human will be threatened with extinction.


I’ve loved William’s writing for a number of years and with last year’s original new release, Hyddenworld: Spring, I really couldn’t wait to see how the series would develop. As usual with this author his descriptive works extremely well but for me, it’s his characters that stand out as they’re not only vibrant but the sort of people I’d like to hang around with.

All in the tale wends its merry way as the Hydden World reveals its truths, its illusions and pitfalls as our lead characters seek to undergo their own personal quest to save both realms from utter disaster. Wonderfully written and a real joy to read. I’ve now just got to wait to see what happens in the third part and it’s going to feel like an eternity, perhaps I should get a draft from a certain Emperor. LOL

Friday 26 August 2011

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: Roman Novels 4: Defender of Rome - Douglas Jackson

Release Date: 18/08/11


Gaius Valerius Verrens returns to Rome from the successful campaign against Boudicca in Britain. Now hailed a ‘Hero of Rome’, Valerius is not the man he once was – scarred both physically and emotionally by the battles he has fought, his sister is mortally ill, his father in self-imposed exile. And neither is Rome the same city as the one he left.

The Emperor Nero grows increasingly paranoid. Those who seek power for themselves whisper darkly in the emperor’s ears. They speak of a new threat, one found within the walls of Rome itself. A new religious sect, the followers of Christus, deny Nero’s divinity and are rumoured to be spreading sedition.

Nero calls on his ‘Hero of Rome’ to become a ‘Defender of Rome’, to seek out this rebel sect, to capture their leader, a man known as Petrus. Failure would be to forfeit his life, and the lives of twenty thousands Judaeans living in Rome. But as Valerius begins his search, a quest which will take him to the edge of the empire, he will discover that success may cost him nearly as much as failure.


If you’re a fan of Historical Fiction, then the odds are that you’ve noticed the steady rise of an author by the name of Douglas Jackson, his stories are vivid, the cast spectacular and of course his writing style wonderfully balances the needs of combat with the smarts of lulls and peaks to keep the reader enthralled.

Here in the second book in his latest series (the first being Hero of Rome) Valerius returns triumphant from the previous title to face the slings and arrows or Roman Politics as well as the madness of the Emperor only to be manipulated on a highly dangerous mission that could cost as much to him for success as for failure. It’s cleverly written, the plot line is fast moving and of course the reader is left on tenterhooks from start to finish as to the fate of many of the cast. Add to this great characterisation and a lead hero who is fully rounded and it’s a title that demonstrates just how much Douglas has grown from his first book. Excellent stuff.

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Hidden Empires 3: Bringer of Light - Jaine Fenn

Release Date: 18/08/11


Jarek Reen is trying to save a lost world. He discovered the primitive theocracy of Serenein by accident, and now he wants it to take its place in human-space. To do this he needs a shiftspace beacon - without it, there is no way to find the planet again. The beacons were made by the Sidhe, the race that originally gave humanity access to the stars - and dominated human-space for millennia, before a coalition of human rebels and Sidhe males brought the evil Sidhe females down. Most people think the Sidhe are long dead, but Jarek knows better: a renegade female Sidhe is one of his companions, and a male Sidhe gave her and her lover the special powers that made them Angels, very unusual trained assassins. Jarek's only hope is to find Aleph, the hidden system where the last Sidhe males are rumoured to live. But even if he can persuade these eccentric, introspective beings to put aside their interminable internal squabbles, he still has to persuade Serenein that joining the rest of humankind is a good thing . . . for the price of progress is likely to be high. Can he stop it turning into tragedy?


The third release by Jaine and the concluding part to the set up of the forthcoming fall for the civilisation within. As usual with Jaine’s writing it’s a lot of fun, the characters wonderfully vivid and the story arc delves into a deeper understanding of a universe that few knew much about at the beginning of the first title.

Add to this stark prose, great descriptive which when backed with a conspiracy of epic proportions alongside a decent overall strategy and it’s a title that really gets you ready for a huge war of atrocity as the few go against the many in a no quarter asked for war. Magic.

Thursday 25 August 2011

CRIME THRILLER REVIEW: Triple Crossing - Sebastian Rotella

Release Date: 18/08/11


Valentine Pescatore is a rookie Border Patrol agent, just trying to survive the Line. Until he pursues a suspect across the border into Mexico, and finds himself in serious trouble.

Isabel Puente is a beautiful US agent investigating a powerful Mexican crime family. She offers Valentine a chance - if he works with her as an undercover agent she'll make his problems go away. But soon their relationship is no longer strictly professional.

