Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Magazine:// Salon Futura

Missed the launch of this one which is surprising given it's exactly the sort of thing I like to read:

Salon Futura is a new online non-fiction magazine devoted to the discussion of science fiction, fantasy and related literature.

I've rushed through the first issue, just started looking through the second, and am now looking forward to the third. They provide an epub download so it can easily be read on an ebook reader, though the website is a nice simple design which makes for easy reading. Some interesting articles and interviews, some audio and video content, altogether a really nice new online publication. I really hope they are successful with the magazine, there is definitely a space for something more structured than your average genre blog and this could fill it quite easily.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Free Read:// Free ebooks from The Black Library

I've not read any of the Warhammer stuff but I might just try some as they are giving some free ebooks away for the next few weeks. It's a promotion for their soon to be launched ebook store and first up is First and Only by Dan Abnett which I believe is the first in the Gaunt's Ghosts series.

Head over here and snag a free copy, looks like DRM-free epub and mobi.
To celebrate the launch of Black Library Digital, October 8th and the following four Fridays have been designated Free eBook Fridays. Be sure to point your browser in our direction at noon GMT on each of those days to find out which gem from the BL back catalogue – or digital exclusive – will be yours for the grand sum of zero pounds, dollars or yen.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Listen:// Sherlock Holmes - The Last Act

Buy From: Big Finish
It is 1916 and Sherlock Holmes has returned to his rooms in Baker Street after attending the funeral of his long time associate, Dr John H. Watson. Holmes reflects on the old days and comes to realise that not only was there so much that he had shared with Watson in his lifetime but also there was so much that he had not revealed to him: things he had kept hidden, including his deep affection for his friend. Imagining that Watson is present, Holmes addresses this failing and touches on aspects of past cases and the various characters he encountered during his investigations, including ‘The Woman’ Irene Adler and of course Professor Moriarty.

Holmes delves deeper into the darker aspects of his own history, revealing at last a shocking secret. Realising now how lonely and isolated he is without his old comrade, adrift in a new modern and war-ravaged age, he comes to wonder whether, like Watson, he too has come to the end of his time…
 Besides all the science fiction and fantasy I read, I count the Sherlock Holmes books among my all time favourites so I'll often digest anything I find set in that universe. Whilst I love the originals, I don't have any particular problem with people playing in that world. I know some people can get obsessed with canon, and keeping things true to the originals, but I think it's such a great character and setting it deserves to be reinterpreted, rebooted, and generally messed around with.

I'd vaguely heard of the stage play of The Last Act but I've never been able to make it, so I was pleasantly surprised when I spotted that the Big Finish Sherlock Holmes series would be kicking off with a audio production of that play. It's a single actor piece starring Roger Llewellyn as Sherlock Holmes performing a monologue to a deceased Watson. It's incredibly well written, and manages to squeeze a huge amount of detail from the original books in, indeed it would server as a great introduction to anyone who has not yet read the books. At the same time as the 'Sherlock for beginners' detail we are also getting an insight into the mind of the great detective who proves to be a little more flawed than he seems at first glance.

Roger Llewellyn is outstanding as Holmes, I really would love to see him in one of the original stories now I've heard this. He has that exacting tone, slightly dark, very funny in places, and full of emotion. It's a performance worth hearing. He also plays the other characters, or more precisely plays Holmes playing the other characters, and jumps between them seemingly with ease. I'm not so keen on some of the others voices, though it is supposed to be Holmes playing them so the fact that they tend towards the exaggerated probably makes sense.

I can't say much more without spoiling the plot, it's a relatively short listen at 2 hours and definitely worth it. I'll leave with a clip of the stage play...

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Received:// Countdown to Armageddon / A Stranger in Paradise, by Edward M. Lerner

Well better late than never, this one was sent through from the nice people at Wildside Press, but since I disappeared I never managed to post anything up. I know zero about Edward M. Lerner, and whilst that red cover is fugly as hell, it is tempting to have a read. I may just dive into the short story collection side of the book instead.

In the tradition of the old "Ace Doubles" two-in-one books (flip one over to read the second title) -- here is the second Wildside Double . . .

"Countdown to Armageddon," by Edward M. Lerner:

Hezbollah has obtained an atomic bomb and a would-be martyr eager to deliver it-and that's the good news. The bad news, unknown even to Hezbollah, is that their physicist has also found a way to take his new bomb back to a turning point in European history.

