Wednesday, July 31, 2013

An Interview with PETER LINEY


Peter Liney’s The Detainee has been on my radar for a little while, now, yet I keep getting distracted from reading it. With this interview, an excerpt and a guest post up on the blog already, I really should get my butt in gear and read the novel. Very soon, hopefully. In the meantime, here is what Peter had to say about his novel, writing, and more…

Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Peter Liney?

Well, first and foremost, he’s a writer. I’ve done all kinds of jobs – selling sewing machines in the Oz Outback, modeling, acting, fashion buying, decorating, teaching, etc., etc. – but the one constant has always been writing, the one dream has always been success. And no, I don’t agree with writing for yourself; no matter what we do, we want to be appreciated for it.

Your latest novel, The Detainee, was recently published by Jo Fletcher Books. How would you introduce the novel to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

Most definitely. It’s a trilogy and I’m currently working on the final book. The situation is one I think we can all relate to, an extension, if you like, of the last five years; the final door, at the end of the corridor. To a world where the State itself has gone bust and can no longer support its weaker members, where unwanted children, teenage hardened criminals, but mostly the elderly, are sent to live on an island of garbage with the rest of society’s waste. Watched over by satellites, terrorised by wastelords, unable to escape. But cometh the hour, cometh hope from a very unexpected source.

What inspired you to write the novel? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?

I wanted to write about Hope – Belief, maybe. The fact that, no matter how dire the situation, how near we seem to be to the end, give us just a drop of that magical potion and we’ll find a way to survive. In general, I think I draw my inspiration from research, serendipity and a little insanity.


How were you introduced to genre fiction?

My taste in reading – and writing, come to that – has always been very diverse. I really can’t remember the first SF book I read. Probably Isaac Asimov.

How do you enjoy being a writer and working within the publishing industry? Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?

I’m not sure I’m qualified enough to comment yet. I still feel a bit like the new guy on the first day of term. Not wanting to ask too many silly questions, making the odd mistake – though fortunately, no longer worried who the cool kids are. As for my writing and researching practices; God bless the Internet and I write absolutely everything down, and no, for some reason, nothing else will do.

When did you realize you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing? Do you still look back on it fondly?

I always wanted to be a writer. I actually typed my way out of the womb – no, no, that’s a lie and my mother’s very grateful. I just never thought seriously of being anything else. My first book was a comedy about the Return of Christ. He was very vain, almost Basil Fawlty-ish, and followed everywhere by his foolishly devoted and frequently ill-treated disciple. It was a kind of cross between Winnie the Pooh, Man of La Mancha, and madness, the final page being when ‘Dad’ lost patience with us and flooded the Earth again because he’s always been fond of sailing. Can’t imagine why it was never published…

What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?

I think there are some fascinating writers working today. It’s rewarding to see that, contrary to what we might sometimes believe, there is an incredible diversity of opinion about how people see the world. I honestly don’t know if the genre is getting more popular, but I think it should be and that it would make perfect sense. As a species, I think many of us crave something outside of what we know – especially at the moment. I guess I see myself at the ‘real’ end of the genre. Only taking a step or two off the path, but always ready to ask that question, “What If…?”

What other projects are you working on, and what do you have currently in the pipeline?

I have a book called The Pretence that I hope to be published. It’s not SF, in fact it’s more of a cross between a wayward ‘love’ story and a thriller, but it’s another example of “What if…?” What if two people pretended one of them was someone else? 

Gaiman-TheOceanAtTheEndOfTheLaneWhat are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?

I’m actually reading Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I went to the wonderful Toppings of Bath evening featuring him at the Forum in Bath.

What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?

It doesn’t surprise me, but it seems to amaze other people: I’m very practical and can turn my hands to most DIY.

What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?

Oh dear. Spoiled for choice. I guess the launch of The Detainee in the US in March ’14; I’d love to see some film interest; and – and I know I really shouldn’t confess to this – for the last goodness knows how many years I’ve had this fantasy that one day I’ll be quietly sitting on the Tube and realise that the very beautiful woman opposite me is reading my book. I’ve got my hopes up for that, too.


The Detainee is out now in the UK, published by Jo Fletcher Books. Be sure to check out the author/book on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Propaganda & Politics – When Historical Images Remain Relevant

I was at the British Library’s Propaganda: Power and Persuasion exhibition last week. I highly recommend anyone within easy reach of London visit the exhibition (open until September 17th). There are a good number of excellent displays, and even a couple that are relevant to content that has appeared on Civilian Reader. I’m putting together a longer post about a specific piece in the exhibition, but I thought I’d share another of my favourites here today. Namely, “Freedom American-Style” by B. Prorokov (1971):


I shared this over on Politics Reader, too, but I thought some readers of this blog might also find it interesting. According to the British Library’s page on the poster:

“… New York’s famous Statue of Liberty is parodied as a look-out tower for the American police to observe its people, mocking the idea that it is a symbol of freedom. The poster attacks and subverts American propaganda that promoted the idea of the democratic freedom of the West.”