Over the border in Tijuana, anti-corruption chief Leo Mendez is working to bring criminals to justice. In a city where anyone can be bought, he's made enemies on both sides of the law.

All three have the same aim: to bring down the cartels. But in a world built on lies, how do you know who to trust? As the violence escalates, the stage is set for a showdown full of bloodshed and betrayal.


I love a good crime story and whilst this one felt a little clichéd from the book back, I thought that since I was at a loose end to give it a go.

What unfurled was a lot better and with characters that were fully rounded gave me a tale of love, temptation, crime and passion accompanied of course by potential treachery as well as murder. For me, it hit all the right notes as the characters survived the story from one scrape to another, the prose was sharp and the action really didn’t let up except when the author knew that the reader would need a lull in order to capture their breath before the next high octane sequence. All in a wonderful piece of escapism and one that really will capture the readers imagination.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Psy-Changling 10: Kiss of Snow - Nalini Singh

Release Date: 11/08/11


Since the moment of her defection from the PsyNet and into the SnowDancer wolf pack, Sienna Lauren has had one weakness. Hawke. Alpha and dangerous, he compels her to madness. Hawke is used to walking alone, having lost the woman who would?ve been his mate long ago. But Sienna fascinates the primal heart of him, even as he tells himself she is far too young to handle the wild fury of the wolf. Then Sienna changes the rules and suddenly, there is no more distance, only the most intimate of battles between two people who were never meant to meet. Yet as they strip away each other?s secrets in a storm of raw emotion, they must also ready themselves for a far more vicious fight . . . A deadly enemy is out to destroy SnowDancer, striking at everything they hold dear, but it is Sienna?s darkest secret that may yet savage the pack that is her home . . . and the alpha who is its heartbeat . . .


Whilst I’m a bit of a stranger to this series, I was given a catch up by friends who are fans so I was pretty well placed to pick up and see where the tale took the reader. What unfurls is a story that is primarily emotional as we get to delve more into the aspects of the principle series players as they take romances to a new level as well as developing new attachments.

It’s cleverly written the cast intriguing and for me, whilst the overall story was mainly about them, you can see that there are some developments that will be key in future outings as well as laying the foundations for future sub plots. All in a nicely written story although I wouldn’t say that you can really pick this up and start here unless you are lucky enough to have aficionado’s to help bring you up to speed. From a strangers point of view this tale wasn’t just filler but one that developed the characters to a greater depth rounding off some of the combat edges to give you a more personal view and as such means, that when time as well as budget allows, I will read the rest.

Wednesday 24 August 2011


With his debut released today in the UK, we were lucky to be able to grab a few words with author TC McCarthy as he stuck his head above ground (almost Meercat like) to have a look at the environment away from the writing cave.

Here we bring to you the results of this brief forray to get a look at how a new writer deals with rejection as well as to explore the writing world deeper...

Falcata Times: Writing is said to be something that people are afflicted with rather than gifted and that it's something you have to do rather than want. What is your opinion of this statement and how true is it to you?

T C McCarthy: I'd say this statement is absolutely true. There are moments where I'm excited to sit down and bang on the keyboard because I have an idea that can't wait to get out, and that's a lot of fun. But then there are those other moments. You know - the ones where you have to get from point A to point B and there's nothing but a blank page in front of you...

FT: When did you realise that you wanted to be a writer?

TCM: I read anything and everything as a kid. Probably when I hit 12 I decided that I'd give anything to become a writer and I did! Albeit, 20-30 years later...

FT: It is often said that if you can write a short story you can write anything. How true do you think this is and what have you written that either proves or disproves this POV?

TCM: I don't know if this is true or not, but I will say this: I find short stories to be infinitely more difficult than novels. It's almost cliché to say that in novels you can afford to make mistakes, but it's true and short stories require so much more care and precision that it is an art I have yet to master.

FT: If someone were to enter a bookshop, how would you persuade them to try your novel over someone else's and how would you define it?

TCM: Germline isn't military science fiction, it's war science fiction; if you like stories that immerse you in the mind of someone ill-suited for the horrors and consequences of combat, but who adjusts and overcomes, then you'll like Germline.

FT: How would you "sell" your book in 20 words or less?

TCM: Buy Germline or you'll go bald.

FT: Who is a must have on your bookshelf and whose latest release will find you on the bookshops doorstep waiting for it to open?

TCM: Michael Herr is always on the shelf right in front of me, and if I heard that he was putting out another memoir I'd camp outside the store to buy it!

FT: When you sit down and write do you know how the story will end or do you just let the pen take you? ie Do you develop character profiles and outlines for your novels before writing them or do you let your ideas develop as you write?

