Saturday, December 31, 2016

Best Reads of 2016

As 2016 finally draws to a close it's time to reflect on the best books I read during the year.  Quantity wise this year has been slightly better than last year. I set a goal of reading 25 books and I managed to exceed that by 5 for a total of 30 books read. Interestingly enough according to Goodreads I read a total of 15,711 pages with an average length of 534 pages per book, so I'm pretty happy with that.

There were so many great books I wanted to read, but didn't get round to. Mount TBR keeps on getting larger and larger (I swear I'm starting to see snow on the highest peaks!). Thankfully books are patient companions and there is a kind of bliss in knowing the next great book is just an arm's reach away.

In no particular order, here are my best reads of 2016.

PUSHING ICE by Alastair Reynolds

Pushing Ice has one of the best uses of time dilation I've come across in a SF novel which sets the stage for a human colony stranded far away from the home they knew having to face the challenge of establishing a functioning society and surviving with limited resources. A great character-driven story with strong female protagonists. Truly epic in scope.

WAR FACTORY by Neal Asher

War Factory sees Neal Asher in top form. An intricate plot, fascinating characters and all the epic action you've come to expect. More, I want more!

FORSAKEN SKIES by D. Nolan Clark

Part Firefly, part Top Gun, Forsaken Skies is a story about first contact and stepping up when nobody else will. Plus it has some awesome space dogfighting!

POISON CITY by Paul Crilley

Paul Crilley’s Poison City is the fantastical love child of Supernatural and a Lauren Beukes novel. Part urban fantasy, part crime novel this is a pure twisted reading delight. And who wouldn't want to read about a magical talking dog with a penchant for booze? Read the full review.

UPDRAFT by Fran Wilde

An unusual coming-of-age story set in an utterly fascinating and imaginative world where crimes have physical weight and people take to the skies. Read the full review.

NEMESIS GAMES by James S.A. Corey

It's the Expanse, no further explanation needed. The series keeps getting better and I loved this far more intimate look at the other characters in the series.


I wish you all a Happy New Year. Here's hoping that 2017 will be a less tragic year filled with awesome books and zero nuclear explosions. (2017 is going to be 1 second shorter than 2016 so it's already off to a great start!)

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

On My Radar: Galactic Empires

Next month Night Shade Books releases Galactic Empires an anthology of science fiction stories edited by Neil Clarke. With a line-up of authors featuring both accomplished veterans and the rising talents of the genre this is one anthology that you definitely won't want to miss out on.

GALACTIC EMPIRES edited by Neil Clarke
ISBN: 978-1-59780-884-2
Release Date: 17 January 2017
Pre-order a copy

Neil Clarke, publisher of the award-winning Clarkesworld magazine, presents Galactic Empires a collection of thought-provoking and galaxy-spanning short science fiction.

From E. E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman, to George Lucas’s Star Wars, the politics and process of Empire have been a major subject of science fiction’s galaxy-spanning fictions. The idiom of the Galactic Empire allows science fiction writers to ask (and answer) questions that are shorn of contemporary political ideologies and allegiances. Here then is a diverse collection of stories that asks the questions that science fiction asks best. Empire: How? Why? And to what effect?

Contributors include: Neal Asher, Ann Leckie, Brandon Sanderson, Naomi Novik, and many more!

Table of Contents:
  • “Winning Peace” by Paul J. McAuley
  • “Night’s Slow Poison” by Ann Leckie
  • “All the Painted Stars” by Gwendolyn Clare
  • “Firstborn” by Brandon Sanderson
  • “Riding the Crocodile” by Greg Egan
  • “The Lost Princess Man” by John Barnes
  • “The Waiting Stars” by Aliette de Bodard
  • “Alien Archeology” by Neal Asher
  • “The Muse of Empires Lost” by Paul Berger
  • “Ghostweight” by Yoon Ha Lee
  • “A Cold Heart” by Tobias S. Buckell
  • “The Colonel Returns to the Stars” by Robert Silverberg
  • “The Impossibles” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  • “Utriusque Cosmi” by Robert Charles Wilson
  • “Section Seven” by John G. Hemry
  • “The Invisible Empire of Ascending Light” by Ken Scholes
  • “The Man with the Golden Balloon” by Robert Reed
  • “Looking Through Lace” by Ruth Nestvold
  • “A Letter from the Emperor” by Steve Rasnic Tem
  • “The Wayfarer’s Advice” by Melinda M. Snodgrass
  • “Seven Years from Home” by Naomi Novik
  • “Verthandi’s Ring” by Ian McDonald

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Fan-O-Rama: A Futurama Fan Film

If you are a fan of Futurama (and who isn't) this live-action fan-made short is definitely worth watching. The attention to detail is astonishing for a fan production and it's obviously a labour of love. Unfortunately they didn't manage to tell a complete story due to budget constraints, but it's still a fun homage to watch despite the rather abrupt ending.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Review: The Librarians And The Lost Lamp

Title: The Librarians And The Lost Lamp
Author: Greg Cox
Pages: 286
ISBN: 9780765384089
Series: The Librarians #1
Publisher: Tor
Published: October 2016
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher

Buy it from:
The Book Depository

For millennia, the Librarians have secretly protected the world by keeping watch over dangerous magical relics. Cataloging and safeguarding everything from Excalibur to Pandora’s Box, they stand between humanity and those who would use the relics for evil.

Ten years ago, only Flynn Carsen, the last of the Librarians, stood against an ancient criminal organization known as The Forty. They stole the oldest known copy of The Arabian Nights by Scheherazade, and Flynn fears they intend to steal Aladdin’s fabled lamp. He races to find it first before they can unleash the trapped, malevolent djinn upon the world.

Today, Flynn is no longer alone. A new team of inexperienced Librarians, led by Eve Baird, their tough-as-nails Guardian, investigates an uncanny mystery in Las Vegas. A mystery tied closely to Flynn’s original quest to find the lost lamp... and the fate of the world hangs in the balance.
Who do you call when magic runs rampant in the world? The Librarians of course! Not just any librarians – THE Librarians, a secret organization tasked with safeguarding the world from magical relics and those who want to misuse their power for evil.

I stumbled across The Librarians TV show trying to fill the hole left in my life when Warehouse 13 came to an end. The quirky characters, snarky quips, literary references and madcap adventures hooked me, delivering that sense of endless wonder I had been craving. Sure, the acting and special effects can be cheesy but that’s all part of the series’ heart-warming charm. So when I heard a tie-in novel was in the works I just HAD to read it.