Given the considerable prison population in the United States, it would appear that Prorokov’s piece retains contemporary relevance, and probably will for quite some time to come…

Monday, July 29, 2013

Upcoming: “Children of Fire” by Drew Karpyshyn (Del Rey)


I actually stumbled across this novel via NetGalley a little while ago (I really need to get my ass in gear and read-and-review it…). Today, though, I caught a Tweet by Del Rey UK with the British cover artwork, so I thought I’d finally share it on the blog. Out of the two, I think I prefer the UK cover (it’s darker and, dare I say it, grittier), although I do like that they’ve maintained the overall colour palette for the newer UK artwork (on the left).

This is the best synopsis I was able to find, from Random House (New Zealand, strangely)…

Wizard, Warrior, Prophet, King. The Immortal Daemron, know as the Slayer, was all these things before his ascension.

Trapped in a realm of Chaos for centuries by the Old Gods, using a magical barrier known as The Legacy, a last desperate ritual will herald the return of Chaos to the human world, and the lives of four children will never be the same.

The mortal realm is a balance of secular and religious authority, with The Order of the Crown holding much power over humanity, its members gifted with amazing abilities and all children with magical talents are theirs to claim.

Cassandra, Vaaler, Scythe and Keegan grow up in different places and with different lives, but all share the taint of Chaos magic. As various factions struggle to find the best solution to the coming return of Chaos, the fate of the world is in their hands.

I’ve enjoyed some of Karpyshyn’s Star Wars novels, so I’m intrigued to see how good his own stuff is. Hopefully I’ll get to this in the not-too-distant-future.

[Incidentally, yes – I do have better access to the internet for a little while, which should see an up-tick in posting for a week or so.]

Upcoming: “The Unremembered Empire” by Dan Abnett (Black Library)

Some more information about Black Library’s ongoing, excellent Horus Heresy series. This is looking further ahead, so there’s even less information available. But, as a Heresy junkie (I have a review of four short stories coming up, as well as the next full-length novel ready to be devoured), here is the cover art for Dan Abnett’s next novel in the series:


Also, on an interview over on The Bolthole, Dan Abnett had the following mini-snippet to say about the novel:

“Next for me is The Unremembered Empire, which is a direct sequel to Know No Fear and takes the Ultramarines (the survivors) back to Macragge. Then again, Aaron’s (Dembski-Bowden) Betrayer is also a direct sequel to KNF, so KNF is a bit of a branching book. The interweaving is getting more complex and the pace is picking up.”

Here is the full art…


Dan Abnett is the author that kicked the series off with the truly amazing Horus Rising. The 26th novel in the series, Vulkan Lives (by Nick Kyme) will be published very soon.

UPDATE (Aug.21): Here’s the synopsis:

Believing Terra has already fallen to the Warmaster, Primarch Roboute Guilliman founds the Imperium Secundus.The unthinkable has happened – Terra has fallen to the traitor forces of Warmaster Horus! Nothing else could explain the sudden disappearance of the Astronomican’s guiding light at the heart of the Imperium, or so Roboute Guilliman would believe. Ever the pragmatist, he has drawn all his forces to Ultramar and begun construction of the new empire known as Imperium Secundus. Even with many of his primarch brothers at his side, he still faces war from without and intrigue from within – with the best of intentions, were the full truth to be known it would likely damn them all as traitors for all eternity.


In other Horus Heresy news, I’ve dug up a little bit more for the series’s future. Major hat-tip to First Expedition for this information about other upcoming Horus Heresy fiction, which I found while searching for a synopsis of The Unremembered Empire (which still eludes me…). Here is some of what is still to come in the near future…

MACRAGGE’S HONOUR – Dan Abnett/Neil Roberts

Due for publication in November 2013

“Full colour, 100-page graphic novel, hardback to match the rest of the HH series perfectly. This will NOT be available in partwork, nor split into comics, and is being produced SOLELY by Black Library. It follows the naval duel mentioned in 'Know No Fear', between Marius Gage and Kor Phaeron. This will be available in time-limited edition with extra content, as well as non-limited edition later.”


No publication date as yet.

This is pithily described as, simply, “Novel”. Who ever said the art of brevity was dead on the internet…?


No publication date as yet.

“Limited edition novella, which shows what is currently happening on Mars. Techno-heretics are released from imprisonment by loyalist forces fighting a rebellion war on the surface against Kelbor Hal.”

Unnamed CORAX Novella – Gav Thorpe

No publication date as yet.

“Literally, what Corax did after Deliverance Lost: attacking a forge world which had begun producing daemon engines. Also described is a ‘battle’ between two floating cities which ‘broadside’ each other for weeks while assault troops jump back and forth between them.”

In addition, two more anthologies have been announced (though, I have no idea where), titled SHATTERED LEGIONS and THE SILENT WAR. Laurie Goulding will apparently be editing both of these books.

I’ll update this information, or write new posts as-and-when more information is unveiled. Watch this space!

Upcoming: Star Wars EMPIRE & REBELLION (Lucas Books/Random House)

The first novel in this series was announced quite a while ago, I think (super-excited for it, and I already have an ARC!). Today, however, I stumbled across some bare-bones preliminary information about book two, which has just ratcheted up my interest in the series to new heights. Here’s what I know so far…

Wells-SW-RazorsEdgeThe first novel, RAZOR’S EDGE, is written by critically acclaimed author Martha Wells, an author who has been on my radar for ages – and yet, as is becoming ever-more the case with me, still unread. With my long-held love for all things Star Wars, I can see this being my introduction to Wells’s writing. Here’s the synopsis…

Times are desperate for the Rebel Alliance. Harassment by the Empire and a shortage of vital supplies are hindering completion of a new secret base on the ice planet Hoth. So when Mid Rim merchants offer much-needed materials for sale, Princess Leia Organa and Han Solo lead an Alliance delegation to negotiate a deal.