TCM: Although I do outlines, the writing process usually takes me in directions that I hadn't anticipated and that result in drastically different characters than I had originally envisioned. So I'm half seat-of-the-pants, half planner.

FT: What do you do to relax and what have you read recently?

TCM: I can't relax! I have a day job and three kids, so it's hard to get a quiet moment. The most recent book I finished was Lou Anders' superhero anthology, Masked; I recommend it!

FT: What is your guiltiest pleasure that few know about?

TCM: I chew tobacco; it's really nasty.

FT: Lots of writers tend to have pets. What do you have and what are their key traits (and do they appear in your novel in certain character attributes?)

TCM: I have three dogs, but there's one - an old terrier mutt - who sits at my feet while I write. She and I have a system of communication so I know when she has to go for a walk and I'd never put her in one of my books; she'd get mad.

FT: How similar to your principal protagonist are you?

TCM: So similar that I'm not going to answer this question!

FT: What hobbies do you have and how do they influence your work?

TCM: I used to love surfing but there aren't many waves in the place I live now, so before I started writing novels spend a lot of my free time woodworking; it never really influenced my work but it was a great way to forget all my day-to-day issues since it requires a lot of concentration.

FT: Where do you get your ideas from?

TCM: This is a tough question to answer because they can really come from anywhere; I know this isn't an especially unique answer but it's true. For example, I got the idea for my novelette, The Legionnaires, from a panel title at WorldCon 2009 that said something about the fact that there tended not to be middle aged heroines in SF. As long as I keep my eyes and ears open, the supply of ideas is almost infinite.

FT: Do you ever encounter writers block and if so how do you overcome it?

TCM: I encounter it all the time and usually just work through it. Deadlines definitely help. With a date hanging over my head, there's little choice but to write no matter if I feel like it or not, and usually the block goes away after I write a few pages.

FT: Certain authors are renowned for writing at what many would call uncivilised times. When do you write and how do the others in your household feel about it?

TCM: I write any chance I get because if I waited for the perfect time, it would never come. For example: right now my kids are screaming and throwing stuffed animals at my head and one is begging for a milkshake, but these are unusual circumstances since we're in our WorldCon hotel room! Under normal circumstances I write between 4 and 7 or 8 in the morning and late at night because it's the only free time I get, and my wife hates it because I completely tune out.

FT: Sometimes pieces of music seem to influence certain scenes within novels, do you have a soundtrack for your tale or is it a case of writing in silence with perhaps the odd musical break in-between scenes?

TCM: Music is important to me for sure. While writing Germline I listened to the Distillers, Steve Miller, The Pogues, The Rolling Stones, Elastica, The Breeders, Veruca Salt, and the list goes on - a constant soundtrack that I never shut off.

FT: How did you get past the initial barriers of criticism and rejection?

TCM: It was difficult. Nobody enjoys being rejected or told that their writing needs work, but eventually I had to learn to ignore the rejections that gave no feedback and the criticisms that were clearly out there. Anything else fell into the "potentially valid comment(s)" field, and then became something useful. Repeated submission is the only way to overcome this.

FT: In your opinion, what are the best and worst aspects of writing for a living?

TCM: The best aspect is never having to leave the house! The worst aspect is that I'm a long way from writing for a living. Thanks for the interview!

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: The Subterrene War 1: Germline - TC McCarthy

Release Date: 24/08/11


A hundred years from now, Russia and the USA are at odds again. This time, the cold war has gone hot. Heavily armored soldiers battle genetically engineered troops hundreds of meters below the icy, mineral rich mountains of Kazakhstan. War is Oscar Wendell's ticket to greatness. A reporter for the Stars and Stripes, he has the only one way ticket to the front lines. The front smells of blood and fire and death - it smells like a Pulitzer. But Kaz changes people and the chaos of war feels a bit too much like home. Hooked on a dangerous cocktail of drugs and adrenaline, Oscar starts down a dark road that he won't be able to turn back from.


Science Fiction is a genre that encompasses a whole range of subjects and is almost as widespread as the universe itself. So when an author writes a title it’s pretty much like Forest Gump’s proverbial box of chocolates as you’re never quite sure that you’re going to get.

What TC McCarthy does in this, his first title is bring a novel that is part Joe Haldeman, part Sven Hassel and of course a story of survival as we fight for scraps of resources’ by shedding lives as if they were worthless. Its dark, it has a huge body count but it’s the characters that keep you coming back for more as you hope that many of them survive against the odds. Add to this a decent authorly voice that is pretty unique, decent prose and a breakneck pace and it allows the full depth of the war to eek into the readers brain as they seek the solace of the quiet moments to reflect upon what has gone before. Finally add to this a wonderful sense of character development with Oskar and overall it’s not only a solid outing for a new author but an excellent start to a writing career. I really will look forward to seeing what TC comes up with next.

