Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Blind Book Challenge 2014 Answers Revealed

1. Failed Author/ Hollywood/ Cloned for TV
Fictional Man by Al Ewing
In Hollywood, where last year's stars are this year's busboys, Fictionals are everywhere. Niles Golan's therapist is a Fictional. So is his best friend. So (maybe) is the woman in the bar he can't stop staring at. Fictionals - characters 'translated' into living beings for movies and TV using cloning technology - are a part of daily life in LA now. Sometimes the problem is knowing who's real and who's not. Divorced, alcoholic and hanging on by a thread, Niles - author of The Saladin Imperative: A Kurt Power Novel and many others - has been hired to write a big-budget reboot of a classic movie. If he does this right, the studio might bring one of Niles' own characters to life. Somewhere beneath the movie - beneath the TV show it was inspired by, the children's book behind that and the story behind that - is the kernel of something important. If he can just hold it together long enough...

2. Cyberpunk/Mysterious Book/Djinn
Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
'I will tell you a story, but it comes with a warning; when you hear it, you will become someone else.' He calls himself Alif, a young man born in a Middle Eastern city that straddles the ancient and modern. When Alif comes into possession of a mysterious book entitled The Thousand and One Days, he discovers a door to another world - a world from a very different time, when old magic was in the ascendant and the djinn walked amongst us. Thus begins an adventure that takes him through the crumbling streets of a once-beautiful city, to uncover the long-forgotten mysteries of the Unseen. Alif is about to become a fugitive. And he is about to unleash a destructive power that will change everything and everyone - starting with Alif himself...

3. Cynical Surveyor/Ex-Lawyer/ Adorable Small Biped/ Courtroom Showdown
Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi
Jack Holloway works alone. Hundreds of miles from ZaraCorp's headquarters on planet, 178 light-years from the corporation's headquarters on Earth, Jack is content as an independent contractor. As for his past, that's not up for discussion. Then, in the wake of an accidental cliff collapse, Jack discovers a seam of unimaginably valuable jewels, to which he manages to lay legal claim just as ZaraCorp is cancelling their contract with him for his part in causing the collapse. Briefly in the catbird seat, legally speaking, Jack pressures ZaraCorp into recognizing his claim, and cuts them in as partners to help extract the wealth. But there's another wrinkle to ZaraCorp's relationship with the planet Zarathustra. Their entire legal right to exploit the verdant Earth-like planet is based on being able to certify to the authorities on Earth that Zarathustra is home to no sentient species. Then a small furry biped - trusting, appealing, and ridiculously cute - shows up at Jack's outback home. Followed by its family. As it dawns on Jack that despite their stature, these are people, he begins to suspect that ZaraCorp's claim to a planet's worth of wealth is very flimsy indeed...and that ZaraCorp may stop at nothing to eliminate the "fuzzys" before their existence becomes more widely known.

4. Anglo-French Kingdom/Nuclear-powered Zeppelin / One-eyed, Cigar-chomping Monkey
Ack-Ack Macaque by Gareth L. Powell
Startling, fast-paced SF from one of the most striking new voices. A cigar-chomping monkey, nuclear-powered Zeppelins, electronic souls and a battle to avert armageddon. In 1944, as waves of "German ninjas" parachute into Kent, Britain's best hopes for victory lie with a Spitfire pilot codenamed 'Ack-Ack Macaque'. The trouble is, Ack-Ack Macaque is a cynical, one-eyed, cigar-chomping monkey, and he's starting to doubt everything, including his own existence. A century later, in a world where France and Great Britain merged in the late 1950s and nuclear-powered Zeppelins encircle the globe, ex-journalist Victoria Valois finds herself drawn into a deadly game of cat and mouse with the man who butchered her husband and stole her electronic soul. Meanwhile, in Paris, after taking part in an illegal break-in at a research laboratory, the heir to the British throne goes on the run. And all the while, the doomsday clock ticks towards Armageddon.

5. Crappy Island Vacation/It Blows your Mind/Not Your Average Hunger Games
Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
Koushun Takami's notorious high-octane thriller is based on an irresistible premise: a class of 42 junior high school students are taken to a deserted island where, as part of a ruthless authoritarian program, they are electronically collared, provided with weapons of varying potency, and sent out onto the island. If they are in the wrong part of the island at the wrong time, their collars will explode. If they band together to save themselves a collar will explode at random. If they try to escape from the island, they will be blown up. Their only chance for survival lies in killing their classmates. Criticized as violent exploitation when first published in Japan - where it then proceeded to become a runaway bestseller - Battle Royale is a Lord of the Flies for the 21st century, and a potent story of politics and survival in a dog-eat-dog world.

6. Humanity Almost Extinct/Gene Trade/Ooloi Gives You Pleasure
Lilith's Brood by Octavia Butler
The acclaimed trilogy that comprises LILITH'S BROOD is multiple Hugo and Nebula award-winner Octavia E. Butler at her best. Presented for the first time in one volume, with an introduction by Joan Slonczewski, Ph.D., LILITH'S BROOD is a profoundly evocative, sensual -- and disturbing -- epic of human transformation. Lilith Iyapo is in the Andes, mourning the death of her family, when war destroys Earth. Centuries later, she is resurrected -- by miraculously powerful unearthly beings, the Oankali. Driven by an irresistible need to heal others, the Oankali are rescuing our dying planet by merging genetically with mankind. But Lilith and all humanity must now share the world with uncanny, unimaginably alien creatures: their own children. This is their story...

7. Exoskeletons vs. Aliens/Live/Die/Repeat/ Tom on the Cover is kind of Scary
All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka
When the alien Gitai invade, Keiji Kiriya is just one of many raw recruits shoved into a suit of battle armour and sent out to kill. Keiji dies on the battlefield, only to find himself reborn each morning to fight and die again and again. On the 158th iteration though, he sees something different, something out of place: the female soldier known as the Bitch of War. Is the Bitch the key to Keiji's escape, or to his final death?

8. Linked Combat Squad/Dead Sisters/King David
The Red: First Light by Linda Nagata
There Needs To Be A War Going On Somewhere: Lieutenant James Shelley commands a high-tech squad of soldiers in a rural district within the African Sahel. They hunt insurgents each night on a harrowing patrol, guided by three simple goals: protect civilians, kill the enemy, and stay alive-because in a for-profit war manufactured by the defense industry there can be no cause worth dying for. To keep his soldiers safe, Shelley uses every high-tech asset available to him-but his best weapon is a flawless sense of imminent danger . . . as if God is with him, whispering warnings in his ear.

