A tribute to Sir Terry Pratchett

Contributors: Fergus and Dark

The effect that the passing of Terry Pratchett had on me was surprising; I was deeply sadden and touched by the news. Although I have never met Terry his writing has shaped me in ways I did not even know.  Maybe it was his passion and personality shining through the pages, but I find that I will truly miss not having the opportunity to read his works.

Like countless others I have been a fan of his writing for many years. The Discworld novels in particular have always brought a smile to my face, offering a vivid imagery and a dry and compelling humour.  The stories were never loud (outlandish, yes) or in your face, but offered a subtle pleasure, placing me in a comfortable and welcoming armchair of familiarity. The best way I can describe my experience when reading one of Terry’s books was as I read the characters were arranged before me on my own personal stage, placing me both in and out of their world.

In tribute to his memory, I planned a weekend of Discworld joy. I have read Reaper Man (it felt fitting), I played a Discworld board game (and won) and finally I put forward my own personal vision of what I would like to think was the start of his next journey.

A Journey Home

A sombre light shines as Terry follows DEATH along grey sands. They do not speak; all that needs to be said has been said. Time passes and they come to a simple door of unvarnished wood and stop.

Terry turns to DEATH, “What is on the other side,”

MANY HAVE ASKED THAT QUESTION

Terry smiles, “I know, I wrote those words.”

Death reaches out places his skeletal hand on the door and gentle pushes.

I AM PERMITTED TO ANSWER

The door silently swings open, revealing a great expanse of blackness and flickering lights, contrasting against the greyness around them.  One light brighter than the others moves towards them, or they are drawn to it.

Turning Terry looks up into the face of DEATH who raises his hand and places it on his shoulder.  A smile, without skin or muscle spreads across DEATH’s face, reaching up to the sparkling blue stars that are his eyes.

Warm sunlight shines onto the sands as the view through the door changes, showing a sun hanging over of an impossible, foolish and incredible world.  Mountains, Seas and Cities are bathed in its light. Heroes, Villains and every wondrous thing in-between thrive and live in a world supported by four giant elephants swimming though the universe on the shell of an immense turtle.

Clouds rush by as they draw closer to a City, called by some the greatest City in the multiverse, a river winding its lumpish way through its heart.  A smell unique, foreign, but familiar rides through the door, strong, brazen and shameless in its own glory.

“Does it always smell like this?”

I AM TOLD ONLY ON THE GOOD DAYS

The scene in the doorway settles on a man, dressed head to toe in black.  He faces away from them looking out of a large window in an oblong office.  A small dog sleeps in a basket sleeps beside a desk.

“Gentlemen, please come in,” he calls out without turning.

YOU HAVE AN APPOINTMENT
Together Terry and DEATH step into the room, as the door closes behind them.

DEATH nods to the Patrician, who inclines his head, “Please do not let me detain you,”

The stars that are DEATH’s eyes flare.

Reaching into his robs he removes a gold hourglass and raises it to his face.  The glass of the timer is black and only the sound of sand running can be heard.

BLACK ON BLACK, BUT DEATH COMES TO ALL

The Patrician walks to his desk and sits, placing his elbows on the desk steepling his fingers, “Yes, I am told that is usually the case,”

Placing the hourglass back into his rob DEATH turns to Terry.

DO YOU LIKE CURRYS, MR PRATCHETT?

“Terry smiles, “Yes, I do.”

I AM AT YOUR DISPOSAL NIGHT AND DAY.

DEATH inclines his head and his gone.

Removing his hat Terry turns to the Patrician, who smiles and offers the chair facing his, “Welcome home Mr Pratchett.  May I offer you the second best seat?

Thank you Terry from me and all your fans.
Fergus, March 19, 2015

Early on Thursday the 11th of March the following tweet was sent by Sir Terry Pratchett’s Twitter account: AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER.

Anyone who has even a passing acquaintance with Discworld will recognize to whom the above booming voice belongs and know what it means. Sir Terry Pratchett kept his appointment with the Reaper Man very much in the way he would’ve wished, surrounded by his family with his cat asleep on his bed. There is probably little need to reiterate all the many books Pratchett has written, the subtle humour and strange, warped reality of the fantastic world he created or how much of a presence his works have been in the lives of all those who read them or those who continue to do so. And that’s not to speak of his numerous other outings which have ranged from science fiction, to history, to a truly weird book about cats, all told with the trademark Pratchett sense of skewed reality.

My own relationship with Pratchett’s writing I admit has not been an easy one. When I first read Pyramids at the age of 12 (no it was not a good place to start), I actually didn’t enjoy it. The humour seemed nonsensical, the characters thin, and while I appreciated the wordplay I thought the whole thing didn’t know whether it was a serious fantasy or not.

Fortunately for me, a lack of available fantasy literature lead me first to Sourcery, then to Equal Rights, and by the time I hit Soul Music I had realized just what strange direction Pratchett was coming from.

I still remember being totally distracted during my English GCSE paper because I had Small Gods waiting for me at home and was all the time wondering exactly how Brutha would make it out of the hands of the Inquisition.

I will confess I’ve never called myself a serious Discworld fan. I’ve always said “oh they’re there for a bit of fun, but I prefer more serious fantasy” and yet I now find myself feeling a profound sense of loss to think that there will never be any more visits there, or indeed any of the other odd places Terry Pratchett took us to. After all “a bit of fun”, particularly one that can last me over several rereads (I think there are probably only two of Pratchett’s novels I’ve not reread at least once), and nearly 20 years really isn’t a thing to be under-estimated, and definitely is something I will miss in my life.

So I’ll just conclude by thanking Sir Terry for taking us to such amazing places, and wishing well to everyone who’s lives became a little brighter thanks to his unique perspective, especially his family and friends and those closest to him.

And if you haven’t visited Pratchett’s writing (especially the Discworld), well you’re in for not just a bit of fun, but a lot!
Dark, March 14, 2015

My book addiction 2014 and more of what’s to come in 2015

Where to start… There have been so many excellent (and a few bad) releases in 2014, so much so I reviewed nearly all of the books I have read, so hurray me. Some have inspired me, most have captivated me and a few have made me shake my head in indignation.

There is just something in the power of words that make even the tough times that little bit easier; they are the escapism, relief to stress and pressure which draws you into another world for a few minutes or hours. Paraphrasing Robin Williams, “books are a crutch and support for people who get lost in reality”.

Broken record I know, but I said it last year and I am sure to say it again. Why do you care what some blogger with a friendly webmaster says about this year’s reading material? The simple answer is you don’t have too, but I like to talk, I am still opinionated and you never know where a good recommendation or possibility a book to miss comes from.

My 2014 reads (some reviews are from books published prior 2014) in order of my favourites are:

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

Slow Regard of Silent Things coverThe University, a renowned bastion of knowledge, attracts the brightest minds to unravel the mysteries of enlightened sciences like artificing and alchemy. Yet deep below its bustling halls lies a complex and cavernous maze of abandoned rooms and ancient passageways – and in the heart of it all lives Auri.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a joyous offering of literary excellence and a heart-breaking delving of loss, loneliness and the mysteries that are Auri.