Harry Bowen, an American physicist, and Terrence Ambling, a British agent turned historian, are determined to stop Abdul Faisel and prevent the nullification of all Western civilization. Their mission can be accomplished, if at all, only in the darkest of the Dark Ages-

And there, too, time is running out.

"A Stranger in Paradise," by Edward M. Lerner, collects five of the bestselling author's science fiction stories: "The Night of the RFIDs," "Two kinds of People," "Better the Devil You Know," "Small Business," and "A Stranger in Paradise."

Service:// Interrupted

Well my plans for productive blogging didn't work out too well. Went on holiday, had some nights out, didn't sleep much, done some web design on the side, been far too busy with the family. In short, I've rather neglected things.

I have managed to get some reading done, and I've also made it through the rather long reading of Justin Cronin's The Passage so it's not all bad.

Rambling will continue shortly.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Listen:// The Blade Itself - Joe Abercrombie

Published By: Orion Publishing
Buy From:

Inquisitor Glokta, a crippled and bitter relic of the last war, former fencing champion turned torturer, is trapped in a twisted and broken body - not that he allows it to distract him from his daily routine of torturing smugglers.
Nobleman, dashing officer and would-be fencing champion Captain Jezal dan Luthar is living a life of ease by cheating his friends at cards. Vain and shallow, the biggest blot on his horizon is having to get out of bed in the morning to train with obsessive and boring old men.
And Logen Ninefingers, an infamous warrior with a bloody past, is about to wake up with plans to settle a blood feud with Bethod, the new King of the Northmen, once and for all - ideally by running away from it. But as he's discovering, old habits die hard . . .
. . . especially when Bayaz gets involved. An old man with a terrible temper and a pathetic assistant, he could be the First of the Magi, he could be a spectacular fraud, but whatever he is, he's about to make the lives of Glotka, Jezal and Logen a whole lot more difficult . . .
Striking debut novel with all the cynicism, realism and punch the fantasy genre has been missing. Read by Steven Pacey.

Been away for a bit but I did have a chance to listen to some more audio. Joe Abercrombie is one of those authors I've been meaning to catch up with but just haven't got around to. I have actually read this book but I never managed to catch the rest of the series or his newer books so I thought I'd start again at the beginning with the newly released audio.

There's probably not much more I can add to the reviews of the actual book, it was and is an impressive debut fantasy novel. If you like your fantasy gritty and full of flawed characters you'll probably like this. It's largely character driven and the characters are all your typical fantasy fare, with heroes, wizards, apprentices and so on yet the darkly humorous, noirish telling means it never slips over into the ridiculous epic fantasy parody that lazier examples of the genre have become.

As for the audio book, well, say one thing about Steven Pacey, say he's a bloody good narrator. The reader can make or break an audiobook and Steven Pacey does and outstanding job on this, creating clear voices and accents for each of the characters and switching between them with apparent ease without any of them being overdone.

One issue common in audiobooks is narration that doesn't tie up with the actual text, so the narrator will read a character line in a plain voice followed by "he hissed" or "he shouted angrily" and it'll be completely wrong and clearly nobody cares enough to edit it. Thankfully here through editing, careful reading or whatever means the delivery ties up really well with the text and took me by surprise in a couple of places. Pacey's lisping delivery of the almost toothless Glokta in particular is excellent and really suits the part, he's my favourite and possibly most flawed character and Pacey's delivery really suits some of those wonderfully sarcastic lines. There's much humour to be had from the book and throughout, Pacey's delivery and timing is excellent with a couple of real laugh out loud moments.

All in all highly recommended, I have the next one lined up for listening right after I get through the thirty something hours of Justin Cronin's The Passage....more on that one soon,

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Read:// Tides From the New Worlds by Tobias S. Buckell [ebook]

It's taken me a little while to get through this though that's down to life and children rather than any problem with the book which I enjoyed more for the leisurely read.  

If you didn't know Tobias Buckell was Caribbean born and raised, you could probably guess by the time you finished reading Tides From the New Worlds, a collection of his short stories. Influences from his life spent growing up in a different culture are clearly evident in many of the tales here and they are all the better for it. This is not the heavy-handed insertion of token 'ethnic' characters that often seems to happen in fiction, or the use of 'generic low tech culture' as a tool to show how much more advanced and therefore civilised the other cultures in a story are. This is speculative fiction written with very real feeling characters and places which just happen not to be white people living in America or America-in-space.