FANTASY REVIEW: Elantris - Brandon Sanderson

Release Date: 11/08/11


Elantris was built on magic and it thrived. But then the magic began to fade and Elantris began to rot. And now its shattered citizens face domination by a powerful Imperium motivated by dogged religious views. Can a young Princess unite the people of Elantris, rediscover the lost magic and lead a rebellion against the imperial zealots? Brandon Sanderson's debut fantasy showed his skill as a storyteller and an imaginer of baroque magical systems to be fully developed from the start.


Sanderson has been a star on the rise since before the estate of Robert Jordan announced that he was to finish the Wheel of Time series, yet having read later novels this is the first time that I’ve had the opportunity to read where it all began, with this his debut.

Released with a spiffy new cover to fit in with his other titles, this is the title that demonstrates the talents behind the later work and whilst its not quite as polished as the more recent titles, its one that shows that the idea’s were there at the beginning and that Brandon has honed his craft with each subsequent title. That’s not to say that this isn’t a great story, it is but when an author proves that they want to make things better as they learn then it lets the reader know that the passion for the story is there.

This tale is in short a tale of two cities as well as three principle players. It’s witty, it has great world building and as you can see from the description is one that works on multiple levels as events change the state of play throughout the world. Add to this some clever plot twists, some almost magical prose accompanied by great dialogue and overall it’s a satisfactory novel. Definitely one to read and one that really did strike a chord with me. Great stuff.

Tuesday 23 August 2011

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Chemical Garden 1: Wither - Lauren DeStefano

Release Date: 04/08/11


A Handmaid's Tale for a new generation! Sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery has only four years left to live when she is kidnapped by the Gatherers and forced into a polygamous marriage. Now she has one purpose: to escape, find her twin brother, and go home -- before her time runs out forever. What if you knew exactly when you would die? Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb -- males only live to age twenty-five and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out. When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape -- to find her twin brother and go home. But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant she trusts, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left.


To be honest when I read the book blurb I wasn’t blown away, I expected a wishy-washy tale that was part Logan’s Run, part Teen angst. What unfurled however was so much better than the blurb led me to believe.

The writing was crisp, the prose outstanding and when added to well-rounded characters (those you’ll love and those you’ll hate) it really made the whole tale sing. It’s cleverly written, the script wonderfully woven and when backed with a unique perspective it really made this a book to remember.

Finally add to this a lead character that the Teen market will be able to associate with as well as adults; it makes this a book that you really can’t put down. Great stuff and I’ll definitely be glued for other titles in this series.

HISTORICAL URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: The Edinburgh Dead - Brian Ruckley

Release Date: 24/08/11


Edinburgh 1827. In the starkly-lit operating theatres of the city, grisly experiments are being carried out on corpses in the name of medical science. But elsewhere, there are those experimenting with more sinister forces. Amongst the crowded, sprawling tenements of the labyrinthine Old Town, a body is found, its neck torn to pieces. Charged with investigating the murder is Adam Quire, Officer of the Edinburgh Police. The trail will lead him into the deepest reaches of the city's criminal underclass, and to the highest echelons of the filthy rich. Soon Quire will discover that a darkness is crawling through this city of enlightenment ? and no one is safe from its corruption.


If you love an Urban Fantasy story that has drama, historical content and of course features a city with a dark and brutal past then you really have to pick up Brian Ruckley’s new novel, The Edinburgh Dead. It’s cleverly plotted and utilises one of the darker parts of the city’s history. Add to this some of the blackest magic, a whole host of undead as well as a lead character perfectly capable of hacking his way through it all to the heart of the matter (in more ways than one) and it’s a satisfying read.

Whilst Brian is perhaps better known for his epic fantasy series Godless World, this title demonstrates not only a huge talent but one that really will grip the reader in its vice like hands as much from the first page as its last. Wonderfully descriptive, beautifully created and of course with a cracking set of verbal architecture from which to base a series, it’s definitely one that I’ll eagerly await future instalments from.