But when treachery forces the rebel ship to flee into territory controlled by pirates, Leia makes a shocking discovery: the fierce marauders come from Leia’s homeworld of Alderaan, recently destroyed by the Death Star. These refugees have turned to pillaging and plundering to survive—and they are in debt to a pirate armada, which will gladly ransom the princess to the vengeful Empire . . . if they find out her true identity.

Struggling with intense feelings of guilt, loyalty, and betrayal, Leia is determined to help her wayward kinspeople, even as Imperial forces are closing in on her own crippled ship. Trapped between lethal cutthroats and brutal oppressors, Leia and Han, along with Luke, Chewbacca, and a battle-ready crew, must defy death—or embrace it—to keep the rebellion alive.

Corey-SW-HonorAmongThievesToday, I stumbled across the cover for the second novel in this series: HONOR AMONG THIEVES, which will be written by James S.A. Corey (the pen name for Daniel Abraham and Ty Frank). This novel is due for publication around March 2014, but I wasn’t able to find much more other than the cover on the internet (Random House’s page for the novel is effectively blank). I did find this nugget from the Star Wars Books Facebook page

The book, set in the classic era, is a stand alone adventure and is scheduled for publication in Spring ’14. Our editor-at-large, Shelly Shapiro, received the manuscript last week and posted on this page the other day “I am super enjoying the Star Wars manuscript I'm reading right now.” I loved Corey’s LEVIATHAN WAKES so I’m very excited to read this Han and Chewie romp through the GFFA.

All-in-all, I think we’re in for some great new Star Wars novels. Colour me utterly intrigued and impatient…

“Armageddon” by Aaron Dembski-Bowden (Black Library)

DembskiBowden-ArmageddonTwo Space Marine Battles stories from one of Black Library’s best young talents.

++ Grimaldus…

They lied to us about the Mannheim Gap. They sent us there to die. You know of whom I speak. We cannot outrun the echoes of Khattar. We pay the price now for our virtue in the past. The Celestial Lions will never leave this world. A handful of us remain, but we know the truth. We died at the Mannheim Gap. We died the day the sun rose over the scrap-iron bodies of alien gods. ++

++ Message for Black Templars Reclusiarch Merek Grimaldus, From Celestial Lions Deathspeaker Julkhara ++

Armageddon collects Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s early Space Marine Battles novel, Helsreach, and a new novella set shortly after the events of that novel, Blood And Fire. Both are quite different, and as a long-time fan of the author’s it is interesting to compare them – in terms of style, confidence, and story construction. (Though, fear not, this review is not a piece of academic literary criticism.) Overall, I think this collection is very strong, and while the novella is much better than the novel, both are highly recommended for fans of the author, the series, and science-fiction in general.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Guest Post: “History & Riyria” by Michael J. Sullivan


Long-time readers of Civilian Reader will know that I’m a big fan of Michael Sullivan’s Riyria Revelations series (re-issued by Orbit Books in 2011-12). To celebrate the release of a prequel duology – The Crown Tower and The Rose and the Thorn – the author has penned this piece on the historical influences on his series, and the decisions he made on how to approach and incorporate these influences into his fantasy world and narrative.



A good deal of invented-world fantasy is based on history. While much of this may be due to writers imitating other authors who came before them, there is a very practical reason for this: familiarity. When creating a world you’d rather not do it from scratch. Even the best chefs have used frozen pie crusts or stock broth. It just saves so much time and effort and allows you to focus on the more important aspects – the story.

In fantasy you could rework everything. You could do away with leaders or councils and run anarchy. People might not need to eat or drink, but instead soak up sunlight to survive. Of course you might not have a sun either. Instead you might have geysers that emit vapors that must be absorbed. People in the new world might not believe in trade, everyone could subsist entirely on what they alone find or make, hence no economy. There might be no day and night cycle, no seasons, no linear time at all as we know it. There might be no sexes, or there might be five different ones and reproduction could require the coupling of at least three different participants. Anyone of these would be a lot for an author to explain through all of its inevitable ramifications, but all of them and all the others one would need to invent to establish a completely alien world entirely disassociated from our own would both consume massive investment of words and likely bore even the most patient reader to tears.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

“Cuckoo’s Calling” Art an Homage to Hellblazer? Also, some BAD Journalism.

Not sure why, but the cover art for Robert Galbraith/JK Rowling’s The Cuckoo’s Calling makes me think of Vertigo Comics’ John Constantine/Hellblazer covers.


The shadowy figure scuttling away, the antique lamppost, the fire-like smog/smoke, the iron wrought fence, London… Ok, so the colour palette is a shade more chirpy than John Constantine’s covers, but if you were to darken it and swap out the birds for bats… Think it would work brilliantly. Below is the closest Hellblazer cover I could find after an admittedly very brief Googling session (by Simon Bisley)…


Incidentally, we were finally able to get a copy of The Cuckoo’s Calling (since the big reveal, all of my local booksellers have an abundance of copies), and Alyssa blitzed through it in a single day. She said it was really good. I’ll try to get to it in the next couple of weeks, but I can’t promise anything. (Too. Many. Awesome. Books. To. Read.)