Not all the stories here are science fiction, if labelling is required then this would definitely sit under a speculative one but there's a real mix with alien contact stories and space habitats sitting alongside airships (gotta love airships), fantasy and what I guess people like to call magical realism though I've always thought that's just what we used to call fantasy before the Orcs took it over. Likewise not all the stories have that Caribbean flavour but for me some of the best stories are those that combine both science fiction and that clash of cultures like the quite brilliant opener The Fish Merchant.

The standard of fiction definitely doesn't rely on those elements though with my favourite story being A Green Thumb, one that reminds me of the sort of stories that got me into science fiction, it has that light hearted sense of wonder I associate with stories from the science fiction magazines I devoured whenever I could get my hands on them. It might not be considered the best story here but it puts a big grin on my face. For very different reasons I loved the moving All Her Children Fought which brings to mind Ender's Game, though it's brevity means it packs more of an emotional punch in my opinion. There's also an interesting little introduction to each story so you can get a feel for the things that inspired or influenced each of them.

Coming from a mixed background myself, I'm drawn to science fiction written with and from different cultural views. I have grown up British though I clearly don't look it, yet I don't know much of my roots abroad apart from what my father has told me so I'm always interested and slightly envious of people who have a clear understanding of where they come from. Tobias obviously has a real understanding and sense of pride in his Caribbean roots, I've read a couple of interviews and blog posts where this is obvious and it shines through in the last story in the collection Toy Planes which reads like Caribbean advocacy, it's brilliant.

I didn't like everything, The Duel whilst an interesting setting didn't grab me maybe because I know little of American history, likewise Smooth Talking didn't seem to hold my attention. The ones I liked far outweigh the odd few that didn't appeal to me though and all in all Tides From the New Worlds is the best single author collection I've read in a long time. I'd love to own that beautiful looking hardback but at this price the ebook is a steal, it's cheaper than most of the fiction magazines you can buy and way better value for money given the number of stories and overall quality.

I really, really have to hunt out his novels now, knowing that they include that seemingly effortless mix of different cultures and science fiction...and I'm pretty sure someone mentioned there were more airships. :)

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Free Read:// The Choir Boats by Daniel A. Rabuzzi

Spotted this a bit late but Wowio currently have a decent looking fantasy ebook free for July. Chizine publish some interesting short fiction online so I might take a look at this once I've cleared a few things from the top of the pile. PDF only like most of Wowios ebooks, wish they would do epubs too.
As many of you know, we’ve been offering a free download every month since the earliest days of WOWIO, and we always do our best to pick intriguing titles that will pique the interest of our readers and new visitors.

This month, in honor of our site relaunch, we’re doing something really special — we’ve teamed up with publisher ChiZine Publications to offer one of their critically acclaimed fantasy novels — The Choir Boats by Daniel A. Rabuzzi — as our July Book of the Month.

Described as “vibrant” and rich with “verve and wit,” it’s a seagoing fantasy yarn that is like “Gulliver’s Travels crossed with The Golden Compass and a dollop of Pride and Prejudice.”

Monday, 19 July 2010

Bought:// The Mammoth Book of Apocalyptic SF - Edited by Mike Ashley

Published By: Robinson
Buy From:

The last sixty years have been full of stories of one or other possible Armageddon, whether by nuclear war, plague, cosmic catastrophe or, more recently, global warming, terrorism, genetic engineering, AIDS and other pandemics. These stories, both pre- and post-apocalyptic, describe the fall of civilization, the destruction of the entire Earth, or the end of the Universe itself. Many of the stories reflect on humankind's infinite capacity for self-destruction, but the stories are by no means all downbeat or depressing - one key theme explores what the aftermath of a cataclysm might be and how humans strive to survive.

Well real life seems to be catching up with me as usual. Still working my way through a stack of books but haven't finished anything for a while now. Spent a few days away with the family so National Book tokens grasped firmly in hand I ventured to a nice little independent bookshop and snagged a few books.

Top of the pile is this one - The Mammoth Book of Apocalyptic SF - an anthology containing both reprints and newly commissioned stories. A lot of these books contain mostly reprints so I'm really looking forward to reading this. Love the theme of apocalypse and how people deal with it so I'm sure I'll find something in here to entertain me.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Listen:// UR - Stephen King

Buy From:
An Unabridged Novella Unavailable In Any Collection!

Tapping into our primal fears of modern technology that made Cell a #1 bestseller, Stephen King sets his sights on the latest high-tech gadget in UR, in which a mysterious e-book reader opens a disturbing window into other worlds.