Monday 22 August 2011

FANTASY REVIEW: Conan The Barbarian - Robert E Howard (Reissue)

Release Date: 01/08/11


Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer
Discover how it all began . . .
Conan the Barbarian spawned a hundred imitators. Find out why with these tales from his early life. From the Tower of the Elephant to Beyond the Black River, follow Robert E. Howard's greatest creation as he cuts a bloody swathe through the history of Hyborea.
Over 350 pages of epic action, personally selected by the makers of the new film and the greatest Robert E. Howard scholars.
A hero of mythic proportion, fashioned by a storyteller who helped define what a modern fantasy should be Raymond E. Feist
Conan. Warrior, Hero, Legend.

Rediscover the greatest hero of all time, in this official tie-in to the film of the summer, starring Jason Momoa (HBO and George R.R. Martin's GAME OF THRONES) and Ron Perlman (HELLBOY).


With the new film hitting the screens on the 19th August (2011) people are going to be seeking out the tales of the original barbarian that stormed castles, robbed keeps and above all else made himself a king. Whilst dated to a certain degree (well they were written originally in the thirties) they’ve been bound together in this unique volume for the reader to get the full effect of this battle hardened warrior.

It’s a great way to introduce fantasy and with one of the most enduring characters of all time it clearly demonstrates why its loved the world over by fans. Whilst, for me, the nicest volume will always be the Centenary edition (released by Gollancz back in 2006) this is a great way to pick up the stories for a great price and will entertain readers as they await their latest fix as well as introduce newer fantasy fans to the hero. All in, this is a great piece of fun and one that will stand the test of time.

URBAN FANTASY ROMANCE REVIEW: Dark Hunter 20: Retribution - Sherrilyn Kenyon

Release Date: 02/08/11


Hired gunslinger William Jessup Brady lived his life with one foot in the grave - until the day he finally found a reason to live. In one single act of brutal betrayal, he lost everything, including his life. Brought back by a Greek goddess to be one of her Dark-Hunt ers, he gave his immortal soul for vengeance and swore he'd spend eternity protecting the humans he'd once considered prey. Orphaned as a toddler, Abigail Yager was taken in by a family of vampires and raised with one belief: Dark-Hunters are the evil who prey on both their people and mankind, and they must all be destroyed. Brought together by an angry god and chased by ancient enemies out to kill them both, William and Abigail must find a way to overcome their mutual hatred or watch as one of the darkest of powers rises and kills both the races they've sworn to protect.


The 20th novel in the Dark Hunter series and one that returns to some of the themes explored in the second as Sherrilyn returns to native American myths with her own special twist. The title is wonderfully creative, the characters outstanding and whilst they could have made their own way through on their own to a certain degree, the bonds between them make them almost unstoppable as an elder god or two will attest.

Add to this the wonderful spark of romance, great pace and break neck speed combat and overall it’s a title that will fulfil all the readers needs as this is a cracking addition to the series and one that I really had a hard time putting down. Great stuff.

Sunday 21 August 2011

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Greywalker 6: Downpour - Kat Richardson

Release Date: 02/08/11


After being shot in the back and dying - again - Harper's recovery has been hard. She's lost many of the powers she'd acquired since first becoming a Greywalker and knows that if she dies one more time, she won't be coming back. Her only respite from the chaos is her work ...until she sees a ghostly car accident for which there are no records. Worse still, the victim of the fatal wreck insists he was murdered, and that the nearby community of Sunset Lakes - called 'Blood Lake' by locals - is to blame. The picturesque area is an unlikely a haven for conspiracy but Harper soon learns that the icy waters of the lake hide a terrible power and a host of hellish beings. And both are held under the thrall of a sinister cabal that will use the darkest of arts to achieve their fiendish ends ...


I’ve been a huge fan of Kat’s series since it was introduced a few years ago. They always have great twists, they always manage to keep me surprised and above all else it’s the principle players that really make these tale stay with the reader.

Whilst many still feel that the lead character has to be a martial arts powerhouse, Kat relies on smarts as well as backup to help the lead character muddle her way through the mystery. It’s clever, it has some magical elements but above all else it’s the close links between the supporting cast that always forms the extra bonds to keep the story fresh. Finally add to this great prose alongside wonderful pace and it’s a title that is hard to put down.

LADY ELEANOR TRUE CRIME REVIEW: The Bus Stop Killer - Geoffrey Wansell

Release Date: 28/07/11


On 23 Jun 2011 the convicted double-murderer Levi Bellfield was found guilty of the murder of 13-year-old school girl Milly Dowler.

Milly disappeared on her way home from school in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey in 2002. Six months later her body was discovered many miles away. A massive police investigation, the largest manhunt in Surrey's history, got nowhere. Only when nightclub bouncer and bare-knuckle boxer Levi Bellfield was arrested for the murder of another young woman did it become clear to police that they had a serial killer on their hands.