Also, in related news, the article in last week’s Sunday Times about the revelation that “Robert Galbraith” was really JK Rowling was the worst bit of journalism I’ve read in a long while. The article is behind the pay-wall, but here are two choice bits that irked me. First of all, the author of the piece was really scraping the barrel, claiming Rowling-as-Galbraith was an elementary deduction, making the article little more than a piece of I-Am-More-Awesomely-Deductive-Than-Thou puffery. The “killer clue” that tipped them off? Yeah, someone told her outright! But after that, the journalist insists,

“Of course it was JK Rowling. There are only two female authors who could write convincingly about the excesses of super-rich, super-glamorous London… There are only two female authors who could write totally persuasively about being chased by paparazzi and write compassionately about being famous. One is Zadie Smith; the other is JK Rowling. I know Zadie and I knew it wasn’t her…”

So, a nice spot of celebrity name-dropping, and a single-handed writing off of 99.99% of female authors who may wish to ever write about high society in the UK. The Sunday Times has spoken: you will never do it convincingly. If you are male? Well, forget it, too. According to the author of the ST piece, men can’t write women well enough or convincingly. The idea that a debut author couldn’t have done this? Unbelievable. The article got worse, however:

“It all became so obvious: the themes of the books are Rowling’s and are subjects she addressed in last year’s The Casual Vacancy – and in the Harry Potter books: noble small people; ghastly, spoilt wealthy ones; social injustice; race; poverty; being in the wrong family…”

So, going by this ‘logic’, Rowling also wrote Gossip Girl… These are universal, as-old-as-time literary themes, and are not the sole (or even rare) province of Hogwarts…

So, uh, This Really Doesn’t Sound Any Good…


While on Goodreads last night, I stumbled across this upcoming book, the first in Artemis Fowl-author Eoin Colfer’s new series: THE RELUCTANT ASSASSIN (W.A.R.P. #1). The novel will be published by Puffin in UK, and Disney Hyperion in US. Its synopsis is one of the most underwhelming I have ever read…

Riley, a teen orphan boy living in Victorian London, has had the misfortune of being apprenticed to Albert Garrick, an illusionist who has fallen on difficult times and now uses his unique conjuring skills to gain access to victims’ dwellings. On one such escapade, Garrick brings his reluctant apprentice along and urges him to commit his first killing. Riley is saved from having to commit the grisly act when the intended victim turns out to be a scientist from the future, part of the FBI’s Witness Anonymous Relocation Program (WARP) Riley is unwittingly transported via wormhole to modern day London, followed closely by Garrick.

In modern London, Riley is helped by Chevron Savano, a seventeen-year-old FBI agent sent to London as punishment after a disastrous undercover, anti-terrorist operation in Los Angeles. Together Riley and Chevie must evade Garrick, who has been fundamentally altered by his trip through the wormhole. Garrick is now not only evil, but he also possesses all of the scientist's knowledge. He is determined to track Riley down and use the timekey in Chevie’s possession to make his way back to Victorian London where he can literally change the world.

Never before have I read a synopsis for a published novel that was this problematic. First of all, I’m not sure about the trend (or, at least, the beginnings of a trend) in YA novels featuring protagonists that are assassins is a particularly inspired one.

Next up: The FBI are operating in London? Really? They’re the department in charge of domestic US law enforcement! At the very least, Colfer could have picked the CIA, which would have been at least a little bit believable... The clunkiest attempt I’ve seen to keep a novel set in the UK “American accessible/friendly”. And a 17-year-old FBI agent? Sorry, no.

Finally: that steampunk-esque cover on the right isn’t going to fool anyone… The inclusion of Victorian-era characters does not a Steampunk novel make.

If I read this on submission, from a would-be-debut author, I would reject it out of hand. Given the author, I can only hope this is a case of “Someone Doesn’t Know How to Write Synopses”, but if I’m honest I still don’t care.

Comics Round-Up: CAPTAIN AMERICA (Vol.5) Collections (Marvel)


With my new job, I haven’t been spending as much time at my home computer in the past few months. I have not, however, stopped reading. Not by any stretch of the imagination. As a result, though, I have been racking up a lot of sets of notes for books (fiction, non-fiction, and particularly graphic novels) that I haven’t had a chance to feature on the blog, yet. So, over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to try (famous last words) to get a whole bunch mini-reviewed.

Part of the attraction of shorter reviews for many of these graphic novels, along with the lower time commitment, comes from a desire to avoid spoilers. Some of these – as in this review – are volumes that come pretty late in established (or slowly-becoming-established) series. Anyway, let us get on with it. Here are some thoughts on the following Captain America books: The Death of Captain America, Vols.1-3, Man With No Face, and also Man Out Of Time.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Short Fiction Round-Up: Hillary Jordan, Brian McClellan, Tom Rachman & Frank Cavallo


I’ve been reading a selection of short stories over the past couple of weeks, but I keep forgetting, or getting distracted from posting the reviews. So, to speed things up, I’ve compiled this selection of four reviews. Each is very different to the others, and offers something different. Not all of them were great, but each has something to offer the reader with a couple of hours to spare – either on a commute, or in between longer reads as palate cleansers. I had a lot more to say about one of them, but it is part of a much larger, decade-spanning series.