The Librarians and the Lost Lamp is an immensely entertaining read. Greg Cox manages to capture the tone and feel of the TV series perfectly. All the beloved characters are there and they just come to life on the page. Fans of the series will feel right at home; newcomers might feel a little lost at first, but there is enough backstory included to quickly bring you up to speed before you are swept up in the globe-spanning adventure that traverses both past and present as the librarians use their knowledge and unconventional skills to save the world.

Tie-in novels can be a hit and miss affair, but The Librarians and the Lost Lamp exceeded all my expectations. This would make a stellar episode on the show, but trying to fit in the entire scope of the novel might strain their budget to breaking point. That’s the beauty of the written word. You get the cinematic experience without the budget constraints!

Just like the TV series the novels are the perfect antidote for when you are feeling down. I can't wait for the next book in the trilogy, The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase, to be released.

The Verdict:
If you are looking for a quick, fun, heart-warming read filled with wit, quirky characters and astounding adventures then The Librarians and the Lost Lamp is just what the librarian ordered. The novel remains true to the show but still offers a charm of its own. There’s just something magical reading a book about librarians on the hunt for a relic drawn straight from the pages of The Arabian Nights. It’s weird and wonderful and makes for a captivating, immensely entertaining read with enough twists along the way to keep you guessing.

The Rating: 7 (Very Good)

And just in case you aren't familiar with The Librarians TV show, there are 2 seasons worth of awesome that awaits you with the third season just starting.

Thanks to Diana Griffin from Tor for providing the review copy.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Review: Lazarus War: Artefact

Title: Lazarus War: Artefact
Author: Jamie Sawyer
Pages: 439
ISBN: 9780356505466
Series: The Lazarus War #1
Publisher: Orbit
Published: 2015
Genre: Science Fiction/ Military SF
Source: Review copy from publisher

Buy it from:
The Book Depository

Mankind has spread to the stars, only to become locked in warfare with an insidious alien race. All that stands against the alien menace are the soldiers of the Simulant Operation Programme, an elite military team remotely operating avatars in the most dangerous theatres of war.

Captain Conrad Harris has died hundreds of times - running suicide missions in simulant bodies. Known as Lazarus, he is a man addicted to death. So when a secret research station deep in alien territory suddenly goes dark, there is no other man who could possibly lead a rescue mission.

But Harris hasn't been trained for what he's about to find. And this time, he may not be coming back . . .

Dying is just another part of the day job for Captain Conrad Harris the commander of an elite military team - Simulant Operations. Remotely piloting simulant bodies, combat enhanced clones of themselves tailored for war, they take on suicide missions battling the Krell, a terrifying bioengineered alien species that make the xenomorphs from Alien look like docile puppies. When the team are send on a mission deep inside enemy territory to investigate a mysterious artefact they are stranded on a hostile planet without the use of their simulant bodies or backup of any kind. Faced with the sudden fragility of their own flesh they need to not only find a way to survive, but also a way home. What is worse is that the greatest threat might not even be from their alien foe.

Lazarus War: Artefact is a tense, heart-pounding SF adventure that forges ahead at an unrelenting pace. There is a surprising depth to all the characters as they struggle with the psychological aftermath of once again having to face their own mortality. The ending is a tantalizing promise of a much larger adventure that is still to come. It will be interesting to see the repercussions of their actions as the greater mystery unravels in later novels.

The Verdict:
The Lazarus War: Artefact is a stunning debut novel; Jamie Sawyer shows that he is definitely an author to keep your eye on. If he continues on this trajectory Neal Asher might just need to watch his back. If you like gripping military SF filled with deadly tech, terrifying aliens and huge explosions then this is definitely the book for you. Now I just need to get my hands on the rest of the series. Recommended!

The Rating: 7/10 (Very Good)

Thanks to Charlene from Jonathan Ball Publishers for the review copy.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Cover Conundrum

While I'm struggling to get some reviews written here's another devious little challenge for you. Can you identify these science fiction novels based on their covers? Well, parts of their them...









It seems the challenge might have been a tad too devious. Most people managed to identify two of the covers, but the rest remained a mystery. Now the time has finally come for the answers to be be revealed.
  1. Stranger in a Strange Land - Robert Heinlein
  2. The Time Ships - Stephen Baxter
  3. 2001 A Space Odyssey - Arthur C. Clarke
  4. Nemesis - Isaac Asimov
  5. Use of Weapons - Iain M. Banks
  6. Wild Seed - Octavia E. Butler
  7. Ancillary Justice - Ann Leckie

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Opening Lines: Forsaken Skies

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.

Flying down a wormhole was like throwing yourself into the center of a tornado, one where if you brushed the walls you would be obliterated down to subatomic particles before you even knew it happened.

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

After centuries of devastating interplanetary civil war, mankind has found a time of relative peace.

That peace is shattered when an unknown armada emerges from the depths of space, targeting an isolated colony planet. As the colonists plead for help, the politicians and bureaucrats look away.

But battle-scarred Commander Aleister Lanoe will not abandon thousands of innocents to their fate.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Before Mars

National Geographic is launching a new TV series which chronicles humanity's quest to make Mars home. If the brilliant backstory for two of the main characters is anything to go by, this is going to be an epic series I will absolutely have to watch. It's touching, inspirational and just plain beautiful. And that's before they even get to Mars!

Monday, November 7, 2016

On My Radar: Bridging Infinity

BRIDGING INFINITY edited by Jonathan Strahan
ISBN UK: 978-1781084182
ISBN US: 978-1781084182
Release date: October 2016
Order a copy

Sense of wonder is the lifeblood of science fiction. When we encounter something on a truly staggering scale - metal spheres wrapped around stars, planets rebuilt and repurposed, landscapes re-engineered, starships bigger than worlds - the only response we have is reverence, admiration, and possibly fear at something that is grand, sublime, and extremely powerful.

Bridging Infinity puts humanity at the heart of that experience, as builder, as engineer, as adventurer, reimagining and rebuilding the world, the solar system, the galaxy and possibly the entire universe in some of the best science fiction stories you will experience.

Bridging Infinity continues the award-winning Infinity Project series of anthologies with new stories from Stephen Baxter, Elizabeth Bear, Gregory Benford, Zachary Brown, Pat Cadigan, Kameron Hurley, Scott Lynch, Vonda N. McIntyre, Hannu Rajaniemi, Allan Steele, and others.