This is the full story of the murders, the victims and the pain-staking nine-year investigation and trial by police and prosecutors. It tells of Bellfield's terrifying, controlling personality - a man who went from charming to monstrous in the blink of an eye - and his depraved stalking of young women.

It is a terrifying portrait of the only man in modern British legal history to be given two whole-life sentences.


I tend to read quite a few books on Serial Killers and usually they take the case in one of three ways, either they’re pro subject, anti-subject or take the middle road presenting the facts of the case to allow the reader to make up their own mind. It’s this last option that Geoffrey Wansell takes with this, his new title based on the crimes committed by Levi Bellfield, the man convicted of the murders of a few young women including Milly Dowler.

Whilst this book does contain all the fact pertaining to the case it felt that it had a beginning and middle without reaching a conclusion towards the end due to the fact that Levi Bellfield has never admitted his guilt to any of his crimes.

All in, this book was well written although in part repetitive but this I felt was mainly due to the author having to try to make the extra length due to the subject’s non-admittance of these crimes. As such this felt a little flat and that perhaps that the author could have spent his time more productively on a criminal that has admitted their guilt in order to give the reader a more rounded picture. Don’t get me wrong it is interesting, it does have a lot of plus points but when the evidence is laid out it does make you wonder exactly how the conviction was obtained purely as a lot of it seemed circumstantial.

Saturday 20 August 2011

THRILLER REVIEW: The Day Aberystwyth Stood Still - Malcolm Pryce

Release Date: 01/08/11


It is May in Aberystwyth, and the mayoral election campaign - culminating in the traditional boxing match between candidates - is underway. Sospan the ice-cream seller waits in his hut for souls brave enough to try his latest mind-expanding new flavour, and Louie Knight, Aberystwyth's only Private Detective, receives a visit from a mysterious stranger called Raspiwtin asking him to track down a dead man. Twenty-five years ago Iestyn Probert was hanged for his part in the notorious raid on the Coliseum cinema, but shortly afterwards he was seen, apparently alive and well, boarding a bus to Aberaeron. Did he miraculously evade the hangman's noose? Or could there really be substance to the rumours that he was resuscitated by aliens? Now, as strange lights are spotted in the sky above Aberystwyth and a farmer claims to have had a close encounter with a lustful extraterrestrial, Iestyn Probert has been sighted once again. But what does Raspiwtin want with him? And why does Louie's investigation arouse unwelcome interest from a shadowy government body and a dark-suited man in a black 1947 Buick?


I love a story that is completely different to the myriad of books out there, so when I was recommended this title by staff at Bloomsbury I thought that it would be worth a shot if only to see what the only PI in Aberystwyth had to offer. The story is quirky, the lead character, Louie Knight even more so and all in a tale so fantastical and unlikely that it should have been a complete mess, but with so many things that could have been wrong it made something so right and I found myself loving every minute of the book.

Add to this a great sense of pace, cracking dialogue and a smart mouth that keeps the lead character in more trouble than he can really handle which made this such a satisfying read.

Whilst this was the sixth title in the series I didn’t feel that I’d missed out to this point and because of that its warm enveloping sense of humour and friendship really won me over. I really will be looking at picking up the other titles by Malcolm when time allows as this little gem really did bring a smile to my face throughout the read. Malcolm really is quirky, humorous with a Noir sense of darkness lurking the edges of his mind. Great stuff.

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Warhammer 40K: Imperial Guard: Imperial Glory - Richard Williams

Release Date: 04/08/11


Tired and broken by war, the men of the Brimlock Eleventh Imperial Guard are a force on the verge of collapse. Having been stretched across the galaxy by their loyalty to the Emperor, they are presented with one final battle that will allow them reward they all seek: to colonise the distant world of Vorr and live out the rest of their days in peace. All that stands in their way is a force of savages - a plague of feral orks that has spread across the planet. But can the Brimlock's battered bodies and minds hold up to this greenskin invasion?


Whilst I do enjoy the Space Marines, in a bleak future where mankind is in a never ending war I have to side with the average Joe and as such you really have to follow the Imperial Guard as they fight their way across the stars in the name of the Emperor of Terra, in suspended animation in his Throne Room after being gravely wounded during the Horus Heresy.

Here, in this outing, Richard’s Brimlock Eleventh Imperial Guard who are already heavily depleted, find themselves battling for not just their lives but for a home against the mighty Greenskin army on the distant world of Vorr. As you’ve come to expect from the Black Library, its heavy duty combat, the fighting bloody and for every inch of ground gained a heavy price is paid by these soldiers of the Imperium. As with Richard’s other books (Reiksguard and Relentless) the tale is one that concentrates on the struggles of both the mind and the physical and as such does a great job of bringing both the fore as the reader feels the troops exhaustion throughout the title.