Reeling from a painful break-up, English instructor and avid book lover Wesley Smith is haunted by his ex-girlfriend's parting shot: "Why can't you just read off the computer like everyone else?" He buys an e-book reader out of spite, but soon finds he can use the device to glimpse realities he had never before imagined, discovering literary riches beyond his wildest dreams...and all-too-human tragedies that surpass his most terrible nightmares.

A short novella reading at 2hr 20min, it's competently read and quite interesting if not exactly full of original ideas. It was original published as a Kindle exclusive and a Kindle is the major plot device, giving the new owner Wesley Smith the ability to read books that famous authors have published in parallel universes that were never published in his own. I started out thinking it was going to be a terrible plug for Kindles but it's actually a decent tale, reminded me of an old-school sci-fi short story but obviously written in King's style.

It's not all about reading books, and things take a different turn when he accesses information which affects his world. I can't say much more without spoiling the plot, it's more Twilight Zone than outright horror but I found it entertaining and I'm sure most King fans would.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

News:// SF & Fantasy Masterworks Reading Project

I'm strangely drawn to reading projects or challenges and by drawn to I mean I like to start them full of enthusiasm and then fail miserably because I have a terminally low attention span. I'm still considering reading through the Hugo winners but it'll have to wait until I've at least made a dent in the book mountain my wife is hidden behind.

A bunch of SF&F book bloggers are undertaking the slightly crazy project of reading and reviewing all the books in both the SF and Fantasy Masterworks series. They are undoubtedly great collections of genre books, I do think they tend to concentrate on older works and the obvious 'grandmasters' but this is fairly common in any list of classic science fiction or fantasy. I'm passionate about new science fiction and I spend a fair amount of time promoting newer works to friends both online and off who tend to run into the same recommendations of classic texts that are not always in my opinion the best introduction to the genre though they may be important.

Anyway I'm getting a bit off topic, thought I'd continue the meme I spotted at the Speculative Scotsman.

Books in bold I've read, italicised I own but haven't read.

I'll do the fantasy list if I can find a list that's easy to copy&paste but for now the SF Masterworks:

I - Dune - Frank Herbert
II - The Left Hand of Darkness - Ursula K. Le Guin
III - The Man in the High Castle - Philip K. Dick
IV - The Stars My Destination - Alfred Bester
V - A Canticle for Leibowitz - Walter M. Miller, Jr.
VI - Childhood's End - Arthur C. Clarke
VII - The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress - Robert A. Heinlein
VIII - Ringworld - Larry Niven
IX - The Forever War - Joe Haldeman
X - The Day of the Triffids - John Wyndham

1 - The Forever War - Joe Haldeman
2 - I Am Legend - Richard Matheson
3 - Cities in Flight - James Blish
4 - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Philip K. Dick
5 - The Stars My Destination - Alfred Bester
6 - Babel-17 - Samuel R. Delany
7 - Lord of Light - Roger Zelazny
8 - The Fifth Head of Cerberus - Gene Wolfe
9 - Gateway - Frederik Pohl
10 - The Rediscovery of Man - Cordwainer Smith

11 - Last and First Men - Olaf Stapledon
12 - Earth Abides - George R. Stewart
13 - Martian Time-Slip - Philip K. Dick
14 - The Demolished Man - Alfred Bester
15 - Stand on Zanzibar - John Brunner
16 - The Dispossessed - Ursula K. Le Guin
17 - The Drowned World - J. G. Ballard
18 - The Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut
19 - Emphyrio - Jack Vance
20 - A Scanner Darkly - Philip K. Dick

21 - Star Maker - Olaf Stapledon
22 - Behold the Man - Michael Moorcock
23 - The Book of Skulls - Robert Silverberg
24 - The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds - H. G. Wells
25 - Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes
26 - Ubik - Philip K. Dick
27 - Timescape - Gregory Benford
28 - More Than Human - Theodore Sturgeon
29 - Man Plus - Frederik Pohl
30 - A Case of Conscience - James Blish

31 - The Centauri Device - M. John Harrison
32 - Dr. Bloodmoney - Philip K. Dick
33 - Non-Stop - Brian Aldiss
34 - The Fountains of Paradise - Arthur C. Clarke
35 - Pavane - Keith Roberts
36 - Now Wait for Last Year - Philip K. Dick
37 - Nova - Samuel R. Delany
38 - The First Men in the Moon - H. G. Wells
39 - The City and the Stars - Arthur C. Clarke
40 - Blood Music - Greg Bear