I'm a huge fan of the Infinity Project series of anthologies and this latest installment has definitely gone on my wishlist. I  just love the absolute sense of wonder the hard science fiction stories collected in these anthologies manage to portray. These are the futures I want to live in.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Sci-fi Month 2016

It's that time of year again. No, I'm not talking about the time of year when Christmas suddenly starts to invade every nook and cranny. I'm talking about Sci-Fi Month - the glorious annual event where bloggers from all around the world get together to celebrate everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) that is wonderful about the science fiction genre. You can find out what Sci-Fi Month is all about over here.

If memory serves this will be the 4th year I'm participating although this year it might be in a much subdued manner. Due to work commitments I'm not sure how many posts I'll be able to contribute, but at the very least I want to join in on all the fun. Hopefully the Blind Book Date Challenge will be able to make an appearance again. We'll have to see.

While I frantically brainstorm post ideas and fight off exhaustion you can amuse yourself with some posts from the past
Why I love science fiction
This is what science fiction is all about
Blind book challenge 2013, 2014, 2015

I hope your November will be filled with endless wonders. The realm of science fiction beckons with an infinity of worlds and voices waiting to be discovered. Make it so!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Interview: Paul Crilley

Paul Crilley’s Poison City is the fantastical love child of Supernatural and a Lauren Beukes novel. Part urban fantasy, part crime novel it is a pure twisted reading delight. I recently had the opportunity to do a Q & A with Paul about his career, his novel and a certain alcoholic dog... If you haven't read Poison City yet, you are definitely missing out!

KJ: Firstly, time for the big introduction. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your work?

Paul Crilley: I was born in Scotland and my family moved to South Africa in the eighties. My parents were a bit fickle though, and we moved back to Scotland two years later, only to head back to S.A. again, another two years later.

I started reading Hardy Boys books when I was nine, then moved on to Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. Reading those authors was like a slap in the face, as it opened up fantasy and science fiction to me. As well as humour. Pratchett and Adams were a huge influence on my style. I love weaving humour into stories.

Poison City is my first adult novel. Before this my books were all YA and MG. The Invisible Order is a Middle Grade series set in Victorian times about a hidden war fought on the streets of London between the races of Faerie and mankind. It may or not be set in the same universe as Poison City. And The Adventures of Tweed & Nightingale is a YA steampunk series about the young clone of Sherlock Holmes.

KJ: You’ve worked in various different types of media including writing for TV, computer games and comics. Having such an impressive repertoire, did you find that storytelling through these varied media allowed you to more easily bring the characters and world of Poison City to life?

PC: Definitely. But storytelling is storytelling, no matter the form. It boils down to writing something you want to read and that you hope entertains your readers. But I’ve always loved movies and screenwriting, especially writing dialogue. So I guess the screenwriting helped with the more cinematic style of Poison City, as well as the banter between the characters.

KJ: Dog definitely steals the show. I found him to be the perverted spiritual successor to Terry Pratchett’s Gaspode. How did the idea of an alcoholic dog as a spirit guide come about?

PC: I didn’t intend it that way, but can totally see the resemblance. As I said, I grew up reading Terry Pratchett, so it was inevitable that his work influenced my own writing style.

KJ: Poison City could very easily have been set in any part of the world. Why did you choose to set it in South Africa and Durban in particular?

PC: For one, I wanted to set it somewhere that hadn’t been used before, to try and make it a bit different. And secondly, I live close to Durban (In Hillcrest, actually, another town featured in the book), so thought it would be easier for research purposes.

KJ: The orisha and other supernatural creatures found in the novel are drawn from a huge variety of myths, superstitions and beliefs. Did you research the various mythological creatures before incorporating them into the novel?

PC: Definitely. I spent about 6 months planning and researching the book before starting to write. It’s the most research-intensive project I’ve ever worked on. But it’s all fun.

KJ: There is a very dark and unsettlingly twisted version of Christian mythology that sets the stage for the events in Poison City. Without giving anything away, did you set out to subvert that traditional belief system from the start or was it part of the natural progression of the story?

PC: I like to subvert familiar tropes where I can. I don’t always succeed, and when you fail you run the risk of it falling into cliche, but I did want to put my own spin on the Christian mythology. One of my many failings is that I sometimes tend to have a low opinion of the human race (and organised religion in general) and I think that did feed into the story. But it’s the story that I wanted to write, using my own beliefs and opinions. I think that’s really important. Always write the book that only you could write. Your own upbringing, your own particular experiences etc, will make the book you write different to anyone else, even if the subject matter is the same.

KJ: Magic (shinecraft) comes at a huge cost to its wielder. Akin to an addiction it changes them irrevocably, with often fatal consequences. This is something you seldom see in most fantasy novels. Why did you decide to have magical ability exact such a terrible price?

PC: Again, I just wanted to subvert the tropes of wizards having this amazing power and it being all cool and powerful. I like the fact that London’s tattoos want to eat him. I like the fact that every time you do magic you run the risk of turning yourself inside out. It gives an element of uncertainty to their power. And also it gives them limits. If these guys really had unlimited power they’d be ruling the world. But if you run the risk of your eyeballs melting every time you use magic, that tends to calm the ambitions of any possible megalomaniac dictators.

KJ: The sequel to Poison City is titled Neon City. Can you give us any hints on what awaits Tau and Dog on their next adventure? When can we expect to see it on our shelves?

PC: Neon City is still a tentative title. I’m not sure how much I can say about it, but the gang will be traveling to London to chase down the seven sins, and we’ll be meeting some of the mythological creatures from Britain’s early days as well as folk from Armitage and London’s past.

KJ: Lastly, a bit of fun. If you worked for the Delphic Division what would your spirit guide turn out to be and which type of shinecraft do you think you’d want to specialise in?

PC: I’d like the dog, to be honest. He’s fun and psycho, and if he has your back, he has your back. (Unless he’s drunk or watching his soapies.) As to my type of shine craft, that’s a difficult one. I think I’d like to check out the Fae magic systems a bit more, see what they have on the menu. Bet they’d have something interesting.

More about the author:
Paul Crilley is a Scotsman adrift in South Africa and has been writing professionally for the past 17 years. In that time he has worked on over thirteen television shows, one of which was nominated for an international Emmy award. He recently completed an X-Files novella and a Hardy Boys novel. Poison City is his debut adult novel.

Follow Paul Crilley on Twitter

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Achievement Unlocked: My First Book Blurb

While innocently googling books, as one does, I stumbled upon a stunning revelation - a blurb from my blog was actually published in an actual book. A book! And it's not just any book. No, it's in the re-issued editions of Peter F. Hamilton's novels. I'm sure my excited squeeing woke the neighbours!

