Monday, March 24, 2014

Cover Reveal: Best SF and Fantasy of the Year Vol. 8


THE BEST SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY OF THE YEAR 8
Release date: 8 May 2014
ISBN:9781781082164 (US) /  9781781082157 (UK)
Pre-order a copy from The Book Depository (Free international shipping)

From the inner realms of humanity to the far reaches of space, these are the science fiction and fantasy tales that are shaping the genre and the way we think about the future. Multi-award winning editor Jonathan Strahan continues to shine a light on the very best writing, featuring both established authors and exciting new talents. Within you will find twenty-eight incredible tales, showing the ever growing depth and diversity that science fiction and fantasy continues to enjoy. These are the brightest stars in our firmament, lighting the way to a future filled with astonishing stories about the way we are, and the way we could be.

***

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Vol. 8 edited by Jonathan strahan has found a new home at Solaris. The latest volume of this anthology contains stories from the biggest names in genre, including Neil Gaiman, Joe Abercrombie, Madeline Ashby, Greg Egan, Lavie Tidhar, Robert Reed; as well as some of its newest rising stars.

The full table of contents:
  • Some Desperado, Joe Abercrombie
  • Zero for Conduct, Greg Egan
  • Effigy Nights, Yoon Ha Lee
  • Rosary and Goldenstar, Geoff Ryman
  • The Sleeper and the Spindle, Neil Gaiman
  • Cave and Julia, M. John Harrison
  • The Herons of Mer de l’Ouest, M. Bennardo
  • Water, Ramez Naam
  • The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling, Ted Chiang
  • The Ink Readers of Doi Saket, Thomas Olde Heuvelt
  • Cherry Blossoms on the River of Souls, Richard Parks
  • Rag and Bone, Priya Sharma
  • The Book Seller, Lavie Tidhar
  • The Sun and I, K J Parker
  • The Promise of Space, James Patrick Kelly
  • The Master Conjurer, Charlie Jane Anders
  • The Pilgrim and the Angel, E. Lily Yu
  • Entangled, Ian R Macleod
  • Fade to Gold, Benjanun Sriduangkaew
  • Selkie Stories Are for Losers, Sofia Samatar
  • In Metal, In Bone, An Owomoyela
  • Kormak the Lucky, Eleanor Arnason
  • Sing, Karin Tidbeck
  • Social Services, Madeline Ashby
  • The Road of Needles, Caitlín R Kiernan
  • Mystic Falls, Robert Reed
  • The Queen of Night’s Aria, Ian McDonald
  • The Irish Astronaut, Val Nolan
This looks like a promising and diverse selection of the best short stories of the past year and, if past editions are anything to go by, this will be a must read for fans of short fiction.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Review: The Long War

Title: The Long War
Authors: 

Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter
Pages: 422
ISBN: 9780857520128
Series: The Long Earth #2
Publisher: Doubleday
Published: 2013
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: Review copy from publisher


Buy it from:
The Book Depository

The Long Earth is open. Humanity now spreads across untold worlds linked by fleets of airships encouraging exploration, trade and culture.

But while mankind may be shaping the Long Earth, the Long Earth is, in turn, shaping mankind - and a collision of crises is looming.

More than a million steps from our original Datum Earth a new America has emerged - a young nation that resents answering to the Datum government.

And the trolls - those graceful, hive-min humanoids whose song once suffused the Long Earth - are, in the face of man's inexorable advance, beginning to fall silent . . . and to disappear.

The Long War is set 10 years after the events in The Long Earth. Joshua is now married and has a child of his own. Tensions between the US government and the colonies are on the rise and people are exploiting the trolls in the worst possible ways. Joshua is called to help solve the troll abuse and their subsequent migration away from humans.

The title is somewhat misleading; if you expected explosions and battles you will be disappointed. The war at play here is one of a far more metaphorical variety - a war on people’s perceptions of what constitutes sentience, how the world should be governed and on the status quo in the wake of the discovery of the Long Earth.

The Long War has some classic moments of Pratchett’s humour thrown in that alleviates the serious tone of the overall story.
‘Godzillabytes: Nelson had an irrational dislike of ‘petabytes’... Anything that sounded like a kitten’s gentle nip just didn’t have the moxie to do the job asked of it. ‘Godzillabytes’, on the other hand, shouted to the world that it was dealing with something very, very big... and possibly dangerous.’ (p 53)
‘Being human isn’t about the brain, it’s all tied up with messy things like – well, organs and juices and instincts.’ (p 167)

And then there’s the most apt description of the human condition I’ve read in a long time:
“It was the way he felt himself, sometimes, if he woke in the small hours, at three a.m., a time when the world seemed empty and stripped of comforting illusion. A time when you knew you were a mote, transient and fragile in a vast universe, a candle flame in an empty hall. Luckily the sun always came up, people stirred and you got on with the stuff that distracted you from the reality.” (p 343)

My biggest criticism of The Long Earth was that the plot seemed disjointed. This has been remedied somewhat in The Long War. There is a more concrete central plotline (Joshua’s attempt to fix the troll problem), but it soon becomes jumbled again with the introduction of new characters and sections which don’t seem to play any role in the story arc except to lay the groundwork for the next instalment. This was less problematic in the The Long Earth since it was the start of the series, but I would have expected this second novel to have a much clearer direction of where the story is going.