41 - Jem - Frederik Pohl
42 - Bring the Jubilee - Ward Moore
43 - VALIS - Philip K. Dick
44 - The Lathe of Heaven - Ursula K. Le Guin
45 - The Complete Roderick - John Sladek
46 - Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said - Philip K. Dick
47 - The Invisible Man - H. G. Wells
48 - Grass - Sheri S. Tepper
49 - A Fall of Moondust - Arthur C. Clarke
50 - Eon - Greg Bear

51 - The Shrinking Man - Richard Matheson
52 - The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch - Philip K. Dick
53 - The Dancers at the End of Time - Michael Moorcock
54 - The Space Merchants - Frederik Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth
55 - Time Out of Joint - Philip K. Dick
56 - Downward to the Earth - Robert Silverberg
57 - The Simulacra - Philip K. Dick
58 - The Penultimate Truth - Philip K. Dick
59 - Dying Inside - Robert Silverberg
60 - Ringworld - Larry Niven
61 - The Child Garden - Geoff Ryman
62 - Mission of Gravity - Hal Clement
63 - A Maze of Death - Philip K. Dick
64 - Tau Zero - Poul Anderson
65 - Rendezvous with Rama - Arthur C. Clarke
66 - Life During Wartime - Lucius Shepard
67 - Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang - Kate Wilhelm
68 - Roadside Picnic - Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
69 - Dark Benediction - Walter M. Miller, Jr.
70 - Mockingbird - Walter Tevis

71 - Dune - Frank Herbert
72 - The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress - Robert A. Heinlein
73 - The Man in the High Castle - Philip K. Dick
74 - Inverted World - Christopher Priest
75 - Kurt Vonnegut - Cat's Cradle
76 - H.G. Wells - The Island of Dr. Moreau
77 - Arthur C. Clarke - Childhood's End
78 - H.G. Wells - The Time Machine
79 - Samuel R. Delany - Dhalgren (July 2010)
80 - Brian Aldiss - Helliconia (August 2010)

81 - H.G. Wells - Food of the Gods (Sept. 2010)
82 - Jack Finney - The Body Snatchers (Oct. 2010)
83 - Joanna Russ - The Female Man (Nov. 2010)
84 - M.J. Engh - Arslan (Dec. 2010)

So more than I thought but still quite low. I'll be looking forward to the reviews.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Free Read:// The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains - Neil Gaiman

Well the last couple of weeks have been pretty bad in terms of reading. I used to take a stack of books with me on holiday, these days it's a stack of nappies. Can't complain though, have had a lovely time with my family and I am slowly catching up now.

I've not yet managed to get through Stories yet but you can read Neil Gaiman's story from the collection - The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains - for free over on the rather lovely Fifty-Two Stories website.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Received:// Tides From The New Worlds - Tobias Buckell

Buy From: (Kindle Store)/iBooks

Caribbean born novelist Tobias Buckell established himself as a gifted new voice in science fiction with his stunning first novel Crystal Rain. Now, in his first collection, Buckell demonstrates his strengths in the short form, offering readers a collection of stories that are compelling, smart, wonderfully imagined, and entertaining.

Tides from the New Worlds contains 19 stories that range from multicultural science fiction to magical realism, some in print for the first time.

Spotted this in my feeds, it's previously been published as a rather gorgeous looking limited edition hardcover from Wyrm Publishing, which is a little out of my price range once shipping to the UK is added. Thankfully it's been released as an ebook for cheap dates like me and you can get it at either the Kindle store or iBooks. Not sure about iBooks but it's $2.99 at Amazon or $3.51 for my fellow tea drinkers due to the stupid 'VAT on ebooks but not paper books' rule we have.

The author has very kindly sent me a copy to review, so I'm going to stick this at the top of my reading list in thanks and hopefully get a review up as soon as real life will allow.

Batman on a Budget

City of Scars is a seriously impressive - at least visually - Batman film made for just $27,000. It's a pretty cheesy story with some dialogue to match but the look and atmosphere they've created is pretty cool.

When the Joker escapes from Arkham and murders the parents of a young boy, Batman recalls the pain of losing his own parents as a child. He is pushed past his limits to the point where his focus becomes revenge on all who stand in his way, including many of Gotham’s underworld. Finally, Batman is forced to look at the psychological profile of his own mind and accept the consequences of his life to find resolve.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Smurfing Mothersmurfers

This has to be some kind of horrible joke. It's like Howard the smurfing Duck all over again.