9. Warship in Space/Legal Officer/Cover-up
Burden of Proof by John G. Hemry
Lieutenant Junior Grade Paul Sinclair must adjust to his new position on the warship USS Michaelson--juggling his Legal Officer responsibilities and his intensifying relationship with girlfriend Jen Shen. When an explosion takes out most of Forward Engineering, Sinclair leads the effort to extinguish the fire. He's practically a hero. But when Captain Shen, Jen’s father, is brought in to conduct an investigation, it seems that he’s gunning for his daughter’s suitor. Soon Sinclair uncovers evidence that points to a cover-up—involving a rising star in the officer corps. His evidence is circumstantial, and the suspect is the son of a powerful vice admiral. He's determined to see justice done, but is he willing to risk his name, his career, and his future among the stars?

10. Cloistered Sanctuary/Young Fraa/Many Worlds Theorem
Anathem by Neal Stephenson
For ten years Fraa Erasmas, a young avout, has lived in a cloistered sanctuary for mathematicians, scientists, and philosophers, protected from the corrupting influences of the outside world. But before the week is out, both the existence he abandoned and the one he embraced will stand poised on the brink of cataclysmic change--and Erasmas will become a major player in a drama that will determine the future of his world, as he follows his destiny to the most inhospitable corners of the planet . . . and beyond.

11. (Relatively) Safer on Mars/Base without Adults/Teacher Robots
Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall
The fact that someone had decided I'd be safer on Mars, where you could still only sort of breathe the air and sort of not get sunburned to death, was a sign that the war with the aliens was not going fantastically well. When Alice Dare finds out that she's being evacuated to Mars to join the youth defence force, she isn't sure what to expect. But it sure wasn't being shot at, chased by invisible aliens, befriending a robot goldfish - and then having to save the galaxy!

12. Future plagued by Drought/Occupation/Young Tea Master
Memory of Water by Emmi Itaranta
In the far north of the Scandinavian Union, now occupied by the power state of New Qian, seventeen-year-old Noria Kaitio studies to become a tea master like her father. It is a position that holds great responsibility and a dangerous secret. Tea masters alone know the location of hidden water sources, including the natural spring that once provided water for her whole village. When Noria's father dies, the secret of the spring reaches the new military commander . . . and the power of the army is vast indeed. But the precious water reserve is not the only forbidden knowledge Noria possesses, and resistance is a fine line.Threatened with imprisonment, and with her life at stake, Noria must make an excruciating, dangerous choice between knowledge and freedom.

13. Technology Driven by Insects/Endless War/Hard Boiled Female Bounty Hunter
God's War by Kameron Hurley
Some days, Nyx was a Bel Dame - an honored, respected, and deadly government-funded assassin - other days, she was a butcher and a hunter; a woman with nothing to lose. Now the butcher has a bounty to bring in. Nyx and her rag-tag group of mercenaries is about to take up a contract that will shake the foundations of two warring governments...

14. Recluse Scientist/Settled Solar System/Secrets of the Grandmother
Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds
One hundred and fifty years from now, Africa has become the world's dominant technological and economic power. Crime, war, disease and poverty have been practically eliminated. The Moon and Mars are settled, and colonies stretch all the way out to the edge of the solar system. And Ocular, the largest scientific instrument in history, is about to make an epochal discovery... Geoffrey Akinya wants only one thing: to be left in peace, so that he can continue his long-running studies into the elephants of the Amboseli basin. But Geoffrey's family, which controls the vast Akinya business empire, has other plans for him. After the death of his grandmother Eunice--the erstwhile space explorer and entrepreneur--something awkward has come to light on the Moon, so Geoffrey is dispatched there to ensure the family name remains untarnished. But the secrets Eunice died with are about to be revealed--secrets that could change everything...or tear this near utopia apart.

15. Military Scifi Psychological Horror Thriller/Partial Deconstructed Space Station/Alien Shadows
The Burning Dark by Adam Christopher
Back in the day, Captain Abraham Idaho Cleveland had led the Fleet into battle against an implacable machine intelligence capable of devouring entire worlds. After saving a planet, and getting a bum robot knee in the process, he finds himself relegated to one of the most remote backwaters in Fleetspace, overseeing the decommissioning of a semi-deserted space station. The station's reclusive commandant is nowhere to be seen. Persistent malfunctions plague the station's systems while interference from a toxic purple star makes even ordinary communications problematic. Alien shadows and whispers seem to haunt the lonely corridors and airlocks, fraying the nerves of everyone aboard. Isolated and friendless, Cleveland reaches out to the universe via an old-fashioned space radio, only to tune in to a strange, enigmatic signal: a woman's voice that echoes across a thousand light-years of space. But is the transmission just a random bit of static from the past--or a warning of an undying menace beyond mortal comprehension?

16. Steampunk Classic/Steam-driven Cybernetic Engines/ Detective Story
The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling
The computer age has arrived a century ahead of time with Charles Babbage's perfection of his Analytical Engine. The Industrial Revolution, supercharged by the development of steam-driven cybernetic Engines, is in full and drastic swing. Great Britain, with her calculating-cannons, steam dreadnoughts, machine-guns and information technology, prepares to better the world's lot ...

17. Stowaway Sky Surgeon/Diverse Crew/ Inter-dimensional Rifts
Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi
Alana Quick is the best damned sky surgeon in Heliodor City, but repairing starship engines barely pays the bills. When the desperate crew of a cargo vessel stops by her shipyard looking for her spiritually-advanced sister Nova, Alana stows away. Maybe her boldness will land her a long-term gig on the crew. But the Tangled Axon proves to be more than star-watching and plasma coils. The chief engineer thinks he's a wolf. The pilot fades in and out of existence. The captain is all blond hair, boots, and ego ...and Alana can't keep her eyes off her. But there's little time for romance: Nova's in danger and someone will do anything - even destroying planets - to get their hands on her!