It might be a clichéd blurb, but it is mine - "'Peter F. Hamilton is at the top of his game'  Worlds In Ink

I'm not sure if it's limited to the ebook editions of Peter F. Hamilton's novels but Google Book previews shows it as turning up in the re-issued editions of Fallen Dragon, The Temporal Void, The Dreaming Void and Judas Unchained.

Unfortunately I don't own any of these editions so I can't check if it's actually in there or not. If anyone has a copy of any of these I'd really appreciate it if they could confirm whether the blurb is included.

Edit: Thanks to Tiemen Zwaan I finally have confirmation that the blurb is included in Fallen Dragon. Commence the squeeing!

It's small triumphs like these that make the whole blogging thing worthwhile and lets you know you aren't just screaming into the void.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Review: Spellbreaker

Title: Spellbreaker
Author: Blake Charlton
Pages: 480
ISBN: 9780765317292
Series: Spellwright #3
Publisher: Tor
Published: 23 August 2016
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher

Buy it from:
The Book Depository

Leandra Weal has a bad habit of getting herself in dangerous situations.

While hunting neodemons in her role as Warden of Ixos, Leandra obtains a prophetic spell that provides a glimpse one day into her future. She discovers that she is doomed to murder someone she loves, soon, but not who.

Leandra’s quest to unravel the mystery of the murder-she-will-commit becomes more urgent when her chronic disease flares up and the Ixonian Archipelago is plagued by natural disasters, demon worshiping cults, and fierce political infighting. Everywhere she turns, Leandra finds herself amid conflict.

As chaos spreads across Ixos, Leandra and her troubled family – her misspelling wizard father Nicodemus Weal and dragon-of-a-mother Francesca DeVega – must race to uncover the shocking truth about a prophesied demonic invasion, human language, and their own identities–if they don't kill each other first.

Words have power. Nowhere is it more important than in the world of Spellbreaker where the truly unique magic system revolves around language, prose and syntax and the fluidity of the magical language itself. Spellbreaker kicks off with one hell of an opening line that sets the stage for a narrative that just keeps growing in scope and intrigue:

"To test a spell that predicts the future, try to murder the man selling it; if you can, it can’t. That, at least, was Leandra’s rationale for poisoning the smuggler’s blackrice liqueur."

Set well after the events of Spellwright and Spellbound, the first two novels in the Spellwright trilogy, the story focuses around Nicodemus Weal, his wife Francesca and their daughter Leandra as they try to ward off the coming of The Disjuntion, a prophesied demonic war that would bring about the destruction of all human language. Their dysfunctional relationship provides a painfully intimate glimpse into their internal struggles as they each try to come to terms with their own unique nature and the consequences of the divergent, often conflicting paths they take to try to make the world they live in a better place. Paradoxically it is their love for each other that cause them the most pain.

"Every soul existed and acted within the eternal and pressing instant of now, and then—to make existence bearable—wrote a story to connect past, present, and future."

While Spellbreaker is the third novel in the Spellwright trilogy it also acts as a a good entry point for new readers. There are enough flashbacks and explanations of previous events to quickly clue in new readers although the backstory can be quite baffling at first. I'd definitely recommend starting with Spellwright if you are interest in getting a more comprehensive look at the truly stunning magic system.

As the story progresses the conflict escalates both in a political and personal sense and there are lots of surprising revelations along the way. The ending is touching and unexpected. Sometimes prophecy doesn't need to turn out the way we expect it to...

The most remarkable thing about the entire Spellwright trilogy is the fact that Blake Charlton not only overcame his struggle with dyslexia, but that he managed to use it as the cornerstone for creating an epic fantasy series filled with vibrant, complex characters living in a world shaped by the wonder and power of language. (And who doesn't love a good pun!)

The Verdict:
Spellbreaker is a compelling read with a unique magic system, captivating characters, impeccable worldbuilding and the ability to surprise you with its emotional impact and insight into the human condition. You can read this as a standalone novel, but I'd highly suggest you pick up the entire trilogy. It's magic!

The Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Thanks to Desirae from Tor for providing the review copy.

Other sites participating in the Spellbreaker Blog Tour:

Fantasy Book Critic
The Arched Doorway
Dark Faerie Tales

Monday, August 22, 2016

Review: Poison City

Title: Poison City
Author: Paul Crilley
Pages: 400
ISBN: 9781473631595
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Published: 11 August 2016
Genre: Urban Fantasy /Crime
Source: Review copy from publisher

Buy it from:
The Book Depository

The name's Gideon Tau, but everyone just calls me London. I work for the Delphic Division, the occult investigative unit of the South African Police Service. My life revolves around two things - finding out who killed my daughter and imagining what I'm going to do to the bastard when I catch him.

I have two friends. The first is my boss, Armitage, a fifty-something DCI from Yorkshire who looks more like someone's mother than a cop. Don't let that fool you. The second is the dog, my magical spirit guide. He talks, he watches TV all day, and he's a mean drunk.

Life is pretty routine - I solve crimes, I search for my daughter's killer. Wash, rinse, repeat. Until the day I'm called out to the murder of a ramanga - a low-key vampire - basically, the tabloid journalist of the vampire world. It looks like an open and shut case. There's even CCTV footage of the killer.

Except... the face on the CCTV footage? It's the face of the man who killed my daughter. I'm about to face a tough choice. Catch her killer or save the world? I can't do both.

It's not looking good for the world.

Paul Crilley’s Poison City is the fantastical love child of Supernatural and a Lauren Beukes novel. Part urban fantasy, part crime novel it's a pure twisted reading delight. Set in Durban, South Africa, the rainbow nation has gained an octarine hue filled with magic and populated with a vast array of supernatural creatures. Our protagonist, Gideon Tau, works for The Delphic Division, the occult investigative unit of the South African Police Service. When a vampire is brutally murdered Tau is drawn into an investigation that could shatter the fragile truce that exists between Nightside and Dayside. More importantly, he might finally be able to uncover the identity of his daughter’s killer...

Poison City is filled with a cast of memorable, snarky characters. Gideon Tau is not your typical hero. Haunted by the death of his daughter he is a broken man struggling to deal with loss; his only true purpose is his quest for justice. He sees ‘n job that needs doing and then simply does it. His spirit guide, Dog (just ‘Dog’) is the perverted spiritual successor to Discworld’s Gaspode - a quite literal boozehound. Dog loves nothing more than getting drunk and watching TV, only occasionally deigning to provide a helping paw. Oh, and he seems to love fire a bit too much... And lastly there’s Armitage, the no-nonsense head of the Delphic Division, with a wicked sense of humour she is overly protective of her domain and doesn’t suffer fools easily.