Want:// Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword and Sorcery - edited by Jonathan Strahan & Lou Anders

Published By: Eos
Buy From:

A truly breathtaking new anthology edited by Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders, Swords & Dark Magic offers stunning new tales of sword and sorcery action, romance, and dark adventure written by some of the most respected, bestselling fantasy writers working today—from  Joe Abercrombie to Gene Wolfe. An all-new Elric novella from the legendary Michael Moorcock and a new visit to Majipoor courtesy of the inimitable Robert Silverberg are just two of the treasures offered in Swords & Dark Magic—a fantasy lover’s dream.

Being a short fiction hound I just keep spotting really great anthologies I want. I spotted this one doing the rounds on various blogs and it looks like it could be next on my shopping list since I waited all of a few hours to buy my last want. :)

I don't read much modern sword & sorcery, I've read a lot of the old pulps, and some newer stuff but I read far more science fiction than I do fantasy so this looks like a nice taster selection. I am currently catching up on Joe Abercrombie so you can see I'm a little behind on the current torrent of fantasy novels.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Listen:// The Neil Gaiman Audio Collection - Neil Gaiman

Buy From: Amazon

I've been thoroughly enjoying reading Gaiman's "Crazy Hair" to my daughter Sophie so I picked up this audio collection containing four of his children's stories plus a short interview with his daughter asking the questions.

I've read all but one of these stories before and whilst I miss the art that goes with them, Gaiman is an excellent narrator and the stories stand by themselves as modern fairytales that make me wish I grew up with them. Funny, strange, even slightly dark in places; I grew up with Roald Dahl and his wonderfully twisted yet funny short stories, Gaiman is one of the few modern authors that manages to strike that same balance.

I just listened to this whilst watering the garden with a big grin on my face and I'm looking forward to sharing them with Sophie. I'm not sure she is ready for the Wolves In the Walls but I think she might just fancy swapping me for two goldfish.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Read:// A Science Fiction Omnibus Edited by Brian Aldiss [And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill's Side - James Tiptree Jr]

Published by: Penguin Classics
Buy From: Amazon

 "And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill's Side" from the pseudonymous James Tiptree Jr is a cracking little tale on the human race's sexual obsession with 'the alien', or in this case actual aliens and the consequences of that obsession. I don't necessarily buy the premise but there's no doubt it's a story that makes you think.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Read:// A Science Fiction Omnibus Edited by Brian Aldiss [Skirmish - Clifford Simak]

Published by: Penguin Classics
Buy From: Amazon

Next up is 'Skirmish' by Cliffod Simak, early shades of the Matrix in this light-hearted take on man's dependence on machines leading to the now much more common theme of the machine revolution. It feels dated and at 1950 it is but I find credulity straining ideas like 'all types of machines becoming self aware' date it far too much. I know it is of it's time but talk of self aware typewriters and sewing machines makes me think fantasy when it was clearly written as science fiction. Fun if you accept it for what it is.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Read:// A Science Fiction Omnibus Edited by Brian Aldiss [Lot - Ward Moore]

Published by: Penguin Classics
Buy From: Amazon
Second story is "Lot" by Ward Moore, a modern - or at least modern when it was written in 1953 - telling of the biblical story of Lot with American cities under nuclear attack standing in for Sodom and the main character David Jimmon takes the part of Lot.

Jimmon is quite frankly an arse, though well prepared for the reality of a world after nuclear war. He already has an emergency plan which is underway as the story begins with Jimmon, his wife, his two sons and his daughter readying to leave in their well provisioned car and make their way to the wilds for some post-apocalyptic fun and games. He pretty much despises his wife and holds a very low opinion of her and his two sons, only finding any intelligence to match his own in his daughter.

It's the story of a man making decisions in order to survive, decisions which I didn't find entirely credible but then I'm not a complete arse and the bombs haven't started dropping so who knows how things would turn out. I enjoyed the tale, and I'll be seeking out "Lot's Daughter" by the author which continues the story.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Read:// A Science Fiction Omnibus Edited by Brian Aldiss [Sole Solution - Eric Frank Russell]

Published by: Penguin Classics
Buy From: Amazon

In the mood for some good science fiction short stories and I've had this sitting on my shelf for a while now. I've no doubt read a few of these before but I'll work my way through it and post my thoughts.

First up is the very short opener "Sole Solution" by Eric Frank Russell. It's really short, verging on flash fiction but perfectly formed. I can't say much about it without giving away the ending though you'll see it coming anyway. He could almost be talking about writing too, oh go and read it, you can find it online if you look.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Want:// Stories - Neil Gaiman & Al Sarrantonio

Published by: Headline
Buy from:

One hell of a huge book of great, exciting stories which will become a uniting force for readers of all forms of imaginative fiction.