18. Apocalyptic Wasteland/Lone Gunman/ Fear the Weir
Three by Jay Posey
A lone gunman reluctantly accompanies a young boy and his dying drug-dependant mother, protecting them against the forces in pursuit. Fighting their way across the wastelands of the world, they seek the father of the boy, who - it is promised - will offer protection. But dangerous creatures live in the shadows, and there are assassins at every turn.

19. Mercenary with Ambition/Ship with Bad Luck/Armor Suit
Fortune's Pawn by Rachel Bach
Deviana Morris isn't your average mercenary. She has plans. Big ones. And a ton of ambition. One of those is going to get her killed one day - but not just yet. Not when she just got a job on a tiny trade ship with a nasty reputation for surprises. The Glorious Fool isn't misnamed: it likes to get into trouble. And with a reputation for bad luck that makes one year as security detail on this ship equal to five years everywhere else - Devi knows she's found the perfect way to get the jump on the next part of her Plan. But the Fool doesn't give up its secrets without a fight, and one year might be more than even Devi can handle.


A huge thanks to Tiemen for putting the challenge together. As usual he came up with some devious clues. The list has some intriguing new authors and interesting stories to go out and discover. I hope you enjoyed the challenge as much as I did!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

This is what science fiction is all about

Sci-fi November is coming to a close and I hardly got round to doing most of the post I had planned. Curse you life for getting in the way!

As luck would have it I came across this stunning short film that embodies what science fiction is all about. It uses Carl Sagan's words combined with stunning visuals to portray the essence, that sense of wonder, which makes science fiction such a captivating genre fulled with endless possibilities. If we dream it, maybe someday we can achieve it!

Turn on HD, switch to full screen and be prepared to be blown away!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Opening Lines: The Stone Canal

Some novels have the ability to draw you in from the start. A single line or paragraph can grab your attention in such a way that the novel just demands to be read. Opening Lines is a feature where I'll share some of the best opening lines that hooked me.

Five words are all it takes to draw you in.

He woke, and remembered dying

The Stone Canal
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Life on New Mars is tough for humans, but death is only a minor inconvenience. The machines know their place, the free market rules all, and only the Abolitionists object.

Then a stranger arrives on New Mars, a clone who remembers life on Earth as Jonathon Wilde, the anarchist with a nuclear capability who was accused of losing World War III. That stranger remembers David Reid, New Mars's leader...and the women they fought over ideals they once shared.

Moving from twentieth-century Scotland through a tumultuous twenty-first century and outward to humanity's settlement on a planet circling another star, The Stone Canal is idea-driven science fiction at its best, making real and believable a future where long lives, strange deaths, and unexpected knowledge await those who survive the wars and revolutions to come.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Blind Book Challenge 2014

Brown paper packages tied up with string. These are a few of my favourite things... Especially if the packages are book-shaped and come equipped with cryptic clues to reveal what wonders lurk within.

Like last year I've asked Tiemen Zwaan, the mastermind behind the blind book date initiative at the American Book Center in Amsterdam,  to create a list of clues for you to try to decipher. And this year he has been particularly devious.

Your mission. if you are are brave and cunning enough to accept it, is to try to figure out which novels these clues refer to. Post your answers/guesses in the comments below and at the end of the month the answers will be revealed. 
  1. Failed Author/ Hollywood/ Cloned for TV
  2. Cyberpunk/Mysterious Book/Djinn
  3. Cynical Surveyor/Ex-Lawyer/ Adorable Small Biped/ Courtroom Showdown
  4. Anglo-French Kingdom/Nuclear-powered Zeppelin / One-eyed, Cigar-chomping Monkey
  5. Crappy Island Vacation/It Blows your Mind/Not Your Average Hunger Games
  6. Humanity Almost Extinct/Gene Trade/Ooloi Gives You Pleasure
  7. Exoskeletons vs. Aliens/Live/Die/Repeat/ Tom on the Cover is kind of Scary
  8. Linked Combat Squad/Dead Sisters/King David
  9. Warship in Space/Legal Officer/Cover-up
  10. Cloistered Sanctuary/Young Fraa/Many Worlds Theorem
  11. (Relatively) Safer on Mars/Base without Adults/Teacher Robots
  12. Future plagued by Drought/Occupation/Young Tea Master
  13. Technology Driven by Insects/Endless War/Hard Boiled Female Bounty Hunter
  14. Recluse Scientist/Settled Solar System/Secrets of the Grandmother
  15. Military Scifi Psychological Horror Thriller/Partial Deconstructed Space Station/Alien Shadows
  16. Steampunk Classic/Steam-driven Cybernetic Engines/ Detective Story
  17. Stowaway Sky Surgeon/Diverse Crew/ Inter-dimensional Rifts
  18. Apocalyptic Wasteland/Lone Gunman/ Fear the Weir
  19. Mercenary with Ambition/Ship with Bad Luck/Armor Suit
Put those thinking caps on and get cracking. Good luck!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Opening Lines: Blue Remembered Earth

Some novels have the ability to draw you in from the start. A single line or paragraph can grab your attention in such a way that the novel just demands to be read. Opening Lines is a feature where I'll share some of the best opening lines that hooked me.

This one is a bit of a cheat since technically this isn't the opening lines of the novel, but rather part of the preface. It's still the bit that got me hooked and sent shivers down my spine when I first read it. Two years later it still sticks in my mind.

She may have been born angry, but it was not until her mother cradled her under the stillness of a Serengeti night, beneath the cloudless spine of the Milky Way, that she began to grasp for what was forever out of reach.

All these stars, Eunice. All these tiny diamond lights. You can have them, if you want them badly enough. But first you must be patient and then you must be wise.

Blue Remembered Earth
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One hundred and fifty years from now, in a world where Africa is the dominant technological and economic power, and where crime, war, disease and poverty have been banished to history, Geoffrey Akinya wants only one thing: to be left in peace, so that he can continue his studies into the elephants of the Amboseli basin. But Geoffrey's family, the vast Akinya business empire, has other plans. After the death of Eunice, Geoffrey's grandmother, erstwhile space explorer and entrepreneur, something awkward has come to light on the Moon, and Geoffrey is tasked - well, blackmailed, really - to go up there and make sure the family's name stays suitably unblemished. But little does Geoffrey realise - or anyone else in the family, for that matter - what he's about to unravel.

