Books

2014 in books


2014 in books

Following in the footsteps of Julian Ware-Lane, I’ve decided to take a look at the books I’ve read in the year gone by. My memory is a little, shall we say, bad, so I’ve used Goodreads and this blog as a reference tool.

In 2014, I read:

Read on…

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Black Static #42 (Sep/Oct 2014) – A Review


black static 42

Nothing underscores quite how behind I’ve gotten with my reading, as much as the new Black Static dropping onto the doormat before I’ve even finished with the last one. Yes, I confess my shame.

It’s to do with a busy schedule, I would stress, rather than any particular flaw in this issue. My reading is apparently quite heavily reliant on the two hours daily that I spend commuting to work. A sizable chunk, in fact, of my life has been spent in the company of the pages of Black Static on trains, over the years. And it can get damn spooky on a rickety late night London Bridge to Brighton, with only cutting edge short horror for company.

A good way to make the time go quicker, at least.

Read on…

Interzone #254 (Sep/Oct 2014) – A Review


interzone 254

Does TTA Press head honcho Andy Cox read my blog, I wonder? In the case of the reviews of Interzone and Black Static, I’d have to say yes; more than once he has shared them on Facebook and Twitter. So it was pretty clear that he’d read them — at least enough to make sure that I wasn’t slandering his name.

But now I wonder if he might not have been listening a little more carefully; this is because issue #254 contains, for the first time, a pair of columns.

This is a feature which Black Static has boasted for a long while, and which regular readers (Hello to both of you! -Ed) will know that I have long said Interzone needed. And whilst Jonathan McCalmont isn’t a name immediately familiar to me, Nina Allen is exactly the sort of person this job demands.

Read on…

“Robot Uprisings” ed. John Joseph Adams and Daniel H. Wilson – A Review


robot uprisings

This review was originally published (in a shorter form) in issue #253 of science-fiction magazine Interzone. You can buy back issues and subscribe to future issues at their shop. My companion interview with editor of Robot Uprisings, John Joseph Adams, can be read here.

Robots are the future. Or, more accurately, the present. As far as science-fiction goes, as co-editor of “Robot Uprisings” John Joseph Adams says, it goes back to the genre’s origins. Robots, and their potentially ill-will towards us, have been with us for years, into a modern day reality where we have machines for all of life’s daily tasks. Including, worryingly, making war.

Appropriate, then, that this collection of seventeen stories of various robopocalyses, opens with a quote from Barrack Obama.

And this sense of closeness in time gives a not-particularly-new idea fresh life. The authors do the same. If this is a well-trodden path, this is an experienced troop of sherpas to lead the way. Seventeen writers, with seventeen tales of humanity daring to dream of godhood.

Read on…

Interzone #253 (Jul/Aug) – A Review


interzone #253LonCon3 (the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention) finished at the start of this week. I mention this partly out of massive jealousy of anyone and everyone who was able to attend, but also because it seems to have gotten a good amount of coverage in the mainstream press.

There is also a regular part of David Lanford’s Ansible Link column entitled “How others see us”. Here, David cherry picks recent press articles about the SF genre and world.

Now, it might be a coincidence (It is a coincidence – Ed) but that section doesn’t appear in this issue. Perhaps — just perhaps — science-fiction as a genre is starting to receive more of the mainstream acceptance that it deserves.

If it is, then we can only hope that this will extend to such organs of excellence as the short story magazines providing the lifeblood of fresh and exciting SF. Which neatly leads my into my review of the latest issue of Interzone.
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“The Boy with the Porcelain Blade” by Den Patrick – A Review


image

(Gollancz, 320pp, pb £8.99/hb £20.00/eb £7.49)

This review was originally published in issue #252 of science-fiction magazine Interzone. You can buy back issues and subscribe to future issues at their shop.

When challenged, I usually describe myself as a lapsed fantasy fan, in much the same way as others might consider themselves lapsed Catholics. My journey into the world of genre started with the likes of J.R.R. Tolkein, C.S. Lewis and Anne McCaffrey.