Rather than being dictated by genre, for co-editors Gaiman and Sarrantonio there is only one true distinction in fiction: the one dividing realistic and imaginative fiction. STORIES is a collection of the very best original fiction from some of the most imaginative writers in the world, as well as a showcase for some of fiction's newer stars.
Contributors include: Roddy Doyle; Joyce Carol Oates; Joanne Harris; Neil Gaiman; Michael Marshall; Smith; Joe R. Lansdale; Walter Mosley; Richard Adams; Jodi Picoult; Michael Swanwick; Peter Straub; Lawrence Block; Jeffrey Ford; Chuck Palahniuk; Diana Wynne Jones; Stewart O’Nan; Gene Wolfe; Carolyn Parkhurst; Kat Howard; Jonathan Carroll; Jeffrey Deaver; Tim Powers; Al Sarrantonio; Kurt Andersen; Michael Moorcock; Elizabeth Hand; Joe Hill

I've seen quite a few things I'd like to point my eyeballs at lately but this one really appeals. I'm a fan of Neil Gaiman's work in general and I'm hugely into short fiction and anthologies so this just has 'buy me' written all over it.

The always readable Speculative Scotsman has a great review of it over at his blog which has only served to further whet my appetite, so I'll hopefully grab a copy at some point. I see it's also coming out as ebook and audiobook but as much as a I love audiobooks the hardback looks lovely so I may grab that for a spot on my shelves.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

News:// Free Doctor Who Game From the BBC - City of the Daleks

OK so maybe starting a new blog the week my baby daughter decides to develop a habit of screaming all day with trapped wind probably wasn't the best idea. Typing is pretty hard whilst holding a writhing, yelling infant most of the day but she appears to have worn herself out, providing me with a couple of hours of peace. So what to do...apart from posting here? Well I was about to pick up a book when I remembered seeing an advert for the Doctor Who games, so I checked the BBC website and it appears the first episode has finally launched.

The BBC had mentioned releasing a set of free game episodes based on Doctor Who quite a while ago so I'd been keeping an eye out for them. I've only had a very quick play and they seem like a lot of fun for what is a free game, certainly better than most game give-aways and compared to other Doctor Who games, well are there any?

I have a soft spot for Doctor Who, it's silly, it makes almost no sense if you even scratch the surface of the plots but it's fun and so very British and I love it. So I'm off to play a bit more while I can.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Read:// The Lord of the Sands of Time by Issui Ogawa

I'm always interested in how other cultures and countries approach genre fiction so I was very interested when the imprint Haikasoru was launched with the plan to bring translations of Japanese science fiction to us barbarians in the West. Time and money has led to me only recently picking up a few of these books at lower prices and from my rather impressively stocked local library.

So how does science fiction in Japan differ from that in the UK? Well not much really it turns out, apart from maybe some of the tropes you may have seen in anime turning up it's all quite familiar feeling, though that's no bad thing. I guess I'm just still searching for stories that have ideas I've never come across before, or ways of tackling them that are very different.

This could also be a result of the quality of the translations, which without being able to read the originals appear to be excellent. I don't know how insanely difficult it is to translate a Japanese science fiction novel into English and still have it readable but I'm going to go with quite insanely difficult at a guess.

Anyway I'm not going to write long reviews in these "Read://" posts, I'm keeping them for quick notes on things I've read recently, plus any other comments like those above.

Sixty-two years after human life on Earth was annihilated by rampaging alien invaders, the enigmatic Messenger O is sent back in time with a mission to unite humanity of past eras--during the Second World War, in ancient Japan, and at the dawn of humanity--to defeat the invasion before it begins. However, in a future shredded by love and genocide, love waits for O. Will O save humanity only to doom himself?
It's a fun book if you can ignore the inconsistencies with the time travel that takes place.

It goes with the idea that changes in the past create brand new timelines and thus Messenger O is not fighting for the people he left behind but the people in timelines he is creating. This idea also means that O can never return to the people he left including his love. That loss plus his passion for saving humanity sets him up as a tragic hero just ready for the love interest that was introduced at the beginning of the book in ancient Japan.

The battles are fun, the characters are pretty interesting, and though the book jumps around a little with flash-forwards it's an easy, quick read.


Thursday, 3 June 2010

News:// Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show Subscription Deal

Looks like it's a good week for short fiction, I just had an email from Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show online fiction magazine detailing about the relaunch of the website, which does look improved, plus details of their new subscription deal.