Eunice's ashes have already have been scattered in sight of Kilimanjaro. But the secrets she died with are about to come back out into the open, and they could change everything. Or shatter this near-utopia into shards ... Read the review.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Sci-Fi November 2014

It’s November again and that means only one thing – it’s time for Sci-Fi November! During November bloggers around the globe will celebrate all things science fiction and of course I’m joining in on the fun. You can find out more about the event and a full list of participants over here.

Unfortunately this year Sci-Fi November coincides with the worst reading slump I’ve had in ages, erratic and extremely slow internet access (we are talking speeds slower than dial-up) and the wonderful prospect of rolling blackouts (tastefully termed ‘load shedding’ over here – basically the power could get switched off for about 3 hours or more a day). Conditions are hardly ideal.

So what’s the plan? I’m not much for reading or blogging according to a schedule, so I’ll just have to see what lies behind the event horizon and make things up as I go along. Hopefully no solar systems will be harmed in the process.

One thing that’s definitely happening is the second annual science fiction blind book date. It’s going to be even more devious than last year. Be sure to keep an eye on the blog later this week. I’ll also continue with my Opening Lines series and might even get a couple of reviews done.

I hope you’ll join me in this adventure and hopefully Sci-Fi November will be enough incentive to get me out of this abysmal reading slump. Let’s boldly go to the stars and beyond, to worlds unknown and explore the edge of possibility!

Friday, October 31, 2014


And here is the last installment of micro fiction. I'd like to introduce you to a hellhound called Scraps...


The dog found him where he lay curled up into a ball behind the dumpster, bruised and battered by his latest encounter with Bruce the Moose, the kid that made his life a living hell. Max was weird, forever lost in a book or a world of his own making. None of the other kids liked him. He’d made peace with that fact a long time ago. He just couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t just leave him alone.

He felt a wet tongue lapping at the blood on his hand where a broken bottle had sliced his palm. Cringing he looked up and stared transfixed into two glowing red eyes. A huge dog, the biggest he’d ever seen, looked down at him. It wagged its tail and proceeded to cover his face in slobber.

Scraps, that’s what he named it, followed him everywhere. It was odd how people never seemed to notice Scraps. They just detoured around them, giving Max strange looks and shaking their heads whenever he chatted to his constant companion.

They were playing in the woods when Bruce found them. “Whaddya doing weirdo?” he snarled as he shoved Max to the ground. Scraps howled and came crashing through the undergrowth. Bruce turned, his face went ashen and with a scream he fled into the trees.

“Go fetch, boy!” Scraps looked at him and bounded into the woods. He heard distant screams and a few minutes later Scraps returned depositing a bloody bone at his feet.

"Good job boy!"

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Whispering Silence

 As a special Halloween treat (or trick depending on how terrible you think my writing is) I'm going to share my micro fiction entries to Apex Magazine's Steal the Spotlight contest. The story ideas just wormed their way into my head and they didn't want to go away until I scribbled them down. I'm not an aspiring writer so I sincerely suspect they were meant for someone far more capable.

The Whispering Silence

The demon always came for him in the silences, those moments in-between thought. Night. Day. It made no difference. It was always there whispering offers of temptation - the world was his, theirs, for the taking. A simple yes would be all it took.

Even his dreams provided no solace, only visions of fire and flame. The world turned to ash at his touch. A multitude of voices howled from the flames, demanding to be allowed in. The only voice of dissent his own as he screamed, “No, no, NO!” until he woke in tears, gasping for breath. Night after night, it was always the same.

The whispers grew louder, more insistent and angry by the day. How much longer could his resolve manage to bar the way?


He stumbled upon the kitten in an alley as he wandered the streets in search of noise, people - anything to keep the whispers at bay. It was a pitiful mewling thing covered in dirt; clinging to life by a thread. It shivered in his hands, nuzzling at a finger that could provide no sustenance.

The demon stirred. Drawn by the life he held in his hands. How little it would take to snuff it out. A mere thought. It would be so easy to let go. To give in.

Unbidden a spark flickered between his fingers. The corners of his mouth curled up into a smile. Such a simple answer.

A spark, a flame. An inferno.
Agony. Ecstasy. Freedom...

If the writing didn't send you screaming for the hills, I'll introduce you to Scraps tomorrow...

Friday, October 24, 2014

Guest Post: The Pop Prophet - Arthur C. Clarke

Arthur C. Clarke (Credit: Wikipedia)
Fame rode the shoulder of Arthur C. Clarke. As a science-fiction writer, he was touted as one of the genre’s “Big Three” alongside Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein. He is remembered, not only for his literary prowess, but also for his remarkable ability to anticipate the future technologies.

In 1962, Clarke published Profiles of the Future: An Inquiry Into the Limits of the Possible, an anthology of his many ideas of space travel and human communication. He thus formulated his first law of prediction: “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.”

In 1994, the BBC News Network caught up with Clarke and asked him for his thoughts on the future. “Trying to predict the future is a discouraging, hazardous occupation,” warned Clarke, and then he refused his own advice.

The Tablet Computer
When Apple sued Samsung for the release of its iPad doppelganger, the Samsung Galaxy 10.1, Samsung turned to Arthur C. Clarke’s magnum opus for help: 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was constructed as both a screenplay for the Stanley Kubrick film and a novel unto itself in 1968. In that film, an astronaut watches the news on a thin black tablet called a “Newspad.” Samsung’s claim: Clarke invented the iPad design before Steve Jobs had even entered high school.

Bioengineering & Terraforming
In Profiles of the Future, Arthur C. Clarke put together a timeline of scientific advancement by decade from 1970 to 2100. He successfully predicted a global library in 2000 – ever hear of “the cloud”? – wireless energy transfer in 2010, and human bioengineering in 2020. His later predictions involved terraforming, planet colonization and climate control. Eerily, In 2013, the NASA Rover “Curiosity” detected samples of “abundant, easily accessible” water in the red rocky wastes of Mars, and people began chattering about a new earth.

The Geostationary Satellite
In his article Extra-terrestrial Relays, Clarke proposed that if a satellite slingshoted from the earth on the back of a rocket reaches 26,200 miles above the surface of the earth, it will rotate around the earth at the same speed as earth itself. Although Clarke did not invent the idea, he did popularize the notion and propose it as the basis of high-frequency telecommunication. Now, the geosynchronous orbit is formally called a “Clarke orbit.”