You can read an interview with the author here.
Rating: 10/10

Skin Game by Jim Butcher

Skin Game book coverIn the absence of justice and a choice Harry must withhold vengeance against his greatest enemy? Bound as the Winter Knight to Winter’s Law Harry must settle Mab’s debt, committing theft and robbery from the most secure vault in the Nevernever. Unwillingness to comply to the letter of the agreement risks violating Mab’s word, his life and a chance for payback against Nicodemus. It’s going to take some fast thinking to get Harry out of this one alive and in one piece.

Stacking up the last three books, this has definitely been my favourite, this is Dresden through and through.
Rating: 9/10

The Crimson Campaign by Brian McClellan

The Crimson Campaign book coverWhen Gods walk the Earth and War rages unchecked, Tamas suffers defeat at the hands of Kez. Beaten but not Broken Tamas must fight his way back to Adro and his son.

Taniel awakens from his coma only to hear of his father is assumed death, traveling to the front, many things are not as they should be, as a traitor hides with the Armies high command.

Crimson Campaign is the second in the Powder Mage Trilogy and much like the Promise of Blood, it is simply fantastic. Gods, overt and introvert, magic, a struggle for survival and revenge, bundled up across three main story arcs. The Autumn Republic is going to be a great conclusion.
Rating: 9/10

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan

I initially started a review of this but still can’t bring myself to finish it. I was left a little wanting (yes, I understand Jordan passed away). If you have read or reading the WoT series nothing I can say will keep you from this final instalment. Still a great read.
Rating 7.5/10

Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia

Monster Hunter International book coverIn Monster Hunter International we inhabit a world of werewolves, vampires, trolls, orcs and much much more. It’s a hidden world known only to those who fight these creatures and those who have suffered at their hands. From the opening pages this book contains a lot of action and gun love, and continues in this vain from the start to finish. Think of it as a book that runs up hill without stopping and then jumps off.

This was enjoyable book, which came as a surprise. The shape and flow of the story is well defined and you easily breeze through the pages with glee.
Rating 8/10

The Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan

Promise of Blood book cover imageThe alchemy of gunpowder fused with the magic of sorcery. In a time of upheaval, resurgence and corrupted Royalty Privileged, one-man’s love for his lost wife and his country burns and fuels a new order where all can be treated equally.

You can almost smell the gunpowder and hear the guillotine falling.
Rating 8.5/10

The Very Best of Tad Williams by Tad Williams

The Very Best of Tad Williams book cover imageThe very best of Tad Williams is a collection of 17 different stories that will appeal to old and new fans alike. Whether you like fantasy, sci-fi, crime or horror there is a story here for you. Williams has delivered another well-conceived and written book, that if nothing else is a great introduction to his works for new fans.

The work regardless of the story is typical Williams, well constructed and thought-out, at times a little preachy for my taste but otherwise any reader would be very happy to pick up this work up.
Rating 8.5/10

No Hero by Jonathan Wood

I great little piece of English Urban fiction (even if he now lives in New York). Cosmic, funny, a lot of action and a great tag line, “What would Kurt Russell do?” Think Nightside mixed with Alex Verus.

When multidimensional horrors known as the Progeny try it invade your reality what would you do? Answer, join the secret government agency MI37 and ask yourself what would Kurt Russell do?
Rating 8/10

The City by Stella Gemmell

The City by Stella Gemmell book cover imageThe City is ancient and vast and has been waging almost constant war for centuries. At its heart resides the emperor. Few have ever seen him. Those who have remember a man in his prime – and yet he should be very old. Some speculate that he is no longer human, others wonder if indeed he ever truly was. And a few have come to a desperate conclusion: that the only way to halt the emperor’s unslakebale thirst for war is to end his unnaturally long life.

I will be the first to admit that I picked up this story with my own reservations and preconception, but was very happy to have them changed. This is a great addition to the epic fantasy genre.
Rating 7/10

Thief’s Magic by Trudi Canavan

Trudi Canavan's Thief's Magic book coverIn a world where an industrial revolution is powered by magic, Tyen, a student of archaeology, unearths a sentient book called Vella. Once a young sorcerer-bookbinder, Vella was transformed into a useful tool by one of the greatest sorcerers of history. Since then she has been collecting information, including a vital clue to the disaster Tyen’s world faces.

Overall the story is a success, mostly due to Tyen and Vella, with the last couple of chapters of Rielle’s story picking up the pace. There are some true Canavan elements and I look forward to seeing what happens in the next story. Tyen will only develop and learn and it will be interesting to see how he handles the power and responsibility. Rielle must evolve or stay the pawn of a religious overlord; I am not sure which way she will go.
Rating 7.5/10

Shattered by Kevin Hearne

Shattered by Kevin Hearne book coverFor nearly two thousand years, there was only one Druid left walking the Earth – Atticus O’Sullivan, the Iron Druid, whose sharp wit and sharp sword kept him alive while pursued by a pantheon of hostile deities. Now he’s got company.

The epilogue for Atticus, Granuaile and Owen is one of more trouble to come and I like that I can see which way and how it will be shaped in the next book.
Rating 7/10

Sleeping Late on Judgment Day by Tad Williams

The final book in this Bobby Dollar series doesn’t disappoint (well not much). Bobby must face the consequences of his actions, route out a Traitor in Heaven and maybe, just maybe save the girl/demon/love of this life. So, not much to worry about then.

For the most, Sleeping Late brings all the story threads together, throws in the Big Bad behind Bobby’s troubles (with very large hints to his past, which is then left unexplained, grrrr) and provides him the opportunity to kick some ass, while still getting his handed to him along the way.

Nice conclusion to this this particular story line.
Rating 7/10

Hidden by Benedict Jacka

Hidden by Benedict Jacka book coverAlex’s friend, the life mage Anne, distanced herself from him when she found out about his past as a Dark apprentice. Now she’s in serious trouble, but wants nothing to do with him. Alex has to start wondering if Anne’s problem is really with him – or if there’s a secret she’s trying to hide.

I am a big fan of Benedict Jacka, his writing style has a consistent flow and pace, his characters have a fully cemented feel to them but I found the lack of action for the first half of the book caused the reading to be a little dry. I would describe the book has having two parts. The first half is a good recap of the previous novels and leads you snugly to the second half, where the pace really picks up and you feel the story going somewhere. Knock through the first five chapters quickly and you won’t be disappointed.
Rating 7/10

The Getaway God by Richard Kadrey

The Getaway God by Richard Kadrey book coverRivers of blood, Armageddon and a resurrected enemy Stark personally made sure was dead. Welcome to L.A. The Old Gods are at the door and they want the squatters out. One problem, all of Stark’s favourite stuff is there, his DVD’s, his guns and his girlfriend, and as they say possession is nine-tenths of the Law.

Overall, The Getaway God had some true Sandman Slim elements and concluded to a degree Stark’s Sandman journey, but ultimately it didn’t feel like a cohesive and rounded novel.
Rating: 6/10

Severed Souls by Terry Goodkind

It may be best to just read my review. I also read The Third Kingdom in 2014 but it falls into the same basket as Severed Souls.
Rating 2/10


 

My still to read and review list from 2014 (have heard nothing but good things). So many books not enough time.