Reviewed: Frank Cavallo’s Into the Valley of Death, Hillary Jordan’s Aftermirth, Brian McClellan’s The Girl of Hrusch Avenue, and Tom Rachman’s The Bathtub Spy

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Upcoming: “Scars” by Chris Wraight (Black Library)


So, while I was googling about for information for my previous post, about Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s upcoming Abaddon: Talon of Horus novel, I also stumbled across information about this novel by Chris Wraight, one of Black Library’s best authors. Long-time fans of the Horus Heresy series will finally be getting what many of them have always wanted: a novel featuring the White Scars legion! Here is an early synopsis for Scars (I also don’t know if this is the final cover, by the way):

Jaghatai Khan and his White Scars Legion must choose - the Emperor or Horus?

Fresh from their conquest of Chondax and the discovery of Horus’s rebellion, Jaghatai Khan’s warriors stand divided. Long considered one of the less trustworthy Legions, many of the White Scars claim to owe their loyalty exclusively to Terra, and others still to the Warmaster and his warrior lodges. But when a distress call from Leman Russ of the Space Wolves brings the wrath of the Alpha Legion to Chondax, the Khan’s hand is forced and the decision must be made – in the great war for the Imperium, will he side with the Emperor or Horus?

I can only assume Black Library will use the release of this novel to also release Wraight’s Brotherhood of the Storm (a formerly limited edition White Scars Horus Heresy novella) in a new format, too – as they have done with Nick Kyme’s Promethean Sun in advance of Vulkan. I’m really looking forward to this one, too – it is apparently due for publication in May 2014. Some particularly intriguing titles coming from Black Library in the next twelve months or so. Watch this space for more.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Upcoming: “Abaddon: The Talon of Horus” by Aaron Dembski-Bowden (Black Library)


I had no idea this cover had been released, yet, but while on Goodreads adding my latest read to my Currently Reading shelf (Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s Helsreach), I saw this listed among his novels. Complete with a cover. So I did some more digging/Googling, and this post is the result.

Abaddon: Talon of Horus is the first in a new series of novels focussing on the Black Legion and their leader – former first captain of the Luna Wolves/Sons of Horus (who will be familiar to readers of the Horus Heresy series). Naturally, I’m extremely excited about reading this. The author is one of my favourites, period. (Although, that being said, I’m struggling a bit with Helsreach…) Also, as a more personal aside, Abaddon was my favourite model from the Warhammer 40,000 range, when I was younger and paid more attention.

Can’t wait for this. I’m ready for it to be April 2014, now!

Here’s an early synopsis, which I found on Simon & Schuster Canada’s catalogue…

The rise of Abaddon, successor to Horus and Warmaster of the Black Legion.

When Horus fell, his Sons fell with him. A broken Legion, beset by rivalries and hunted by their erstwhile allies, the former Luna Wolves have scattered across the tortured realm of the Eye of Terror. And of Abaddon, greatest of the Warmaster’s followers, nothing has been heard for many years. But when Horus’s body is taken from its resting place, a confederation of legionaries seek out the former First Captain, to convince him to embrace his destiny and continue what Horus began.

Aaron is also the author of brilliant The First Heretic (Horus Heresy), and the superb Night Lords trilogy (Soul Hunter, Blood Reaver, and Void Stalker), among others.

Excerpt: “The Tudors” by Peter Ackroyd (Macmillan)


Something a little different, today. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned elsewhere on the blog, I’m a huge fan of history (if you also happen to follow Politics Reader, you will have seen that there, too). I studied medieval history at school, and have maintained a life-long interest in this period. So, I am very happy to share with you a short extract from the second volume of Peter Ackroyd’s exceptional History Of England, The Tudors (Macmillan).

Chapter I


Ackroyd-HoE2-TheTudorsPBThe land was flowing with milk and honey. On 21 April 1509 the old king, having grown ever more harsh and rapacious, died in his palace at Richmond on the south bank of the Thames. The fact was kept secret for two days, so that the realm would not tremble. Yet the new Henry had already been proclaimed king. On 9 May the body of Henry VII was taken in a black chariot from Richmond Palace to St Paul’s Cathedral; the funeral car was attended by 1,400 formal mourners and 700 torch-bearers. But few, if any, grieved; the courtiers and household servants were already awaiting the son and heir. When the body, having been taken to the abbey of Westminster, after the funeral service was over, was lowered into its vault the heralds announced ‘le noble roy, Henri le Septie’me, est mort’. Then at once they cried out with one voice, ‘Vive le noble roy, Henri le Huitie’me ’. His title was undisputed, the first such easy succession in a century. The new king was in his seventeenth year.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Guest Post: “How a Cult Tried to Get Me” by Koethi Zan

Koethi Zan is the author of The Never List, which was published this week by Viking. To celebrate the release of the novel (and in advance of the review), here is a guest post from the author…


ZanK-NeverListUSWhen I was eighteen years old, my college roommate and I were lured into a cult. It isn’t what you might imagine. We didn’t move to a commune somewhere in Texas with some charismatic leader who had a cache of weapons and multiple wives. They were much too sophisticated for that. They drew us in slowly with very innocent “study sessions” that were part self-help, part group therapy, and part meditation class.