Internet & Wireless Communications
Like many science fiction writers of his day, Clarke foresaw the Internet. There will come a time, he said, when a man will have “all the information he needs for his everyday life: his bank statements, his theater reservations [on a computer] .. We'll live out in the country or wherever we please and still carry on complete interactions with other human beings as well as computers.” Remember: Clarke had first proposed this idea in a paper published in 1945 — 12 years before the launch of Sputnik, and about 15 years before the Telstar program (Howard Hughes collaboration with NASA) which itself set the stage for Arpanet and HughesNet Internet. Clarke didn’t merely anticipate the technology — he may have even expedited its development.

A Few Duds
Not all of Clarke’s forecasts came true. A few, like cryogenic suspension and asteroid deflections, are in their infancy. Others, like bio-engineered chimpanzee slaves and an earth-to-moon space elevator, may have missed the mark entirely.

Forever Hopeful
In his book 3001: The Final Odyssey, Clarke put a new spin on immortality. By transferring personality and memory into a digital database, he argued, the body could rot while the mind remained intact forever. Although immortality still evades humans, perhaps the gigabytes of videos, pictures, status updates and online blogs are all an elementary attempt to stay death’s hand?

More about the author:
Brandon Engel is a Chicago-based blogger and pulp literature enthusiast.
Follow him on Twitter: @BrandonEngel2

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Opening Lines: Life, The Universe and Everything

Some novels have the ability to draw you in from the start. A single line or paragraph can grab your attention in such a way that the novel just demands to be read. Opening Lines is a feature where I'll share some of the best opening lines that hooked me.

I just love the humour in the Hitchhiker's Guide series by Douglas Adams. It has the ability to draw you in completely and want to see what new adventures await poor Arthur Dent.

The regular early morning yell of horror was the sound of Arthur Dent waking up and suddenly remembering where he was.

It wasn’t just that the cave was cold, it wasn’t just that it was damp and smelly. It was that the cave was in the middle of Islington and there wasn’t a bus due for two million years.

Time is the worst place, so to speak, to get lost in, as Arthur Dent could testify, having been lost in both time and space a good deal. At least being lost in space kept you busy.

Life, the Universe and Everything
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In consequence of a number of stunning catastrophes, Arthur Dent is surprised to find himself living in a hideously miserable cave on prehistoric Earth. However, just as he thinks that things cannot get possibly worse, they suddenly do. He discovers that the Galaxy is not only mind-boggingly big and bewildering but also that most of the things that happen in it are staggeringly unfair. VOLUME THREE IN THE TRILOGY OF FIVE.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Opening Lines: Axis

Some novels have the ability to draw you in from the start. A single line or paragraph can grab your attention in such a way that the novel just demands to be read. Opening Lines is a feature where I'll share some of the best opening lines that hooked me.

This is just stunning, not sure what captivates me more - the lost of the stars or the fact that the boy can tell direction without their aid.

In the summer of his twelfth year - the summer the stars began to fall from the sky - the boy Isaac discovered that he could tell East from West with his eyes closed.

Order a copy from The Book Depository (Free international shipping)

In Axis, Spin's direct sequel, Wilson takes us to the "world next door"—the planet engineered by the mysterious Hypotheticals to support human life, and connected to Earth by way of the Arch that towers hundreds of miles over the Indian Ocean. Humans are colonizing this new world—and, predictably, fiercely exploiting its resources, chiefly large deposits of oil in the western deserts of the continent of Equatoria.

Lise Adams is a young woman attempting to uncover the mystery of her father's disappearance ten years earlier. Turk Findley is an ex-sailor and sometimes-drifter. They come together when an infall of cometary dust seeds the planet with tiny remnant Hypothetical machines. Soon, this seemingly hospitable world will become very alien indeed—as the nature of time is once again twisted, by entities unknown.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Opening Lines: 1984

Some novels have the ability to draw you in from the start. A single line or paragraph can grab your attention in such a way that the novel just demands to be read. Opening Lines is a feature where I'll share some of the best opening lines that hooked me.

This one is another classic which should need no introduction. As an opening line it packs one heck of a punch.Why thirteen? Unlucky? Military time?


It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

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1984 has come and gone, but George Orwell's prophetic, nightmare vision in 1949 of the world we were becoming is timelier than ever. "1984" is still the great modern classic "negative Utopia" - a startling original and haunting novel that creates an imaginary world that is completely convincing from the first sentence to the last four words. No one can deny this novel's power, its hold on the imagination of whole generations, or the power of its admonitions - a power that seems to grow, not lessen, with the passage of time.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Interview: Raymond E. Feist

Magician was the Harry Potter of my generation. It got me hooked on fantasy as a teen and I remember how we fought over who got to check out the next book from the library first. Many joyful hours were spent with Pug and Tomas as they journeyed through Midkemia. A reread is long overdue and now I have another reason to move it up the old TBR mountain.

Raymond E. Feist will be visiting South Africa from 17 to 25 September and I was lucky enough to get to interview him via email. I had hundreds of questions, but I managed to contain my fanboy glee and limit them to a far more manageable ten. (Wouldn't want to scare the author away...)

If you aren't geographically disadvantaged like me you’d be crazy to miss out on this rare opportunity to see one of fantasy’s greats! You can find his full tour schedule over here.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your novels?

I’m a native Californian, and pushing an age where you’d think I’d know more, but I don’t. Still, I find out new things every week. I began writing just after graduating from the University of California, San Diego, just to see if I could do it. I guess I showed I could. That was over 32 years ago. My books for the most part are about the mythic world of Midkemia, and follow the very long progress of a lad named Pug and his evolution into the most powerful magic user on that world.

The Riftwar Cycle spans 30 novels which can be quite daunting prospect for newcomers. Is there a preferred reading order or certain novels that would be a good point to jump in without necessarily starting at the beginning?

I call it the world’s longest trilogy. The reading order thing has been discussed enough there’s a small article on it on my website, Crydee.com. One is publishing order, the other is “if you want to make some sense of the time line” order. I’ve also written some “jumping in” books for those who don’t wish to start at the very beginning. Magician, obviously, is first, but you can also start with Shadow of a Dark Queen, Talon of the Silver Hawk, Flight of the Nighthawks, Rides a Dread Legion, or A Kingdom Besieged. The later you start, the less the backstory makes sense, but not to a debilitating level. I tried to make the start of each series a good entrance, and each series within the larger arc, a complete series.