Subscriptions are $15 for a year which gives you six bi-monthly issues but even better gives you access to all sixteen issues which have currently been published. For people who have not bought any issues previously it's a whole lot of short fiction for your money. I'd previously only bought one issue and had been meaning to buy a few more so I'm very happy to grab a subscription.

I've not read many of the stories but from what I have they mostly seem like easy, fun read, which is just what I need at the moment with a new baby and limited concentration. :)

1)  Our web designer worked long and hard to give IGMS a cleaner, sharper look. Navigation around the site will be simpler. With each new issue, the background will change to showcase some aspect of the issue's cover art. Explore it; I think you'll find it an intuitive and pleasantly easy experience.

2)  We now have something available that our readers have been asking for for a long time: an annual subscription. From now on, instead of having to purchase each issue individually, you can buy a year's worth of IGMS at one time and then not have to worry about it again; each issue will be there for you, ready and waiting as soon as it's published. And there's particularly good news (and a good reason to subscribe); the way our new subscription will work, you will not only have access to each new issue as it is published, you will immediately have access to every issue already published. That means that if you missed any of our previous issues, your $15 dollars will gain you access not just to the next six bimonthly issues, but to all sixteen issues already published. And that unrestricted access will last as long as you keep your subscription current. That means for those of you who've only read an issue or two, you'll be getting every story we've ever published for less than a buck an issue. So if you've seen IGMS mentioned in numerous Year's Best anthologies, on Locus's recommended reading list, or on any number of awards ballots, and wondered what the magazine was all about, there's never been a better time to try us out at: or

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

News:// New Online Short Fiction Magazine "Lightspeed" Launches

I just checked as there has been a "Coming June 2010" page up for a while now and I was pleasantly surprised to see they have launched on the first day of the month. Just in time for my first real post too.

I love short fiction, I consume large amounts of it. I think it suits the short periods of time I have for reading but more than that I just really get a kick out of the form, it's where the really great ideas seem to crop up. It seems the restricted nature of short stories forces a different kind of storytelling, the author has to hook you quickly with no room for flabby back stories and world building. I imagine it is incredibly difficult to do well but when it is, it's beautiful. I mourned the closure of Borders mostly because it was one of the few places to stock Asmiov's, Analog, F&SF and the wonderful Interzone so I've been reading more and more of the online fiction magazines and it's always great to see a new one, particularly one with such great names attached to it.

John Joseph Adams is editing fiction, he's put out some really great anthologies (maybe a review or two in the future) and also co-hosts the Geeks Guide to the Galaxy podcast which I always enjoy. So I'm looking forward to seeing what stories he runs.

They also have Stefan Rudnicki as Audio editor, one of the best audio book narrators around among the many other things he does so really excited to see what happens with the podcast.
They are releasing one story and one piece of nonfiction from the magazine each week, for free or you can buy the whole thing as an ebook for $2.99. I'll definitely support the venture and buy a copy, if I get a chance to read it I might even report back. :)
Lightspeed is an online magazine focusing exclusively on science fiction. Here you can expect to see all types of science fiction, from near-future, sociological soft sf, to far-future, star-spanning hard sf, and anything and everything in between. No subject will be considered off-limits, and we encourage our writers to take chances with their fiction and push the envelope.
Each month at Lightspeed, we bring you a mix of originals and reprints, and featuring a variety of authors—from the bestsellers and award-winners you already know to the best new voices you haven’t heard of yet. When you read Lightspeed, it is our hope that you’ll see where science fiction comes from, where it is now, and where it’s going.
Lightspeed also features a variety of nonfiction features, fiction podcasts, and Q&As with our authors that go behind-the-scenes of their stories.
Our regular publication schedule each month includes two pieces of original fiction and two fiction reprints, along with four nonfiction articles. Fiction posts on Tuesdays, nonfiction on Thursdays.

Welcome to Dummies and Death Rays

OK Daddy, you can make a Star Wars spaceship with my Lego while I'm out.
That was my four year old daughter Sophie just a few weeks ago.

That's my  two and a half week old daughter Charlotte, lying on me, stopping me from getting any of that precious, sanity saving sleep that I stupidly took for granted just a few weeks ago.

Me? I'm a sci-fi loving stay-at-home-dad fighting a losing battle against the forces of princesses, tea parties and all things pink. Even the cat is a girl.

So here it is...Dummies and Death rays....sci-fi, fantasy and horror filtered through the brain of a sleep deprived homedad who knows more about Disney princesses than a thirty-something man should.

If I get some sleep, it might even all make sense.

Wish me luck,