It started with my college boyfriend’s parents who had been involved with this “philosophy study group” for many years. They urged my boyfriend to go so my roommate Ann and I decided we’d tag along. We were up for anything and curious about what we’d heard.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

An Interview with MICHAEL MARTINEZ


Michael Martinez is the author of the highly anticipated (in my opinion) The Daedalus Incident. I actually also already have a copy of the book, but have been dreadfully negligent about getting around to actually reading it. I will endeavour to rectify this as soon as possible. In the meantime, I thought it would be nice to interview Michael, as I’ve chatted a fair bit with him via Twitter and he seems like a great fellow. So, read on!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Books Received (Couple of Weeks’ Worth)

Over the past couple of weeks, another bumper crop of highly-anticipated and interesting-looking books has been trickling in through the mailbox. As per usual, and because it’s too hot to write a full review or article, here is a quick run-down of some books that will hopefully feature again on the blog (some of them are certainties, though). I have not included eBook ARCs that I’ve received.


Upcoming: “Breach Zone” by Myke Cole (Ace Books)

Geek Exchange got the exclusive for this cover reveal (this past Wednesday), but given how much I enjoyed the first two novels in the Shadow Ops series, I thought I’d share the cover for the third novel on here, too. So, without any further ado, here is the cover for Myke Cole’s BREACH ZONE


Personally, I think this is my favourite of the three US covers, now. I also really like the way the fella up front’s eyebrow is raised in an “I don’t think so…” manner. A nice touch. I like the green hue, too. Can’t wait to see what the UK cover looks like.

Breach Zone will be published in the US by Ace Books (Penguin) in late January 2014; and Headline in the UK, in mid-February 2014.

Also on CR: Interview with Myke Cole, Guest Post, reviews of Control Point and Fortress Frontier.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

“Generation V” by M.L. Brennan (Roc Books)

BrennanML-GV1-GenerationVThe start of a new, fun vampire Urban Fantasy series

Reality Bites

Fortitude Scott’s life is a mess. A degree in film theory has left him with zero marketable skills, his job revolves around pouring coffee, his roommate hasn’t paid rent in four months, and he’s also a vampire. Well, sort of. He’s still mostly human.

But when a new vampire comes into his family’s territory and young girls start going missing, Fort can’t ignore his heritage anymore. His mother and his older, stronger siblings think he’s crazy for wanting to get involved. So it’s up to Fort to take action, with the assistance of Suzume Hollis, a dangerous and sexy shape-shifter. Fort is determined to find a way to outsmart the deadly vamp, even if he isn’t quite sure how.

But without having matured into full vampirehood and with Suzume ready to split if things get too risky, Fort’s rescue mission might just kill him…

Generation V is that rare beast: an Urban Fantasy that managed to both entertain me and surprise me, while also eliciting plenty of chuckles. I’m not as versed in the genre as I perhaps should be, but this was a lot of fun, and I can’t wait for the sequel.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Guest Post: “The Yesterday That Never Was” by Aidan Harte (Jo Fletcher Books)

Today, I bring you a guest post by Aidan Harte, author of the historical fantasies Irenicon and The Warring States. Here, he discusses how authors perceive and play around with the historical periods they can write in…



AidanHarte-AuthorPicFantasy and Historical Fiction are in essence extreme forms of Travel Fiction. They take us to destinations that can’t be otherwise reached. Historical Fantasy is a hybrid for brave souls looking for untraveled paths in unmapped lands. Its terrain is more expansive than it was – as the world tilts, reorienting itself to an Eastern pole, the West is no longer the default setting.

Anyone writing Historical Fiction must accomplish two, unfortunately contradictory, things:

1. Immerse the reader in another era.

2. Keep him from drowning in it.

An Interview with M.L. BRENNAN


I don’t read much Urban Fantasy. I don’t really know why. But, last week I read ML Brennan’s Generation V, which I found to be a lot of fun. Naturally, after liking the novel, my first inclination was to send the author some interview questions…

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

“Lexicon” by Max Barry (Mulholland Books)

BarryM-LexiconA superb new thriller, from the author of Jennifer Government

At an exclusive school somewhere outside of Arlington, Virginia, students aren’t taught history, geography, or mathematics—they are taught to persuade. Students learn to use language to manipulate minds, wielding words as weapons. The very best graduate as “Poets,” and enter a nameless organization of unknown purpose.

Whip-smart runaway Emily Ruff is making a living from three-card Monte on the streets of San Francisco when she attracts the attention of the organization’s recruiters. Drawn in to their strange world, which is populated by people named Brontë and Eliot, she learns their key rule: That every person can be classified by personality type, his mind segmented and ultimately unlocked by the skillful application of words. For this reason, she must never allow another person to truly know her, lest she herself be coerced. Adapting quickly, Emily becomes the school’s most talented prodigy, until she makes a catastrophic mistake: She falls in love.