The world of Midkemia apparently started out as part of a D&D campaign. That's an unusual origin for what became such an epic series. Can you tell us how that came about?

Not quite D&D, but rather our own game system, predicated on D&D. Anyone who remembers the original D&D three pamphlet set know it was semi-incomprehensible, as it was originally a supplement for a medieval miniature models, table top war game system called “Chainmail.” The world was build as a response to the need for coherency among a half-dozen or more game masters who needed to keep things standardized from campaign to campaign, so dungeons needed overland routes to get player’s characters from one place to another, and that meant villages, towns, and cities, and that led to rules how to travel overland and interact in urban environments, etc. So we all built different bits. I created Novindus and the Far Coast, while my friend Steve Abrams gave us Krondor and the Principality, his roommate at the time Jon Everson gave us LaMut and Yabon. So it went.

What drew you to becoming a fantasy author? Do you think fantasy as a genre gives an author more freedom to play around with ideas since there are no boundaries to what could be possible?

Actually I was drawn to it for two reasons. It was selling. And it was as close as I was going to get to the “boys adventure fiction” I read growing up. There are plenty of boundaries in fantasy, though they may not be apparent. It’s axiomatic the reader will accept the impossible in fantasy, but he or she will not accept the improbable any more than in a detective novel, a western, etc. You’re magic has to “make sense,” in an intuitive way or the reader will sense a cheat.

As a long-standing fantasy author have you seen a shift in how fantasy as a genre is perceived? Do you think the popularity of Harry Potter and Game of Thrones has made fantasy more mainstream?

It has been for a long time, just most people weren’t aware of it. There’s a common confusion between genre and publishing category. They are not the same thing. So it’s become mainstream in the sense we have smashing great movies and TV series about fantasy now, but fantasy novels have been hitting both Times (NY and London) best seller lists for decades now. What has happened more recently is it’s now considered “worthy” by mainstream critics and readers who in the past had looked down on it. Look at how many copies Terry Brooks, Steven Donaldson, and others were selling thirty years ago when I was breaking in and you see the reading public had already begun to move more towards fantasy.

People often have this romanticized view of authors. What would you say is the best and worst thing about being an author?

The best thing is you’re creating something, which most people can relate to, I’m certain. On a short tangent, you can be creative in many ways, including parenting, mathematics, cooking, managing a warehouse, picking trucking routs and schedules, and many things most of us never consider, so many people get the rush of creating something good. End of tangent. Also I’m my own boss, and set my own hours.

The worst thing is the risk of living alone too long inside your own head. It can be a highway to clinical depression if you’re prone, and I discovered I was and battled mind numbing, soul crushing depression for more than seven years. Like anything else you love doing, if you get too deeply into it, you can sacrifice other things in life that are vital. Finding a balance can be difficult.

A note on the romanticizing of authors. People often wrongly assume things about the writer from the writing. Big mistake. I’ve met some lovely people who were terrible writers, no matter how mightily they struggled in their craft. I’ve met some total horses’ asses who are brilliant writers. Be cautious.

When readers meet me they are (I hope) for the most part amused and feel it worthwhile, but from time to time I get a shocked reaction when they discover I am a sports junkie and watch pretty much anything (I even have an autographed Boke jumper from the ’95 World Cup team, sadly lacking the world cup badge—I have one of those with the Lion Lager badge), I drink single malt whisky instead of claret, Champagne, or cognac (I’ll drink if offered, but I order Glenfiddich most times), or I’ve written a TV pilot project, not fantasy, but a crime drama centered around a strip club in Miami (well, maybe that’s fantasy after all). So, when you’re meeting with an author you admire, park your expectations at the door and you won’t be disappointed.

Magician's End brings the Riftwar Cycle to a close after more than 30 years. Is it difficult to leave behind the world and characters you've spent so much time bringing to life?

Difficult only insofar as I know the rules. Midkemia is as real a writing environment to me as Missouri and the Mississippi River was to Mark Twain, or Victorian London was to Charles Dickens. With my new world of Garn (name subject to change at whim), I have to re-engineer the politics, magic, economics, technology, etc. That takes a bit of getting used to.

You are already working on a new series. Can you tell us anything about it?

A bit. Garn is a world with six continents, the larges of which is Ilinthia. On that continent, Five Great Kingdoms dominated for centuries, and a less than gentle peace had existed for over a century, because of the Covenant. That consisted of pledges by each king and their Oathmen—sworn nobles—and the Free Lords, nobility not affiliated with any Kingdom. The Covenant also refers to a stretch of land running across the entire continent, unclaimed by any ruler, a free zone where the peace was insured by all five Kings.

The first book, King of Ashes, begins when the Covenant is broken, when four kings betray the fifth, and a orphaned child sets forth on a life journey to bring revenge on those who murdered his family. I will say no more.

If you could own any magical item what would it be and what power would it bestow?

Tough one. I’m torn between a whisky glass that rejuvenates, I would love to have my 31 years old body back (best shape of my life), and throw in my 19 year old endurance. Or a magic credit card with no limit where everything I charge is instantly paid. Very tough choice.

And lastly, is there anything you’d like to say to your South African fans in particular?

I am very much looking forward to my first visit to South Africa. I have always wished to visit and like many Americans denied myself the pleasure under the old government, but since 1994 I have been conspiring for a way to come and see the “Beloved Country.”

More about the author:
Raymond E. Feist was born and raised in Southern California. He was educated at the University of California, San Diego, where he graduated with honours in Communication Arts. He is the author of the bestselling and critically acclaimed Riftwar saga among other books.

You can visit his website at www.crydee.com.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Opening Lines: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Some novels have the ability to draw you in from the start. A single line or paragraph can grab your attention in such a way that the novel just demands to be read. Opening Lines is a feature where I'll share some of the best opening lines that hooked me.

In keeping with the Douglas Adams theme of the last installment, here's the opening of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. If you look at the bizarre news we are faced with I somewhat suspect it happens on a daily basis...

There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.