  • Age of Iron by Angus Watson
  • Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
  • Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch
  • The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
  • The Binding Knife by Brent Weeks

2015 is starting to look pretty good, so mark your calendars but I don’t think I have enough time to read them all. That’s it – I’m quitting work to read full time…

  • Firefight (Reckoners #2) by Brandon Sanderson
    Just Released!
  • Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman
    Release date, 3 February
  • The Autumn Republic (Powder Mage #3) by Brian McClellan
    Release date, 10 February
  • A Blink of the Screen by Terry Pratchett
    Release date, 17 March
  • The Skull Throne (Demon Cycle, #4) by Peter V. Brett
    Release date, 24 March
  • The Vagrant by Peter Newman
    Release date, 23 April
  • King of Ashes (War of Five Crowns) by Raymond E. Feist
    Release date, April
    Blood of the Cosmos (Saga of Shadows #2) by Kevin J. Anderson
    Release date, 2 June
  • Stileto (sequel to The Rook) by Daniel O’Malley
    Release date, 30 June
  • Killing Pretty (Sandman Slim, # 7) by Richard Kadrey
    Release date, 28 July
  • The Aeronaut’s Windlass (The Cinder Spires #1) by Jim Butcher
    Release, Mid 2015 (sometime before Peace Talks)
  • Peace Talks (The Dresden Files, #16) by Jim Butcher
    Release date, September
  • Shadows of Self (Mistborn #5) by Brandon Sanderson
    Release date, October

Maybe (most likely not, but so want them to be) late late 2015 releases.

  • Doors of Stone (Kingkiller Chronicles #3) by Patrick Rothfuss
  • Skybreaker (The Stormlight Archive #3) by Brandon Sanderson
  • Staked (The Iron Druid Chronicles #8) by Kevin Hearne

Rincewind vs Vimes: Who do you like best?

Vimes and Rincewind, from Terry Pratchett's Discworld seriesThere is nothing like a good long holiday to catch-up on your reading, and I have recently returned from mine. Prior to setting out I knew I wouldn’t be able to take all the books I would want, so Kindle in hand, and just one or two hard copies, off I trundled on my holiday.

Choosing not to get into anything too heavy I decided to re-read some old favourites. Settling on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series I set myself the challenge to read my favourite character’s books in their chronological order. In my case these have always been Rincewind and Vimes.

Rincewind, as the books say, is the true anti-hero, and a man out of reality and backbone (with hilarious consequences). He doesn’t want much, to be called a ‘Wizzard’ and occasionally a really long head-start. Vimes on the other hand is, or was the underdog, a character who wants to think in straight lines as long as they are crooked. With a heart of gold, and a boot of steel the Vetinari lapdog dragged himself from the gutter to bludgeon the law back into line in a city of lawlessness. Smart, dogged (pun intended), continually bruised and bloody but he always gets his man/women/dwarf/law-breaker.

I was able to knock the Rincewind books off fairly quickly but only got through the first five of the Vimes stories. That said I was able to (for myself) final pick a winner. Drum roll please…

Vimes!

There are so many things I love about Rincewind, his perpetual cowardliness, his deluded belief that there should be logic in the Discworld, he fatalism (which is pretty on the nose when the gods are using you as a chess piece), and it probably doesn’t help that as a wizard he can see Death, who really really doesn’t like Rincewind very much. Rincewind captures the two sides of people, the flight and the fight. Well maybe not much on the fight, but he’s still alive thanks to some fast feet and a his own deadly weapon… a Sock (stone supplied separately!).

Lets just get down to playground level, who would win in a fight? Obviously Vimes would come out on top, but I’d say it would be a closer call than most would think, you can tell Rincewind would be a biter and hair puller. On the other hand, if we are talking about a foot race, all my money is on Rincewind. There is a freedom in Rincewind’s tactical confrontation disengagement, his exit stage left a la Snagglepuss, that always brings a smile to my face. What’s the old adage ‘he who fights and runs away lives to fight another day’ – this might be better refined in Rincewind’s case as ‘fugit ille vivit alius dies fugere’ – he who runs away, lives to run away another day.

The one issue I have with Rincewind’s is that given the depth and complexity of character that Vimes has, he can come across a little one-dimensional. Vimes, from his first appearance was layered, complex and born new to the reader. Pratchett gives you his flaws, his durability and the reformation of the Night Watch and himself.

It’s these flaws that make you bond with the character, we all have them and hope to improve on them while still functioning in life and the world, even if it’s a world flying on the back of a giant turtle, held up by four giant elephants.

Rincewind in comparison to Vimes is a man out of his world, while Vimes is a man firmly rooted inside his world: he accepts its defects, disfigurements (no jib at Nobby) and inequality and does his best to lift it a little higher out of the river (I would have said mud but calling what flows through the Ankh would sully the name of mud).

The point of my musings is I hope is to see what other people think. If you had to pick Vimes or Rincewind, who would your be choice and why? Would you pick neither? Maybe Death is your anthropomorphic man or Granny Weatherwax is your crone?

Maybe there is no right or wrong answer as they are all just fantastic.

Any thoughts?

Help celebrate International Sir Terry Pratchett Day

Sir Terry PratchettTo celebrate Sir Terry Pratchett as The London Book Fair’s (LBF) Author of the Day on Tuesday 8 April, the International Authors Forum, in association with LBF, has designated Tuesday 8 April International Sir Terry Pratchett Day, to mark his phenomenal international publishing success.

To launch the day, authors from around the world will be asked to vote for their favourite character from one of his books – choosing from a list of Sir Terry’s Official Top 10 Favourites, which are:

  1. Commander Vimes
  2. DEATH
  3. Granny Weatherwax
  4. Tiffany Aching
  5. Lord Vetinari
  6. The Librarian
  7. Nanny Ogg
  8. Rincewind
  9. The Nac Mac Feegle
  10. Willikins

“Sir Terry Pratchett is a huge source of pride amongst the global author community. His innumerable achievements and dedication to his craft – unlocking imaginations, giving entertainment, education and wonder to so many – are testament to the value of the author in society. We are honoured to be celebrating Sir Terry Pratchett, and to be spreading the celebration worldwide,” commented Katie Webb, International Authors Forum.

“An International Terry Pratchett Day?  I have a day?  A vote?  I will celebrate with a tincture poured by Willikins… I urge you to do the same – by voting for your favourite character. Log on to www.londonbookfair.co.uk/sirtpday to find out mine,” added Sir Terry Pratchett.

To vote for your favourite Sir Terry Pratchett character, please go to www.londonbookfair.co.uk/sirtpday or tweet using the hashtag #intSirTPday.

All those who register their vote and tweet for their favourite character will be entered in to a prize draw to win a signed copy of one of Sir Terry’s books.

Fergus McCartan: My book addiction in review

2013 has been a good year for feeding my book addiction. The majority of my reads have gone well and while many of the books were not from a new series I tried to branch out into the undiscovered whenever possible.  However, there is only so much time for reading for those of us with everyday working lives so I remain true to my favourites.

Maybe you are now questioning why you should care what some random reviewer with access to Word and has to say about this year’s reading material? The simple answer is there is no particular reason you should but I like to talk, I am rather opinionated, but you never know where a good recommendation might come from…

If I’d had the time I would have liked to of reviewed each and every book I have read, but sometimes that’s just not possible. Thankfully others have the same love and passion and together we can complete the picture and bore you ad nauseam about why we love or hate a particular book.

This year my hits have been many, my misses few. There have also been some I have placed on the back burner, which will get a second chance even though the first read was a struggle.

Down to it then.