All in this is a great addition to the Warhammer 40K Imperial Guard portfolio and whilst many want more of the superhuman chosen few, I vote and stand by the little guy whose achievements shouldn’t just be lauded but legendary as for me, their fight is the hardest.

Friday 19 August 2011

FANTASY REVIEW: Ancient Blades Trilogy 2: A Thief in the Night - David Chandler

Release Date: 04/08/11


Enter a world of darkness and danger, honour, daring and destiny in David Chandler’s magnificent epic trilogy: The Ancient Blades.

It takes a thief to destroy a demon…

Circumstance made him a criminal.
Destiny may make him a hero.

As a thief, Malden is unparalleled in the Free City of Ness. But he has no desire to take up arms against the forces of horrific evil. By saving the life of the knight Croy, however, Malden has bound himself to an ancient, noble brotherhood…and he now possesses a magical weapon forged at the dawn of time – one of only seven swords capable of destroying demons.

Malden fears accompanying Croy and the barbarian Mörget on their quest to dispatch a foul creature of nightmare…nor does he want to disturb the vengeful dead. But with an assassin on his heels, the young cutpurse is left with no choice but to follow. And there is the comely sorceress, Cythera, to consider – promised to Croy but in love with Malden – not to mention the fabulous treasure rumoured to be waiting in the inescapable depths of the demon’s lair…


For me, the first book is always one that announces an author to a genre, yet its always the second book that can either earn them their own triumph or damn them to the gallows. So with this, his second Fantasy title to be released in the Ancient Blades Trilogy, David Wellington had to make up for a sadly disappointing (in my opinion) fantasy debut which I felt concentrated more on centralising the world than any real solid characters or development, which for me is a huge error.

So what did this book do? For me, this title restored a lot of my faith in him as an author as it allowed his writing skills to come to the fore as the plot moves forward at quite a pace. The characters pick up from their original 2d impressions to be more fleshed so that they stand out and when you add crisp prose alongside some good dialogue (with the addition of a cracking undercurrent) which made this book vastly superior to its predecessor. I really am now looking forward to the third and final part.

FANTASY REVIEW: A Song of Ice and Fire 5: A Dance with Dragons - George RR Martin

Release Date: 12/07/11


The fifth volume in the greatest epic work of the modern age

The future of the Seven Kingdoms hangs in the balance.

In the east, Daenerys, last scion of House Targaryen, her dragons grown to terrifying maturity, rules as queen of a city built on dust and death, beset by enemies.

Now that her whereabouts are known many are seeking Daenerys and her dragons. Among them the dwarf, Tyrion Lannister, who has escaped King’s Landing with a price on his head, wrongfully condemned to death for the murder of his nephew, King Joffrey. But not before killing his hated father, Lord Tywin.

To the north lies the great Wall of ice and stone – a structure only as strong as those guarding it. Eddard Stark's bastard son Jon Snow has been elected the 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, but he has enemies both in the Watch and beyond the Wall, where the wildling armies are massing for an assault.

On all sides bitter conflicts are reigniting, played out by a grand cast of outlaws and priests, soldiers and skinchangers, nobles and slaves. The tides of destiny will inevitably lead to the greatest dance of all…


Having just re-enjoyed the Game of Thrones (the TV series as well as the book reread) I was really in the mood for the new title in the series. After all with five years between books currently (A Storm of Crows was five years, and A Dance with Dragons was just short of 6) as a reader I really felt that the title would have been polished to keep the suspense as well as developing the complex themes already occurring.

What I got, however was sadly disappointing as this thousand page title was flat, it felt like it was more filler and to be honest I don’t think that anything was explored well enough to even constitute this as s fully successful addition to the series, especially when you add in the delay time between books. It’s almost as if the author expects it to sell well because his name is on the cover and that’s it. Finally add to this character confusion, poor development and sadly lack of pace and it felt pretty damn flat. I just hope that the next book picks up the pace and brings back the fans hard won trust.

Thursday 18 August 2011

GUEST BLOG: Slums of the Shire - Daniel Polansky

Occasionally you'll be with a group of people and they'll get to talking about their favourite historical epochs, nostalgic for lives they never led. One person will talk up their childhood love of the Wild West, another reveal a penchant for Victorian England. This last one just has a thing for corsets, but it's better not to call them on it.

When my turn rolls round I take a sip of whatever we're drinking and look at my shoes. “The mid 90's were pretty good,” I say lamely. “Slower internet and everything, but at least we had penicillin.”