It soon becomes apparent that in this dark, morally corrupt world there are larger forces at play. Tau’s relentless search for his daughter’s killer drives him to a point where he has nothing left to lose. Utterly despondent, his choices lead the world to the brink of disaster. As a sharp counterpoint to those who wash away all memory of their wrongdoing through the services of sin-eaters, Tau takes responsibility for his actions and claws his way back from the dark abyss to redeem himself, but redemption always comes at a price. A price Tau might not be willing to pay...

The major theme in Poison City is corruption in all its forms. There are corrupt politicians and officials, the law is perverted for personal gain, even people's beliefs are corrupted and ultimately humanity itself proves to be a corrupted blight on the world.  You’ll never be able to look at humanity in quite the same way again. It turns out that even in a world filled with supernatural creatures, humans are still the greatest monsters.

Crilley’s prose brings the world to vibrant life. Durban and surrounds take on a life of their own, even if you have never been there before it feels familiar. Crilley manages to infuse that distinctly South African feel into the world. It’s tough to describe, but as a native South African it just feels like home. The world-building is brilliantly executed. Every action has consequences and there's always a price to be paid. I loved the fact that magic (shinecraft) takes such a toll on its users. Akin to addiction it alters the wielder in irrevocable ways with sometimes fatal results; that’s something that you seldom see in most fantasy novels. I also particularly enjoyed the multitude of supernatural creatures roaming the world. Drawn from various cultures and mythologies they added an unusually diverse layer to the world. The very dark and twisted take on religious mythology also came as an unsettling surprise. I don't think I've ever come across such a dark interpretation before.

The nail-biting conclusion is utterly satisfying while still leaving ample room for a sequel. Make no mistake, after reading Poison City you’ll definitely want to return to this world over and over again. I definitely can’t wait for the next adventure and hope to see more of Dog (and Tau) soon!

The Verdict:
Paul Crilley’s Poison City is the fantastical love child of Supernatural and a Lauren Beukes novel. Part urban fantasy, part crime novel this is a pure twisted reading delight. You’ll never be able to look at humanity in quite the same way. Highly recommended! Just be warned that it does get quite dark.

The Rating: 7.5/10 (Great)

Thanks to Kelly from Jonathan Ball Publishers for the review copy.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Stranger Things

This weekend, instead of reading or finally writing some reviews I spent the time binge watching all eight episodes of the brilliant Stranger Things, a Netflix Original series that's just brimful of 80s nostalgia. It has everything your geeky heart could desire - a group of outsider preteens with a love for Dungeons and Dragons, government conspiracies, a girl with special powers and a cosmic horror on the prowl for blood.

The acting is brilliant. Winona Ryder shines in her role as single mother driven to the brink by the disappearance of her son, but it's really the child actors who steal the show. Millie Bobby Brown's portrayal of Eleven will send shivers down your spine. She's a total badass with superpowers, but still so fragile in many ways. The geeky trio of boys and the bond between them will have you wishing that you had friends like those when you were growing up.

If you haven't seen it yet, Stranger Things is definitely worth watching. Just make sure that you have enough time set aside, because you'll definitely want to watch it in a single sitting.

I really, really hope we get to see more of this world and the characters in it. Eight episodes simply isn't enough!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Stephen King and George R.R. Martin In Conversation

Stephen King and George R.R. Martin, two masters of their craft, talk about their life, their childhood, inspiration, writing and the nature of evil during an event at the Kiva Auditorium in Albuquerque.

Bookburners Season 2 Starts Today

Way back in the Victorian era serials were huge and now, in the age of digital media, they are gaining in popularity again. It's like TV, but for books. Only better! Confused? Let me explain. Serialized stories takes the best of the book world and blends it with the convenience you get from TV episodes. Each week you get a new and exciting installment of the story and each episode is the perfect length to enjoy on your daily commute or that precious hour of reading time you just barely manage to fit into your busy schedule.

I recently discovered the pilot episode of Bookburners, a serial from the folks at SerialBox, and I'm utterly intrigued by the concept. As luck would have it season 2 of Bookburners launches today and while I might have missed out on the first season I'm definitely going to dive into this one to see what the world of serials has to offer.

Who: Max Gladstone (Three Part's Dead), Margaret Dunlap (The Lizzie Bennet Diaries), Brian Francis Slattery (Spaceman Blues), Mur Lafferty (The Shambling Guide to New York), Andrea Phillips (Zombies, Run!), and Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood).

When: Premiers June 22 with new episodes dropping every Wednesday. The season will have 13 episodes and reach its finale on September 14th.

Overview: Magic is real, and hungry—trapped in ancient texts and artifacts, only a few who discover it survive to fight back. Detective Sal Brooks is a survivor and member of a Vatican-backed black-ops anti-magic squad: Team Three of the Societas Librorum Occultorum. Together they stand between humanity and magical apocalypse. Some call them the Bookburners. They don’t like the label.

A fan of Fringe, the Librarians, or Supernatural? Then you will love this serial. Team written with new episodes every week, Bookburners is about a group of bad-ass problem solvers who bring snark and heart to even the strangest of situations.

What Happened Last Season: Magic is real, and some books have teeth. Former NYPD detective Sal Brooks learned this the hard way when her brother Perry was possessed by a powerful demon called the Hand. To save him, Sal joined Team Three of the Societas Librium Occultorum, a black-ops team of magic hunters backed by the Vatican that tracks down dangerous magical books and artifacts for safe keeping in the Vatican’s Black Archives.

Sal faced down magical threats around the globe, adjusting to her new life and her new teammates: Father Menchu, the team’s field leader; Liam, a possession survivor who shared a brief romance with Sal; Grace, Team Three’s combat expert whose life is tied to a magical candle; and Asanti, the Archivist and guardian of the Black Archives.

Disaster struck when the Hand returned and took possession of Sal. Worse yet, the Team discovered that Cardinal Varano, head of the Society had a dark agenda of his own. After a climactic whirlwind of magic and in-fighting that left the Archives badly damaged, The Hand was banished and Varano was ousted, leaving Sal and the rest of the Society to pick up the pieces.

What's Coming This season: The tide of magic is rising and the Bookburners must sink or swim. This means their usual strategy of "Contain and Archive" is going out the window to make room for "Experimentation and Field Practice" - much to the dismay of some and the glee of others. Big secrets - about the Society, the world (both ours and the Other), and the murky pasts of our heroes will come to light....that is, if the team can stay alive to learn them.