Good – Top picks first

Dodger by Terry Pratchett coverDodger by Terry Pratchett
One of the best Pratchett books I have read in many years and my top pick of 2013. Come one come all to  the greatest city in the world. In London, all men are free, the streets are lined with gold and the naughty ladies are friendly to all.

“Pratchett has beautifully narrated Dodger. The story has been written in such a way you can feel the cobblestones under your feet as Dodger works his way around London; thankfully you don’t have to feel some other things described. The quality of the writing takes me back to discovering Terry Pratchett for the first time.”

Read my full Dodger review

The Dirty Streets of Heaven cover image.The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams
A very welcome surprise.  My preconceived expectations of this story were blown out of the water.  I went in preparing for the worst but it really came out as a cracker.

” I found the main characters and view to be engaging. The principle character, Bobby Dollar, is a nice balance of several characters types. If you have seen the movie or read the comics, you will find elements of Constantine, in his view of aspects of Heaven, Hell and Demons. I also found characteristics of Sandman Slim in the anthropomorphic depiction of demons and miscellaneous things that walk. Dresden is also in the mix in the elements of Bobby’s motivation and actions towards demons. Divine hero, wounded, beaten, and tired, out of his depth and trick but ever growing, evolving and becoming something more.”

Read my full The Dirty Streets of Heaven review

Steelheart cover image.Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
Comic book superheroes that make Lex Luther look like a girl scout.  In a world turned upside down, humanity struggles to survive.  Great read, highly recommended.

“Strength, speed and immortality are a few of the Epics powers, but ridiculously stupid evil villain names like Conflux, Deathpointer, Pink Pinkness: I am not sure whether to laugh or cry. I say laugh as it’s got to be some strange homage to Stan Lee. I will be honest, I went into this book not expecting to like it and came out pleasantly surprised. Don’t dwell too long on some of the comic book silliness and you will be pleased.”

Read my full Steelheart review

Ender’s Game & Speaker of the Dead by Oscar Scott Card
There is not much I can add to this that already hasn’t already been said over the years. My usual literary bread and butter is fantasy and I don’t often venture into sci-fi however, with the talk of the upcoming movie I wanted to get the original story before the edited movie version. Once I finished the first book it was suffice to say I choose not to see the movie. This may be a little harsh but after watching the trailers and reading the reviews I knew too much had been amended to give a true representation of the story. The quality, complicity, and nuances of the books where lost. The concepts behind the need for Ender’s existence, his treatment and isolation where not, could not be a tale for a children’s movie. The realism, pain and gut crippling fear just wouldn’t be possible in a PG movie. I would urge anyone who has seen the movie and found it lacking to redeem the story by reading the book, you will not be left wanting.

Hunted by Kevin Hearne
Book six in the Iron Druid Chronicles. If you are into these books, you need no further explanation. It delivers everything the other books have previously; fast paced, magical, Gods and the ever impending doom of the Apocalypse.  If you have read the series, get a move on – it’s great little read.  Book one, Hounded, will drag you into a world of the Last Druid, Atticus O’Sullian, 2,100 years old but doesn’t look a day over 21.  Old hatred doesn’t die for the Immortal Gods the Tuatha Dé Danann, hiding for centuries Atticus is tired of running and finally will face his enemies down.

Kill City Blues by Richard Kadrey
Book four of the Sandman Slim novels. While not as gripping and engaging as the other three novels, Kadrey gives it a red-hot go. Older Gods from before time, supernatural squatters in abandoned shopping malls where the dead roam free. What could go wrong? If you have not come across the series before, have a read of the review for the first book, Sandman Slim, absolutely awesome.

Broken Homes book cover image.Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch
Book four of the Rivers of London series and Aaronovitch is still going strong. Layer upon layer is built and we begin to see a world build around Peter and the Folly Team. Laughs, action, betrayal and the realisation that the Faceless Man is fallible.

“You can’t go past the humour in these books, reading Peters attempts to use dog barks as scientific measurement in his research into magic and let’s not forget Molly’s learning to cook and everyone still going hungry. The times when magical ‘kick-assery’ is employed are absorbing and energizing; Nightingale coming to the rescue of Peter and Lesley, a cottage collapsing around him and walking out fixing his tie in one hand and dragging the bad guy with the other, very Bond. Laughs, action, betrayal and the magic woof-scale. What more can you ask for?”

Read my full Broken Homes review

Promise of Blood book cover imagePromise of Blood by Brian McClellan
I was given this recommendation by my local bookmonger (which sounds better than just plain “guy in book store”).  I wasn’t lead wrong: French revolution, mixed with guns and magic.

“Love, betrayal, swords, magic, muskets and Kresimir returned, there is trouble on the horizon for Tamas in book two. I will say this now, Tamas will die; he is going to sacrifice himself to the Kresimir to save the world or his son or both. I just can’t see another out outcome for him. Thankfully we are a while away from that, maybe I should say hopefully…”

Read my full Promise of Blood review

Skulduggery Pleasant: Last Stand of Dead Men by Derek Landy
If you are this far down the rabbit hole you have to admit that your “dirty little secret read”. A fun, dark page-turner. Only one more book and it’s all done.  If you haven’t read it, pick up book one and pretend your going to give it to the kids…

Cursed book cover imageCursed by Benedict Jacka
Book two of the series and Jacka really begins to add meat to the bones of the Alex Verus world, and slowly move away from the Dresden stereotype. Assassins, Magical Councils, Martial Arts and angry women – what more can you ask for?

“In ‘Cursed’ we are starting to build into the back story and get some legs behind the world of Alex Verus, it’s still verging on a Dresden story but we are staring to see some breakout individuality. The more I read, the more I enjoy and the more I want to read.”

Read my full Cursed review

Happy Hour in Hell cover imageHappy Hour in Hell by Tad Williams
Bobby Dollar crawls through Heaven and Hell for love and we follow him every step of the way. Great second installment.

“That aside, in book two we begin to delve more into heavenly and demonly (yes I know that is not a word) affairs.  We are reminded that Bobby is a small fish in a big pond, mostly by himself. However, for such a small fish those in power are very interested. I am unsure if there is a hidden path for Bobby or if it’s just the depths of his abilities and determination flow from his forgotten history. I am currently favouring two options at the moment. One: Bobby is an Arch-Angel, disillusioned with Heaven and trying to regain some faith by doing some leg work on earth. Two: Bobby is actually a Fallen Angel who has been granted access to Heaven again. More than likely it’s neither, but it’s fun to guess.”

Read my full Happy Hour in Hell review

The Desert Spear by Brent Weeks
A great second installment in the Demon Trilogy. We begin to get the history behind Ahmann Jardir and Arlen.  Betrayal, from those we love cuts that much deeper. Brent Weeks has provided us with a depiction of a man trying his best to help a world in fear by teaching them to help themselves. And a man who thinks he can save the world by strength and will alone.

Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett
All of the Discworld feel but lacking in that quirkiness. In a universe of magic and anthropomorphised characters, steam power has come to Ankh-Morpork, hot, dangerous and alive. Raising Steam has all the elements of our Discworld favourites: Vimes, Vetinari, dwarfs but for me the spark was missing.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the book but I did walk away feeling it was a little lacking.  Maybe I am still looking for that first Discworld hit, that pee in my pants, sniggering on the bus like a mad man while everyone is looking at you moment and maybe I should realise you can’t have that very time. Read and judge for yourself.