Meanwhile, a seemingly innocent man named Wil Parke is brutally ambushed by two men in an airport bathroom. They claim he is the key to a secret war he knows nothing about, that he is an “Outlier,” immune to segmentation. Attempting to stay one step ahead of the organization and its mind-bending poets, Wil and his captors seek salvation in the toxically decimated town of Broken Hill, Australia, which, if ancient stories are true, sits above an ancient glyph of frightening power.

I’m going to keep this review very short (for me). Lexicon is filled with twists, revelations, and a superb blending of timelines that makes it rather difficult to review sans spoilers. Needless to say, though, Lexicon is a thoroughly enjoyable, gripping and original thriller.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Guest Post: “SEEDS IN THE DESERT” by Peter Liney (Detainee Blog Tour)

Liney-DetaineeI’m not exactly sure when THE DETAINEE started to take shape in my mind. For a long time I had this notion that I wanted to write a book about the human spirit, about the fact that, no matter how dark the situation, given hope, we always find a way to survive. Like those seeds that lie dormant in the desert, year in, year out, waiting for rain, and when it comes, suddenly burst into the most beautiful of life. Or the victims of kidnapping, political prisoners, those held for no reason and often under the most appalling of circumstances, where do they find the will to survive? To wait for the arrival of that shower of life-giving rain?

So that was my theme, but where was my story? Well, if you’ll forgive me, it started with garbage (yes, I know I’m running a risk saying that, but hey, it’s the truth). Some years ago now, whilst visiting New York, I wandered into the City Library and was greeted by an exhibition about landfill on Staten Island. Ting! Yep, it was one of those writer moments – landfill, rubbish, everything society throws away, what if people were discarded with them? What if they were sent out to live on a stinking pile of waste in the middle of the ocean? Unable to escape, terrorised by fellow Islanders – that would be a pretty good challenge to the human spirit, wouldn’t it? What if society decided to discard all those they could no longer support? Those who can’t support themselves? So many countries in the world are concerned about their ageing populations, about how they can possibly sustain them, and really, the mathematics do seem overwhelmingly simple, not to mention, chilling. How will the few who are still working pay enough taxes to support those who are not? I mean, we can juggle the figures around, make people work a little longer, but is that going to do it? And that, of course, is if all things remain as they are.

What if we have yet another economic crisis? Or should I say, what if this one takes a turn for the worse? What if governments have to make even more savage cuts? No more free education, healthcare, the old left to take care of themselves – what would happen then?

And with story, of course, comes characters. Good, strong characters with clearly defined goals. The courageous Lena, the resourceful Jimmy, the enduring Delilah, and, of course, our hero, Clancy, a reformed villain with an inherent sense of right and wrong. A man to respect, and well-qualified to oversee a life-or-death challenge to the human spirit.

Now we have a tale to tell...


Peter Liney’s The Detainee will be published by Jo Fletcher Books in the UK on July 4th 2013. The Detainee blog-tour continues at the following sites…

July 9th – J For Jetpack

July 10th – Speculative Assessments

July 11th – GavReads

July 12th – Ranting Dragon

There’s more! I’ll be sharing an excerpt from The Detainee this Friday, and with luck I’ll have the book reviewed next week or the one after. Be sure to come back and check these posts out!


CORRECTION: The original version of this post stated that The Detainee was to be published on August 1st. I was wrong. Correct date now mentioned above.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Guest Post: “My Favourite Novel” by Robert Goddard

I’m very pleased to share with you this quick guest post by author Robert Goddard, whose latest novel – The Ways of the World – was published yesterday, by Transworld (details at end).


My Favourite Novel: THE MAGUS by John Fowles

Fowles-TheMagus1977I first read The Magus shortly after it appeared in its revised 1977 edition, following original publication in 1966. Part of the appeal of the book then was probably to do with me being just the right age to be intoxicated and enthralled by its hallucinogenic mixture of psychological thriller and searing memoir. Beyond that, though, there’s the energetic lyricism of the writing. That’s what I relish most when I look back at it now.

The book works on the reader rather as the shimmering Aegean setting, the twin femmes fatales of June and Julie and the tormenting figure of the magus of the title, Conchis, work on the narrator of the story, Nicholas Urfe. First there is seduction, then there is mystery, then there is torture and finally an enigmatic resolution. No one part of the structure convinces as fiction without the others.

It is a brilliantly sustained piece of work.

Would that I could say the same of John Fowles’ writing career. After The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969), there was a slow and disappointing decline into virtual unreadability. I went to a talk by the great man once, in Exeter, some time in the mid-1980s. Alas, all that met me at the venue was a sign reading ‘John Fowles is unwell.’

‘John Fowles is depressed’ might have been more accurate, as I discovered when I read his diaries, published a few years ago, following his death in 2005. It’s probably best to know as little as possible about a writer you admire. Their personalities are apt to disappoint.

So, forget the writer. But enjoy his work. Anyone who hasn’t read The Magus has something to look forward to. I envy them.

By Robert Goddard


Goddard-WaysOfTheWorldRobert Goddard’s latest novel, The Ways of the World is out now. It is, I believe, the first in a new series. It is very close to the top of my TBR mountain, so hopefully you’ll be seeing more of it on the blog in the near future.