Perhaps it's my being a history buff, but the past sucked. For about a millennium and a half after the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe just seems like a real shit place to reside. Lots of rooting in filth until you die at thirty a half mile from where you born. Nominally the nobles had it better, but still, your fever would have been treated with the application of leaches and your pretty young bride had like a one in two chance of surviving child birth.

This probably is why I don't understand fantasy—that is to stay that collection of high medieval tropes collected by Tolkien and gleefully reproduced by two generations of descendants.

Take elves for instance—though perfectly capable of imagining a world where higher intelligence evolved in a species separate from humanity, my powers of make believe fail when positing that the relation between said species would be anything beyond unceasing warfare. Even a cursory glance at human history reveals our collective willingness to commit genocide on fellow homo sapiens—how much quicker would we have been to eradicate a separate species competing for identical resources? If elves existed, our ancestors would have hunted them down to extinction and erected a monument to the accomplishment.

But I digress.

Even when nestled comfortably in a quest to kill a dragon or overthrow a dark lord or what have you, strange thoughts plague me. What does the shady side of Gondor look like? How many platinum coins would a dime bag set me back? What is the point of hobbits? They're just short, fat people. People are plenty fat as it is.

Low Town is sort of my attempt to answer some of those questions (not the last one). It's the story of the Warden, a former intelligence agent and current drug dealer, whose gradual slide into self-destruction is briefly checked by the discovery of a dead body in the neighbourhood he runs. An ill-timed bout of conscience rattles the easy cage of venality he's built for himself, and leads him on a collision course with the life he'd left behind. The Warden is a guy trying to survive the next few days, and not particularly squeamish as to what that requires—the sort of person more likely to populate a classic crime novel than to be found stocking the fantasy section of your local Borders (RIP).

More broadly, Low Town is an attempt to meld the best aspects of noir with a low fantasy setting—a meeting of tastes which I think complement each other nicely. The spare language and fast pace of good noir offers a pleasant counterpoint to the sprawling—one might even say bloated—length of much modern fantasy. On a somewhat broader level, the tendency of fantasy to focus on world shaking events often renders it irrelevant to the average reader, whose lives relatively rarely devolves into single combat against vaguely satanic analogues. By contrast, noir is concerned with the individual, with greed and lust, sins all of us can comprehend to some degree. Low Town centres on the conceit that a world with magic wouldn't be altogether different from a world without it. People are still (on the whole) selfish, stupid creatures, focused almost exclusively on the immediate satisfaction of their basic desires, only now some of them can shoot fire out of their hands.

That's the idea at least. It comes out Tuesday the 16th of August in the US and Canada, and on Thursday (August 18th) in the UK and Commonwealth. I hope you check it out and see if I've succeeded, or if I'm just a pretentious clown. Or both.

FANTASY REVIEW: Low Town 1: The Straight Razor Cure - Daniel Polansky

Release Date: 18/08/11


Welcome to Low Town.

Here, the criminal is king. The streets are filled with the screeching of fish hags, the cries of swindled merchants, the inviting murmurs of working girls. Here, people can disappear, and the lacklustre efforts of the guard ensure they are never found.

Warden is an ex-soldier who has seen the worst men have to offer; now a narcotics dealer with a rich, bloody past and a way of inviting danger. You'd struggle to find someone with a soul as dark and troubled as his.

But then a missing child, murdered and horribly mutilated, is discovered in an alley.

And then another.

With a mind as sharp as a blade and an old but powerful friend in the city, he's the only man with a hope of finding the killer.

If the killer doesn't find him first.


When you make your debut things are going to be fraught for an author and yet when a publisher puts their whole genre relaunch on a debut you know that the novel is going to be something spectacular. So when this title from Hodder landed it was a book that I was pretty interested in reading. Firstly because I love a debut and secondly because I really wanted to see what the fuss was about.

What unfurled is a title that felt reminiscent of an early David Gemmell title with a dark anti-hero leading the way dispensing justice in any manner he saw fit. It’s got a great premise, a solid arc and perhaps best of all a style that fits in well with the type of book that modern readers are seeking. Add to this decent prose and a pace that really doesn’t let up from start to finish and the reader really is in for a treat.

All in, I had a lot of fun reading this book and had a hard time putting it down, yet when you add the fact that this guy is a debut author into the mix, it is a title that shows a promising career ahead. I really can’t wait to see what the next book has in store and I hope that this hits with as much impact as this title deserves as it is a real gem and a title that I heartily recommend as one of my top five debuts of this year.