Death Most Definite by Trent Jamieson
Death is a business and it runs in the family. Even when people die they need help. Help to let go and move on.  Death Most Definite is a nice twist on the tale of death and the afterlife. Death is a business, broken down into regions, nice bite size pieces and business is good.  When the people who facilitate death begin turning up dead themselves, the recently deceased are left stranded. A cataclysm is coming, someone wants promotion and nothing will get in their way. This is a great little read from a Brisbane local and I particularly liked the concept for the afterlife; death, recycling and the tree of life. Dark, funny and mythic.

Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
Cheesy, somewhat predictable modern fantasy with hard notes and a nice twist of a future, alternate world. Mages, monsters and necromancers abound the main character Kate is an underdog with teeth. Surprisingly fun little read, it won’t take up to much of your weekend.

Already Dead by Charlie Huston
Vampire fiction is not my usual could of tea but this was a recommendation and I decided to give it a go. You know how the story go, man becomes vampire, man BECOMES the vampire, man eventually see the errors of his ways and tries to redeem himself. In a city of vampire loyalty and divided territories, a single vampire walks a path of survival and maybe do a little good. Just because you’re dead doesn’t mean you can’t have a heart. Don’t get me wrong here, he will rip the still beating beat from the chest of the bad guy, but he’ll feel bad about it.

Bad – Worst first

Prophecy’s Ruin by Sam Bowring
On the plus side was well-written and the story had legs.  However, the characters where flat and a quarter of the way through, we still hadn’t progressed past the character build up and back-story.

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
I just don’t know what I was thinking – young adult drivel at it best. At least there aren’t any sparkly vampires. If you were a fan of Edward or Jacob, then this is for you.

Daylight War by Peter V Brett
I was really looking forward to the third installment in the Demon Cycle books. The first two books were very good, and while I can understand the concept Brett was trying to put across, it just didn’t work. In book one we had Arlen’s story, in book two we had Jardir’s and for book three we focus on Inevera’s story. The problem with this is that Inevera is not a relatable character. I developed no empathy for her or her back-story and while Inevera’s story depicts a harsh upbringing it was unmoving and dry, in the end I just put the book down half way through. I will most likely read about the book online before trying to progress to book four, I just hope that we don’t have to go through this Robert Jordan-esque character development again.

Magician's End book coverMagician’s End by Raymond E Feist
This one was bitter sweet for me, I didn’t want it to end but after the stretching of the plots over the last couple of books it was time. Magician’s End had so much potential, we could have really had a real tearjerker but Feist played it safe and as such it was all very deflating. It really shouldn’t be in the bad pile, maybe in the “to revisit”, but it could have been so much more. It deserved to be so much more.

“There is an old saying “whoever brought me here must also bring me home”. Feist brought us to Pug and Midkemia many years ago and has finally brought us home to an ending; unfortunately I am just not sure that it is an ending worthy of the life of Pug and the Midkemia Universe. When I read a series I have a tendency to not read the last novel, I guess I don’t want it to actually be over. Nevertheless, it felt like it was time to close the page on Pug (pun intended); I just wish it were more. In Magician’s End I found the plot to be lean, the sub-stories unconnected and I found no empathy or connection with a lot of characters laid out in the story.”

Read my full Magician’s End review

To revisit

The Gunslinger by Stephen King
No need to shoot the messenger here (pun intended) and I am sure to get come flack for this, but I just couldn’t make myself like it. I just found the story too laborious, the characters to be monotonous and we just don’t seem to be going anywhere. Time and perspective are a great boon.

Clockwork Vampire Chronicles by Andy Remic
I will be honest: I found the story and world to be vivid and compelling, Remic has an excellent writing technique and makes the world jump out from the page. Unfortunately the characters did not.  I am not sure if it was just my frame of mind but I felt they lacked a certain spark. I will sit on it for a while and give another go, as I can really see this being a very good series.

Most Anticipated Books of 2013 – The Heavyweights

As a reviewer of books this crossover time between years is the greatest. We get the chance to look back on the wonderful reading we have done over the past 12 months and we can also look forward to the anticipated reading of the 12 months to come. As is now becoming tradition here at FBR, Ryan and Josh get together to work through the Most Anticipated books for the year to come, and this year we’ve expanded our categories. We’ll look at books being released by the heavyweights of the industry as well as those books that simply may not be receiving as much attention. We’ll look at what we personally are most looking forward to, but this year we also add a fourth category; those books that Goodreads and other sites are anticipating, but we honestly doubt we’ll see. So jump on in to the Most Anticipated books of 2013.


It’s time now to jump in to those releases expected from the heavyweights of the industry, but beware, some may be missing, waiting for their opportunity to appear in Our Most Anticipated of 2013.

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson

Already Released (January 8)

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Since 1990, when Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time® burst on the world with its first book, The Eye of the World, readers have been anticipating the final scenes of this extraordinary saga, which has sold over forty million copies in over thirty languages.

When Robert Jordan died in 2007, all feared that these concluding scenes would never be written. But working from notes and partials left by Jordan, established fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson stepped in to complete the masterwork. With The Gathering Storm (Book 12) and Towers of Midnight (Book 13) behind him, both of which were # 1 New York Times hardcover bestsellers, Sanderson now re-creates the vision that Robert Jordan left behind.

Edited by Jordan’s widow, who edited all of Jordan’s books, A Memory of Light will delight, enthrall, and deeply satisfy all of Jordan’s legions of readers.

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow. Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

The Ocean at the End of the Road by Neil Gaiman

Tentative Release Date – 19 June

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The Ocean At The End of the Lane is a novel about memory and magic and survival, about the power of stories and the darkness inside each of us.

It began for our narrator forty years ago when he was seven: the lodger stole the family’s car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Creatures from beyond the world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and a menace unleashed — within his family, and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it.

His only defense is three women, on a ramshackle farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is an ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a fable that reshapes modern fantasy: moving, terrifying and elegiac — as pure as a dream, as delicate as a butterfly’s wing, as dangerous as a knife in the dark.

Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

Tentative Release Date – 13 July

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After their adventures on the high seas, Locke and Jean are brought back to earth with a thump. Jean is mourning the loss of his lover and Locke must live with the fallout of crossing the all-powerful magical assassins the Bonds Magi. It is a fall-out that will pit both men against Locke’s own long lost love. Sabetha is Locke’s childhood sweetheart, the love of Locke’s life and now it is time for them to meet again. Employed on different sides of a vicious dispute between factions of the Bonds Sabetha has just one goal – to destroy Locke for ever. The Gentleman Bastard sequence has become a literary sensation in fantasy circles and now, with the third book, Scott Lynch is set to seal that success.

Emperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Tentative Release Date – 1 August

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To reach the throne requires that a man journey. Even a path paved with good intentions can lead to hell, and my intentions were never good.

The Hundred converge for Congression to politic upon the corpse of Empire, and while they talk the Dead King makes his move, and I make mine. The world is cracked, time has run through, leaving us clutching at the end days, the future so bright that those wh…o see it are the first to burn. These are the days that have waited for us all our lives. These are my days. I will stand before the Hundred and they will listen. I will take the throne whoever seeks to thwart me, living or dead, and if I must be the last emperor then I will make of it such an ending.