Here’s the synopsis…

1919. The eyes of the world are on Paris, where statesmen, diplomats and politicians have gathered to discuss the fate of half the world’s nations in the aftermath of the cataclysm that was the Great War. A horde of journalists, spies and opportunists have also gathered in the city and the last thing the British diplomatic community needs at such a time is the mysterious death of a senior member of their delegation. So, when Sir Henry Maxted falls from the roof of his mistress’s apartment building in unexplained circumstances, their first instinct is to suppress all suspicious aspects of the event.

But Sir Henry’s son, ex-Royal Flying Corps ace James ‘Max’ Maxted, has other ideas. He resolves to find out how and why his father died – even if this means disturbing the impression of harmonious calm which the negotiating teams have worked so hard to maintain. In a city where countries are jostling for position at the crossroads of history and the stakes could hardly be higher, it is difficult to tell who is a friend and who a foe. And Max will soon discover just how much he needs friends, as his search for the truth sucks him into the dark heart of a seemingly impenetrable mystery.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Guest Post: A Letter to Readers, by Peter Stenson

This guest post is adapted from a letter author Peter Stenson wrote connected to his new novel, FIEND, which is published today by William Heinemann in the UK. The novel is published by Crown Publishing in the US (both are imprints of Random House). It is the story of the journey he had to travel before he got to a place in which he could write the novel.

FIEND has been described as “Breaking Bad Meets The Walking Dead”, and is currently sitting very near the top of my To-Be-Read mountain. Expect more on the blog very soon.



Dear Readers,

I’d been kicked out of high school and had run away to San Francisco with a hundred dollars to my name. I had a pretty healthy addiction to opiates going and was still a year away from being able to vote. Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire.

It was New Year’s Eve and I don’t remember exactly how I made my way to a hotel downtown, but I did. It was full of Phish-type kids who were there for some concerts. There were lots of dreadlocks and cocked hats and sagged pants and patchouli. There were even more faces made concave from malnutrition and narcotics. I stumbled around looking for somebody I knew or at least a place to sit down. Everything was red and gold and seemed to slither. Hundreds of other kids did the same thing. I was struck by the idea that some fundamental aspect of our being—whatever the hell it was that made us human and alive—was missing.

Fast-forward six months. I’d relocated to Washington and was living in a halfway house for adolescents. Life was beginning not to suck. I was sober, my parents spoke to me, I was holding down a job, and I was learning that I could find joy outside of chemicals. The main newfound joy was spending my afternoons in a small used bookstore. I’d go there after work and sit in the literature section poring over the cracked spines of books. I spent what little money I had purchasing said books, oftentimes devouring them that same day. I had my quintessential love affair with literature (albeit a little later than most) sitting on that red carpet, huffing the musty pages of those novels. And it was there that I realized I wanted to be a writer.

Both of these memories have stuck with me ever since. I’ve been sober now for a decade and can’t so much as imagine traveling to a city without a hotel reservation, never mind running away two thousand miles. But I’ve never forgotten that moment when I conflated addict and walking-dead as one, nor the accompanying realization that these kids, like myself then, would do anything and everything to keep the high going.

Fiend is born out of that memory and those realizations. I wanted to tell a story of addiction, and strangely, the most honest way I could portray the kind of addiction I knew was to set the story against the background of zombies. I also made methamphetamines a “cure” of sorts so that quitting would not be an option—and so I could see what depths my characters were willing to sink to in order to stay alive.

PeterStensonAnd as for my other memory, the one about spending every afternoon for six months sitting in a shoebox of a used bookstore, I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am about the thought of my book stacked on your shelves. To be amongst the novels that helped give me a purpose—well, I know I’m supposed to be a writer, but the words are failing me here. Because I can’t express how much that means to me.


Peter Stenson


Here’s the synopsis for the novel…

When Chase sees the little girl in umbrella socks savaging the Rottweiler, he’s not too concerned. As someone who‘s been smoking meth every day for as long as he can remember, he’s no stranger to such horrifying, drug-fueled hallucinations. But as he and his fellow junkies discover, the little girl is no illusion. The end of the world really has arrived. And with Chase’s life already destroyed beyond all hope of redemption, Armageddon might actually be an opportunity — a last chance to hit restart and become the person he once dreamed of being. Soon Chase is fighting to reconnect with his lost love and dreaming of becoming her hero among the ruins. But is salvation just another pipe dream?

Wednesday, July 03, 2013



Max Barry is a superb author. I haven’t read as much of his stuff as I would like, and I’m due a re-read of Jennifer Government at some point in the near future. His latest novel, Lexicon, is one of my favourite reads of 2013 so far, and will be reviewed tomorrow. He was kind enough to take some time out of a busy schedule to answer some questions for me…

Monday, July 01, 2013

Guest Post: “The Details in the Devil” by Lou Morgan

MorganL-Blood&FeathersFinalThere is one really, really stupid thing you can do as a writer. Monumentally, head-thumpingly stupid.

And that’s to put the Devil in your book.

Where do you start? Whatever name you give him, whatever face, Old Nick comes with some pretty hefty baggage. Trickster, manipulator, tyrant, victim, former angel or demon… he’s still the Devil. You can race with him; you can be caught between him and the deep blue sea. You can have sympathy for him (or not) and he’s even been known to wear Prada.

All this, and we’ve barely even scratched the surface… So why would anyone be crazy or arrogant enough to go ahead and write one of the most (in)famous characters in all of literature into their own book?