A large part of what ended up putting me off fantasy was a perceived lack of imagination within the confines of the genre itself. So you can see why Den Patrick’s “The Boy with the Porcelain Blade” appealed to me.

A fantasy in a renaissance-ish Italian setting, rather than the medieval western European model which has become so prevalent; it claims to offer something different. Which is a good starting point for a novel of any genre.

The shame of it, from this reader’s perspective, is that it fails to capitalise on that.

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Black Static #41 (Jul/Aug) – A Review


black static #41

Regular readers — hello to both of you! — will know that I like my horror dark, and tailor my reading habits thusly.

Recently, though, rather than fiction I sometimes feel like I could just be reading the news. Probably I’m just noticing it more than usual, but it seems to have become a never ending cavalcade of misery and suffering; new stories of murder and worse on a daily basis.

Misery, it goes without saying, is not entertainment. What is fertile ground for exploration in the hands of writers of fiction, is bleak and unremittting in the cold light of the real world, shorn of analogy.

But fiction is where we explore the world. We can bring out ideas from today and test them, analyse them, know them. All fiction is analogy, after all. So when the world is become so dark a place, where does our fiction have to go in order for us to get a handle on it? How far into the dark night must we go to flush out the real monsters behind our fears?

And on that note, the latest issue of Black Static.

Read on…

Black Static #40 – A Review


black static #40

A friend of mine recently expressed an interest in short stories. Seeing as it was my introduction to the modern short story, Black Static was the natural choice. And it was this freshly finished issue which I proffered.

Thirty issues have gone by since my first issue , and a lot has changed. But the fiction hasn’t. My first real introduction to the cutting edge of modern horror was through those pages, and every two months the stories still snap with fresh ideas and new names.

The reason for this little spiel is this: you should buy Black Static. You should buy its SF sister magazine Interzone, too. I subscribe, which takes away the pressure of remembering to buy them every two months, and you should consider that too. If you love horror, you’ll love this. If you don’t love horror — well, maybe this will change your mind.

The other purpose of this little introduction is to point out that I don’t currently hold in my hands the current issue — so form an orderly queue to point out corrections please!

Read on..

Interzone #252 (May/Jun 2014) – A Review


interzone #252Anyone who thinks politics and art aren’t connected is wrong. That has always been my philosophy — my politics heavily informs my view of the world and thus my writing. It may not always be the “safe” option, but if you really believe in something then you can’t escape that.

So serious praise is due to Andy Cox and co at InterzoneIt would have been the easiest thing in the world to ignore the current controversies emerging within science-fiction. They could have breathed not a world, and not run the risk of upsetting some of their readers. It would have been easy.

But it would not have been right. So well done, as I said, for using the editorial to stand up to the forces of hatred and bigotry within our genre. Well done for believing something. I strongly urge you to read it, if not in the magazine then at least here on their website.

It does, however, present rather the challenge for the fiction to rise to.

Read on…

“News from Unknown Countries” by Tim Lees – A Review


news from unknown countries by tim lees

(Amazon, 240pp, £3.21)

This review (or a shorter version) was originally published in issue #251 of science-fiction magazine Interzone. You can buy back issues and subscribe to future issues at their shop.

I’m reliably informed that this is the first self-published book which Interzone has reviewed. So no pressure then — I suppose that must be the hand of God on my shoulder, rather than Jim Steel and Andy Cox. I think I’ll leave that comparison where it lies…

Tim Lees is not unknown to [Interzone‘s] pages. His short story “Unknown Cities of America” featured in issue #249 – of the others, three each appeared in Interzone and Black Static, and two in The Third Alternative. When he sent me the collection, Tim said that he saw e-publishing as the future, and viewed this as a sort of experiment. So at least I’m not the only one sailing boldly into the unknown here.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, “Unknown Cities of America” doesn’t itself feature in this collection, but thirteen other tales do.

Read on…