Serials – like cereal – are easy to taste test: for just $1.59 you can get an episode in both text and audio formats! Like your favorite TV shows, episodes have about a 40 minute read-time or 90-minute listen-time. And if you’re worried about starting with the second season – no need! The action kicks right off and you’ll be in for a wild ride no matter what. (Season One passes are still available on their site and in their iOS app, as well as collected omnibus editions at your favorite e-retailer.)

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Cover Reveal: Revenger

I'm a huge Alastair Reynolds fan so I'm incredibly excited about the forthcoming release of his next novel Revenger.  Today Gollancz unveiled the truly stunning cover. To say it's gorgeous would be a huge understatement. Monochrome has never looked this good!

REVENGER by Alastair Reynolds
Release date: 15 September 2016
ISBN: 9780575090538
Pre-order a copy from The Book Depository

The galaxy has seen great empires rise and fall. Planets have shattered and been remade. Amongst the ruins of alien civilisations, building our own from the rubble, humanity still thrives.

And there are vast fortunes to be made, if you know where to find them . . .

Captain Rackamore and his crew do. It's their business to find the tiny, enigmatic worlds which have been hidden away, booby-trapped, surrounded with layers of protection - and to crack them open for the ancient relics and barely-remembered technologies inside. But while they ply their risky trade with integrity, not everyone is so scrupulous.

Adrana and Fura Ness are the newest members of Rackamore's crew, signed on to save their family from bankruptcy. Only Rackamore has enemies, and there might be more waiting for them in space than adventure and fortune: the fabled and feared Bosa Sennen in particular.

Revenger is a science fiction adventure story set in the rubble of our solar system in the dark, distant future - a tale of space pirates, buried treasure and phantom weapons, of unspeakable hazards and single-minded heroism . . . and of vengeance . . .

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Nebula Award Winners

The winners of this year's Nebula Awards have been announced. It should come as no surprise that female authors emerged as the victors in all the categories (deservedly so).

The winners are:

Best Novel 
Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Best Novella 
Binti by Nnedi Okarafor

Best Novelette
Our Lady of the Open Road by Sarah Pinsker

Best Short Story
Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers by Alyssa Wong

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy
Updraft by Fran Wilde

Congratulations to all the winners. It's great to see diversity in SFF is alive and well (despite some  attempts to the contrary).

Saturday, May 14, 2016


This stunning short animation by Tim Cahn shows a spaceship departing Earth on a journey into the unknown. Visually stunning, it's filled with detail and emotion.

We are never shown the reason for the journey. Is it a routine trip? A mission of hopeful exploration? Perhaps it's a last ditch effort to save a small remnant of humanity? You decide...

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Review: The Mammoth Book of Best New SF 28

Title: The Mammoth Book of Best New SF 28
Editor: Gardner Dozois
Pages: 663
ISBN: 9781472119995
Publisher: Little Brown
Published: November 2015
Genre: Science Fiction / Short Stories
Source: Review copy from publisher

Buy it from:
The Book Depository

For decades now Gardner Dozois has been presenting his annual selection of the very best of recently published SF stories, both byoutstanding up-and-coming writers and undisputed masters of the genre. It has been voted Year's Best Anthology by the readers of Locus magazine an unparalleled eighteen times and remains the definitive anthology for both diehard sci-fi fans and newcomers to the genre.

Without fail, Dozois pinpoints the previous year's most exciting and ambitious science fiction, showcasing truly exceptional contemporary writing. Contributors include: Pavel Amnuel; Paolo Bachigalupi; Jessica Barber; Elizabeth Bear; Lauren Beukes; Chaz Brenchley; Karl Bunker; Jérôme Cigut; D. J. Cockburn; Aliette de Bodard; Cory Doctorow; Greg Egan; Timons Esaias; Paul Graham Raven; James Patrick Kelly; Ellen Klages; Nancy Kress; Jay Lake; Rich Larson; Ken Liu; Ian McDonald; Mary Anne Mohanraj; Susan Palwick; Gareth L. Powell; Robert Reed; Alastair Reynolds; Adam Roberts; Karl Schroeder; Vandana Singh; Allen M. Steele; Michael Swanwick; Rachel Swirsky; Lavie Tidhar; Peter Watts.

The Mammoth Book of Best New SF 28 includes, as ever, Dozois's extensive recommended reading guide and his illuminating and incisive summation of the year in science fiction.

True to its title The Mammoth Book of Best New SF 28 is a truly mammoth collection of some of the best science fiction short stories published during 2014. The 36 stories collected here offer a wide spectrum of tales from both the biggest names in science fiction as well as truly innovative works by new, up-and-coming talents in the genre.

Most anthologies are mixed bag, like a box of chocolates you never know what you’ll find and you often end up with a large percentage of stories that just don’t resonate with you as a reader. Dozois has done a stellar job in his selection process for this anthology. I can honestly say that I enjoyed every story included, which is surprising considering all the diverse voices and distinct themes of the stories collected here.

Trying to narrow my favourites down to a list of just 10 was a harrowing task, but here are the stories that stood out.
The Fifth Dragon by Ian Macdonald: This story still retains the impact it had on me when I first read it in Reach for Infinity. A story about love, and how dreams can be made concrete through determination and hard work.
The Days of the War, As Red as Blood, As Dark as Bile by Aliette de Bodard: A powerful story where peace comes at a terrible cost.
The Regular by Ken Lui: A futuristic crime thriller where a cyborg detective is on the hunt for a serial killer who prays on escorts. Well executed, with brilliant characters and a stunning ending.
The Man Who Sold the Moon by Cory Doctorow: A touching story about how a seemingly small invention can change the world.
Slipping by Lauren Beukes: Competitive athletics is used as a testbed for experimental human augmentations. For the athletes it is a chance of a lifetime provided they are willing to push themselves far enough.
In Babelsberg by Alastair Reynolds: A promotional tour by a sentient space probe takes a dark turn.
The Great Leap by Rachel Swirsky: A heartbreaking story exploring identity as a dying girl’s consciousness is copied into an artificial body by a father that is unwilling to lose his daughter.
Jubilee by Karl Schroeder: If I had to choose only one favourite this would be it. A brilliant and unusual love story where an entire society of couriers devote their lives to deliver the love letters of two teenagers locked in a cycle of synchronized hibernation to keep up with a universe where no FTL travel exists. An absolutely amazing premise, executed to perfection.
Prodigal Son by Allen M. Steele: A story filled with that unique sense of wonder and excitement only space exploration can provide as the Arkwright foundation sets out to provide humanity with a foothold in another star system.
Blood Wedding by Robert Reed: Two divergent evolutionary ideologies lead to a bloody clash during a wedding with far-reaching consequences and a very poignant ending.