This is where the wise man turns away. This is where the holy kneel and call on God. These are the last miles, my brothers. Don’t look to me to save you. Don’t think I will not spend you. Run if you have the wit. Pray if you have the soul. Stand your ground if courage is yours. But don’t follow me.

Follow me, and I will break your heart.

The Long War by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

Tentative Release Date – June

A generation after the events of The Long Earth, mankind has spread across the new worlds opened up by Stepping. Where Joshua and Lobsang once pioneered, now fleets of airships link the stepwise Americas with trade and culture. Mankind is shaping the Long Earth — but in turn the Long Earth is shaping mankind… A new ‘America’, called Valhalla, is emerging more than a million steps from Datum Earth, with core American values restated in the plentiful environment of the Long Earth — and Valhalla is growing restless under the control of the Datum government…

Meanwhile the Long Earth is suffused by the song of the trolls, graceful hive-mind humanoids. But the trolls are beginning to react to humanity’s thoughtless exploitation… Joshua, now a married man, is summoned by Lobsang to deal with a gathering multiple crisis that threatens to plunge the Long Earth into a war unlike any mankind has waged before.

Magician’s End by Raymond E. Feist

Tentative Release Date – June 17

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Thirty years ago Raymond E. Feist wrote his first novel, Magician, a story about an orphan boy named Pug who travels to a place known as the Kingdom of the Isles to study wizardry a Master Magician. Magician introduced us to Midkemia and the Riftwar, an epic series of battles between Good and Evil that have scarred this imaginative new world for generations. Now, after twenty-nine books (authored and co-authored), Feist delivers the crowning achievement of his renowned bestselling career: Magician’s End, the final chapter in his extraordinary Riftwar saga.

Pug — who has assumed the mantle of the greatest magician of all time — must risk everything he has fought for and everything he cherishes in the hope of destroying an evil enemy once and for all. But to achieve peace and save untold millions of lives, he will have to pay the ultimate price…

The Daylight War by Peter V Brett

Tentative Release Date – February 12

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On the night of the new moon, the demons rise in force, seeking the deaths of two men, both of whom have the potential to become the fabled Deliverer, the man prophesied to reunite the scattered remnants of humanity in a final push to destroy the demon corelings once and for all.

Arlen Bales was once an ordinary man, but now he has become something more—the Warded Man, tattooed with eldritch wards so powerful they make him a match for any demon. Arlen denies he is the Deliverer at every turn, but the more he tries to be one with the common folk, the more fervently they believe. Many would follow him, but Arlen’s path threatens to lead to a dark place he alone can travel to, and from which there may be no returning. The only one with hope of keeping Arlen in the world of men, or joining him in his descent into the world of demons, is Renna Tanner, a fierce young woman in danger of losing herself to the power of demon magic. Ahmann Jardir has forged the warlike desert tribes of Krasia into a demon-killing army and proclaimed himself Shar’Dama Ka, the Deliverer. He carries ancient weapons—a spear and a crown—that give credence to his claim, and already vast swaths of the green lands bow to his control. But Jardir did not come to power on his own. His rise was engineered by his First Wife, Inevera, a cunning and powerful priestess whose formidable demon bone magic gives her the ability to glimpse the future. Inevera’s motives and past are shrouded in mystery, and even Jardir does not entirely trust her. Once Arlen and Jardir were as close as brothers. Now they are the bitterest of rivals. As humanity’s enemies rise, the only two men capable of defeating them are divided against each other by the most deadly demons of all—those lurking in the human heart.

Unfettered Anthology by Shawn Speakman (Anthology)

Tentative Release Date – May

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Unfettered is a fantasy short story anthology built to eliminate the medical debt Shawn garnered from treating uninsured cancer in 2011.

All of the authors are donating short stories to the themeless anthology. They are writing exactly what they want, free to express themselves in all ways, making this is a unique sort of book for fantasy fans everywhere!

The writers who will be contributing are: Terry Brooks Patrick Rothfuss Naomi Novik Brandon Sanderson RA Salvatore Tad Williams Jacqueline Carey Daniel Abraham Peter V. Brett Robert VS Redick Peter Orullian Todd Lockwood Carrie Vaughn Blake Charlton Kevin Hearne Mark Lawrence David Anthony Durham Jennifer Bosworth Lev Grossman Michael J. Sullivan Eldon Thompson Shawn Speakman

Bloodfire Quest by Terry Brooks

Tentative Release Date – March 12

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The quest for the long-lost Elfstones has drawn the leader of the Druid order and her followers into the hellish dimension known as the Forbidding, where the most dangerous creatures banished from the Four Lands are imprisoned. Now the hunt for the powerful talismans that can save their world has become a series of great challenges: a desperate search for kidnapped comrades, a relentless battle against unspeakable predators, and a grim race to escape the Forbidding alive. But though freedom is closer than they know, it may come at a terrifying price.

Back in the village of Arborlon, the mystical, sentient tree that maintains the barrier between the Four Lands and the Forbidding is dying. And with each passing day, as the breach between the two worlds grows larger, the threat of the evil eager to spill forth and wreak havoc grows more dire. The only hope lies with a young Druid, faced with a staggering choice: cling to the life she cherishes or combat an army of darkness by making the ultimate sacrifice.

Blood and Bone: A Novel of the Malazan Empire by Ian C. Esslemont

Tentative Release Date – late December ’12 or May ’13 (depends where you read)

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In the western sky the bright emerald banner of the Visitor descends like a portent of annihilation. On the continent of Jacuruku, the Thaumaturgs have mounted yet another expedition to tame the neighboring wild jungle. Yet this is no normal wilderness. It is called Himatan, and it is said to be half of the spirit-realm and half of the earth. And it is said to be ruled by a powerful entity whom some name the Queen of Witches, and some a goddess: the ancient Ardata. Saeng grew up knowing only the rule of the magus Thaumaturgs — but it was the voices out of that land’s forgotten past that she listened to. And when her rulers mount an invasion of the neighboring jungle, those voices send her and her brother on a desperate mission.

To the south, the desert tribes are united by the arrival of a foreign warleader, a veteran commander in battered ashen mail whom his men call, the Grey Ghost. This warleader takes the tribes on a raid like none other, deep into the heart of Thaumaturg lands. While word comes to K’azz, and mercenary company the Crimson Guard, of a contract in Jacuruku. And their employer… none other than Ardata herself.

FBR Cast: 016 – HobbitShmobbit

In our first regular episode of the year we talk about the Hobbit and wish for a better movie.

The Hobbit movie poster.

You can subscribe to our podcast through our RSS Feed or via iTunes. If you have any questions for Joe you can leave them in the comments below, you can email us at blog@fantasybookreview.co.uk, or you can contact us on twitter (@fanboorev, @joshshill and @RyanL1986)

Music
The awesome music you’ll hear at the beginning and end of this podcast is by musician and composer Bart Stoop, who you can find on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/bartstoop and on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/bartstoop1991

FBR Cast: 015 – Fantasy Awards for 2012

It’s the start of a new year, so Josh and I look back at some of the most memorable books of 2012 with the help of other reviewers from Fantasy Book Review.

The Long Earth book cover image.

You can subscribe to our podcast through our RSS Feed or via iTunes. If you have any questions for Joe you can leave them in the comments below, you can email us at blog@fantasybookreview.co.uk, or you can contact us on twitter (@fanboorev, @joshshill and @RyanL1986)

Awards
A blog post listing all of the award categories and their nominees is currently being put together by Josh. A link will be provided when the post goes live.

