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 clich├ęd, 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.