While the stories were brilliant, I did experience a couple of issues with the particular edition I read. Lots of spelling errors seem to have slipped through the editing and proofing process. While it was not a huge problem, it was noticeable enough to distract me at times. The actual printed text also seemed rather faint; I'm not sure whether that is due to the font choice or the ink used in the printing process. Aside from that I can highly recommend this anthology.

As always the summation of the state of science fiction at the start of the anthology and the detailed author bios accompanying each story is an immensely useful resource, particularly if you find a new author whose work you would like to explore further.

The Verdict:
The Mammoth Book of Best New SF 28 is a truly mammoth collection of some of the best science fiction short stories of 2014. If you want to explore short fiction or want to discover some new authors this would be the place to start!

The Rating: 8 (Great)

Thanks to Charlene from Jonathan Ball Publishers for the review copy.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Opening Lines: Poison City

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.

While the publication date for Poison City is still a couple of months away I just couldn't wait to share the first lines of what is set to be a huge hit.

I'll have a full review up closer to the release in August, but until then I can say this: Poison City is the fantastical love child of Supernatural and a Lauren Beukes novel. Part urban fantasy, part crime novel. A pure twisted delight.

The first thing the dog does when I walk through the door is sniff the air and say, 'You forgot the sherry, dipshit.'
He stares at me, the color of his eyes shifting between jaundiced yellow and soul-of-a-serial-killer black. He knows I hate that. It’s his lazy-ass way of saying, ‘You open that mouth it better be to say Sorry, dog. I’ll get right on it, dog.’

Poison City by Paul Crilley
Pre-order a copy from The Book Depository (Free international shipping)

The name's Gideon Tau, but everyone just calls me London. I work for the Delphic Division, the occult investigative unit of the South African Police Service. My life revolves around two things - finding out who killed my daughter and imagining what I'm going to do to the bastard when I catch him.

I have two friends. The first is my boss, Armitage, a fifty-something DCI from Yorkshire who looks more like someone's mother than a cop. Don't let that fool you. The second is the dog, my magical spirit guide. He talks, he watches TV all day, and he's a mean drunk.

Life is pretty routine - I solve crimes, I search for my daughter's killer. Wash, rinse, repeat. Until the day I'm called out to the murder of a ramanga - a low-key vampire - basically, the tabloid journalist of the vampire world. It looks like an open and shut case. There's even CCTV footage of the killer.

Except... the face on the CCTV footage? It's the face of the man who killed my daughter. I'm about to face a tough choice. Catch her killer or save the world? I can't do both.

It's not looking good for the world.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Cover Reveal: Beyond The Aquila Rift

It's not often that a title gets released with three distinct covers but Beyond the Aquila Rift: The Best of Alastair Reynolds is one of those rare cases. This collection of the best short fiction from Alastair Reynolds consisting of 18* short stories, novellettes and novellas will be published in June by both Subterranean Press and Orion books (Gollancz).

Subterranean Press are releasing a trade edition with cover art by Dominic Harman and a limited edition with an exclusive cover by Alastair Reynolds himself.

Trade edition
Limited Edition

While both of the Subterranean Press covers are striking, I must admit that I prefer the more subdued cover of the Gollancz edition which would fit right in with the rest of the Alastair Reynolds novels on my shelf.

Beyond the Aquila Rift: The Best of Alastair Reynolds contains 7 previously uncollected stories and should be a must-have for all of Alastair Reynolds' fans.

The full table of contents is below.

  • Great Wall of Mars
  • Weather
  • Beyond the Aquila Rift
  • Minla's Flowers
  • Zima Blue
  • Fury
  • The Star Surgeon's Apprentice
  • The Sledge-Maker's Daughter
  • Diamond Dogs
  • Thousandth Night
  • Troika
  • Sleepover
  • Vainglory
  • Trauma Pod
  • The Last Log of the Lachrymosa
  • The Water Thief
  • The Old Man and the Martian Sea
  • In Babelsberg
  • Story Notes

* While the press release states that the collection consists of 20 stories the table of contents only has 18 stories by my count.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Opening Lines: Updraft

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.

My mother selected her wings as early morning light reached through our balcony shutters. She moved between the shadows, calm and deliberate, while downtower neighbours slept behind their barricades. She pushed her arms into the woven harness. Turned her back to me so that I could cinch the straps tight against her shoulders.

Updraft by Fran Wilde
Order a copy from The Book Depository (Free international shipping)

Welcome to a world of wind and bone, songs and silence, betrayal and courage. Kirit Densira cannot wait to pass her wingtest and begin flying as a trader by her mother's side, being in service to her beloved home tower and exploring the skies beyond. When Kirit inadvertently breaks Tower Law, the city's secretive governing body, the Singers, demand that she become one of them instead. In an attempt to save her family from greater censure, Kirit must give up her dreams to throw herself into the dangerous training at the Spire, the tallest, most forbidding tower, deep at the heart of the City.

As she grows in knowledge and power, she starts to uncover the depths of Spire secrets. Kirit begins to doubt her world and its unassailable Laws, setting in motion a chain of events that will lead to a haunting choice, and may well change the city forever - if it isn't destroyed outright. Read full review.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Overlooked Fantasy Novels

In the run-up to the BooktubeSFF Awards there are a bunch of interesting weekly topics to get the SFF community at large discussing all things science fiction and fantasy. It's a brilliant way to foster more interaction between both Booktubers and bloggers in the SFF sphere.

The #BooktubeSFF Babbles topic for this week is to recommend overlooked fantasy novels that need more exposure on Booktube. Since I'm not a booktuber (I'm far too camera-shy) I'll adjust the topic to cover the overlooked fantasy novels from my own shelves.

These are the fantasy novels that I've been meaning to read for ages, but just haven't been able to commit to yet. I think the length of each series might have something to do with that...

The Shadows of the Apt series by Adrian Tchaikovsky

The city states of the Lowlands have lived in peace for decades, bastions of civilization, prosperity and sophistication, protected by treaties, trade and a belief in the reasonable nature of their neighbors. But meanwhile, in far-off corners, the Wasp Empire has been devouring city after city with its highly trained armies, its machines, its killing Art . . . And now its hunger for conquest and war has become insatiable.

Only the aging Stenwold Maker, spymaster, artificer and statesman, can see that the long days of peace are over. It falls upon his shoulders to open the eyes of his people, before a black-and-gold tide sweeps down over the Lowlands and burns away everything in its path. But first he must stop himself from becoming the Empire's latest victim. 