Music
The awesome music you’ll hear at the beginning and end of this podcast is by musician and composer Bart Stoop, who you can find on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/bartstoop and on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/bartstoop1991

Discworld & Beyond: A Retrospective Exhibition

Illustrator Paul Kidby, whom we recently featured in our Fantasy Fantasy Artwork series, has a retrospective exhibition of his work coming up at the St Barbe Museum & Art Gallery in Lymington from 18th August to 29th September. The exhibit will feature lots of Discworld illustrations, including the original artwork from some of the covers, and also from Terry Pratchett‘s latest, ‘Dodger’ which is currently number one in the pre-order book charts.

Full details can be found underneath the brilliant Sgt Pepper meets Discworld image below. If you are in and around Hampshire between these dates you must drop in and see the beautiful artwork first-hand.

Image: The Band with Rocks In © Paul Kidby 2012

Paul Kidby – Discworld® & Beyond
A Retrospective Exhibition
18th August – 29th September 2012
St. Barbe Museum & Art Gallery
Open Monday – Saturday, 10.00am – 4.00pm
New Street, Lymington, Hampshire SO41 9BH

T: 01590 676969

Admission to museum and galleries: £4, concessions: £3, child: £2, family: £10

Discworld is the registered trademark of Terry Pratchett

Most Anticipated Books of 2012 – Our Most Anticipated

This is the end of our series. You’ve seen what we thought would be alright – The Rest – and you’ve seen what we thought were the big books hitting this year – 2012s Heavy Weights. But now it’s time for those books that Ryan and Josh are the most excited about, personally. They might be heavyweight authors, they might be newcomers, they might be in that happy-middle somewhere. But these are the books that, when they arrive on the doorstep, Josh and Ryan are going to drop everything they were doing and disappear until the book is done.

So hope on in for Ryan and Josh’s Most Anticipated Fantasy Books of 2012.

Forge of Darkness (Kharkanas Trilogy) by Steven Erikson

There is no cover and no blurb. Unsurprising, really, considering Steven Erikson’s proclivity for secrecy and his writing methods. But we’re expecting to see this book late 2012.

Why Ryan is Looking Forward to it

It’s the beginning of a new Malazan trilogy, need I say more? I’m a big fan of Erikson’s writing, the writer who dares to structure his epic fantasy differently to norm, and I think we can expect more of the same here. This new trilogy has been set hundreds of thousands of years in the past and will focus heavily on the Tiste Andii and the events that took place leading up to the evacuation/desertion of Kharkanas. I have high expectations for this new trilogy, and I expect Erikson to deliver.

Why Josh is Looking Forward to it

I first started reading fantasy by reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. It was probably a bad idea, in hindsight, because the first fantasy book I read was also one of the greatest and the result of one of the most breathtakingly extensive world-building exercises you’ll ever encounter. So it’s no surprise that I love Steven Erikson’s work, if for no other reason than the sheer scope and historical range of his work. Thankfully, he can also write a cracking tail, and I can’t wait to read a new series by him.

The Republic of Thieves (The Gentlemen’s Bastards) by Scott Lynch

After their adventures on the high seas, Locke and Jean are brought back to earth with a thump. Jean is mourning the loss of his lover and Locke must live with the fallout of crossing the all-powerful magical assassins the Bondsmagi.

It is a fall-out that will pit both men against Locke’s own long lost love. Sabetha is Locke’s childhood sweetheart, the love of Locke’s life and now it is time for them to meet again. Employed on different sides of a vicious dispute between factions of the Bondsmagi Sabetha has just one goal – to destroy Locke forever.

Why Ryan is Looking Forward to it

We have been waiting a long time for this book, and to be honest I’m happy to wait for as long as it takes Scott Lynch to get his life back together, his Gentlemen’s Bastards books are more than worth the wait. Lynch’s private yet well documented fight with depression and panic disorder brought his marriage and his writing to an abrupt halt, but of late Lynch has started venturing back out into the public domain and things are looking up. The Lies of Locke Lamora remains as one of my all time favourite novels, and with Lynch back in the saddle I am very excited to see just how Locke and Jean get off the cliff Lynch hung them on at the end of Red Seas Under Red Skies.

Why Josh is Looking Forward to it

This book is tantalizingly out of reach, perpetually pushed back and back. But it is the third book in a series I love more than most, and I am desperate to see what happens to Locke and Jean. And the fact that we finally get to meet Sabetha? Oh Scott Lynch, why do you tease me so?

The Long Earth by Stephen Baxter & Terry Pratchett

1916: the Western Front. Private Percy Blakeney wakes up. He is lying on fresh spring grass. He can hear birdsong, and the wind in the leaves in the trees. Where has the mud, blood and blasted landcape of No Man’s Land gone?

2015: Madison, Wisconsin. Cop Monica Jansson is exploring the burned-out home of Willis Linsay, a reclusive – some said mad, others dangerous – scientist. It appears to be arson but the firemen to have caused more damage than the fire itself. There’s no sign of any human remains in the wrecked house, but on a mantlepiece Monica finds a curious gadget – a box containing some wiring, a three-way switch and a…potato. It is the prototype of an invention that Linsay called a ‘stepper'; an invention he put up on the web for all the world to see – and use – an invention that would change the way Mankind viewed his world for ever. And that’s an understatement if ever there was one

Because the stepper enables the person using it to step sideways into another America, another wherever that person happened to be, another Earth. And if the person using it keeps on stepping, they keep on entering even more Earths.

This is the Long Earth. It is our Earth – and a chain of parallel Earths, each differing from its neighbour by sometimes very little (or quite a lot). It’s an infinite chain, offering ‘steppers’ an infinite landscape of infinite possibilities. And the further away a stepper travels, the stranger – and sometimes more dangerous – the Earths become. The sun and moon always shine, the basic laws of physics are the same. However, the chance events which have shaped our Earth, such as the dinosaur-killer asteroid impact, might not have happened and things may well have turned out rather differently.

And until Willis Linsay invented his stepper, only our Earth hosted mankind. Or so we thought. Because it turns out there are some people – such as Joshua Valiente – who are natural ‘steppers’, who don’t need a stepper to explore these other Earths. Joshua’s a pioneer, and and the possibilies are, of course, endless. Just be careful what you wish for…

Why Ryan is Looking Forward to it

Last time Sir Terry Pratchett collaborated with another highly acclaimed author (Neil Gaiman) we got Good Omens. With Pratchett now collaborating with acclaimed sci-fi writer Stephen Baxter, I am truly intrigued about The Long Earth and just what type of story it promises to be. Everything in Sci-fi has been so dark and moody in recent years, it is a genre that is in serious need of a strike to the funny bone that only an author like Pratchett could give.

Why Josh is Looking Forward to it

As Ryan said, the last time Pratchett collaborated with another author we got Good Omens, so in reality, there’d be very little stopping me from reading this book. On top of that, the idea behind the book looks good, and evokes in me the loss of what might have been had Tolkien and Lewis managed to collaborate as they had wished. We might not have a Lewis and Tolkien story, but we will have Pratchett and Baxter.