There is another which states that this has already happened.

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
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If you’ve done six impossible things this morning, why not round it off with breakfast at Milliaways, the Restaurant at the end of the Universe? Which is exactly what the crew of the Heart of Gold plan to do. There’s just the small matter of escaping the Vogans, avoiding being taken to the most totally evil world in the Galaxy and teaching a space ship how to make a proper cup of tea. And did anyone actually make a reservation? Volume Two in the Trilogy of Five.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Opening Lines: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Some novels have the ability to draw you in from the start. A single line or paragraph can grab your attention in such a way that the novel just demands to be read. Opening Lines is a feature where I'll share some of the best opening lines that hooked me.

I don't think this one needs any introduction. Grab your towels!

Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
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It's an ordinary Thursday lunchtime for Arthur Dent until his house gets demolished. The Earth follows shortly afterwards to make way for a new hyperspace bypass and his best friend has just announced that he's an alien. At this moment, they're hurtling through space with nothing but their towels and an innocuous-looking book inscribed with the big, friendly words: DON'T PANIC.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Opening Lines: The War of the Worlds

Some novels have the ability to draw you in from the start. A single line or paragraph can grab your attention in such a way that the novel just demands to be read. Opening Lines is a feature where I'll share some of the best opening lines that hooked me.

This is another iconic opening I think almost everyone will already be familiar with. There's just something about it that makes it stick in your mind. I just need to hear that first couple of words and the title immediately springs to mind.

No one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.

The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
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The night after a shooting star is seen streaking through the sky from Mars, a cylinder is discovered on Horsell Common in London. At first, naive locals approach the cylinder armed just with a white flag only to be quickly killed by an all-destroying heat-ray, as terrifying tentacled invaders emerge. Soon the whole of human civilisation is under threat, as powerful Martians build gigantic killing machines, destroy all in their path with black gas and burning rays, and feast on the warm blood of trapped, still-living human prey. The forces of the Earth, however, may prove harder to beat than they at first appear.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Opening Lines: Incandescence

Some novels have the ability to draw you in from the start. A single line or paragraph can grab your attention in such a way that the novel just demands to be read. Opening Lines is a feature where I'll share some of the best opening lines that hooked me.

I'm not exactly sure what draws me to this one. Is it that strange question or the fact that the narrator finds it the most interesting thing to happen to him?

"Are you a child of DNA?"

Rakesh was affronted; if he'd considered this to be information that any stranger wandering by had a right to know, it would have been included in his précis. After a moment's reflection, though, his indignation gave way to curiosity. The stranger was either being deliberately offensive, or had a very good reason for asking. Either way, this was the most interesting thing that had happened to him all day.

Incandescence by Greg Egan
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The Amalgam spans nearly the entire galaxy, and is composed of innumerable beings from a wild variety of races, some human or near it, some entirely other. The one place that they cannot go is the bulge, the bright, hot center of the galaxy. There dwell the Aloof, who for millions of years have deflected any and all attempts to communicate with or visit them. So when Rakesh is offered an opportunity to travel within their sphere, in search of a lost race, he cannot turn it down. Roi is a member of that lost race, which is not only lost to the Amalgam, but lost to itself. In their world, there is but toil, and history and science are luxuries that they can ill afford. Rakesh's journey will take him across millennia and light years. Roi's will take her across vistas of learning and discovery just as vast.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Review: Reach for Infinity

Title: Reach for Infinity
Editor: Jonathan Strahan
Pages: 339
ISBN: 9781781082034
Publisher: Solaris
Published: 2014
Genre: Science fiction / Short stories
Source: Review copy from publisher

Buy it from:
The Book Depository

What happens when humanity reaches out into the vastness of space? The award-winning anthologies editor, Jonathan Strahan, is back with a stellar list of best-selling SF authors in a collection of all-new original stories.

The brightest names in science fiction contribute new original fiction to this amazing anthology, including new stories by Alastair Reynolds, Greg Egan, Ian McDonald, Ken Macleod, Pat Cadigan, Karl Schroeder, Hannu Rajaniemi, Karen Lord, Adam Roberts, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Aliette de Bodard, Peter Watts, and others!

I think the best description of the 14 stories included in Reach for Infinity comes from Strahan himself, “Many of the stories take place on Earth in the next hundred years, looking at points in time where people, or a person, look to make a critical difference and push forward towards something greater. Some of them take snapshots from places – deep within the future colonies of Mars or perched in the chromosphere of the sun – where humanity as a whole is pushing its boundaries and stretching its limits in order to achieve more. All of them are about, one way or another, reaching for infinity from within and without.” It perfectly captures the essence and tone of the stories you’ll find in the anthology.

For me the best thing about short stories, anthologies in particular, is the ability to discover work by unfamiliar authors. In this respect Reach for Infinity definitely delivered. Two of my favourite stories are from authors I haven’t encountered before, which was a pleasant surprise since most of the really big names in SF are represented.

I thoroughly enjoyed all the stories and each one fits in well with the overall theme. As is always the case there were some stories that resonated more with me than others. For the sake of brevity I’ll highlight seven of my favourites. I know that’s half of the entire anthology, but I couldn’t trim it down further.

Break my fall – Greg Egan
A trip to Mars turns into a daring rescue operation when a CME threatens the lives of the passengers. The story portrays a very interesting concept of traveling between Earth and Mars and the ending is completely heart-wrenching. Great imagery and a stunning start to the anthology.
He rode up in airless silence, unable to turn his gaze to the side to look across at the stars. All he could see was the rock straight above him, cycling through its ten-second days and nights: a lighthouse, a prison, a safe port for all the loneliness and grief to come.

The Dust Queen - Aliette de Bodard
Salvaging childhood memories of home comes at a huge cost to the parties involved; a loss of self, of creativity, but also hope. Hope in the form of performances drawn in the dusts of Mars, a reminder of a future yet to come for the descendents of those watching over the terraforming of the planet. A touching, thought-provoking tale with a refreshing infusion of Vietnamese culture.
Going into someone’s brain is almost like being in space: that curious sensation of hanging, weightless, like floating in water without the water; of hanging in darkness with the stars around her like hairpin wounds in the fabric of the heavens.