Eternal Sky series by Elizabeth Bear

Temur, grandson of the Great Khan, is walking away from a battlefield where he was left for dead. All around lie the fallen armies of his cousin and his brother, who made war to rule the Khaganate. Temur is now the legitimate heir by blood to his grandfather's throne, but he is not the strongest. Going into exile is the only way to survive his ruthless cousin.

Once-Princess Samarkar is climbing the thousand steps of the Citadel of the Wizards of Tsarepheth. She was heir to the Rasan Empire until her father got a son on a new wife. Then she was sent to be the wife of a Prince in Song, but that marriage ended in battle and blood. Now she has renounced her worldly power to seek the magical power of the wizards. These two will come together to stand against the hidden cult that has so carefully brought all the empires of the Celadon Highway to strife and civil war through guile and deceit and sorcerous power.

The Wild Hunt series by Elspeth Cooper

Novice Knight Gair can hear music no one else can, beautiful, terrible music: music with power. In the Holy City, that can mean only one thing: death by fire – until an unlikely intervention gives him a chance to flee the city and escape the flames.

With the Church Knights and their witchfinder hot on his heels, Gair hasn’t time to learn how to use the power growing inside him, but if he doesn’t master it, that power will tear him apart. His only hope is the secretive Guardians of the Veil, though centuries of persecution have almost destroyed their Order, and the few Guardians left have troubles of their own.

The Veil between worlds is weakening, and behind it, the Hidden Kingdom, ever-hungry for dominion over the daylight realm, is stirring. Though he is far from ready, Gair will find himself fighting for his own life, for everyone within the Order of the Veil, and for the woman he has come to love.

Lightbringer series by Brent Weeks

Gavin Guile is the Prism, the most powerful man in the world. He is high priest and emperor, a man whose power, wit, and charm are all that preserves a tenuous peace. But Prisms never last, and Guile knows exactly how long he has left to live: Five years to achieve five impossible goals.

But when Guile discovers he has a son, born in a far kingdom after the war that put him in power, he must decide how much he's willing to pay to protect a secret that could tear his world apart.

(I've actually read and reviewed The Black Prism, but at the time the rest of the series was still being written. Now that the series is complete I really, really need to get to the others!)


Do you have any recommendations for overlooked fantasy novels that don't get the attention they deserve? Feel free to share them in the comments.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Review: Dreamland

Title: Dreamland
Author: Robert L. Anderson
Pages: 332
ISBN: 9781473621015
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Published: 24-09-2015
Genre: YA/Fantasy/Paranormal
Source: Review copy from publisher

Buy it from:
The Book Depository

Odea Donahue has been able to travel through people’s dreams since she was six years old. Her mother taught her the three rules of walking: Never interfere. Never be seen. Never walk the same person’s dream more than once.

Dea has never questioned her mother, not about the rules, not about the clocks or the mirrors, not about moving from place to place to be one step ahead of the unseen monsters that Dea’s mother is certain are right behind them.

Then a mysterious new boy, Connor, comes to town and Dea finally starts to feel normal. As Connor breaks down the walls that she’s had up for so long, he gets closer to learning her secret. For the first time she wonders if that’s so bad. But when Dea breaks the rules, the boundary between worlds begins to deteriorate. How can she know what’s real and what’s not?

I was immediately drawn to Dreamland by Robert L. Anderson by the gorgeous cover and the tag line -“Dreams come true. So do nightmares”. Who could resist a cover like that? Dea Donahue has had anything but a normal life. Her mother fears mirrors, obsesses over clocks and locks, she’s never met her father, they keep moving from place to place and, to put the icing on the dysfunctional cake, she has the ability to travel through other people’s dreams. Her ability is also a curse. If she doesn’t dream-walk she becomes physically ill. Dea’s entire life gets turned upside down when she meets Connor, a boy with dark secrets of his own. As the dream world starts to bleed into reality it brings dire consequences and uncomfortable truths...

Dea, her friend Gollum and Connor are engaging and believable characters. You can’t help but to fall in love with the quirky group of outsiders and how their respective relationships change over the course of the novel. There is a romantic connection between Dea and Connor from the start, but thankfully Dreamland stays away from that favourite of YA tropes – insta-love – opting instead for a more normal route as their friendship slowly develops into a relationship. (That’s if spying on the dreams of your crush can be viewed as normal. Yes, it IS a tad creepy.)

The writing is beautiful - descriptive and at times profound and funny. Dea has a cynical and guarded outlook on the world and that comes through strongly in the writing.
“ ... Fielding School, serving grades kindergarten to dropout.” (p 36)
“The rain drummed against the glass like thousands of tiny feet making a run for something better” (p 67)
“She knew, better than anyone, that reality was a tricky thing: shifting, tissue-thin, difficult to grasp” (p 162)
“This was reality: the day came, whether you wanted it or not”

The pacing was quite slow during the first half of the novel with some parts that felt unnecessary to the progression of the overall story. Thankfully the pace picks up considerably towards the end as things draw to a satisfying, albeit somewhat abrupt conclusion. While Dreamland is a standalone novel it is obviously intended as part of a series with the stage being set for bigger, better things.

I loved the premise and the brief time spent in the dream world was fascinating. There are quite a few parallels to be drawn to Alice in Wonderland. Unfortunately the dream world, which is undoubtedly the most interesting part, gets set aside midway in favour of resolving the mystery of Connor’s past. I would much rather have spent the time exploring the mysteries and revelations of Dea’s heritage and everything the kingdom of dreams implies. Hopefully a sequel will be able to deliver on the promise of all the possibilities left so tantalizingly unexplored.

Dreamland isn’t without issues. The relationship between Dea and Connor occasionally comes too close to the clichéd, overdone approach most YA novels have to love. There are some plot holes that become apparent if you look too closely and start to question the premise too much. For the keen eyed, the reveal at the end might also be too predictable. That being said, this was an engaging debut with a truly intriguing premise; the execution might need some work, but there’s definitely huge potential here.

The Verdict:
Dreamland is an intriguing YA novel about friendship, love and facing uncomfortable truths. The dream world aspect of the novel is sadly left largely unexplored, becoming a brief aside to, what turns out to be a murder mystery revolving around Connor’s past. If you can look past the flaws this is a very enjoyable read with a great premise and loveable characters. A promising debut with huge potential. Hopefully a sequel is already in the works.

The Rating: 6/10 (Good)

Thanks to Charlene from Jonathan Ball Publishers for the review copy.