The Red Queen (Obernewtyn Chronicles)

As the long-foreseen Seeker, Elspeth Gordie must continue to walk the black road, still haunted by memories of her love, Rushton. Yet what awaits her at the end of the black road shakens even her, for the lost community of the Compound, is not what it seems. As she struggles against her captors, she learns that her friends, and Rushton, have fallen into the hands of the deadly slavemasters of the Red Land. Moreover, every mistake and delay Elspeth faces in her quest sees the Destroyer closer to realising his goal of reawakening the weaponmachines Elspeth must destroy. Will all the Seeker has sacrificed be in vain?

Why Ryan is Looking Forward to it

This is it, the end of The Obernewtyn Chronicles. It has been almost 25 years since Obernewtyn was first published, and almost 15 years since Obernewtyn became the first fantasy book I ever read, and I am as excited now as I ever have been. This book has been put off for years and years, with Carmody splitting the final volume of the 5 book series not once, but twice. After everything that happened with The Stone Key, with Carmody sacrificing an entire novel to wrap up every single sub plot and loose end, The Red Queen will be the final volume of the series and I have no doubt it will go out with a bang.

Why Josh is Looking Forward to it

I didn’t finish The Sending, Isobelle Carmody’s sixth Obernewtyn Series book. I got halfway through, saw what was happening (and I might have peeked at the end) and realised that, if I kept reading, I would become emotionally numb from having to wait for a resolution to whatever was going to happen. There was too much info-dumping, too much clearing of the proverbial plate. But nevertheless, I had enjoyed what I read, and I do want to see what becomes of Elspeth and her friends. Carmody has written a real gem of a world, and I want to see it to the end.

Ryan’s Personal Favourites

Railsea by China Miéville

Sham Yes ap Soorap, young doctor’s assistant, is in search of life’s purpose aboard a diesel locomotive on the hunt for the great elusive moldywarpe, Mocker-Jack. But on an old train wreck at the outskirts of the world, Sham discovers an astonishing secret that changes everything: evidence of an impossible journey. A journey left unfinished…which Sham takes it on himself to complete. It’s a decision that might cost him his life.

Why Ryan is Looking Forward to it

Miéville’s stories often polarise the fantasy community with some people finding his stories just a bit too weird. There are few, if any, who would doubt his creative genius and despite finding Embassytown a little hard to get into, I will be first in line to grab a copy of his latest novel, Railsea. Railsea is a near future retelling of Moby Dick, where the ocean setting has been replaced by a desert setting and the boats / white whale has been replaced by trains. If this book is even half as good as it sounds, it will probably end up being one of the books of the year.

The Twelve by Justin Cronin

At the end of THE PASSAGE, the great viral plague had left a small group of survivors clinging to life amidst a world transformed into a nightmare. In the second volume of this epic trilogy, this same group of survivors, led by the mysterious, charismatic Amy, go on the attack, leading an insurrection against the virals: the first offensives of the Second Viral War.

To do this, they must infiltrate a dozen hives, each presided over by one of the original Twelve. Their secret weapon: Alicia, transformed at the end of book one into a half human, half viral – but whose side, in the end, is she really on?

Why Ryan is Looking Forward to it

The Passage was by far the best book I read in 2010, an outstanding achievement for a debut author. The refreshing take on vampires was executed with a wonderful story and some beautiful prose, making those 870 pages feel more like 300 pages. The Twelve promises to be a great action adventure – the goals have never been clearer for our band of heroes, and now that they know where to find the twelve head vampires it is time to reclaim the earth. It is hard to put in words just how excited I am about this book, and I fully expect it to raise the already high bar established by The Passage.

Demon Squad: Echoes Of The Past by Tim Marquitz

There is very little information for this one, but Marquitz expects it to be released late in December, 2012.

Why Ryan is Looking Forward to it

The Demon Squad series has been a guilty pleasure of mine for a while now, a series that has grown from strength to strength as Marquitz continues to refine his writing. Each book has been better than the last by quite a margin, and while it’s hard to see how Marquitz will top the war between Heaven and Hell that nearly destroyed the Earth, he tells me that he still has a few big ideas up his sleeves ready to be let loose. What ever these ideas may be, you know it’s going to mean bad news for Frank, the demon stuck in the middle of it all just trying to keep everything in balance so he can watch his porn in peace.

Josh’s Personal Favourites

The Minority Council (Matthew Swift) by Kate Griffin

Matthew Swift, Midnight Mayor, is in charge. And London is having its issues.

The new drug on the market is fairy dust and it turns humans into walking drug labs. Teenage vandals are being hunted by a mystical creature. And criminals are dying by magical means.

If Swift is going to save London from a rising tide of blood, he’s going to have to learn his lessons – and fast.

Why Josh is Looking Forward to it

There is no author writing today who has the ability to capture a reader and so successfully and effectively place them into the book. Kate Griffin stunned me with her first book, A Madness of Angels, and only kept on amazing me as I kept on reading. Matthew Swift is easily one of the most intriguing characters I’ve ever had the chance to read, and knowing that I’ll again be able to step into a London I’ve never visited, but still feel as if I’m right there, is a wonder.

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Eight years have passed since the young Princess Bitterblue, and her country, were saved from the vicious King Leck. Now Bitterblue is the queen of Monsea, and her land is at peace. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisers, who have run the country on her behalf since Leck’s death, believe in a forward-thinking plan: to pardon all of those who committed terrible acts during Leck’s reign; and to forget every dark event that ever happened. Monsea’s past has become shrouded in mystery, and it’s only when Bitterblue begins sneaking out of her castle – curious, disguised and alone – to walk the streets of her own city, that she begins to realise the truth. Her kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year long spell of a madman, and now their only chance to move forward is to revisit the past. Whatever that past holds. Two thieves, who have sworn only to steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, who possesses an unidentified Grace, may also hold a key to her heart

Why Josh is Looking Forward to it

Kristin Cashore has managed to enchant and captivate me with her two previous books, Graceling and Fire. There is something utterly magical about her writing and the strong and beautiful women she writes. Each time I am asked to pick a favourite book, these may not enter into the top 5, but they are always on my mind as books that I have enjoyed more than most.

Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch

A WHOLE NEW REASON TO MIND THE GAP It begins with a dead body at the far end of Baker Street tube station, all that remains of American exchange student James Gallagher–and the victim’s wealthy, politically powerful family is understandably eager to get to the bottom of the gruesome murder. The trouble is, the bottom–if it exists at all–is deeper and more unnatural than anyone suspects . . . except, that is, for London constable and sorcerer’s apprentice Peter Grant. With Inspector Nightingale, the last registered wizard in England, tied up in the hunt for the rogue magician known as the Faceless Man, it’s up to Peter to plumb the haunted depths of the oldest, largest, and–as of now–deadliest subway system in the world. At least he won’t be alone. No, the FBI has sent over a crack agent to help. She’s young, ambitious, beautiful . . . and a born-again Christian apt to view any magic as the work of the devil. Oh yeah– that’s going to go well.

Why Josh is Looking Forward to it

After reading Katherine Griffin, I wanted more urban-magic on the streets of England. I got it with Ben Aaronovitch. While not as polished a writer as Griffin, Aaronovitch provides me with that fix I need, while still being a wonderful storyteller. Following the life of England’s only sorcerer’s apprentice is fun, especially in the modern-day context that we get to see him in. Really wonderful reading.