The Fifth Dragon - Ian McDonald
This is a touching story about pioneers on the Moon, indebted to companies by the very act of living as they sculpt the lunar landscape into a new foothold for humanity. Two friends become lovers as the Moon takes its toll in bone-density, dreams and money, but it also offers countless opportunity for those brave enough to spot and embrace them.
The scan was routine. Every moon worker has one every four lunes. Achi was called, she went into the scanner. The machine passed magnetic fields through her body and when she came out the medic said, you have four weeks left.
Coffee is the drug of memory. I can remember the great cups of coffee of my life; the places, the faces, the words spoken. It never quite tastes the way it smells. If it did, we would drink it until our heads exploded with memory.

Report Concerning the Presence of Seahorses on Mars - Pat Cadigan
The populace of Mars emancipate themselves in a most peculiar way. I loved how the title only makes sense once you’ve read the story. The use of reality TV/crowd sourcing as funding for the Mars colonies might be quite prophetic if Mars One ever manages to get off the ground.

Amicae Aeternum - Ellen Klages
How do you bid farewell to an entire world? A young girl says goodbye to everything she knows, to everything she’ll never be able to do and to a friend she’ll have to leave behind. Her only solace is in an artefact of friendship she’ll take with her to the stars. This was definitely my favourite story in the anthology. It’s an extremely touching story of leave-taking with just the right mix of hope in the end. I think we all need to experience a day like this to rediscover the joy in the simple things around us.
The grass was chill and damp beneath her bare feet. She let them rest on it for a minute, the freshly-mowed blades tickling her toes, her heels sinking into the springy-sponginess of the dirt. She breathed deep, to catch it all – the cool and the green and the stillness – holding it in for as long as she could before slipping on her shoes.

A morning to remember. Every little detail.

Trademark Bugs: A Legal History - Adam Roberts
A disconcerting tale of corporations infecting people with designer germs in order to sell them the cure. I was sceptical of the legal style of the narration, but in the end it was an extremely effective way to tell the story, especially taking into account the increasingly litigious way large corporations handle trademark issues.

Wilder Still, the Stars - Kathleen Ann Goonan
Artificial people viewed as mere disposable tools turn out to be far more capable than their human creators. Through our creations, our successors we will inherit the stars. I loved the complexity of the themes at play – the love of astronomy and how our dreams can live on through others.

The Verdict:
Reach for Infinity has a stellar array of both authors and stories that explores humanity grasping for a place amongst the stars. Beautifully written, captivating, touching, but most importantly filled with that unique sense of wonder only great science fiction can provide. Don’t be scared off by the hard science fiction label. Science is used to set the stage, but these stories are overflowing with human emotion and spirit even if it sometimes takes unexpected forms. While some of the stories appealed more than others, they were all thoroughly enjoyable reads. If you are looking for a way to dip your toes into hard science fiction then this anthology would be a great starting point – a true showcase of what hard SF has to offer. Definitely recommended.

The Rating: 7/10 (Very good)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Giveaway: Echopraxia (US and Canada Only)

Thanks to brilliant folks at Tor, I have a copy of ECHOPRAXIA by Peter Watts to give away.

Echopraxia by Peter Watts

Daniel Bruks is a living fossil: a field biologist in a world where biology has turned computational, a cat's-paw used by terrorists to kill thousands. Taking refuge in the Oregon desert, he's turned his back on a humanity that shatters into strange new subspecies with every heartbeat. But he awakens one night to find himself at the center of a storm that will turn all of history inside-out.

Now he's trapped on a ship bound for the center of the solar system. To his left is a grief-stricken soldier, obsessed by whispered messages from a dead son. To his right is a pilot who hasn't yet found the man she's sworn to kill on sight. A vampire and its entourage of zombie bodyguards lurk in the shadows behind. And dead ahead, a handful of rapture-stricken monks takes them all to a meeting with something they will only call "The Angels of the Asteroids."

Their pilgrimage brings Dan Bruks, the fossil man, face-to-face with the biggest evolutionary breakpoint since the origin of thought itself.

The giveaway is now closed.

The winner will is Kayla Strickland. Congratulations!

How to enter:
  1. Complete the form below.
  2. It's not required, but liking the blog's Facebook page or following me on Twitter would be appreciated.
  1. The giveaway is only open to residents of the US or Canada
  2. Entries close on Sunday, 16th August at 15:00 U.S. Central Time.
  3. The winner will be selected at random and announced as soon as their details are confirmed.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Cover Reveal: Dark Intelligence

I'm a huge Neal Asher fan so this news brightened an otherwise dreary day. The cover for Neal Asher's next novel, Dark Intelligence, has been revealed.

As always Jon Sullivan has outdone himself. The cover is awesomeness taken to the power of googol. I can happily get lost staring at the little details and all they might imply. Fans of the Polity will be glad to know that this new series marks a return to the Polity universe we all know and love. I definitely can't wait! Is it January* yet?

Release date: 29 January 2015* (* release date may change)
ISBN: 9780230750722
Pre-order a copy from The Book Depository

One man will transcend death to seek vengeance. One woman will transform herself to gain power. And no one will emerge unscathed...

Thorvald Spear wakes in hospital, where he finds he's been brought back from the dead. What's more, he died in a human vs. alien war which ended a whole century ago. But when he relives his traumatic final moments, he finds the spark to keep on living. That spark is vengeance.

Trapped and desperate on a world surrounded by alien Prador forces, Spear had seen a rescue ship arriving. But instead of providing backup, Penny Royal, the AI within the destroyer turned rogue. It annihilated friendly forces in a frenzy of destruction, and, years later, it's still free. Spear vows to track it across worlds and do whatever it takes to bring it down. Isobel Satomi ran a successful crime syndicate. But after competitors attacked, she needed more power. Yet she got more than she bargained for when she negotiated with Penny Royal. She paid it to turn her part-AI herself, but the upgrades hid a horrifying secret. The Dark AI had triggered a transformation in Isobel that would turn her into a monster, rapidly evolving into something far from human.

Spear hires Isobel to take him to the Penny Royal AI's last known whereabouts. But he cheats her in the process and he becomes a target for her vengeance. And as she is evolves further into a monstrous predator, rage soon wins over reason. Will Spear finish his hunt, before he becomes the hunted? This is the first volume in a no-holds-barred adventure set in Asher's popular Polity universe.