The ending is bittersweet. It was good to be reunited with familiar characters and to inhabit the Long Earth once again. There are hints of very promising things to come, but I hope the series manages to find some focus for the story it wants to tell. Without an overarching plot to provide momentum it will be all too easy to lose interest.

The Verdict:
As with The Long Earth the plot seems to wander all over the place and you still don’t have a clear direction where things are going. That being said, this continues to be an intriguing read with some very interesting ideas being explored, but interesting ideas can take you only so far. I enjoyed reading The Long War. The writing is very good with some beautiful and poignant observations on life, but the lack of a cohesive overarching plot just doesn’t satisfy. The series is taking the scenic route; the problem is that the journey might become too long and cumbersome without a clear destination in sight, especially if it’s going to be a 5 book series as speculated.

The Rating: 6.5 (Good)

Thanks to Tamaryn from Random House Struik for providing the review copy.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Interview: Lettie Prell


Tell us a bit about yourself and your work.

I was bent on going through college majoring in something practical that would lead to a good job. Yet I filled every elective class I had with literature or writing. I graduated and got the good job; I’m currently research director of the Iowa department of corrections and I’ve enjoyed my career in the justice system very much. But the other side of me insisted on being expressed as well. In my free time I wrote poetry, science fiction and fantasy, and worked on my writing skills by taking more classes and attending critique groups. I used to tell myself it was a hobby, but I have an intense drive to excel at everything I do so to call it a hobby now would be laughable.

The Performance Artist focuses on the merger of humans and technology. That's a very interesting theme to explore with so many possibilities. Do you see humanity actually heading in that direction?

Questions like this are impossible to answer. If I were to say no, it feels like I’m denigrating all the work I put into thinking intensely and in detail about this. If I say yes, I sound a little loony; it’s a bad sign in a science fiction writer to worry about stuff you write coming true. Yet I see people walking around staring at their phones, living inside that world and dangerously close to preferring it—and I wonder what this is leading to.

Most people nowadays seem to neglect reading short stories. They are under the impression that only a novel can provide a fully developed story. Do you think that opinion is warranted? Is it important for people to rediscover the wonder short stories have to offer?

Actually, it’s odd short stories aren’t more popular. The format would seem to fit right in with this fast-paced society known for its short attention span. You can read an entire story during a commute, on a lunch hour or before bed. It’s not a huge investment and if you don’t particularly care for one, choose another. Maybe short stories need a marketing campaign with billboards and prime time commercials.

It's said that writing a good short story is far more difficult than putting a novel together. Do you agree? What would you say the hallmark of a good short story is?

My natural inclination tends toward the novel. I can try to keep it in check, but sometimes the world I create is simply too big to fit into a short story. So it’s a relief when I finish writing a short story and it actually works as a story. Stories are lean body-builders compared to novels. They have to be tight—nothing wasted—with every image supporting the overall piece. Novels can afford to take time to appreciate life; they do a bit of lounging around eating bon bons and talking about fascinating things.

Where did your interest in science fiction start; what drew you to the genre?

I grew up with older brothers and a sister who liked Star Trek, so I watched it, too—we’re talking re-runs in the 1970s. Then in the high school library I discovered Asimov’s Foundation. After reading the trilogy, I worked my way around the room reading all the science fiction: Bradbury, Clarke, Heinlein, Herbert, and so on. What hooked me was the imaginative genius of the writers, and reading about the future. I especially liked reading about aliens because their strangeness challenged the way I looked at things. I liked my mind being pulled in these crazy directions.

Do you have any favourite authors you can recommend?

I admire Nekropolis by Maureen McHugh, and M. John Harrison’s Light. I’ve read quite a bit by Octavia Butler and William Gibson, and I’ve enjoyed reading Ted Chiang and China Miéville. There are many more I can get excited about, but I’ll stop here.

And finally, if you could integrate yourself with one piece of technology what would it be?

Well, not presently, but when I’m close to natural death, I’d like to be integrated with the Large Hadron Supercollider. Think of it, experiencing the thrill of atom-smashing. But also, can you imagine becoming one with something that learns the secrets of the universe?

More about the author:
Lettie Prell is a science fiction writer who likes to explore the edge where humans and their technology are increasingly merging. In addition to Apex Magazine, her stories have appeared in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Paranormal Underground and elsewhere, and have been featured on the StarShip Sofa podcast. She is also a poet and her haiku were featured in the Iowa Drama Workshop production of Kali Ma!

You can visit her website at lettieprell.com or follow her on Twitter - @lettie_prell

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